2012 BMW K1600GT vs. 2011 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS [Video]
Sport-Touring taken to the next level
Sport-touring riders don’t carry city maps in their bags. They’re the type that pulls out a state — or even country — map and places pins at the start and end points. In between, they search for the longest squiggly lines they can find, preferably in succession. They’re a discerning type, too. In order to ride long distances, the chosen motorcycle has to be plenty comfy yet have provisions to carry everything needed for the journey. Not only that, but sometimes their steed serves as the only companion on the trip, so it also needs to inspire, motivate and thrill.
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BMW and Kawasaki have long battled in this category, stretching way back on these pages to 1996 when we compared an R1100RT to the 1000cc Connie in our Lightweight Tourers Comparison. This pair and the Honda ST1100 that won the shootout were forefathers of the sport-touring genre. Fifteen years later, the sport-touring category and the bikes in it have grown.
Today, BMW and Kawi come in with the K1600GT and Concours 14, respectively.
Kawasaki’s Concours brand was reborn in 2007, debuting as a 2008 model powered by a ZX-14-based, 1352cc motor. Its powerful engine, composed shaft-drive and performance per dollar solidified its place in the S-T category.
For BMW, a brand that’s no stranger to building comfortable machines made to go the distance, the K16 stands out, even among other Beemers, as one of the most important models the company has ever produced. Its new inline six-cylinder engine is sensational and makes it unique in the motorcycle world.
It’s only natural, then, to compare these two goliaths of the sport-touring category against each other. The Concours represents the old guard, bringing to battle a proven platform at a relatively easy price. Meanwhile, BMW’s all-new K1600, with its lovely six-cylinder engine and boatload of impressive features, is quickly carving a name for itself as a force to be reckoned with.
To put these comfy, road-inhalers to the test, we needed to put a significant amount of miles on each machine. Fortunately for us, our trip coincided with MO’s annual voyage to Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, for the first of two visits from the MotoGP circus this year on U.S. soil. Editor Duke and I rode these two machines from our SoCal digs up to Monterey and back — the long way — and our findings were rather comprehensive. All told, we covered some of California’s most scenic roads in order to see which of these mile-munching machines would sport-tour the best.
We loosely retraced the route from our 2009 Sport-Touring Shootout in which BMW’s powerful and nimble four-cylinder K1300GT took the overall honors ahead of the C-14, Yamaha FJR1300 and Honda ST1300. The GT model of the K1300 platform is now dead, leaving the K16GT to fight for its place in sport-touring pantheon.