With this month’s Buyer’s Guides focusing on Touring (Touring America: Buyers Guide, And Advice, Motorcycle Touring: Do-It-Yourself Touring) concocting a touring-focused Top 10 seemed more than appropriate. Large-displacement tourers are abundant and receive lots of press, especially in our bigger-is-better country. Choosing 10 mid-displacement bikes to shoehorn into the category turns out to be more difficult than one might think. The 10 bikes here represent more of what’s available in the category rather than a rating countdown from 10 to one. So, in alphabetical order we give you 10 sub-1000cc bikes that span a wide range of sporting, as well as, touring capabilities.
10. BMW F800GT $11,995
In our 2013 Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout, our initial impressions had us believing BMW’s F800GT would easily win that particular shootout, but filling-in the ScoreCard resulted in a surprise outcome of KTM’s 990 SM-T almost upsetting the Beemer. Sadly, the 990 SM-T is no longer with us, but if it were, it’d certainly be included in this list. That test also included Ducati’s Hypermotard which you’ll find on the next page. In that shootout the BMW returned a 50-mpg average and won praise for its excellent handling characteristics. The F800’s engine is lackluster in the power department, and the bags pictured here are BMW accessories that cost $400+ per bag. BMW also has the newly revised R1200RS that’s too big for this Top 10, but if you’re shopping, it’s worth a looksee. Check out John Burns’ review here.
9. Ducati Hyperstrada $13,795
Ducati’s Hyperstrada is nothing more than a modestly disguised supermoto bike, but if your definition of touring is to pack an extra pair of underwear in the Hyperstrada’s minimalist saddlebags in the event you crap your britches because the bike enticed you into doing something incredibly stupid, look no further. In our 2013 Ducati Hyperstrada review we noted that “when compared directly to its Hypermotard stablemate, the Hyperstrada differs by way of a taller windshield, 20mm taller handlebars, a wider seat with thicker foam, 50-liter semi-rigid saddlebags, a centerstand, a passenger grab handle, larger front and rear mudguards, a bash plate and two 12V outlets.” The Hyperstrada didn’t win the aforementioned 2013 Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout, but it didn’t lose by much either. A great bike for the motorcyclist that desires more sport than touring.
8. Honda NC700X $7,499
If you can get beyond the quirky, low-revving nature and minimal horsepower of the NC700X’s parallel-Twin (47.6 hp at 6250 rpm) you’ll find the NC to be one of Honda’s most versatile motorcycles. Comfortable, affordable and innovative, the NC features a waterproof compartment where the fuel tank normally resides that is large enough to fit most full-face helmets. Affix some accessory saddlebags, and you’ve a tourer that also makes one helluva a good commuter. At $7,499 the NC700X is one of the more affordable bikes in this list or upgrade to the NC700X DCT ABS model for an extra $600. Read more about the NC700X in Troy’s 2014 Honda NC700X DCT ABS review.
7. Honda VFR800 $12,499
At the other end of Honda’s price spectrum for this category is the legendary Interceptor. The 782cc, 90º V-4 engine features Honda’s VTEC technology which Evans describes here in his 2014 Honda Interceptor review. “Honda says it directed its efforts towards improving low- to mid-range power and smoothing the hit provided by the VTEC. To restructure the power delivery, the engineers created new cam profiles, ported the heads and lengthened the funnels on the intake tract.” The Interceptor comes standard with saddlebag mounting bracketry, but the color-matched accessory saddlebags add an extra $950 to the price of the bike. There’s also a DLX model for $13,499 that adds ABS, traction control, grip heaters and self-canceling turn signals.
6. Kawasaki KLR650 $6,599
Okay, alright, yes, calling Kawasaki’s KLR650 “sporty” is really stretching the definition, but in the thinly populated category of mid-displacement tourers, this bike may very well be the most touringish tool of them all. I think the KLR650 is older than me, and in those years, devotees to the model have traveled more miles than NASA’s New Horizon’s Pluto mission. The KLR650 is the steadfast OG godfather of the modern Adventure-Touring bike trend. With the right tires and rider, it can be sportier than you think. Kawasaki revised the KLR last year (see: 2014 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition Revealed) with new springs for both front and rear suspension, multi-contour dimpled seat and revised graphics. At $6,599, the KLR is the most affordable bike in this list.
5. Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS $7,999
The Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS is the epitome of this list: sporty, comfy, versatile and affordable, it hits all the high-water marks of a mid-displacement sporty-tourer. It handily won our Midsize Urbane Adventurers shootout besting the Honda NC700X and Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS in the process. “Emerging as the clear winner at the end of the official MO ScoreCard, though, is Kawasaki’s new and improved Versys: $7,999 gets you an ABS-equipped super-versatile, super-comfortable and ridiculously sporty motorcycle that’ll keep up with just about anything as long as you steer clear of closed circuits, and $700 more for the LT (with Kawasaki’s excellent KQR bags and handguards) transforms it into one of the best mid-sized touring bikes money can procure,” says the story’s author John Burns. You can read about the updated Versys ABS and Versys LT in Sean Alexander’s 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS/LT first ride review.
4. MV Agusta Turismo Veloce $15,998
We haven’t tested MV Agusta’s Turismo Veloce outside of its initial press launch (2015 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 First Ride Review), but according to Alexander, if the most expensive motorcycle in this list “truly offers the same level of comfort and stability as its competition, but also turns-inside them, accelerates harder, sounds better, and looks much better, then I think a strong case could be made for actually spending all that extra cash to get an MV.” We’ll know how well the MV measures against its competition when we conduct our upcoming multi-bike Adventure-Touring shootouts. Stay tuned.
3. Suzuki V-Strom 650 $8,399
In our Midsize Urbane Adventurers shootout the V-Strom established itself as the bike with the most horsepower, 63.2 hp at 9,000 rpm against the Kawasaki Versys 650 and Honda NC700X, but at $8,399, it’s also the most expensive model. If Suzuki were able to bring the price more in line with the others it would have fared better in that contest. Says Burns, “The old SV V-Twin is still a pip, but its containment vessel is suddenly a bit leaky and creaky, and the fact that it’s the priciest motorcycle here doesn’t help any in this price-conscious market segment. ‘Hasn’t Suzuki payed off the tooling for this bike already?’ asks Siahaan. Having the highest price tag here is a little strange.” Other V-Strom models include the V-Strom 650XT ABS ($8,499) and V-Strom 650 ABS Adventure ($10,049).
2. Triumph Tiger 800
Introduced in 2011, the Tiger 800 was updated in 2015, and Triumph has increased the variety of Tigers to include four models: Tiger 800XC, Tiger 800XCx, Tiger 800XR and Tiger 800XRx. Read about the differences between each Tiger here. The total number of available Tigers, though, will reach six with the announcement in May of two more Tiger 800 models, the Tiger 800 XRT and Tiger 800 XCA.
Recently we pit the Tiger XRx against Yamaha’s FJ-09 in our Three-Cylinder Sport-Adventure Comparison. When the numbers were tallied, both Burns and I could justify spending the extra cash on the XRx, giving the Tiger the win in our subjective scoring: 88.3% for the Triumph vs 86.4% for the Yamaha. However, when the objective scores were factored in, the FJ took the overall win.
1. Yamaha FJ-09
Yamaha hit a homerun with introduction of the the FZ-09. When engineers mounted the wonderful Triple powering the FZ into a Sport-Adventure chassis, creating the FJ-09, Yamaha created another success story. Already the winner of a couple shootouts such as Land Of The Roosting Sun: Four Far-Flung Adventure Bikes From Japan!, and our Three-Cylinder Sport-Adventure Comparison: Moderation In All Adventurers, the FJ is a bike that offers excellent performance, practical capabilities and multi-tasking for an affordable price. “For making every day an adventure, the FJ-09 is going to be a really tough bike for anybody to beat. Yamaha is on an absolute tear,” is Burns’ conclusion at the end of the Three-Cylinder Sport-Adventure Comparison. With the FZ-07 already available to consumers, we know an FJ-07 can’t be far behind.