Motorcycle.Com’s Best of 2009

[ad#MotoBanner]

The annual march of media bike choices continues, with Motorcycle.com weighing in with thir top picks of the year.  Their choices are interesting, and a bit different than I would have expected.

Triumph Street Triple R: Motorcycle.Com's Bike of the year for 2009.
Triumph Street Triple R: Motorcycle.Com's Bike of the year for 2009.

For the overall bike of the year, they picked the Triumph Street Triple R.

Best Sportbike honors go to the Kawasaki ZX-6R, with the runner-up being the Honda CBR1000RR.

The Ducati Monster 1100 gets the nod for best standard motorcycle, with second place going to the Harley-Davidson XR1200.

The best cruiser pick is the all new Triumph Thunderbird 1600, with the Suzuki Boulevard M90 taking an honorable mention.

The award for best touring bike goes to the BMW R1200RT, closely followed by the Honda Gold Wing.

BMW also take both first and second place spots for sport-touring, with the K1300GT winning, and the F800ST getting the honorable mention.

BMW stays in the winner’s circle for best off-road bike, with the top honors going to the F800GS, and the second spot going to the Aprilia SXV/RXV 5.5.

They also have picks for best eccentrics, scooters, technology, and more, so why not go there and read them?

2009 Sport Touring Shootout

[ad#MotoBanner]

Motorcycle.Com has just released this year’s comparo of the top sport touring motorcycles.  This year, they pit the BMW K1300GT, Yamaha FJR1300A, Kawasaki Concours14, and the venerable Honda ST1300 against each other.

They declare the top bike to be…

Objectively the BMW is the clear winner to us. It makes markedly more power than the others despite not having the biggest engine. Our experiences aboard all four left no question the big K bike is the quickest steering and provides excellent braking performance. It offers very good wind protection, great ergos, an adjustable seat and handlebars, possibly the best passenger perch and very good saddlebags, to name only a few high points.

I’ve never been aboard the St1300 or the C14, but after tiding a K13GT and owning an FJR, I’d pick the FJR any day.  I didn’t like the GT at all.

The RT, on the other hand, was a dream.


Interesting Bookmark

Have you ever wondered about how your bike’s street performance might stack up against another bike.  Well, the folks over at Motorcyclist Online are there to help you out.  They have the actual dyno results and performance numbers of every bike they’ve tested.

I was reminded of that again, because, after my test ride of the BMW’s, I really wanted to see how they stacked up to each other in street performance.  The results are interesting, because one of my concerns about buying an RT–assuming my insurance settlement is enough to cover it, of course–was whether I’d find the performance anemic compared to my FJR.

According to that actual tests that Motorcyclist has performed, the results are:

Bike HP (HP @ RPM) Torque (lb. – ft. @ rpm) 1/4 Mile (sec. @ mph) Top Gear Roll-On  (60-80 MPH)
BMW R1200RT
101.1 @ 7500 78.0 @ 6250 11.68 @ 118.8 4.30
BMW K1200GT
127.6 @ 8900 79.3 @ 8100 11.30 @123.7 3.80
HD V-Rod 109.3 @ 8250 74.3 @ 7000 11.31 @115.0 4.05
FJR1300AE 127.2 @7900 89.6 @ 6800 11.86 @ 118.8 4.02

Well, I must say this comes as a surprise.  First, it seems that the AE is slower off the start than the RT, with a 1/4 time that’s 2/10 second slower than the RT.  Where the RT loses out is in the grunt at rolling from 60-80 in 6th gear, as the FJR does it 3/10 second faster rolling on in fifth.  I suspect that a 5th gear roll-on would be closer on the RT.

Another surprise is how close the performance between the K1200GT is to the Harley V-Rod.  That’s about a dead heat.  I suspect the K1300GT has some performance increase though. But for a cruiser (sport-cruiser?) the V-Rod is pretty hot.

But, based on the numbers above, I don’t see that the performance difference between the RT and the FJR AE model, like I have, would be particularly noticeable.  And based on handling alone, I can already see that I can hustle the RT faster through the corners than I can the FJR.

Can you hear me talking myself into it?

I really want to know what that insurance settlement is gonna be, now.

Test Rides: BMW K1300GT and R1200RT (Updated)

I spent the afternoon test riding both the K1300GT and the R1200RT.  I rode the same route I take to work, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is 1/3 city streets, 1/3 highway, and 1/3 twisty country roads.

Here are my impressions.

Both bikes have far superior handling to the FJR.  It’s not a matter of “hey, this is pretty nice”.  It more a matter of “Holy SH!t!  So this is how a motorcycle is supposed to handle!”  The FJR is a nimble bike for its size, but the handling of the BMWs made the FJR seem like riding a…uh…thing that doesn’t handle as well.

Sorry, the simile well ran dry, there.

The RT handles far better than the GT.  The GT handles really nice, but on the RT, going through the twisties, it was like the bike knew where it was supposed to go without me doing anything.  It runs like its on rails.  It falls right into the precise line you want, just when you want it to.  The GT was as obedient to steering input as you could ask for, but unlike the RT, it didn’t seem to anticipate.  The RT handled like it was reading your mind, not just obeying your inputs.  I think I could ride the RT or the GT equally fast in the twisties, because the RT is a step better in handling.  I just wonder where in the RT BMW installs the demon that reads the road ahead of you and prepares the bike to turn.

The GT has a superbly smooth engine.  It responds instantly to throttle input with no hesitation.  Twist, zoom, “oh, look, we’re doing 110 miles per hour.”  The RT responds much slower, and the Boxer engine has far more vibration.  It also has tons of torque in every gear.  If you’re stopped at a light, leaning on one leg, and you blip the RT’s throttle, the bike stands up straight as the torque hits.  It’s really noticeable.  Still, with the RT, you can sneak up on 110MPH without really trying either.  Just not as fast as the GT or FJR.  The RT engine growls, the GT engine screams.

But I now understand what the RT guys are talking about when the speak of the “character” of the boxer twin.  It growls and vibrates at low RPM, and burbles happily at freeway speeds.  Kick it down to fifth on the highway, twist the throttle, and it passes smoothly.  Shift back up into 6th, and it’ll just cruise along at 90MPH without a complaint.

The GT has a really touchy throttle.  Touch it, and you’re at 6000 RPM instantly.  That’s a bit unnerving at first, and really makes you pay attention to clutch control.  The GT accelerates faster than than the FJR, but there’s something…boring about it in comparison.  It’s as if the GT is saying, “Yes, I can go from 0 to 100MPH in 5 seconds.  Big deal.  It’s what I do.”  There’s all this acceleration, and…it just doesn’t impress you like the FJR does.  I can’t really describe it, other than to say the GT was more boring than I thought it would be, speed notwithstanding.  That was the biggest surprise of the day.  The FJR is just a more fun bike than the GT.  I wouldn’t have thought that would be true, but there you go.

The GT sucks in the comfort department.  The narrow seat just jams itself up your crotch.  It’s every bit as comfortable as sitting on a split-rail fence.  Well, that’s probably not a totally fair comparison.  The GT doesn’t leave splinters.  But other than that, it’s the same.  The pegs are also too high for real comfort.  It’s not different enough from the RT to notice it just sitting in the showroom, but after 45 minutes on each, the seat and higher pegs begin to irk you noticeably.  The FJR is a far more comfortable bike to ride than the GT, but the RT edges out the FJR in comfort.  The RT is Cadillac comfortable.  With the GT, you sit perched on top of the bike, like a canary riding the shoulder of an insane pirate.  With the RT, you feel like you’re inside bike, luxuriously cosseted in a comfy, smooth saddle that gently massages your bum.

Other than sheer acceleration, the RT struck me as a superior motorcycle to the FJR in almost every other way.

Except the rear-view mirrors.  Great mirrors on the GT; in the perfect position.  The RT, on the other hand, has the mirrors set low, giving you a perfect view of the ends of the handlebars.  Perhaps the BMW engineers wanted to be sure you could check your gloves frequently, so you would notice if a bug hit your knuckle armor, causing an unsightly soil on the leather.  Or perhaps to check and see if a flying stone struck your bar ends, leaving behind a nasty scratch on the perfect black enamel.  Because other than that, the rear-view mirrors on the RT are essentially useless.

But, frankly, that’s a fairly minor quibble.

I went into the test rides today, firmly convinced that I wanted a K1300GT.  I rode the RT mainly as a favor to the sales guy who said I really owed it to myself to compare the two bikes.  I came back from the RT test ride with a huge grin on my face, utterly surprised to like everything about the bike.  I came back from the GT test ride thinking I’d rather have my FJR.  I am still a little bit amazed at how much I like the RT, and how underwhelming the GT actually was to ride.

UPDATE: I took another test ride of the R1200RT the following week, and added more detailed impressions of the RT here.