Ducati started things off with beauty... Honda carried it on with useability...
It’s a funny thing really, that naked bikes had to go through a bit of a dreary period before they became hot property. In the seventies and early eighties, there was barely a fairing in sight, so everything was essentially ‘naked’.
Then sportsbikes came into fashion, the focus switched entirely, with the ‘naked’ class all but forgotten. Come the late eighties and early nineties the kind of naked bikes we had were a bit drab. Anyone remember the Suzuki GS500E from that time? Ghastly, wasn’t it? But, apart from Yamaha’s TDR250 in 1998, and its oddball TDM a few years later, there wasn’t a great deal of choice in the division. Not if you wanted to have any fun, or wanted a naked that looked damn fly.
Then Ducati, which was at the time arising from its own ashes, came up with the Monster 900. Overnight, we had a cool naked bike that had some guts to it, and sounded amazing. Smaller capacity versions followed, as did other manufacturers when they eventually twigged that they could hamstring their supersport tackle, lose the fairings and have some guaranteed sales.
Bikes like the Bandit 600, Honda’s Hornet and Yamaha’s Fazer ranges sprang up and were instantly popular. Not particularly attractive, or fast, but at an acceptable price.
For years it remained the same, but then Kawasaki brought out the Z750, which knocked all of its Japanese competitors into a cocked hat. Well, as far as we were concerned at any rate. This is where things began to get interesting again, where manufacturers started pouring more modern resources into the class. But not to the extent we liked; it was going to take something very special to wake them up to the potential.
That bike was Triumph’s Street Triple in 2007. It came, it saw, and then destroyed everything. Nothing from Japan could come close, and only Ducati had anything to touch it. Even Aprilia’s Shiver couldn’t measure up, and only now in 2013 does the brand new Street Triple have decent rivals in MV Agusta’s B3 and Brutale 800, Ducati’s 848 Streetfighter and Kawasaki’s Z800. All five are sexy, fast and desirable, just like the original Monster 900.
It’s taken 20 years to get the class to the point where we get real value for money, bikes that can do anything and make you grin your tits off. There’s a lot of dross still available, in a class with lots of choice. But they can make fantastic beginner bikes, are great to commute on, love a Sunday spin, or can chase supersports machines if you choose appropriately. There’s a bike in the class to suit any needs, without breaking the bank. Long may it continue.