One of these three motorcycles is commemorative, the other retrospective, and the third, uniquely orthodox relative to the company’s ethos. Probably not hard to ascertain which bike is being referenced. They seem equally comparable yet disparate in the same moment.

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Honda’s, it’s-1978-all-over-again, CB1100 throwback to the heyday of UJMs (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) doesn’t feign to be anything but a modern iteration of the CBs that once were. This is the retrospective bike in the group. A confluence of UJM perfection.

“The bike is the most integrated and seamless of the three,” says the living retroist himself, John Burns. “All systems work well together, best balanced suspension, nicest throttle response and power delivery – but a lot of that is because the performance is lukewarm compared to the others.”

2014 Honda CB1100 Review

Herein lies the rub with the CB: its meager power output. While we have no qualms with a modern throwback, is it really necessary to instill the 1140cc DOHC, four-valves-per-cylinder, electronically fuel-injected inline-Four with a meager 83 horsepower at its rear wheel? The 1983 CB1100F claimed 108 hp (at its crankshaft, so, minus about 10% for driveline losses, about 97 hp. -Ed.), for chrissake!


The dyno chart reveals dips in the power curves of both Euro bikes, the Guzzi’s particularly dippy around 4500 rpm, and the BMW’s in the 5000-rpm range. Honda’s lines are pretty, but then it’s not trying very hard, either.

Despite a minimal displacement advantage, the two Twins in this comparo, BMW’s horizontally-opposed 1170cc Boxer and Moto Guzzi’s 1151cc 90-degree V-Twin, exerted substantially more effort spinning the dyno’s drum. Out on the road, where it really matters, the Griso exhibited some sloppy fueling qualities, surging slightly at part throttle, which hurt its engine performance scores despite its big-block Chevy soundtrack. Its fuel economy, around 31 mpg, was disappointingly low.

“The nineT’s Boxer-Twin is superior in almost every respect, making more power than the others at every point above 3500 rpm, while also being very competitive at low revs,” says Chief Editor, Kevin Duke. “Its fueling and throttle response are as good as it gets, without snatchiness upon reapplication, no matter if the revs are low or high.”


Except for not producing competitive power, Honda’s CB1100 faultlessly performs every task you ask of it. Footpegs touch down sooner than the others, but it’s the only bike here with a centerstand. It’s also the only bike with chain final-drive, making the centerstand almost compulsory.

Further disappointments for the Guzzi include the bike’s weight. At 556 pounds, the Griso weighs 15 more pounds than the Honda and 68 more pounds than the BMW. With 61 inches between contact patches, the Griso measures two or three more wheelbase inches than the nineT or CB, respectively.

2014 Moto Guzzi Griso 8V SE Review

When it comes to suspension, the Griso boasts the only fully adjustable fork and shock of the group. “The Griso’s fork is the best of this bunch, offering a controlled yet compliant ride,” says Duke. “Its rear end isn’t quite so smooth, but bump absorption is aided by the longest wheelbase of this trio.


The Griso handles somewhat trucklishly, and its drivetrain is a little rough around the edges, but its brutish charisma is appealing in ways the others can’t match. Pipes, seven inches in circumference, and turbine-engine inspired, over/under muffler design conspire in outputting a sexy exhaust thump.

The sportiest bike of the group, the BMW, offers a shock with preload (via a convenient handwheel) and rebound adjustability, but its fork has no adjustability, despite having the same architecture as BMW’s S1000RR. Not only is the gold fork colorfully inharmonious with the nineT’s black/silver color scheme, but it’s also undersprung compared to the shock’s overly stiff springing.

“The BMW is slightly harsh, with a choppy ride from the rear end, which feels a bit too stiff for the front springs,” says Burns. “I think the brakes are great, but every time you touch them, the front plunges. Over freeway chop, the thin seat and stiff spring conspire to make it not bad, but not as nice as the other two for getting to point B. Which is a shame, because the engine runs nice and vibe-free at 80 mph cruising speed, and its ergos, with a slight forward cant, feel perfectly natural at that speed.”


Overeager front brake application results in the softly-sprung fork travelling through several inches of its stroke. Lifted from the S1000RR, BMW did the nineT a disservice by not carrying over its three-way adjustability.

While the nineT’s brakes are impressively powerful, if not a little grabby, it is the Honda’s front binders, in all their mundane glory that impressed the most. “Kudos to Honda for the front-brake setup on the CB11,” says Duke. “A firm lever works with an optimal pad compound to yield superbly modulatable speed retardation, from just a hair to white-knuckling.”

2014 BMW R NineT First Ride Review

The standard seating position of the Honda also provides the roomiest, most ergonomically comfortable seating position of the three, as well as a nicely padded seat with relative all-day comfort. The Griso’s seat is wide and firm, but its positioning requires a long reach to the flat, gun-metal-grey anodized superbike handlebars. The Guzzi’s passenger accommodations are nice, but there’s no grab handles like on the Honda. Then we have the BMW and its pseudo two-up seating.


The Honda has you sitting upright, with the most legroom; the Guzzi leans you forward to reach the bars; the BMW is somewhere in between.

“The nineT’s seat is the prettiest of the bunch, with lovely white stitching, but it’s the least tolerable over long distances,” says Duke. “Similarly, its short and narrow rear seat is most likely to draw the ire from a passenger.”

At $14,900 the BMW is the priciest bike here. Unlike the S1000R or RR, this price does not include an impressive electronics suite – not even heated grips – we’ve come to expect from BMW. The nineT does boast an array of forged aluminum components including fender brackets, seat supports, triple clamps and steering damper mount, as well as an aluminum fuel tank. Even-lighter magnesium is used for the valve covers.


+ Highs

  • One of the most user-friendly motorcycles you can buy
  • Near-perfect ergos if you’re within six inches of 5’8”
  • You’re sitting on history every time you climb on
– Sighs

  • The original CB was famous for out-horsepowering the competition
  • So perfect it can seem a little bland
  • Engine is a little vibey upward of 75 mph in spite of rubber-mounted handlebar risers

It should be noted that the retroish Honda rolls on cast wheels, which seem to evoke a later era, but then Honda cherry picked elements from multiple time periods in creating the CB1100. The mags still seem out of vogue, though, considering its ’70s profile. For the other two modern-era bikes here, spokes were chosen for attaching rim to hub.

Weighing 541 pounds, the CB is 15 pounds less than the Griso but 53 pounds heavier than the BMW. Helping the Honda to feel lighter than what the scales tell us is the use of time-period-appropriate narrow tire widths: 110/80-18 front and 140/70-18 rear. “To put that into context, consider the tires on Kawi’s little Ninja 300 share identical widths,” says Duke.


+ Highs

  • Charisma beyond most motorcycles
  • Sounds as good as it looks
  • Fully adjustable suspension
– Sighs

  • Unrefined EFI fueling
  • Driveline lash
  • No ABS

The Griso has radial-mount Brembo calipers fed by steel braided lines, but stopping power came only after a surprisingly firm squeeze. In fact, I had to resort to using three-finger pulling power instead of my standard two-finger arrangement. It’s likely a swap of brake pad material would restore the bite we expect from the Brembos.

Considering the Guzzi weighs nearly 70 road-holding-pounds more than the BMW, the big Italian carries itself well. It’s also $1k less in price than the BMW, but for that kind of money we’d like to see ABS included, as it is on the Beemer. The standard CB we were riding also doesn’t come with ABS, but the Deluxe version does for an extra $1500.


+ Highs

  • Retro sexy
  • Factory customizable
  • Tasty forged aluminum components
– Sighs

  • Undersprung, underdamped, non-adjustable front suspension
  • Pricey
  • Least-comfortable seat

Out of this bunch, the BMW is certainly recognized as the sportiest. It’s combination of relatively light weight and the most power give the nineT an ample advantage in the tight stuff, despite its poorly balanced suspension components. In stock trim, the R nineT can carry a passenger, but that’s not really what this bike was built to do. Our suggestion is: after purchase, remove that unsightly rear subframe (which includes passenger pegs), fit the accessory Aluminum Tail Cover (which gives a tad of under-seat storage in place of the pillion), attach the accessory high-pipe (to help showcase the single-side rear swingarm), and enjoy the nineT for the solo mount it was meant to be.

Retro Roadster Comparo Scorecard
Category BMW R nineT Honda CB1100 Moto Guzzi Griso 8V SE
Price 15.0% 100.0% 50.0%
Weight 100.0% 62.5% 55.0%
Engine 89.2% 65.0% 82.5%
Transmission/Clutch 77.5% 84.2% 75.0%
Handling 85.0% 80.8% 74.2%
Brakes 85.0% 86.7% 73.3%
Suspension 73.3% 82.5% 88.3%
Technologies 23.3% 6.7% 28.3%
Instruments 71.7% 74.2% 85.0%
Ergonomics/Comfort 70.0% 80.0% 80.0%
Appearance 95.0% 77.5% 90.0%
Cool Factor 94.2% 73.3% 94.2%
Grin Factor 90.0% 56.7% 87.5%
Overall Score 79.2% 72.2% 78.7%
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.

With such a loose class of motorcycles, the scores from our editors varied more than usual. All three bikes are appealing in their own ways. The Honda is the nicest and easiest to ride; the Guzzi exudes quirky Italian charm; and the BMW boasts top-shelf finish detailing and the sportiest performance.

In the end, it was the Guzzi and the BMW trading blows for the class win. Burns and I like the Guzzi a smidge more than the BMW for no better reason than we think it’s a little cooler, with a touch of the world’s-most-interesting-man-charisma the BMW just can’t match. Meanwhile, Duke’s clear preference was for the uber-cool R nine-T and its performance advantages.

View the full gallery of images

Determining the victor couldn’t have been closer. I chose the Guzzi over the BMW by only a quarter point (103.0 vs 103.25). Burns had a wider spread between the two bikes, but when combined with Duke’s scores, it wasn’t enough to overcome the bike we chose as this year’s Best Standard.


This image depicts the finishing order of our Retro Roadster Shootout.

“The Griso is definitely a cool machine, but I think the nineT is cooler, and the performance of its chassis and engine are undeniably superior,” says Duke.

By unanimous decision, though, the Honda CB1100 came in last, but it wasn’t a distant last; just 16.25 points separated second from third. At $10,399, the Honda is the least expensive bike here, but that doesn’t make up for its lackluster performance. Ridden alone, outside of a direct comparison test, the Honda seems a stellar motorcycle when measured simply by its pure proficiency at being a motorcycle. So, if you’re not a multi-bike owner looking to expand the caliber of your personal arsenal, the Honda could be the best choice for single-bike ownership.

Retro Roadster Shootout Specs
BMW R nineT Honda CB1100 Moto Guzzi Griso 89V SE
MSRP $14,900 $10,399 $12,990
Engine Capacity 1170cc 1140cc 1151cc
Engine Type Opposed-Twin Inline-Four 90-degree V -Twin
Horsepower 101.5 @ 7700 83.5 @ 7200 95.1 @ 7200
Torque 76.1 @ 6300 65.8 @ 5800 73.2 @ 6400
Bore x Stroke 101mm x 73mm 73.5mm x 67.2mm 95 x 81.2 mm
Compression 12.0:1 9.5:1 11:01
Fuel System EFI PGM-FI EFI
Transmission Six-speed Six-speed Six-speed
Final Drive Shaft Chain Shaft
Frame Tubular steel Tubular steel Tubular steel
Front Suspension 46mm inverted fork, 4.7 inches of travel 41mm fork, spring-preload adjustability , 4.2 inches of travel 43mm fork, spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability, 4.7 inches of travel
Rear Suspension Monoshock, spring preload, rebound adjustability, 4.7 inches of travel Dual shocks, spring preload adjustability , 4.5 inches of travel Monoshock, spring preload, rebound, compression adjustability, 4.3 inches of travel
Front Brakes Dual, four-piston calipers, 320mm discs Dual, four-piston calipers, 296mm discs Dual, four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear Brakes Single caliper, 265mm disc Single caliper, 256mm disc Single caliper, 282mm disc
Front Tire 120/70-17 110/80-18 120/70-17
Rear Tire 180/55-17 140/70-18 180/55-17
Seat Height 30.9 inches 31.2 inches 31.4 inches
Wheelbase 58.1 inches 58.7 inches 61.0 inches
Rake/Trail 25.5º/4.04 inches 27.0º/4.4 inches 26.30º/4.25 inches
Curb Weight 488 pounds 541 pounds 556 pounds
Fuel Capacity 4.8 gal 3.9 gal 4.4 gal
MPG 39.5 mpg 44.8 mpg 31.2 mpg
Colors Black Black Black/Silver

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  • fastfreddie

    Shouldn’t the R nineT feature a 900cc engine?;)

  • Old MOron

    Well, it’s my lunch hour, and I only had time to watch the vid.
    But you guys did a great job. Never mind T-rod’s recent lament, valid as it may be. You gents are slowing down the patter and getting into the groove.

  • DickRuble

    And that’s how bland perfection ends dead last, when imperfect suspension, discomfort, and disastrous fuel mapping take first and second. I’ll take bland perfection any time.

    • roma258

      The CB1100 just looks like a platonic ideal of a bike. Give it an aftermarket exhaust and maybe some hotter cams and you’re in business!

      • DickRuble

        I kinda like it as is… I would install a rifle winshield though.

    • VDoc

      Dick, I agree with you. One caveat – I currently own two Harleys. But I LOVED the old Honda CB’s – they were great bikes. I really don’t care about going 120 mph again, EVER, on a bike. I stopped riding sport bikes years ago when I decided I liked my bones intact. I want to enjoy the ride at a reasonable pace. I put more than 20,000 miles/year on my bikes, and like to see the countryside as I ride through it. My favorite touring bike was the Goldwing when it was 1200 cc – right size, right reliability, right amount of power. Bigger is not always better. I’ll go with a reliable Honda with 83 hp anyday.

  • Ser Samsquamsh

    How about a more identical fruit comparison: 1983 cb1100 vs 2015 cb1100?

    Ride both bikes 1100 miles and see which one is better!

  • BMW is just killing it.

  • Kevin Broce

    I just finished riding My 2013 CB1100 1117 miles this labor day weekend, 521 of those miles were in one day. I’ve done 10,922 miles since purchasing at the end of October. The CB11 is my only vehicle/daily driver, Id’s say Tom sums it up perfectly here;

    “So, if you’re not a multi-bike owner looking to expand the caliber of your personal arsenal, the Honda could be the best choice for single-bike ownership.”

    It’s a very easy bike to live with, but it’s still plenty fun to ride hard. I’d like more power, but I cannot get less that 42MPG and 80MPH on the highway nets almost 55MPG without soft bags. That’s with 2013’s 5-speed, not the 14’s 6-speed. Plus at that state of tune, reliability should be standard Honda.

    • GS1100GK


  • rich

    99% of riders never use the power available, because the power these days is over the top. While I like the BMW and Guzzi more, 83 hp is still a lot of power, more then just about anyone uses. It shouldn’t be discounted because of that.

  • jeff gravitt

    Everyone wants the Honda to be faster, but Honda themselves won’t do it. I saw a “quote” several months ago, ostensibly from a high-ranking Honda official, who stated bluntly that “you don’t want more with this kind of motorcycle”. I honestly think Honda is afraid that if the CB1100 were as quick as its forebears, people would buy more of them than their more modern offerings, and they might just be right!

  • GS1100GK

    Hmmm…I love all three. As a previous owner of a 1981 CB750F I am a bit biased toward the Honda. Local dealer has 2 leftover 2013’s for $7499. I may have to pay him a visit!

    • roma258

      Hmm, and where may this be?

      • fastfreddie

        He’ll tell you after he’s purchased his;)

        • GS1100GK


      • Russ Archer

        On Cycle Trader, my search yielded 225 new 2013 CB1100s with starting prices of $7486.

      • GS1100GK

        Twiggs Cycle in Hagerstown, MD. Give them a call and ask for Keith my sales guy. 301-739-2773

        • roma258

          Oh man, that’s within striking distance of where I am..hmmm

  • Andrew Capone

    Damn, I’m too tired to weigh in. But per our conversation at the peanuts and IPA summit, I do have some perspective on the ‘character’ of the Griso. Tomorrow. But kudos to the excellent review, and really good job on the video.

  • dW

    Thanks for the excellent review. This is the first online camparo pitting the RNineT against it’s logical competitor – the marvellous Griso…..and great to note all the comments for and against. As an ex-Guzzi (really regret selling the Centauro!) and ex-BMW owner (the GSA1200 was simply too big for my 5’6″), i’m looking at each of these bikes as my next purchase, and will be taking your opinions when I go to test ride these.

    …and yeah, not really into the Honda CB thing. Rode one a while back and found them about as exciting as riding a sewing machine. Makes sense as a commuter, but then again so does my Vespa (and I won’t die of boredom en route!)……

    • Russ Archer

      Although the Griso is sweet, the Centauro was one of the sexiest motorcycles ever made! I wish Moto Guzzi would release a “prossimo
      generazione” with the 8V engine.

      The CB1100 is a nice bike but when you are talking retro style, it just doesn’t do anything for me either. Our opinions are likely not isolated; as evidenced by the many leftover 2013 models languishing in dealer showrooms.

  • Sato san

    The review mention that R ninet are Undersprung, Underdamped, and stiff.

    If i’m thinking about upgrading the suspension which one would you recomend that i do first and will help a lot for the bike performance.
    front folk or the Rear suspension?

    Thank you very much

    • john burns

      Hmmmm. Sitting in my driveway, the front sags 1-1/4 inch with my 153-lb body on it, out of a total travel of about 4 inches (not quite the 4.7 the spec chart suggests), so the springs seem to be about right. EIC Duke may be right with his suggestion that it just needs more compression damping to keep it from diving so much on the brakes. Could be as easy as going to the next thicker fork fluid? Or maybe just adding a bit more fluid to each leg to reduce the air volume inside.

      • Kevin Duke

        Yep, cheap fix would be playing with oil levels and viscosities in the fork. Best fix would be bolting in S1000RR internals. Or, if you’re cheap like me, just become smoother with brake application, as it’s not much of a problem for me. Heavier dudes might feel different. And if you’re heavy, the rear suspension, which isn’t undersprung and underdamped, should feel pretty good.

        • Sato san

          I finally got my bike, one thing i can confirm.. the rear suspension is very stiff..its very bouncing on the bad road surface

  • Price Action Guru

    Regarding the Guzzi and this statement “Pipes, seven inches in circumference…”
    That seven inches is actually the _diameter_ of that larger pipe.
    The _circumference_ is almost 22 inches.
    Not breaking you guys’ stones, I love reading your articles, but I have OCD. 🙂

    • I think you’re referring to the exhaust muffler. I’m referring to the exhaust pipe.

      • Price Action Guru

        You are correct sir.
        My apologies.

        That darn OCD. 🙂

        • Craig Hoffman

          The headers on the Guzzi are impressive. They look worthy of being affixed to an Allison V-12 engine, and that is just fine with me!

  • notfishing

    Not surprised about the Guzzi being in need of a re-map of the ECU.

    Guzzi owners know this and Git Er Done.

    Forty years ago I bought a Fiat X1/9, five years later I upgraded to an Alfa Romeo Spyder. One of the first things you learn about owning Italian products is if they don’t sell a lot in the US and the US has always demanded special treatment. The Italians invest the least amount of effort to cidrule their creation. Once you restore them back to their original design they run wonderfully.

    Why does anyone expect this to change?

  • Steve C

    So how is the Griso is retro? A V7 yes. Griso no.

  • RandleMcMurphy

    So the BMW costs $4501 more than the CB1100.

    The Guzzi costs $2591 more than the CB.

    The Honda has the best brakes. The Honda gets the best mileage. The Honda has the best transmission. Honda is tied for most comfortable.

    Give me another $3546 (the combined average cost of both other bikes cost over the Honda’s) to put into an exhaust/tuning kit and several other add-ons and I’ve zero doubt that the Honda would absolutely eat the other two for lunch. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of the Griso and the Bimmer. Great bikes to be sure but, when it boils down to value per dollar? I think it’s fair to say the Honda wins this comparison. Not only that but, when you add an aftermarket exhaust (don’t know if they have them yet) that turns that inline 4 of Hondas’ into a gorgeous symphony it’ll also win the grin factor.

    • Brett Lewis

      The Japanese aftermarket has a big jump on us, they have mountains of stuff already.

    • madskills

      Chain rather then shaft, 1 year warranty rather then 3 for the Beemer, super skinny tires….

    • Honda has the best brakes…Rectal parlance.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Oh Honda. Don’t worry and don’t be like Harley for crying out loud. The European makers have unleashed 160 horsepower meat eating bad ass super standards on the land. You can release a 100 plus hp at the wheel CB1100F variant with a cool bikini fairing and red white and blue paint job. Such a bike would be sweet. We know what we are doing and won’t hurt ourselves, promise 🙂

  • Old MOron

    So if I’m reading things correctly, T-Rod and JohnnyB wanted the Griso to win, but His Dukeness pulled rank and gave the R9T the crown. How interesting. I remember a MO shootout where JohnnyB pulled rank and gave the FJR1300 the win over Aprilia’s Futura.

    I enjoyed this comparo a lot. The bikes are all somewhat similar and yet so different.

  • Joe D

    I own 3 Guzzi bikes- 2 carbies and a V11 Café Sport which comes in at 100 lb less than the Griso. The FI is owner tunable and all have more character than the other two bikes tested. I would bet the Honda will be the first to slide into obscurity, Nice to look at but boring. Once the new wears off, it will be disposable, The others call to you-Let’s ride.

    • DickRuble

      I would bet the Honda will still be on the road long after the others are heaps of rust in salvage yards or museum pieces being fixed on a daily basis, especially the Guzzi. There are thousands of 25+ years old nighthawks still looking like new and being ridden daily.

      • dW

        That’s so funny: amongst the various Guzzi owners groups we kinda laugh about the (lack of) longevity from most Japanese bikes. Reliable? – sure…..but there’s a reason we refer to them as “disposa-fours”!

        There are plenty of 20-30+ yr-old Guzzis and Beemers still on the road. In my own experience I’ve managed to backup 6-figure milage on my Centauro, did track days crashed it (4 times) and i still couldn’t kill it with a sledgehammer. I only wish modern bikes were built this well!

        • The problem with jap bikes is that they don’t have good parts availability after 10-15 years. BMW has parts on fiche that are from the 50’s. Try that with a Honda. Even a 20 year old one.

  • JMDonald

    I like all of these bikes.

  • 70’s Kid

    Can’t argue with the performance aspects of the BMW and the Guzzi. However, the ratings provided in the more subjective categories aren’t quite in sync with my own. The steampunk like styling of the Griso and the R 9nineT just don’t do as much for me as the classic retro styling of the CB1100. I dig the R nineT more than the Griso (I also prefer the vibe of the V7 Special over the Griso for that matter), but simply prefer the looks of the CB1100 over either the BMW or the Guzzi.

    The CB1100 would also appear to be the best fit for my functional needs – I just like to ride (commuting and weekend jaunts) and don’t even use all of the power that the CB has on tap.

    Still, I’m glad that all of these bikes are available here in the States. In the future, I hope to see even more standards made available that are free of as many cheesy plastic bits (fake air scoops, crazy headlight shrouds, ugly and radiator cowls, etc.) as possible.

  • Sato san

    One more question.. If i want to change the color of The R nineT, personally i don’t like black and purple, what do you think will match most rather than black.. white? gray? Thank you very much..

  • DeadArmadillo

    I am so surprised. BMW won another comparo. Wonder what kind of goodies the moto journalists were getting? Still wondering about those bike sales numbers.

    • VDoc

      I have to agree with DeadArmadillo. There seems to be two distinct motorcycle reviewing communities – one that rides American Steel, and one that seems to only appreciate foreign bikes. The odd part is that the latter claims to judge all bikes evenly, but traditionally they rate any bike but an American bike as number one, and miss the point entirely. If their readership market was European, that might be reasonable. But it’s not – it’s American, and Americans clearly disagree with the ratings and prefer American style cruisers over the BMW style sport cruisers. There is a reason American style touring bikes greatly outsell BMW and Honda. There is actually a value to classic styling, the rumble of the V-twin engine, ubiquitous dealerships, and chrome that looks and acts new 10, 20 years down the road. There is an actual value to the way exposed V-twin engines look, perform, and feel that leads so many hard core bikers to prefer these machines. Those points seem to be completely lost on most American motorcycle magazines. I’ve ridden the BMW bikes – they are nice machines, marvels of technology. I do not, however, want to look at plastic bodywork for years, or ride in a modified sport-bike position with tiny little footpegs that my boots get caught on, or listen to an engine that sounds like a weedwacker. It IS important to have a great sound system when you ride more than 15000 miles/year, as I do. It is important to always be able to sit back and relax with your legs extended for long distance bikers. It’s very important to have thousands of customizations that make the bike fit exactly to you and reflect your personal sense of style. There is a real value to that. And low speed handling is critical when you ride not to get somewhere fast, but to enjoy the sites along the way and meet the people and places that make America great. It seems that BMW does not get that, any of it. It’s great that the BMW sport cruisers can go 120 mph – I don’t! Nor do I need a bike that does. I think DeadArmadillo’s point is valid – if this is the greatest touring machine in the world, and the greatest touring machine sold in the United States, then why does it sell extremely poorly compared to traditional American-style touring and cruising motorcycles, even those more expensive than it? I think the answer is that comparing a BMW touring or sport touring bike to a Harley Davidson or Indian cruising or touring bike is not comparing apples and apples – it’s comparing apples and oranges. The BMW sport touring bikes are marvels of technology and they are fun to ride – for a very limited market that wants that type of motorcycle and riding experience. For the average hardcore or even weekend cruising enthusiast, the American-style bikes, whether the bike’s made by Harley Davidson, Indian, or Kawasaki, fit the mechanical, emotional, and ride expectations of the American market much better than the BMW cruisers. And for attention to detail and fine quality, its very difficult to beat H-D or Indian. It really does matter if your leather is plush, studded, and able to weather years of all weather riding. And it does matter how the engine sounds, the low-end throttle, and how many layers of bike-flake paint are on the bike. And it does matter that you can find a dealer within an hour of your home almost anywhere in the U.S. who does nothing else but service your bike, plan weekly rides for same, and organizes massive social outings for bikers. When BMW and Honda start understanding the American market, they may actually finally use their high end technology to design bikes more appealing to the same. Until then, despite how well-built their machines are, no one will ever ride up on an Indian or a Harley Davidson CVO and say, “I know it’s nice, but it’s not a Honda or BMW.” Ever.

      • Ian Parkes

        Interesting post but isn’t it great that there’s such variety to choose from, so that everyone can get a bike that appeals to them? Surely you’ve noticed that these guys enjoy canyon carving and you’ve got to admit that’s not HD or Indian motorcycles’ forte. American iron is great at cruising, and you describe that well. On the other hand, you can still cruise on European or Japanese bikes, even the sports bikes, and not feel like a duck out of water. Which is ‘better’? I’m guessing you don’t want to get your knee down so there’s a whole range of bike dynamics you can disregard. However even touring bikes developed in countries where straight roads are rare, will suit a wider range of conditions. That makes them more competent motorcycles overall. Have you ridden a BMW for a long distance? Perhaps not because maybe it doesn’t appeal, like jet skis don’t appeal to me. Maybe that’s why American style bikes continue to outsell the imports – because people stick to what they know and like. Leather looks great but, in places where you have to expect rain on any and every tour, it’s hard work to look after. So you end up with a different kind of bike. I jut hope you are not advocating that all American reviewers ignore bikes that aren’t cruisers, or should mark down bikes that don’t ape the home-grown product. I imagine there are already publications that do that. I’d like to thank these guys for covering the field for riders of all stripes, because a lot of us don’t know what we don’t know. I’ve got a mate who, on a fully loaded BMW1100RT tourer, left a trio of locals on three Japanese sports bikes for dead on a mountain switchback road. He had time to stop, get off his bike and film those guys coming round the final corner. I’d never considered a BMW before, either.

        • Kevin Duke

          “I’d like to thank these guys for covering the field for riders of all stripes, because a lot of us don’t know what we don’t know.” Great attitude!

        • VDoc

          Ian, I think you should ride what you want! I don’t know any riders of cruisers that have not ridden sport bikes at one time or the other. When people ask me what the best bike is, I always say, “it’s the one you want to ride. If you look back at your bike with envy every time you walk away, it’s the right bike for you.” I just don’t like how many magazines disregard the legitimate appeal of the American style heavy cruiser. I rode the BMW 1600 a few months ago, and my face lit up. It felt like summer. There’s no other way to describe it. But I also realized I was past the age of comfortably riding 700-900 miles in a day on a bike like that. That little lean forward and feeling like you’re always racing is great and exhilarating, until you’re beating the last 500 miles home from Sturgis in a pouring rain (been there, done that). I think each bike has its own appeal. I’d love to ride that bike – but not every day. Not in the winter. Not in the rain. And since I ride all weather and all year around, it clearly was not the bike for me. If I believed in having multiple bikes, I would have an eduro for exploring the swamp around my home, a small cruiser for going around town, and the big touring machine for my long winter hauls and bad weather. I’d also add a Jeep to my garage next to the Mercedes and get a ’67 Mustang convertible. At that point, my wife would divorce me. So I stick one bike and one car that can do the most for me for my riding and driving habits. It helps that my wife rides a Softail that I “borrow” for short trips, and my son has a Honda dirt bike. To each his own. Now if I can convince my son to buy a used Jeep as his first car, life would be perfect….

          • Ian Parkes

            I agree completely VDoc – especially on the multiple bike front. However if your picklist includes an upright riding position and really good weather protection, can I suggest a quick scan of reviews for the BMW1200RT. Not my cup of tea – yet. I was happy to find I was perfectly comfy doing 1800 miles over five days on my all-rounder, a Honda VFR.

          • VDoc

            I actually rode the BMW 1200RT. It seemed pretty fun to me, but the foot pegs drove me crazy. I know that’s a little point, but my knees aren’t the greatest. I’m a distance runner, and have been for 30 years, but I hate riding with bent knees. My legs are much more comfortable fully extended. I don’t even like riding in cars because of it. So I use highway pegs even at relatively low speeds, and long floorboards at other times. And I lean a bit backwards when I ride – your classic “Easy Rider” stance. Then again, a casual weekend ride is at least 200 miles, so I’m particular about the little things. I average 20,000 miles/year on a bike, so the position has to be just right. I’d really enjoy riding a 1200RT for about 150 miles in good weather on a weekend. But I haven’t found another bike other than the Ultra that’s nearly as comfortable and flat out enjoyable when you’re beating the last 500 miles from a 2,000 mile/three day trip and there’s a torrential cold rain. It’s a big bike that rides like a small bike and is very stable in very bad weather. I rode from Portsmouth, Virginia to Camp Lejeune, NC in torrential rain with a buddy riding a BMW. When we got to Lejeune, I wanted to go out and eat. I was still dry. He was soaked to the core, and literally poured water out of his boots. He declined the dinner stop. The little details make a difference for long distance riding. I thought the fairing on the Indian tour bike was TOO big when I road it, and the same was true in spades for the Goldwing. Then again, I’m only 5′ 9″ tall at 168 lbs. In addition, the Goldwing actually made me nauseous from the lack of feedback from the bike. It was too smooth – motion without rumble = motion sickness for me. And the fairing was so large I could feel no wind at all in the summer. So I really shopped around. If I did not ride the Ultra, I’d definitely go with the Kawasaki Voyager. It’s basically similar ergonomics with slightly less fit and finish for 1/3rd less in price. I think it’s the best bargain for long distance full dress cruisers (and has been for the last 20 years), and would recommend it to anyone. I rode one for years before shelling out the cash for the Harley. The hog certainly was noticeably better in fit and finish, but the real difference was the ubiquitous service, which really helped for daily riders like me. My latest was the best of both worlds – I bought a 2013 Ultra, garage kept, with only 2,300 miles on it, stage I upgrade, full GPS, redone exhaust, chromed out dash, heated grips, security system, even LED lights, for 19,000 from a guys with really bad knees changing to a reverse trike. Now THAT was a steal. I felt like I should have been arrested for taking that deal. You gotta pick the ride for you. I probably would ride a bigger touring bike if I was 6′ 2″ tall. But I’m not – so I’ll stick with the hog.

      • Timothy Fries

        I’m American, and only European and Japanese bikes do it for me. I would ride up to an Indian or Harley CVO rider with a Ducati Multistrada 1200s or BMW R1200rs or even a Honda VFR800fi and know the fit and finish, power, sound, practicality, versatility, maintenance costs, and character are far superior to anything that American motorcycle manufacturers have to offer. My dad has a Harley and it vibrated a header right off of the front cylinder head… WHILE he was riding it. It was less than a year old, bought brand new, dealer service, and had less than 4000 miles. I have a 2003 Ducati ST4s ABS with 90,000 miles on it, and it has more character and functionality than any Harley I have ever seen on the road. Don’t ever lump all Americans into your shitty opinion again.

        • VDoc

          Timothy, ride what you like! But I have to say your assessment of American fit, finish, and quality does not seem to match with my experience. I’ve ridden and owned Harley, Honda, Kawasaki, and also ridden Indian, BMW and a host of other bikes. All the major brands are in general reliable. The most mechanical problem I’ve had with a bike has been one of my Hondas, but another of my Hondas was among the most reliable. The only outstanding difference I found was the ubiquitous service options and almost unlimited customization options for the Harleys, which is unique to their brand. I know plenty of guys with over 200,000 miles on their Harleys. I do a lot of long distance riding, and I can assure you, there is no monopoly on which brands break down. I’ve put over 80,000 miles on two hogs in the last 3.5-4 years, and the only problem with a slipping shifter shaft that was replaced in warranty in a couple of hours. (The reason there were two hogs is that a careless driver ran a red light and cashed into one at an intersection, wrecking the bike – and me. I was repaired, the bike was replaced.) Despite HD being the majority of cruisers in the American market, I stop to assist Hondas, Kawi’s and BMW’s on the side of the road at least as much as hogs. You are correct in the vibration issue, though. Hogs are designed to vibrate – it’s part of their appeal. It’s the same for all V-Twin engines, regardless of brand. So don’t try to bolt on after market accessories onto any V-twin bike unless you really know what you’re doing and have some locktight – they can vibrate right off.

  • drkennethnoisewater

    One of my favorite things about riding BMWs is the usefulness and availability of the front brake in all situations, and how neutral the front end is thanks to their ‘borrowed’ advanced front suspension designs (Telelever =~ Saxon/Motodd, Duolever =~ Hossack). I wouldn’t own a large bike without either, or without ABS.

  • Backroad Bob

    Nicely done. Part of motorcycling is how the bike makes you feel when you’re riding it and that’s why the BMW and MG scored higher.

  • RideaTart

    Great video, very informative and, I think, fair. I’ve owned a Griso, but when I had to trim the herd down to one motorcycle, it didn’t stay, as I needed something more practical in a one-bike garage. The CB1100 seems like an odd combination of retro look with characterless performance. But maybe that’s a reasonable compromise. If I’d had the CB instead of the Griso, I would have been more comfortable going with it as my only bike.

  • Tm Parent

    I have had a chance to ride the Griso 8v with the NEW fuel map and holy hell what a machine. Sorry in stock form yes it tended to fall on its face mid range but with the new map it CRUSHES the other 2. I have never smiled and laughed so hard riding a motorcycle and the sound god I love that guzzi sound

  • Peter c

    I place realibility high on my preferences. There is nothing worse breaking down on a busy hwy or out in the bush miles from no where with no help at hand. Here in Australia breaking down in the outback can lead to dire consequences. It’s nice to have those boutique bikes but the Jap bikes out here in the bush is all we trust.

    • And these bikes are unreliable because…? And lest you forget, one is a Honda. Last I heard, Honda is a Japanese company.

    • Peter c

      Yes, that is correct Honda is a Japanese company……

  • madskills

    I have an r1200r and love it. Yes it has every option and why not. Put risers and a smallish windscreen and can ride it all year in Florida. It is a better rider then all three of these bikes. One comment to add on the article, BMW has that 3 year, unlimited warranty which is top of the line so give points for that.

    • 3 year 36k mile warranty. I don’t think they extended it to unlimited miles.

      • madskills

        Jim, You might be right. Had the bike for a year with minimal miles because of bladder cancer. Probably won’t get to 36,000 miles…

        • Sorry to hear that madskills. I ride a 2009 RT. They are great riding machines.

          • madskills

            Just took daughter on a 7,000 mile trip in the 335D to Seattle from Tampa and back. Crossing the Ts, dotting the Is, just in case…. LOL…. I plan to be around for awhile.

          • Glad to hear it!