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

Brakes on such fast, heavy bikes are critical to well being, but we have relatively few complaints. All are backed by competent ABS and each bike has some form of linking, ranging from transparent (especially on the Triumph and Yamaha) to slightly funky (on the BMW, mainly because the controls lack feedback) to pretty annoying, in the case of the Kawasaki. While the Connie's binders are plenty powerful, the linking strategy, even in the Low Combined mode, can offer unpredictable results. Each of us had praise for ABS at least once during the trip, and the same can be said for traction control, though the Kawasaki's, which cuts power too bluntly and for too long, is half a generation behind.

As we made our way up Highway 152 out of Silver City in what would be a futile attempt to cross the Emory Pass before clear pavement and daylight ran out, the road became tighter, rougher, and more technical. As before, the BMW impressed us with its rare combination of stability and compliance, with the Triumph not far behind as long as you reduced rear preload a bit; though the rougher roads could conspire with its light steering to demand a bit more concentration than is ideal.

By now we'd started to give the Yamaha some margin owing to the soft suspension. The FJR manages rougher roads well, but you have to work to preserve lean angle. The Connie was a little frustrating. We couldn't find suspension settings that gave us acceptable bump compliance without inducing somewhat unruly ride motions. "Kawasaki definitely intended for this bike to be ridden hard, and it's sprung accordingly with what seem like pretty stiff spring rates," opined the ever-enthusiastic Mr. Frank. "Unfortunately, damping is a bit light, especially rebound, which occasionally made the Connie feel a little hyperactive over rough pavement. I've ridden a modified Connie with a cartridge kit in the fork and Penske rear shock and it's pretty remarkable when this bike is working right."

We had to abandon our shortcut along Highway 152 out to Interstate 25 and an early dinner in Albuquerque because of snow and darkness, backtracking enough that we ran our chase bike out of gas. Which illustrates an interesting point of true long-distance bikes: range. The Kawasaki averaged a sorry 36 mpg over the 2200-mile ride--despite our occasionally engaging the fuel-sipping Eco ride mode--suggesting a theoretical maximum range of less than 210 miles. The three others, by dint of either better mileage or bigger tanks--the BMW's is 7 gal. even, the Triumph's 6.9--math out at or above 260 miles. Doesn't sound like much, but 50 miles is everything when gas stations are 60 miles apart.

After an uneventful night in Albuquerque--aside, of course, from the freak snowstorm that blew in just 10 minutes after wed parked--we reassembled in near-freezing conditions to head westward, picking up US60 out of Socorro, NM. Skirting the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array--"We're broadcasting important information into space, like how much water we have...how dumb is that?" asked staff paranoiac Kinzer--we found roads to let the STs stretch their legs. Subjective impressions put the K1600 a league ahead of the others. The silken six peaks at 106.4 lb.-ft. of torque, but holds more than 100 from 4500 to nearly 6500 rpm. None of the others gets close.


Touring Tips

Get fuel early and often. There's nothing worse than sweating the distance to the next fuel stop. Except for running out of gas, naturally.

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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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