Suspension is another aspect where the BMW comes out on top due to its cutting-edge technology, with the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) allowing the rider to change settings at the touch of a button.
While the Yamaha rider is at a roadside turn-out adjusting the suspension with a wrench and screwdriver, the K1200GT rider is simply thumbing the electronic suspension adjustments for the Duolever front end and Paralever single-sided swingarm.
“I was impressed with the Electronic Suspension Adjustment button,” beams Becklin. “Changing from Sport to Normal to Comfort made a noticeable difference, and I found myself swapping settings as the road conditions varied. Sport really tightened up the feel for the corners and, while Comfort was way too soft for anything but freeway cruising, it certainly did give the bike a plush feel.”
“The push-button suspension adjustment further enhances your ride, as you are able to dial in different settings for varying riding conditions,” adds Chamberlain. “I found the sport setting most to my liking, as the others seemed a little soft, especially on any type of curvy road.”
All three bikes are equipped with a form of linked-braking system and antilock braking technology. Interestingly, a couple of testers didn’t realize this fact, proving the transparency of these contemporary aids that were once so reviled.
Both the Yamaha and BMW have ample binders, featuring linked and ABS technology. However, back-to-back the FJR got the most praise from our testers.
“Personally I don’t like ABS on a motorcycle, so the fact that the FJR doesn’t come with it is a bonus to me,” said one unnamed tester who we’ll tease for months.
The power-assist brakes of the BMW didn’t get as much praise as the traditional units of the FJR models, as our testers believed they didn’t offer as much feedback. Both sets of stoppers, however, are plenty capable.
“The (FJR’s) brakes performed well,” says BC, “with good progressive power and a nice feel at the lever.” Duke added: “BMW’s power brakes keep getting better at exhibiting response that is less abrupt than previous units.”
Backroad prowess is important to many shopping in this class, but perhaps even more important is the power produced by this pair of liquid-cooled DOHC in-line four-cylinder motors that put the Super into these sport-touring bikes. Both platforms are based on ultra-smooth, counter-balanced fuel-injected Fours that churn out more than 120 horses at the rear wheel.
If concerned only with peak horsepower numbers, Beemer fans will rejoice in knowing that the GT’s 124.2 ponies edges the FJR’s 123.8 hp. But that doesn’t even tell half the story. The 1298ccYamaha boasts an extra 141 cubes over the GT, and this gives the FJRs a significant torque advantage from the bottom through 8000 rpm. Its 86.9 lb-ft crest of torque handily overshadows the 78.2 lb-ft of the peakier BMW, and it does it 1300 revs sooner.
The Beemer just nipped the Yamaha on the dyno when it came to horsepower, peaking at 124.2 compared to the FJR’s 123.8.
“You can ride the FJRs as if they were powered by a big Twin,” says Duke. There’s power everywhere, so the fact that its tranny is short one gear from the GT’s six-speed isn’t much of a disadvantage.”
On the street, the difference in outright acceleration is smaller than the dyno charts indicate. The 1157cc BMW feels so smooth and accelerates so hard with a strong top-end hit that earned it praise from everyone who has ridden it.
“This motor rips, and the sound is something special compared to typically buttoned-up sport-touring bikes,” says Becklin.
The differing powerbands were evident during our performance testing. The FJR-A jumped to an early lead with its bountiful torque motoring it to 60 mph a tenth of a second ahead of the K12GT. By the time the bikes cruise through the quarter-mile, they’re running neck and neck. The Beemer’s10.77 at 133.5 mph is just a tick longer than the FJR’s 10.73 at 131.9 mph. If the throttles are held open even longer, the GT romps ahead of the standard-shift Yamaha, evidenced by its higher trap speed.
Any advantage the BMW gets from those 0.4 ponies is squashed by the FJR in the torque department, with the Yamaha’s extra 141cc producing a brawny torque curve.
And, if it matters to anyone, all three bikes easily blew through the 150-mph mark. Duke regrets to report that he chickened out before getting up to terminal velocity.
Just as the FJR-AE’s auto-clutch held it back in slow-speed maneuvers, it also proved to be a hindrance during acceleration testing. It’s not able to balance the clutch’s friction zone and engagement modulation like an experienced tester, so Duke Danger’s best pass on the AE was a lackluster 11.41 at 128.2 mph. Its 0-130-mph run was nearly 1.5 seconds slower than the standard-shift version. On the plus side, the consistency of the auto-clutch would make for a great bracket racer. Just make sure to mount a dummy lever to fool the tech inspectors!
On the street, the FJR AE is a blast to ride fast. No clutch work involved here. Just paddle your way through the gears with reckless abandon. Mistimed shifts don’t even seem to cause the bike to much grief. It really made the riding experience fun and broke the doldrums associated with carving your way through some of the sickest curvy roads in Oregon. Seriously, it adds an element of novelty that helped give the bike a purpose. It doesn’t need an automatic clutch, but it has one and it’s sweet.
Once we hit the big-city traffic in Portland, some of our test riders were able to handle the GT’s stiff clutch better than others.
The traffic of Portland signaled the end to our pleasant ride into town, and it brought out the worst in all three bikes. The FJR’s outside air temperature gauge was reading triple digits, and it had us all fretting about the inclement conditions. The heat emanating from the motor of the FJR does not pump onto the rider as bad as the previous version, but it still was hotter than the BMW. The Yamahas have a shorter seat height than the GT, so the stop-and-go traffic flow is handled with more ease than on the tall and top-heavy BMW.
“The GT’s stiff clutch pull and late response takes some getting used to, and my left forearm was getting pretty sore while in Portland traffic,” reports Haldane. “Another flaw that stood out in heavy stop-and-go traffic was the amount of driveline lash. Atop the rough driveline there was a touchy throttle, which only exacerbated the problem even more.”