The headlights of all three bikes were good, but the powerful lamp on the GT outshined its Japanese rival.
By the time we finished the photo tour of the coastline, we pulled into Newport right around dusk. The lights on all three bikes cut a deep swath through the dark, but compared to the super-bright GT headlamp, the FJR’s fell a bit short. The hotel was a welcome sight for our weary backsides. After a long day of riding it was nice to finally take a load off and kick off the riding boots for the night. The first day was great, but the next day was going to be even better. We all dropped a Dramamine before bed in preparation for our expedition the next day.
Since all the hard-assed touring folks are going to be whining about scheduling a mere 140-mile stint for day two, we have to divulge what we did for the first half of the day: deep-sea fishing. After an hour-long voyage to the fishing holes, we spent the next couple hours decimating the rock fish ecosystem off the shore of Newport, catching one, sometimes even two, at a time like some sort of fishing derby. Even a few unfortunate Ling Cod fell prey to our nasty lures. With their eyes bulging and air sacks bursting, we reeled and reeled to our hearts content. Once the entire boat had maxed out the daily limit we were treated to a shot at catching the elusive salmon.
The Beemer’s ground clearance was such that throwing the GT around a bend it seemed like we were in greater danger of scraping the saddlebag before the pegs.
Two hours later, Don was barfing off the back of the boat while BC and Robin were asleep. I sat in the helm with Captain Steve and was regaled with stories of his propensity to slay biker babes back in the day and how his secret fishing holes were so much better than the ones the captains of the other boats used. After what seemed like an eternity, we were back on shore while skilled fillet masters diced up our catch and vacuum-sealed their flesh for transport home…yeah, right. The refrigerated saddlebag option wasn’t included with our test bikes so the meat was Fed-Exed to HQ.
Once we got our land legs back, we were heading north up toward Portland. The route up Highway 101 is a typical coastal road full of twisty, curvy, dirty and fun tarmac with a host of motor homes thrown in to keep us honest. It became obvious a few corners into this ride that some rear-set footpegs would be a nice addition to the FJR if you plan on doing more sport riding than touring. (Yamaha’s market research indicates FJR riders don’t complain about ground-clearance issues, so your results may vary.) In contrast, the GT’s hard parts remain relatively unscathed at all but the craziest lean angles, and it almost looks as if the Beemer’s saddlebags are going to hit before the pegs do!
With a shorter wheelbase and slightly more aggressive geometry, the FJR was more nimble when negotiating through turns.
All of these mounts are surprisingly capable sportbikes, but there are distinct differences in how they perform when pushed fairly hard. The K12GT uses an unusually lazy steering rake of 29.4 degrees, and this results in slower turn-in responses when compared to the 26.0-degree FJR. The Beemer also has slightly less weight on its front end.
“In the twisties,” reports Chamberlain, “the BMW is stable through the corner but it doesn’t seem to offer up the confidence of the FJR.”
Trail figures vary by only 3mm, but the GT’s 61.8-inch wheelbase is a full inch longer than the Yamahas. The Beemer’s geometry gives it unquestionable stability at the expense of some nimbleness where the Yamaha has an advantage. “The FJR is very stable at speed as well as in the corners,” says BC. “Turn-in is quick and the front end offers much better feel than that of the GT.”
Both chassis designs are variations on the twin-spar aluminum frames, helping keep weight levels as low as possible for such well-equipped bikes. Incredibly, both standard-shift bikes in this test scale in with a miniscule 1-pound weight difference, the FJR-A the lightest at 631 pounds of tank-empty weight. The AE version comes with a weight penalty of 13 pounds over the standard FJR.
The GT’s Duolever front suspension guides a steady line through turns and all but eliminates front-end dive.
BMW has done its homework with this machine, and it pays off when you ride the bike hard enough to tax it. Although the front-end feel is vague compared to the FJRs, it still holds a steady line whether it’s railing a sweeper or carving through a decreasing radius turn. “The anti-dive properties of the Hossack-design Duolever fork aren’t as foreign feeling and filtered as BMW’s Telelever design,” explains Duke.
The conventional fork of the FJR provides the familiar feedback and tendencies of any modern bike. Yamaha saw fit to give it three-way adjustability (preload and damping in both directions), so it can be dialed in to suit its rider. Feedback is more generous than from the GT, but it comes at the expense of front-end dive under braking and a tendency to resist turning in when trail braking. By contrast, the BMW’s Duolever front end hardly dives at all under braking and it alleviates the resistance to turning in during any but the latest braking heroics.