2012 Naked Bikes
Milan is a beautiful city. Beautiful streets, beautiful buildings, art, fashion…but what I was most struck by after my first day at the EICMA Show last month was all the nakedness. Among manufacturers, I mean. I mean, bikes. I mean motorcycles!
Taking a cue from the soaring, cult-like popularity of the iconic Ducati Monster no doubt, just about every factory had their version of a raw, gritty, totally-exposed model (again, I’m talking motorcycles here) to whet the appetite of the moto-purist. So, what exactly is a naked bike? They’re nothing new; before being dubbed ‘naked’, they were called standard motorcycles. The term naked came along in the 60′s, not so much because society was suddenly embracing the concept as a whole, but because some other species of motorcycles hit the scene: sportbikes. With their full plastic fairings and covered components, these exotic-looking race bikes made standards look, you know…naked. And the name stuck.
Hugely (and historically) popular in Europe, naked bikes are appreciated for their name’s sake: all that exposure. Remember that Coke commercial with the shirtless guy working in the street and all the women drooling out the window? Same concept. If you appreciate the art of motorcycles, you’re likely to dig these machines. Here’s what I’m talking about:
The 2012 Ducati Monster 696 (seen here with Monster Art graphics featuring an ode to factory rider and racing legend, Valentino Rossi) is hands-down, one of my favorite bikes of all-time, and the reasons I love it have very little to do with it’s looks. This bike will do anything you want: it loves the track, it loves the twisties, and it’s incredible responsiveness will get you through the most maddening traffic with ease. Like all standards (I mean, nakeds), you’re posture is more aggressive than it is on a cruiser, but less aggressive than on a fully-faired crotch-rocket, which means you can ride a bike like this for hours. Add a full wind-screen and you’re ready to tour. Plus, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a lighter, lower motorcycle with this kind of power. Throw your leg over one. I guarantee you’ll be smitten.
In my opinion, the MV Agusta (any MV Agusta) is one of the most beautiful motorcycles in production today, and their newest naked, the Brutale 675, is no exception. Dig the short, triple-pipes. The middle-weight engine is new to the Brutale line this year (it’s predecessors in the liter-engine range are still in production) and with a dry weight of just under 360-lbs (163 kg), I’m extra-excited to take this one for a spin. Considering this exotic Italian brand’s ode to performance-in-the-raw sports a three-cylendar engine with a whopping 115 hp and traction control, you know it’s going to excite. Talk about your naked Sundays (or any other day of the week)…I can’t wait to ride this bike!
Of the thousands, no, wait…millions of bikes I saw at the Milan show (well, there were a lot), Triumph’s new Street Triple was the only one I saw in purple. The only one that wasn’t a scooter, I mean. This bike has moxxy written all over it: iconic twin headlamps (hello, Brando), plenty of exposed brushed-metal glory, and a 105-hp, three-cylendar (“triple”) in-line engine that Triumph-lovers claim addiction to. The last Street Triple I rode was a 2009 that I found a bit underwhelming, with a sort of sluggish take-off from slow speeds. It also did’t come with a lap-timer in the instrument panel…that ought to tell you something.
The Street Triple’s big brother, the Speed Triple, was just too pretty to pass up. Love the red trellis frame and gold forks; very um, European (Italian). I’d lose the bikini-fairing and belly pan, though.
Hyo-who? If you haven’t heard of this brand, you will. This Korean manufacturer has been importing a select line of scooters, streetbikes, and ATVs to US markets for just over six years now, and they seem to have a singular knack for filling gaps when it comes to consumer choices in motorcycles, while racking up a reputation for uniquely styled bikes that are easy on the eyes, economical, and refreshingly reliable. Hyosung was one of the first to introduce a 250cc sportbike (the GT250R) that doesn’t look like something your mother bought you when you were twelve, and they’ve done it again with the GT250 (seems like a marketing no-no to have two completely different models only separated by a single letter, but what do I know). The GT250 is the only naked bike sold in America with an engine that size, and a feather-weight 375 soaking-wet curb weight, which is a pretty appealing option for those who don’t need or want the power of a middle-weight but crave the look and feel of a solid motorcycle. Yet for all it’s miniscule glory, the just under 33″ seat-height is going to lock out a lot of women riders. Maybe it can be lowered, but seems like another marketing guffaw, doesn’t it? Call me, Hyosung.
Ok, this was the nakedest thing I saw in Milan. Husqvarna’s electric dirtbike was the ugliest thing there. It’s the naked-mole-rat of motorcycles. The hairless cat of cycles. It’s like the motorcycle industry’s answer to the blow-up doll: only if you have to. Thank God it’s only a concept!
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