Top 10s

Top 10 sports tourers 2017

Want to do a bit of everything? A sports tourer might just be the bike for you

SPORTS tourers are among the hardest bikes to define. It’s a class that arguably contains machines as wide-ranging as the Suzuki Hayabusa and the Yamaha Tracer 700. And ‘arguably’ is a key word here, as the exact qualifications for a sports tourer depend very much on whether you’re interested in the ‘sports’ or the ‘tourer’ aspect.

For our list we’re trying to keep both in mind. So we’re thinking of bikes that you could happily jump on at a moment’s notice and ride to the south of Spain, but when you get there would also be comfortable doing a few laps of Almeria.

Here, then, is our top 10 countdown, starting with...

10: Triumph Sprint GT

We’ll almost certainly be waving goodbye to the Sprint GT soon, as it’s likely to disappear from the range in the next year or so, but it’s actually a hidden gem in Triumph’s line up. Yes, it’s based on the old Sprint ST, but in GT form it really hit its stride. These days it comes up short on the high-tech front – where’s the TFT display, traction control etc? – but comes up trumps on value for money at under £9k.

READ OUR TRIUMPH SPRINT GT ROAD TEST.

Want to know the truth? Honda’s VFR800 really should be at the top of this list. And it would be if Honda would just give it the attention it so dearly deserves. The VFR is a legend, complete with RC30 DNA and an unmatched all-round ability. But despite a revamp in 2014, the basic design dates back to 2001. As such, its sheer capability is impressive and leaves you wondering just what Honda might be able to achieve if it made a completely new VFR.

READ OUR HONDA VFR800 FIRST RIDE REVIEW.

The styling might not make it a poster child, but the GSX-S1000F has its heritage in the legendary K5 GSX-R1000, which means it can push the ‘sports’ side of sports-touring to the very limit. The downside? It pays the price on the touring side of things, particularly if you’re bringing a pillion along. If it suits your particular form of ‘sports touring’ the GSX-S1000F is a very convincing package indeed.

READ OUR SUZUKI GSX-S1000F FIRST RIDE REVIEW.

Splitting the Z1000SX from the GSX-S1000F is a tough job, and the decision will eventually come down to your needs. While the Suzuki has the edge when it comes to sportiness, with a lighter package and a similar power output, the Kawasaki’s strong suit is touring, with a comfier pillion seat, bigger tank and more capable luggage options. For such apparently similar bikes, they’re surprisingly distinct on closer inspection, but the decision comes down more to what you’re using them for than a particular edge for either machine.

READ OUR 2017 KAWASAKI Z1000SX FIRST RIDE REVIEW.

Back at the turn of the millennium, the battle for out-and-out top speed and power was the most important one in motorcycling. While today pretty much every 1000cc superbike is ‘limited’ to a 186mph-or-so top speed, back then the target was clear: 200mph, and let everything else be damned. While the 300km/h (186mph) ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ top speed limit between manufacturers brought the madness to an end, we’re still left with the fallout from that battle in the form of the Kawasaki ZZR1400 and Suzuki Hayabusa. Like the Z1000SX and GSX-S1000F, they’re hard to split, but both make great sports-tourers. Lots of torque, huge reserves of power and surprisingly competent handling. Of the two, the Busa is a little older now, and feels it. But a new one is coming…

READ OUR SUZUKI HAYABUSA BUYING GUIDE.

See above, really. The Kawasaki ZZR1400 just out-Hayabusas the Hayabusa on most fronts, and while both machines were first conceived as power-and-speed machines, they do the sports touring job incredibly well. The £12,199 Kawasaki is a little pricer than the £11,599 Suzuki but justifies that with being a slightly more modern design. Both make near-as-dammit 200hp, and while some 1000cc superbikes can manage that as well, they can’t offer the same well of torque to draw from, let alone the same long-distance comfort.

READ OUR KAWASAKI ZZR1400 REVIEW.

BMW has had several attempts at turning its boxer twins into sports bikes, never with a resounding success, but the formula works brilliantly for sports tourers. The latest R1200RS dispenses with some of the firm’s earlier oddities, like Telelever forks, and replaces them with more conventional kit, and to very good effect. Earlier we lamented that Honda doesn’t made a truly up-to-date VFR, and arguable the R1200RS is one of the closest approximations to that idea.

READ OUR BMW R1200RS FIRST RIDE REVIEW.

BMW actually lists the S1000XR under its ‘adventure’ category, but in reality it fits our sports tourer brief to a tee. It’s one of the most comfortable long-distance bikes in this list, it might well be the fastest on the track and you can even take it on some mild off-road trails if needs be. Few bikes offer such a wide range of abilities. But we can think of a couple…

READ OUR 2017 BMW S1000XR FIRST RIDE REVIEW.

KTM’s Super Duke GT is arguably a similar recipe to the Kawasaki Z1000SX and Suzuki GSX-S1000F. Like those two Japanese bike’s it’s taken a big-capacity naked bike as its basis and thrown on a fairing to create a sports-tourer. But KTM has done it with a special level of lunacy that only those orange-loving Austrians seem able to muster.  Ridiculously powerful (170hp), with semi-active suspension and leaning firmly towards the ‘sport’ side of sports-touring, it’s an all-rounder that’s hard to beat.

That old problem of defining a ‘sports tourer’ rears its head again here. The Multistrada idea dates back to the unloved but innovative Pierre Terblanche designed original generation bike – combining a high riding position with good wind protection, a comfy seat and sporty handling. Arguably Yamaha had been there already with the TDM, but the Multistrada turned it into a sports-touring sub-genre of its own. Its victories at the Pikes Peak hillclimb prove the ‘sports’ side well enough, and there’s no doubting its sheer performance in the latest 1200cc form. It beats most of the bikes on this list for comfort and equipment, too, and is even surprisingly capable off-road. A bike for all reasons?

READ OUR DUCATI MULTISTRADA 1200 AND 1200S FIRST RIDE REVIEW.

WANT MORE? CHECK OUT OUR TOP 10 BIG CAPACITY SPORTS BIKES.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE GREAT TOP TENS.

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