2015 Streetfighter Shootout VIII: Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR | KTM 1290 Super Duke R | Suzuki GSX-S1000

Adam Waheed | October 28, 2015
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The best of both worlds: that’s what the liter-plus naked bike class is all about. Centered on familiar Superbike underpinnings, but tweaked, via everyday riding seat positions and hand controls, not to mention the removal of some slipstream-friendly body panels, Streetfighters blend equal parts speed, comfort and, of course, style.

Aprilia offered the finest blend during our last go, with its 2014 Tuono V4 R ABS. It handily outpaced four-cylinder competition like BMW’s S1000R, MV Agusta’s Brutale 1090 RR and the Z1000 by Kawasaki. For 2016, it intends on maintaining its stranglehold on the class courtesy a big-bore variation in the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR ABS ($14,799). The ’16 Tuono also boasts enhanced chassis measurements designed to sharpen an already excellent handling package.

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The reigning champ in our 2014 Four-Cylinder Streetfighter Shootout, Aprilia’s Tuono gets added engine displacement paired with a sharper-steering chassis. Will it be enough to hold off the competition?

In the Twin segment, KTM wears the crown having wiped the proverbial blacktop floor against Ducati’s current-generation Monster 1200 S with its 1290 Super Duke R ($17,399). Aside from a $300 price increase the ’15 unit sports no changes. But that’s not a bad thing. We especially love its hard-hitting torque-monster of an engine, long-travel and big bump-absorbing suspension and its cozy cockpit that takes the pain out of long rides. Readers want to know how the Tuono stacks up against the orange bike, and we’re about ready to find out.

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The last time we tested KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R it waxed its twin-cylinder competition in the form of Ducati’s Monster 1200 S. But how will it fair against the four-cylinder champ?

After a lengthy absence from the segment, Suzuki steps up to the plate with its all-new GSX-S1000 ABS ($10,499). The GSX-S cashes in on Suzuki’s Superbike racing domination a decade ago by recycling its GSX-R1000 powertrain (winner of 2005 Superbike Smackdown II Shootout). The longer-stroke mill (compared to the current ‘R’ spec engine) is harnessed inside an upright chassis with wheel speed-sensor-equipped traction control and ABS for a fraction of the price of its European competition.

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The liter-class naked bike Suzuki should have built 10 years ago: Suzuki’s new and highly affordable GSX-S1000 ABS goes up against the best of the four and Twin-cylinder naked bikes in Streetfighter Shootout VIII.

For the eighth installment of our Streetfighter Shootout we logged miles on our customary array of Southern California blacktop to see, feel and hear how these bad boys perform on the road. As usual, we ran each bike thorough our standard gamut of performance tests to determine which machine reigns supreme. And as a final wrap-up we spent an afternoon at the track with the SoCal Trackdays folks to cement our final thoughts. Points were then assessed according to our faithful scorecard formula, giving us a winner.

Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS – 3rd Place

Fresh metal joins the liter-sized naked bike ranks with the addition of Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 ABS ($10,499). Based off Suzuki’s cultish K5-generation GSX-R1000 superbike engine, the S model intends to win over motorcyclists with practical performance, at an affordable price.

If dollar conservation is the primary motivator, it’s hard to ignore the value Suzuki offers. Fire up the calculator app on your phone and you’ll discover it’s priced nearly 30% less than the Tuono and 40% less than the KTM. So what do you give up for that wad of 100s? Not a whole lot…

Electronics-wise the baby blue 1000 has both traction control (three-way adjustable, plus ‘off’) and ABS (always on), also standard on the European steeds. It’s also got an adjustable suspension, with an inverted fork, digital instrumentation and comparable power-to-weight ratio.

Yes, the smaller displacement Inline-cylinder Suzuki gives up almost six ponies to the 302cc larger KTM, and more than 12 horsepower on the big-bore Tuono. We see a similar discrepancy in the torque department, with it registering 5% less than the Aprilia and 21% lower than the torque monster KTM. Yet in the acceleration tests, it was only a few hundredths of a second slower than the muscular V-Four to 60 mph and just two-tenths slower than the Twin across a quarter-mile.

GSX-S1000 ABS Settings
Suspension
Fork
Preload: 2.5 (Turns in)
Compression: 6 (Turns out)
Rebound: 8
Shock
Preload: Position 4 (stock)
Rebound: 1
Electronics
TC: 1

“Basically this is a bike that Suzuki should have built probably 10 years ago when the K5 originally came out,” says Road Test Editor Rennie Scraysbrook, from our sister, no brother… never mind, sister digital magazine, Cycle News. “Obviously it takes its engine from the K5. In that regard it’s a brilliant engine – everyone has always known how good that engine is.”

Smooth, punchy and full of character, at least for a conventional Japanese Inline Four configuration that is, the Suzuki’s engine certainly ignites the senses. However, its Achilles’ heel is uncharacteristically flawed throttle response most noticeable in lower gears.

“A little disappointed with the on/off feeling of the throttle,” admits my CN counterpart. “When you are on closed throttle and you just crack it a little bit – it does have a real hesitation.”

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For the money, Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 ABS is one hell of a bike. But glitchy on/off throttle response and rough-riding suspension on bumpy surfaces held the GSX-S back from a better result.

“Usually Suzukis are real smooth off the bottom – real linear. And really easy to ride,” explains long-time Cycle News/MotoUSA test rider Jason Abbott of Suzuki’s typically perfect engine fueling. “This year it was kind of surprising that it was a little abrupt. It’s not that bad but when you’re going through corners and you want a smooth throttle the abrupt off/on it kind of screws up the whole flow of the corner. Compared to the Tuono, it’s just not as smooth off the initial throttle.”

“Once you’ve got over that initial crack of the throttle, there is just torque everywhere,” Rennie adds. “It really feels; you can sort of hear that GSX-R lineage within the bike.”

On the gas the Suzuki’s engine sounds mean emitting a fun GSX-R-like roar from deep inside the airbox. But its exhaust note isn’t overpowering as it recorded the most modest decibels during sound testing.

“So the Suzuki is kind of the sleeper of the group when it comes to the power. It has the third-highest horsepower numbers but you wouldn’t really get that from riding it,” Abbott reveals. “It has a really linear power delivery. I think the mid-range is the strongest. It actually pulls higher in the Rs than the KTM [11,700 rpm redline versus 9900 on the orange bike].”

Although down on power, the flip side is the Suzuki’s best-in-class fuel mileage (35.5 mpg). But since it has the smallest tank capacity (4.5-gallon), its estimated range is a couple miles less than the thirstier Super Duke.

2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS Specs
Engine: 999cc liquid-cooled Inline Four,
DOHC, 16-valve
Bore x Stroke: 73.4 x 59.0mm
Compression Ratio: 12.2:1
Fuel Delivery: EFI with SDTV with 44mm
Mikuni throttle bodies
Clutch: Cable actuated wet multi-plate
Transmission: Six-speed
Final drive: Chain, 17/44 gearing
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted KYB fork,
three-way adjustable for spring preload,
compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: KYB shock, two-way adjustable
for preload and rebound damping; 5.1 in. travel
Front Brakes: 310mm discs, with four
32mm piston-equipped Brembo monobloc calipers
Rear Brake: 220mm single disc, with
single-piston Nissin brake caliper
Tires Front/Rear: Dunlop Sportmax D214F
120/70Z-17, 190/50-17
Rake & Trail: 25.0 deg. / 3.9 in.
Curb Weight: 464 pounds
Wheelbase: 57.5 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallon
MSRP: $10,499
Warranty: One year, unlimited mileage

Both the clutch and six-speed gearbox work well, but first gear is a bit tall, thereby necessitating a little extra clutch slip. We also noticed a little bit of notchiness during gear shifts. There’s also no slipper clutch – which is a standard feature on the Aprilia and a welcome one during high rpm downshifts.

On the scales the GSX-S boats the lowest curb weight (464 pounds). It also feels the most compact dimensionally, yet it isn’t too snug to make things too uncomfortable even for a tall guy like Rennie (6’1”).

“It’s quite a small bike as well,” he says. “It’s quite compact. But the ergonomics of the bike; the engineers have done a really good job. It’s small without feeling cramped.”

“It’s definitely one of the more comfortable bikes of the group,” agrees Jason. “The seat foam is nice and plush, the legs are in the relaxed position. The bars are set-up higher, than say the Tuono.”

Nimble and athletic, the Suzuki’s handling and overall ride quality impresses around town and on smooth blacktop. But over neglected stretches of tarmac, the chassis transmits more bumps and jolts through the controls than the European bikes.

“The suspension on the road is quite good at a sedate pace,” thinks Rennie. “Once you really start to push it, then you will start to find the outer limits of the suspension.”

GSX-S1000 ABS Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Great bang for the buck
  • Class-leading fuel economy
  • Lightest weight bike in test
Lows
  • Glitchy on/off throttle response
  • Rough ride on bumpy roads
  • Can’t manually disable ABS

The lower-spec braking hardware also doesn’t feel as sharp or racy as the competition. Still, results of the braking test demonstrate the hardware, along with the ABS programming, are quite adept, with the Suzuki out-stopping both the Aprilia and KTM— a impressive feat considering Aprilia has some of the finest ABS we’ve ever sampled. However, we still wish that the GSX-S ABS system could be manually disabled for horseplay, like it can on the other bikes (note: the GSX-S1000 is available in non-ABS spec).

A day late and a dollar short – that’s where Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 ranks amongst this trio. While we appreciate its slim n’ trim chassis, class-leading fuel economy, and bargain price that’s almost 40% less than its closest competitor, the Suzuki’s so-so handling, especially on rough pavement paired with quirky throttle response are hard to ignore, slotting the GSX-S in third-place.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R – 2nd Place

The biggest, baddest sport V-Twin on the road. That’s the image KTM portraits with its flashy 1290 Super Duke R ($17,399). Featuring a honking 1.3-liter LC8-generation Twin wedged within a slim, tall and taut steel-trellis chassis, the Duke wows riders with keen lines and eyelid-peeling performance.

And wow is what the Super Duke does best. From the captivating thrill of its punchy and hard-hitting engine, to its cozy riding position the KTM impresses on many levels.

“The big thing that stands out with that bike is the engine – I mean the thing is a torque monster,” says Abbott. “You roll on the throttle in any part of the power and it just responds with a healthy grunt.”

Healthy is an understatement. With 80-plus lb-ft of torque available at the right wrist, from just above 4000 rpm, the 1290 stops the competition in the burnout department.

1290 Super Duke R Settings
Suspension
Fork
Compression: 3 (Turns out)
Rebound: 6
Shock
Preload: Stock
Low-Speed Compression: 9
High-Speed Compression: 1
Rebound: 8
Electronics
Power Mode: Sport
ABS: On
MTC: On

“The bottom and the mid – yeah it has a lot of torque, but once you get to the top, it kind of hits an afterburner,” continues Jason, describing of the KTM’s punchy powerband. “Where if you’re not ready for it, it hits another peak power position and it goes from there.”

As Abbott mentions, top-end power comes on hot and heavy with it producing nearly as much peak power as the Suzuki from just 8000 rpm. From there the power curve keeps climbing to 147.66 ponies at 9100 rpm, before flattening in anticipation of the 9900 rpm rev limiter.

“You don’t really experience that on the road to be honest, because if you do, you’re going to jail.” tells Rennie in his charming, yet slightly perplexing Australian accent. “If you get caught, you’re busted.”

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We love the torquey, hard-hitting powerband, as well as comfy egos, and versatile chassis of KTM’s giant displacement 1290 Super Duke. But relatively rudimentary electronics, excessive engine vibration and a lofty price tag keep it from being a true threat to the Tuono 1100.

“On the track – that’s a different story,” he continues. “You can really explore how much power this thing really has. Torque is far and away it just monsters everything basically – until you get right up in to the top end of the rpms.”

Throughout the rev range, the KTM’s thumping and surging (in a good way) as if you’re at the helm of a boiling over steam-powered locomotive. The exhaust note is gruff, more so than even the sweet, but whining Suzuki, yet remains more stealthy versus to the Aprilia’s roaring V-Four. Another plus is that it guzzles less fuel and offers the most range between fill-ups.

Although incredibly entertaining, the KTM accelerated a hair slower than the 1100 Tuono. The factor that held the KTM back from a better time is its desire to power wheelie through all but fifth and sixth gear. Its all-encompassing traction control system certainly quells wheelies but not as masterfully as the Aprilia’s class-leading set-up.

2015 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Specs
Engine: 1301cc liquid-cooled 75-degree
V-Twin, DOHC, 8-valve
Bore x Stroke: 108.0 x 71.0mm
Compression Ratio: 13.2:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated PASC
anti-hopping
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain, 17/38 gearing
Frame: Chrome molybdenum tubular steel
Front Suspension: 48mm WP inverted fork,
two-way adjustable for compression and
rebound damping; 4.92 in. travel
Rear Suspension: WP gas-charged shock,
three-adjustable for spring preload, compression
and rebound damping; 6.14 in. travel
Front Brakes: 320mm discs with radial-
mount Brembo four-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 240mm single disc,
Brembo two-piston caliper
Tires Front/Rear: Dunlop Sportmax Sportsmart 2;
120/70-17, 190/55-17
Curb Weight: 471 lbs.
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Rake & Trail: 24.9 deg. / 4.2 in.
Seat Height: 32.9 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.75 gallons
MSRP: $17,399
Warranty: One year or 12,000 miles

“I don’t like how muddled the electronics are,” Rennie describes of the KTM’s gadgetry. “They’re a real pain to switch on and off. If you switch the ABS, or the traction control off, or, put the ABS into supermoto mode [disengages rear ABS], and you kill the engine, but don’t kill the ignition, it will switch everything back ‘on’ even if the ignition is still on. So that’s a real pain in the ass.”

The end function of the ABS programming is another gripe, as it recorded the lengthiest stopping distance of the test. Yet, when disabled, the brakes were more adept, measuring a few feet behind the Aprilia. Our testers did unanimously prefer the physical actuation and feel sensation from the KTM’s braking hardware, highlighted by the fitment of an excellent radial-pump master cylinder compared to the rinky-dink set-ups on the GSX-S and Tuono.

“The gearbox isn’t the best, but it isn’t not too bad,” adds Rennie in regard to the 1290’s transmission which, like the Suzuki, doesn’t offer an electronic quickshifter. “I’ve definitely had worse, but it certainly isn’t the smoothest shift out there.”

“Other than that it’s a great bike,” he continues. “The Brembo M50 monobloc brakes are the best Brembo makes at the moment – same as the [Ducati 1299] Panigale. It has street presences pretty much like no other bike. It’s loud and orange – it looks great. It’s a premium product but yet KTM have done an exceptional great job. I would like to see some improvements in the electronics.”

In terms of comfort, the KTM certainly impresses with its thin feel through the mid-section and a natural bar end and relaxed foot position.

“It’s a bike you can ride all day. Literally all day. I have done 10, 11-hour days in the saddle and felt really good at the end of it. You don’t