Best of Both Worlds: Canyon Carving and Freeway Competent

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Last week, we had an awesome discussion about the best performance motorcycle for the street. We heard a ton of different opinions, but one major theme we noticed was people making sacrifices in outright performance for a bike that could do a little distance. Here are the bikes we’d choose to get you from a ride on the highway to the canyons you need to carve.

What’s the difference between these bikes and the absolute best bikes for street performance you ask? These bikes add a little power and a little weight, making them geared better for sitting on the freeway and they are also slightly more stable too. A KTM Duke 690 is one of the best thing’s I’ve ridden on a twisty road (though our reader Bammerburn’s 636 looks pretty awesome too) but the vibes of the KTM’s single cylinder, or high pegs of the 636 make them uncomfortable for long stints on the freeway or after sitting on them for a few hours. The bikes recommended here split the difference. They offer more comfort for freeway rides, but still carry the power to perform like you want them to on the twisties.


2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS – $11,999
Kawasaki’s 1000cc upright sport bike makes 140 horsepower, 82 pound-feet of torque, and comes with ABS and traction control. It should stop there, but if you need more convincing, it gets higher spec brakes than Suzuki’s Hayabusa or GSX-R1000. This bike is incredibly easy to ride around town, touring, or riding fast on a fun road. RA readers Jeremyobryan and Bob both felt like it did double-duty better than anything else, and we tend to agree with them.


2013 Triumph Speed Triple R – $15,999
The Speed Triple (and Street Triple) R was the choice of many for best street performance bike. We went with other options as we’d rather be on something like the Ducati Hypermotard SP or KTM Duke for pure twisty riding as long as it was close, but both those bikes require aftermarket additions to make them capable of anything more than brief stints on the freeway. The Speed Triple R, with its upgraded brakes and suspension, and that incredible smooth and 133 hp and 82 lb.-ft. of torque makes sitting on the freeway a breeze and wringing it out on tough roads incredibly rewarding.


2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200S Touring – $19,995
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, there really isn’t anything that is all-around as good as the Ducati Multistrada. Semi-active suspension, multiple throttle configurations, ABS, and traction control, paired with a 155 hp engine delivering 92 lbs.-ft. of well spread out torque make this Multistrada very tailor-able to you needs. It’s one of those bikes that out performs your expectations and we have a hard time seeing a reason to take anything else. Watch Jamie Robinson ride it around Spain here.


2013 KTM 990 SMT – $13,999
We’ve covered our love for supermoto’s time and time again, here at RideApart, so a bike called a “Supermoto Touring,” or “Supermoto Travel” depending on who you listen to, seems like it would fit the bill pretty perfectly. If we’re being honest, we actually haven’t had a chance to ride the 990 SMT yet, but it sits shoulder to shoulder on a very short list of bikes we’d want to own personally. Reports put the gas mileage in the low 30 mpg’s which, while we don’t love to see, is probably something that we would put up with for that beautiful motor and KTM quality component setup. Anyone want to bring their SMT by for a spin?

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  • Archie

    Wasn’t interested in the article aside from what I initially assumed to be a group riding 3-up on a Ninja 1000.

    Sean, I am disappoint.

    • ookla_the_mok

      Awesome post. Just awesome.

  • William Hardy

    The BMW R1200GS is a glaring omission from this list. (KTM 1190 Adventure owner)

    • Justin McClintock

      R1200GS isn’t exactly most people’s idea of a nice canyon carver. It’s heavy and is has a CG entirely too high and geometry entirely unsuited for good response in anything resembling a switchback. Not to say they’re bad bikes, but canyon carvers they are not.

      • ticticticboom

        ADV owners answer to every question is an ADV bike.

      • Thatmanstu

        You must not spend much time in the mountains,wherever you are….GS’s are a familiar sight keeping pace with the “majority” of sport riders on real roads and right of center in 12 feet of lane space.The tighter the better.

        • Justin McClintock

          While I realize what a GS is capable of doing in the right hands, you must realize what a proper sport touring bike or a full on sportbike is capable of doing in the right hands. And that is, given equal riders, walking away from a GS any place there’s relatively smooth pavement.

    • Richard Gozinya

      Actually the R1200R is a lot better for the canyon carving. Lighter, and with a lower center of gravity than the GS. It’s also a lot better looking.

      • Justin McClintock

        Yeah, if you were gonna put a BMW boxer on this last, that would be the one.

        • Will Shaffer

          Probably more likely the abysmally-named Nine-T, once those are around.

      • Eric R. Shelton

        As an R1200R owner, I heartily concur! ^_^

    • Honyock Undersquare

      Curious – why recommend the Beemer when you own the KTM? I’ve heard much excited praise for the new orange bike.

  • Justin McClintock

    I’m still sticking with my 2003 SV1000S. Incredibly comfy (especially with a few small changes), ample power and torque, good handling, good brakes, good fuel economy, and reliable as an ax. Hard to beat that.

  • Lourens Smak

    I have to ride for about 2 hours on the highway before I reach the Eifel region in Germany (well-known motorcycling heaven). My current weapon of choice is an old CBR600F which is sporty enough for me, and has a comfy riding position, room for luggage, center-stand, etc. a great blend of sporty-ness and long-distance capability. (apart from the small-ish tank)

    Many bikes on the list appeal to me, but I think one or two lighter options could have been added; sure 1200cc is nice on the highway but it’s not like it’s a big problem doing an hour or two on a 600cc. Now I’m going to re-read your CB500F/CBR500R road-trip article.

    • Fava d’Aronne

      Remember, the writers of this blog are biased towards large motorcycles because they are American. In the US I was looked upon like a new rider because I had chosen an 800cc…

      And good for you for the Eifel – When I used to live in Europe I loved to ride to that area…

      • appliance5000

        This blog speaks very highly of the cb500s and you must have missed the fz-09 on the list. Guess it’s an ESL thing.

        • Lourens Smak

          Well the list is a bit “highway bikes that do canyon carving pretty well” while I would have liked “canyon carvers that do highway pretty well” better. But I’m not complaining… and I like the discussions coming out of many of the articles here.

          FZ09 looks very appealing to me, just wondering where to put the luggage… lack of wind protection could also be an issue. But, I have a feeling we’ll see a “loading up your bike for the weekend” article soon, or “how to survive a 1000km-day on a naked bike”, RA staff are adding content like raving madmen the last few weeks.

          • appliance5000

            I think your idea is a good one. There seems to be very few medium displacement sport tourers. An article on adapting smaller bikes for the job would be great.

            Naked, with a small screen, works very well off the highway and good enough to get you there. I think riding gear becomes more critical because you are exposed.

      • Reid

        Also, you may have failed to notice that the writers of this blog are mostly biased against the kind of huge displacement bikes that have unfortunately become more than the stereotype for American motorcycles. They rag on cruisers regularly around here, but if you meant bigger-displacement bikes in other segments, that’s because, generally speaking, bigger displacement motorcycles are the main ones sold in the States. We honestly don’t have much of a choice. Small displacement bikes are either sad sad sad (the micro cruisers from the Japanese brands), dirt bikes/enduros that often cost as much as lightly used mid-size street bikes, or are not what I’ll call “long-term” investments (and those are limited to two somewhat disposable Japanese pseudo sport bikes – Ninja 300, CBR250).

      • CruisingTroll

        “everybody”, i.e. cruiser riders. They’re the only ones who think of an 800cc bike as a starter bike.

      • Lourens Smak

        There are many good riding regions in Europe, as you probably know… Eifel is just (reasonably) close for me; I had great fun touring the Sauerland for example but maybe that’s just because the weather was so superb the whole time… Riding the dikes in Holland can be great too, but my country is sooooo flat… ;-) in 2014 the Alps again, if everything goes according to plan.

  • Brian

    RE:the KTM 990 SM-T fuel mileage. While mine currently gets in the mid 30′s over the general course of how I ride the bike overall, it is possible to get low 40′s with a few mods. The problem is, the intoxication of how easy and quick this machine is to ride, you find yourself inspired to twist the throttle in such a frequent way, that keeping in that MPG is, well rather hard. There is a guy from down under on a model specific forum who has put together a rather largely complete pdf file of modification for attaining said MPG and/or other mods with their effects. It is a question of your connection from your brain to your right hand though, and how much self control you have. Ash even said the same thing to an extent -> , and I know how much you guys respect what Ash had to say on so many things.

  • KeithB

    I thought the FJR 1300 would have made the list.

    • Justin McClintock

      While the FJR is, in my opinion, a remarkable machine, it’s not quite the canyon carver that any of the bikes listed above are.

      • Bruce Steever

        Not even close to these machines

    • sospeedy

      I traded in my FJR last year for the Speed Triple R I now ride. I absolutely loved the FJR for longer trips and two-up riding. However, it is a big heavy bike with soft suspension, especially noticeable when the roads turned twisty. I would not say it gave “the best of both worlds” as is the title of this article. However, the Speed R is an altogether different beast. The minimal fairing (I have the fly screen) doesn’t provide much weather protection, but you can dress for that. I’ve done short, intense sport rides that were a blast, and I’ve done 7-day multi-state tours on this bike. It really is a great all rounder.

    • Brett Lewis

      I can see the Ninja 1000 as a better choice, if it can come close to matching the highway comfort. My FJR is a like a Time Machine on the highway, when I get to the mountains or back home I feel like I had just left… First bike that actually made highway riding enjoyable to me, and not needing to chill off the bike after 3-4 hours. As capable in the twisties as some lighter machines, I think it might be the steering geometry is just right… Since mine is an ’04 it’s a great cool weather bike due to the “heat issue” that makes the 1st gen bikes not as much fun in the summer, then it’s Tiger 800 time. The wind-protecting bodywork even keeps cold air off the hands.

  • Michael Howard

    I NEED a high-res version of that opening photo (of the bikes in front of the clouds). That is absolutely gorgeous.

  • Dan Sciannameo

    What about the new Aprilia Caponord 1200

    • ookla_the_mok

      I, too, would love to hear from RideApart about the new Capo.

      • Bruce Steever

        Then start sending emails to Aprilia and tell them to hurry the F— up

  • gleite311

    My old 650 Versys was great for canyons and freeways. I replaced it with a Vstrom 1000 so that I’d have a bit more oomph when bringing the Mrs along and it hustles along quite respectably in the twisties.

    • Tiberiuswise

      The answer is always V-Strom.

    • Brett Lewis

      I’m thinking the new 1000 could replace the 2 bikes I have now.

  • grahluk

    I probably skew towards the less practical end of canyon/freeway with my CBR600RR. More comfortable for sure than an R6 but that isn’t saying much. My commutes to the twisties along the Hudson river valley and backroads of CT from NY do end up an endurance ride of sorts. An hour up and back on highways wears a nice flat spot down the center of my tires no matter how much I scrub the sides once I’m there. All that said the CBR motor is not bad for distance. In top gear, stock gearing I’m cruising around 70 at 5-7krpm smoothly as can be. Who needs torque on the freeway? As abbreviated as the fairing is it does provide some relief compared to my previous naked bikes going moderate distances. Still my rides are limited to about 200-250 miles round trip due to lack of provisions to carry anything more than a wallet and the ergonomics telling me when enough is enough. If I’m honest I could probably find something that will serve as well for my abilities/restraint in the twisties and get me there and back more comfortably. When I think of distance and performance this picture always comes to mind.


    • Kevin

      VFR, gotta love it.

  • Reid

    I might not be the only 690 Duke owner in this RideApart community (and what a community it is – I look forward to visiting the site every morning), but I have been, to my own detriment, the most vocal. However, I must say that, as a Duke owner, I would not endorse the bike as being “the best bike for general street riding/commuter-carver.” That is not because of the single-cylinder vibrations as mentioned here though. I can assure all of you who were considering purchasing a 690 Duke that the vibrations are not at all bad – honestly. The reason why the bike is not the best suited as an all-around machine is because it does not offer the kind of outright performance a bike costing as much as it does should rightly offer. If the Duke had non-Brembo brand brakes I’m sure they could charge a full thousand bucks less and then we wouldn’t be having
    Pretty much anybody who can afford a $9k bike (but what a herd of 68 horses they are!) and non-adjustable suspension could save themselves more than a thousand bones and gain a useful 30 or almost 40 hp by picking up the FZ-09 listed in this article. That’s not even getting into the other benefits of going for the Yamaha over a KTM – more dealerships, less expensive replacement parts, etc. etc.
    I bought a Duke for a few reasons – 1. my late speed-loving grandpa left me a goodly sum of money with the instruction to “live my damn life for a change.” 2. I always liked the Dukes of the past because of their quirkiness, light weight, ideal riding position (for me) and big-single appeal. 3. the KTM shop is the nearest to me, meaning it’s no big deal at all to scoot down there if I need anything. 4. It’s got ABS standard and has accessible power that’s actually powerful in a way I didn’t think was possible for a first-time street rider to experience. If I had been a more experienced rider I probably would have sprung for a Street Triple or Monster 796, considering they can be had used for about the same, or indeed less, than I paid for the Duke.
    All that is to say that the Duke does make an ideal short distance commuter bike and twisty-road-riding fun bike (like I’d know anything about that living in Florida lolol), but for you guys and gals blessed to live in places where the roads get curvy and/or more wide open there are definitely “better” ways you could spend your $8.5k-$9k. Just my novel-length two cents. I hope that was helpful.

    • Marc

      Your Grandpa sounds like a righteous badass. Sorry for your loss.

    • Sean Tempère

      The 690 doesn’t vibrate that bad, had a 640 for a while, the only two time i hit the highway with it, the license plate flew off it. And it had four rivets on it.

  • Deeds

    Surprised the Tiger 1050 didn’t make the list. Stock suspension needs a bit of work but otherwise makes for an excellent all rounder. Probably more so than the speedy because it comes with pretty good hard bags and a bigger tank.

  • HoldenL

    $7,990 for that FZ-09. That’s what pops out in this list.

    • Ben Barbeau

      Add a windscreen, barkbusters, bags, you probably have a really good traveling bike on the cheap.

      • Bruce Steever

        Still only goes 110 miles before the fuel light starts flashing…

        • Scott Otte

          When are Motorcycles mfg going to realize we would like to get to 200 miles on a tank of fuel.

          • Schuyler

            I don’t mind it, 110 miles is about an hour and a half of riding. I like to get off the bike and move around a little. I used to have a rule in the car never go over 2 hours before stopping. It’s better for your body

            • Scott Otte

              I like to venture a bit farther from the beaten path… and still like to not have to worry about running out of gas. To each their own.. but I’d like to have the range if given the choice.

        • Rameses the 2nd

          110 miles range on FZ-09 is such a bummer. It’s a very compelling bike otherwise.

  • Jason 1199

    Where’s the hyperstrada?

  • Jack Meoph

    I think every answer to any motorcycle conundrum is, ‘busa!!!! My wife loves that bike, especially the LE white one they had many moons ago.

    • Brett Lewis

      I can see that, my experience on another 1300 (FJR), had me thinking about how a ‘Busa with bar risers and luggage would be.

  • Bruce Steever

    This list is why Honda needs to bring in the new VFR800…

    • Kevin

      I honestly don’t understand why they didn’t develop the integrated hard bags like Kawi did this year with the Ninja. All the other upgrades/updates to the VFR were smart and right in the realm of what the bike really needed, but the lack of integrated bags was just a miss.

      • Bruce Steever

        Honda’s VFR800 has had tight-fitting factory bags since 2002, and although we’re not 100% sure yet, it looks like the 2014 VFR800 has integrated mounts now.

  • Rowtag

    ducati hypermotard? no? ok then….lol

  • Piglet2010

    Two things wrong with the Multistrada.

    It is ugly.

    It is expensive.

    Style it like an updated Ducati Paso, and I am buying one.

    • Eric R. Shelton

      Sadly, I agree. I used to have Multistrada 620 and I’ve grown dull to the cries of “it’s ugly” by now- but it was a FANTASTIC bike. I’ve no doubt the 1200 is incredible, but I was disappointed they didn’t improve the looks more drastically (make it look more “Italian”, if that makes any sense), and at that price I’d rather buy a used Multistrada 1100S.

      • Piglet2010

        Of course, since I almost always ride solo, I would be happy to save a couple of thousand dollars and get a Multistrada with the 821cc engine instead (if Ducati made such a bike).

  • Piglet2010

    No Honda VFR1200F or BMW K1300S?

  • John

    Too bad that CB1000R is so expensive and an I4. Never noticed the SSS before.

  • John

    Personally, I always liked the BMW R1100S. Too bad they don’t make it anymore.

    • Thatmanstu

      Lotso miles on the S. Great bike.Nice bags.Good range.

  • John Krause

    I’m just sittin’ here waiting for you guys to take a trip to the east coast and test ride an SMT.

  • Schuyler

    I have a ’09 Yamaha Fz1. I put the bike down, after that I put on the Euro Naked Headlight, Yamaha did not release this version of Fz1 in the US, because I liked the look mainly. I can put in 500 miles in a day without a problem for touring. Longest trip I took was 1800 miles primarily broken up over 4 days. I live in AZ and it’s a good 30-60 miles to get to some twisty fun roads. The bike is a lot of fun in the canyons as well, although that is after cutting the half fairing weight and switching to a Lithium battery to cut weight. I commute 30-70 miles a day with the bike as well and find it more than capable of dealing with traffic, now if we could just get a lane splitting/filtering law passed in AZ. I know a lot of people like the Kawi Ninja 1000 over the Fz1. But the FZ1 provides a thrill/fun factor that the Kawi just didn’t do for me. Also at 6’4″ the ergonomics were better on the Fz1 because Kawi put those awful giant quad exhaust right were my heels need to rest and creates an uncomfortable angle on my knees from having to turn my foot in. I’m hard pressed to find something that I like more than the Fz1. The only weak spots on the Fz1 are Yamaha’s attempt at suspension is too soft for me and the fuel mapping with the fuel cut is not the most comforting sometimes. For what you save on getting a gently used Fz1 you can pay for the suspension upgrades to be better than the Kawi and if you have the extra coin you could get a PC5 and remap done as well.

  • Michael Erb

    Absolutely love my KTM SMT. I recently rode a KTM Adventure 1190 and was amazed at how smooth, stable, and light it felt (considering its weight,) but I live in Portland, OR and there are a ton of winding roads between the city and the ocean and that’s where the SMT shines. It has a lot more hooligan in it than the Adventure 1190. When you push it hard in the twisties you’ll get mpg in the 30s, but if you are just highway cruising you’ll get a lot higher.

    Let me know if you guys are ever in town (the1moto is coming up,) and want to try it out.

  • rajushank84

    What no bonneville?

  • Troy Clark

    This article got me interested in both the Ducati Multistrada and the Kawasaki Ninja 1000, and after a bunch of research and test rides, I have a nice Blue 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS with hard bags in my garage and love it! Thank You!