The BMW we really wanted to take along for our epic sport tour to Yosemite back in July was the company’s new R1200RT, but a batch of faulty rear shock shafts on the ESA models put the kibosh on that, so we wound up taking the K1600GT instead. The big six-cylinder is a great bike in its own right, but really falls more into the touring camp than the sport-touring one. Not that that kept us from declaring it the winner. We’re fickle that way. But based upon our own Tom Roderick’s impressions of the RT on his introductory ride way back in April, we went ahead and named it our Sport-Tourer of the Year, anyway. So, there was really no pressure on the new BMW; it was all on Roderick, who responded in his usual way by setting off to down the easiest target first.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

What with EICMA coming up and everything, there was really no time for a Yosemite run: Instead of Half Dome, we had to settle for Salvation Mountain. The Salton Sea is a reasonable facsimile of Mono Lake, and the olfactory ambiance provided by the Mecca II Sanitary Landfill was close enough to a ride through L.A.

Moto-Guzzi Norge GT 8V

110614-2014-sport-touring-final-Moto-Guzzi-Norge-gt-8v-Action-2054

We hadn’t ridden the old Norge since Tommy-boy reviewed it in 2011, (though Troy S. took it for a shakedown cruise last week) so it seemed like a good time to take it for a spin, though nothing much has changed with the Moto Guzzi. The Norge’s architecture of a twin-cylinder motor in a shaft-driven chassis is shared with the RT, but it was difficult to imagine the old girl prevailing against the very latest fly-by-wire electronic wonderbikes from Japan and Germany. But it’s a Guzzi; everybody wants to ride it anyway.

Tom took the first shot: “The Norge has an electrically adjustable windscreen, ABS and heated grips, but that’s the end of the technological road. I can live without a heated seat, but cruise control and electronically adjustable suspension are indispensable creature comforts in modern day touring rigs … for only $600 less than the Yamaha, it needs a lot more than that to keep up with the Joneses. If Guzzi dropped the price to around $15K, I could then justify purchasing the Norge out of this trio.”

110614-2014-sport-touring-final-Moto-Guzzi-Norge-gt-8v-Beauty-1943

Personally, I think the price would have to go lower than that before we Analog People might be able to talk ourselves into the Guzzi. Suspension’s not the only area where the Norge falls behind. As ever, you have to love its 1151cc 90-degree V-Twin, but in the Norge, the Italians have civilized it all the way down to just 86.4 horsepower at 7000 rpm, from the 95 it makes in the Griso 8V. Meanwhile, the other Twin in this test is making 110 horses up top, along with 10 more foot-pounds of torque than the Guzzi, at fewer rpm.

The Norge’s V-Twin feels more powerful than it looks on this chart, but there’s no mistaking that it’s outgunned in this comparison. The FJR uses its extra displacement to create strong midrange power with the biggest hit when revved out. Occupying the middle ground is BMW’s efficient and fairly revvy water-cooled Boxer.

The Norge’s V-Twin feels more powerful than it looks on this chart, but there’s no mistaking that it’s outgunned in this comparison. The FJR uses its extra displacement to create strong midrange power with the biggest hit when revved out. Occupying the middle ground is BMW’s efficient and fairly revvy water-cooled Boxer.

The Norge is nice and mellow, though, and we all agreed it has the comfiest seat of the three; it’s carved from the same foam they use on the back of Lady Gaga’s thighs. If your inseam is 30 inches or less, Norge ergos are sweet indeed. If you’re taller, the footpegs are a bit too high and forward. For cool-weather riding, its electric-adjust windscreen provides the least coverage, though you can get a decent still-air pocket for your helmet most of the time. And no cruise control is now inexcusable on an S-T rig, though there are inexpensive aftermarket solutions that make the situation bearable.

The Guzzi also falls short in the luggage department. You have to deal with not one but two fiddly latches per bag every time you want in. “The saddlebags are the antithesis of proficient,” Tom says, “someone get Miguel Galluzzi involved immediately!” They are better than no saddlebags, but you have to deal with not one but two fiddly latches per bag every time you want in. Nor does the Guzzi give you any storage in the fairing, or a 12V outlet, like the other two bikes.

As for the electronic-adjust suspension, I could almost be in the camp that doesn’t really require it. In our Super Streetfighter Smackdown back in April, the manual-adjust KTM Super Duke beat the electronics-rich BMW S1000R, proving in the process that, if you get the suspension right to begin with, there’s not much need to be adjusting it all the time: Twisting the Guzzi’s remote preload knob isn’t a terrible inconvenience when you’re taking a chubby friend and your balls bowling a few towns away where you hope no one will recognize you. Most of the time, the Norge’s suspenders are nice and cushy on the superslab, while surprisingly firm enough and confidence-inspiring enough in the rough stuff to run with the other bikes.

Personally, I think the BMW speedo numbers are too small, I seldom knew how fast I was going, but nobody else complained. And the Premium package only gets you the GPS plug-in, not the GPS. Pommes frites are probably extra too.

Personally, I think the BMW speedo numbers are too small, I seldom knew how fast I was going, but nobody else complained. And the Premium package only gets you the GPS plug-in, not the GPS. Pommes frites are probably extra too.

The funny thing about the Norge is, in spite of all its shortcomings on the spec and dyno charts, it never seemed to have any trouble keeping up with the group, whether it was climbing the tight south grade up Mt. Palomar or unscientifically testing top-gear roll-on performance under the watchful eye of the California Highway Patrol on what we thought was a deserted desert highway. (Brasfield and Tom will be sending one very compassionate CHP officer a fruitcake this year and a nice Christmas card.) The Guzzi packs a lot of oomph into each chug, and if you’re behind it wringing the FJR’s 127-hp neck up a winding road, it’s hard to understand why you’re not gaining any ground.

“The Guzzi’s surprisingly competent in terms of performance,” says Tom,  “it’s quick in an underwhelming way.” It will start to grind away its centerstand, and its old-fashioned cables are a little less fluid than the electronic-throttled bikes, but it’s never a problem. And its dual Brembo-clamped discs up front give up absolutely nothing to the other bikes, including ABS.

Guzzi can play the modern game; witness the excellent California 1400. The Norge is unabashedly retro and good at it; if you only listen to vinyl through a tube amplifier while clamping a meerschaum pipe in your hipster-bearded mouth, it’s your sporty tourer. Especially if you want to do your own maintenance.

Just the facts, really. The Norge clocks look like they should dispense espresso compared to the other two bikes’ high-tech panels.

Just the facts, really. The Norge clocks look like they should dispense espresso compared to the other two bikes’ high-tech panels.

+ Highs

  • Seatus maximus
  • 90-degree V-Twin character and a smooth 5000-rpm, 90-mph cruise
  • Do your own maintenance
– Sighs

  • No cruise control, seriously?
  • Cramped legroom for tall guys
  • Defunct luggage

Yamaha FJR1300ES

The FJR1300ES is more powerful than two speeding locomotives.

The FJR1300ES is more powerful than two speeding locomotives.

 That’s ES for Electronic Suspension, which the FJR1300 got last year and used to trounce the Triumph Trophy SE and Kawasaki Concours last April, finishing second only to the way pricier K1600GT. The Yamaha’s real competitor, though, is the R1200RT. The FJR makes 17 more hp than the RT, but weighs 27 pounds more. It makes 10-percent more torque, but not till 1400-rpm higher in the rev band.

Twenty-seven pounds really isn’t much, and both bikes carry 6.6 gallons of fuel – about 40 pounds – but we never encountered a situation where the FJR feels anywhere near as light and agile as the BMW. Part of it has to do with the boxer’s cylinders poking out sideways like Flying Wallenda balance poles, part of it has to do with its longitudinal crankshaft. The big FJR four-cylinder crank’s stroke is only about 7mm shorter than the BMW’s more oversquare twin-cylinder one, and that heavy, spinning mass wants the FJR to continue on in a straight line. Its 2.3-inch longer wheelbase doesn’t help it any.

Yamaha has taken over as the premier Japanese motorcycle builder. Discuss.

Yamaha has taken over as the premier Japanese motorcycle builder. Discuss.

The FJR’s not really a heavy-steering bike at all (it won the Handling category in round One of this comparo), but it seems that way when you hop onto it off the BMW. The FJR’s handlebars are a bit narrower than the BMW’s, you lean a little farther forward to get to them – and its overall ergonomics are a bit sportier than the BMW’s. Sportier in this case, means not quite as comfortable and controllable.

“The narrowness of the FJR’s bars don’t provide the same leverage you get with the BMW or Guzzi,” Tom Roderick says, “and it’s also wide between the knees, too wide for my tastes, feels as though I’m riding a horse.”

110614-2014-sport-touring-final-yamaha-FJR1300ES-Action-2109

Evans Brasfield still loves the FJR, but agrees its electronic suspension can’t quite hang with the BMW’s ESA:The FJR’s adjustable suspension is outclassed by the BMW’s Dynamic ESA. It’s particularly noticeable when the chassis gets upset by getting unweighted by a bump entering a corner. The RT handles this situation with much less drama.”

If you fly up and down the Autobahn a lot over 100 mph, the FJR’s extra horsepower and more aggressive ergos will serve you well. Here in the U.S., not so much. Progress happens. Yamaha has done a fantastic job integrating electronic suspension, fly-by-wire, traction control, cruise control and a highly sophisticated cockpit onto the FJR. But the fact remains this platform is now 13 years old. Okay 14.

I like the FJR instrumentation best. Evans does not. The bars are 3-position adjustable, the seat goes up and down. But the target keeps moving ...

I like the FJR instrumentation best. Evans does not. The bars are 3-position adjustable, the seat goes up and down. But the target keeps moving …

The good news if you want an FJR is that the FJR1300A has all the bells and whistles except electronic suspension, for a thousand bucks less, $15,890, making it the low-priced spread in this comparison and an amazing sport-touring bargain no one here at MO would dissuade you from. And you won’t have to stand in line at the BMW dealer, helmet in hand, discussing poetry.

+ Highs

  • Inhales great draughts of space (Walt Whitman, you oafs…)
  • Bulletproof everything
  • All systems seamlessly integrated
– Sighs

  • More sporty than toury
  • Feels heavy next to the RT
  • Needs a downshift to get rolling below 60 mph

BMW R1200RT

State-of-the-Art Sport Touring, ladies and gentlemen.

State-of-the-Art Sport Touring, ladies and gentlemen.

Although the FJR and BMW are geared about the same – both turning about 4500 rpm at 80-ish mph – the BMW squirts ahead when both throttles are rolled open in top gear. The FJR makes more power and torque, but the lighter RT hits its 80 lb-ft. peak at just 5400 rpm, where the FJR doesn’t hit its 89 lb-ft. peak till 6800. You feel that immediate response every time you exit a tight corner, too, where the RT uses its wider bars, more upright ergonomics and lighter weight to run the same pace as the FJR with considerably less effort.

“The FJR looks the part of the sportiest sport-tourer here, but it’s really not,” says Tom. “The BMW is faster, has more ground clearance, and is arguably a better-handling motorcycle. Then there’s the Shift Assist Pro, which makes riding the RT quickly through a set tight switchbacks seem as though you’re riding an S1000RR.”

Vaya con Dios. The new wet clutch up front means you don’t have to split the bike in two for service.

Vaya con Dios. The new wet clutch up front means you don’t have to split the bike in two for service.

It is nice to be able to swap between Soft, Normal and Hard suspension modes on the fly, but riding along the freeway in Hard is by no means harsh, and swooping along in the curves in Soft didn’t seem the least bit hazardous. Matter of fact I was so busy sampling the two extremes, I don’t recall ever riding along in Normal at all, which I bet might have been just right. Plumping for the Premium Package ($20,850) definitely has its rewards, but if you lean toward the simple life, and could find a base model RT for $17,705, I don’t think you’d be disappointed. Before they invented electronic suspension, the RTs were always great-riding motorcycles. The base bike comes with ABS, cruise control, a 12V outlet up front and a GPS mount – all the stuff you really need.

All three bikes have fantastic 320mm front discs and ABS, but the Beemer’s are the fantasticest. I love how they put the air valve in the spoke.

All three bikes have fantastic 320mm front discs and ABS, but the Beemer’s are the fantasticest. I love how they put the air valve in the spoke.

The $3200 Premium Package on our bike only adds the electronic suspension (Dynamic ESA) and a lot of stuff most riders could do without – except the heated seat! – which doesn’t appear to be a stand-alone option. Am I the only guy who can’t live without a sound system, Hill Start Control and the ability to switch into Enduro Pro, run studded tires, and perform controlled drifts?

My personal financial conservatism aside, little Tommy Roderick is right: If you’ve got the money, the BMW is your honey, so why not spoil her? The accolades pile up:

The looks are about the only thing I can find to criticize, a bit like an angry Housewife of Orange County whose boobs are too big for her britches, no?

The looks are about the only thing I can find to criticize, a bit like an angry Real Housewife of Orange County whose boobs are too big for her britches, no?

Evans Brasscannons: “The Beemer’s riding position is the most comfortable of the bunch, placing me in an upright position with a relaxed reach to the bar. The seat’s narrowness makes it seem lower than the FJR’s identical height [both are adjustable between 31.7 and 32.5 inches], which makes pushing the bike backwards out of a parking space a much easier task for my 32-inch inseam.

“The RT’s lightness is noticeable in this crowd, and it feels lighter than the scales indicate. This is massively important at parking lot speeds. Out on the open road, the RT’s responsive steering makes it feel like you can determine its line within a fraction of an inch.

“The engine’s broad torque delivery makes it the most willing of the bunch at any rpm, cleanly walking away in every roll-on test … though some vibration does make its way into the pegs and grips at higher rpm.

“What a revelation the Shift Assist Pro is! At first attempt, downshifting without the clutch feels alien but becomes second nature,” Brasfield sums up.

Tom R.: “At nearly $21k, the RT is $4k more than the FJR, but it’s easily worth the money. The RT disguises itself as a touring bike, but once underway, it makes its sporting intentions known. Light on its feet, the RT makes quick transitioning a breeze.

“The windscreen in high is right in my line of sight, so I rode with it an an inch lower, which only slightly increased wind noise and turbulence. Wind protection for the hands and feet is also excellent.

“Sound quality from the fairing-mounted speakers is clear at freeway speeds as long as the windscreen is up.”

The new Beemer gave up a few points on the official MO Scorecard against the FJR for its price and relative lack of horsepower, but it won every subjective category to easily clinch the win over the FJR. The sun had long set by the time we’d finished eating great food and discussing the finer points at the Lumber Mill Bar and Grill in Idyllwild, 5400 feet up in the mountains where fall was definitely in the air.

Lucky me drew the BMW straw for the ride home. With heated grips and seat set to two bars of five, suspension set Hard and throttle to Road, it was a delicious descent down the dark, winding mountain road through the pines, back into the city lights, back to I-10. Set suspension to Soft, engage cruise control, raise windshield, turn up the Pandora. We’d gassed up in Idyllwild, and the tripmeter clicked over 100 miles as I pulled up to my humble abode. The clock said 10:30. I felt fresh as the proverbial daisy. There is no other land-bound vehicle I would rather have been on or in. Yup, it’s as good as Tom said, and we did the right thing naming the RT Sport-Tourer of the Year.

+ Highs

  • Latest Boxer is both grunty and powerful
  • Outstanding ergonomics, comfort and luggage
  • Spock-level electronic wizardry
– Sighs

  • Narrow clutch engagement, with lever all the way out
  • Not the most beautiful R-bike is it?
  • I got nothing else. Anyone?
BMW R 1200 RT Moto-Guzzi Norge GT 8V Yamaha FJR1300ES
MSRP as tested $20,850 $16,290 $16,890
Engine Capacity 1170cc 1151cc 1298cc
Engine Type Air/liquid-cooled DOHC boxer Twin, 4 valves /cyl. Air-cooled 90-deg. V-Twin, SOHC; 4 valves/cyl. Liquid-cooled DOHC inline Four; 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x Stroke 101.0 x 73.0mm 95.0 x 81.2mm 79.0 x 66.2mm
Compression Ratio 12.5:1 10.8:1 10.8:1
Horsepower 109.8 @ 8300 86.41 @ 7000 127.2 @ 8100
Torque 80.1 @ 5400 69.8 @ 5700 88.7 @ 6800
Fuel System Fuel injection, ride-by-wire Electronic fuel injection Fuel injection, ride-by-wire
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 5-speed
Final Drive Shaft Shaft Shaft
Front Suspension Telelever, 37mm fork tubes, 4.7 in. travel; electronic adjustment 45mm fork, adjustable spring preload; 4.7 in. travel 43mm inverted fork; electronic adjustment; 5.3 in. travel
Rear Suspension Paralever single shock, electronic adjustment; 5.4 in. travel Single shock, adjustable spring preload and rebound damping; 5.5 in. travel Single shock; electronically adjustable suspension: 4.9-in travel
Front Brakes Dual 320mm disc, 4-piston calipers; ABS Dual 320mm disc, 4-piston calipers; ABS Dual 320mm disc, 4-piston calipers; ABS
Rear Brakes 276mm disc, 2-piston caliper; ABS 282mm disc, 2-piston caliper; ABS 282mm disc, 2-piston caliper; ABS
Front Tire 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR17 180/55 ZR17 180/55 ZR17
Seat Height 31.7, 32.5 in. 31.9 in. 31.7, 32.5 in
Wheelbase 58.5 in. (1485mm) 58.9 in. 60.8 in.
Rake/Trail 26.4 deg/ 4.6 in. (116mm) 25 deg/ 4.7 in. 26.0 deg/4.3 in.
Curb Weight, MO scales 617 lbs. 646 lbs. 644 lbs.
Fuel Capacity 6.6 gals 6.0 gals 6.6 gals
MPG 44 38 41
2014 Sport-Touring Final SmackDown Scorecard
Category BMW R1200RT Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V Yamaha FJR1300ES
Price 78.1% 100% 96.5%
Weight 100% 95.5% 95.8%
lb./hp 91.1% 68.0% 100%
lb/lb-ft. 94.8% 78.5% 100%
Engine 92.5% 80.8% 86.7%
Transmission/Clutch 90.8% 75.0% 84.2%
Handling 91.7% 77.5% 84.2%
Brakes 90.0% 84.2% 89.2%
Suspension 95.8% 81.7% 89.2%
Technologies 100% 70.0% 90.0%
Instruments 85.8% 80.8% 85.0%
Ergonomics/Comfort 95.8% 83.3% 84.2%
Luggage/Storage 95.0% 68.3% 86.7%
Quality, Fit and finish 93.3% 75.8% 91.7%
Cool Factor 85.8% 80.8% 81.7%
Grin Factor 87.5% 73.3% 82.5%
Overall Score 91.7% 80.1% 88.4%
Price and weight are scored based on objective metrics. Other scores are listed as a percentage of editors’ ratings in each category. The Engine category is double-weighted, so the Overall Score is not a total of the displayed percentages but, rather, a percentage of the weighted aggregate raw score.

Free Insurance Quote

Enter your ZIP code below to get a free insurance quote.

BMW Dealer Price Quote

Get price quotes for BMW R 1200 from local motorcycle dealers.

BMW Communities

Yamaha Communities

  • Old MOron

    Oh, you sneaky bastards. Buried underneath the EICMA hype is this great comparo. Thank you, gents.

    I don’t have time to read all the good prose just now, but I’ve enjoyed the video. Whoever thought of shooting you guys through the window, from the darkness outside into the warmth inside, that was a very nice touch.

    • john burns

      I’m happy to take the credit but I think it was Tom’s idea. And Jay’s expert videography.

    • Jet City

      Yeah, the video is great, I agree. What in the world happened to John Burns, though? Seems like yesterday I was a young punk living in LA, checking my monthly issues of Motorcyclist as soon as they hit my mailbox hoping that there would be a column from Burnsie, and I gotta say that he sure looks different. John has a few wrinkles now, and corrective lenses, and some gray hair. Jesus, it’s like he’s…my age!! 😉 Thanks for the good stuff, guys.

      • john burns

        Oh ho ho ho, that’s just the make-up people making us look more like “sport-tourers.”

  • panthalassa

    this eauf hadn’t thought of that whitman piece in years; thanks for reminding me of it.
    i sing the suspension electronic …

  • nobody24

    Sport touring, on these things? Truing yes, sport…i don’t think so, these things are slugs

    • Stuki

      Anecdotally, the top 51% fastest RT and FJR (and perhaps Guzzi, don’t know any) riders on most “sportbike roads”, ride as fast or faster than the bottom 51% sportbike riders. “Equal rider” of reasonable talent, a sportbike is faster, but the difference isn’t that big. And it gets smaller and smaller the more hours are spent in the saddle to get to Racer Road. Hence the Sport-TOURING moniker.

      Things also start favoring the RT, or upright bikes in general, once you go downhill. The steeper it gets, the more physically demanding it gets to ride a sportbike with any kind of grace, while an upright bike just feels better with a bit of “natural” forward lean. Doubly so a Telelever equipped one.

      I’d still take a Ninja 1000 as a sporty tourer over any of these, but more for visceral than pure pace reasons.

  • Paul McM

    I tested the new R1200RT wethead at the MotoQuest event in Big Bear. Did a lengthy (40 mile test) with long straights plus many twisties and a section with tight mountain switchbacks. I expected to like the new RT based on past experiences with the 2013 R1200RT. However, I came away very disappointed, and frankly, really thinking that BMW screwed this thing up big time. Specifically: 1. The front fairing is hugely wide, and the bike feels considerably more top-heavy than previous edition. 2. Something was really bad with the clutch and the tranny — It was hard to get a smooth launch and the gearing seemed odd. From 35-55 on two-lane roads it never seemed to like the gear it was in. 3. Front end seemed floppy and very VAGUE in the tight stuff (scary vague). Hard to hold a precise line. The front end would resist turning then flop over. I didn’t like the handling at all. 4. Brakes were mushy then grabby — again NOT confidence inspiring. 5. Fairing on the 2013 I rode for 700 miles in March was better; new 2014 RT is noisier with considerably more turbulence. It is utterly untrue that you can enjoy the radio at speed with the screen up. Basically I consider the sound system useless above 55 mph. 6. I found the menuing system and controls very confusing and annoying. The 2013 menu system was pretty lame; the 2014 version is worse . 7. I was really hoping the 2014 would be light years better than the 2013. It is not. It still shakes a LOT. It seems to have LESS power down low, but with a much stronger top end. The engine is more like the Connie 1400 now — it wants to rev. I want to be real clear here. I liked the 2013 enough that I thought there was about an 80% chance I would buy the new R1200 RT wet-head. However, with the exception of top-end power I consider the 2014 an inferior bike in almost every respect. The vague front-end was sufficiently disturbing and unpleasant that I couldn’t wait to get off the bike. I would certainly NOT buy this bike at $17-18 grand. Until they do something about the front end I would not buy this bike for $12k. I think this machine is “not ready for prime time”, and the changes vs. 2013 have, for the most part, made the bike worse. [As background, I have been riding for 40 years and have owned over 15 bikes, of all major brands. I currently own 4 motorcycles and ride 20,000+ miles a year, six days a week.]

    • john burns

      Well, ahhh, the world’s moto-press stands corrected then.

      • Stuki

        I doubt the MotoQuest guys let people out on the road with flat tires…..

        Chances are, BMW stuck a steering damper on this one, like they seem to do to all their bikes these days. And if so, 90% confident that is the main reason for the vagueness. The GS is vague as well, compared to older ones, and other bikes with non draggy steering. As are all the new KTMs. Heck, even Hondas HESD bikes fall into corners at low speed.

        You motojournos ride so many newer bikes, and do most of your testing at a pace where dampers are either necessary, or at least less of a constant nuisance. And also seem to place waaaay more importance on a bike’s behavior at speeds and on roads where the lighter steering made safe by a damper is beneficial, versus it’s behavior at less elevated speeds, or on roads that are either straighter, or first gear slow.

        • john burns

          Wrong.

    • reg26

      Funny how two people can have such completely different experiences on the same bike. I rented a 2014 RT from Motoquest for a week this past Sept and put almost 1000mi on it. I have owned two different FJR’s and to me the RT was by far a much better ride than the FJR was. In fact the RT is the best motorcycle I have ever ridden

  • JMDonald

    I lean towards the new RS but have always wanted a RT. The OEM’s have all outdone themselves this year. It is a great time for motorcycling.

  • Rick Vera

    I loved the review, thanks guys. I figured the RT would take the proverbial cake from the FJR1300. The ST1300 and R1150/1200RT were always lauded for their low-speed handling. My guess it has to do more with the shorter wheelbase with upright ergos than anything else as the ST and RT couldn’t be further apart on the sport-touring weight scale but have almost identical dimensions. I would like to see the K1600GT’s cool leaning light as an option, but it doesn’t surprise me that the RT lacks it as with so many German makes, they hold back certain features to keep their flagship looking more attractive (i.e. Porsche taking forever to give the Cayman a limited-slip differential in fears of it out-handling a 911).

    There is one point I feel I must mention, though. You folks said the “base bike” comes with ABS, cruise control, power outlet, and a GPS mount. Well yes and no. BMW calls the Premium ($3,200) and Standard ($600) “packages.” However, in American vernacular, packages imply that they are optional; in BMW’s case, you HAVE to chose one, so it’s more like a trim. Since I cannot get an RT without either package, I can’t really get a “base bike.” I can get the Standard R1200RT, but then the price jumps from $17,650 to $18,250. After destination and handling, that price is now $18,745.

    Anywho, as much as I love these reviews, the debates, and the RT, I’d still have to go with the FJR1300. The thing is, fair-market value ≠ MSRP. There are enough new FJR1300’s in my area, New Jersey, that are going for $12,000 or under while I haven’t seen any dealer discounts on the R1200RT. The RT is a great bike, but it’s not a 64% better bike, to me, and I simply cannot justify paying another $6,000 for one.

    • WTF

      I’ve had an FJR for 5 years now and have done up to 800 miles a day with little fatigue. The slight forward lean keeps the butt from straining too much, so i’ve not put in raisers. I’m 6.1 tall, so I needed a windshield and got the V-stream. If you get an FJR, get that too!

      I’m sure they are all good bikes, but I wonder if the BMW is that much better too… I guess we will all vote with our money.

      I think the experience of the reviewers and the opinion building is different from that of a regular driver, and this is similar in all other subjective reviews as well. I never try two phones or computers and then see how the change affects my perceptions, and that is a majority of the opinion building process (so it seems to me).

      The bags on the fjr are really expensive, versus the BMW (we will all drop them some time!). Service intervals and cost matter even more than these, along with service network. But the gear shift or roll-on acceleration on a bike that may stay in cruise may not matter as much to me. Finally, plugging in the numbers are fun for some of us to read and for them to give conclusions, but is certainly scientifically untenable. Check it with the sales data and I’m guessing they may not track together all the time :)

    • cathries
  • Old MOron

    Well, I couldn’t go to sleep tonight without first coming back to read the comparo.
    I may be an oaf, but I still prefer the writing to the video, good as the video may be.
    Walt Whitman, the Flying Wallendas, Lady Gaga’s thighs, woo, what a ride!

  • Kevin

    Tom is quite right on his points regarding the absence of cruise control and electronic suspension on todays touring bikes, which makes the proposal to do a rematch with the 2015 Concours 14 moot:

  • Kevin

    No arguments from me on the premier Japanese bike builder, John:

  • gjw1992

    BMW probably sells several times more R1200GS than the RT. Yet most people, at least here in Europe, use the GS as a road tourer going off road (briefly) only at a camp site. How does the GS compare to the RT in this use case – as pure tourer? My money would be on the RT being the better bike to use but lacking the showroom appeal of the GS.

    (Actually my money may well go on the new R1200RS in a year or so once I find distance on the s1000r to much of a chore. Just sitting on one at the Intermot felt just right.)

  • GS1100GK

    By the numbers….so guys…having nothing better to do this particular Saturday evening I looked at your numbers and thought the overall numbers didn’t jive. So, I put your numbers into Excel to check the overall scores and noticed a few discrepancies (nothing to change the overall order mind you). Excel tells me the BMW score should be 91.8 (+.1), the Guzzi 79.6 (-.5), and the FJR 89.2 (+.8). Too many Beers and/or Margaritas when you tabulated the score? :) BTW, on a side note being an owner of a 2009 C-14 ABS I am severly disappoointed that for 2015 Kawasaki didn’t add cruise or electonic suspension to it. Maybe next year. :(

    • john burns

      Hmmm, take it up with Bill Gates. We plug in the numbers. The computer does the rest. Surely the new Concours has cruise and they just neglected to tell us?

      • GS1100GK

        I hope so John.

  • pismopal

    Compare the maintenance and repair costs of the RT vs the FJR over a period of 3 years and then we can talk. And my experience was without final drive failure on the RT. The FJR does need oil changes though.

  • Steve C

    Nice to see the Norge fare well with this group. I’m one who can do without all the electronic wizardy( I would like ABS). I like a bike I can work on myself. Though having ridden the new FJR it really is a sweet ride. But for now I’ll stick to the Uly and my old Guzzi’s.

    • GS1100GK

      Steve, I concur with your feelings about the Norge. Back in 2008 I had narrowed my bike search down to the Norge, Ulysses XT, and C-14. Loved the light handling and grunt of the Norge and Ulysses at the time but only the Norge and C-14 had ABS which was a top priority for me so the Ulysses XT missed the cut. Sadly, the Norge was $3K more expensive than the C-14 which has a much higher level of performance. At the time you really had to “want” that bike to justify the cost. Sadly, I wanted it, but not for $3K more.
      With the Norge being more price competative these days I would consider it if my C-14 were in need of replacement. :)

  • Brn McCkensy

    Sorry guys, I have to call BS on your review, particularly on the performance comments in the video. You do the math, use your own rear wheel HP or Torque numbers and factor weights ( I used 600lbs. BMW and 646lbs. FJR) and there is no way with similar gearing, the BMW can get away from or even keep up during a roll-on. Even factoring in a potential areo advantage for BMW (which probably favors the FJR in real world riding), the BMW just cannot do what you suggest unless your FJR was sick during the test..numbers don’t lie. You cite where the torque peaks earlier on the BMW, but at that same rpm the fjr still has more torque and climbs further above the BMW as the rpm climbs. I call BS on you guys, things simply don’t add up. The worst part is your review suggests better performance in an area which means little for the BMW, as it is certainly the better touring bike for longer distances.

    I also take exception with “But the fact remains this platform is now 13 years old. Okay 14.” comment, I mean how long has this wasserboxer engine been around regardless of its updates…1923? Again, you skew your review needlessly when you could have focused on BMW’s more advanced active suspension system, but of course you would need to remind everyone that the ‘not so old’ BMW design caused many, including yourselves, not to ride this machine for three months…plus.

    Your review comes off in general as a biased and frankly skewed piece which I can’t rely on for either bike. Just what happens when you do this kind of thing.

    By the way, you should make the pricing point a little cleaner and tell everyone you can have a new FJR1300ES AND an FZ-09 for about the same out the door price of the BMW, then go ahead talk about the advantages the BMW has.

    • Kevin Duke

      there are no parts in common with an Oilhead and a Wasserboxer. The original FJR’s motor isn’t, architecturally, different than the latest one. And a touring bike with a 5-speed gearbox is a disadvantage, doncha think?

      • Brn McCkensy

        No a 5 speed gearbox is not a disadvantage, particularly for touring. During a race, the extra sixth gear can be an advantage if the rest of the gearing is correct for the type of race or type of track. On the road, the extra gear is little more than a marketing chechmark, especially with a modern engine that has excellent fueling and more torque throughout the Rev range than most other bikes on the road, including the BMW.

        I really like the BMW for what it is, a more touring focused machine than the FJR. It has some features you simply cannot replicate even in the aftermarket and everything has a high quality finish to it where the sandcasting marks are sometimes left on the FJR. What l have a problem with is suggesting the BMW outperforms in an area where it is outclassed. The only way the new waterhead will out accelerate the FJR is if the latter was in touring mode and the BMW was in 5th gear, then it wins in acceleration, not when as mentioned with the same gearing, HP to weight simply dictates the winner until aerodynamics do at high speed.

        As for the FJR engine updates, they have changed its characteristic enough with the DBW to suggest a bigger improvement than adding a few cc’s of water to the oilhead, and since when was adding rotational mass some great engineering insight? Although I have yet to shift the 14′ boxer, the previous version was not close to the FJR’s box and I would be surprised if it matched the new FJR’s improved box.

        • Kevin Duke

          The addition of a sixth gear to the FJR would lower the rpm and, hence, the vibration levels at cruising speeds, an important consideration for a touring rider. The addition of RbW to an existing engine is much, much simpler, easier and cheaper than engineering an entirely new motor like the Beemer’s. And the RT’s new transmission is conceptually and entirely different than the oilhead’s clutch and gearbox.

        • Paul McM

          I have ridden the 2014 R1200RT and 2014 FJR 1300. The BMW feels lighter at slow speeds and has a more protective windscreen with less turbulence. The Yamaha definitely has more pull from down low and is smoother yet stronger at almost all rev ranges. It is a lot smoother at typical California highway speeds, 75 to 85 mph. The BMW hard bags are the best in the business, a cut above the Yamaha’s. The BMW seat has better two-stage padding, but the Yamaha seat is wider in the front which is actually an important long range comfort factor. The width forward, as you’ll find on an actual equestrian saddle, allows you to support much of your weight on your thighs rather than your tailbone. I prefer the simpler controls and gauges on the FJR. However the heated seat and heated grips are real plus on the BMW. if I had to choose between the two bikes, the decision might be based on typical riding weather. In a location with cooler temperatures, I would select the BMW. In an area such Arizona. where I might keep the windscreen in the lower position most of the time, and ride quickly on the remote 2 Lane Highways, I would take the FJR. I would also take the 2013 model R 1200 RT over the 2014. It is more comfortable, the seat is better, the fairing works better, it is more reliable, it feels lighter, and I prefer the handling.

        • Paul McM

          I have ridden the 2014 R1200RT and 2014 FJR 1300. The BMW feels lighter at slow speeds and has a more protective windscreen with less turbulence. The Yamaha definitely has more pull from down low and is smoother yet stronger at almost all rev ranges. It is a lot smoother at typical California highway speeds, 75 to 85 mph. The BMW hard bags are the best in the business, a cut above the Yamaha’s. The BMW seat has better two-stage padding, but the Yamaha seat is wider in the front which is actually an important long range comfort factor. The width forward, as you’ll find on an actual equestrian saddle, allows you to support much of your weight on your thighs rather than your tailbone. I prefer the simpler controls and gauges on the FJR. However the heated seat and heated grips are real plus on the BMW. if I had to choose between the two bikes, the decision might be based on typical riding weather. In a location with cooler temperatures, I would select the BMW. In an area such Arizona. where I might keep the windscreen in the lower position most of the time, and ride quickly on the remote 2 Lane Highways, I would take the FJR. I would also take the 2013 model R 1200 RT over the 2014. It is more comfortable, the seat is better, the fairing works better, it is more reliable, it feels lighter, and I prefer the handling.

  • Dirk Lehew

    I suppose I can accept the results of this comparo with just these 3 bikes, but as a rider of 45 years I think I can offer my $0.02 worth. Having ridden all the ST bikes(except Norge-Guzzi’s quirkiness never appealed to me) I now own what for me at least is the best ST hands down. You need to include the Triumph Trophy SE in this test. In an all-inclusive sense(performance, comfort, features and value) the Trophy IMHO is an easy winner. The best handling ST on the market by far, no comparison end-of-discussion. Feels 150lbs lighter after it’s rolling and turns in instinctively-like a big supremely comfortable sport bike. The RT is close but the numb front-end doesn’t give the feedback the Trophy does. It is not as powerful as the FJR, K1600 or the Concours at the top end, but the power delivery is much more linear with the flattest torque curve. Makes for real-world when-you-need-it power. The Trophy’s RbW is the smoothest, easiest throttle to modulate-never hesitates, never abrupt, no flat spots, and very light(almost don’t need the cruise control). The Trophy is the 1st bike that I have ever been able to get on and ride 500 mi as is no changes necessary including seat, peg position, and windshield. It offers the best protection from the elements(with the RT a close 2nd), and with the shield all the way up(6 inches of travel) I get a still pocket of air that keeps 90%+ of rain off of me and allows me to listen to the stereo at 80mph+. By the way the secret to enjoying the stereo is foam ear plugs-they reduce the midrange distortion caused by wind, engine and road noise and allow the music through.
    The Triple engine is a blast-not as smooth as the K1600 but a great sound and feel without the Boxer vibrations. 134HP is enough to get you put in jail….
    Finally the value factor-even though I can afford any of these bikes I won’t pay for image or symbols or overly-engineered high tech just because they can. I got a 2014 Trophy new for $16,500(plus the usual tax, prep, etc). Only $1000 more than the FJR and C14 with many more features, and $6-7000 less than an RT similarly equipped. Not to mention the outrageous $26-27000 for a K1600. Never owned a Triumph before, and never thought I would. For everyone out there looking for an ST, you owe it to yourself to test the Trophy. Put all brand(and reviewer) bias aside and you might just find one in your garage.
    Ride safe(and far)….and fast
    Dirk

  • Shawn Wang

    could anyone tell me what model is John’s helmet and his riding suit as well?? thx

  • mike nelson

    Stop drinking the BMW Kool-Aid. I get that they have the big $ for journalists, ads, etc. PLEASE talk about where your reader can get the motorcycle serviced. Yamaha = everywhere. BMW = dealer only.

    Last time I went to the BMW dealer, they couldn’t get their demo bike started. Your own review contradicts the price difference. BMW costs 25% more. Your own review talks about how the BMW couldn’t even give you a bike to test, because of mechanical problems first time around. Abandon motorcycle white wine German snobbery, and focus on us real folks who have to ride these machines, PLEASE.

  • mugwump

    Anybody care to revisit the FJR vs RT? It’s time for my Gen 1 and I to retire.