Beasts not beauties

Beasts not beauties
Highlights

Charisma generally refers to a person with a special magnetic charm or appeal. But what underlying qualities render a bike charismatic? Does charisma come from an irresistible torque curve, polarising looks, flexible chassis, or from a combination of these attributes?

2014 Big-Bore Naked-Bike Comparison Test

Charisma generally refers to a person with a special magnetic charm or appeal. But what underlying qualities render a bike charismatic? Does charisma come from an irresistible torque curve, polarising looks, flexible chassis, or from a combination of these attributes? Better yet, when parked alongside a group of bikes that are nearly identical in terms of performance and design, can one bike be charismatic enough to be considered ‘the best’? This month we pooled five new-or-updated for- 2014 big-bore naked bikes and ventured onto the Southern California roadways to find out which of the five beasts—not beauties— has the wherewithal to answer that question with a definitive “yes!”

“Wait, go back. Did you say there were only five bikes?”

To answer this and the other questions already tormenting you: Yes, there are just five bikes in this comparison. No, there’s no MV Agusta Brutale 1090, Triumph Speed Triple R, or Honda CB1000R, three legitimate naked bike offerings; and yes, we did consider them. Where are they, and why weren’t they invited to this literbikes-bare-all party? To answer: MV Agusta’s US press fleet was not registered for street use in 2014, and, well, we weren’t about to send a Brutale 1090 ABS to impound nor did we have plans to head to the racetrack. More heavily missed are the Triumph Speed Triple R, which primarily lost parts during its latest makeover—forged aluminum wheels (side note, it did gain some fairings, woo!)—and the Honda CB1000R, which received zero updates in 2014. What we have here are the five bikes that are either brand new or updated in a way that’d increase around-town appeal.

An expensive but charismatic champ.

Let us be clear, the KTM Super Duke R isn’t for everyone. At $16,999 (would cost you another bomb, if in India) it’s roughly $2,000 more expensive than the less charismatic yet exceptionally good BMW S 1000 R. And depending on where you live, it could be a nightmare to find a dealer capable of keeping up with your parts request—let alone a dealer with a Super Duke R on the showroom floor. If you can’t accept either of these drawbacks or can’t bring yourself to spend the money, go and buy the BMW. You’ll love it just as much as you love the money in your pocket.

But what about those who are willing to overlook the drawbacks associated with the mighty Duke? Well, let’s just say you won’t be left disappointed. This is, without question, the one bike with enough charisma to be called “the best.”

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