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

Kinzer, on the Concours, arrived at the bottom of S22 in an agitated state. "It takes a little muscle but I don't mind that. It feels stable at speed but always big. And I really don't like the wonky linked brakes." S22 is fairly smooth, and we'd find out how these beasts would do on roads more beaten upon by weather in the days to come. We could tell by his tone that Kinzer had just seen the sport side of the Connie's capabilities, which are amazingly high considering its size and level of comfort.

Refilled by calorie-rich Mexican cuisine, our group reassembled for a push into Arizona for our overnight in Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix. Soon, too soon, we were off the secondary roads and on Interstate 8, headed east. It's here, the inevitable slog on straight roads, that the decision to buy a bigger ST starts to make sense. For starters, all four bikes have very good weather protection. The Kawasaki and Yamaha trail the group only because they're slightly smaller. Where the Kawasaki's wide mirrors offer a modicum of wind protection for the hands, the FJR rider has his outer four digits exposed to a trickle of air, while the lucky guys on the BMW and the Triumph ride in a nearly draft-free environment. Listening to the XM radio, no doubt. Pigs.

This part we loved as the sun set and the temps dropped to the low 40s. Call us wimps, but we all found comfort in heated grips and seats, generous wind protection, and the other amenities sporting riders scoff at when wheeling one of these beasts around the garage. When it's raining hard and you have another 300 miles to go, that wall of plastic is worth every pound. And yet, while these bikes are unquestionably hefty, they don't feel obese, and they all have enough power and handling acumen to make them feel lively under the right circumstances.

Two of our four STs give the rider a chance to soften the suspension on the fly. BMW's and Triumph's electronic adjustments are similar. Rear spring preload adjusts electrically, but the bike has to be stopped. Damping adjustments can be made at speed. Those adjustments are easy enough to find, though the BMW's settings are much closer to the top of the menu system; Triumph puts the settings a couple of layers down. Both bikes change demeanor from Comfort to Normal to Sport, though the Triumph feels more stiffly sprung and highly damped than the K1600, and the apparent changes from mode to mode are more pronounced. In Sport mode with full rear preload, the Triumph is borderline too hard for a lighter rider and a normal payload in the luggage.

The second day brought us to some of the best roads in Arizona and New Mexico, through Globe and eastbound on AZ70 past Safford and across the Continental Divide on AZ78, two-lane roads that were alternately flat and open to snow patched and frost heaved. Through it all, the BMW maintained its poise. Courts said of the K16 that there isn't a lot of feel from the front end, but it cannot be faulted for being unstable. In fact, the rougher the road, the better the GT felt. Although it had little natural feel, the Duolever front end managed an amazing balance of suppleness and stability, absorbing those crazy little frost heaves like nothing else while never bottoming heavily enough to be alarming. The lack of front-end dive is noticeable, especially after leaving the Kawasaki or Yamaha.


Touring Tips

Bikes counted on for serious travel benefit from ABS and TC, that's true, but features such as electronic suspension adjustment, tire-pressure monitoring, ambient-temperature displays, and accurate fuel computers (including, crucially, a reliable range readout) become more necessary the longer you ride.

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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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