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The Top 10 BEST Big Sports Tourers and GTs of 2021

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 2021 right now?

Yamaha Tracer 9 GT

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. Here we have options that stretch from excellent value mile munchers, to master of all trades GTs and those that put the 'Sport' into Sport Tourer.. 

If you're after a practical and punchy 900cc+ Sports Tourer GT, which should you choose? 

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 (now Ninja 1000SX was, by arriving in a full five years after its rival, 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... 

While this particular iteration of Suzuki's 1000cc platform is ageing and isn't 'strictly' a tourer in the most traditional sense, a more form-fitting GSX-S1000T variant is understood to be on the way.

As with most of Suzuki's more purple rinsed models, the GSX-S1000F appeals with its sheer value for money, while the 150bhp four-pot 1000cc is eager to please, 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. 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. 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.

7. Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX (from £16,143)

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 Ninja 1000SX.

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!

6. BMW F900XR (from £9,825)

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.

5. BMW R 1250 RS (from £12,395)

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.

4. KTM 1290 Super Duke GT (from £17,249)

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

3. Triumph Tiger 900 GT Pro (£13,200)

Much like the MT-09 and the Street Triple lock horns in the naked class, the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT and Triumph Tiger 900 GT Pro find themselves fighting over the same piece of Tarmac in the Sports Tourer category.

Different to the Tracer 9 in that this is adapted from the more adventure-orientated underpinnings of the Tiger 900 Rally, the GT Pro nonetheless holds its own on the smoother stuff with the brisk triple-cylinder engine delivering 93bhp, plus 10% more peak torque than the model it replaces, together with 87Nm (64ft-Ibs) of torque at 7,250rpm.

What it loses in go-anywhere ability - without trading it in entirely - the Tiger 900 GT Pro gains in soaking up the miles with aplomb with new features that include electric rear suspension for the GT Pro, as well as Triumph’s much improved 5-inch TFT dash. 

If at £13,200 it is on the pricier end of the scale, then the softer, lighter Triumph Tiger 850 Sport ticks many of the same boxes but does it at little more than £9,000

2. 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 was our favourite Big Sports Tourers of 2020... but the year is 2021 and it has been dethroned. But only just.

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 a very accomplished choice.

1. Yamaha Tracer 9 GT (from £12,193)

We always had high hopes for the new Yamaha Tracer 9 GT. Not only was it supposedly going to be an improvement on the outgoing but still well-liked Tracer 900, but the excellent all-round abilities of the smaller Tracer 7 suggested its bigger brother would be just that bit more practical, more powerful and more refined too.

And so it has proven, the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT proving a true bike for all seasons that carries on the excellent traits of the also recently-launched MT-09, where the softer dynamics don't harm the handling and the larger 889cc triple-cylinder engine refuses to get too flustered while delivering a tuneful wisp at the same time.

The styling remains handsome as ever with perhaps the least controversial product of Yamaha's recent more outgoing - but divisive - efforts.

In GT spec, designed for longer days out on the road, the semi-active suspension is a boon, while the clear dashboard, heated grips, cruise control and quickshifter continue to make journeys as easy as they can be fun.

First introduced in 2015, the original Tracer proved an instant, Europe-wide hit for its blend of fun, practicality and value, with success showing no sign of slowing as the latest generation Tracer 9 sits pretty towards the top of most European sales charts. It isn't hard to understand why.