Top 5 Bikes for Actual Badasses – Experienced Riders Only

Lists -



I lost most of my day “researching” videos of the bikes on this list. Type any of their names into Youtube, and you’ll immediately see why these motorcycles were designed to be placed in the hands of the best of the best. Around town, on the track, or off road, these are for those of you who really want to push it.

The Bike: 2010 KTM 990 Super Duke R
Type: Naked
The Ride: The Super Duke feels kind of like wrestling with a pit bull. It’s small, muscular package packs a ton of power, but it just wants to play instead of bite you in the ass.
Who we imagine riding one: Felix Baumgartener, the guy who jumped out of a space shuttle with only a parachute, because he actually rides one.
The Details: Short, sharp and light, the Super Duke packs a punch in the form of its torquey 990cc v-twin. Like wheelies? You’d better. Stoppies? No? Maybe you should move along.

The Bike: 2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro
Type: Hypermoto
The Ride: The Dorsoduro feels like riding a raging bull. The slightest input error and the front or back end are going to come off the ground.
Who we imagine riding one: Adey when he wants to ride the snake on only one wheel.
The Details: We found this bike a chore around town and not all that great when it came to getting it around turns or corners, which means if you’re on this thing, you better be prepared to muscle it around. Should you accept this challenge, you’ll be rewarded by the wheelie gods 60% of the time you try and move away from a stand still.

The Bike: 2013 Ducati Panigale R
Type: Super Sport
The Ride: The Panigale rides likes dating a pornstar. You’re either seconds away from the best time of your life, or getting slapped in the face for saying something over the line. This bike literally punched Wes in the face when he wheelied (unintentionally) too hard out of a corner that the windscreen caught him right on the visor. We’re not sure how fast he went since the bike keeps revving past where the speedo stops at 186, but from what we’ve heard, it hits the limiter in 6th around 202….so there’s that.
Who we imagine riding it: You know Josh Brolin’s character in the Wallstreet remake? The real life version of that guy.
The Details: The R is the homologation version of the Panigale, adding revs and lowering gearing. Might not sound like much, but those changes are enough to make it the current fastest production bike in the world.

The Bike: 2013 KTM 990 ADVENTURE
Type: Adventure Bike
The Ride: Riding a KTM 990 Adventure is kind of like driving a truck built for rock crawling or a trophy truck. You know there is just so much more it’s capable of than you’ll ever get out of it.
Who we imagine riding one: Jimmy Lewis, podium finisher at the Dakar rally, dirt school teacher, and all-around bad ass, rides one out at the Jimmy Lewis Dirt School that Wes and I attended last year. I saw him do things on that bike I don’t think I could do if I were holding a toy motorcycle in my hand.
The Details: When you’re talking about Adventure bikes, they’re all going to be just fine on the road, what separates them is what happens when you take them off it. Unlike the other bikes in this class, which are just made to look tough and off-road capable, the KTM is actually brilliant off road, allowing guys like Jimmy to make even good off-road riders on dedicated dual sports look silly in comparison.

The Bike: 2014 Aprilia Tuono V 4 R
The Ride:
Not quite as bullish as the Dorsoduro, riding the Tuono feels like riding a race horse. The power and speed are unreal, but it all feels much more controlled and like the bike is prepared to do all the work and let you sit back and enjoy the ride.
Who we imagine riding one: MotoGP racers when they’re off the track
The Details: The Tuono is pretty much just an RSV4 with the fairing removed. Aprilia claims it detuned the V4, but dyno tests show it makes the same 180bhp as the superbike. TC, ABS and wheelie control are about the only thing keeping this bike from killing you.

Honorable Mention

The Bike: used Honda XR650R with legal license plate
Type: Dual Sport
The Ride:
Light as a feather, plenty of torque and power, and the suspension to handle jumping off of just abut everything, this is the closest you’ll ever get to riding like a stunt rider.
Who we imagine riding one: Motorcycle journalists who have had their fill of new, stock, bikes and want a toy for their “me” time.
Details: My adventure friends call a plated XR650R the holy grail because they’re always on the lookout for one. Throw on some knobbies and you have basically the best off road adventure bike out there. Switch to street tires and, well you saw the video.

So that’s our list of the best motorcycles for experienced riders. Anything you’d add to or knock off this list? Hit us with your thoughts in the comments below.

  • susannaschick

    really? So I’m a badass because the 1200 Dorsoduro was the easiest bike I’ve ever ridden? Flogging that bad boy around the Streets of Willow, I felt like I could do ANYTHING wrong and he’d gladly correct it. My ’09 R1 feels the opposite- the slightest error and she’ll send me flying through the air. Weird. All this time I thought I rode like a girl.

    • sean macdonald

      if you’re saying the R1 is worse, i can get behind that.

      • susannaschick

        worse as in more bad-ass? It’s definitely not as fun to ride as the Dorso. My FX feels like a toy compared to the R1.

        • Damo Von Vinland

          That is because the Zero FX is a toy compared to the R1. Half the point of of the entire Zero line is the fact that they are all easy to ride (as an owner I am sure you already know)

          I signed up for a demo ride with Zero last year while on vacation at Laguna Seca, but there were a couple of dorks taking up all the time of the Zero representatives and I never got to try one.

          There is also absolutely no support for electric bikes in the Northeast USA yet, so I guess I’ll keep waiting for a demo ride.

          • susannaschick

            yeah, it sucks there’s no good dealers out there. Electric motorcycles are ideal for NYC! Well, if you can find a garage that’s not gonna try and charge an extra $500 just to plug in. You never know with those guys.

            If you’re ever in LA, check out Hollywood Electrics. They have some models available for test rides, and anyone with a motorcycle license can take one for a spin. Mulholland drive is literally right up the street… It’s a much better experience than the BS escorted ride Zero does at Laguna. You missed nothing. Come on a Wednesday night and talk Harlan into letting you test ride one when we invade the Venice Vintage MC Club ride…

            • Damo Von Vinland

              I am going to try and get a demo ride in while I am out near SLO and Laguna this coming spring.

              I live in the suburbs south of Boston and there is literally no coverage for electric bike dealers.

              Oh, well if I hit that powerball I’ll just grab a Mission R!

  • Garrett Nelson

    I like this list. Gives me some goals of motorcycles to ride. I’ve ridden a normal SuperDuke and a 1199S, so I have a few more from this list to check out.

  • Guzzto

    You guys ridden the Husky Nuda 900R yet ? it’s a hoot,

    • Piglet2010

      Wes will tell you to stop asking about Husqy road bikes.

      • Wes Siler

        They just don’t exist. Husqvarna is currently a dead company and that Nuda is just rebadged F800R anyways. They have zero dealer presence in the US and won’t be selling road bikes once they clear their current stock.

        • Hummbug

          Re-badged F800R – really? Shares some components but it isn’t the same bike Wes. It exists in other parts of the world and so do some of your readers. I ride one and it exists – trust me. And it’s an awesome bike.

          • Wes Siler

            Components like the engine? All bikes are awesome, some are simply less so and it’s our job to relate that to our readers. The 990 is a much better sport naked than the Nuda. So is the Tuono. So is the street triple. So is the CB1000R, Z1000 etc etc.

            • stephen

              Just wish they had released those modern ‘classics’ before getting shut down

            • Hummbug

              Yes, the same Rotax engine but heavily breathed on by Husqvarna. Things like brakes, frame, suspension are all different to the F800R – things that are integral to the character of any bike. The evidence of that is in your review for the three new CB500 models – all with their own “feel” due to the different components.
              My argument isn’t that the Nuda should be on this badass list, just that it’s not an F800R – which you have reviewed and found to be NOT awesome.
              And you haven’t ridden a Nuda so you can’t say for sure. And it sounds like you probably never will.

              • Malandro

                ehm…actually the frame is also shared with the F800. It’s got different suspension, brakes, gearing and ergonomics plus the obvious cosmetic differences but both bikes have the same frame and engine.

                • Hummbug

                  It has the same frame as the F800GS – not the F800R. And the engine is the same yes, but it has revised bore, stroke, cylinder heads, crank, valves, compression, cam timing and engine management….so yeah -same same but different.

        • Guzzto

          With all respect, having ridden an F800R and the Nuda R they are COMPLETELY different beasts, I had a hard time keeping the front wheel down on the Nuda. Yes shame they stopped making them but they are still available in New Zealand and have dealer support and factory warranty covered and parts support for the foreseeable future. Seems a lot of good bikes never get released in the states.

          • kentaro

            I appreciate the concentration on practicality and availability in the United States.

            • Jono

              I agree that the nuda seemed like it was something of an after-thought, pushed more by bmw than husq. and it will be really interesting to see where they go under KTM’s ceo… but hey, they make super awesome supermotos/dual sports. lets talk about them instead ;)

          • Wes Siler

            Sure, and I can tell you that globally, Husqvarna is no longer producing the nuda, that it wasn’t a terribly good bike to begin with and that the brand won’t be playing in road bikes any more. It’s great that one or two may still be in dealers, but their bikes just weren’t anything special to begin with, which was the brand’s biggest issue and the reason BMW shed it.

          • Chanson

            That argument is a bit ridiculous. I’m not about to go on a sports website authored in Italy and accuse them of being the center of the entire world because they don’t cover American football. That would be my own fault for stumbling upon their website and assuming that they should cater to my interests simply because they exist.

            It’s a global website as far as readership but it’s damn-near a Los Angeles website based on the location of the authors. To demand they review bikes they cannot even lay eyes on is unreasonable to say the least. Taking disrespect from a comment about the Nuda and F800 being the same, well, that’s an opinion of a person posted in a comments section and not the main article, so……..

          • Joe Bielski

            Umm, I thought Canada was…. WTF!?!?

        • Piglet2010

          Would be nice to see the Husqy SMR511 or equivalent come back – not a re-worked BMW and only marginally a street bike.

  • Raph

    Ugh, I want the Aprilia V4R more than life itself.

  • Jesse Friedman

    A TL1000S with dirtbike bars and updated suspension. Basically gives you a slightly heavier Super Duke for a fraction of the price.

    • contender

      My TL’s suspension isn’t updated, but it is now naked with dirtbike bars. I love it, and have maybe $2500 in it. Looks like it could be in mad max.

  • Gregg

    ducati hypermotard evo sp > aprilia dorsoduro

    • sean macdonald

      I like the hyper sp way more, but the dorso is crazier. You have to be deliberate in keeping the front end down.

    • HyperRider

      I have the hyper SP and i’ll tell you, it’s crazy. I haven’t been on the dorso but if you’re not smooth (read: deliberate I suppose) on the throttle, the front wheel lifts easily.

  • FreeFrog

    My brother-in-law has a 2012 Tuono and that’s pretty sweet to ride, but the 990 SuperDuke remains one of my favorite rides ever.

  • Honyock Undersquare

    For those who remember, the (Hunter S. Thompson used the adjective “terrifying”) Kawasaki H2 750 triple. The most impressive engine in the least impressive frame, ever. Oh, how I lusted for one…

    • Davidabl2

      As far as our mods are concerned that was so long ago that the H2 might as well have been a
      Roman chariot (watch the chariot race in the Charlton Heston Ben Hur movie and you’ll see that they were also “terrifying” vehicles)

    • Mister X

      Terrifying indeed! Back in the summer of ’72, I test rode a buddy’s custom pearl white, H2 750 (with clubmans and chambers) thinking I might buy it, wow… unexpected 3rd gear wheelies at low rpm, and it was the first time I went 130 on a bike, heading uphill on the Santa Suzanna Pass, I had no idea until I looked at the speedo and then I backed off because it was still pulling hard, it really was scary fast, and kind of twitchy handling, creepy.

      It was a totally bitchin’ bike though, but glad I didn’t buy it, which likely saved my life, that thing was a beast, only the sane survived on those things, the 500′s were more “forgiving”, slightly.

  • John

    RE: Plated XR650. Fine and good. But what about :

    • Joe Bielski

      Ummmmm….Whaaaaaaaa????? Are there some kind of puppet strings attached to, say, the hand of god???

    • GuzziGirl

      - BEAUTIFUL -

  • wilburmeinen

    XR650R < 690SMC

    • contender

      I’ve got a plated 520exc (w/540 big bore) that stomps my buddy’s 690. RFS is the business.

      • sean macdonald

        i really wanted to include the 530 or 350 exc-f but, when it comes down to the maintenance and ability to find parts in BFE, I still gotta give it to the Honda.

        • contender

          Fair, two mountain rides and a couple commutes and I am due for another valve check/oil change.

          • BigHank53

            Yeah, I was looking at one of the 450 enduro bikes for a supermotard project, and the engine maintenance requirements crossed them off the list right quick. I don’t enjoy working on bikes that much.

          • sean macdonald

            those of us who are fans of their products just have to keep waiting and complaining about service intervals and hope they listen some day. I’d be the first guy in line for a KTM dual sport with DR-Z-like maintenance.

            • Stuki

              As long as it’s possible to squeeze one single extra hp out of that DR-Z engine by throwing all reliability out the window, there will be a market for KTMs….

    • PeteN95

      The XR650R has 95% of the 690s performance for 50% of the price. It also weighs the same as a DRZ400S and puts out more power than even the most modified DRZs with almost no tuning and rock solid reliability.

      • wilburmeinen

        Same weight as the KTM less horsepower. KTM has better components. True it cost about 50% as much but you get what you pay for.

        • PeteN95

          My XR650R is 300lbs with 1/2 tank of gas, 690 is 15-20 lbs more. Also the Honda is much more reliable.

  • sospeedy

    Ah, anyone with a good credit card can buy the bikes listed here but….the guy on the XR….i want to be able to RIDE like that!!! Now that is badass!!!

    • sean macdonald

      i never said that everyone who rode them was a badass, just that it took a badass to ride them well.

  • shaun

    I used to be a badass with my 950 adv … way more awesome carbureted!

    • MichaelEhrgott

      I have a 2004 silver 950 Adv and I absolutely love it. Every time I stand up on the pegs I feel like Superman. It doesn’t hurt that it pulls down low like a mule on cocaine either. I can find no reason to get rid of it other than the fact that oil changes are a hassle… but I just have to stop whining.

      • shaun

        Ah oil changes are fun on that thing. I do regret selling it but I was moving across country. If I bought another one, I’d look for a 950..

        Have you done your canisterectomy?? Feels like a beast after! Here’s my write up if you haven’t :

        • MichaelEhrgott

          Yeah I’ve read that write-up but I am putting that off for a while. Lol. It’ll be a winter project for me when it’s all rainy. Great write-up and pics though. I do need to do an oil change right about now.

  • gregory

    My 250cc Daelim/ Kymco scooter, with automatic transmission and 46 litre rear top box, doesn’t make the list?

    • Afonso Mata

      If it’s an orange Kymco Downtown 300i, that’s on my list.

      As for the top box, I went for the 42 liter box from Shad. It’s cheaper than Givi’s 46 liter and it’s pretty much the same quality. ;)

  • Ayabe

    I guess KTM’s must be big out west(err somewhere?), there’s virtually no dealers within hundreds of miles and I’ve never seen one on the road.

    We have a Ducati dealer though, so there’s that…

    • sean macdonald

      oh no, the support out here is terrible as well. accessibility, however, has nothing to do with quality or ability

      • Ayabe

        No doubt, that SuperDuke is something else. I guess it’s a chicken and egg thing, in order to sell more bikes you have to have a larger dealer network – in order to justify a larger dealer network you have to sell more bikes!

        • sean macdonald

          well, that and they’re just blowing it. they talk about wanting to focus more on US markets and on street bikes, and then tell us they don’t have any press bikes and don’t know if they’ll ever have any press bikes. a buddy just bought a dealership so we’re going to try and go through him to test some bikes for you guys.

          • Piglet2010

            If they want to expand the US market, they should bring over the RC390 – right now you have to go up to a super-sport to get a bike that does not need a lot of modifications to be track ready.

          • yyzmxs

            Canada is even worse … KTM North America street bike program, so much potential, so little execution.

          • Bruce Steever

            This will be changing for the better though… at least that was the message at the 1190 Adventure launch. i certainly hope so, as the 1190 was amazing in every way you could hope for…

      • Mark Vizcarra

        There are like 3 ktm dealers witin a 50 mile radius of where I live. But I do live in the Bay Area though

  • Phoneix_Ikki

    You guys forgot to add Honda Ruckus to the list…hmm

    • sean macdonald

      They would only let me include one honorable mention :(

    • Piglet2010

      Now the Big Ruckus is a badass scooter on looks alone.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    My good friend rides a plated xr650r with a big gun exhaust and no baffles. It’s fucking ridiculous. Wheelies in 4th without even blinking and it sounds like the titantic hitting icebergs in rapid succession.

  • Dan

    This is a sweet list. It would be cool to get a similar list going for older bikes too. 500cc 2-stroke anyone? More recently, I heard that 2003-04 were the evil years for zx10s, where the bikes were absolute missiles and would bite the unwary.

    • Piglet2010

      The real badass 2-smoke is the Kawasaki H2/Mach IV – very few around any more, since so many were wrecked.

      • Campisi

        I used to work with a doctor who claimed to have ridden one of those in his youth. Like most doctors, he didn’t ride anymore, but he always said he’d gotten a life’s worth in before hanging up his helmet.

  • CruisingTroll

    Hmmm…. no Diavel, Rocket III, or Street/Speed Triples eh? Nor do the BMW HP4 or any random chinese scooter (you have to be badass to keep them working!) make the list, not even an honorable mention.

    I am curious though as to whether or not the Motus will be a contender for this list.

    • BryonCLewis

      And the B-King, because nothing says “fuck you I’m a badass” like riding the ugliest bike ever manufactured and then top it off with a busa motor and no fairing.

    • sean macdonald

      Bikes that can go fast and bikes that can’t go slow are too different very different things.

    • HyperRider

      I went more along the lines of managing the motorcycle in all aspects.. the diavel, Rocket III, and Speed/Street Trips you can just twist the throttle and let the bike do the work for you whereas the bikes mentioned requires the RIDER to work, and work hard at that.. The Speed/Street Trip are also anomalies in your list so I’ll bite and say they are fun bikes but by no means do you have to be ‘gentle’ with them

      • Dan

        Agreed. Owned a Speed and there’s nothing scary about that bike. Just smooth, predictable power everywhere in a nice (if somewhat heavy) chassis.

    • Chris Optional Freeman

      a Motus Fighter would take the cake for most badass bike hands down, but there isnt one yet….

  • PeteN95

    Great list, I agree with most choices. I own a plated XR650R and a naked SV1000 with GSXR suspension and MX bars (cheap SD). I’ve also ridden the Tuono and Panigale R on the track and they are awesome! I think the Dorkoduro is a pig, but the other bikes are excellent.

    • sean macdonald

      a pig, yes. but i remember swapping with adey one day and telling him he may wanna take it easy at first. he laughed at me and then took off and pulled a massive wheelie and, when i caught up to him at the next light, his only response was that it was completely on accident and that i wasn’t kidding. pretty sure the wheelie from that next light was on purpose though.

  • Tommy Erst

    Feel like the mulistrada would be pretty high up on this list. Not top 5, but i imagine getting a lot of speeding tickets if I had one, and flying past a bunch of superbikes while sitting up straight with a stupid smirk on my face.

    • Bruce Steever

      It’s get-the-flock-out-the-way fast to be sure, but the electronics and long wheelbase give it more of a refined sports-tourer sort of speed. I never felt like it was going to send me into the next world like a SXV or highly tuned streetfighter would.

  • Brian

    the Ape that I think is personally missing is the SXV550….that thing begs to be WOT all the time and almost penalizes you for anything less.

    • Reid

      I know a dude – a really good off-road/enduro rider with years of experience – who could have easily died riding one of those things just down the road from the dealership where he was THINKING of buying it. He said all he did was ease off the throttle the tiniest bit and touch the rear brake before making the turn to head back to the shop. The result, as he tells it, was a powerslide into oncoming traffic.

    • Piglet2010

      Is Aprilia even importing the SXV 5.5 to the US anymore?

      Front brakes may be a little soft, as Adam Waheed demonstrates. ;)

  • PeteN95

    The 550 is an awesome machine, but everyone I’ve seen has blown up, even the one I rode. Where my XRR makes 52HP at the rear wheel and will go 30k miles + with only a couple of easy valve adjusts! Ref: “Dust to Glory”!

  • Reid

    What about the Aprilia SXV 550? PURE DEATH.

  • AK503

    Great stuff, other than mistakenly saying Wall Street was a remake, it’s a sequal! Hahaha, just messsin’, the street legal XR650R hits the nail on the head!

    • Ken Lindsay

      Didn’t they make a XR650L that was plated?

      • Bruce Steever

        Not even close. The L is an old air-cooled duffer, while the R is a liquid-cooled beast used for Baja 1000 wins.

        • Ken Lindsay

          That’s right!
          Well, I really think that any plated hard enduro could be on this list. I have a plated wr450 and it isn’t the tamest thing on the road. I always have to pay attention to braking distances. Those knobbies are pretty decent in corners, but suck on oil covered asphalt when you have to stop NOW.

  • Bram

    Having had a Superduke R and a v-twin and v-4 Tuono I concur that they incite nothing but trouble and antisocial behaviour. It is a shame that this list is about current bikes because nothing compares to my old Suzuki RGV250. You just couldn’t ride it in any manner other then flat out in a frenzied blur of revs, last second braking and then there was the very questionable consideration of other road users. The closest I’ve come to that on a current bike was a day long test ride on a MV F3 675, but I don’t want one. I’ll wait for the 800 or the new Super Duke out at the end of the year.

  • onlyunusedname

    Bimota DBX. Nutty nut nuts.

  • Rooster

    The plated XR650 is a good choice. A better choice would be a plated CRF450 like I have. The power is about the same, but the lower weight makes for a much more nimble feeling ride. For something off the shelf the Aprillia SVR550 is a better choice than the XR, but obviously a more obscure bike to keep running and find parts for.

  • Sexton Blake

    No SH300?

  • Bruce Bradsby

    Honda CR-500 widowmaker

  • Joe Bielski

    I would kill to have a Duke 390!!!! 306Lbs and 43HP???? That would make a killer bike for the city!!!

  • Steve Rabinowitz

    Great list! Although no longer in production, I want to add my RC51 to the list…

  • Maverick

    How on earth did 2 KTM’s make this list? Drop the Super Duke and put in the Street Triple R

  • Jimmy Lewis

    Getting some love from the Rideapart guys! Thanks, Sean.
    I own two of the bikes you mention so that means I’m just crazy.

  • OCD Moto

    Couple more for the list: Duc Streetfighter 1100S 2010 (panigale motor) beats the fugly Duke R on looks alone. Forget the old XR650R. It’s history (in the US at least.) The KTM 690ER will SMOKE it in every way. If we’re really talking big adventure bike with lousy aero protection, why take a KTM 990AdvS when you can hop on an more offroad worthy, more reliable KTM 950 Super Enduro?

  • SniffingYourOwnButt

    the real question is how much BS can you spew on the Internet and still maintain any semblance of respect in the eyes of anyone other than another BS-spewer

  • Chris Optional Freeman

    How about: Yamaha VMax, ZRX 1200, Moto Guzzi Griso 8V, Confederate Hellcat, & Honda PC800. all of which are more BadAss than the five in this list, especially that last one i listed. youd have to have a lot of moxy to ride one of those around….

  • Diego Martinez

    I would think that a street legal CRF450 would trump the 650, on account of being 50 pounds lighter and making similar horsepower. But then again, I might be a bit prejudiced, seeing as I ride one…