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2014 Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


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2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout Video
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Take a peek at the 2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor Comparison Video and see how Big Red’s V-Four powered sport-touring bike rates against the competition.

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2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout Video
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In the 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS Comparison Video, Team Green’s sport-touring bike gets another crack at the top spot. See how it fares this time around.

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2014 Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout Video
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Aprilia offers riders a unique take in the sport-touring segment. Watch the 2014 Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS Comparison Video to see if it’s the right bike for you.
Sport-touring motorcycles are the workhorses of the garage, capable of tackling almost any task a sporting motorcyclist can ask. Whether it’s lugging gear across town, or cross-country, and even with a passenger, this category integrates a degree of practicality to a sport-oriented riding experience.

Though the sport-touring category is a broad one, we narrowed the choices in this middleweight shootout by price. All three of our competitors share a similar price point, separated by a margin no greater than $1300 in base trim (without luggage). Factor in accessories, however, and that gap widens by almost double, but we’ll get to that later…

After a five year absence from American Honda’s sport line-up, the Interceptor returns in the form of the 2014 VFR800F (Starting at $12,499). It continues to sport a water-cooled 782cc V-Four engine featuring a conventional chain-driven valvetrain with Big Red’s automotive-sourced Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC). The technology helps give Interceptor riders the best of both worlds: fuel efficiency at low engine speeds and 12-second quarter-mile time-setting muscle when revved at high rpms.

Engineers sharpened the experience behind the windscreen this year with updated powertrain components as well as all-new wheels and body panels, not to mention the inclusion of valuable electronics, including traction control (Deluxe model) and a Quick Shift Gear Change Pedal (aka quickshifter, $299.95 accessory).

After finishing runner-up to the Interceptor’s big brother, the VFR1200F, in our 2011 Road Sport Shootout, Kawasaki gets another crack at the top spot with its Ninja 1000 ABS ($11,999). Like the V-Four-powered Honda, the ’14 Ninja receives a similar list of tweaks highlighted by three-way adjustable traction control, well-engineered accessory side cases and anti-lock brakes. Powered by a purpose-built 1043cc Inline Four with dual power modes (Full and Low), on paper the Ninja has what it takes to finally notch a victory, or does it?

Although it’s been inside dealership showrooms for as many years as the Interceptor’s hiatus, Aprilia’s curious Mana 850 GT ABS ($11,199) is a worthy competitor with its 90-degree V-Twin engine sporting 840cc’s of displacement, positioning it between the four cylinder contenders. It also employs clever engineering with its one-of-a-kind (for a full-size motorcycle) semi-automatic CVT transmission. This gives the rider the flexibility to shift for themselves (without using the clutch lever), or let the computer take control automatically. Other neat tricks include the location of the fuel cell beneath the rider and passenger seats, allowing for an automotive-style trunk where the conventional tank would be. But will Italian ingenuity prove as worthwhile as Japanese refinement?

We found out by saddling up on a regional tour from the Motorcycle-USA office in southern Oregon with our iPhone’s Maps app set to San Francisco, in order to take part in the ‘Where is my Ego’ demo ride program hosted by the up-start Italian e-bike builder, Energica. Joining me on this excursion were my colleagues, Editor Bart Madson and Cruiser Editor Bryan Harley. Instead of taking the interstate the entire way, we mixed it up; dodging wild fires in 100-plus degree heat through the back roads of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and sampling the Pacific-cooled stretch of Highway 101 across Humboldt County. All told we logged over 1000 miles in two days, in varied weather conditions ranging from blazing hot to chilly ocean fog with even some rain. The result was a textbook motorcycle tour and clear understanding of where each machine ranks, so let’s dig in.






2014 Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS Comp
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2014 Honda VFR800 Interceptor Comp
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2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS Comp
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Comments
motousa_adam   October 14, 2014 02:15 PM
Correction: Page 5
motousa_adam   October 14, 2014 02:15 PM
@chief47: The difference between the OE Ninja 1000 ABS tires and the Michelin Road 4 is negligible in terms of overall sport handling. And as you can see in the scorecard (Page 4), the VFR has superior handling even with its OE-fitted D222 tires... Adam
chief47   October 8, 2014 08:19 AM
It would have been nice if you had mounted Michelin's hottest new sport touring tire on the VFR as well as on the Ninja. If your response is "that's the way they were delivered to us", then shame on you for allowing Kawasaki to stack the deck with non-stock tires.
OutOfTheBox   September 5, 2014 04:15 PM
that's ok we can just read last years' test of the GT
motousa_adam   September 5, 2014 10:03 AM
@ GAJ - Yes, you are correct the F800 GT would have been a great fit in this category but BMW didn't have a motorcycle available at the time of our test. I forgot to mention that within the article so thanks for bringing that up. Adam
GAJ   September 4, 2014 10:10 AM
The F800GT would have been a better choice than the Ninja 1000 for this test.
OutOfTheBox   September 2, 2014 07:11 PM
...let me guess, the Kawi wins. By, oh, about 20hp.
Piglet2010   September 2, 2014 07:06 PM
Not a single wheelie picture? What have you done with the real Adam Waheed?