Top 10s

The Top 10 BEST Big Sports Tourers of 2020

The humble Sports Tourer is popular again. If you're after something powerful and versatile, which are the Top 10 BEST Big Sports Tourers of 2020 right now?

There was a time when ‘Sports Tourers’ – motorcycles that have enough sporting performance to entertain yet are also sufficiently comfortable and practical to transport two people and their luggage around for two weeks – were seriously out of fashion. Not anymore. 

Ten years ago motorcycles like Honda’s VFR1200 and Triumph’s Sprint GT remained unsold as potential buyers instead jumped on the adventure bike bandwagon.

Now, however, Sports Tourers are back – and they’re more exciting, more versatile and more customisable than ever. At the performance extreme there’s bikes like KTM’s brilliant 175bhp 1290 Super Duke GT which will run rings round most adventure bikes while simultaneously supplying ample comfort for two. 

Or at the other, there are brilliantly affordable all-rounders such as Yamaha’s sub-£10K Tracer 900 that delivers everything most people actually need but at a bargain price – with all sorts of variations in between. 

But what’s currently out there in the bigger, 900cc+ Sports Tourer class… and which is the best? 

Here are the Top 10 BEST Big Sports Tourers of 2020...

10. Yamaha Niken GT (from £15,147)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yamaha’s bold, wacky yet dynamically brilliant ‘leaning three-wheeler’ has to be admired as a technological tour de force and undeniably delivers extra front end grip and reassurance, but is also an oddball with limited appeal. 

With 113bhp combined with its 260kg heft, the Yamaha Niken GT isn’t so sprightly, but after being upgraded into ‘GT’ grand tourer form with a taller screen, heated grips, main stand and 25-litre soft panniers as standard, it does also make a unique and able Sports Tourer satisfies the ‘part car, part motorcycle’ question few have ever asked.

It’s also undeniable that the Niken GT ticks a lot of sports-tourer boxes, offers an experience nothing else can match and will always draw a crowd. For £15K, however, there are plenty of conventional Sports Tourers that will save you money… not to mention a fair few cars too.

9. Suzuki GSX-S1000F (from £10,699)

Suzuki’s answer to Kawasaki’s hugely successful and popular Z1000SX was, by arriving in a full five years after its rivai, something of a latecomer, while its older mechanicals and ‘white goods’ approach (not exciting, budget spec, good value) means the Suzuki GSX-S1000F is often overlooked in this category. However, it’s worth a second glance... 

First, starting at just £10,699, it’s impressive value for what is, at the end of the day, a 150bhp four-pot 1000cc. Secondly, though old, the Suzuki’s retuned 2005-2008 GSX-R1000 motor is a real-world gem, delivering responsive, grunty, slick performance that marries brilliantly with its precise, engaging chassis. 

Thirdly, like the SX, it’s comfortable, practical and in most ways, is all the Japanese sportsbike anyone really needs – on the road at least. 

Perhaps most surprising of all, with adjustable suspension, full LCD dash, traction control and more, the GSX-S actually isn’t as basic as you might expect. Yes, some find it’s styling unconventional and it’s not as classy as its Kawasaki contemporary, but it is seriously capable at an even more affordable price.

8. Yamaha FJR1300A (from £14,947)

Yamaha’s big, purpose-built, shaft-drive sports tourer may now be more than a little long in the tooth with roots that can be traced right back to 2001, the Yamaha FJR1300A may be nearing retirement, but its age is also a testament to its enduring all-round brilliance

The grunty, smooth, 143bhp four is bulletproof by experience with a maintainence-free shaft drive adding to the appeal. Its big, hefty chassis is secure yet sporty enough to entertain and with a broad seat, decent ergonomics and electric screen it’s all day comfortable, too. 

On the downside, it’s rather ‘old-fashioned’ nor sexy, while it is no lightweight scratcher and isn’t endowed with the latest of anything. 

However, if you want a good, solid, decent value, heavyweight sports-tourer that’ll simply get on with the job, the big Yamaha still delivers. Buy this year’s final AE ‘Ultimate Edition’ in special black livery for £17,647 while you still can.

7. BMW S1000XR (from £14,285)

We intended to deliberately steer away from ‘adventure style’ sports tourers such as Kawasaki’s Versys or Triumph Tiger Sport here as we wanted to concentrate on pure sports-tourers. 

However, though BMW itself includes the XR in its adventure bike range, in truth, it’s anything but. First introduced in 2015 based on the 160bhp S1000R super naked, the XR was updated for 2020 gaining BMW’s slick colour TFT dash, a styling tweak and shedding 20kg. 

As such, the XR has all the performance of the R but with upright, ‘tall-roader’ comfort, weather protection and touring ability yet also all the BMW luxuries and comforts, such as ESA, heated grips, loads of luggage options etc, the German marque has built its reputation on. Yet, with 17in wheels and sports brakes and suspension it’s anything but a baggy off-roader. 

With a £14K starting price, the 2020 BMW S1000XR isn’t such good value, not least because it makes you think you could stretch for a R 1250 GS, or save some cash and plump for the capable F900 XR instead.

6. Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX (from £15,899)

When you think of Sports Tourers it’s only natural to consider sensible attributes such as comfort and practicality, it’s their very nature, after all. But a feature that probably won’t immediately spring to mind is Supercharger, which is where the bonkers (but still brilliant and versatile) Ninja H2 SX comes in. 

Launched in 2018 as a follow-up to Kawasaki’s original supercharged H2 and H2R, the detuned but still whistling and rapid 197bhp H2 SX is effectively a lovechild of the bonkers H2 and Kawasaki’s sensible, affordable, naturally-aspirated Z1000 SX. 

And surprisingly, it works well! It has much of the all-round brilliance, comfort and versatility of the SX but with an added, blisteringly fast, chirping supercharger soundtrack when the mood takes you plus the added bonus of H2 styling and quality touches. There’s even an SE version (with uprated colour TFT screen in place of the LCD dash plus cornering LEDS, quickshifter and more), but that adds another £4k onto the cost

If you want to make an entrance with a Sports Tourer of all motorcycles, then this is definitely the choice for you!

5. Yamaha Tracer 900 GT (from £11,197)

A true bike for all seasons, the Yamaha Tracer 900 GT is the more upright and roomy, half-faired, all-rounder version of Yamaha’s already brilliant MT-09 three-cylinder roadster – and more besides. 

First introduced in 2015, the original MT-09 Tracer proved an instant, Europe-wide hit for its blend of fun, practicality and value. It was updated in 2018 with refreshed styling including a welcome larger screen and slightly revised, longer chassis with a more comfortable seat. 

The GT version, complete with nice colour TFT dash, improved adjustable suspension, heated grips, cruise control, quickshifter and colour-matched panniers was launched at the same time and turned this already able, lively all-rounder into a bike wanting for absolutely nothing.

While the GT is a decent chunk of money more expensive than the entry-level Tracer 900, if you want a big, meaty bike capable of taking two and luggage away in comfort for a fortnight, you’ll be thankful you plumped for the Tracer 900 GT in the long run.

4. BMW F900XR (from £9825)

Another brilliant newcomer for 2020 and another reason why Sports Tourers are most definitely back. In simple terms, the F900XR is a junior version of the S1000XR (see above) but based on the twin-cylinder F800 (in this case enlarged to 895cc) platform rather than the four-cylinder S1000R super naked.

By boosting its performance to 105bhp yet retaining plenty of flexible, twin cylinder character, the F900XR has a personality all its own. Its handling is also light and agile while remaining stable and composed and with neat touches including a one-hand adjustable screen and great comfort it makes a truly versatile all-rounder. 

What really lifts the new XR above equally able rivals, such as Yamaha’s Tracer and Triumph road-biased Tiger 900s, is the versatility to adapt it into the bike you need and want, whether you prefer to eschew frills, or laden up to the rafters with all the luxuries you could possibly need.

3. BMW R 1250 RS (from £12,415)

A BMW boxer sports tourer called the RS? What is this, 1976? Well, no, actually, although the latest version of the German firm’s revived RS sports tourer shares the name of the classic ‘70s poster bike, everything else is bang up to date – and as a Sports Tourer it all gels and works better than ever.

The BMW R 1250 RS was first revived in 1200cc form in 2015 as a half-faired R1200R roadster and while that may not sound very exciting it blended 125bhp with sweet handling, a spot-on blend of sports agility and touring comfort.

The uprated  ‘ShiftCam’ version, as introduced in 2019, is significantly better still, while the boxer engine is both meaty yet slim and beautifully balanced; with 135bhp it’s now got significantly improved ‘go’... If only it had a touch more excitement.

2. KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, from £17,199

Did somebody mention excitement? Let me introduce, if you weren’t aware of it already, the latest ballistic, yet ultra sophisticated and sumptuous Super Duke GT. It’s the bike that arguably does everything you could want of a Sports Tourer – comfort, range, sophistication, engaging handling – yet adds blistering 175bhp and will turn more heads than its contemporaries. 

Though 175bhp fast, the GT is also refined, characterful and flexible. Its electronic options including adjustable suspension, all controlled via a classy colour TFT dash, are second to none; it’s all-day comfortable with a 200-mile tank and it will happily take a pillion and luggage, too. 

Yes, it’s perhaps a touch extreme and its screen and comfort are not quite as cosseting as some – but few will complain. Otherwise, if you can handle an orange bike and a KTM (rather than, say, BMW) dealer experience, the Super Duke GT is simply the best

1. Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX (from £10,999)

One of the triumphs of modern motorcycling yet one which came from humble beginnings, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX is the winner of Visordown's Top 10 BEST Big Sports Tourers of 2020 rundown

Originally launched in 2010 as a half-faired, sports-tourer version of Kawasaki’s Z1000 super naked, the SX proved an immediate hit due its mix of 140bhp, decent handling, faired practicality and, more than anything, its original sub-£10K value – all of which was sufficient to make it a Kawasaki best seller. 

Repeatedly updated since in 2014 (new brakes, suspension, styling, extra electronics and optional integrated panniers); 2017 (further chassis/electronics updates) and now again for 2020 (renamed as the Ninja 1000 SX, sharper steering, new TFT dash, cruise control and quickshifter), it’s simply got better every time yet remains as good value as ever. I

If you want Japanese four-cylinder 140mph performance, semi-sports handling yet bags of practicality and features at a bargain price, it’s still the one to go for.

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