Some motorcycles arrive on the scene with shock and awe pyrotechnics, delivering white-hot performance that was previously thought to be impossible from a streetbike. When you step off one of those machines, you feel as if the gravitational constant has shifted, like you’ll never look at a motorcycle the same way again.
I was on the glorious Pacific Coast Highway aboard the new K1600GTL Exclusive when I had a thought that might be controversial. I imagined that Soichiro Honda, if given the choice, would prefer to be riding BMW’s new flagship rather than his eponymously named company’s iconic Gold Wing.
Seems like forever we’ve been waiting for the new R1200RT. A year has passed since we rode the Honda ST1300, Kawasaki Concours 14 and Yamaha FJR1300 to Death Valley and back for our 2013 Sport-Touring Shootout. Since then we’ve been in a holding pattern to take the winner of that shootout, the FJR, and put it up against Triumph’s Trophy SE and the new RT. Well, now that we’ve ridden the new R1200RT the shootout with its contemporaries is on-deck.
Aprilia has been missing from the Adventure-Touring landscape for some time. With focus placed on its two-time World Superbike Championship-winning RSV4 Superbike, now that the racing landscape has been conquered, the Noale marque is carrying that success in other directions with the Caponord 1200 ABS Travel Pack. With four patents to its name, Aprilia is entering the ultra-competitive Adventure-Touring market with guns a-blazing.
The first time you roll on the FJR1300ES’s throttle with a stretch of open road in front of you, you realize why it’s so popular with the long-distance riding set. The previous generations of the big Yamaha gobbled up pavement like a coed facing a tube of cookie dough just hours after a difficult breakup. Simply put, the FJR consumes both asphalt and gasoline, not stopping until you run out of one of them and then impatiently waits while you remedy the situation. Perhaps this is why Yamaha has left the FJR1300 largely unchanged over its lifespan, despite recent inroads into its market from other manufacturers. Whether you spell Supersport Touring with two or three words, the class is highly competitive where more than just having the highest horsepower or sharpest handling determines the victor.
When it came to big-bore Adventure-Touring shootouts, the KTM 990 Adventure was predisposed to win the off-road segment of the test. That motorcycle, with 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, 8.25 inches of suspension travel (front and rear), and a lesser wet weight than its peers was simply better suited to the task.
Ducati’s new-for-2013 Hyperstrada wheelies, slides the rear wheel, jumps curbs, is nimble and flickable, and a hoot in urban environments. Characteristics, according to Ducati, distance riders look for when considering a new model to go “touring, Italian style.”