Naked Bikes: Standards and Sport Standards

By Chuck Hawks

Call them "standards," "sport standards," "naked bikes" or whatever, the most versatile bikes on the road are the most basic. With the right accessories, the bikes that I still call standards can fill many roles, from a weekend ride on the local track to a ride across the country.

The majority of the e-mail I get from Motorcycles and Riding Online readers involves questions about what new bike in a certain class or of a certain brand I would recommend. This is the naked bikes article in a series that is intended to answer some of those questions before they are asked. What follows is a kind of survey, by brand, of the naked bikes I'd consider if I were in the market.

For those who admire Italian engineering and don't worry about maintenance costs or other practical considerations, the Ducati Monster series is probably the way to go. There aren't a lot of Ducati dealers in the U.S., but there are more of them than for any other Italian bike. Ducati gives the prospective buyer a choice of air/oil cooled 600, 800, and 1000cc class Monsters, something for everyone who wants a street fighter motorcycle with the famous Ducati name on the tank. And, without a doubt, the Monsters are fun to ride.

The H-D Sportster line has grown to the point that it covers almost all bases, from sport standards to chromed and lowered cruisers. For a good deal it is hard to beat the 883, the lineal descendant of the XLCH of 1958. Now that the engine is rubber mounted, the old complaint about Sportster vibration is no longer valid, so what are you waiting for?

The SV 650 has got to be one of Suzuki's real success stories. This moderate displacement sport standard combines excellent performance and handling, a trick new frame, powerful brakes, a livable riding position and a great price. A similar but larger displacement model, the SV 1000, has been added to the Suzuki line for those who think they can handle more power than provided by the snappy, liquid-cooled, 645cc SV 650.

The Thunderbird Sport is back. This powerful 885cc liquid-cooled triple combines classic styling with modern sport standard acceleration, handling, and braking. The usual impeccable Triumph finish and detailing contributes considerably to the bike's good looks and desirability. With its narrow handlebars and rearset footpegs and controls the T-bird Sport definitely feels like a sporty bike, but the riding position is not as radical and uncomfortable as most pure sport bikes. Among other things, the Thunderbird Sport proves that a street fighter type motorcycle does not have to be ugly.

The V-Max has dominated the performance street bike class for so long that it is easily overlooked in the flood of more recent models. But the original street racer is still the quickest bike in the street fighter, power cruiser, or naked bike classes. What happens when you twist the grip and allow its liquid-cooled, counterbalanced, DOHC, 1184cc, V-four powerplant's V-Boost induction valve to open and guzzle fuel/air mixture in prodigious quantities is its main selling point, but Mr. Max also has perfectly satisfactory handling and braking conferred by its adjustable front and rear suspension and triple disc brakes. Despite its radical and somewhat dated styling, Mad Max is still the bike to beat in a stoplight Grand Prix, and riders on other marquees would do well to tread softly around Mad Max.

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