2004 MO-ron Sport Tourer Comparo

BMW K 1200 GT :: BMW R 1150 RT :: Honda ST1300 ABS :: Kawasaki ZZR1200 :: Triumph Sprint ST :: Yamah


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Last year, the Yamaha FJR 1300 won MO's Sport Touring Shootout, against bikes that placed an emphasis on the "Sport" side of the S/T equation. The FJR's superior comfort, straight-line speed and all around user friendliness were the deciding factors in that contest. This year, MO is comparing the FJR against bikes that are aimed a bit closer to the big Yamaha's intended audience.

For MO's 2004 Sport Touring Comparo we've included the FJR's five closest competitors. The Honda ST1300 and BMW K1200GT are obvious choices due to their similar size, weight, comfort and features. However, since a three-bike comparo isn't nearly as much fun as a four-bike shootout, we polled our readers for another bike to include. According to the final poll results and numerous write-in contributions, the Kawasaki ZZR1200 was the most popular choice for inclusion in this test with the Triumph Sprint ST and BMW R1150RT nipping at its heels. After calling around and pulling a couple of favors, we were able to obtain all three of the requested additions, thus creating a six bike, two ton, 686 horsepower, 9,600 bike mile, Sport Touring Love Fest.

With six bikes to test and only two full-time staffers, it is obvious that we needed a couple more asses to fill the seats. The extra asses were: Arthur "Buzz" Walloch, Fonzie's friend Pete, My brother Dale and Mr. Available himself, EBass. Once the bikes and riders were gathered at MO's Torrance, CA headquarters, we embarked on a three-day 1,600-mile round-trip journey to include everything from coastal canyon scratching to desert highway droning and high mountain passes.

You can have any color you want, as long as it's Blue or SilverAs we negotiate the gridlocked 405 freeway during the first hour of the first leg of a 700 mile day, a few things become abundantly clear. First, both BMWs feel way funky and have their riders chirping over the intercom about the R1150's nose diving every time the rear brake pedal is touched. The culprit being the aggressively linked brakes. Meanwhile, the K1200GT's rider complains about hot feet from the air exiting the lower right side of the K bike's fairing and a rapidly tiring right hand, thanks to its overly stiff throttle return spring. Thirty minutes later, another rider chimes in with a few choice words on the Honda ST1300's extremely accurate throttle response. It seems that he is having difficulty modulating it through the low speed corners that riddle Latigo Canyon, causing the bike to surge and his panties to become soiled. Meanwhile, both BMW riders have changed their tunes and are singing the praises of the K1200GT's Teutonic handling, stability and refinement, and the R1150RT's light steering, low centre of gravity and the ease with which it can be flicked left-right-left over Latigo's sinuous asphalt.            

Pete executed a perfect three-point turn, but his instructor failed him on principal."Reno is the working man's Vegas" -EBass

After a hot freeway commute and a cool blast through some nice SoCal canyons, we make our way onto the comparatively deserted Hwy 101. Though we're only two hours into the ride, we've already determined which bike carries the big stick, as it seems the ZZR1200's rider has decided to press the "Hyperspace" button and the rest of us are sucking his exhaust fumes while his taillights quickly disappear over the horizon. Luckily, he must stop for gas before anyone else and we catch him in Ojai, where we fuel-up before riding Hwy 33 over the mountains and through the Los Padres National Forrest.

As we climb Hwy 33 into the mountains, the FJR feels particularly well balanced, its motor allowing it to accelerate out of corners almost as hard as the ZZR, while being significantly more refined and comfortable to ride. Meanwhile, the BMW K1200GT and Honda ST1300 are busy making their own good impressions. The K bike's chassis and suspension giving it the ability to smoothly track through rough corners, earning it praises like "Solid" and "Stout", while the ST1300 is happily blasting along in one gear, using the healthy midrange of its 1,261cc V-Four to whisk it through corners and up the next straight with a minimum of effort. Though its motor is working harder to keep up, the BMW R1150RT is maintaining a rapid pace, while its rider enjoys the light steering and confidence inspiring handling, all while relaxing in the most comfortable cockpit of the bunch. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Sprint ST rider is having a blast listening to the sonorous notes emanating from the intake and exhaust, while enjoying the Triumph's sportbike handling and gearbox.

"Mullets are hair helmets. Ride safe!" -Buzz (after noticing a plethora of mullet wearing men and women in Reno)

On the way down the back side of Hwy 33, the FJR seems a bit less planted and its steering has taken on a very light feel in comparison to the other bikes. However, the FJR's excellent brakes and comfortable riding position ensure that there is a minimum of drama on this long descent. Though the BMW R 1150 is also a light steering bike, it doesn't seem to lose as much composure on the descent, as long as the rider takes it easy on the rear brake pedal. Like the sensitive throttle on the ST 1300, the R1150's rear brake rewards a smooth application. If you apply too much pressure to the pedal, the RT will nosedive            as though you just grabbed a hearty handful of front brake. This can be a mere annoyance or in the right (wrong) circumstances an embarrassing and potentially dangerous moment.

The BMWs enjoy a hoity toity sunset tour of Lake Tahoe, while the rest of the bikes hang out in a Reno dive bar.After, Hwy 33, our route takes us East on Lockwood Valley Road. Lockwood is a funky little ride, with no rhythm. It's the kind of road that has tight looking corners that turn out to be wide open, and wide open looking corners that turn out to be widowmakers. Now that we're in California's "Central Valley" the temperature has climbed into the high 90s and though the K1200GT is unflappable as usual, it is putting out too much hot air for its rider's comfort. Once again, the BMW RT rewards its rider with easy transitions and an abundance of leverage at the handlebars. On the other hand, the FJR feels a little bit like a bull in a china shop in these surroundings, partially due to a top-heavy feeling and an under-damped suspension. Though the ZZR also suffers from an under-damped suspension, it has better balance than the Yamaha and its rider is having a ball chasing Sean on the FJR. Meanwhile, the ST1300's rider is plodding along noticing that the bike is somewhat "vanilla" while it effortlessly cruises through Lockwood's twists & turns.

After Lockwood Valley Road, it is time for the conspicuous consumption of Gatorade and other vital fluids. With our bellies and gas tanks full, we merge onto I-5, for a straight & flat 320-mile jaunt north to Sacramento. 100 Miles into this leg, we pass a herd of Hells Angels, as they negotiate the Buttonwillow exit, heading for what looks like another large group of bikers clustered outside the local Motel 6. According to the ST1300's digital temperature gauge, it is 106° Fahrenheit. Since the Angels will probably stay "hydrated" on their own, we forgo the opportunity to give them a hot weather safety briefing and press-on another 60 miles to our next fuel stop.

"Tomorrow we rent Harley's right?" -Buzz (shortly after arriving in Reno at 2:00am)

SURPRISES

The most surprising things we noticed on our trip were:
  • The Honda ST1300 was knocked over at a rest stop and had absolutely NO damage, those little wings might look funny, but they sure do work!
  • Excellent midrange grunt of the Honda ST1300
  • Huge range of adjustment of the Honda ST1300's windscreen
  • The Yamaha FJR 1300's overall friendliness and competence in almost every situation
  • How fast the BMWR1150RT could be ridden in tight canyons
  • Man, that EBass is one dirty bastard!
  • Excellent handling and ease of riding the BMW R1150RT
  • How harsh the rear-to-front brake linking was on the BMW R1150RT
  • How much more calm and refined the BMWs felt when pushed hard, compared to the other bikes
  • How stinking fast the Kawasaki ZZR1200 was in a straight line
  • As we drone along through the heat, the ST 1300 rider is relaxed and enjoying the way the ST glides effortlessly along the sweltering valley floor. Even though the FJR and ZZR have higher top speeds, the ST1300 seems to enjoy the highest freeway "cruising speed", as its speed regularly creeps up to around 101mph when the rider relaxes and stops paying attention to the speedo. Surprisingly, the autobahn bred BMW K1200GT is the exact opposite, seeming to gravitate to speeds in the 75mph range, most likely due to its heavy throttle return spring. The other bikes in the group all tend to hover in the 80s and when Sean is riding the ST1300 on the highway, the rest of the group has to make a conscious effort to maintain the ST1300's Express Cruiser pace.

    A surprisingly short time later, we are stopped for gas & 64oz sodas, the preceding 180 miles having evaporated like dew in the hot sun. As we gas-up and stretch our legs, a Devil Doll pulls up noisily on her hot rod Harley dresser. We are expecting the diesel dyke to sneer at our choices of rides, but she is actually quite cordial and starts chatting with EBass and Buzz about her newly installed crate motor. When she mentions that she's on her way south to rendezvous with a group of Angels on their way up to San Fran for a meeting, Buzz chimes in with "Yeah, we saw a large group of "H.A.s" as we rolled past Buttonwillow" Apparently this was a faux pas, as she immediately chided him about how the Angels laugh at RUBs who call them "H.A.s". When the moment passes, we say our goodbyes and continue north into the evening and on to Sacra-tomato.

    After getting MO's finances back in order, Sean invests in a store for your convenience. As we approach the city, it is noted that the temperature has dropped from 106° to 66° in less than two hours. This 40° swing is best appreciated by the two riding the ZZR and Sprint ST, since they have the least wind protection of the group. As luck would have it, the ZZR's reserve light          came on just as we made the transition from 5N to 80E in Sacramento. It was time to stop for dinner and fuel, so Sean took the next exit that appeared to offer both. Turns out the exit in question dumped us smack-dab into the middle of Folsom (yes, where the State Prison is.). Undeterred, Sean made a beeline for the nastiest Del Taco any of us had ever laid eyes on. (Nobody gets between me and a Steak Taco Del Carbon, Nobody! - Sean). As we rolled up, it was immediately clear that the neighborhood was a great place to park a motorcycle, as long as you want to collect on that total loss insurance policy. Being the biggest and meanest guy in the group, Sean's brother Dale stood outside and smoked, instead of eating. He missed an entertaining sideshow in the restaurant, courtesy of a large band of punk rockers, crack heads and a clerk who almost peed's his pants when our ticket totaled $33.94. The intrepid young cashier said that the largest order he'd ever heard of came to $22.00 and that our order was more than 50%!!! larger than that one. Who says today's schools aren't doing their jobs?

    "Oh man, you should have seen it, this afternoon we spent nearly $40 at Subway! Sorry you missed it." -Sean (...to the Del Taco clerk who almost keeled-over when he saw our "outrageous" $33.00 dinner bill.)

    After 20 minutes sitting around and feeling superior, we decided to head out on our final leg of the day. This leg takes us east 136miles, to Reno via the Donner Pass. We reach the 7,000' summit a little past midnight and the ST1300's pilot informs us that it is now 46°. This is a surprise to the well shielded ST 1300 & FJR riders, as well as to the riders of the BMWs as they enjoy the added benefit of heated grips (and seat on the K12GT). Meanwhile the cold is causing some discomfort to the Sprint ST and ZZR riders, forcing them to tuck into a full racer crouch to keep their vented hot weather gear out of the cold windblast.

    "Reno, where the men are men and the woman are too!" -EBass (...about his effeminate boy-toy partner at the craps table.)

    Welcome to the beautiful Sands Regency Hotel, where the men are men and the sheep are nervous.As we descend into Reno, the temperature returns to the upper 70s and though we are riding Sport Touring bikes, we are quite glad to be nearing the end of our day's ride. By 1:00am, we are safely parked in front of the lobby at the Sands Regency in Reno. While we were all thoroughly faded, the beers that had been dancing in our heads were calling and by 2 AM, we are all unpacked and back down at the bar. It doesn't take long to be noticed by the local talent. It's a lonely life, when you have to spend your 43rd birthday alone in the sleazy bar of your sleazy hotel. Skanky Katherine is quite drunk and loudly proclaiming that it is her 43rd Bday. Just as we are successful in convincing EBass that he needs to "take one for the team" and help fulfill Katherine's quest to get laid on her big day, a mullet wearing White Trash Don Juan comes over and takes the empty seat next to the birthday girl. Wasting no time, he proceeds to hit on Katherine, but his shot is wasted, when he makes the mistake of saying "Fuck NASCAR". It seems Katherine is a BIG Jeff Gordon fan and Mullet Man has zero chance of redemption. About ten minutes later, he slams his fist into the bar and gets pissy with her as she continues to shoot him down. At this point, it is our MOronic duty to make it abundantly clear that his welcome has been revoked. To his credit, he slinks back to www.whitetrash.com and Katherine is once again free to pet EBass' bald head while talking to Buzz about NASCAR. We knew she was good and drunk when she said EB was gorgeous. Leaving him to his fate, we trickled back to our rooms one-by-one.

    "Alcohol does make you funnier, at least to yourself" -EBass

    Sean's brother Dale enjoys the scenery, while feverishly chanting "NO U-Turns!" in his head.Day two is a relaxing day, where we sleep in, then make a leisurely noontime departure for the 60-mile ride to Lake Tahoe. When we arrive, we stop for lunch at Womack's BBQ in South Tahoe, the beef ribs are good, but the hot wings are an over-cooked and dried-out accompaniment to a healthy round of BSing. Some lemonade and ice cream cures the dryness of the wings and provides a shot of much needed energy to help us overcome the lack of sleep and tattered remnants of our hangovers. After lunch, we spend the afternoon taking photos, while flogging the bikes around Tahoe and are surprised by how well each bike works for this short 200-mile day. Every bike in the group can keep up with a minimum of effort and all remain comfortable for our short one-hour stints. A spirited return ride has us back in Reno by 5:00pm. Before we exit the deserted interstate, Dale and Sean have an impromptu roll-on dragrace on the ST1300 and K1200GT. Each time they get into it, the Honda is a convincing victor. This is surprising, because the K1200GT feels faster. The tomfoolery continues until Sean forces a Ford Explorer to swerve into a loaded Chevy Suburban, the later cart wheeling and rolling down the embankment while ejecting five of its unbelted passengers. We quickly flashed a few gang signs, and then left the scene before anyone could get our license numbers. Ok, so that didn't happen, but the ST1300 Honda is still faster than the K1200GT.

    "Good Skanks is an oxymoron, right?" -Pete

    That evening, four of us walk over to the Brews Brothers Club/Microbrewery in the El Dorado Hotel, while Fonzie and Pete take the two BMWs back to Tahoe to grab a few sunset shots. The bar is hoppin' with a 3to1 female to male ratio. We sit around yakking until some attention starved 50-year-old hottie comes over and asks Dale to protect her. It seems that she was tired of being touched by the guy she was bumming drinks from. It took us about fourteen seconds to determine that she was whacked out of her head and though her jiggly bits were highly entertaining, we quickly grew tired of listening to her crap. We were going to make EBass jump on the grenade for us, but as he made his move, her benefactor returned and she decided that his free drinks beat our free protection. I'd love to tell you all about how we scored big time that night, alas, it would all be lies and since this is such an esteemed moto rag, we're above that (snicker). Anyway, the bar closed at 1:30 & we walked back to the Sands to meet up at the craps table with Fonzie and Pete. "My Cousin Vinnie" a friendly gay guy that stood next to EBass and hit on him at the craps table, was the highlight of the evening's entertainment. Every time Fonzie would throw a winning roll, Vinnie would jump up and down squealing with delight (I'm NOT making this up) while high-fiving everyone and trying to hug EBass. After about fifteen minutes of this, EBass excused himself and headed for the bathroom. While EBass was away, Vinnie gathered the courage to ask us if he was gay. Being the pals that we are, we told Vinnie that if Eric had a parrot on his shoulder, he'd be the gayest pirate we knew. We also told him that EBass had already let us know that he thought Vinnie was cute. Needless to say, the hugging and flirting continued long into the morning, much to EBass' chagrin. At 6:00am, we had lost enough money and fended off enough misguided advances, so we called it a night.

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