Off the Record
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 sportbikesincluding a 720-miler on a Kawasaki ZX-6Rand 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!
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 literbikesand the other three competitors herewith 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.
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.
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.