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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Day three dawns very early and we meet for breakfast at 9:00am. EBass wants to lounge around the pool, watch a bikini contest, and then go to a whorehouse. However, he is vetoed in favor of departing for the long hot ride back to LA. Our whirlwind return trip takes us south on 395, past Mono Lake, followed by a brief detour into Yosemite for some incredible scenery, and a couple souvenir speeding tickets followed by an escort back out of the park. We then continue on 395 south to Mammoth Lakes. By the time we get to Mammoth, we are hot, tired and hungry. During lunch, we check out a blues concert that is more like a retirement home and decide to catch a quick gondola ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain. After a few minutes fooling around in the snow, we hit the road south and continue the long ride to back to LA.

The FJR sails though corners like a Ski Nautique, while offering the comfort of the QE2. The final day doesn't hold too many new revelations about the bikes, but serves as reinforcement for our first and second day riding impressions. However, a couple of things do make themselves apparent as we swap bikes on the way home. For instance, even though it has compromised long haul ergos, the Triumph Sprint ST feels like a comfortable couch, compared to the buzzy and stiff ZZR. On the interstate, the guys riding the Honda ST1300 and BMW R1150RT always seemed the most relaxed and ready to keep riding after a long stint. Finally, when we completed the ride and stepped-back to compare notes, it was obvious that the Yamaha FJR 1300 was within 5% of every top-ranked bike in each category. It is nearly as comfortable as the Honda and BMW RT, while being faster than the Sprint ST and almost as fast as the ZZR. Furthermore, it worked well in every situation that we threw at it. The only things we can say bad about the FJR (windscreen adjustment & light steering) required a good deal of nit picking to find. It rarely stood out from the crowd, but always ran near the front. For us, the Yamaha FJR 1300 is the obvious "Magic Bullet" for those who want to do it all with their Sport Tourer.

MO notes on the KAWASAKI ZZR 1200 - 6th Place
MSRP: $10,499

A couple years ago, this would have been the ultimate sport tourer. If laser-like straight-line speed and sleek styling are your game, you'd be hard pressed to find a better bike. In fact, for short-range commuting, day trips and general usage, the ZZR is a fantastic motorcycle. However, the Kawasaki's slightly buzzy engine, stiff suspension and sportbike riding position relegate it to a back-of-the-pack showing in today's world of nearly perfect Sport Touring motorcycles.

The things we said we liked MOST about the Kawasaki ZZR 1200 were:

  • Powerful Engine
  • Good Looks
  • Huge Saddlebags

    The things we said we liked LEAST about the Kawasaki ZZR 1200 were:

  • Long haul comfort is compromised by harsh suspension, engine vibes and aggressive riding position
  • Saddlebags are a dealer installed "extra" and are no longer available color matched
  • Saddlebags are not common keyed with the rest of the bike, so you always have to carry two keys
  • Looks funky with saddlebags removed, because the clunky frames stay on the tailsection
  • Annoying engine vibes at cruising speed
  • Rear shock needs more rebound damping when ridden solo

  • MO notes on the TRIUMPH SPRINT ST - 5th Place
    MSRP: $10,300

    If the Triumph Sprint ST had the torque of the FJR 1300 and the riding position of the R1150RT, it would be the single greatest Sport Tourer of all time. Alas, it doesn't and in this group, it can only claim 5th place. The funny thing is, everyone seemed to love the Triumph, they just couldn't vote it "best" in any category. In the real world, the Sprint ST is one of those exceptionally rewarding bikes to ride. It gives great feedback to its rider and is always fun to ride. It's a shame that Triumph doesn't update this bike with better bags, slightly relaxed ergos and perhaps a Rocket III motor, because if they did, it would conquer the world.

    The things we said we liked MOST about the Triumph Sprint ST were:

  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Ability to leave the saddlebags unlocked when latched, so you can access them without the key

    The things we said we liked LEAST about the Triumph Sprint ST were:

  • Long haul comfort is compromised by aggressive riding position
  • Mushy front brake lever when hot (brakes work fine though)
  • Must remove left saddlebag to get at seat release
  • Sloppy Closure of its Saddlebags
  • Saddlebags are not common keyed with the rest of the bike, so you always have to carry two keys

  • MO notes on the BMW K1200GT - 4th Place
    MSRP: $17,560

    The BMW K1200GT is one of those bikes that make people stop and look. It has a stunning presence in person, with sexy lines and flawless paint lending an air of quality and exclusivity. Those impressions are backed-up by a feeling of solidness and control when you ride the GT. Unfortunately, that same solidness means that steering, throttle, clutch and braking inputs require a bit of extra muscle and tend to prematurely tire its rider. Another area where the GT comes up short is in its heat management. When temperatures are high or speeds are low, the K1200GT dumps an excessive amount of hot air onto its rider's right ankle and shin, this can be used to supplement the standard heated seat and grips in the winter, but in the summer, it is an unnecessary inconvenience. Even though it isn't perfect, the K1200GT still managed to garner a couple of votes for "Favorite Bike" and was well liked by everyone who rode it.

    The things we said we liked MOST about the BMW K1200GT were:

  • Beautiful looks
  • Refinement
  • Well damped suspension
  • Powerful brakes without intrusive linking

    The things we said we liked LEAST about the BMW K1200GT were:

  • Lower fairing dumps hot air on your shins and feet
  • Lower fairing extensions interfere with shins when stopped
  • Engine layout means bike leans to the right when riding with no hands
  • Super heavy throttle action gets tiring on long rides
  • Heavy steering requires firm and direct inputs
  • Brake servos are very noisy in parking lot situations
  • Must remove left saddlebag to get at seat release

  • MO notes on the HONDA ST1300 - 3rd Place
    MSRP: $14,499

    The Honda was something of an enigma. Was it a torquey sport bike with friendly accommodations, or was it a sissy boy scooter with a funny sounding idle and a linked-ABS nanny? It was the third fastest bike in the test (behind the ZZR and FJR) and everyone thought it was nice and comfortable. You'd think Speed and Comfort would be just the things to make a Sport Tourer shine, but a few of the testers were put off by the Honda's sensitive throttle and abrupt off-idle power delivery. There is little doubt that the ST is a highly capable and reliable steed. Unfortunately, it needs a couple of minor engineering tweaks and a subtle restyling to make it a winner in this group.

    The things we said we liked MOST about the Honda ST1300 were:

  • Very Comfortable
  • Great Midrange
  • Best windscreen in the test, great wind protection and mega adjustable
  • Overall Comfort
  • Engine note at large throttle openings
  • Parking lot tip-overs are a zero-loss situation, thanks to large pucks on the fairing that save the saddlebags and bodywork

    The things we said we liked LEAST about the Honda ST1300 were:

  • The way it sounds at idle
  • Linked brakes are not our bag baby!
  • Hyper sensitive to throttle inputs and abrupt throttle response at low speed
  • Looks like a bad cartoon of a Japanese Shogun Scooter

  • MO notes on the BMW R1150RT - 2nd Place
    MSRP: $16,350

    The BMW R 1150 RT is like riding that favorite chair that fits you just right, without being too soft or sloppy. Its riding position and tuning allow the rider to be fresh at the end of long trip, instead of feeling as if they just rode a horse. You might think this comfort would mean that the RT sacrifices a bit of control, but in reality the low center of gravity and "standard" riding position give the rider outstanding leverage and control in the tight stuff. Aside from a touchy rear brake, the BMW is a willing canyon companion and can run at a surprisingly fast pace through the twisties. The RT's most glaring fault is the extremely aggressive brake linking. This linking causes the front suspension to dive with even a slight brush of the rear brake pedal. If the RT had more power and "normal" brakes, it would have aced this comparo.

    The things we said we liked MOST about the BMW R1150RT were:

  • Very comfortable
  • Nimble in the twisties
  • Refined suspension damping
  • Easy to ride fast

    The things we said we liked LEAST about the BMW R1150RT were:

  • Aggressive rear-to-front brake linking
  • Meek & Mild power delivery
  • Brake servos are noisy in low speed situations
  • Ugly without its saddlebags
  • Must remove left saddlebag to get at seat release

  • MO notes on the YAMAHA FJR 1300 - 1st Place!
    MSRP: $12,899

    The Ideal Sport Tourer would have the comfort of the BMW RT and Honda ST, while being as fast as the Kawasaki ZZR, having the refinement of the BMW GT and the nimbleness of the Triumph ST. The Yamaha FJR 1300 comes closest to that "ideal" motorcycle. It is 95% as comfortable as the ST13 & RT, 95% as fast as the ZZR, 90% as refined as the K12GT and 85% as nimble as the Sprint ST. In addition, it looks great and isn't too expensive. What more could you want in a Sport Tourer?

    The things we said we liked MOST about the Yamaha FJR 1300 were:

  • Very Comfortable
  • Does almost everything well
  • Nice balance between Sport & Tour
  • Good Power
  • Light & Neutral Handling
  • Looks great with or without its saddlebags
  • Won last year's ST shootout against much sportier bikes

    The things we said we liked LEAST about the Yamaha FJR 1300 were:

  • Windscreen doesn't maintain its adjusted position after you re-start the engine
  • Steering feels a little too "light" sometimes, especially when coming from the BMWs, Kawasaki or Triumph
  • Hard to get (Yamaha is already sold-out for 2005)

    All six participating riders voted on the subjective catagories and their votes were given an equal weighting. Each subjective vote is worth 1 point. Votes received on negative items are subtracted from a bike's total score. Go ahead and split hairs, but the final results echo our daily post ride rankings and are an accurate representation of how the bikes stack up relative to each other.
    CATEGORY BMW R1150RT BMW K1200GT Honda ST 1300 Kawasaki ZZR 1200 Triumph Sprint ST Yamaha FJR 1300
    # of Votes as "Favorite Bike" 1 2     1 2
    # of Votes as "Bike I'd Buy with My Own Money" 2 1 1   1 1
    # of Votes as "Most Comfortable" 3   2     1
    # of Votes as "Best Handling Bike" 2 1     2 1
    # of Votes as "Least Comfortable Bike"       -3 -3  
    # of Votes as "Least Favorite Bike" -1   -1 -2 -2  
    Most Powerful Motor Points (Best = 6pts / Worst = 1pt) 1 3 4 6 2 5
    Lowest Cost Points (Lowest $ = 6pts / Highest $ = 1pt) 2 1 3 5 6 4
    Total Points: 10 8 9 6 7 14
    Overall Ranking: 2nd 4th 3rd 6th 5th 1st

    MO Observed Fuel Economy Usable Fuel Cap. Range (est.)
    Triumph Sprint ST 45.03MPG 4.8 gallons 216 miles
    BMW R1150RT 42.74MPG 6.3 gallons 269 miles
    Yamaha FJR 1300 41.22MPG 6.3 gallons 260 miles
    Honda ST 1300 39.80MPG 7.4 gallons 295 miles
    BMW K1200GT 38.89MPG 5.1 gallons 198 miles
    Kawasaki ZZR 1200 38.13MPG 5.8 gallons 221 miles

    BMW K 1200 GT BMW R 1150 RT Honda ST1300 ABS
    Liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder

    Air-cooled/oil-cooled twin-cylinder

    1261cc liquid-cooled longitudinally mounted 90-degree V-4
    Horse Power




    $ 17,560

    $ 16,350

    $ 14,499
    Stand-over Length*


    Stand-over Length is the measurement in inches from ground to ground over the lowest point of the saddle when weighted by a rider; feet on ground; seat in lowest position.



    "Jesus Eric! Sometimes you just gotta say "no" -Sean (...after EBass offers to take Katherine up on her generous offer of a birthday romp.)

    Kawasaki ZZR1200 Triumph Sprint ST Yamaha FJR 1300 ABS
    Four-stroke, DOHC, inline four, 16 valves

    Liquid-cooled, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder

    1,298cc, liquid-cooled, 16-valve, DOHC, in-line four-cylinder
    Horse Power




    $ 10.499

    $ 10.300

    $ 12,899 ABS model
    Stand-over Length*


    Stand-over Length is the measurement in inches from ground to ground over the lowest point of the saddle when weighted by a rider; feet on ground; seat in lowest position.

    "Hey bartender, does our being at the bar after everyone else has gone home make us losers?" -Dale ("Not in my book" replied the bartender.)

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