2014 Heavyweight Sport-Touring Shootout – K1600GT Vs. Concours14 Vs. Trophy SE Vs. FJR1300ES

To Yosemite and Beyond: Four shaft-driven Sport-Tourers, Three Days, Two Winners

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When the new BMW R1200RT fell through, recalled because of a possibly faulty rear shock shaft of all things, we almost decided not to take these four lovelies on a little three-day binge up along California’s eastern Sierra, through Bishop, Yosemite and back the long way. But we’re glad we did. The weather and scenery couldn’t have been more perfect, and it’s hard to imagine motorcycles more cut out for a long weekend than these four – all with hard sidebags, great wind protection, shaft drive and everything you need to take your show on the road.

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Advances in chassis design, electronics, suspension and tires allow these heavy beasts to attack twisty roads with the ferocity of full-on sportbikes from not so long ago, with nary a wobble and barely the drag of an occasional footpeg feeler. And the real beauty is how deliciously comfy they are when getting to and from. So comfy in fact, we won’t mind doing it all again when the new BMW does become available (just like when Aprilia couldn’t come up with a Tuono to meet our schedule for our epic Streetfighter Shootout from earlier this year). Rest assured, the missing BMW Boxer will get compared to the winner(s) of these four bikes when the time is ripe. Somebody’s got to do it.

There are at least three ways to build a sport-touring engine. Most impressive is BMW’s six-cylinder mill that uses its 1649cc to kick out mountains of power at every point on its tach and sounds like an internal-combustion orchestra. Triumph makes do with half as many cylinders and 434cc less displacement, but it feels much more competitive than it looks on this chart. The four-cylinder offerings from Kawi and Yamaha split the cylinder and displacement difference and offer bigger peak numbers.

There are at least three ways to build a sport-touring engine. Most impressive is BMW’s six-cylinder mill that uses its 1649cc to kick out mountains of power at every point on its tach and sounds like an internal-combustion orchestra. Triumph makes do with half as many cylinders and 434cc less displacement, but it feels much more competitive than it looks on this chart. The displacements of four-cylinder offerings from Kawi and Yamaha fall between the two Euro bikes, and both offer offer bigger horsepower numbers.

Torque is primarily a product of displacement, so it comes as no surprise the 1649cc BMW towers over its smaller rivals. Triumph’s Trophy spits out a flat and usable torque band, but it suffers by having the fewest cubes to work with. The Kawi’s curve is enviably flat, but the FJR’s somehow feels flatter and its well of torque deeper than this chart reveals.

Torque is primarily a product of displacement, so it comes as no surprise the 1649cc BMW towers over its smaller rivals. Triumph’s Trophy spits out a flat and usable torque band, but it suffers by having the fewest cubes to work with. The Kawi’s curve is enviably flat, but the FJR’s somehow feels flatter and its well of torque deeper than this chart reveals.

Most Not Improved: Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS

070314-2014-SportTouting-JohnBurns--6

Brasfield in motion. The Kawi’s 1352cc Four makes the most horsepower, but somehow that just isn’t enough anymore… (photo by John Burns)

That this imperial starship finishes last tells you all you need to know about how good these bikes are; the number one thing that shot down the ZX-14R-derived Concours is its lack of cruise control, a thing all the others have. Many Concours devotees will tell you the simple addition of a mechanical cruise setup like the Throttlemeister renders that a non-problem, but that’s for the buyer to decide. Other things relegated it to last place this year, including our leaving the Honda  ST1300 at home, the fact that the Concours is a bit heavy-handling (E-i-C Duke swears it’s because of its 50-series rear tire; a taller, 55-aspect tire speeds its steering considerably) – and because of the not-so-hot calibration of its linked brakes. The front is pretty grabby, especially when all you want is a little rear brake in a dirty corner. Anyway, the C-14 is possibly the fastest (depends how good you are with a clutch), sportiest, and cheapest (but not by much) bike in the group.

The Kawasaki’s 1352cc Four has the shortest stroke here, and made 135 hp at 9100 rpm on the dyno. The FJR comes up about 8 ponies less at its peak but produces it at lower revs and with almost identical torque, 88-89 foot-pounds. Variable valve timing helps keeps the Kawasaki’s torque plateau fairly flat in spite of those 84mm pistons. If the FJR feels like it’s just as fast most of the time, maybe blame it on the Concours hauling 44 more pounds. The Concours even outguns the BMW six-cylinder in terms of horsepower, but the bigger BMW slays it in torque output, registering 108 ft-lb at just 5000 rpm to the Kawasaki’s 89 at 7400 rpm. The BMW needs it: at 732 pounds gassed up, it’s 44 pounds heavier than the Kawi.

070314-2014-SportTouting-Action-Kawasaki-9763

The year 2008 doesn’t seem so long ago, and though the Kawasaki’s engine is still impressive when the goal is to catapult yourself to Point B, the rest of the bike’s a little behind the times: No electronic suspension adjusters, no chamber music, no cruise control. Some of us might contend that’s just less stuff to go wrong. The Kawi does have a remote shock-preload adjuster that’s easy enough to twist with your fist. And it does come with heated grips and a cool ignition fob that means you don’t have to dig for its key all the time. Unfortunately, you still have to dig for the fob to get the key out of it that unlocks the bags, which you can’t leave unlocked. Kind of a drag, really, but then the only bike here that lets you leave bags unlocked is the BMW.

In this little comparo, the Concours gets licked. Sorry.

In this little comparo, the Concours gets licked. Sorry.

Otherwise, few complaints. All four bikes have seats better than all but few butts deserve, and the Kawi enforces a minimal sporty forward lean to grips set far enough apart for plenty of leverage. If you desire a bike that likes to be really manhandled when the going gets tight and bumpy, one that calls you a big brute as you slam its front end into the headboard again and grab a big handful, then the Kawasaki could be your motorcycle. The rest of the market right now seems to be calling for a kinder, gentler, more suave approach to burning up backroads, but nobody’s making you go along.

+ Highs

  • Good old-fashioned raw horsepower
  • No complex menus to figure out
  • Remote key fob is nice
- Sighs

  • No cruise control
  • Fiddly luggage locks, spindly key required every time
  • We’re getting old and soft

The Race For Second Place

What can we say? We’ve become motorcycle sybarites, as anyone would in our position, and it was almost a foregone conclusion that the fully decked-out $26K BMW K1600GT Sport was going to win this thing (base price is $21,500) – and that the real race was going to be for second place. Which left the new Yamaha FJR1300ES and Triumph Trophy SE to duke it out. Both bikes have their adherents, not quite evenly split between the four of us, and this is where things become a tad subjective.

Two out of four MOrons agree the FJR is the best-handling bike here. Tom has it tied with the BMW. Burns likes the Triumph.

Two out of four MOrons agree the FJR is the best-handling bike here. Tom has it tied with the BMW. Burns likes the Triumph.

The Yamaha is the oldest bike here, introduced in Europe in 2001, but recent upgrades have kept it competitive with its fresher rivals. Two years ago it got a major makeover and cruise control. Last year the ES model appeared, with electronic suspension, which is very convenient indeed. Once you learn to work the FJR’s menu, it’s a doddle to rig for solo, two-up or two-up with loaded bags – soft, standard, hard and then some – with just a few rocks of the toggle.

Though it shares nearly identical rake and trail numbers with the Kawasaki, the 44-pounds lighter FJR is more willing to change directions and a couple of our testers love the way it feels bending into corners. It is the only bike here running a 180/55-17 rear tire instead of the 190s on the other bikes. It does place its grips slightly closer together than the others, giving the rider a little less leverage and the impression that the Yamaha is maybe best suited to Euro-style touring, where roads are smoother and more flowing than some of the paved cow trails we find ourselves on in the U.S. Our taller, longer-limbed riders love the FJR’s slightly sportier, more forward grips, which are also three-position adjustable. Our shorter riders preferred the nearly upright ergoes of the BMW and Triumph. Either way, the FJR barely edged out the BMW in the Handling category on our combined scorecard.

The FJR finished just behind the BMW in the Appearance, Fit and Finish swimsuit competition, which just goes to show you beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The FJR finished just behind the BMW in the Appearance, Fit and Finish swimsuit competition, which just goes to show you beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Again, although the FJR’s fly-by-wire 1298cc Four comes up short of the bigger Kawasaki in peak horsepower, to its credit it matches the Kawi’s torque output and in fact produced its 88.7 ft-lb peak at 800 rpm less than the Connie. That lets the FJR run along at a very smooth, relaxed 3800 rpm or so at 80 mph in top gear and still respond like Seabiscuit to the whip, no downshifting required. And with these bikes, it’s all about the midrange nearly all the time – no worries about spitting the rear tire out from under yourself, either, now that the FJR (along with the other three) comes with traction control. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything’s well sorted and nicely displayed in the FJR cockpit, though one of Evans’ only criticisms of his favorite bike is that the numerals are a little small.

Everything’s well sorted and nicely displayed in the FJR cockpit, though one of Evans’ only criticisms of his favorite bike is that the numerals are a little small.

Instead of the Concours’ grabby linked brakes, the FJR’s linked ABS stoppers combine outstanding power with excellent modulation. All in all, the FJR makes you understand that racing really does improve the breed. While it can transport you and a passenger comfortably for days on end, you can still feel the R1 in there dying to get out. Beyond that, while some might expect the European bikes to have the more sophisticated interface, the Yamaha is a highly integrated machine, with a logical and attractive cockpit and fit and finish to rival the BMW – one of us rated it superior. Highly swoopy.

+ Highs

  • Excellent grafting of new tech onto an old platform
  • Lightest and easiest to maneuver in
    tight quarters
  • Exudes structural integrity and quality
    workmanship
- Sighs

  • Sportiest ergonomics
  • Some need their reading glasses to make out display info
  • Little else to criticize

Which brings us to the Triumph Trophy SE. This one really leans toward the luxurious end of the sport-touring spectrum. For one thing, its 1215cc Triple lays down a broad swath of really useable torque and seldom feels anything approaching slow – but there’s really no high-rpm payoff like the other bikes have, and it is the least powerful bike here. At the Trophy’s launch two years ago, Triumph made no bones about the fact that it wanted to out-RT the BMW R1200RT, which it considered the benchmark: The goal was all-around sporting performance via big torque and light weight instead of massive horsepower. It got the equation half right. At 664 pounds with fuel (claimed), it’s about 60 pounds heavier than BMW’s newest (missing-in-action) Boxer.

A few bricks in the 55-liter trunk makes the Triumph even easier to wheelie.

A few bricks in the 55-liter trunk makes the Triumph even easier to wheelie.

It does feel a little top-heavy way when you’re picking the Trophy up off its too-short sidestand, but not so much once underway. And if it is a bit top-heavy, maybe that helps offset its having the most trail of the bunch (4.7 inches) and allows the Trophy to tie the BMW in the “Handling” category of our exhaustive scorecard. It actually steers light and quick, and at least one of us (yours truly) felt like the Triumph’s chassis served up the best road feel of the bunch even with all the junk in the trunk. Mama spoonfeeds tasty road while you sit there in the comfy highchair, steering and drooling. The Triple provides the second-best soundtrack after the BMW Six, and the Triumph’s gearbox is like butter, allowing seamless clutchless up- and downshifts through the top four gears. I also loved the way its grips reach back to meet my stubby arms and the fact it’s got the stillest-air cockpit (you can listen to talk radio at 80 and catch every word), along with a great (height-adjustable) seat.

If you ride in a lot of foul weather, the Trophy pokes the most peaceful hole through it. That single-sided swingarm and standard centerstand make tire changes a breeze too.

If you ride in a lot of foul weather, the Trophy pokes the most peaceful hole through it. That single-sided swingarm and standard centerstand make tire changes a breeze too.

But while I was loving the Trophy, Roderick was hating it, accusing it of having “one of the worst seats in the history of sitting down” as well as “excessive engine heat rolling out around your feet/shin area.” Meanwhile, Evans also didn’t like its ergos or three-cylinder vibes, and couldn’t get past its snatchy throttle – a thing none of the rest of us felt except for Duke occasionally. What we can all agree on is that the Triumph isn’t the prettiest. Fit and finish isn’t really its strong suit.

Roderick rolling on the Triumph, obviously in a great deal of pain… (photo by John Burns)

Roderick rolling on the Triumph, obviously in a great deal of pain… (photo by John Burns)

It came down to a really tight contest between the Yamaha and the Triumph in the end, with the Yamaha being more polished but the Triumph having more stuff to polish. It really just depends if you want a sportier tourer or a tourier sporter. Triumph only imports the SE model to the U.S., and it is a lot of motorcycle for $18,999, complete with tail trunk, tire-pressure monitors, Bluetooth sound system, cruise, electronic suspension, heated seats, 12v outlets front and rear, USB port… all the stuff that drives our BMW winner up past the $26K mark. If you’re torn – and who wouldn’t be after this comparison – at least Triumph encourages test rides. You can book one online.

+ Highs

  • Really comfortable for people who find it comfortable
  • Fully loaded for $18,999 including sound system
  • Torquey Triple is pleasingly effective
- Sighs

  • Some say top-heavy
  • Various bits and body panels evoke Triumphs of yore
  • Not the most intuitive electronic interface but plenty of it
The owl and the pussycats. You can see the BMW (left) and the Triumph poke bigger holes in the air than the slightly sportier Yamaha.

The owl and the pussycats. You can see the BMW (left) and the Triumph (right) poke bigger holes in the air than the slightly sportier Yamaha.

The Winner

Duke’n it out on the BMW. There’s plenty of room for two atop that 66.1-inch wheelbase, but we left the wives at home anyway. This special Sport version gets Sakhir Orange metallic/Black Storm metallic paint and black, high-gloss wheels, which helps jack it all the way up to $26,145. (photo by John Burns)

Duke’n it out on the BMW. There’s plenty of room for two atop that 66.1-inch wheelbase, but we left the wives at home anyway. This special Sport version gets Sakhir Orange metallic/Black Storm metallic paint and black, high-gloss wheels, which helps jack it all the way up to $26,145. (photo by John Burns)

It’s all about the engine. Well, okay, the engine and the electronics. And the handling and comfort. And the engine again. Hop from any of the others onto the BMW, and you’d swear you were all of a sudden in the cockpit of a vintage Formula 1 racer. The six-cylinder has no flywheel, just crank journals, and picks up revs instantly. The GT exhaust is tuned to emit a bit more noise than the GTL: WHOOOOOP! We’re easily amused by stuff like that. Cap’n Duke says this is easily one of his favorite engines of all time. The GT’s torque mountain buries the other bikes and peaks at only 5000 rpm, leaving them in the dust in spite of the bike’s 700-plus pounds.

070314-2014-SportTouting-Beauties-9369

The downside is that with no flywheel, it’s easy to stall the thing taking off from a stop, and can make for some graceless shifting in the lower gears. So what; using the ingenious left thumbwheel to switch from Dynamic to Road smoothes things right out, in fact there’s a solution for every problem somewhere in the BMW’s thumbwheel and easy-to-use menus, and an electric-adjust suspension setting for any road and any mood.

Looks a little ’60s Mustang with 8-track to some, but the BMW puts it all there for you to see and adjust.

Looks a little ’60s Mustang with 8-track to some, but the BMW puts it all there for you to see and adjust.

Matter of fact, its 732-pound curb weight (including 7 gallons of premium) is the porkiest here, but doesn’t hold the K-bike back much. On a race track, the BMW would pay for its weight in lap times and for its 66.1-inch wheelbase in reduced ground clearance, but none of that is a problem on the road – and all testers praised the bike’s Duolever front end, even if some felt it doesn’t offer quite the road feel of the FJR or Triumph.

Though ergonomically very close to the Triumph with its higher pullback bars and deep-dish seat, the BMW finished just ahead of it in our Ergonomics/Comfort category. It lacks the Triumph’s topbox, but the BMW’s sidebags are easiest to deal with and hold the most stuff; a push of a button on the key fob locks and unlocks them, like cars have done since the ’90s, and you can just leave them unlocked. Hello.

+ Highs

  • Best German soundtrack since Beethoven’s 9th
  • Wins in comfort, performance and tech
  • Biggest and best sidebags
- Sighs

  • Heavy and long
  • BMW’s not giving them away
  • 24 valves are a lot to adjust
BMW wants you to know it’s a Six from every angle. They have every reason to be proud.

BMW wants you to know it’s a Six from every angle. They have every reason to be proud.

And yet … and yet … the whole point of this exercise when it began was to eschew wretched excess, to test an all-new BMW sporty tourer which does not weigh 732 pounds and does not stretch 66.1 inches between contact patches. BMW says the new R1200RT weighs but 604 ell-bees, has a wheelbase of just 58.5 inches, and a base price of just $17,650. Somebody will have to test it against the runner-up here, which would be the Yamaha FJR1300ES by a hair, over the Triumph Trophy SE. Maybe we’ll need to bring the K1600 along while we’re at it, just because it’s there, and to see once and for all what’s better: big power and a big sport-tourer, or less power in a smaller one? With any luck, it’s a debate that will drag on for years.

Photo by John Burns

These machines are built for chasing distant horizons. (Photo by John Burns.)

2014 Heavyweight Sport-Touring Shootout Scorecard
Category BMW K1600GT Kawasaki Concours 14 Triumph Trophy SE Yamaha FJR1300ES
Price 0.0% 100.0% 67.5% 92.5%
Weight 52.5% 80.0% 90.0% 100.0%
Engine 96.9% 83.1% 88.1% 88.8%
Transmission/Clutch 83.8% 87.5% 84.4% 83.8%
Handling 86.3% 71.3% 85.0% 86.9%
Brakes 91.3% 68.8% 88.8% 89.4%
Suspension 93.1% 78.8% 89.4% 91.3%
Technologies 97.5% 69.4% 88.8% 89.4%
Instruments 94.4% 81.3% 81.9% 88.8%
Ergonomics/Comfort 90.0% 83.1% 88.1% 85.0%
Luggage/Storage 96.9% 80.0% 95.0% 79.38%
Appearance 89.4% 80.6% 73.8% 87.5%
Cool Factor 88.8% 76.3% 77.5% 81.3%
Grin Factor 94.4% 78.1% 83.1% 84.4%
Overall Score 89.8% 79.0% 85.3% 86.9%
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.
2014 Sport-Touring Shootout Specs
BMW K 1600 GT Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS Triumph Trophy SE Yamaha FJR1300ES
MSRP $26,145 ($21,500 base) $16,199.00 $18,999.00 $16,890.00
Engine Capacity 1649cc 1352cc 1215cc 1298cc
Engine Type Oil-/watercooled 4-stroke inline 6-cylinder Liquid-cooled 4-stroke inline 4-cyl.; variable valve timing Liquid-cooled 4-stroke inline 3-cyl. Liquid-cooled 4-stroke inline 4-cyl.
Bore x Stroke 72.0 mm x 67.5 mm 84.0 x 61.0mm 85.0 x 71.4 mm 79.0 x 66.2mm
Compression Ratio 12.2:1 10.7:1 11.0:1 10.8:1
Fuel System Electronic intake pipe injection DFI® with four 40mm throttle bodies Ride by wire, fuel injection Ride by wire, Fuel Injection
Ignition digital engine management (BMS-X) TCBI with Digital Advance Digital inductive TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Valve Train DOHC, 24 valves DOHC, 16 valves DOHC, 12 valves DOHC, 16 valves
Transmission 6-speed, helical gears 6-speed 6-speed 5-speed
Final Drive Shaft Tetra-Lever shaft drive Shaft Shaft
Front Suspension BMW Motorrad Duolever; central spring strut; 4.9 in travel 43mm inverted fork; adjustable rebound damping and spring preload; 4.4 in. travel WP 43mm inverted fork; electronically adjustable rebound damping (sport/normal/comfort); 5.0 in. travel 43mm inverted fork; electronic adjustment; 5.3 in. travel
Rear Suspension BMW Motorrad Paralever; 5.3 in travel Tetra-Lever with stepless rebound damping adjustment, remote spring preload adjuster; 5.4 in. travel Electronically adjustable hydraulic preload, electronically adjustable rebound damping. WP monoshock with remote reservoir. Single shock; electronically adjustable suspension: 4.9-in travel
Front Brake Dual 320mm discs, 4-piston calipers, ABS, linked Dual 310mm petal discs, 4-piston calipers, ABS, linked Dual 320mm floating discs, Nissin 4-piston calipers, ABS, linked Dual 320mm discs, UBS ABS
Rear Brake 320mm disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS, linked 270mm petal disc with ABS, linked 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliper, ABS, linked 282mm disc, UBS ABS
Front Tire 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire 190/55 ZR 17 190/50 ZR17 190/55 ZR17 180/55 ZR17
Seat Height 31.9/32.7 in 32.1 in. 30.3 or 31.1 in. 31.7 or 32.5 in
Wheelbase 66.1 in 59.8 in. 60.7 in. 60.8 in
Rake/Trail 27.8°/4.3 in 26.1°/4.4 in. 27.0º/4.7 in. 26°/4.3 in
Curb Weight 732 lb. 688 lb. 664 lb. 644 lb
Fuel Capacity 7.0 gal 5.8 gal. 6.6 gal 6.6 gal
Observed fuel mileage 41 mpg 38 mpg 42 mpg 41 mpg
Storage Capacity 18 gal 18.5 gal 22.7 gal 16 gal
Accessories $4,145 Premium Package: audio system, Bluetooth, Satellite Radio w/ 12-month complimentary subscription, preparation for GPS, LED fog lights, adaptive headlight, DTC-Dynamic Traction Control, TPM-Tire Pressure Monitor, ESA II-Electronic Suspension Adjustment, central locking system, anti-theft alarm
$500 K1600GT Sport Package: special color, seat pro, sport windshield
None None None
Available Colors Light grey metallic, Montego blue metallic, dark graphite metallic, Sakhir Orange Metallic / Black Storm Metallic Metallic Spark Black, Candy Cardinal Red Lunar silver, Pacific blue Candy Red
Warranty 36 months 12, 24 or 36 months are available 24 month, unlimited mileage 12 month (Limited Factory Warranty)

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  • Old MOron

    Were I Daddy Warbucks, I’d get the beemer.
    As it is, I don’t wan’t to spend the coin for any of these.
    But thanks for the great comparo.

  • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

    I’m really liking how detailed your comparisons are these days, with so much good info. Thanks!

  • Buzz

    Good video boys.

    Something not included was a smoke off. My choice is on Duke over Burns in Marlboros per hour.

    Thankfully no Italian bikes were included so Tom couldn’t butcher the names.

    Evans needs to work on a British accent. When you have a funny name like that, you need to sound more like Prince Charles and less like Joe the plumber.

    I’m running the Remus slip-ons on my K16 and the sound is even more badass than stock.

    • Evans Brasfield

      British accent? I can’t even pull off a Southern accent without a campfire and a six pack, and I was born and raised in the South. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me just the way I am…

  • Vrooom

    It’s fairly absurd to compare a $26K bike with $16-19K bikes. That difference is more than a weekend at the coast with the kids. Both the FJR and Concours can be had way cheaper than their list too, which is out of the question for the BMW and less likely for the Triumph. Also 732 lbs. winning a sport touring shootout is kind of silly too. Actual weights would be nice to have, BMW in particular tends to be optimistic (I recall my old R1100RS was supposed to weigh 25 lbs less than it did). Otherwise nice job guys, I realize you were left without a R bike to test, which would have been closer in price.

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      I’m not sure it’s that absurd; It would depend on what you are indexing against. The BMW is still cheaper than just about any car and way cheaper than a luxury GT car. Probably has better performance and luggage room than a 60K Corvette for instance.

      • Tom Brown

        Ser:

        The article being discussed indexes a $26K bike against $16-$19K bikes.

        Corvettes? Wha? No one is saying this BMW K1600 or any of these motorcycles won’t outperform most cars.

        • Ser Samsquamsh

          I was commenting on the general propensity to compare things in such granular fashion. The difference in price only seems large in this small group ultra specific group.

          Expand the comparison to a larger sample and the price difference becomes irrelevant. The BMW suddenly is the only choice.

    • Tom Brown

      Because these guys can’t get every bike they want for a comparison, the real value of these tests is to give the reader a feel for each bike. There is seldom a real winner. Every bike has a group of attributes and they are always a compromise. K16 compromises cost. Kawi compromises features and panache etc. I think they’d have rather tested 4 or more bikes in the same weight and price class but couldn’t get them all at the same time, so they did the best they could with what they were offered. They’re honest about the price, the weight the features etc. You still need to ride one to decide for yourself and you need to check your credit rating before you decide as well.

      I’ve always liked buying something really well made, new or used, learning how to take it apart and put it back together, learning its strengths and weaknesses, accessorizing to my taste and keeping it a long time. Others want the newest thing every year.

      Both ways are fine. I think we know which sort of buyer the manufacturers prefer.

    • Stuki

      BMW have some pretty aggressive incentives on the K1600s. Not in price, but in financing etc. The actual monthlies don’t differ all that much between the brand new R1200RT and the K1600GT right now, despite list the price difference.

  • dustysquito .

    BMW has a way of winning these shootouts by sending in something way out of scope for the rest of the bikes. I realize that they just don’t have that many cheaper alternatives, but when you’re talking about a $7,000-$10,000 price difference, you should at least start grading on a curve. Sure, the BMW has a little better handling, but is it 75% better handling? Is the seat 75% more comfortable? I know it’s hard to really quantify a lot of that stuff, but from my own personal experience, I tend to judge BMW’s I’ve ridden much more harshly because I feel like they need to justify their higher costs. I mean, I’ll excuse my DR650 for damn near anything because it only cost me $3,000, but when the K1200S I’ve ridden didn’t shift like butter, I ripped on it pretty hard.

    • Buzz

      I think it was repeated in the video that the BMW had a huge difference in cost and it wasn’t a fair fight due to that. The BMW offers a higher level of features and a motor that is out of this world. It’s up to the buyer to decide whether that is worth the extra dough.

      There’s a reason some of the others can be had for far less than MSRP. They are dust collectors.

      • dustysquito .

        Ah, I can’t load the videos where I’m at, so I didn’t get the benefit of what they said there. I guess I see that kind of difference the same as if a car shootout said “hey, we’re doing a family sedan comparison today with the Civic, Camry, Fusion, and an Audi A6.” It seems like there’s already some kind of “hyper touring” class that the K1600 fits much better into.

        • Buzz

          Maybe not that down market. More like an Infiniti against a BMW.

          I think a buyer might cross shop these bikes though and ask himself if spending the extra cash would be worth it. I had a BMW K1300GT which is a fantastic bike, But, the minute I rode the inline 6, I was hooked.

          • john burns

            some people have the $$ and some don’t. If you do, $6k is not such a big deal is it Buzz?

          • Buzz

            I haven’t given it a second thought because I enjoy the bike so much. It makes me want to ride more and that’s what it’s all about. I had to give up hookers though.

          • Old MOron

            You gave up hookers?
            Why don’t you just go down-market?

          • Buzz

            What’s down market from a hooker? Cougar?

          • john burns

            their loss.

          • JMDonald

            I have it on good authority the hookers were dumped for another reason.

    • Kevin Duke

      Note how the BMW’s MSRP affected its score in our Price category. Also, the base K16GT is just $2500 more than the Trophy.

      • http://norimek.com/blog Robert C. Barth

        It’s somewhat disingenuous, for U.S. riders anyway, to present the base price for BMW’s since it’s nearly impossible to find a BMW dealer who will allow a customer to custom order something other than a fully-loaded bike. They get hardly any allotment as it is, and they don’t want to waste precious allotment on base bikes. I’ve been scouring ebay for years (yes, years) looking at K1600GT’s, and I’ve only ever seen one or two without the luxury package (meaning, they’re all loaded).

      • dustysquito .

        I do understand that this is just one of the problems with trying to compare motorcycles, and really, other manufacturers should catch on. If you’re going to be compete in a shootout against BMW, just load your bike up with literally every option in the book because you’ll still come in under their price. I guess it’d just be interesting to do a shootout that was “the cost of the K1600GTL is X. Our reviewers were all given that much money to go out and get a sport touring bike and accessorize it as they saw fit.” Obviously, that’s impractical, but you could probably kit out most touring bikes with a lot of the BMW’s accouterments with the change left over from $26,000.

      • Tom Brown

        Kev:

        It’s the weight class as much as the money in my book. I run with a bunch of GS riders and one guy with a fairly stripped down Wing. (He can make it do things that shame a lot of sport bike riders. Doesn’t mind touching down and throwing a few sparks in the curves.) Having heavy bikes in the riding group changes the priorities and the route selections. That’s why bikes like that should be in a different comparo. Cost AND weight.

        I call them sport touring’s dreadnaught class. Many of those bikes, like the K16, are bloody fast on big roads, but you pay for it during low speed maneuvers. The very best riding is often done on really small paved roads deep in the woods…gorgeous and cool on a hot day….but sometimes the pavement ends and GPS is clueless about it. If the group has to turn around, the dreadnaught riders pay a price.

    • Tom Brown

      I don’t blame BMW for including the K16 in this test. That was the doing of the testers. I think they group what they have in the lot together as best they can and go out. Would be great if they could dream up a test and instantly get any bike they wanted at the right time. That’s apparently not how this works for them.

  • Kevin

    If it really comes down to motor, does it really matter that the RT was MIA? The Triumph I have now will be the last one, ever! BMWs’ failure to bring a fully developed and reliable motorcycle to market, especially one as important to the brand as the RT has been, reeks of one of the reasons why I will never buy another Triumph

    • john burns

      what? You’ll never buy another Triumph because BMW got a bad bunch of shock shafts from its supplier? makes sense I guess.

      • JMDonald

        If you can make sense out of that my hat is off to you sir.

      • Kevin

        Who contracted the supplier? Was it the buyer of the motorcycle that has now lived for weeks with an expensive motorcycle that he/she can’t safely ride? Premium prices for low bid crap that BMW didn’t make enough effort to ensure would meet any real quality or safety standard makes sense to you? This is the same thing from BMW that I have suffered with my Triumph for now more than 5 years, and if it is the direction BMW is going to follow, the absence of the RT from this evaluation hardly amounts to anything important!

        • Tom Brown

          Unlike Triumph, BMW has offered full refunds on these RTs or full credit on a different BMW model (buyer’s choice) and is actually picking them up from the customers’ garages. I guess they’re taking this defect quite seriously.

          I got a new RT loaned to me earlier this year to try it out. Took a 20 minute ride on it and lived through the experience. 2 weeks later, the bike was sold back to the dealer for full amount including tax and dealer installed accessories.

          Stuff happens and it’s very difficult to control. Could be something like a heat treating problem, incompatible oil with a seal or a raft of other causes. These ESA shocks are all pretty bleeding edge…all new compared to last year’s.

          Agree BMW has changed and their emphasis is in the wrong places on new bikes and cars. When working though, they are still the best laid out, best fitting and best riding bikes for me. I’m keeping my old one.

  • panthalassa

    good article and vid.

    did you ever find yourself looking for that phantom 6th on the fjr? even if you can cruise slab speeds at 3800rpm with power to spare, i’d still like that one more option which really maximizes the fuel efficiency.

    • john burns

      never missed it at all. One less shift really…

  • John B.

    Late last summer I made a major modification, which improved my Concours’ braking distance, handling, acceleration, and fuel economy; I went on a starvation diet and lost 43 pounds in 56 days. It’s important to keep in mind that motorcycles don’t ride themselves and performance data among peer bikes such as these depends on who sits in the saddle. That said, I don’t doubt the Concours needs an update to keep pace with the competition. My only complaints about the Concours are that the brake integration is harsh even on the lower of the two (2) settings, and the bike feels unduly heavy at low speeds especially around parking lots. I have taken my bike on several multi-thousand mile adventures and had a blast. Great works guys, as usual.

    • Buzz

      If Duke lost 43 pounds he would weigh negative 3 pounds.

  • JMDonald

    Sorry the RT was MIA. Still a lot of good data. These heavy weights are just too heavy.

    • Tom Brown

      I don’ think RT belongs here anyway. Even BMW thinks it’s a whole different thing from the K1600. That’s why they offer two different models. Agree with Halfkidding that these bike classes are getting mixed up. K16 competes with Gold Wing, not with FJR.

  • Paul McM

    I have ridden every one of these bikes, and I prefer the 2013 R1200RT I rented in February to all of them. Why? The K1600 is absurdly large, and for my 6’1″ frame, the seat is too low. The Councours was surprisingly gutless in the lower RPM range, and the windscreen didn’t seem to work at all. The FJR was wonderfully smooth, but it feels heavy and ponderous and its not particularly comfortable for either rider or passenger. The ST1300, though old, needs to be in this test as well. My strong suggestion to readers is: 1. Get a used 2007 or newer R1200RT for around $8-9K, or 2. Look for an ABS equipped ST1100 for about $4500.00. If you fall on the sporty side, look for near new FJR1300. Engine is really smooth. There was a significant upgrade in 2013.

    • Tom Brown

      +1 on the RT. Also agree about all the other bikes you mention. For longer term ownership, I like the ’05 to ’07′s better because of the easy to adjust valves. Gear-Heads give better torque and slightly better economy but you have to bring them to the dealer. I don’t like to do that.

  • Alan Smith

    Hey guys, I happen to have a 2009 C-14 ABS that is quicker than any BMW and is bullet proof like all Kawasaki’s. Just ask the BMW guys what maintenance costs after a couple of years and see why the cops in California are switching to C-14′s.

    • Stuki

      Since BMW’s Motorrad division changed their strategy from tried, true and simple; to instead follow the car division’s lead into latest and greatest and newest and best-in-test’est, prospective buyers really ought to heed the “if you have to ask……..” advice, as pertains to maintenance costs.

      Free towing and a kick ass loaner fleet at some dealers, do make up for some irritation for those with the means, though…..

  • Patrick Duffy

    I have the Kawasaki. The selling point was the analogue speedo over the Fjr,s digital. Re the steering. Change those tires for PR3s with 55 section n the back and t steers like the best sports bikes. Drops into corners beautifully – the provided bridge stones are awful and the front wears really strangly

  • Patrick Duffy

    The only changes required to my C14 was a Sergent seat and the PR3 tires. Launches like rocket but docile around town. Can’t understand someone saying it is heavy at low speeds. The tires fixed that too. Why Kawi fitted this awful bridge stones?. Just read cog-online.org and see their opinions.

  • halfkidding

    The term sport touring has gotten sort of silly. These are touring bikes. It might be better to leave sport out of it and classify touring bikes by weight. Uber=Gold Wing and assorted large cruisers, Heavy Weight=these, Middle Weight=twins (the few) and lightweight=anything sub 1000cc you can get hard bags for.

    I think the sport in touring was meant to denote speed. Well they all go like stink compared to bikes of 20 years ago. Instead the adventure bikes offer a better idea about sport touring and that is the ability to at least go down a gravel road.

    The K might be a sport bike if the Titanic was a sport ocean liner.

  • http://RLAngeloJr.com Ralph L. Angelo Jr

    I’ll still take the Yamaha. ( I have an 06 sitting in my garage right now) Though the kawi will always be a great second choice. The rest aren’t even in the running for me, especially not the BMW.

  • Tom Brown

    Guys, I’ve had 3 BMW RT’s. 1100, 1150, 1200.

    My ’05 1200RT is about perfect for me even now with 80K miles on it. This year, I decided to repaint it black (Half the bike is flat black from the factory and I didn’t like the two-color thing going on.)

    I’m going to run this one for another 10 years or so unless something really great comes along. None of these bikes offer enough of an improvement over mine to warrant a new purchase.

    110HP is enough on a bike this weight for Sport Touring. Concours is faster if you don’t mind melting the tires off your bike in 1500 miles. Same with Hayabusa. That’s not why I have this bike. I have an Aprilia for getting shot out of a cannon.

    The RT weight is very manageable…low to mid-500 lbs. with empty bags.

    Brakes are phenomenal 2nd Gen semi-linked servo brakes. Easily modulated, yet I can panic stop the bike, using both brakes, with just two fingers on the brake handle. Pedal operates rear brake only for downhill low traction conditions, hill-holding and the like.

    Heat from the engine is not an issue as on some of the bikes in this test.

    I installed aftermarket windscreen, GPS and mount, seats (heated) and adjustable, rebuildable shocks.

    Rigged an old Big Mak hinged tank bag (gas stops are really quick with this thing!) with an old style iPod with hard-wired remote and hard-wired molded ear speakers. The fidelity is unreal and better than any helmet speaker or on-the-bike speaker could possibly be. Comparing stereos on new bikes is moot. This sort of rig will always sound best.

    Handling is quite good with plenty of ground clearance too.

    Storage is great because, as the man says in the video, BMW bags (since ’05) don’t need a key to latch them, only to lock them. I don’t have electric locks like the test bike. I only lock bags at night and don’t need that complication. Bags are easily removed from the bike with the key. Bike looks cool without its bags too, unlike many of these bikes.

    This bike has a nice big alternator on it so running electrically heated gear isn’t a problem.

    I use the small top case, great for helmet storage on short trips, great for laptop and things I need to access quickly on long trips. I strap my tent, bag, camp chair etc to the back seat for camping trips.

    The empty space in my fairing where the stereo would go makes a great locking (or just latching without key) waterproof compartment that can be accessed while underway. Very handy.

    Cruise control is the only new convenience gee-gaw worth its salt on modern bikes. It should be considered a requirement for entry into this class. I simply will not buy another bike to go more than 200 miles on without it.

    I don’t see the K1600 and the RT as being in the same weight class. There should be a class that includes the FJ, the RT, maybe the Concours and others of similar size, then put the K16, the Wing, maybe the most road-able H-D and other heavyweights in another test. “Hard to turn around on a two-lane” would be the heavy class. “Easily done” in the light class. That difference really changes priorities on a long back-road trip.

    Someone mentioned Guzzi. I love looking at them. Don’t like riding them much. Enough said?

    I like a lighter S-T bike with good wind protection and bags, good seating, decent power easy maintenance, good handling and ground clearance….and really good stereo. The hex-head RT is a great package. Also, I’d rather have an older bike that’s beautifully made than a newer one that is made the cheapest possible way and is therefore drudgery to work on.

    Buying new RT? I’d forego electronic suspension and the stereo. Might pop for built in GPS, though, or just score a Zumo. I’d buy a great aftermarket suspension with the money saved and make an iPod/ear speaker thing work on it. I’d buy the shop DVD and the JCV maintenance DVD for it from new. I don’t trust dealers’ work. Last time, 3 screws were missing from my fairing. Who knows what else? Well made German bikes are a joy to work on. Everything is so beautifully made.

    Buying used, I really like the Hex Head era boxers because valve adjustment is easy and doesn’t require special shims. The heads are out in the open, so removal of the covers is all that’s required for access. Try that on any of these bikes! JCV maintenance DVD for the Hex Head 1200GS that works for RT too. Shows how-to for a complete BMW major service using normal tools. Hex Head RTs with lower miles can be found for a fraction of what these bikes cost. Some come with useful aftermarket accessories already installed.

    I can do 700 mile days on my bike without pain (I’m 63) and it will scratch back-roads brilliantly. Properly tuned, these bike are quite smooth running. Unlike earlier versions of boxer motors, these hold a tune for quite a long time due to far better design of the throttle bodies.

    Alan Smith…My maintenance cost for the season is the cost of some brake fluid, oil and filters purchased at case prices. Complete maintenance for this riding season took an afternoon of my time and included a trip to a non-dealer bike shop with my wheels for some new tires. I’m OK with that. BMW bikes aren’t difficult to maintain but can be expensive to repair. Take care of them and they’re terrific.

    • litedoc

      Your RT likely has less than 100 at the rear wheel. The last RT1200 dyno’ed by MCN only had about 95. I am really looking forward to the comparison with the new RTW which has dyno’ed about 114 at the rear wheel in testing.

      • Tom Brown

        Doc:
        I’ve ridden both bikes. The RTW has more power but also has a drive-by-wire throttle that borders on annoying for it’s un-smooth behavior at low speed. I’d go so far as to call it a significant flaw. I’ve had two other RTs in the past. The first had the classic surging issue at low and mid RPMs. The second had very touchy brakes that wouldn’t stop smoothly even after much practice. This ’05 1200 has some minor issues, like the outside thermometor gives fictional readings and the electronic low-oil warning comes on too often but the bike itself works so very well that I can forgive those small things.

        All around, the hex-head engine has enough power for a S-T bike, for me. I use it ALL when I’m working the bike hard, but that’s OK with me. The new RT is faster, but it’s not a world better…and it costs a world more. Not worth it for me. I get most of the RT goodness with a lot less financial pain and I can tune this one and work on it on the road, a big consideration for everyday convenience and for long trips regardless of price. I also kinda like the feeling of riding around on a 7 year old bike that looks and works as good or better than the latest thing.

        My 2000 Aprilia Mille R is now over 14 years old. I bought it new. It’s not as fast as the very fastest, but very good looking, entertaining and plenty dangerous. It has more power than I can generally use and is a ball to ride. I was recently at a Triumph/Ducati outing and a couple guys were fawning over my bike saying it was the best thing on the street. I’m not sure that’s true, but it’s still attractive to me in all the ways that bikes attract me, so I keep it.

        • litedoc

          I hear ya. Current rides are 94 R1100RS, 2000 R1150GS, both with Ohlins F&R. 80-88 horsepower dyno’ed at the rear wheel, and both have enough power single up on the street for my needs. I also have an 929Erion and RC51 and race SV650s with the CMRA. I would like some newer technology, but couldn’t get enough for all my current rides to pay for one K1600GT and maybe not even a R1200RTW. For now I am sticking pat.

  • Rob Alexander

    Good read, but really kinda ridiculous with the BMW being **10 GRAND** more than the 2nd place bike and 8 grand more than the next most expensive “rival” (quotes because at $26K, it generally won’t be considered a serious alternative for someone planning to pay $16K for a bike). That’s enough for one of the other tourers plus a second “fun bike” like a FZ-09 to go along with it.

    • Stuki

      A substantial portion of motorcyclists, particularly those who shop BMW dealerships, simply don’t really care all that much about the extra 10 large. They just want the bike they like the most. For some that is the BMW. For others, the FJR. I know one guy who literally has the means to buy a HondaJet as his touring mount if he so wanted, but still bought the Yammy over the Beemer simply because it felt much more like the sportbikes he had always ridden prior.

  • Craig Freger

    Sorry there was no RT, which would have competed well on weight, handling, price, versatility, and fun factor, even if it has less motor than the others. Another twin that is similar to the RT and would have given you a perspective on lighter and simpler is the Moto Guzzi Norge. IMO, the BMW K bike should not have been in this test. Price, features, weight, hp, size — it is a different animal and skews this sample of the “sport-touring” genre in the wrong direction. If you’re going to put it against these other bikes, why not a Honda Gold Wing F6B?

  • DeadArmadillo

    You guys are really a joke. Technologies? Cool Factor? Grin Factor. The Beemer couldn’t measure up in the real world so you threw in those type of ratings. BMW buying dinner tonight? Or maybe an all expense paid trip to Spain.

    • John B.

      To impugn a person’s professional integrity is a serious matter and you should not have done so unless you have proof to support your allegations. If you have evidence improper largesse played a role in the rankings please tell us about it. Otherwise, you are being unfair and owe the guys an apology. Whataya got on these guys?

  • John B.

    Hey John Burns, I took my Concours in for its 15,000 service this morning and saw 3 new 2013 Kawasaki Concours on the showroom floor. The out the door price for the first unit was $13,085, and the other two (2) units were $13, 475 out the door. Would you rather have the BMW K1600 or the Concours and a BMW S1000R? I realize the answer depends on a person’s finances and his philosophy related to spending money. Perhaps there is a paradox here: Riders who want and can comfortably afford a premium brand will choose the BMW 1600 regardless of how it compares to other STs, and for those who cannot afford the BMW comparisons are purely academic.

  • http://norimek.com/blog Robert C. Barth

    A question I had when I first read this article last week but forgot to post… what the hell happened to the BMW’s horsepower? While the other bikes are showing 10-16% drivetrain loss (i.e. normal), the BMW is showing a whopping 23% drivetrain loss!! How is that possible? Seems like the HP numbers on the BMW are a bit inflated.

    If the drivetrain loss is at the higher end of the scale (15%), the real HP numbers are closer to 145. How is BMW getting away with this obvious fabrication?

  • Vallier Harrisson

    Very good article to me the choice of a motorcycle is a personal thing and depend on your height, weight and your type of driving. I personally own a K1600 GTL 2011 and I can do everything and more that I could do with smaller bikes. This bike cannot be compare to the Goldwing. The Goldwing is strictly touring. As for the price well it’s like going to a restaurant if you to read the menu from right to left maybe your in the wrong section

  • Dirk Lehew

    There are several issues I have with this comparison, primarily the artificial superiority of the BMW marque, BMW counts on the American buyer with more money than sense to believe that more expensive equates to superior. They have a history of serious recalls and a particularly aggravating corporate arrogance that basically says “we don’t make mistakes with our overly complex and over-engineered bikes-you just aren’t taking care of your machine properly and/or you don’t know how to ride it properly” Since so many riders are willing to pay the exorbitant costs of ownership BMW will continue to charge what the market will bear. Not to mention how little their warranties will cover, even the extended warranties. And as you might expect, the cost of those warranties is outrageous. I can afford any of these bikes, but I refuse to subsidize an image and a condescending corporate culture.

    Contrast the above with my ride of choice. the Concours, I rode from Chandler, AZ to Alaska in late June/early July. 2 weeks 7200 miles through days of rain and occasional snowfall, and on 350 miles of Alaska dirt/construction roads. C14 was amazing-never went down, never had to stop or change routes for any reason, never had a failure of any kind(except one TPS got too cold…).
    Mine is a 2008 with 65000 trouble free miles/Iron Butt rides. Helibar Horizons, heated grips, Mayer custom heated seat, Escort, Garmin GPS,2 Powerlet outlets for heated vests/2, satellite radio, Area-P Exhaust, Shad top box, PR3′s, Throttlemeister cruise and whatever I’m forgeting. I have looked at/ridden every bike on the market that competes with the C14, and for me nothing compares for anywhere near the price. Not to mention the best warranty program of any mfgr and tremendous durability/reliability. Bike rides and looks like new. After paying $12000 for this new in 2008 and adding all the above, and paying $678 for 6 year extended warranty that pays for basically everything no deductible and no mileage limits. I have still invested $11000 LESS than the K1600. My few service issues have proven to me that Kawasaki REALLY supports their dealers and backs their products like no company I have ever dealt with( in any industry). And no I have no connection(or stock ownership) with Kawasaki-these are my opinions as I see it over 40 years of motorcycle riding/ownership.
    I understand that your test riders are very competent, but I completely disagree with your assessments of the C14 handling, After putting on the PR3′s and adjusting the Helibars to fit me, my C14 will easily match any bike in this test(I’ve ridden them all to see if I really need the newest and bestest). The only things I would wish for on the C14 is electronic cruise control and a simple electronic suspension. When that happens(and I hope Kawasaki understands it’s importance) only then will I replace my bike, with the NEW C14.
    Just my $0.02 worth…..