Top 10 Fastest Tourers

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey…

IT’S funny really but the bikes we normally associate with shattering power and headline-grabbing high-speed ability tend to be superbikes designed with little or no concession to practicality. Why’s that odd? Because back in the real world it’s touring bikes that are likely to spend more of their time heavily laden – and therefore needing more power and torque – and cruising at three-figure speeds for long periods of time.

Way back in the distant past it was touring bikes that formed the basis of racers. After all, it’s not called the ‘Tourist Trophy’ for nothing. Sure, over time, purpose-made machines have taken their place on the track, but surely the logic that meant tourers were the fastest and most powerful bikes available back in the TT’s formative days should still have some relevance now?

Which brings us to this, the list of the top ten fastest, most powerful tourers you can buy. Of course, defining a ‘tourer’ is fraught with complication. After all, what’s a sports-tourer? Does a Hayabusa qualify? Surely you could tour on an S1000RR? So to create a simple definition we’ve applied one straightforward rule: if it comes with panniers as standard, it’s a tourer. If not, it’s out.

So, here’s the countdown. Feel free to throw in your own suggestions as to what we’ve missed or got wrong.

10. BMW R1200RT (2014-on):

Bolting its new water-cooled (OK, partially-water-cooled) boxer twin into the RT tourer was always going to be a natural progression for BMW, but arguably it’s made a more significant improvement than the same motor achieved in the R1200GS. After all, the GS doesn’t depend on power for its appeal or ability, where the old-model, 110bhp RT always had just enough performance, but certainly no surplus. The new version, with 125bhp on tap, still isn’t a thinly-disguised racer but you won’t be constantly wishing for more. It should be enough to rack up something in the region of 140mph in relaxed comfort, which is going to keep up with most autobahn traffic, provided you keep an eye on your mirrors to spot the really fast guys approaching…

9. Honda ST1300 Pan European:

In production for over a decade, the Pan European in its current form has become virtually the definitive tourer. You really can’t ask for much more in terms of capability, and that includes high-speed performance. That big, softly-tuned V4 is barely breaking a sweat at its peak 125bhp, and despite the Pan’s heft will push it past 140mph.

8. Triumph Sprint GT:

When Triumph ditched the Sprint ST’s underseat exhausts and bolted a set of luggage on as standard to create the GT, it created something that was more than the sum of its parts. Where the ST was always a decent sports-touring alternative to a VFR, the GT is an off-the-shelf tourer that goes faster than most and provides a massive level of touring bang for your bucks, with a sub-£9k price tag. You get 128bhp from the age-old triple, which puts it above most tourers in terms of performance, with a top speed of around 150mph. Best value for money on this list, without a doubt.

7. Triumph Trophy 1200:

Given that the Sprint GT manages nearly 130bhp from its old 1050 triple, you might have imagined that the far newer, bigger-capacity Trophy 1200’s 1215cc moto would manage much more. But at 132bhp it’s actually only a fraction ahead. With more heft to haul, it’s torque doesn’t convert into significantly more performance either. Still, close though it is, the bigger engine does offer more of everything, while the bigger fairing, decade-newer equipment levels and shaft drive make it a more serious tourer, too.

6.  Yamaha FJR1300A:

With 140bhp, the oft-forgotten (but recently refreshed) FJR1300 is still one of the most serious touring propositions on the market. And one of the fastest. It’s been tested well beyond 150mph, which means it should be able to stay in line with the speed-limited 155mph traffic that usually represents the quickest four-wheeled machinery on German autobahns – although you’ll be wringing its neck to do it and need to keep an eye out for the occasional unrestricted supercar in your mirrors.

5. Kawasaki Z1000SX Touring:

Although it’s dropped from the firm’s line up with the launch of the updated, 2014 Z1000SX, the 2010-2013 SX Touring fitted our criteria, with standard panniers, and thanks to a 138bhp engine it managed much the same trick as Triumph’s Sprint GT - becoming rather better than the bike it was derived from (in this instance the Z1000) thanks to the addition of some luggage (and, in the Kawasaki’s case, some bodywork.) The latest-gen Z1000SX would also fit the bill if equipped with the official panniers, as most probably will be, but we can’t include it (or the Honda VFR1200F) thanks to our self-imposed panniers-as-standard criteria.

4. Ducati Multistrada Touring:

Ducati's Multistrada might not be a tourer in the traditional mould but in ‘Touring’ form it gets panniers as standard (the Grantourismo also gets a top box), so it’s eligible for this list. How quick is it? Well, with 150bhp from an engine derived from what used to be Ducati’s top superbike engine, it has performance in buckets. Think 155mph or thereabouts if you focus on top speed, and acceleration to shame most of the other bikes on this list.

3. Kawasaki 1400GTR:

Since it shares much of its engine design with the ZZR1400, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the GTR is one of the fastest tourers out there. The motor may be detuned, but it still manages around 155bhp, or 160bhp when the ram air effect is added at high speed. It’s a shafty, too, and gets all the gizmos and gadgets you could ever ask for to help make it a card-carrying member of the full-fat tourer club. Top speed is, again, somewhere north of 150mph.

2. BMW K1300GT:

The K1300GT might have disappeared from BMW’s production lines last year but it still offers a serious combination of performance and touring ability – in fact, its six-cylinder successor, the K1600GT, isn’t miles ahead on any front. Some reckon the older four-cylinder is the sportier-feeling engine, even if it’s not as smooth as the six, and in terms of performance you’ll struggle to force a Rizla between the two. Both manage 160bhp and a top speed of about 155mph. 

1. BMW K1600GT:

So why is the K1600GT ahead of the 1300 in this list? Well, it’s still in production, for one, and also the smooth six makes much more torque than the old four. More capacity, you see, and the old American saying about never beating cubic inches tends to hold true when it comes to stump-pulling ability. Having said that, the chasm doesn’t feel as big as the bare figures suggest, but it’s still enough to edge out its older sibling.

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