Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of 2014
Sport-Touring Motorcycle of the Year Winner:
by Tom Roderick
BMW has been on an absolute tear for a number of years. Recent previous MOBO winners include the S1000RR/HP4, K1600GT/GTL and the iconic R1200GS. This year the R1200RT returns to its winning ways by claiming Best Sport-Tourer honors. It was during the R1200RT’s press launch where BMW also introduced this year’s winning technology, Hill Start Control. But this is just one example of the numerous upgrades the RT received this year. Other examples include: Shift Assist Pro (which includes clutchless downshifting), Dynamic ESA, Ride Mode Pro, On-Board Computer Pro, GPS Preparation, and a large TFT color display.
Compared to BMW’s own K1600GT, the RT’s precision-cooled Boxer-Twin generates 35 and 37 less horsepower and foot-pounds of torque, respectively, to the GT’s wonderful inline-Six. However, the RT gets a claimed eight more miles per gallon, rides on a wheelbase that’s a massive 7.6 inches shorter, rolls on a narrower 180/55 rear tire (190/55 GT), has a one-inch shorter seat height and weighs a substantial 128 pounds less than the GT. So, when it comes to emphasizing the sport in sport-touring it’s hard to argue with the RT’s specs.
The RT is both nimble and stable, making for a great companion on twisty mountain roads or long, deserted straightaways. As one of the lighter sport-touring bikes available today, (604 pounds with its 6.6-gallon tank full), the RT navigates long sweepers and tight switchbacks with equal aplomb. A new continuous tubular-steel bridge-type frame was designed to increase rigidity and road feel. This new frame, says BMW, in combination with the more compact Boxer engine, lowers the bike’s center of gravity. The in-motion result is the illusion of the RT feeling far more petite than its actual size. At $20,850 for an RT with the Premium Package (that includes most of the aforementioned technology) this is a pricey sport-tourer, but a sport-tourer we deem worth every penny.
It should be noted that while the ESA-equipped RT has suffered a recall due to a rear shock issue in which the shaft of the damper may be inadequately strong. BMW’s response to the problem has been generous, offering a bike loan plus $1,000 of accessories or apparel, or alternately, a $2,500 payment as an apology while your bike is fixed. Brian Bell from Irv Seaver Motorcycles tells us new shocks are on their way and should be arriving in the next week or two. And if your RT doesn’t have ESA, there’s nothing to worry about.
Honorable Mention: Yamaha FJR1300A/ES
By Evans Brasfield
How good are the 2014 Yamaha FJR1300A and FJR1300ES? Standing here on the second step of the podium next to a completely reworked BMW R1200RT that is dripping with technology and retailing for $4,000 extra is a testament to the formidable sport-tourer the FJR1300 has been in the past. The 1300A model took victory in our 2013 Sport-Touring Shootout, and the new electronic suspension ES earned the runner-up honors in this years Sport-Touring Shootout against a touring bike disguised as a S-T mount, costing $10,000 more.
The FJR’s 1298cc inline-Four and its R-b-W throttle puts out torque from down in the basement of the rpm range, peaking with a robust 88.8 ft-lb at 6,800 rpm, yielding always-on power delivery. The EFI parcels out that power via two engine maps (Sport and Touring) with nary a hiccup. The rider’s comfort is assisted by an electrically adjustable windshield, electronic cruise control and heated grips. The easily removable hard bags are 8-gallons-per-bag roomy.
And what of the ES’ electronically controlled suspension? The fork went all inverted for 2014 with its compression and damping circuits split between the two legs. These two adjustments are controlled by stepper motors on top of the fork and adjusted via switches on the left grip. The shock also gets adjustable compression and rebound damping, and the preload can be adjusted at a stop with the press of a button.
With its relentless competence and the ES’ updated suspension, the Yamaha FJR1300A/ES shows that workmanlike substance can hold its own against the march of technology, and the prices of the two models are still within reach of many riders. The able and potent 1300A checks in at $15,890, with the ES a $1,000 premium we believe is worth the investment for its added convenience and versatility. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be happy in the saddle of this year’s Best Sport-Touring Honorable Mention.