Rapid Transit Authority

Four Ways To Play Fast And Loose With The Space/Time Continuum

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Putting 300 miles and change between fuel stops is cake even at that clip. Fidget around a bit. Check those crystal-clear rear-view mirrors for black-and-white bogeys. Ponder why Bakersfield always smells like a spent urinal puck. Wish for a bit more fresh air in the cockpit. Fiddle with the obligatory electrically adjustable windscreen to keep negative pressure from sucking you forward. Wonder how it is that a 727-lb. motorcycle hardly ever feels like one.

Except when you're trying to keep these infidels in range after dinner on some hopelessly twisted stretch of pavement while fighting off a bad case of chicken-fried reflux. The 45mm fork is allergic to anything with a square edge, and it takes a good bit of shock spring preload to keep the front wheel confidently planted at warp speed. Otherwise, everything about the ST works together like one big Light Silver Metallic symphony. Conducting it quickly enough to keep up, however, takes practice, precision and lots of hard work. Maybe a little harder work than it needs to be.

Third Place
BMW R1200RT

Less is more everywhere but the price tag

If you think the RT's resident 101-horsepower, horizontally opposed anachronism is what dooms it to second-runner-up status, think again. For starters, 78 lb.-ft. of torque puts the 631-lb. package squarely in the hunt. After coining the concept 24 years ago with the '82 R80RT-50 horsepower, 500 lbs., 105 mph-Munich has a pretty solid handle on this gig. In the 40- to 90-mph sweet spot where we spend most of our riding time, Das Boot can make you wonder if four cylinders are two too many. Especially when the eight-valve, 1170cc boxer can cover 128 GPS-certified mph.

Towering over its peers like a double-decker bus among sport coupes, the RT's taller stance takes some getting used to, along with the rest of the package. Long on travel and a bit short on rebound damping, the RT's suspension allows more movement than the others in exchange for a plush ride over anything but vicious bumps. The flip side is less precision and feedback from the front contact patch than we'd like when the pace heats up. The six-speed gearbox is precise enough to erase our complaints about previous Oilhead boxers. BMW's latest Integral ABS system is excellent; it has slightly less feedback than the others, but a lot of stopping power in a hurry with none of the grabby feel of previous editions. That's a good thing, because the shifter gets busy holding the tach needle near that 7500-rpm power peak and that's what it takes to keep the others in sight. What if the pace gets really hot? Despite Honda's ST1300 spotting it nearly 100 lbs., the boxer doesn't have the horsepower or chassis composure to keep up.

Ratchet your emphasis back toward the touring end of the continuum and the RT logs more kind words than complaints. Pulling 300-plus miles out of the 7.1-gallon fuel tank is effortless. Low-frequency, long-amplitude vibes never intrude below 90 mph. The biggest fairing of the pack nets the broadest comfort envelope as well. There's no buffeting or noisy air with the windscreen unfurled. This seat is easily the best of the bunch. Factor in the optional heated seat and grips that are indescribably delicious on the way home from a Lyle Lovett show at 1:45 a.m.? The RT starts feeling like your best friend. OK, it's not the fastest. It cares. And the proof is in the little things that aren't that little after a nonstop blitz from Lake Tahoe to L.A.

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