Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of 2020

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of 2020: Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour

There are Sport-Tourers, and then there are Sport-Tourers. The Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour is the latter, a cut above the rest. It checks all the boxes: stonking engine, state-of-the-art electronics, great suspension and brakes, decent-but-not-isolating weather protection, and included cargo-carrying capacity. Every time I ride the Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour, I think how retirement is a long seven years away and wouldn’t I rather just pack my bits and bobs onto the back of this bike and head for parts unplanned?

2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour Review

Perhaps, the song of the engine is to blame. As I said in my review, “The Testastretta 1262cc DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) is an engine seemingly without weak points. First, the DVT massages the bottom end torque for more grunt down low.…At higher rpm, the valve timing changes to benefit the increased volume of combustibles that need to be moved into and out of the twin cylinders.” The result is an engine that puts out a MO tested 89.0 lb-ft at 7800 rpm and 143.5 hp at 9,800 rpm, but perhaps most importantly, more than 80% of those pound-feet are available from 3,500 rpm. At all rpm, the throttle transitions are buttery smooth, particularly in Touring mode.

Next, the S after the 1260 in the name means (among other things) that this bike utilizes the Ducati Skyhook Suspension, which ties the semi-active suspension performance to the available ride modes. The result is a firmer ride in Sport mode and a more comfortable one in less exciting environments. Braking comes courtesy of Brembo M50s gripping 330mm discs – impressive stuff. Naturally, the power delivery and braking are controlled via a Bosch IMU linked to Ducati’s Cornering ABS and Electronic Combined Braking System.

Touring amenities are commensurate with that of a sport-tourer. You get Burns-approved cruise control and heated grips. It also sports a tire pressure monitoring system, keyless starting and fuel tank access, and LED spotlights. Weather protection offers an ideal compromise between enough protection to help you rack up the miles without compromising coolness on warm days. The TFT instrumentation is as good as any Ducati’s.

But wait, there’s more! The Grand Tour package includes a pair of saddlebags, which, although they aren’t electronically controlled like the ignition, make moving from bike to B & B much easier. The exclusive colorway, Sandstone Grey, with a 1260 graphic on the fairing sets you apart from the rest of the Multistrada 1260 masses. The rider and passenger seats feature Grand Tour logos, too.

While some may decry the fact that the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour carries a $23,295 MSRP, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the bike offers an impressive riding experience that befits its premium price tag. For those who are looking for a less expensive alternative, take a look at the runner-up.

Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of 2020 Runner-Up: Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX

While the rest of the Japanese OEMs seem to largely be taking a breather these last few years, Kawasaki has been busy slaying it, as reflected in this year’s MOBOs. Even more significantly, they’re slaying it in an everyman sort of a way, building motorcycles real people can afford. Things like the H2 are a bit impractical and expensive, but then the green men turn around and trickle the supercharger tech down to the Z H2, for just $17.5k.

The Kawi Z900 we already named as Runner-Up in the Best Standard division (and for $8,999 it coulda been a contender as Best Value, too). And new for 2020 is this rejiggered Ninja 1000SX. “Where else,” we waxed editorially back in August, “are you gonna get a highly capable, 124-hp sporty sport-tourer, with cruise control and a quickshifter, for $12,399?”

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX Review – First Ride

That’s around $10k less than what you’re gonna dish out for the Ducati Multistrada that won this category. Kawasaki did raise the price over the 2019 model $200, but they also did things while they were adding ride-by-wire to the 1043 cc inline Four to reduce the vibrations we used to complain about. On the Brasfield vibrometer, engine buzz is now non-objectionable, when it’s even noticeable, and the revised engine runs smoother and cleaner than any previous one, with outstanding throttle response under all applications. And makes 124 rear-wheel horses in the process. It’s steamy.

Revised suspension is not electronic, but it does soak up bumps better than ever, thanks to the addition of a low-speed slit the engineers added to the damping pistons in the fork. A hydraulic adjuster knob out back lets you reach down with your right hand on the fly to adjust rear preload. Would you expect a six-axis Bosch IMU and the latest rider aids for that price? You’re getting them anyway: In Sport mode, you can feel free to brake deeper into corners and get on the gas earlier as you attempt to achieve higher numbers on the lean-angle indicator in the new, 4.3-inch TFT display – just like the one we saw first on the $25,000 H2 SX SE two years ago.

They definitely left the Ninj in Ninja, but this one’s still plenty comfortable for sport-touring – especially now with standard cruise control. Right, the hard bags are optional, but for another $900 or so, you’re looking at a platform that’ll scratch pretty much every motorcycling itch you’ll ever have, including commuting and runs to the Piggly-Wiggly for supplies. Kawasaki: the Aprilia of Japan. Best of 2020 Categories

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Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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3 of 41 comments
  • Stephen Thomas Stephen Thomas on Dec 17, 2020

    Kawasaki 1000SX a sport touring motorcycle? Where is the bags? Chain drive?I thought Kawasaki had the sport touring category covered with Kawasaki Concours which comes with bags and a shaft drive. In order to meet the criteria of a sport touring motorcycle the bike must have some elements of touring in it. The Kawasaki 1000 SX has very little touring genes. The 1000SX maybe a Great motorcycle but it's not in the sport touring category.

    • Stuki Moi Stuki Moi on Dec 17, 2020

      It's got bags. At least one version of it does. It's got long-day(s) ergos. And cruise control. And a shifting-optional engine. And wind protection. And enough alternator to power electrics.....

      The Connie/FJR/RT/ST are tourers. Fast, express, tourers, for sure; but too big to naturally play the "sport" part.

  • Sahil Srivastava Sahil Srivastava on Mar 21, 2021

    Aprilia of japan eh?