1200 Sport Tourer Comparo – Part 1


Part of the CMG Fall(ish) Tour was to do a group test of three of the latest Sport Tourer. In part 1 we take a look at the technical qualities of the three bikes and wrap it up with the (not really) famous CMG comparator.


Words: A little bit from all. Pics: Supplied by the OEMs unless otherwise specified (title by Larry Tate).


If you read our write-up on the CMG Fall (ish) Tour last week then you will be aware that three of the four bikes that we took with us were 1200 cc sport touring machines. This was no fluke as we thought it might be both big AND clever to double up the Fall Tour with a comparo test of three of the latest touring machines available out there.

The common threads between them are that they’re either all-new for 2010 or had a major revamp and are all designated 1200s. In the first part (of two) of the 1200 comparo, we’ll take a look at what each bike has to offer out of the box and then wrap it up with a comparo chart so that you can see at a glance how they differ.

In part two (next week) we’ll go over what the test riders thought of each bike and rank them in order of preference on certain attributes. Jolly good then, let’s get to it ….

1) BMW R1200RT


The R1200RT has been around in 1200 form since 2005, but for 2010 it gets the HP Sport motor and a few tweaks.

The RT has been BMW’s star tourer since the age of the dinosaurs and for 2010 it comes with the 1,170 cc, double overhead cam, HP2 Sport-based boxer motor (a horizontally opposed twin, just in case you’re BMW ignorant).


There’s a lot of rider protection there.

This new motor offers a boost to max torque from 85 to 88 lb-ft (with a smoother curve to boot, though it still looks a bit like a profile of the Alps), and still at the same 6,000 rpm. The DOHC arrangement allows for slightly higher revs, bumping up from 8,000 rpm to 8,500 rpm, though oddly this results in no claimed gain in max hp (still at 110).

The new $20,200 R1200RT also comes with partially integrated ABS, new fairing and turn signal switches (all in one switch now at last) and rubber-mounted bars to prevent any unwanted vibes from getting to the rider.


Classic BMW.

On the luggage front, there are two colour-matched and detachable 32-litre saddlebags with the option of either a 28- or a 49-litre top box that fits right onto the rear rack.

As you’d expect from BMW there is a dizzying array of options. BMW have got into the habit of combining various options into "packages," the most useful one (and the one that our tester came with) being the $1,800 Equipment Package 2, which — amongst other things — comes with the Electronic Suspension Adjustment II (ESA II).

This controls damping and spring rates and allows the rider to choose from three pre-set options; solo, solo with luggage, rider with passenger and luggage (changeable only when stopped), which sets the spring rates, and a further three options of Comfort, Normal or Sport mode which sets the damping rates (changeable while riding). All these options are available via a button on the handlebar. 


The fairing makes the bike look unwieldy …

Other notable options include an audio system (the CD part has been ditched in favour of a new option to plug in your MP3 player or USB stick), which is controlled by a ring on the left handlebar, a heated seat (including the passenger’s) and cruise control (the latter two being part of the Equipment Package II option).

On the ergonomic front, there’s a new fairing which BMW say “looks even lighter and more dynamic than its predecessor.” This may be the case, but the fairing is huge and although most of it contains just air, it makes the machine look rather chunky and unwieldy.

It also gives a massive shield, which keeps the rider protected from all the elements and can be electrically adjusted to suit via a switch on the bars. And this is what the RT is famous for – keeping the rider in comfort heaven.

With the electrically adjustable screen, heated grips, rubber mounted bars and a well padded, height-adjustable seat as standard, the RT is going to be the bike to beat when it comes to sheer touring luxury… though it might be a bit of a handful to get through all those wonderful Pennsylvania twisties!

2) Ducati Multistrada 1200S Touring


It may not be the prettiest Ducati, but it’s the most advanced and versitile.

All new for 2010 and getting grand praise from most everyone who has ridden it, the Multstrada 1200 is powered by a new, liquid-cooled, 1,198 cc 90-degree V-twin engine (lifted from the 1198 Superbike) that claims 150 horsepower.


Cables to the top of the fork give away the electronic suspension control.

What makes the Multistrada unique is its combination of traction control, suspension adjustment and engine power that combine to give four different riding modes (Sport, Tour, Urban and Enduro) with the ability to tailor them for the amount of weight that the bike has to carry or to match your riding style.

Sport gives you the full 150 horsepower from the 1198 Superbike V-twin, with aggressive throttle action, firm suspenders and minimal traction control. Touring has the same maximum power but the delivery is smoothed out, you get slightly softer suspension and more traction control. Urban and Enduro modes make do with only 100 horsepower and progressively softer suspension. Power modes can, however, be tailored to a rider’s personal preference — you want 150 hp in Enduro mode, you got it. 


It’s the same motor as the superbike.

All this is available through the turn signal button and can be done on the fly, although you must chop the throttle to activate the changes. The rider can further adjust the suspension to four settings in each mode and if that’s not enough, preload, rebound and compression can all be fine-tuned to rider preference with the push of a button.

If, after playing around with the settings, you completely, totally mess it up, there’s a default setting that reverts to factory calibration.

Riding around town? Select Urban and Mr. Ohlins offers 170 mm of supple honey to insulate your tender posterior from bumps, potholes and divots, while backing off preload to provide an easier reach to the ground. Strafing a twisty Pennsylvania backroad with pavement smooth as a baby’s bottom? Dialing up Sport turns the Duck into a comfortable, full-blown superbike.


Who needs looks when you’re light and powerful?

The $20,995 1200S Touring version (which is the one we got for our test) comes with all the electronic controls plus hard bags, ABS, heated grips and a centrestand. You can go for a Sport version that costs the same but loses all the useful touring bits in favour of some carbon-fibre bling, or dump it all and go bare bones for $17,495.

The bags are keyed to the bike’s ignition switch and are designed to be easy-on/easy-off. However, they are a bit on the smallish side (offering a total of 57 litres) with the right bag’s capacity greatly reduced to clear the exhaust. A 48-litre topbox is an option and there’s also a secure, three-litre bin under the passenger seat.

All the Multistrada variants have a windscreen that is adjustable over a 60 mm range, keyless operation (a key fob in the pocket activates the ignition when within two metres of the bike) as well as a 20-litre fuel tank.

3) Honda VFR1200FD


Honda have produced a visually striking motorcycle (save for the optional topbox …).

The VFR1200FD ($19,999) dual-clutch automatic is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (apologies to Winston Churchill). 


The VFR motor puts the two rear cylinders together to keep a slender waist for the rider. Sadly, the same cannot be said of any of the riders.

Is it a competitor to the Hayabusa in the high-performance league? A challenge to the likes of BMW’s K1300GT in the sport-touring category? Another example of Honda showing off its technical expertise, as with the Rune or the DN-01? Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above — or something else entirely?

We’ve covered the details before, but to summarize: the bike uses a 1,237 cc V-four engine, cylinders at 76 degrees with the rear two put more closely together to make sitting on the bike easier (thanks to its thinner waist).

Offset crankpins control vibration without the need of a counterbalancer, though Honda says they deliberately left some vibes in "for character."  Honda’s Unicam system operates the four valves per cylinder while lowering engine height compared to a normal twin-cam system, and the result is a torque monster that also pumps out 170 hp.


Automatic box gives Sport (S) and Drive (D) options.

The most unusual feature of the VFR DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) model that we had for this test is the automatic transmission. It has two auto modes and one semi-auto, the latter activated by paddles on the left bar. A switch on the right control pod toggles between the two auto drive modes (standard and sport) and neutral, while another switch on the back of the pod takes you from auto to manual mode.

Also, using the left-side paddle switches at any time will kick you into manual mode, while toggling the mode switch on the right side will get you back into auto. It sounds complex, but actually we all adjusted to it fairly quickly.

You can also buy the bike with a conventional six-speed, which will cost you $1,700 less and give you a weight saving of 10 kg.


Shaft drive doesn’t save weight but it does save on maintenance.

The usual magic electronics and fuel injection provide spark and power, with different (i.e., softer) power maps for the three lower gears. The electronic and hydraulic systems also include Honda’s "combined braking system" with ABS.

Shaft drive is used via a single-sided swingarm. Otherwise, the massive chassis is a more-or-less conventional double beam construction. The suspension has adjustments at both ends for preload and rebound damping, though Honda does not offer any kind of on-the-fly electronic adjustment like the BMW and Ducati.

If you want to take the VFR touring, then colour-matched saddlebags and a top trunk are available; ditto for heated grips, a centrestand, and an adjustable windscreen deflector, but all for a price. The bags could be larger, each bag offering 29-litres of storage, but obviously styling constraints had a lot to do with their final shape. In fact, most of us thought the bike looks better with them on.


None of us are quite sure exactly what the VFR is supposed to be. Sport bike or Sport Tourer or both? In our test we’re treating it as the latter, despite the riding position.
photo: Larry Tate

The seating position is quite sports-bike-like; the bars are low and a bit of a stretch even for the six-footers in our group, while the pegs are on the high side. Though this means that there are no cornering clearance issues, it does make for a rather scrunched up riding position and one that may wear thin as the day progresses.

To read what we thought about how the bikes performed in part 2, click here.


Here’s a handy spec sheet of all the bikes with comments to help you decipher the babble. We’ve also added costing for options that we think the bikes need to be able to be proper touring machines, as well as the cost of each option.

At the end we tally all that up and add it to the MSRP et voila, the true cost of each bike if you wanted it in full touring trim. No need to thank us.

Multistrada S


MSRP (price as tested)

$20,200 ($24,165) $20,995 ($20,995) $19,999 ($21,368) It’s all very close, but note that the BMW came with the audio system, Equipment Package 2, Safety Package and an alarm, which we do not include in the price of the basic touring options (see below).


1,170 cc 1,198 cc 1,273 cc The VFR is more of a 1300 than a 1200, but we’ll let that slide. For now.

Engine type

Horizontally opposed twin, air cooled 90° V-twin, liquid-cooled 76° V-four, liquid-cooled Different layouts, but all have their merits.


Electronic Fuel Injection Electronic Fuel Injection Electronic Fuel Injection Ducati and Honda use fly-by-wire throttle technology too.

Final drive

Six speed, shaft Six speed, chain Six speed auto, shaft Shaft is the best option for a tourer, but the Multistrada claims some off-road usage as well where a chain really helps to keep weight down.

Tires, front

120/70ZR17 120/70ZR17 120/70ZR17 BMW uses Metzeler Roadtecs, Ducati uses Pirelli Scorpions and the Honda rolls on Dunlop Sportmax tires. 

Tires, rear

180/55ZR17 180/55ZR17 190/55ZR17

Brakes, front

Twin 320 mm discs with four piston calipers Twin 320 mm discs with four piston radial calipers Twin 320 mm discs with six-piston radial calipers Six piston radial calipers on the VFR??? That’s just showing off.
BMW and Honda use linked braking systems and both have ABS as standard. Ducati uses a conventional, non-linked braking system, though ABS is standard on the 1200S model, it’s optional on the standard model.

Brakes, rear

265 mm disc with two piston caliper 245 mm disc with two piston caliper 276 mm disc with two-piston caliper


Telelever fork, adjustable for preload and rebound damping; Single rear shock adjustable for rebound damping and preload  48 mm inverted fork, adjustable for compression and rebound damping; single rear shock adjustable for compression and rebound damping, and preload 43 mm inverted fork adjustable for rebound damping and preload; single rear shock adjustable for rebound damping and preload

The BMW and Ducati have electronic suspension adjustment (though on the RT it’s part of the optional $1,800 Equipment Package II) and is a very convenient feature that adjusts suspension settings with the push of a button.
Ducati’s system has the edge on BMW’s ESA because you can custom tailor the damping and preload settings individually, whereas the BMW’s settings are factory set. Both systems work remarkably well.
The Honda’s suspension requires old-school manual adjustments. Despite lacking high-tech adjustability, the Honda’s suspension also worked very well, with excellent compliance and a refined feel, but more on that in part two.

Seat height

820-840 mm (32.3-33.1 in.) 850 mm   (33.5 in.) 815 mm   (32.1 in.) The BMW’s seat is height-adjustable in two positions, the Duck has the highest seat, the Honda the lowest which doesn’t help cramping.


1,485 mm  (58.5 in.) 1,530 mm (60.2 in.) 1,545 mm (60.8 in.) The VFR has the longest wheelbase, and you feel it when riding; it’s planted, though it takes off some of the sporty edge too.

Wet weight

259 kg
(571 lb)

220 kg      (485 lb)

278 kg
(613 lb)
Fifty-eight kilos separate the Ducati from the Honda!


Three years, unlimited mileage Two years, unlimited mileage One year, unlimited mileage Honda needs some catching up to do if it’s to match the others in warranty coverage. The firm’s Goldwing and ST1300 each have three-year coverage so why not the VFR?


Thunder Grey Metallic, Polar Metallic, Ostray Grey Metallic, Thunder Grey Metallic/Titan Silver Metallic/Granite Grey Metallic (Colour Surcharge: $650) Black, White or Red Candy red Lots of colour choices from the Germans, even if a couple come at a premium. Three choices from Italy, but we think all Italian bikes should be red. And red is what you’ll get from Japan, and what a glorious finish, exceptional even by automotive standards.


Multistrada S


Max power (crank – claimed)

110 hp @ 7,750 rpm 150 hp @ 9,250 rpm 170 hp @ 10,000 rpm It’s clear which bike is the powerhouse here, but the Ducati’s light weight made it feel like the superbike from which its engine is based. And don’t let the BMW’s lowest output put you off — it’ll still lift the front wheel on gas in first and second gears!

Max torque

88 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm 88 lb-ft @ 7,500 rpm 95 lb-ft @ 8,750 rpm

Fuel economy, measured (imperial)

5.0L/100 km (57 mpg) 5.7L/100km (49 mpg) 5.6L/100 km (50 mpg)

None of the bikes guzzled fuel, mostly because we kept speeds within reason during our tour — well, most of us did anyway (sorry – ‘Arris).
The BMW consistently returned the best economy, and since it had the largest gas tank, it also had the longest range by a wide margin. The Honda began warning of low fuel at around the 220 km mark, which is a bit early as by our calculations it still had over a 100 kms to go.

Tank capacity

25 litres 20 litres 18.5 litres

Resulting fuel range

543 km 351 km 328 km

Basic touring options (to level pricing)

Multistrada S

Electrically adjustable windscreen

Included Manual only No adjustment Push a button to raise and lower the screen on the BMW; turn a couple of knobs to do the same on the Ducati; live with the Honda’s screen as is or you can add a windshield deflector for $320.


Included Included Included Standard ABS all around — good stuff.


Included Included $1,369 Free bags on the R1200RT and Multistrada, and if you factor them in to the manual-shift VFR you’re not far off in price — see below.

Top box

$936 $729 $993 All of these optional boxes cost too much. But then, us cheapo CMGers would be just as happy building one out of plywood and painting it with a roller.

Rear Rack

Included $267 $478 Come on Honda, factor in the price of the rear rack and the top box costs $1,471. Ouch! Plywood it is.


Included Included $323 Damn you, Honda…

Heated grips

Included Included $319 Also note that the Ducati‘s power socket is standard, the BMW’s is part of its optional equipment packages and the Honda’s can be added for $142.

Total of options

$936 $996 $3,482 Extra, extra! Adding touring goodies ups the price on the contract, so choose carefully.

(with options)

$21,136 $21,991 $23,481*

This really levels the MSRP playing field, especially if you take into account that the manual VFR is $1,700 less, then they’re all within $850 in touring trim.

* If we evaluate the VFR using the manual-shift version’s MSRP it would be $21,781, with all the touring options.

Options (additional)

Multistrada S

Audio System

$1,300 n/a n/a It’s a good thing the sound system is optional on the BMW, no one in our test group used it.

Cruise Control

$400 n/a n/a

Costa should have been using the cruise on the BMW when he was traversing the Adirondacks. A certain New York State trooper would concur.


$265 $400 (approx.) n/a Additional security is always good but nothing beats a good quality lock.

Low Seat

No-cost option n/a n/a On the RT you get a lower range from 780 – 800 mm (ideal for midgets and hobbits).

Lowering kit

$200 n/a n/a Reduces seat height even further to 750 mm (RT).

Safety Package

$600 n/a n/a BMW’s Safety Package includes a tire pressure sensor and automatic stability control (whatever that is).

Equipment Package 1

$300 n/a n/a The Equipment Package 1 gets you the on-board computer and a power socket.

Equipment Package 2

$1,800 n/a n/a BMW’s Equipment Package 2 gets you a chromed exhaust (big wow), ESA II (actual big wow), seat heating, cruise control, on-board computer, and power socket.

Roadside Assistance

Included for three years, unlimited mileage Included for two years, unlimited mileage $576-$1,251 for plans ranging from four to seven years All three manufactures have roadside assistance plans; BMW’s and Ducati’s are included in the purchase price. But then if you’re a CAA member you won’t need the extra coverage anyway.



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  2. Nice choice of bikes for a test, every bike mag seems to think consumers shop nearly identical bikes but with different badges on ’em. Atleast you guys are thinking like me.

    I’d take the RT (though I haven’t riden the others) – that fairing is amazing and few are more comfy, and it can still rip.

  3. We usually added just over 12 litres per flll up after the light came on, at around 220 km, meaning there were about 6 litres left in the tank, good for about another 100 km or so.

  4. David, it’s an estimation, but we believe an accurate one. We always filled the thing soon after it started flashing at us. But the total mileage divided by the litres used, x the 18.5 L capacity, give us that 328 km number. That’s over about 2,000 km in total, and the numbers agreed with Costa’s earlier trip to the East Coast on the same bike.

  5. “The Honda began warning of low fuel at around the 220 km mark, which is a bit early as by our calculations it still had over a 100 kms to go.” So what were the actual kms per tank you got from the Honda? Did you get 328 per fill up or is that an estimation of what you should get?

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