The naked bikes are back

The American love affair with motorcycles, such as it is, has not extended to the naked bikes in recent years.  They sell like hotcakes to our cousins across the pond, but in the US…not so much.  We like our cruisers and repli-racers and sport-tourers.

For the 2010 and 2011 model years, that has changed drastically, with a whole slew of naked standards, big and small, coming back to the US in a big way, and from nearly every manufacturer. Kawi completely redesigned the big Z1000 for 2010, Triumph has been pushing the Street Triple, and now Yamaha weighs in with the new FZ8, while BMW is trying to recapture the magic of the F800ST with the new F800R.

Motorcycle USA has stacked up some of these bikes against each other in a new comparo. What makes this one interesting is that the three bikes chosen, other than being middleweight standards, are powered by completely different powerplants. The F800R is a twin, the Street Triple is–as the name implies–a triple, and the FZ8 is an I-4.

So who wins? Is it the thumpy Twin of the BMW, the silky smoothness of the Yamaha I-4, or does the Street Triple offer a sporty compromise between the two that makes is a superior bike to ride?

Apparently, there are a lot of things about the Street Triple that catches the testers’ hearts.

BMW F800R Review

2011 BMW F800R
2011 BMW F800R

While many motorcycle companies have been struggling since the worldwide economic recession started in 2008, BMW has been fairing pretty well.  Part of BMW’s success has been coming out with bikes that don’t fit the mold of  “stodgy tourers for fantastically wealthy oldsters”, and appeal to younger, less affluent riders.  One of those bikes is the S1000RR sportbike that pretty much everybody has fallen in love with.

BMW seems to be getting it, marketing-wise. As Pieter De Waal, VP of BMW Motorrad USA, says, “When selling something nobody needs, you’d better give them a very good reason to buy.”

Following along in that vein, BMW has dropped the F800S from the 2011 lineup, replacing it with the urban, naked, standard F800R.  That bike has been available to Europeans for 18 months, but is now becoming available in North America.

Motorcycle.com has a full test report on the F800S, and they seem to like it a lot.