Great questions, as these are three very equally matched "smaller" naked bikes. I really like the way they all look and all are unique. I haven't ridden the speed 4, so I can't really say much about that, but between the monster and the XB, my opinion is that the XB has the better motor (no, I'm not kidding), has better handling, and would easily walk away from the monster in the twisties. That said, I think the monster is way cooler in the looks, sound, and "feel" department, and there's way more accessories for the monster to make it your own. I've already got a ducati, so if it was going to be my 3rd bike (I've got a '74 honda also), I'd go out and test ride a speed 4 and decide between it and the XB. If it were going to be my only bike, I'd still go test ride the speed 4 and decide between it and the monster. One final consideration is that if you're riding around town a lot, the speed four will be a bit more tedious to putt around on due to the narrower powerband of its inline 4.
Good luck, and I again commend you on your 3 choices. This would make an excellent comparo.
All you guys who spew the crap about "test ride this bike!!!" or "you should try that bike!!!" aren't helping. It's obvious this guy has put a serious amount of thought and consideration into the three bikes he's interested in, given the fact that they accurately represent the non-japanese lightweight naked-bike sector better than just about any other three bikes I can think of. So unless you're suggesting a non-japanese lightweight naked bike, shut your friggin' cake crusher.
If you haven't at least sat on all these bikes then go do it. Try to test ride them all, too. I know the Lightning can be test ridden at any Buell dealer. The other two depends on how much the dealer trusts you. Test rides will at least give you the flavor of each bike you may purchase. With the criteria you have listed for use, I think you couldn't go "wrong" with any of them. I'd be partial to the twins, as KPaul knows, because they give the best balance of feel, sound and usable power, in my opinion. Fun choice to have really!
The speed 4 is a nice looking bike and so is the Buell. Maintenance wise I would go for the Buell. No valve clearance issues, and no chain or belt tightening. Since you like Triumphs the Speed 4 looks real good in orange. Heck, you'd be happy with either bike. The up front cost of the Buell is higher but you'll only have to change the tires once in a while. The Buell would definitely bring more comments. It is cool looking.
I wish I could just go lease a bike for a while. Sure you can rent but they want you to pay for the bike in a month and not even own it. Maybe 100 a month. That would be less than a thousand for the entire riding season. Then I'd get to try a new ride each year and if I really liked it, then I'd buy. Just dreaming.
If I look at this as a question of 'what bike do I wish a buddy would buy so I could swap out rides with him?' then I definitely would suggest the Buell. Lots of trick features, ultimate streetfighter styling, and uber-tight handling make that the obvious standout bike for me.
But, realistically, if it were my own money for an everyday bike, I'd probably go for the Speed 4. Not that Triumph is the gold standard for reliability, but my guess is that it's realistically the most owner-friendly bike of the bunch. And I'm a sucker for the Speed Triple 'bug' look.
The only bike of the three I've ridden is the M750, and I was underwhelmed. Unless you're willing to step up to the 900/1000, I'd skip the crusty and crotchety charm of the Monster.
Get the Buell, usable street power (aka twin powerplant), rides it's self and handles by thought transference. Maintenance is a breeze (got a hammer and a screwdriver?) It's comfortable, parts are relatively cheap and there are dealers in every town, almost.
The Duke is a beautiful bike, but the maintenance is very expensive and not easy to DIY, that coupled with the 750 and 800 are just not as quick as the buell. Parts are expensive and dealers are rare.
The Triumph, hmm, my Limey heart wants to say go for it, if you went for the speed triple that'd be ok, but the speed 4, I dunno, maybe if you want to be a hooligan on the freeway at 120 mph where all those cylinders can safely wind out.......shrugs?
How about some more information. What kind of roads do you ride on? What things are important to you (light weight, low-end torque, top-end horsepower, etc.)? Do you ride in groups or by yourself? If you ride in groups, what kind of riding do you do with that group? If you ride by yourself, what kind of riding do you do by yourself?
All three are good bikes, but I have heard disappointing reports on the reliability of the buell and the triumph. It sounds like heresy, but the Duck is the most reliable of the three, as long as you do the maintenance on schedule. You can save major bucks by adjusting the valves yourself.
kidding aside: if i had to choose between those three i'd probably opt for the wretched duc. they seem to have engineered the desmo drive train so that it's reasonably reliable. your checkbook will take a beating if it ever needs adjusting, but that'll be the admission price to the nicest sounding exhaust tunes this side of a grand prix track.
regarding the others: any sportster tuned to put out decent power will soon puke its guts across 300 feet of asphalt. and the triumph tiddler is out tiddled by five or six 600 cc supersports who do more for less.
I would love to be able to rent a motorcycle for a week or two. But the only rentals I ever see are Harleys, and the ocaisional BMW. Shame no one thinks there is money to be made renting/leasing motorcycles.
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