BMW K1600GT vs. Kawasaki Concours 14 vs. Triumph Trophy SE vs. Yamaha FJR1300 | Conquering The Divide

Four STs, Twice Over the Prow of America

By Marc Cook, Photography by Kevin Wing

Off the Record

Aaron Frank
Editor at Large
Age: 38
Height: 57
Weight: 155 lbs.
Inseam: 32 in.

If I we're buying a cross-continent cruise missile on my current salary, it would probably be a Concours 14. Built on the bones of the ZX-14R, Ms. Connie is more than sporty, and I know from personal experience--my father currently owns the magazine's 2008 C14 long-term testbike--that a few carefully considered mods transform the Concours into a sublime high-speed, high-mile machine. But it would be so very hard not to blow my budget on BMW's brilliant K1600GT. Forget Triumph triples or Ducati twins--the Beemer inline six has my new favorite exhaust note. I fell in love with the K16 every time I fired it up, and my lust didn't diminish at all as miles piled up. No matter how you farkle a C14, you'll never match the same level of performance, convenience, integration and function that the BMW delivers out the door. That makes the extra $8,836 seem like a bargain, even on a wordsmith's salary.


Marc Cook
Editor in Chief
Age: 49
Height: 59
Weight: 195 lbs.
Inseam: 32 in.

Late last year, I rode the Triumph Trophy SE in Scotland and came away impressed. I've always been a sucker for a big triple, and got on really well with the Explorer, which shares the 1215cc engine. At the launch, the Trophy seemed quick enough and well equipped for the money. What's more, I didn't feel like the Triumph's riding position was too tight or confining, but I didn't have the K1600GT or the FJR1300 there to compare. For me, that's the one area where the Trophy lags: It simply feels too much like a touring bike to me. Now, the FJR fits me like the engineers took my measurements first--it's that natural and comfortable for me. Aside from the soft suspension--easily fixed--and the silly 82-mph limit on the cruise control, I cant find anything of substance to fault about the FJR.


Thomas Kinzer
Digital Editor
Age: 44
Height: 58
Weight: 170 lbs.
Inseam: 32 in.

These machines fall into two distinct categories in my mind. The Triumph and the BMW fall into the touring category. The Yamaha and Kawasaki get filed under sportbikes, tweaked for touring. All four are great in terms of performance, but the big difference for me is the way the bikes feel in size. The Yamaha would be my choice as a single do-it-all bike. It's smaller size fits me better and just makes the bike fun. If I wanted a two-up, long-distance touring bike, I'd go with the Triumph. It has all the bells and whistles, feels lighter, and retains more motorcycle character than the BMW. If you wouldn't be caught dead on a Gold Wing but secretly want one, go with the Trophy.


Zack Courts
Associate Editor
Age: 29
Height: 62
Weight: 185 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

All of these bikes spun the trip meters up so fast we forgot what time zone we were in, but in the end it was a tale of two classes; the Euro-luxury liners and the Japanese econo-tourers. Triumph's stab at BMW's throne came up short, as even the all-new Trophy feels dated compared to the Starship Enterprise that is the K1600GT. The BMW is the best bike here and, not coincidentally, you have to pay for it. As addictive as heated seats, electronic suspension, and satellite radio can be, anyone with one eye on their retirement account will be looking at Yamaha and Kawasaki dealerships for their ST bike. The Concours and the FJR are both great options, but since it benefits from a more recent update (and because it didn't threaten my life with conniving linked brakes) I give my nod to Yamahas FJR1300.

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jbutrus
I ride a 2012 Concours and agree with your assessments pro and con. Given the competition, I expect  Kawasaki to update the Concours reasonably soon. Updated instrumentation, improved integrated braking, electronic cruise control, and a slightly larger windshield would address most of the issues you raised and put the Concours well ahead of the Yamaha FJR-1300.  To put the price differential between the BMW K1600GT and the Concours in perspective, one could purchase a new Connie AND a one year old ZX-6 for the cost of the Beemer. Of course, if money were no object the 1600GT and a 1000RR for track days is a Sport Touring/Sport combination no manufacturer can touch. Great article!
jbutrus
I ride a 2012 Concours and agree with your assessments pro and con. Given the competition, I expect  Kawasaki to update the Concours reasonably soon. Updated instrumentation, improved integrated braking, electronic cruise control, and a slightly larger windshield would address most of the issues you raised and put the Concours well ahead of the Yamaha FJR-1300.  To put the price differential between the BMW K1600GT and the Concours in perspective, one could purchase a new Connie AND a one year old ZX-6 for the cost of the Beemer. Of course, if money were no object the 1600GT and a 1000RR for track days is a Sport Touring/Sport combination no manufacturer can touch. Great article!
Africord
I don't have a problem with your analysis.  But a shorter rider may come up with a different analysis.  One look at the specs flips the choice for luxo ST to the Triumph for this inseam challenged rider.  I also expect that my shorter arms (32" sleeve length) would not feel cramped at all. Different horses for different riders.
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