BMW, Honda, Yamaha | Sport Touring Motorcycle Comparison

Velocity. Luxury. Gadgetry.

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Why do you need one of these things? Just about any bike will drag you to work, and the super sporty contenders are fine if all you do is carve up the local twisty bits. Honda's Gold Wing and its ilk will haul two people, one overstuffed Alf doll and all manner of kit cross-country as cheerfully as any family four-door. But any one of our big-bore sport-tourers will devour 400 miles' worth of all that before you deploy the centerstand for lunch-and follow up with 400 more before dinner.

Sport-touring motorcycles are tools, really. But let's say you're not afflicted with a neurobiological need to funnel vast quantities of real estate through your rear-view mirrors in a hurry. Fair warning, then; after a weekend with these three, riding from L.A. to San Francisco for a quick scrape up Mt. Tam-and some Mitchell's Mango ice cream-will sound perfectly reasonable. It's a slippery slope from there to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, for Blobfest '07 (Indescribable...Indestructible...Nothing Can Stop It!) next July.

The motorcycles themselves are considerably more logical. All three start with a four-cylinder engine displacing something to the left of 1000cc and enough fuel to cover at least 250 rapid miles. Add adjustable ergonomics and wind protection and you're in the hunt, but just. Despite these basic similarities, the BMW K1200GT, Honda ST1300 ABS and Yamaha FJR1300 AE are parked at different coordinates between sport and touring. And because stripped-down sport-touring is an oxymoron in 2006, each contestant comes with its own arsenal of technical gee-wizardry, running the gamut from helpful to hopeless and various points in between.

All three rigs aim at the same target. But like most sport tourists we know, each has its own way of getting there. Which one works best? It took us two days and 750 miles of the best and worst pavement in the bottom half of California to find out, but here's the story.

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