#315 BMW Strikes Back …. Comfortably

How to advise those who want big speed and comfort too.

I walked the floor of the Vancouver Motorcycle Show with a friend who is a lifelong motorcyclist and was then considering a new motorcycle though there seemed to be one overriding criteria: it had to be performance driven and fast. Yes, there were a few additional criteria beneath that one but fast was at the top of the list—probably a remnant from his drag racing days. His ride then was a Ninja ZX-10R but in a gracious show of sensitivity he no longer felt that his partner should be perched behind him in a less than comfortable position and perhaps even he would appreciate something a little less extreme. I best make clear that my friend is not a young fellow looking for speed or the potential for speed but actually a distinguished enthusiast whose partner, while far lovelier, is equally distinguished.
He’d strap all kinds of questionable “luggage” to the back seat of the Ninja and tour the northwest seeking out the twistiest and quietest roads he could find. The potential choices to replace his beloved ZX-10R were big sport touring machines like the Concours or the FJR1300. It can’t be denied that both have the power and torque to make the ride exciting while offering a modicum of comfort and civility.
I think it was the civility that was worrying him. He likes the “sporty” in “sport touring,” but the “touring” just was not what he was looking for.
He thought the FJR1300 wouldn’t be the same as hanging his ZX-10R out there. It wasn’t going to drag the pegs the same way. I assured him that it would be okay and either the FJR or the Concours or maybe even the VFR1200, would be enjoyable rides and offer, if not equal the performance, then a different kind of performance. He wasn’t buying it, I could tell. And I respected him sticking to his guns. What we each want out of our motorcycles is a very personal matter and compromise has to be balanced with what we really desire.
A couple of months after the show I got an e-mail announcing his new ride. It turned out that he had found a used machine, a Yamaha FZ1, with barely any kilometres on the clock, saddlebags, a light chassis and a sportbike derived motor. I looked at it and knew immediately that it was going to do exactly what he wanted and his partner could ride in, if not comfort, at least not discomfort.
It used to be that a sportbike rider might move over to something like the BMW 1200GS when ergonomic necessities required something a little more comfortable while still offering up canyon carving capabilities. It was a compromise but not an unreasonable one.
Both BMW and KTM acknowledged this trend as they made their offerings in the big ADV class a little more road-friendly. Ducati was perhaps the most successful in this move to attract those who wanted the sport but also wanted the comfort. The Multistrada was always far more street than dirt no matter what the initial advertising may have suggested. The new Multistrada 1200 takes that even further as do bikes like KTM’s Super Adventure—160-hp upright sportbikes.
As you will read in this issue BMW is hitting back with a 160-hp weapon of its own while acknowledging that it doesn’t want to or can’t in an hp sense take the GS down that particular road without compromising the very foundation on which the GS became a legend. Enter the S1000XR: a sportbike derived … what? Do we even have a category name? It is not a naked streetfighter in the vein of a Kawasaki Z1000 or KTM Super Duke. It’s not an ADV bike. It is sort of a … Multistrada. But that doesn’t seem appropriate. We’ll call it a distinguished gentleman’s ergonomically correct sportbike or a DGECSB for short until we can come up with a more appropriate name. I think my friend would acknowledge the possibilities.

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