That left us with the big boys, the Autobahn burning, 100-mile-an-hour traveling, road-devouring, big-bore beasts such as Honda's ST1100 (winner of our original sport tourer shootout: Smiles Through the Miles), BMW's road-eating K1200RS, and Triumph's Trophy 1200. What, no Trophy 1200s in the Triumph test fleet? Then how about a 900? Okay, no Trophy at all, only a Sprint Executive. Okay, I guess we'll take it.
So, left with three thinly disguised big-bore sport bikes, we were on the fast track to motorcycle nirvana, right? Well, not quite. Some may remember Greg McClure's Crashing Hell article a few months back. One Triumph with over-inflated tires can ruin a whole shootout, so with only the BMW and Honda left, the staffers still standing just wanted to get through the shootout in one piece.
We were left with two very different species of sport tourer, both suited to perform the same tasks, but in very different ways. The ST1100 is Honda's ultimate high-performance compromise, specifically engineered to handle in turns, go fast, and do it over long distances. Until the R1100S debuted earlier this month, the K1200RS was BMW's all-out sportbike. Still, BMW is true to their sport-touring philosophy and they can't imagine making a a motorcycle without saddlebags, which was perfect for our test.
Predictably, each motorcycle has its areas of expertise. The ST1100 was competent but very vanilla at just about everything, sticking to its unstated mission statement of being the jack-of-all-trades. The K-bike is harder-edged, with a bigger, more powerful motor and sharper handling. In packing for our journey, we discovered a rare anomaly in the otherwise well-designed Honda: the saddlebags suck. First, the latches are located dangerously close to the pipes.
"In most ways the ST1100 is superior at freeway riding: Better weather protection, cushier suspension, relaxed ergonomics, and a power band that's all midrange. "
To remove the bags you have to Honda, sometimes criticized for over-engineering, has located the bag removal latches in the worst place possible. insert the key, turn, lift halfway up (the key gets in the way of fully disengaging the clasp), turn the key back, remove it, then lift the latch fully. You then slide the bag towards the back of the bike. This was by far the worst system of the three tested. The Beemer bags simply have two handles -- one to unfasten the bags from the bike and one to open the bag. This system is great for over-stuffing, but even without over-filling the bags the BMW held more than the Honda, although not as much as the Triumph. The Sprint Executive had the easiest system to use and stored the most gear. Pity it didn't last the test.
Every escape from Los Angeles involves a freeway. In most ways the ST1100 is superior at freeway riding: Better weather protection, cushier suspension, relaxed ergonomics, and a power band that's all midrange. In jurisdictions that allow lane splitting, maneuvering through traffic is easy. Its narrow and low-placed mirrors aren't at the same height as most car mirrors while the bags tuck in nicely and the fat powerband tugs you past any obstructions. One problem is that the super-quiet exhaust note does not alert cars to your presence. In contrast the K1200RS is a complete pig in traffic.
Its top-end-happy powerband likes to be revved, the steering damper slows low-speed maneuvers and the bags too wide.
Out on the open highway the K is still edged by the ST, because the K's ergonomics are uncomfortable for many riders. The rear sets are too far forward and the reach to the handlebars is far too long.
The one area where the K12 flat stomps the ST11 in is in high speed passing. Once the K reaches speed, it hauls.
In fact the K1200RS begs you to leave the freeway, and once you do you won't regret it. You should plan entire trips in the twisties, staying clear of any road with more than four lanes. The K1200RS is that good in the twisties.
Although heavy steering around town, gently lean into a curve and the K12 is right there for you, tracking more predictably than a bike its size has a right to. Although it lacks the outright power of bikes like the ZX-11 and the CBR1100XX, even fully loaded with bags it should give them a run through the canyons.
Until we got into the tight stuff we were enamored with the Honda's smooth-shifting transmission, but when pounding through the gears in the canyons, the clunky accuracy of the BMW was a plus. The softer-edged Honda had to push to keep up with the BMW K1200RS because in the twisties, the ergonomics that served so well on the open road didn't allow for same sort of aggressive riding that the K1200RS did. The fact that the ST1100 weighs 80 more pounds didn't help either.
Across the board, the ST1100's excellent brakes and traction control out-performed the Beemer's. Honda's ABS II is very non-intrusive, slowing you steadily to a complete stop. Even stomping down hard on the rear brake will cause only a controlled stop.
Try doing the same on the Beemer and the ABS will pulse and click but you won't slow much. The Traction Control System (TCS) on the ST1100, which compensates for wheel slides, is very handy in the rain and is selectable at startup. We rode both in the rain and both handled without any surprises.
If you want to do wheelies (as if ST1100s are purchased as hooligan bikes) you'll have to turn it off. There is no TCS system on the BMW, but it did seem overly reluctant to lift the front wheel off the ground. This isn't a bad thing for most riders, particularly the sensible, middle-aged sport-touring demographic both manufacturers are targeting with these bikes. Wheelies aren't why people buy these bikes.
Basically, it comes down what kind of riding you want to do. If you value character and a more-sporting edge and you aren't so concerned with price, buy the K1200RS. The Beemer's a better choice if you plan to sport tour on nothing but twisting roads with gas stations every 150 miles. If your interested in overall utility, a mix of freeway and back road touring capability and price, give the nod to the Honda ST1100, the first bike in MO history to win consecutive shootouts.
Impressions: 1: Billy Bartels, Associate Editor
1: Billy Bartels, Associate Editor
That's what this test comes down to. What purpose do you want to put a sport-tourer to? If you want to travel vast highway miles at a serious clip but desire to to scoot down the scenic route with a few extreme leans thrown in, if you are a disciple of function believing after all is said and done that character and soul lose out to utility, then the ST1100 is for you. There are very few motorcycles that do the range of things well that this bike does. Touring, commuting, whatever, motorcycles don't get much more vanilla than this.
However, if you want a Sport Tourer with killer handling, and a great top-end rush, the Beemer should be your choice. And this on a Touring Bike! The ergonomics are definitely meant more for sport riding than touring, but if you keep it above 70, the wind holds you up. Ergos? Who needs stinking ergos!
2: Mark Hammond, Managing Editor
The ST1100 is absolutely dowdy looking. Like the Pacific Coast, this is a motorcycle that wishes it were a car, perhaps an Accord to the PC800's Civic. Still, I have to admit that it is one fine dorky-looking motorcycle. It's comfortable, one of the most comfortable motorcycles I have ever ridden. It has excellent wind protection and great ergonomics. The ST1100 is also smooth and fast, so smooth that it's easily to wander into triple-digit speeds without really noticing.
"The BMW K1100RS looks fast and it is. Even more so than the ST1100, triple-digit speeds are virtually unnoticed until you see the flashing red lights in your mirrors." The K1200RS likes to go fast. And, like all BMWs, the K1200RS is a beautifully designed motorcycle. Unfortunately the consumer often pays for BMW's attention to detail, they are very expensive motorcycles. With bags, the K12 will cost you almost $17,000 before tax, fees and insurance.
Even so, the Beemer might have won if it weren't so uncomfortable. Basically, to feel comfortable on the K12 you need the legs of Toulouse Lautrec and the arms of an orangutan. I was good for about a half an hour before I had to get off, my legs cramping and my arms and shoulders aching in pain. If I wanted to feel like that I'd mount a Gixxer.
Between the two bikes I'll have to choose comfort over cool since the cool wasn't so cool that I'd schedule weekly appointments with a chiropractor. BMW offers a riser and peg kit that helps ease the pain, but after ponying up $17,000, I don't want to pay another few hundred dollars to make something comfortable that should be so in the first place. If I wanted to spend even more money just to make a motorcycle feel right after forking over 17 grand, I'd buy a Harley. However, I think I'll hold on the my money and wait for the BMW R1100S, the Ducati ST4 or the Buell S3.
Page 23: Mark Miller, Formula Xtreme, AMA #24
I learned to appreciate the beauty of the bright red Beemer right from the get-go as the bike drew a lot of looks at the busy street lights. As it turned out, the BMW was quite the canyon-carver as well. The seating position on the K12RS was a bit more aggressive than the ST with slightly lower bars and higher pegs, but never to the point of becoming uncomfortable. I didn't care for the overall width of the BMW when the saddlebags were fastened to the rear of the bike, however. They were protruding so far out from each side, I even clipped one of them on another object while tooling around in a gas station.
I felt the Honda had more low-end punch at slower speeds, but lacked the BMW's rush of power at the higher revs. Both bikes had excellent ground clearance, only the foot-pegs touched down.
The only other comparison between the two bikes that comes to mind was the ST had more powerful brakes, especially considering the BMW's rear anti-lock braking system was simply horrible. The BMW's rear brakes wouldn't allow a brisk stomping on the pedal without failing to work much at all! They would instead just make a "clunking" noise/pulse, with hardly any deceleration. The first thing I would do to this motorcycle if I bought one is bypass this system entirely.
I thoroughly enjoyed riding both these motorcycles. They even wheelie! But forced to choose, I would have to give the nod to the Beemer over the ST for it's sportier overall package and an elevated ranking in my "cool factor."
4: Greg McClure, Contributing Writer Sport Tourer Shootout.
Those words will forever have a nostalgic ring for me: Navigating the twisties, looking out over breathtaking vistas with nothing but leather between my skin and the rushing wind as I negotiated a tight bend on a lovely new Triumph Sprint and was thrown forcibly from my mount landing face first in the gravel and ending up with more pieces in my left hand than I'd started with that morning.
"The ST1100 comes out on top because it's cheaper but still does everything (kind of) the BMW does, and with enthusiasm."
Aside from that I really liked the Sprint, although it seemed a little low on power compared to the other bikes in this shootout. Also, the steering was a bit oodgy, and the wind protection wasn't all that great. Nevertheless, with price being a factor, it stood a chance.
But the competition was very tough. BMW's K1200RS surprised everyone. It seemed like a porker at first, and wasn't too comfortable for short hauls. Power was everywhere, but the real star feature was the handling which took the worst that spring roads had to offer and tossed it off like Caine working his cool kung fu on a bevy of bad dudes. Very nice.
But not cheap. Who wants to be a Shao-lin priest when you've got to pick up a white hot Dutch oven with your forearms just to join the club? Ouch. The thing is, once you fork over the nearly $17,000 it takes to own the BMW it might feel as though you'd rather have picked up the Dutch oven. Which leaves the ST1100.
Which is no mean compromise. This bike comes out on top because it's cheaper but still does everything (kind of) the BMW does, and with enthusiasm. It looks good, handles like a dream, gets you there in comfort, and also commutes, runs errands, and is built with typical Honda quality. Not bad. If I had the marks I'd probably queue up for a little German kung fu. But for all around quality that's easy on the pocketbook, I'll take the ST1100 and hire Caine to protect my ranch.
#2 BMW K1200RS
|One area the ST1100 can't touch the Beemer is design. The sexy red bike stood out in any crowd.|
|If even more obscene lean angles are required from the big German, the pegs can be raised and brought back about one inch in either direction.|
|Adding luggage rack and saddlebags is an affair worth about $856.|
|The source of the top-end power hit: BMW's first foray into ram air.|
|The diminutive windshield is hand-adjustable to two positions.|
|The display is easy to read and fairly complete.|
|BMW's K1200RS sits ready to attack the backroads of a county near you.|
Manufacturer: BMW Model: 1998 K1200RS Price: $15,990 (as tested, with saddlebags: $16,846) Engine: liquid-cooled in-line four cylinder Bore and Stroke: 70.5 x 75 mm Displacement: 1171cc Carburetion: fuel injection Transmission: 6 speed Wheelbase: 61.0 in (1594.4 mm) (unladen) Seat Height: 30.3/31.5 in (769.2/800.1 mm) (two position adjustable) Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gal (20.8 L) Claimed Dry Weight: 586 lbs (265.8 kg) Measured Peak Horsepower at rear wheel: N/A
#1 Honda ST1100
|The well-laid-out dash of Honda's ST1100. On the left is the headlight adjustment knob, easily used, even on the road.|
|On the off chance that the well-placed mirrors whack a car, they break away without any permanent scars. Doing this yourself aids in adjusting the mirrors.|
|If you want to do big wheelies like us, you'll have to disable the traction control with the switch shown here.|
|The Linked ABS on the ST1100 was far superior to the ABS on BMW's K1200RS.|
|The only hole in the full-coverage fairing shows a well-finished head from the unique longitudinal V-Four.|
|While not bad, the bags were outshone by the offerings from BMW and Triumph.|
|Rumor has it that Honda's venerable Sport Touring champion is getting an update to keep it ahead of the crowd, stay tuned.|
Manufacturer: Honda Model: 1998 ST1100 Price (w/ABS): $14,299 USD Engine: liquid-cooled 90° V-Four Bore and Stroke: 73 x 64.8 mm Displacement: 1084cc Carburetion: 4 34.5 mm Downdraft CV carburetors Transmission: 5 speed Wheelbase: 61.2 in (1554.5 mm) Seat Height: 31.5 in (800.1 mm) Fuel Capacity: 7.4 gal (28.0 L) Claimed Dry Weight: 659.2 lbs (299.O kg) Measured Peak Horsepower (at rear wheel): 91.1
Page 31998 Sport Tourers Disaster
Touring Shootouts are headaches. Getting competing manufacturer's to get you their bikes all at the same time, setting aside time to test them all together, photo shoots, video footage, pissing off the losing manufacturers... They're generally a fat pain in the ass. But they do have their good points. After babe pictorials, they're the most requested documents on our site.
But test takes the cake. As well documented in Crashing Sucks, the test started off with a bang. After not getting either of our first two choices from Triumph (Trophy 1200 or 900), we settled for their new Sprint Executive that they were trying to push at the time. Okay, we accepted that. What we shouldn't have accepted is a bike prepped with 48 psi in the tires.
An initial estimate of $6,000ish in crash damage (not bad for just cosmetic damage on a $9,000 motorcycle) was later adjusted to $1,500. We had yet to take any pictures of this bike yet, and the staffer not clutching a broken hand failed to take any shots of the upside-down Sprint on the embankment.
The cute little socks disqualified about one photo in five. It was on this trip that the slave cylinder for the hydraulic clutch on the BMW started to leak.
Two weeks later on a photo shoot, racer Mark Miller pulls up to our staff photographer after a run and says, "Hey, the clutch is gone on this bike." Looking back to the trusty Honda ST1100, he notices that the rear tire has gone flat. After confirming that there isn't cell phone service in the Malibu Canyons they limped the bikes five miles back to the main road like a couple of hurt puppies. For the first (but not the last) time we did the ill-advised and applied a car tire patch to the rear tire of the ST. Driving without a clutch can be an adventure. For the rest of the test we took to carrying a bottle of DOT 4 around with the Beemer.
After leaving the ST1100 with American Honda, we discovered that the front rim was bent, and that a replacement would take two weeks to get here from Japan. Meanwhile the K1200RS had to be returned to BMW North America, so we got no shots of the bikes together. We got the Honda back for a few long trips later and as a final insult ran over something sharp on SR99 in the middle of the night as documented in When Fix-A-Flat Isn't Enough. The bright side? Well, we got two extra stories out of it.