Off the Record
Aaron Frank, Editor At Large
AGE: 37 | HEIGHT: 5’7” WEIGHT: 155 lbs. | INSEAM: 32 in.
I was lucky enough to travel the Pacific Coast Highway between Monterey and LA twice this past summer, on very different bikes. The first time was with my daughter on a slug-slow Ural Gear-Up sidecar (story forthcoming), and I spent that trip dodging faster-moving RVs and Harleys. The second time was with this road-rocket trio, and I spent that trip worrying about the CHP pursuit plane! If Wide-Freakin’-Open is your preferred touring speed all three will get you there, but I enjoyed BMW’s K1300S HP the most. It’s the slowest bike here—very relative in this context—but the only one with a chassis that keeps composed down a twisty road, making it the easiest to ride fast. Once you stop worrying and learn to trust the feedback-free Duolever front end, that is. If it only had a sidecar attached…
Kevin Hipp, Online Editor
AGE: 30 | HEIGHT: 5’7” WEIGHT: 135 lbs. | INSEAM: 30 in.
This was my first time riding big bikes over long distances, so I was a bit worried about this 1000-plus mile, high-speed adventure. These powerful beasts are surprisingly easy to ride—provided you don’t mindlessly whack open the throttle—but moving them around parking lots can be a challenge. The ZX-14R has a super-smooth engine with plenty of torque to power out of corners, even in higher gears. The pegs are too far forward, though, and the engine heat roasted my shins. The Hayabusa’s light steering made it easier to ride in the twisties, but the cheap plastic feel and difficult-to-read dash were turnoffs. Top-shelf fit and finish and all the fun HP extras made the BMW a fast favorite, despite the stiff throttle spring and hard seat.
Marc Cook, Editor In Chief
AGE: 49 | HEIGHT: 5’ 9” WEIGHT: 190 lbs. | INSEAM: 32 in.
As we prepared to roll off on a 1300-mile comparison tour with the Laguna Seca round of MotoGP as the apex, I had second thoughts about bringing the BMW into the fold. I assumed it was just an outlier, an oddball bike that would be bludgeoned by the Suzuki’s smoothness and competence, and by the Kawasaki’s sheer brute power. Yes, it might be more comfortable, but it would get slaughtered on the road. Or so I thought. By the end of the tour, each of us was eager to switch onto the BMW. Its smooth engine, more upright ergonomics (including the best seat of the three, at least for me), fruity pipe and surprisingly useful quick shifter made up for the fact that it didn’t steer as nicely as the Hayabusa or pack the mind-altering acceleration of the ZX-14R. I don’t think I’d pop for the HP special edition, but the $15,555 base K1300S is, with the benefit of real road miles in the saddle, suddenly on my shopping list.
With the smallest engine here, it’s not surprising the BMW makes the least power. It still makes as much torque at 3500 rpm as the S1000RR literbike does at its 10,200-rpm torque peak, however, so acceleration remains frightfully fast. There’s just no replacement for displacement, though: the Hayabusa’s 101cc deficit to the ZX-14R translates into 23.5 less bhp and 9.9 fewer foot-pounds torque. Still, acceleration numbers are not far apart—credit that big bump below 4000 rpm on the ‘Busa map. But nothing else puts as much space under the curve as the ZX-14R, delivering face-melting acceleration in any gear and the quickest production-bike quarter-mile E.T. we’ve ever recorded. If you're looking for the fastest and quickest motorcycle made today, that search begins and ends at your Kawasaki dealer.
BMW K1300S HP: 142.9 hp @ 9500
Kawasaki ZX-14R Ninja: 183.9 hp @ 10,200 rpm
Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa: 166.3 hp @ 9500 rpm
BMW K1300S HP: 87.2 lb.-ft. @ 6800 rpm
Kawasaki ZX-14R Ninja: 108.9 lb.-ft. @ 7500 rpm
Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa: 101.2 lb.-ft. @ 6900 rpm