2-3-4 Middleweight Street Bike Comparison

Bart Madson | March 14, 2011

Explosions. A series of thousands upon thousands syncopate in the controlled chaos that is an internal combustion engine. Dig the sound of the exhaust note, the internal whine of mechanical precision churning out rotary power. The soul of a motorcycle is the engine – its heartbeat and lifeblood. In our 2-3-4 Middleweight Street Bike Comparison, Motorcycle USA pits three different takes on engine configuration – three different approaches at the middleweight standard with the Twin-powered BMW F800R, three-cylinder Triumph Street Triple R and Inline-Four Yamaha FZ8.

These three nakeds, with their upright riding positions and pretenses as do-it-all street bikes hail back to the motorcycling ethic of decades past. The genus motorcycle has since evolved into disparate specialist species. Sportbikes morphed into the fully-faired racing replicas of the Superbike and Supersport class. Touring motorcycles tailored performance to long-range comfort. Modern standards plugged along too with notable hits, like the Ducati Monster and Triumph Speed Triple, but the once robust ranks have dwindled. Rides like the Honda 599 and 919, Kawasaki Z750 and Suzuki Bandit quietly dropped out of American lineups, not to be replaced or updated in spite of their great success abroad, particularly across the pond. But that’s all starting to change, as manufacturers re-introduce these Euro favorites to the American consumer.

Enter our trio of test bikes. Only the British Street Triple R is familiar to Americans. The FZ8 and F800R join fellow Euro émigré Honda CB1000R, expected later this spring, as 2011-model debutants in the States. American demand necessitates the return of these practical standards. At least that’s the sales pitch. Yamaha laid out the argument at its FZ8 press introduction: Riders are scaling back, given the dire economy, with one of the hardest hit purchasing demographics multi-bike owners. Fewer riders can afford the luxury of the specialist niches. Ergo, versatile multi-purpose rides are more attractive than ever.

Affordable MSRP are also critical to generating interest, particularly amongst younger riders. Keeping price under the five-figure mark may be symbolic more than anything else, but all three of our test bikes fit the bill (with our as-tested BMW well beyond 10K… but the base model under the mark). Our testing trio also tout relatively light curb weights, respectable road performance and pleasing rider comfort. In sum, they are middleweight all-rounders aimed at the everyman rider.

But how do they stack up against each other? To find out we hit the dyno and scales for objective data, with street ride evaluations on the roads surrounding our Irvine, California offices. This reviewer lends his test rider opinion, seconded by MotoUSA Road Test Editor Adam Waheed. So read on for our take on these middleweight mounts.

Bart Madson

MotoUSA Editor | Articles | Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for 10 years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to motorcycle racing reports and industry news features.