Kawasaki’s answer to the Suzuki Hayabusa, the ZX-14R was all about straight-line speed – up to 186 mph, or 300 kph – the speed all the Japanese manufacturers had a gentleman’s agreement on for a speed cap. Legendary in drag racing thanks to the likes of Ricky Gadson, the ZX-14 carved quite a niche for itself alongside the ‘Busa for being fast. Like the ‘Busa, the ZX-14 was also an underrated sport-touring bike, too. With some luggage on the back, many found the large ride to be comfortable, and even quite good, at chewing up big miles.
From a pure performance standpoint, the Ducati in the runner-up position would wipe the floor with the Suzuki here. But every year it’s worth reminding readers that these awards are about more than just outright performance. We also factor in the intangible factors, like what a certain model means for the brand or for the category, and the GT+ is a sign that the traditional, non-adventure-based, sport-tourers are still alive and kicking. There’s also just the shock and awe factor. As in, we expected Suzuki’s GSX-S1000GT+ to be a nice motorcycle – but we didn’t expect it to be this nice.
For 2023, Yamaha has gone crazy with the new Tracer 9 GT+ and thrown every bit of technology it could think of at the bike. Now sitting atop Yamaha’s sport-touring mountain as the flagship for the brand – taking the place of the dearly departed FJR1300, which has been out of production for a few years – the Tracer 9 GT+, with its multitude of electronic rider aids, will help make the sport-touring experience as stress-free as possible.
It seems like all the splash lately has been about the ADV category and all the wonderful things they can do and destinations they can reach. We’re not going to deny adventure bikes their time in the sun, either. They’re definitely fun and capable bikes worthy of all the bandwagoning.
Kawasaki’s November 2019 acquisition of a 49.9% shareholding in Bimota has brought the Italian boutique manufacturer back from oblivion, to the point that despite a slowdown caused by component supply issues, it’s now constructed all 250 examples of the its limited edition kickoff model unveiled at the 2020 EICMA Milan Show, the supercharged hub-centre Tesi H2 now being shipped to its dealers around the world – but mainly in Japan. As Bimota’s strapline for the bike succinctly puts it – “The Revolution Continues!”
Naturally, I reached for my Aerostich. The sport-tourer’s uniform of choice, it seemed like the right thing to wear when the invite to test Suzuki’s newest sport-tourer – the 2022 GSX-S1000GT+ – popped up in my inbox. It offers full-body protection from both the ground and the elements, is easy to take on and off, has loads of pockets, and has room underneath for layers (including an airbag, in my case). I felt like I made the right decision when I hopped on the bike.
As I observed to my Ducati host just before we started up the mountain toward Idyllwild (elevation 5,800 feet) from Palm Desert, California (220 ft) – this is either going to be one of the greatest rides ever or one of the worst. Pity the poor new model launch planner: If it rains hard more than a few days a year around Palm Springs I’d be surprised. But logistics have to be laid out weeks ahead of time, and as the day for our ride drew nearer, the weather forecast for last Tuesday had evolved from 20% to 40% to 100% rain, to “atmospheric river.”
With the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour taking top honors of our sport-touring MOBO in 2020, it should come as no surprise that the 2021 Multistrada V4 S further cements the Italian’s dominance of the category. The new Multi V4 is basically better in every way, from its stonking new V4 that can play the part of mild tourer or wild canyon ripper, to its more versatile 19-inch front wheel and world-class electronics package that includes adaptive cruise control and blindspot monitoring as well as electronic Ducati Skyhook suspension. The new Multi continues to impress in a way that is surprising for a bike of its size.
Who could forget MO‘s exclusive first test of the Kawasaki H2 SX SE way back yonder in 2018? Some of us would like to forget the first couple minutes of the video, but we maybe got carried away, and were forced to wax poetic by what a fantastic sport-touring conveyance that bike was. Is. The supercharger (just as we re-learned with the Z H2 in last week’s big nakeds comparison) imbued that bike with midrange torque far beyond what you’d expect from its 999 cc displacement – 89 lb-ft at the wheel – as well as truly nostril-flaring horsepower – 172 at just 10,300 rpm. Superb suspenders, electronic aids, long-days comfort, and outstanding Rivermark fit/finish put us over the top. It all made very short work of picking MO‘s Best Sport-Tourer of 2018.
We’ve loved the Kawasaki Versys 650 for a long time. Maybe too long? For 2022, the midsized Versatile System gets a bunch of upgrades to boost it into the modern era – electronic cruise control being not one of them. Perfect for all you who eschew modern comforts.