Jared believes that if you really want to have the most fun with a superbike in India, then you need to get naked.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said it before, but here I go again – big superbikes are not fun to ride in India! A litre class superbike with outright performance is the last bike I would ever consider storing inside my garage, unless I had direct access to a proper racetrack. Unfortunately, if you don’t live anywhere near Delhi or Chennai, the chances of getting to a proper racetrack are slim.
The performance that the modern supersport bike offers is mind blowing, and they have so much performance that you barely scratch the surface of their potential when riding on Indian roads. And that’s where mid-segment naked bikes come into play. These lighter versions of sports bikes are far more comfortable to ride and far easier to manage in cities and urban areas. But, not only that, the best thing about the mid-segment ‘nakeds’ is that you can actually push them very close to their limits with far more confidence – making them a hell of a lot more enjoyable to ride.
Today, in India, the mid-segment has really started heating up and every single bike maker offers a middle weight naked sports bike. We managed to get our hands on the Aprilia Shiver 900, the Triumph Street Triple S, the Ducati Monster 797, and the MV Agusta Brutale 800. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the new Monster 821, the Suzuki GSX S750 and the Kawasaki Z900, but we’ve already ridden all of these motorcycles. So, let’s strip down and get this show on the road.
The thing about most supersports is that they’re more or less generic when it comes to their overall design. If you remove all the badges, paint and stickers, then there’s little to tell them apart. The naked sports bikes look far better and are more individualistic, because you can actually see what the bike is packing. The frame, the engine, and the front forks are all much more prominent. Nothing can be hidden, and all is shown to the world – and this is precisely why they’re called naked bikes. With us, for this feature, is the finest collection of naked bikes from across Europe, and I think it’s safe to say that the MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the most aggressive and the most sexy looking out of the lot. Bursting with Italian style, the overall design is screaming at you to swing a leg over it.
Its other Italian counterpart is a monster – a Ducati Monster that is. The 797 is also a very good-looking bike, and although it looks heavily understated, its overall design is muscular and lean, just like an athlete. The Aprilia Shiver 900, on the other hand, is perhaps the only Italian motorcycle in India that doesn’t really stand out. Only from certain angles do you see influences of Italian design, and the best thing about the Shiver is the 4.3-inch, full-colour, TFT dash coming alive at the head of the cockpit.
The Triumph Street Triple sticks out like a sore thumb when in the company of the Italians, especially in its all black paint job. The bug-eyed Triumph certainly doesn’t look as elaborately suited up as the raunchy Italians, but the beauty of the Street Triple is that it doesn’t have an inflated ego like the other three – because, once you ride this machine, your entire perception about this little ‘Brit’ will change drastically.
What I really love about less track focused bikes is the comfort levels they provide. Sitting in a squat position, with all your weight on your arms is never fun in traffic, but if you ride a lightweight naked motorcycle, your posture improves as you sit up and make more room for your legs to move and take the weight of your arms. This is really a necessity for someone riding in urban areas or on highways, unless you have an ass made of steel, a lower back made of iron, and arms like Superman!
Although the MV Agusta looks like it could be the most aggressive bike of the lot, surprisingly it’s very comfortable to ride. The wide handlebars are also a nice touch because it still gives you a little feel of its aggressive nature. The low seat isn’t the softest, but the seating position is still great for all sorts of riding conditions.
It’s the Ducati, though, that offers the most comfortable and enjoyable riding posture. You do have to lean forward just a bit, because the handlebars are placed a little further out, but there isn’t much weight on your wrists. The seat is super comfy and feels like a nice soft pillow for your buttocks, and the foot pegs are placed perfectly – just a bit behind the knee but allowing for plenty of room. It’s the perfect balance between a sporty feel and comfort.
The Aprilia Shiver certainly shocked us with its super easy riding posture. You could cruise all day long thanks to the nice long seat and well-placed handlebars. It feels very roomy and comfortable, but unfortunately it makes you feel a bit too relaxed, especially when you hit the ‘twisties’.
The Triumph Street Triple is the smallest bike here in terms of size, and because of that it’s also a little cramped for tall riders like myself. It’s actually the footpeg placement that makes it a little tight for long legs, but other than that the seat is comfortable and the handlebars also offer a fairly easy and upright riding position.
While these lovely machines might be beautiful and comfortable, that doesn’t imply that they don’t pack a mean and mighty punch. Because they’re in the middle weight category, their power figures range from 75bhp to around 115bhp, and that my dear friends is completely usable power – which means that you’ll be enjoying every little ounce of horsepower. Nakeds also tend to have high torque, and they’re lighter, which means they are a hell of a lot more fun in urban areas.
When it comes to outright engine performance, the MV Agusta slaps out a very healthy power figure of 108bhp from its 798cc, 3-cylinder engine. While the company is good at leveraging its Italian-exotica image, the bike’s overall performance further enhances that. It’s a phenomenal engine and, if you’re in Sport mode, even the slightest twist of the throttle will hurl you forward. And you better learn to be ready for some unexpected power wheelies. This is certainly not a beginner bike. However, as incredibly responsive as it may be, it’s also very easy to handle. It comes equipped with eight-level traction control, as well as ABS with rear-wheel lift mitigation, and these systems work in sync perfectly to help keep you safe. On twisty sections of roads, the Brutale 800’s impressive agility allows you to flick it to its maximum lean angle and flip it from one side to the other at high speed. But, it does feel a bit to aggressive at times, and on poorly surfaced roads the stiff suspension setup makes the bike bounce around – and, as a result, my confidence as well. And that’s precisely why having too much of a sporty setting on any motorcycle is never a good idea on Indian roads.
The Aprilia Shiver is probably the heaviest bike in the entire mid-segment range of bikes available today anywhere in the world. At more than 200 kilograms, it feels big – but, once you start riding it, the Shiver feels great. It’s certainly the least aggressive in terms of ride and handling, but its 896cc twin-engine pumps out 94bhp. However, it gets more torque than the MV Agusta at 90Nm. The engine is nice and smooth, and it’s responsive enough depending on the riding mode you’ve selected. In Sport, it’s an animal unleashed, and in Touring it’s a steady freight train. What I really enjoyed were the caps at the end of each pipe, which make for a distinct look – as well as a nice burble and rasp when you blip the throttle. The transmission is also crisp, and the chassis is well-balanced. The suspension is sporty-stiff, but offers adjustment to preload and damping. The Shiver 900 isn’t a rowdy naked bike that wants to wheelie off every corner. But it does feel strong and dignified, and it’s incredibly versatile.
The Monster 797 has got the lowest power figures in this group, but it’s the most fun to ride. That’s because of the usable power, the high torque curve, the incredible handling, the comfort levels, and the perfect suspension setup. The little monster only generates 75bhp and 68Nm from the 803cc L-Twin engine, but it’s such a beautiful engine on such a light and compact frame that it surges ahead with full force the instant you twist the throttle. The Monster also dances through twisty roads in the most controlled manner possible. It’s not lightning fast, and that means you can twist the throttle open all the way through a turn without the slightest sense of fear or trepidation. It’ll do exactly what you want it to do. It offers you more than enough power to feel exhilarated, and it’s so easy to handle on all road conditions. Even in the city, its fun to ride – as it’s incredibly manoeuvrable and manageable. “Endless fun, all the time,” could be its marketing campaign tagline – Ducati, are you listening?
Even though the Monster makes you feel like a monster on the road, the true king of overall performance has got to be the Triumph Street Triple S. We specifically asked for the S instead of the RS, because the RS is a complete track tool – even though it is usable on the road. The S, on the other hand, is made primarily for the street. The RS is undoubtedly the best naked bike on the planet today, across engine sizes. The S is a bit tamer, but even with its lower power output, it still outperforms these three Italians. With a beautifully engineered 3-cylinder, 765cc engine producing 110bhp and 73Nm of torque, the Streep Triple feels the fastest because of its incredibly low weight. The engine is buttery smooth and still pulls forward with such enthusiasm that it feels as if the throttle is telepathic. To top it off, it handles incredibly well, the chassis is super stable and the bike feels perfectly in control at all times. The suspension setup is also very good, and the bike is responsive to every one of your inputs.
So, there you have it – these naked beauties are comfortable to ride, very powerful, usable as everyday machines, and are super fun to ride. On top of all that they’re much cheaper to own – making them the obvious choice for first time superbike owners. I don’t see why anyone would go for an all-out track tool unless they’re pros with track access, or perhaps they just have a lot of money to throw around (nothing wrong with that). Choosing smaller, more manageable motorcycles is always a good stepping stone for beginners and always more fun for experienced riders in urban areas.
Out of the bikes we have here, the Triumph Street Triple S is the clear winner in terms of overall performance and I would recommend it to anyone – along with the Kawasaki Z900, which essentially is a better overall package with a lower price tag. However, if I were to buy one of these for myself I would have to go for the Ducati Monster 797. It’s more comfortable and it looks amazing, and I’m really looking for all-out engine performance when it comes to riding around in the city. I want to have good harmless fun when riding something beautiful – while keeping my clothes on of course!
- Ducati Monster 797
- MV Agusta Brutale 800
- Triumph Street Triple S
- Aprilia Shiver 900
Engine: 803cc Air-Cooled 4 Valves / L-Twin
Power: 72.4bhp @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 67Nm @ 5,750rpm
Price: ₹8.02 Lakh (Ex-showroom, India)
X-factor: The most fun and usable sports bike in its segment.
• Dated technology
Engine: 798cc Liquid-Cooled 12 Valves / Inline 3-Cylinders
Power: 109bhp @ 11,500rpm
Torque: 83Nm @ 7,600rpm
Price: ₹15.59 Lakh (Ex-showroom, Mumbai)
X-factor: An Italian exotica that’s actually comfortable.
• Gobsmacking looks
• Full of raw aggression
• Feels crude
Engine: 765cc Liquid-Cooled / 12 Valves Inline 3-Cylinders
Power: 111.5bhp @ 11,250rpm
Torque: 73Nm @ 10,421rpm
Price: ₹9.32 Lakh (Ex-showroom, India)
X-factor: The best performance naked in the segment that’s also great value for money.
• Refined & powerful
• Light & handles beautifully
• Blends in
Engine: 896cc / Liquid-Cooled 8 Valves / V-Twin
Power: 94bhp @ 8,750rpm
Torque: 90Nm @ 6,500rpm
Price: ₹12.95 Lakh (Ex-showroom, Mumbai)
X-factor: A power packed motorcycle that anyone can ride.
• Incredibly versatile
• Packed with the latest tech
• Not the most exciting