Streetfighter motorcycles are always popular bikes thanks to their epic combination of sport bike aggression and urban practicality, but where did they come from, what are they, and who makes them? Here’s a little bit of background on these ultra-cool streetfighter motorcycles, and 10 of our favorite factory-produced models for you to look out for.
Streetfighter Motorcycles: The Definition
You’ve all heard the term “streetfighter” but what does it mean? Contrary to popular belief, a streetfighter isn’t just a naked sport bike – traditionally, there’s more to the streetfighter than its naked nature. According to the font of all knowledge (Wikipedia), streetfighter motorcycles are described as customized sport bikes that have been stripped of their fairings and fitted with upgrades that provide a more aggressive look. Other improvements include the removal of the stock headlight, the installation of taller handlebars, and the addition of shorter, louder, and lighter mufflers. But to what point and purpose? Well, a little bit of history should help us get an idea of why these early streetfighter motorcycles were given the custom treatment…
A Little Streetfighter History
Like all modern custom movements, streetfighter motorcycles can trace their roots back to the European café racer movement that spawned in the 50s and 60s but truthfully the streetfighter didn’t really emerge until the late 70s and early 80s, with younger riders taking advantage of Japanese built sports machines. These new sports machines came wrapped in aerodynamic fairings which were costly to repair in the event of crashes…which were commonplace. Rather than spend money replacing broken fairings, many riders opted to go without. These new un-faired sport bikes were great for pulling stunts on, with huge power and no risk of scuffing up the plastics, and so many riders decided to turn them into dedicated stunt machines, with high handlebars for better control, and only the bare essentials on display.
In the early days, these streetfighter motorcycles required quite a lot of custom work to be viable rides. Most Japanese donor bikes lacked the structural integrity in their framework for hard wheelie landings and the like, so many riders decided to strengthen the weaker tubular steel frames often found on these early four-cylinder superbikes to cope with rougher, more aggressive treatment. And like most custom movements in history, it wasn’t long until the big manufacturers caught up and wanted a piece of the action for themselves.
By the 1990s, streetfighter motorcycles had become wildly popular and the motorcycle industry decided it was time to release some factory-built models of their own to satisfy their fan base. Triumph rolled onto the scene with their legendary Speed Triple in 1994, followed by Honda’s X11, the Ducati Streetfighter, and many, many more. These days, streetfighter motorcycles are easily procured at your nearest dealership. These modern factory streetfighters are naked versions of their super bike counterparts, but retuned for different power outputs, often geared down for more torque and low end power, equipped with gentler suspension for urban riding, with an upright ride experience. They’re more than “naked” bikes – streetfighter motorcycles have a completely different soul.
Custom Built Or Factory Produced Streetfighter Motorcycles?
You could custom build your own streetfighter, but let’s be honest: who has the time? Unless you’re a professional stunt rider with very specific needs, or just happen to have a spare sport bike laying around in your garage with no plastics on, then you’re probably better off buying a purpose-built, factory produced machine. They’re engineered to withstand whatever you can throw at them, are generally more versatile, and provide a hassle free experience. But which one do you choose? Here are our favorites.
Top 10 Factory-Built Streetfighter Motorcycles
#10. The Triumph Street Triple
The Triumph Street Triple is a fantastic motorcycle in any incarnation: from the original 2007 model that was effectively a fusion of Speed Triple styling and Daytona performance, to the modern 765cc version that’s currently driving us crazy. As one of the class leading streetfighter motorcycles in existence, you’re guaranteed a good time on the Street Triple 765. Powered by a newer and bigger engine than we’ve seen before that boasts up to 126 horsepower and 59 lb-ft of peak torque at the rear wheel (for the top spec RS model, that is) and equipped with fully adjustable Showa forks and Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes, five selectable riding modes, full switchable ABS and traction control, a high spec on-board computer, a quickshifter, and much, much more.
It’s too early to tell whether the Triumph Street Triple 765 has got what it takes to become one of the best streetfighter motorcycles ever made, we’re including it on the list because we’re already impressed with it, despite its relative “newness” – but we’re sure that it will stand up to the test of time. If you’re not convinced, go and book a test ride or go a step further and buy one; for a price tag of $12,500 for the top spec RS version you get a lot of bike for your dollar.
#09. The Kawasaki Z900
The business end of the modern Kawasaki Z-Series has always produced exceptionally aggressive looking streetfighter motorcycles. The Z1000 was a beast, the Z800 was more restrained, but thanks to new Euro4 compliancy, Kawasaki have compromised with the Z900, a pared down version of the Z1000 that offers great power from its inline-four engine, twinned with sharp handling chassis. The 948cc engine produces a decent 126 horsepower and 73 lb-ft of torque, and screams over 6000 revs. The power is delivered in a pretty linear and predictable way, but that’s no bad thing.
The rolling chassis is built around an H2 inspired tubular steel frame, which helps keep the Z900’s weight in check, though it still weighs in heavier than the Yamaha FZ-09 (MT-09) or the Triumph Street Triple. Thankfully, Kawasaki have equipped it with adjustable forks to help make the steering lighter and the handling sharp. To help keep the weight down, Kawasaki didn’t bother treating with the Z900 with much in the way of electronic rider aids, and for many riders that’s a good thing. But even if you like to rely on electronic extras, you’ll be pleased to know that the Kawasaki Z900 is a very easy motorcycle to ride, and incredibly fun. The “less is more” attitude is exactly the reason why we think the Z900 is one of the greatest contemporary streetfighter motorcycles. Prices start from $8,399 for the non-ABS model.
#08. The Suzuki GSX-S750Z
The Suzuki GSX-S750Z is a naked streetfighter that takes its DNA directly from Suzuki’s legendary GSX-R line. While it doesn’t come with the same blinding performance specs as the sporty GSX-R750, the GSX-S750Z has a different direction in mind. On the surface, it looks like a stripped down GSX-R with a muscular front end that would lead you to believe that it merely looks like it should belong in the streetfighter motorcycles camp, but there’s more to it than simple aesthetics – it really is a great hooligan ride for dominating the city streets. Armed with a 749cc inline four engine that boasts 113 horses, and provides capable and useable power right through the rev range. Thanks to the application of traction control, Idle-Speed Control, and a cool Low-RPM Assist package, the Suzuki handles well at high and low speeds alike, with controllable power delivery anywhere in the spectrum.
Suzuki have updated the suspension to accommodate new 41mm inverted KYB units, and revised the chassis geometry for better handling and a superior ride experience to that of its already popular predecessors. It might not be as muscular as the Z900 or as aesthetically inspiring as Triumph Street Triple, but underneath you’ll find that the Suzuki can outperform them both. The cool “Z” version comes with ABS as standard and a blacked-out color scheme, all for an MSRP of $8,899.
#07. The Honda CB1000R
Technically, we’re talking about the old school CB1000R that you can buy right now, but don’t forget that an all new CB1000R is on its way – a model that might inject some serious fear into other streetfighter motorcycles in the segment. Let’s look at the current iteration: a powerful 130 horsepower street bike powered by a competent 998cc engine, wrapped in quite an attractive streetfighter style package. The power figures are impressive, but the numbers aren’t important. What we like best about the CB1000R is how easy it is to access that power and torque – it’s simple and easy, no matter what gear you’re in. It’s not great on the track, but on a real road, it’s got a lot going for it.
Not only can it handle like a bike a quarter of its size in slow-speed city traffic, with a responsive throttle and light clutch, but it’s also comfortable and agile at high speeds too. It feels great, and looks great, but it does lack a bit of soul. It will do whatever you want it too and do it well, but it doesn’t have the road presence of some of the others on the list, like a muscular, dominating stature, or a head turning exhaust sound. Luckily, real motorcyclist aren’t overly concerned with such trifles, and that’s why the CB1000R is such a popular machine. The current version retails for an MSRP of $11,760…but a new model is coming…and it looks awesome.
#06. The MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR
If the Honda CB1000R lacks a soul, then the MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR probably has a little too much soul for the everyday rider. With so much luxury that it’s almost bordering on bad taste, the MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR is undoubtedly the aristocracy of the streetfighter motorcycles class. Powered by a boisterous 798cc inline-3 engine that features a counter-rotating crankshaft, a harmonic damper, a mechanical cam-chain tensioner, lightweight materials and more, to produce no less than 140 horsepower at 13,100 rpm and 64 lb-ft of peak torque at 10,100 rpm, the Brutale 800 RR is a real streetfighter built for either rowdy and energetic riding…or for posing with. Either one, the other, or both – but nothing in between.
The power is kept in check with a bevy of electronic riding aids such as a full ride-by-wire system, with multiple engine maps and eight levels of traction control. Of course, there’s a slipper clutch integrated into the hydraulic clutch system, and other cool features like an on-board diagnostics system, and ABS as standard with a rear wheel lift mitigation feature. Throw a lightweight frame with hyper-naked styling, Brembo brakes, Marzocchi forks and a Sachs shock absorber into the mix and you’ve got one hell of a streetfighter on your hands. Naturally, being an MV Agusta, the Brutale 800 RR comes at a premium, with prices for the RR model starting at $18,500. A great bike, if you can afford it.
#05. The KTM 790 Duke
The KTM 790 Duke promises to be the new king of the streetfighter motorcycles, and judging by the positive reaction it received when it was first debuted, it’s going to be nothing short of a sales success. Based on the 1290 Super Duke R but scaled down into a smaller, lighter, hoon-focused package, the 790 is the perfect tool for a wide range of jobs. Powered by KTM’s new 799cc LC8 parallel twin that boasts 105 horsepower and 63 lb-ft of torque, the Duke looks like a lot of fun. With four standard riding modes to choose from (Sport, Street, Rain, and a customizable Track setting) the 790 also features a bonus feature: Supermoto. The Supermoto feature restricts ABS and traction control, allowing for some serious hooligan banter should the moment take you.
To help keep everything sensible on paper, KTM have added a mechanical slipper clutch, and “Motor Slip Regulation” which both work to help reduce the risk of rear wheel lock or general instability, and to streamline engine torque and optimize engine braking without any sketchy juddering. All of this is wrapped into one of the sexiest streetfighter motorcycles we’ve ever seen, weighing in with a wet weight of 418 lbs. There’s no confirmation on pricing and availability yet, but the US should be receiving these in 2019, with a price tag set to be under $11,000. Yeah, that’s right. Awesome, huh?
#04. The Triumph Speed Triple
Next up, we’ve got the first of the factory produced streetfighter motorcycles in existence: the Triumph Speed Triple. When it first arrived on the scene in 1994 it caused a sensation that has kept riders interested for around a quarter of a century. The current top-of-the-range edition, the Triumph Speed Triple RS, is the epitome of a streetfighter, boasting the brawn of a super bike but with nimble and agile handling for the city streets. Powered by a 1050cc triple cylinder engine that produces a huge 148 horsepower at 10,500 rpm and 86 lb-ft of peak torque at 7,150 rpm, the Speed Triple RS is a muscular creature that manages to match its raw power with everyday versatility.
While it’s great for popping wheelies and being a general public menace, the Speed Triple is actually a fantastic everyday ride for commuters, a great track machine, and pretty good for mild touring too. It manages this thanks to the use of top quality performance parts like Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes, and Pirelli tires, and Triumph’s wealth of experience in the streetfighter motorcycles segment. The Speed Triple comes in two flavors, the base “S” model with an MSRP of $14,350, and the range topping “RS” which starts from $16,350. Both are great options, but the game has changed, and there are a few models we consider to be better streetfighters than the old Triumph.
#03. The Yamaha MT-09 (Formerly known as the FZ-09)
Formerly known as the FZ-09, the MT-09 is one of the most formidable streetfighter motorcycles on the market. Yamaha’s own website dubs it as “the ultimate streetfighter” despite the fact that the model’s product manager, Shun Miyazawa, describes it more as a “roadster motard” than a streetfighter, but semantics aside, the MT-09 offers an incredible balance of power, torque, and weight thanks to its inline-3 crossplane engine. The engine itself produces a total of 115 horsepower at the crank, and a decent 65 lb-ft of peak torque, making it quite the mover – but Yamaha have managed to make the most of the MT-09’s engine performance by mating it to a spectacular rolling chassis.
The frame is made from cast-aluminum that keeps the weight nice and low first and foremost, but also allows the MT-09 to corner with ease without compromising stability on the straights. Combine that frame with fully adjustable suspension, and lightweight aluminum wheels, and you’ve got a recipe for success. The electronics package includes Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle, adjustable traction control, selectable throttle mappings, an Assist and Slipper clutch, ABS as standard, and full LED instrumentation. And of course, let’s not forget that awesome, aggressive bodywork and styling. It’s the whole package, which makes it one of the most formidable streetfighter motorcycles around. Prices for the FZ-09/MT-09 start from $8,999.
#02. The Aprilia Tuono 1100 V4
In an ideal world, we’d tie the Aprilia Tuono 1100 V4 with the KTM Super Duke R for first place, but we’re not in the business of cutting corners. While many motorcycle news outlets insist that the Aprilia Tuono 1100 V4 is the ultimate naked, standard, streetfighter motorcycle, we think it’s second best. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a sensationally, amazing motorcycle though. In fact, it only really gets second place because it’s too much of a sports bike than a honest streetfighter as far as we’re concerned. Powered by a godlike V4 engine that produces an unholy 175 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque, that’s held in place by a race-derived chassis that’s almost identical to the RSV4, it’s hard to call this hyper-naked a streetfighter…when it’s essentially a race bike that’s missing a few garments.
Armed with top of the range suspension and brakes and kitted out with one of the most sophisticated electronics packages on the market, the Tuono V4 1100 is almost too good for real streetfighting hooliganism. It comes with Cornering ABS, eight levels of traction control, an up and down quickshifter, a lean, yaw, and pitch sensor, cruise control, wheelie control, launch control and a god damn pit lane limiter. It really is a sophisticated machine, and we think it could be a fantastic streetfighter…but anyone who uses something this amazing for “streetfighting” should probably get their head checked or spend their disposable cash on something more wholesome. In its base form, this Aprilia retails for $14,999…but we’re talking about the big boy Factory version, which has an MSRP of $17,499.
#01. The KTM Super Duke 1290 R
There are a number of reasons why we’ve put the KTM Super Duke 1290 R ahead of the Aprilia, and it’s not because of that awesome twin-cylinder 1301cc liquid cooled, four stroke engine that can produce an outrageous 180 horsepower and 104 lb-ft of torque, that can propel the Super Duke R from 0 to 124 mph in just over 7 seconds. It certainly is the most powerful LC8 engine to come out of the company, but that’s not what we like best about this. It’s not even because of its lightweight features, from the cleverly engineered gearbox to the lightweight chromium-molybdenum steel trellis frame. It also has nothing to do with the top-shelf WP suspension or Brembo brake systems either.
We love it because of its real world usability. Thanks to clever gadgetry from Bosch, the addition of cornering ABS, lean angle sensitive traction control, multiple ride modes, ride by wire technology, and an optional quickshifter, the humble KTM has the edge over the Aprilia because it has plenty of power, but the average rider can take advantage of it. And even if they don’t want to, they can still ride the KTM around town in a real world environment. On the track, the Aprilia has got you covered, but for real life versatility, for short commutes, for light touring, for carrying a pillion, and with better mileage, the KTM is the superior choice over the other streetfighter motorcycles. If you could have either of the two for free, you’d take the Aprilia. But if you had to spend your own money, a wise rider would invest in the KTM Super Duke 1290 R – even if it costs a pretty penny with an MSRP of $17,999.