2019 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
KTM updated its 1290 Super Duke R ahead of MY2017, and that revised model carries over into MY2019 with a minor change in graphics, but little else. The factory tweaked some hardware on the 1,301 cc V-twin powerplant and increased compression for greater output than the outgoing version. Suspension also was buffed to deliver a stiffer ride with the full spectrum of adjustments so you can dial in just what you want as far as preload and damping values are concerned. The base model comes sans electronics for the most part, but the factory offers dealer-installed packages that address the lack of stock fandanglery and round out the electronics, plus there’s some race-related gadgetry to boot so there’s something for everyone on the new Super Duke R.
2017 - 2019 Ducati Monster 1200 R
All the major sportbike players have an entry in the street-legal, racebike subgenre, and for Ducati, that distinction falls to the Monster 1200 R. The “R” brings liter-plus power to the table in combination with top-shelf suspension and ride-quality electronics that let you dial it right in, and of course, the Monster DNA is plain to see in the sparse sheet metal and exposed frame members. This machine is the ultimate iteration (so far) of an already aggressive family line with all the sex appeal you’d expect from this marque.
2018 - 2019 Suzuki GSX-S1000
Engine upgrades joined other improvements in the 2018 model year as Suzuki pushes to keep its sport-standard-sector momentum going with the GSX-S1000. Last year, the family tree branched yet again with the new-for-2018, blackout GSX-S1000Z and Suzuki dropped the “F” in favor of the “FZ” for 2019. The family now has even more of what it takes to dominate the street with a Gixxer engine in a naked bike chassis.
2020 Zero Motorcycles SR/F
Zero Motorcycles ramps up its streetbike game yet again with the all new SR/F model slated for 2020 that brings even more of the yummy-goodness to the table that made them the world’s top EV bike builder. Top-shelf tech rides on a new chassis with — you guessed it — a new electric drive motor and power-storage unit deliver more performance and range than its previous top-line naked streetbike, the SR. Best of all, the SR/F’s looks are comparable to the smokerbikes in the naked genre, so it’s even more palatable to the masses in general who have yet to embrace the EV bike technology.
2018 - 2019 Energica Eva EsseEsse9
EV superbike-builder Energica hit the Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori in Milan in 2017 with its newest effort, the Eva EsseEsse9. Astute readers who are familiar with the brand will recognize the “Eva” moniker as belonging to one of the previously existing models, but this new variant goes in a slightly different temporal direction with its design. It brings 133 pound-feet of torque to the table as soon as you crack the “throttle” — or whatever we’re supposed to call the motor control — and 109 horsepower to move the all-electric ride.
2019 Honda CB650R
After a race to the upper displacement range and a subsequent search for the bottom usable cubage, Honda is revisiting its midrange and spruced up its CB650R ahead of the 2019 model year. That’s right sports fans; the Neo Sport Café concept has gone to production under this new moniker, and it rolls into MY19 with a handful of tweaks that brush up the looks and carve off a little fat. The powerplant also took a beating from the buffhammer to turn out a 5-percent increase in power with steps to improve rideability and safety.
2018 - 2019 Kawasaki Z900RS
The race to grab a slice of the burgeoning Millennial market is heating up, and Kawasaki enters the fray with its sizzlin’ hot, retro-style Z900RS. Built as a tribute of sorts to the legendary Z1 superbike, the new-in-2018 RS packs a punch that does its predecessor justice with 111 horsepower ready to go with a twist of the mechanical throttle control. Suspension components are thoroughly modern as well, and at a glance, it seems Kawi has nailed the balance between nostalgia and nouveau with this ride.
2018 - 2019 Ducati Monster 821
Newly revised in 2018, the Monster 821 from Ducati benefits from some trickle-down engineering from its big brother, the Monster 1200, and a host of new design touches all its own. A new tank, tail section, headlight and muffler gives it an all-new variation on the classic Monster look with due consideration for the original Monster 900. Duc’s Testastretta L-twin powerplant serves up streetfighter performance with 109 horsepower tucked away in the stable and a host of safety systems to aid the rider in keeping it all under control. Not an entry-level ride by any stretch of the imagination, the Monster 821 does offer an experienced rider a mercurial platform that can shift personalities at the touch of a button for a wide range of conditions and skill levels.
2019 Honda CB500F
Honda gives its CB500F the ’BNL-plus’ treatment ahead of MY2019 with a number of aesthetic improvements and a four-percent boost in power over the previous gen. Naked as ever, the “F” brings its usual sense of style and practicality to the table to serve as a lower-midrange “all-rounder,” as the factory succinctly puts it. Today I’d like to take a deeper look at this model and see how it stacks up against an equally-raw domestic competitor.
2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
The value of indoctrination is not lost on KTM, evidenced by the fact that they’ve updated and generally spruced up their entry-level unit, the 390 Duke in 2017, and those improvements carry straight over into the 2019 season. New upside-down stems float the front end along with larger, more powerful brakes to help manage the energy from the 44-horsepower engine and 328-pound dry weight. Ride-by-wire tech makes an appearance for a bit of tech you normally don’t see at this price point. Add to this a fresh new look and you have a recipe for success, or so KTM hopes. Let’s dive in and see what else the Austrian bike maker has in store for us.
2018 - 2019 Triumph Speed Triple S / RS
Triumph refurbished its Speed Triple family ahead of MY2018, and the British giant carries its new-for-’18 Speed Triple S and Speed Triple RS straight over into the 2019 lineup. These two rides epitomize the “performance naked” subgenre with a stripped-down look. They come with an updated powerplant alongside a robust electronics suite on the base model that gets even better on the “RS” variant. Power, poise and control, the new Speed Triples seem to have it all, so today I want to see how well they hold up to closer scrutiny and pit one of ’em against a likely competitor from Japan, or maybe Italy. Let’s get to it.
2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire
Electric-powered bikes are at the cutting edge of technology as the world grapples with its fossil-fuel dependency and seeks viable alternatives, and the LiveWire represents the MoCo’s contribution to that effort. Harley-Davidson teased us back in ’14 with the Project Livewire prototype, but at the 2018 EICMA “Milan Show” the production version finally saw the light of day. This machine brings a slew of features to the table that shows that Milwaukee is not as mired in the past as its detractors would like to have you believe with safety and comfort amenities that qualify as top-shelf by anyone’s standards. This is a thoroughly modern ride with up-to-date equipment, and even though it’s operating within a still-niche genre, there’s no problem at all in finding a suitable competitor, so let’s get to it.
2019 Ducati Monster 821 Stealth
The Ducati Monster can trace its heritage back to the ’93 Monster 900, and the new “Stealth” variant serves as what you might call a highly-functional tribute piece for that venerated machine. It totes the usual suite of electronic gadgets with Ducati’s Quick Shift feature added to the stock package, and it boasts 100-plus horsepower in a design that is, paradoxically, both sexy and stocky at the same time.
2017 - 2019 Kawasaki Z900
Kawasaki steps up its bid to grab a slice of the growing naked-bike market with the Z900 ABS. As demand for the genre increased, so have expectations of performance along with polished looks. Kawi built this ride to replace both the Z800 and Z1000 moving forward into the 2017 model year, so buyers should expect to find plenty of both of those qualities. Aside from the 948 cc engine, what did the factory throw on this all-new bike to make it competitive in a minimalist, sportster/roadster market? Let’s check it out and see.
2019 Kawasaki Z400
Kawasaki needed to plug a hole in its super-naked lineup between the Z300 and the Z650, so it cooked up the new Z400 ABS to do the job. Aggressive Kawi styling dominates the look, but not necessarily the attitude, to make the Z400 an excellent commuter/first upgrade from whatever you cut your teeth on. The ergonomics are friendly to shorter inseams and conducive to relaxed riding, so this is a bike that should cover a range of body types. Is it right for you? Let’s find out.