California Adventure Tour | Coyote Ugly

Putting an unlikely quartet of traveling bikes through the wringer on a high-mileage adventure tour of California

By Jamie Elvidge, Photography by Kevin Wing

The BMW with goodies like ABS, heated grips, saddlebag mounts, hand protection and onboard computer will set you back something like $18k. Our next favorite machine will set you back a little less, at $15,300. Did I mention the Concours 14 is sexy? Sometimes that's worth paying for, and in this group, it also happens to be the cheapest form of seduction. It got the highest mpg as well, but also the lowest (imagine that), ending up with a 37.8 average after 1400 miles, second only to the BMW, which finished with an average 39.9 mpg.

The Concours is amazingly fun to ride, especially if you keep it in its element. The same could be said for the Harley, which we all love like a favorite uncle, but wouldn't necessarily buy if we were looking for an adventure or long-distance mount. As a comfortable, take-no-prisoners tourer to get you to Sturgis or Daytona...or even down the Baja Peninsula to ferret out some fish tacos, the Street Glide is a fine choice, though it does sport a not-so-stylish price tag of $18,999 (and 37.6 mpg), and that's before the gotta-have-it PowerPak option.

It's the Gold Wing, however, that carries the stiffest entry fee—a whopping $26,599 for the Audio Comfort Navi XM ABS version we tested. It also got the worst fuel mileage at 33.6 mpg, so you'll pay a smidge more for gas. However, and not because of its beauty, the Gold Wing still reigns as the ultimate high-mileage road tripper. Just ask Cherney, who had to split off early from our group and ride 500 miles in 7 hours to catch a plane. He wasn't on the Gold Wing. But he wished he were.

Sound like they're all winners? Damn right, but we knew that going in. Don't tell the brass, but we were just looking for an excuse to ride. Because we all know the answer to the question of which bike makes the best tourer.

It's the one you're on.

Tech Spec
2011 BMW R 1200 GS
Price (As tested): $18,390
Type: Air/oil-cooled Flat twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1170cc, 101 mm x 73mm
Valve train: DOHC; 4 valves/cylinder
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed, single-plate dry clutch
Final Drive: Shaft
Overall length: 87.0 in.
Wheelbase: 59.3 in.
Wet weight: 504.9 lbs.
Seat height: 33.5 in.
Rake/trail: 25.7 degrees / 4.0 in.
Front tire: 110/80 R-19
Rear tire: 150/70 R-17
Front brake: 305mm dual discs
Rear brake: 265mm disc
Front suspension: BMW Telelever; 41mm diameter, 7.5 in. travel
Rear suspension: BMW Paralever; 7.9 in. travel
Fuel capacity: 5.3 gal.

2011 Harley-Davidson Street Glide
Price(As tested): $22,283
Type: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103 V-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1690cc, 98.4 mm x 111.1mm
Valve train: Pushrod-operated overhead valves
Compression ratio: 9.6:1
Fuel system: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive, multiplate wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Overall length: 95.0 in.
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Wet weight: 822 lbs.
Seat height: 27.1 in.
Rake/trail: 26 degrees / 6.7 in.
Front tire: 130/80-18
Rear tire: 180/65 - 16
Front brake: 300mm dual discs, 4-piston calipers
Rear brake: 300mm disc, 4-piston caliper
Front suspension: 41.3mm telescopic fork; 4.6 in. travel
Rear suspension: Air-adjustable damper; 2 in. travel
Fuel capacity: 6.0 gal.

By Jamie Elvidge
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