BMW K1300S vs. Honda VFR1200F vs. Kawasaki Concours 14 vs. Triumph Sprint GT

Long distance calling

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Off the Record

Ari Henning
Age: 26
Height: 5’10
Weight: 175 lbs.
Inseam: 33 in.

I’m the type of person who is inconsolably ashamed if I don’t wear out the shoulders of my tires before the centers, so my interpretation of sport-touring focuses almost entirely on the sporting side of the equation. I’ve logged some long days on sportbikes—including a 720-miler on a Kawasaki ZX-6R—and I’ve never once wished for a larger, more comfortable machine.

That said, if the halfway point of my trip were on the other side of the country, I’d pocket the Kawasaki’s key fob immediately. The Concours 14’s comfortable accommodations, huge fuel tank, powerful engine and capacious luggage are perfect for a cross-country trip, and it handles curves pretty well, too. By definition a sport-touring bike is a compromise, and while the Sprint is the sportiest of this bunch, it’s still too heavy to hustle down a twisty road the way I want to. For trips under 1500 miles, I’d leave all these behemoths in the garage, throw a set of soft luggage over a 600 and have a hell of a ride!

Aaron Frank
Age: 36
Height: 5’7
Weight: 150 lbs.
Inseam: 31 in.

I liked our original long-term Concours 14 testbike so much, I bought it. Actually, I convinced my dad to buy it, so it’s still in the family and available anytime I need to knock out a quick, comfortable 750-mile day. This newly revised, KTRC-equipped Connie is safer than dad’s old ’08, doesn’t roast your thighs as badly, yet still delivers the same blend of thermonuclear thrust and unbeatable comfort that makes this my first choice for killing miles.

Sport-touring is subject to interpretation. When my bias favors the front half of that hyphenate, any modern literbike slung with soft luggage slays the plus-sized sportbikes compared here. But in terms of touring aptitude, it’s no contest: The Concours’ extra inches and pounds translate to real advantages over the aforementioned literbikes—and the other three competitors here—with legitimate passenger accommodation, generous weather protection, info-rich electronics and enough vestigial Ninja performance to still satisfy. Nothing balances the sport-touring equation as well.

Tim Carrithers
Age: 52
Height: 6’3’’
Weight: 220 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

In some parallel, pre-meltdown economic universe, I’d shoulder those easy monthly payments for BMW’s K1300S, just to revel in its eccentric, Teutonic splendor on fast, sweeping pavement. I’d really rather climb aboard a new R1200GS, set the GPS for Porto Alegre or Pelotas or Montevideo and never look back, but that’s another story for another day. I’ve developed a firmer grip on reality since the bottom fell out of our global economic playpen back in ’07. It keeps me from dropping what I have to grab more than I need. In this company, that means anything more than Triumph’s eminently capable Sprint GT.

After 1000 miles, I don’t really miss all those little electronic extravagances. Especially since none of that stuff makes any of the others a perfect fit for me anyway. Here’s the difference: Spending some of the cash I’d save by buying the Triumph on better suspension and brakes would make it a perfect fit. That’s enough for me.

Brian Catterson
Age: 49
Height: 6’1
Weight: 215 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

Two Septembers ago, my brother Paul and I rode two BMW sport-tourers, a K1300GT and a K1300S, from Los Angeles to Seattle and back. In doing so, we rode the full length of Highway 1. Paul, being a private airplane pilot, preferred the GT with its many creature comforts and information-rich instrumentation. While I, being a racer at heart, preferred the sportier S, and wrote as much in our March 2010 "Family Feud" issue.

This latest trip again found me aboard a K1300S on Highway 1, and the results are no different. If I did most of my riding two-up, I might choose the comfier Kawasaki Concours. But for the sort of sporty sport-touring I enjoy, the Beemer remains my weapon of choice. Performance-wise, it’s like bringing an ICBM to a knife fight. And its sophisticated-yet-sexy looks make it the only one of these supersport-tourers I would truly be proud to be seen on, at the local Bike Night or on Racer Road.

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Why the Yamaha FJR1300 was left out of the competition I can't imagine. Triumph? Over Yamaha? Really?
I test rode the Triumph Sprint GT this past weekend. Damn I loved it. Now I'm contemplating a purchase but I really don't have to. I just want to. I would say that it is a touring sport bike where as the BMW is a sporty touring bike. The Honda seems to fall into a the former catagory also and the Kawi falls into a class with the beemer. I also test rode an older K1200 ...r? gt? whatever. And Im just not a fan of shaft drive.
Didn't you forget the FJR1300?  Just a few years ago it came in second to the Concours.

The BMW's sure are intriguing but all I ever hear is high maintenance costs and expensive repairs.  That has kept me on Kawasakis for 17 years.  Bikes and jetskis.  Reliable and powerful.  Best machines out there!
My lemon
Almost 4 years ago I bought my dream bike a 2007 BMW K1200S from Cliff's BMW in Danbury CT. After about 100 miles the bike started to lurch and jerk under 3000 RPM (tough to make right turns without pulling in the clutch and ride at low speed in 1st gear) Well the dealer did not have a fix so I did not have a problem... After repeated attempts to get it fixed finally after the start of my 3rd season they re-mapped it and it has been fine. They even did not charge me...(how nice was that after all that time to find out it was not me and the way I was riding the bike) 3 years ago I went in because my clutch chattered, slipped and would not let me take off fast. Needless to say my 0-60 MPH in 2.8 seconds bike was not. This is not my first bike and I have driven manual transmission cars for 33 years. Clutches last a very long time. I would bring my bike in and Dave the service manager, Brianna a service writer (at the time, now service manager) and Cliff the owner all said "this is normal" I don't think I have it in writing because they did not want it in the records. I went in many times and was told it is normal. The new owner also "said it was normal" at my last oil change  So no help here... so only about 50 miles later I go to trade the bike because I don't think it is normal. What a surprise that I was told I need a new clutch. It will cost me around $1000.00 for the clutch and the housing. Cliff's should have bought my lemon back and gave me a new bike. between the surging and the clutch my bike was a big disappointment and not what I paid for. With a 19K list price and I paid $17500.00 and I still have around 14 payments left. Thanks for listening and I will tell this story to whoever will let me. Needless to say don't do business with Cliff he has an insurance company now and I am sure won't have anyones interest but his at heart.
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