Turn left at Albuquerque: 2013 Sport-Touring Test

Which is the top sport-tourer of 2013? Will the newly refreshed Yamaha FJR1300A and new-from-the-ground-up Triumph Trophy unseat our perennial favorite sporty mile-eater, the Kawasaki Concours 14? And what about BMW’s stupendous, six-cylinder K1600GT? Our readers want answers, dammit—and we do, too!

That’s why the day after the first Triumph Trophy press bike in America appeared in our shop, we were already routing electric vest leads, uploading GPS maps, and jamming Clif Bars and thick socks into saddlebags. There’s only one way to properly test touring bikes, and that’s to actually tour on them! And we’re not whiffing it with a quick day trip through the Santa Monica Mountains, or even a Bay Area overnight. No, big questions like these require big, Iron Butt-style miles. Next stop, Albuquerque!

Why Albuquerque? It's far enough—roughly 1100 miles one-way from our Los Angeles office if you take the long way, which we are. It's also fairly southern, which is always important this time of year, and there's some epic twisties between there and here, since these are still technically sportbikes we're riding. But the most important reason, as anyone who has ever seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon knows, is that all epic trips pass through Albuquerque at one time or another. (Travel advice from Bugs Bunny.)

Day one took us 485 miles from Hell-A up and over a wet Ortega highway, through fresh snow on top of Palomar Mountain—we scoffed at the “Tire Chains Required!” sign—then across the Anza Borrego desert at unpublishable speeds. From there we went west, kissing the Mexican border near Calexico then hammering a long, dark, and drizzly stretch of Interstate 8, stopping only for the Border Patrol checks, before arriving at our overnight accomodations in Casa Grande, AZ.

[We’re only a quarter of the way into it, but impressions are already forming over piles of gluey mac-and-cheese and chocolate fountain treats at Golden Corral, the only dining option within walking distance of our hotel (no beer!). Even though sober, we’re still arguing in four different directions—but we’ve got three more days and 1500 more miles to figure it out. As long as we don’t miss that left turn in Albuquerque.