The Yamaha FJR1300 has been the class leader in the Super Sport-Touring segment, but The BMW K1200GT has emerged from the Motorrad garage as a new challenger to knock the latest FJR off its throne.
Yamaha has owned the Super Sport Touring class since it coined the term when the FJR1300 was introduced late in 2002. Some other sport-tourers were more nimble, but none had the FJR's winning combination of big-cube power and long-haul comfort that helped it win our 2004 Sport-Touring Shootout.
Time, however, marches on, and with it comes a new challenger from BMW. We knew the powerful and feature-laden K1200GT was a contender when we tested it during its introduction in Arizona earlier this year, so we set forth planning a comparison test.
Rather than lining up the entire field of sport-touring motorcycles for this showdown, we cut to the chase and chose to find out how the cruise-missile GT fares against the reigning class champion FJR - with a small twist. The automatic-clutch version, the FJR1300AE (silver), would also be included along with the standard FJR1300A (blue).
With the FJR, Yamaha built consumers an option they didn't even know they needed or wanted: A 150-mph sport-touring bike capable of carving apart the best bi-ways on the map while hauling a week's worth of various sundries in the hard luggage - or a significant other at pillion - with ease.
MCUSA's Editor and merciless scrutinizer of everything that rolls on wheels, Kevin Duke, was not overly impressed with the FJR's automatic clutch after riding it earlier this year, but the rest of us were eager to find out for ourselves how it stacks up. After all, if Yamaha thinks YCC-S is significant enough to put it into production, then the least we can do is give it a fair run.
The reigning Sport-Touring king, Yamaha's FJR1300, showed how it got its title by getting an across-the-board heads up by our testers when it came to deciding which mount had the most comfortable riding position.
The K1200GT is purpose built to up the ante and provide an option in the Super Sport Touring class. It has everything the Yamaha has - and more, if you're willing to pay for it.
Knowing we need to experience every possible scenario in order call one bike the winner, we put together a nice little look of some of Oregon's best riding country. At the heart of the test was a four-day ride through as many varied environments we could squeeze in. From our headquarters in Medford, we set our heading due west towards the picturesque Pacific coastline at Coos Bay and on to Newport to conclude the ride's coastal segment. Turning inland, the twisting urban sprawl of Portland took care of day two. After getting our fill of the City of Roses, we headed southeast across the desert toward Bend for day three, then wrapped it up with a day-long ride home through the Crater Lake National Forest.
The journey began with a 100-mile ride across Interstate 5 that gave us an idea how these bikes stacked up during the highway drone, one of the most common elements of the sport-touring experience. I-5 snakes through two mountain ranges and has a few long straight stretches which are a perfect opportunity for comparing a few of the comfort-enhancing elements that come standard on each of the three bikes.
Overall the BMW K1200GT wasn't uncomfortable, but the sloping seat, which had a tendency to push the rider's groin into the tank, most definitely was.
Although they are quite similar, the riding position of the FJR was unanimously chosen to be the best by all of our test riders. The FJR seat design was flatter compared to the GT, which was narrow at the front and seemed to be sloped down towards the tank. Both are two-position adjustable and do not require tools, but the FJR's adjustment is not as simple to figure out as the BMW's that can be set at either 32.3 or 33.0 inches.
"I found the FJR to be very friendly ergonomically once we got the seat in the uppermost (32.5-inch) position," reports 'Big Cheese' Becklin. "The seat adjuster could be a bit more intuitive, but eventually we made it work. I found myself the most comfortable on the FJR during the longer stints."
On the other end of the spectrum, the GT was receiving criticisms about the seating layout. "The biggest complaint I might have with the ergonomics is the seat," noted 5'11" Graphics guy Robin Haldane. "It's just as soft as the Yamaha's, but the shape and downward slope push your (um, stuff) straight into the tank, and my ass started to get sore after the first 30 minutes of being on it. I found the FJR to be far more comfortable than the BMW. The windscreen functioned well, though not quite as well as the BMW as it seemed to have more vibration and less of a variance in position."
Spending long days in the saddle puts a premium on rider ergonomics and, in addition to the aforementioned seat height positions, both bikes provide adjustments for handlebar locations. The FJR has a fore/aft range of 11mm in three positions. The GT offers a 1.6-inch (40mm) height adjustment over four positions.
As befits a high-end sport-touring machine, the windscreens on both the Yamaha and Beemer are adjustable, with the GT getting a slim nod due to increased protection and the shield remaining in the same position when restarting the bike.
The windshield is probably the most often used of the adjustable components. Both designs work well and provide customized protection from the elements at the touch of a finger. The BMW provides the best as far as we could determine, but our taller riders were looking for more height. Besides that, the FJR screen creates more buffeting (depending on position) and offers up a bit less protection. While the GT's shield stays in its last position after powering down, the Yamaha's automatically retracts back to the base setting when the ignition is off. This proved to be a small nuisance as the stop-and-go miles piled up.
"The Yamaha's ergonomics are far more comfortable than the GT's," says Creative Director Brian Chamberlain. "Like the BMW, the bars are a little narrow for such big bikes. The seat is much wider up front which was way more comfortable than the GT, although it did tend to stretch the groin a bit with both feet on the ground."