Showroom Showdown: Sport Touring Mayhem!

Say you want to cover some ground, and you want to do it fast. You want a motorcycle that handles well, has plenty of room in the cockpit, and can haul a respectable amount of luggage. What do you buy?

These days, more and more buyers are opting for adventure bikes to fill that role, but not that long ago, this was the domain of the sport tourer. Thanks to the wannabe Ewan-and-Charlie types, the sport tourer segment has now been in decline for a few years, with fewer proper options available now, but these are still some fine bikes that do their job well.

So if you had to make a choice between a KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, a Kawasaki Concours 14, a BMW R1200 RT or a Yamaha FJR1300, how would you pick? Let’s look at the numbers and see what’s what.

The Super Duke GT is the hot rod of the bunch here, with the most horsepower and torque.

Engine

Although these bikes fill the same role, they’re very different, and that’s immediately obvious when you look at the engines. The BMW has an 1170 cc liquid-cooled boxer twin, while the KTM has a liquid-cooled 1301 cc 75-degree V-twin. Both the Concours 14 and FJR are liquid-cooled inline fours, 1352 cc and 1298 cc respectively. All these engines have liquid-cooling, DOHC, and four-valve heads.

These engines are all evolutions of long-standing models, many of them originating with air-cooled engines decades ago. The Concours 14 can trace its roots to the GPZ900 of the mid-80s, the R1200 RT has its roots way back in the RT models of the 1970s and the FJR is a direct descendant of the 1984 FJ1100. The KTM is a relative newcomer, as it’s the first sport tourer based around the LC8 engine, but even that engine has been around in some form since the late ’90s.

Depending who you ask, the Super Duke GT makes around 170 hp, easily making it the most powerful bike here; the Concours 14, at 153 hp, is the next-closest, and that’s a huge difference in muscle. The FJR1300 is rated at 143 hp. The R1200 RT, despite having the latest-gen Beemer flat twin, only makes 123 hp.

The story on torque? The GT makes 106 lb-ft of torque, allegedly, with the FJR right behind at 102 lb-ft, and the Concourse is pretty close as well, at 100 lb-ft. The RT is rated for just over 92 lb-ft of torque.

All these bikes have a six-speed gearbox.

The GT is clearly the winner on horsepower, but when it comes to load-hauling torque, the spread isn’t quite so impressive, and even the Beemer would suffice for the sensible motorcyclist.

While the Concours is the heaviest bike here, it’s aimed at cross-continental touring duty, where a bit of extra weight isn’t as big a deal.

Weight

There’s a vast weight difference between these bikes, partly because they’re aimed at different buyers. The KTM is the lightest, at 228 kg wet; the Kawasaki is the heaviest, at 305 kg wet. The FJR is 288 kg wet, and the BMW is 274 kg wet.

Why the differences? The Concours 14 is a fully-faired road warrior, same as the FJR, and the R1200 RT packs a fair bit of bodywork too. The Super Duke GT is really a naked bike with a little extra bodywork and saddlebags. The Concours 14 is for riders headed two-up cross-country, and on the other end, the Super Duke GT is a machine you ride solo for weekend jaunts.

Also remember that any weight differences between any of these machines can change quickly once you start packing the saddlebags. It’s also possible some machines may be weighed with their luggage installed, others without.

The FJR1300 and Concours 14 both have adjustable seats, making it easier to get comfortable in the saddle.

Ergonomics

The FJR and RT both have adjustable seats, from 805 mm to 825 mm. The Concours 14 seat height is 815 mm. The Super Duke GT has a lofty 835 mm seat height, and can be a bit of a climb before you get used to it.

The R1200RT is more touring-oriented than the RS model from BMW’s line; they’re closely related, but the RS is more sporty.

Touring capability

When it comes to luggage capacity, it’s hard to get a straight answer from many OEMs; owner’s manuals typically have weight ratings for saddlebags (which owners promptly ignore, usually) instead of volume ratings. Having said that, a little Interwebz digging seems to indicate the Concours 14 and FJR panniers have about 35 litres of volume apiece, while the Super Duke GT and R1200 RT have about 30 litres of volume per pannier. That’s not enough capacity to make a difference for localish touring, but it would be significant on longer trips.

Topcases are available for all these bikes through the aftermarket and/or the manufacturer, but they might change your handling. You might find your bike has a warning sticker telling you to limit your top speed with the topbox installed.

Fuel capacity is highest on the FJR1300, at 25 litres, then 23 litres for the Super Duke GT, 22 litres for the Concours 14 and 25 litres for the R1200 RT.

Bodywork is also important on a touring bike, as the fairing and windscreen combine to keep windblast off the rider, reducing fatigue. The Concours 14, R1200 RT and FJR all have proper full-coverage fairings and electronically-adjustable windscreens. The Super Duke GT has a manual-adjustable windscreen, with less bodywork. That means it’s lighter, but if you’re riding in bad weather, you might end up a bit more cold or wet.

Passenger-seat capacity, while not something that can necessarily be measured empirically, definitely looks more spacious and comfortable on the Yamaha, BMW and Kawasaki models, while the KTM is more aimed at the solo rider.

The KTM also has  a chain drive, not shaft drive, so will require more maintenance, and lacks a centrestand.

Heated grips are standard on all these bikes.

While the base model of the FJR1300 has respectable fully-adjustable suspension, the ES model is even better, with semi-active electronic suspension. Of course, it comes at more cost.

Suspension

The KTM comes with semi-active electronic suspension as stock. The R1200 RT has optional semi-active electronic suspension adjustment. The Concours 14 has 43 mm inverted forks, with manual rebound and preload adjustability. The FJR1300 has manual fully-adjustable suspension front and rear. Drop more money on the FJR1300ES model, and you’ll also get semi-active electronic suspension front and rear.

The R1200 RT may be fairly basic in stock form, but you can add electronic suspension, leaning ABS and lots of other electronic trickery at extra cost.

Brakes/Safety/Electronics

In stock form, the Super Duke GT is the most technologically advanced, but the BMW is basically on par with it, if you spring for the options.

All these bikes have ABS, but only the KTM comes with leaning ABS as a stock feature. The Super Duke GT also includes wheelie control, cruise control and traction control.

The R1200 RT has ABS Pro (BMW-speak for leaning ABS) as an option, along with traction control, adaptive headlights, hill start assist, cruise control.

As for the Concours 14, it has traction control and ABS (as mentioned above), but that’s it.

The base model FJR1300 has cruise control and traction control. The ES model has active cornering lights. Neither the base model or ES model has leaning ABS available.

The Concours 14 is priced only $100 above the FJR. These two bikes are the least technologically advanced, and as a result, they’re priced quite a bit less than the Euro competition.

Pricing/Summary

The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is the most expensive machine here, at $22,499. The BMW R1200 RT is $21,750. The Yamaha FR1300 and Kawasaki Concours 14 are priced in direct competition with each other at $18,499 and $18,599 respectively.

There’s no question that the GT is a lot of dosh. However, to get the RT to the same level of electronic trickery, you’d spend the same, maybe more, and the current model will never have the horsepower of the GT. And even if you wanted leaning ABS on the Concours 14 or FJR1300, you can’t get it (not even on the FJR1300ES). They’re priced lower because they’re not as technologically advanced.

So which one to buy? If you’re loaded with cash and you want the best bike for shorter trips, the KTM is most likely the way to go, as it’s the most powerful, most technologically advanced, and has more than enough luggage capacity for weekend work.

Otherwise, maybe take a look at the final standings for the 2017 Iron Butt Rally. The IBR riders are truly the world’s toughest big-mileage masters, and you see they have a few specific machines they like: GS-series adventure bikes, Gold Wings, there’s the odd BMW street bike, and a lot of FJRs. It seems long-distance enthusiasts like BMW if they’re buying adventure bikes, Honda if they’re buying fully-dressed tourers, and Yamaha if they’re buying sport tourers. Does that make a difference in what you buy? It’s your money, and your call.

19 thoughts on “Showroom Showdown: Sport Touring Mayhem!”

  1. As someone who has had a 2012 C14 since new one thing I’d mention is that it is rock solid stable in strong, gusty crosswinds. While it is top heavy when loaded up and when the temp is cold it does go through fuel I love that stability. I have PR4 tires and with them the handling is pretty good for a 700 pound machine.

  2. The Sport Tourer is dead, long live the Sport Tourers!

    The Connie and FJR represent the old style sport tourer, long, heavy, and powerful for their day. Not sporty enough to compare to the sport bikes, and not comfi enough to compare with the big tourers. They haven’t evolved and are now almost dead in the new bike market. The sport touring category seems to have split.

    On the solo sport side of touring, we now have the Superduke GT, the Ninja 1000, the HRSX, the R1200RS, the Tracer 900, the Ducati Supersport and the VFR 800. Big on power and handling, relatively lighter weight, but rated for only 1 or 2 bags at a time (but not 3) and not comfortable enough to carry a passenger for any reasonable distance.

    For 3 bag and passenger capacity, sporty performance and comfort, but still lighter than the big tourers, the market has shifted to the tall sport tourer or street orientated adventure style. Multistrada 1260, S1000XR, 1290 Super Aventure S, Versys 1000 and maybe the VFR1200X.

    Depending what you’re looking for, each of these bikes will out perform the Connie and FJR. If you wanted to do a comparison, it makes more sense comparing the contenders in each of these sub-categories. And as for the R1200RT, personally after touring a week in Spain on one, I think it should be considered as the lightest and most nimble entry in the big touring bike category.

  3. The 08 and 09 C14’s had optional ABS. After 2010, ABS and traction control is standard. The C14 is A LOT of motorcycle for the money.

  4. I own a superduke GT it’s more of a sport than touring motorcycle One of the things you didn’t cover is having a passenger it’s really not designed for two up. The group I ride with does a lot of miles one day of the week Sundays. The GT is fine for that however if you were to ride long days on the highway for weeks at a time I would take a real Touring bike over the GT. But for daily rides and twisty roads the other bikes don’t compare. It’s my most favorite bike I’ve ever purchased light agile and extremely quick and comfortable enough for a day or two. Exactly how I ride. If I was rich I would also have an FJR or BMW in my stable as well.

  5. I recently sold a 2008 Connie 14 for my cousin. I live in Calgary, the bike was immaculate, had 35k km, and just had a full service including new tires. I could barely give it away for $4,500. I don’t think they can sell the new ones at all, kind of like trying to sell my 2014 Kawi Ninja 300. With the new 400, even the dealers cant give the 300’s away. The Connie has not changed, why buy new? The Ninja has changed, why buy old? Simple.
    Cam

    1. That’s a good price.

      Everyone wants adventure bikes now. Hard to find places in Canada suitable for sport tourers to start with. And ADV bikes on the older end of tech? They’re dinosaurs, to most people. No leaning ABS and no traction control is a hard sell.

      1. “No leaning ABS and no traction control is a hard sell.” Doesn’t look like it to me. I see lots of Versy’s, V-Stroms, previous generation GS’s and Adventures.

          1. Ok Zac, go west young man. There are lots of places in southern BC and Washington state that are amazing. 2 lane twisty roads through often very remote areas. In BC stay away from the lower mainland, the Okanagan and the main roads. There are magic roads, you can ride 50 km and not see another vehicle, especially when the road ends at a ferry. When possible the ferries load motorbikes in 1 lane and let them all off first, now that is fun (as soon as one passes the gaggle of slow moving V twin cruisers). Vehicle traffic is intermittent, it is remote. Bring your SPOT. Oh and the Kawi is a gas pig, at advanced speeds, 9-10 l/100 km. Stopping every 200 km for gas, same exact riding on my Beemer, 400 km. Not a huge deal, but gas is more expensive. Of course the Beemer gets you with more expensive service. Cam

            1. Yep, I would love to take my DR650 or the RF900R out there, but ya know, I have kids, this website doesn’t upload stories all on its own, someone has to go ride those Ducatis in Italy …

            2. C14…..200km range…..might want to ge something checked. I get 300+ easy before reserve. Also the C14 has two ecu maps available. One is an eco mode that dials the power back about 10% and increases range similarly. My consumption is around 6.0/100km +/- depending on wind using eco mode.

  6. The SDGT doesn’t really seem to belong in this comparo. To me it’s really more comparable to something like a Ninja 1000 with optional saddlebags, or Tracer 900 (albeit with a lot more power). It’s a sports/naked bike with hard bags and a slightly enlarged windshield. It’s almost in a category of its own, given its price.

    1. Well it is certainly a different take on the sport touring form. I have put long hours on board the GT and highly enjoyed it, but would probably pick a Connie or FJR to ride across the country. But it’s worthwhile pointing out there are different options available. Not everyone has six weeks to go to Alaska, but they do want to ride the wheels off over the weekends.

    1. Yep, thanks for pointing it out. I will say that if you have a high quality chain, it isn’t as bad as some people think; the 532 chain on my RF900 hasn’t really stretched since installation last year (and I personally never use centrestands, but I know lots of people like them for chain maintenance–I just don’t have them on my duallies)

  7. I’m kind of curious why you threw in fuel capacity, luggage capacity along with the pic and blurb about the adjustable windshield for the R1200RS…

    Also the hp and torque figures are interesting but it would be far more useful if you had included where in the rev range the numbers are made. I assume the numbers that you’ve posted are at the crank and not the rear wheel.

    1. Manufacturers invariably measure engine output at crank. The RS is a typo, and I forgot to take the photo out. Obviously, it’s pretty similar to the RT, but doesn’t come with stock bags.

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