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.
The Connie’s bags hold a surprising amount of stuff, but they are also fairly wide. It’s a
Hello, 2007—where have you been? Cheap-looking analog gauges and an artless multifunction
Kawasaki increased the height of the stock windscreen in 2010, but it could stand to be a
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.
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.