The FJR1300AE's auto clutch surprised us in the city, with it becoming irritating in stop-and-go traffic.
Even though we had assumed the AE's auto clutch was going to be a benefit in this environment, it actually wasn't that great. When you have to accelerate with traffic, you need to rev the motor up before it engages and you start rolling, only to have to roll off the gas a few feet later and coast up to the parked auto in front of you. Repeat this a few hundred times in an hour and it really gets old. Then add into the mix the imprecise nature of the automatic clutch, and the AE version slips a bit farther behind the other two bikes.
Fortunately the heavy traffic didn't last too long, and before we knew it we had made our way to the hotel which signaled the end of a long day that had begun with a boat ride and ended 12 hours later in the middle of Oregon's largest city.
The following day we had to endure a boring half-day long business meeting before heading to Bend for the third leg. The route didn't challenge the bikes as much as the riders, as it led us past the majestic Mt. Hood, through the desert and into Madras for dinner. It was during discussions there at the diner that the BMW started to win over more riders because of its combination of a strong motor, high level of refinement and marginally smoother ride characteristics. The Yamaha supporters had good points, too, including an equally strong motor and a more accommodating riding position.
The Beemer and Yamaha were neck-in-neck for the faceoff win, but our conflicted riders could all agree that out of the three the FJR1300AE should take third, not because it's a horrible bike, but because its quirky auto clutch dropped its stock in our tester's opinions.
A short fuel range can spoil any two-wheel tour, but both these SSTs can go the distance. The average fuel economy over our journey saw mpg number pushing 40. The GT exhibited marginally higher fuel consumption than the FJR1300AE with an average of 38.8 mpg. The AE posted 39.4 mpg, just a bit off the 40.2 mpg average of the standard clutch FJR. The GT utilizes a 6.3 gallon tank which puts its range right about 250 miles compared to the 6.6 gallon FJR tanks that extend the range to just around 265 miles. With judicious use of the throttle these numbers could be significantly better.
At the hotel, the SST's hard luggage was a topic of conversation. The FJR containers look good but they require a key to open them. The curvy GT bags, in contrast, give the option of keyed or keyless entry. Both seemed to carry about the same amount of stuff. That next morning we ascertained that neither bike could take any advantage in the mounting system department, so rather than sit around debating it we began the journey home.
There isn't much to do between Bend and home except to ride and ride some more. This would be the final chance for one bike to upstage the other as we put the finishing touches on our test during the final photo and video shoots. The GT was still tall and was still the fastest in our many unofficial top-gear roll-on tests. The FJR1300AE was still easy to ride but quirky to maneuver in the slow-speed actions. The standard FJR begs to be ridden hard but doesn't remain as composed as the GT in fast turns and doesn't provide as much ground clearance.
Ringing in at $5300 less than its rival the FJR represents the biggest bang for your buck, but comes up short when comparing the performance abilities of the two actual machines.
We didn't have a passenger along on our trip to test pillion accommodations, but Haldane took Mrs. Haldane out for some rides to provide some feedback. She reports that the BMW is the place to be for a passenger.
"It has a thicker more comfortable seat and better rider-to-passenger positioning," says Nashona Haldane, also one of our graphics experts. She also commented that the handles on the side were easier to hold onto and it was easier to get on and off. The footpeg position was better on the BMW, but she liked the plate behind the peg for the heel on the FJR. Also a bonus on the BMW is the optional heated passenger seat.
After the dust settled, our test riders were split regarding the winner but sure that the $15,299 FJR1300AE was the shoe-in for third place. It's definitely a great bike, but the auto clutch idiosyncrasies outweigh its positive aspects.
These bikes have more in common than they don't, so the final decision came down to splitting hairs. The FJR1300 is still a near-perfect blend of performance, rider comfort and affordability. And, at $13,499, the standard FJR is a bargain. Where it comes up short is in the amenities. If you don't care for OEM options like heated seats, electronically adjustable suspension, cruise control, on-board computers or integrated GPS, then the FJR is the bike for you.
"All three of these bikes do what they were designed to do very, very well," notes Lavine. "Cost is the biggest difference. The FJRs sell for considerably less and, frankly, I don't feel take a back seat in any category. There is a spot in my garage for either of the FJRs."
The BMW K1200GT may not be the cheapest option, but it pushes aside the new FJR as the Sport-Touring king with a 3-2 edge from our MCUSA test riders.
If what you are looking for is the supreme sport-touring bike with all the bells and whistles, then there is no other option. The all-new BMW K1200GT was designed to do everything the FJR1300 does while offering up a seemingly endless array of options to customize the bike to your personal needs. At $18,800, the base model GT isn't going to offer $5300 more performance than the FJR, but we're comparing bikes not price tags.
It might be difficult to slap down the $20,570 for our K1200GT test bike, but for this BMW it seems like a deal. With or without the optional goodies, the GT took top honors for three of our five test riders, confirming that BMW has officially taken the Super Sport Touring class to the next level. Its blend of a stable chassis, unique suspension and powerful motor combined with the high number of available options make it a combination that's tough to beat.
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K1200GT - Standard Equipment
Electronic Suspension Adjustment ESA $800
Heated Seat $280
Heated Grips $235
Cruise Control $325
Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM) $260
On Board Computer (BC) $275
FJR1300 Standard Equipment
ABS w/Unified Braking System
Adjustable 3-position handlebar
Rear Trunk w/ Backrest $102.95
FJR1300AE Standard Equipment
Adjustable 3-position handlebar