Wanderlust instills riders with an urge to roam. There’s nothing like riding through virgin territory and the delight of discovering a new favorite stretch. Thanks to the sport-touring genre riders can get to those unexplored routes in comfort, but still enjoy shredding some pavement upon arrival.
Purpose-built touring platforms, sport-tourers feature engine and handling befitting a bike with sport in its nomenclature. It’s a delicate balance, as the demands of sport performance often require a compromise with touring comfort. Yet the ST class is rife with rigs that can still bring thrills, along with practicality.
NEW SPORT-TOURING CONTENDERS
Our Sport-Touring tests tend to be big and comprehensive, but are bound by the availability of test units, which limited our options this year. BMW refused to lend out its 2009 comparison-winning K1300GT, with the Bavarian marque having already announced its replacement in the new Inline-Six-powered K1600GT. Likewise, Yamaha wasn’t keen making its FJR1300 available – with an update seemingly forthcoming for one of our all-time favorite ST rides. Yet even with two of the heavy hitters nixed for 2010’s shootout, we still had three new or upgraded bikes to work with.
First up is Triumph’s touring platform, the Sprint GT. The British manufacturer returns its Sprint as a 2011 model, but with a tweaked engine, revised bodywork and updated chassis. The changes aim to enhance the Triple-powered Trumpet’s touring abilities, with this comparison our first encounter with the GT.
Back for its third go-round in a Motorcycle USA Sport-Touring comparison is the Kawasaki Concours 14. The Connie has been a strong contender ever since its 2008 debut, resurrecting the Concours name with an Inline Four derived from the ZX-14 and a chassis more capable than its bulky looks and spec sheet weight might imply. For the 2010 model year, Kawasaki further refined its C14 with significant upgrades, including production traction control, as well as touring upgrades like standard heated grips.
The 2010 Honda VFR1200F represents our final comparison entry. It could be argued that the new VFR isn’t a true sport-touring ride, yet the new VFR has been promoted as a touring capable mount ever since its debut. Our 2010 test bike came adorned with optional saddlebags, centerstand and heated grips. Desiring some new blood in the touring class, we couldn’t refuse sampling a touring-kitted VFR sampling to see where it rated in an official shootout.
SPORT-TOURING TESTING CONDITIONS
Along with the usual commuting runs, our Sport-Touring tests include, surprise, surprise, a long-distance tour. In 2008 we navigated the entire breadth of the Pacific Coast Highway from southern California to our Oregon HQ. Last year we went back to the coast again, this time tracing up the Oregon shoreline routes. So it made sense to hit the coast again, this year completing our Pacific Coast reconnoiter by tracing up and down Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Logging more than 1200 miles in three days, we sampled freeway, highway and backroad terrain, not to mention some city congestion as well. Not surprisingly in the Northwest, one day was filled with rain (we rode through areas that average 12 feet of annual rainfall – that’s feet, not inches), which allowed us to evaluate rider comfort in the harshest terms.
On the road again… For our 2010 Sport-Touring shootout we took the three test bikes for a 1200-mile jaunt up to the Olympic Peninsula and back.
As standard operating procedure, dyno runs gathered peak horsepower and torque numbers. Curb weights (fully-fueled and including saddlebags) were recorded on MCUSA’s Intercomp scales. Observed fuel consumption during our journeys netted each bike’s average miles-per-gallon efficiency, which also determined the real-world range for each mount. All the hard data filed and ranked, we also rated the bikes on the judgments of our test riders.
SPORT-TOURING TEST RIDERS
Author of the past two comparisons, my opinion returned for testing duties, as did two of last year’s guest test riders, MCUSA photog extraordinaire Tom Lavine and his riding buddy Don Livingood. As for the credentials of our guest test riders, both are retired cops and avid motorcyclists. And both hitch their legs up over the saddle with a grimace or two, but with zero complaints. Which is to say, Tom and Donald are the sport-touring demographic personified: gentlemen of a certain age with disposable income and a healthy taste for adventure and road-going performance. The two also make for terrific company and brutally honest evaluation, with TV-MA language as salty as the surf crashing on the Washington shoreline.
Enough with the back story, let’s dig into the evaluations, hot off the electronic press.