Used Bike

Grandad Turismo - Pan European, FJR1300A, K1200GT used test

Want to cover massive miles without spending mega pounds? Someone else has very kindly taken the depreciation hit on these secondhand tourers so you don’t have to. We try these three recent big bore bargains for size

While scouring Visordown’s classified section locating the three big tourers for this test I was genuinely shocked. My first thought was that dealers all over the country had made terrible mistakes when entering the value of their bikes. There was simply no way the prices could be right, it wasn’t possible, they were just too low. So, to double check, I called a few and they confirmed the prices were correct. How is this?

“The arse falls right out of new big tourers as soon as you buy one,” one dealer told me. “They suffer really badly from depreciation and their price drops like a stone, especially if they have big miles on them.”

That’s the odd thing about bikes, mileage really counts against them, even on tourers designed to rack up distances. If you were buying a secondhand car that was three years old, would you bat an eyelid if it showed 27,000 miles? Of course not, the chances are you’d probably consider it a bargain with such a low mileage. Bikes are different. The average UK biker rides about 4,000 miles a year, the average car driver does closer to 12,000 miles. Is a bike engine any more stressed than a car’s? Not really, especially in these big tourers, but for some reason high mileages make potential secondhand owners very nervous and prices reflect this.

But it’s not all bad news, according to dealers it’s only the first two or three years when values plummet. After that they hit a steady point and float there at a fairly constant level for several years, almost irrespective of the miles. What this means to the canny secondhand buyer is he can snap up a bargain priced big tourer that’s done a few miles, hang onto it for a year or two and sell it again for virtually what he paid. Depreciation is negligible and the only real cost is servicing and tyres. But is it really a bargain? Do miles equal reliability and value, or constant attention and misery. With this in mind we gathered together three of the best big tourers on the market for a gentle cruise around the Peak District.

First up is Honda’s legendary Pan European, a bike that when it was updated in 2002 caused a mini-war among the old 1100’s fiercely loyal fan base. It also generated a few worrying headlines about handling problems. Then there’s Yamaha’s FJR1300A, a big capacity inline four that tends more towards performance than outright rider comfort. And finally BMW’s K1200GT, another inline four, but if there is one thing BMW does well it’s touring. And touring on a BMW involves more bells and whistles than Rio’s Mardi Gras, and considerably less nudity…

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BMW K1200GT

Tip-top teutonic touring from the masters of miles

Click to read: 2006 BMW K1200GT owners reviews

On paper at least, this BMW is the bargain of the bunch. With a price tag of £7,750 it’s only £250 more expensive than the FJR1300, which is impressive on its own, but this isn’t just any old GT, this is a GT SE. What exactly does that mean? It means this is a K1200GT with everything thrown at it. As well as the obligatory ABS, heated grips and electric screen the SE comes loaded with electronically adjustable suspension, cruise control, traction control (well, a fairly basic version of), heated seats and an onboard computer that tells you just about everything you could ever possibly need to know about your journey including fuel economy, gear useage and, quite possibly, the last time you went to the toilet. In 2007 this would have set you back £14,000, so why only two years later is it nearly half price? It’s been used, and used quite a lot, not that you would know it.

Despite showing 27,615 miles on the clock this GT looked virtually brand new. Aside from a little bit of rust around the brake disc carriers it looks every inch a bike that’s done a quarter of the miles on its speedo. But does it ride like it?

Sitting astride the GT and it feels big, heavy and solid – which it is, tipping the scales at a portly 249kg. It has a slightly intimidating air to it and feels ready to take on the world.

On the go it delivers a solid and unflustered ride. Push the handlebar-mounted button and the preload swaps between three pre-set modes, altering the ride and genuinely making a huge difference. Stick it in ‘sport’ mode and while it’s no sportsbike, the GT corners remarkably well, refusing to get upset by mid-corner undulations. But away from the corners a simple push and ‘comfort’ mode soaks up the bumps and delivers a plush ride that allows relaxed touring. Well, almost.

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There are a few things I consider necessary on a tourer and an effective screen is one of them. Unfortunately none of the manufacturers whose bikes are featured in this test seem capable of designing a decent one. On the BMW it stops short and anyone over six-foot tall is left with the top of their head buffeted around in the turbulence or forced to ride with a slight stoop to lower their head height. What’s the point in an adjustable screen that doesn’t adjust to the required height? Although I’m sure BMW’s aftermarket catalogue will be happy to assist.

And while I’m on irritating niggles, the brakes on the GT are back to the bad old days of on/off servo assistance, completely devoid of feel yet devilishly powerful. The 1200 inline four motor delivers a strong power from very low revs with a gruff, aggressive sound that’s very untourer yet extremely pleasing. Although the gearbox feels notchy. It’s the ideal motor for touring and top gear seems to be designed as an over-drive, dropping the revs right down and smoothing the ride.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the K1200GT. For the price, level of equipment and quality of ride the BMW is spot-on.

Essential info

Prices From: £7,499 (2006, 24,500 miles) to £10,999 (2008, 4,500 miles)

As we’ve come to expect from BMW, the K1200GT has a huge accessories catalogue catering for every rider’s taste and wallet. But the GT is still festooned with gadgets and toys as standard, giving the prospective buyer a lot of luxury for his money. Like the Yamaha, there’s a large selection of bikes with sub-30k mileages, and prices definitely reflect this, with the 2005 onwards machines starting at over £7000. The K1200GT isn’t as common second hand as the two Japanese bikes on test, so there’s a small pool to choose from keeping prices high.

Instant upgrades

  • Comfort Seat: If you really want to travel long distances in comfort, get a more padded, ergonomic seat unit. Corbin’s Modular seating (£440, corbin.com) is particularly plush for both rider and passenger, with a heated option too.
  • Tyres: The BM is a big old beast, and having confidence in its grip in all weather is important to the touring rider. Metzelers Roadtec Z6 Interact is well suited to a machine like the GT, giving excellent road holding in the wet or dry. (£210, metzelermoto.co.uk)
  • SatNav: There are loads of options for bikes now, with the Tom Tom Rider Europe 2 being one of the most popular. It’s tough and waterproof, comes with loads of maps for all over Europe, and can easily be used while riding along. You also get traffic updates, and can also get directions through a Bluetooth headset so theres no need to keep looking away from the road. Can also be used in the car. (£391.48, tomtom.com)

Parts costs

Left hand fairing panel: £316
Headlight: £353
Front right indicator: £33

Servicing

Minor service (12,000 miles): £250
Major service (18,000 miles): £380
ABS service: Every two years, £65

Common faults

Gadgets are great new, but can cost a lot in servicing and fixing any electrical problems as the bike gets a few miles under its wheels. Some owners reported clutch issues with their bikes which were quickly fixed at a dealer. Weight isn’t something that can be ignored and some will have been dropped at low speed or off the stand. The general impression from owners is that it isn’t quite as well put together as the Japanese bikes, but these machines will still travel Europe with minimum fuss.

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Yamaha FJR1300

A sportier take on touring from a frisky Yamaha

Click to read: 2007 Yamaha FJR1300 owners reviews

The FJR1300 is going through a bit of an identity crisis. Because Yamaha’s range has been missing a dedicated sports tourer for a number of years, the FJR is slotted into the middle ground between full-on tourers like the Pan or GT and sports tourers like the VFR. It flits between the two roles partially succeeding in both. And this leads to its appeal.

People often plump for the FJR over other big tourers because it feels lighter and less intimidating to ride. Where the Pan is 276kg and the BMW tips the scales in the 250kg area, the FJR is 264kg but somehow doesn’t feel it. Pre-2006 bikes were lighter at a svelte 237kg.

Compared to the other two bikes the FJR is sprightly through the corners. It still takes a degree of effort to turn simply due to its weight. It needs less work than the Honda or BMW yet retains their solid poise through longer bends. But on tighter corners the FJR shows it trump card. Flicking left to-right through a series of S-bends the FJR takes a fraction of the effort compared to the other two and this means you can attack the turns with a touch more gusto. But it’s not all plain sailing.

In trying to keep the FJR sporty comfort has been compromised. The seating position feels as though you’re perched on top of the bike, rather than enveloped within, like on the Pan. So weather protection isn’t great. Like the BMW the screen is far too short, but unlike the BMW this scrimping on plastic also extends to the fairing, which offers the rider much less weather protection than either of the other two.

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The 1298cc engine is the FJR’s standout feature. It’s incredibly strong yet has such a silky smooth power delivery it feels like a turbine rather than an inline four. From virtually any revs the Yamaha responds to minimal throttle input with instant, flowing acceleration. At times this input can be a little too direct, the fuel-injection is a little less than perfect going from a closed to a partially open throttle. But overall it’s a hugely impressive and easy to live with engine with a gearbox that gently snicks through the cogs, instead of clunking like the BMW. But there is one huge annoyance, throttle action is simply too heavy.

Where on the BMW and Honda the twistgrip requires the faintest of efforts to turn, on the Yam it requires a big heave. It’s possible this particular bike, which had done over 17,000 miles, needed a bit of lube on its cables, but I recollect newer bikes having a heavy action. Shame, because the extra effort required detracts from an enjoyable riding experience.

And a final note on the FJR; don’t be tempted to go for the AS option with Yamaha’s automatic clutch and push button gear selection. Although a decent enough idea, the lack of clutch lever makes riding the bike in traffic a real pain and low speed control fiddly and unpredictable. It’s a great talking point, but infuriating to use. Dealers were often left with these bikes glued to their showroom floors. It isn’t worth any extra premium and most owners much prefer a ‘normal’ clutch.

Essential Info

Prices From: £4,295 (2004, 34,000 miles) to £10,999 (2009, 950 miles)

There are plenty to be had with less than 30,000 miles on the clock.There also appears to be a host of ex-demonstrator bikes out there with less than 1000 miles on them, and with a decent wedge of cash off the RRP which could be a tempting deal for a keen rider. Even more so with winter deals available.

Instant upgrades

  • Communications: The StarCom1 allows interaction with travel mates with crystal clear voices, also has the ability to be used as a hands free phone kit, and can be plugged into an MP3 player to listen to tunes while on the move. Of course, if you find the missus is going on a bit whilst riding pillion you can always turn her off. (From £127.97, starcom1.com)
  • Heated Seat: Plenty of riders fit heated grips to their machines, so why not get some added luxury and fit a heated seat? They can make a huge difference between being frozen to the core not enjoying the ride, and being perfectly comfortable even on long journeys. Seat Heaters (Around £60, seatheaters.com) don’t require any modifications to the original seats, just fit underneath.
  • HID Headlights: With winter well and truly here, nights are longer so many riders will be travelling in the dark. High Intensity Discharge kits are reputed to give out more than double the light output of standard bulbs, so could make night time riding much more bearable. (Around £100, acumen-electronics.co.uk).

Parts costs

Left hand fairing panel: £467.20
Headlight: £437.56
Front right indicator: £52.98

Servicing

Minor service (12,000 miles): £246
Major service (18,000 miles): £360
ABS service: Done as part of major service.

Common faults

Mechanically, owners have no complaints at all about the FJR, with a few having covered over 100,000 miles. Many comment on how good overall build quality is, but a few have raised concerns over paint and general finish. While the engine will run forever, it seems it doesn’t take long for paint to begin to flake and look unsightly. The screen has also come in for some criticism; even though it is adjustable some owners say at its highest setting there is considerable buffeting from the wind. These points seem minor though, when considering a bike that can travel at such speed reliably and in comfort.

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Honda ST1300

The bike that launched a thousand angry blogs …

Click to read: Honda ST1300 owners reviews

Never before has a bike caused so much anger and debate from owners groups. When Honda unveiled its new and improved ST1300 Pan European in 2002 it expected existing owners to be fighting over it. In its 12-year life span the old ST1100 Pan developed a huge following. What Honda didn’t expect was the almighty backlash that followed the launch of the new Pan.

So what was the problem? The general consensus is that Honda failed to correctly torque up the engine mounting bolts, allowing the frame to flex at high speed making the bike weave. And the new Pan was more about performance than practicality, which aggravated the Pan Clan. Now the dust has settled should we look at the new Pan in a new light?

With just under 10,000 miles on its clock this bike shows all the hallmarks of what made the Pan such a special bike. It looks, quite frankly, immaculate. The finish on the paint is thick as a boy band, the exposed metal retains the same shine as when it left the factory and the engine sounds and feels fresh as a daisy. It looks like it’s sat in a showroom for two years.

Fire it up and the first surprise is the sound of the engine. The V4 motor is anything but muted and has a deep grumble unlike the flat buzz of an inline four, and it rides like nothing else as well. You just don’t expect a bike that looks as ‘old man’ as the Pan to respond in such a vicious way. It’s a bloody quick bike, more than capable of startling unwary owners with its speed. Which might have been part of its problem when it was launched.

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Everything about the Pan lulls you into a false sense of security. The seat is sumptuously padded and you sit nice and snugly ‘in’ the bike not perched on top like the FJR. The fairing is gigantic, completely sheltering you from the elements. Even the screen is almost acceptable, again if you’re under six-foot. Everything is fine and dandy, then the motor lets rip and suddenly you are rudely jerked out of your comfort zone and into a world of very quickly approaching scenery. In a bike of this type, aimed at, shall we say, riders of more advanced years, it’s almost too much. But then again, load it up with a pillion and panniers full of kit and it makes total sense, more than can be said for the brakes – sharp to the point of too sharp. Have ABS on your Pan or be very careful…

Oddly enough, despite being the heaviest bike here by a fair way the Pan feels anything but. It carries its weight very low and as a result masks it well. Through the corners the Honda tends to flop slightly into bends but once there it’s secure and remarkably nimble for such a large bike. There is no way you’d guess it weighs 52kg more than the FJR, unless you happen to drop it onto its neatly positioned inbuilt crash protectors.

Riding the Pan, it’s easy to see why ‘old Pan’ owner refused to warm to it. It’s a hell of a machine, but delivers quite startling performance beneath those docile looks. It’s positioned more as a sports tourer where the old bike was an out and out tourer. Of these three bikes, the Pan is the one you could imagine hopping on tomorrow and zipping across Europe for the sheer hell of it.

Essential info

Prices From: £4,895 (2005, 75,000 miles) to £9,995 (2009, 1,200 miles)

There’s a vast array for sale, but even with the selection so vast, the price of the 1300 is still keen as they are in demand bikes. Many 1200 Pan owners consider their model is the better of the two, but the 1300 is bang up to date in all areas, and is generally more popular on the used market. At the lower end of the price range, a little under £5000 will pick up a 1300 Pan, but the mileages on these bikes can be eye wateringly high. However, it’s a Honda, so people are still likely to pay good money even at 50,000 miles plus.

Instant upgrades

  • Heated Grips: With many touring riders on their bikes all year round, freezing hands makes using various controls on a bike a lot more difficult and dangerous than it should be. Oxford Hot Grips replace the original handlebar grips and plug into the battery, giving the rider warm hands at the touch of a button. £69.99 (www.oxprod.com).
  • Sat Nav: A frankly brilliant invention that saves having to stop and get a map out when on a long ride. Garmin are industry leaders in sat navs, and their range topping Zumo 660 has everything for a long getaway on a bike. GPS, Bluetooth for taking a call while riding, MP3 player, speed camera alert, waterproof and designed for use with a gloved hand. Amazing bit of kit that’ll you’ll want to use every ride. £469.99 (www.garmin.com)
  • Tyres: Stick some decent all year round tyres on a Pan and have no problems riding on the slippery and almost gripless roads through winder. Michelins Pilot Road 2 are a good bet (£205, www.michelin.co.uk).

Parts costs

Left hand fairing panel: £304.95
Headlight: £353.98
Front right indicator: £43.16

Servicing

Minor service (12,000 miles): £250
Major service (16,000 miles): £375
ABS service: Done as part of major service.

Common faults

There was a lot of talk a while ago about ‘Pan Weave’. This was generally only noticed in certain incidents when riding at high speed and carrying a large amount of luggage on board. There were a lot of different opinions on it, with some riders claiming to have experienced it and some not, while the police took the bikes out of service for a while. However, it seems that there are far more owners who praise their Pan to the hills than complain about any aspect of it, let alone high speed stability.

As can be seen from the large number of high mileage bikes out there, the ST1300 is a bike that suffers very few problems and is more than capable of going on for years if looked after properly.

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Verdict

With value for money, level of equipment and future resale as well as performance, comfort and price taken into account there can only be one winner in this test, the BMW K1200GT. It simply wipes the floor with the other two and although this bike has done a chunk more miles, as with most BMWs, it hardly shows.

The dealer assured us it would come with not only a year’s warranty but also breakdown cover, extras that only sweeten an already very appealing deal. The Pan European is a better single-minded mile machine, but the BMW offers solid all-round performance in a package that allows you to merrily tour the whole of Europe both one or two up (once you’ve fitted a taller screen). And as if it couldn’t get any better, the high residual prices on BMWs mean not only will you pay a bargain price now, the chances are the bike will retain its value far better than the Yamaha and Honda. That’s not to say the Japanese bikes should be ignored.

If you’re young enough at heart to want real performance in your tourer then the Pan European is still a hugely impressive machine. It’s big, comfortable and packs a hell of a kick from its V4 motor. Who cares what old model owners may think of you, they’ll soon be disappearing in those slightly odd under-your-elbow mirrors anyway…

Which leaves the FJR. It’s a shame it’s last in this test because it’s still a fine bike. Build quality is on a par with Honda and the engine’s fabulously smooth, but rider and pillion comfort isn’t in the same league as the BMW or Honda while its price is. For a shorter rider its lack of weight would be a definite selling point, but really it would have to be a chunk cheaper to tempt anyone away from the BMW.

Specifications

BMW

Price: £7,750
Top speed: 154mph
Engine: 1157cc,16-valve, liquid-cooled inline four
Bore & stroke: 79mm x 59mm
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Power: 130bhp at 9500rpm
Torque: 82 lb/ft at 6,500rpm
Front suspension: BMW Duolever
Adjustment: 3-way mode
Rear suspension: BMW EVO Paralever
Adjustment: 3-way mode
Front brakes: Four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Four-piston caliper, 265mm disc
Dry weight: 249kg (549lbs)
Seat height: 820mm
Fuel capacity: 24 litres
Colour options: Sensible Sienna, Mobility Mauve

Star rating: 5/5

For: Solid feel, strong residuals and gadgets
Against: Gadgets going wrong, screen too low and numb feel to brakes

HONDA

Price: £8,499
Top speed: 150mph
Engine: 1261cc, 16-valve, liquid-cooled V4
Bore & stroke: 78mm x 66mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Power: 124bhp at 8000rpm
Torque: 83lb/ft at 6000rpm
Front suspension: 45mm RWU cartridge fork
Adjustment: Preload
Rear suspension: Monoshock
Adjustment: Preload and rebound
Front brakes: Three-piston calipers, 310mm discs
Rear brake: Three-piston caliper, 316mm disc
Dry weight: 276kg (608lbs)
Seat height: 790mm
Fuel capacity: 29.14 litres
Colour options: Old Man Metallic, Pension Beige

Star rating: 4/5

For: Quality finish, mental engine and big weather protection
Against: Sharp brakes, ‘old man’ looks and old bike is better (not)

YAMAHA

Price: £7,500
Top speed: 155mph
Engine: 1298cc, 16-valve, liquid-cooled inline four
Bore & stroke: 79mm x 66.2mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Power: 141bhp at 8000rpm
Torque: 99lb/ft at 7000rpm
Front suspension: 48mm RWU forks
Adjustment: Preload, compression and rebound
Rear suspension: Monoshock
Adjustment: Preload and rebound
Front brakes: Four-piston calipers, 320mm discs,
Rear brake: Twin-piston caliper, 282mm disc
Dry weight: 264kg (522lbs)
Seat height: 800mm
Fuel capacity: 25 litres
Colour options: Incontinence Indigo, Zimmer Grey

Star rating: 3/5

For: Nippy handling, silky gearbox and lighter weight
Against: Heavy throttle action, short on weather protection and weaker residuals

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