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Find the Right Bike to Get into Sport Touring
Sport Touring Corner

By Norm Kern

After a long winter, riding season is finally here. If you are interested in riding sport-touring style this year, Sport Touring Corner is here to help. As I’ve said before, sport-touring riders look forward to a challenge and enjoy developing their riding skills, which are directed toward riding twisty roads at a brisk pace. That said, sport touring means something different to each rider, so I asked some MSTA (Motorcycle Sport Touring Association) members to talk about their approach and bike choices.

Pat Mogavero, Cold Spring, KY: “Sport-Touring” is more a state of mind than it is defined by what bike someone rides. It differs from just touring because the intent is not to just “go there, see that”, it’s more about riding challenging twisty roads at a quick pace on the way to “there”. It’s more than just riding around one’s home base, because it encourages and involves traveling (touring). We don’t bypass the backroads; we seek them out. We don’t worry about MAKING “good time”, we desire to HAVE a good time while traveling. We enjoy the twisty route along the way.

This type of riding can be done on ANY bike. However, bikes designed for their ability to handle twisty roads, that carry some luggage, and provide some degrees of comfort all at the same time are what I think of when I think of a “sport-touring” bike. They make it more enjoyable but are not necessary.

It certainly doesn’t take a bike like a Yamaha FJR, Kawasaki Concours, Honda VFR, or even a “sport” bike to be a sport tourer. Nor does it take the newest GPS, cruise control, hard luggage, or any other farkle.

Jack Smith, LaPorte, IN: “If you already have a bike, pack your gear on it and take a long, multi-day ride. Now you’re touring.

While you’re touring, try to stick to the squiggly lines on the map as you work on your skills. Work on upping your pace and getting into “the zone.” Now you’re sport touring!

The next step is to make friends with a similar kink, ride with them a bit, and see whose bike you covet. Once you figure that out, go shopping!

Gerald Willis, Cortland, OH: Been through some 15 bikes, doing rides with this group and have ridden many Honda CBR and Suzuki GSXR sport bikes. I must say if you wish to do multi-day rides, a bike that accommodates luggage and has a bit less sporty riding position is a plus.

The sport touring bike I have enjoyed the most is the Kawasaki Ninja 1000. (Have had two!) I believe there are more comfortable and more expensive models, but it does everything fairly well. I also just purchased a Kawasaki Z 900, and I must say if equipped with aftermarket luggage, looks like it is going to be a hit, with a low price point.

Steve Coffman, Asheville, NC: In my mind, sport touring is a style of riding that combines the attitude of sport bike riding, such as aggressive riding in the twisties, with touring, which is more about multi-day traveling and long mileage. While any bike can be used for both activities, the sport-touring bike combines some of the nimbleness of a lightweight powerful sport bike and the comfort and weight capacity of a touring bike.

I find that my Yamaha FJR leans a little more toward sport bike riding. It is very quick and will keep up with most sport bikes. It does a fairly decent job of touring long miles but is not as comfortable as some of the other sport touring bikes. Sport-touring for me is more of a frame of mind in how one approaches riding.

Wayne Muri, Grand Haven, MI: In my humble estimation the top three are the Kawasaki Concours 14, Yamaha FJR 1300, and Honda ST1300. I rode cruisers until about ten years ago when I was introduced to a Concours. We were riding the twisties along a river bed in northern Kentucky when a friend offered to trade bikes. Riding his Concours, I discovered that instead of wrestling my bike through the turns I was doing a motorized ballet!

Never looked back- have ridden Concours and FJRs ever since. Rode from Avon, Colorado to the outskirts of Chicago in one day and felt fine since my weight was balanced between ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. It is an uncannily comfortable position as opposed to sitting on my tailbone ala cruiser style. Currently planning long trips this summer on a Concours 14.

Mike Kershaw, Omaha, NE: What bike you choose often depends on what you are coming from. If you’re coming to sport-touring from sport bike riding, you would probably just want a liter bike with bags. I most recently had a cruiser so the FJR was a great option. It’s a good middle of the road choice for someone coming from either direction. Just starting out sport touring I think riding position is the biggest factor.

Charlie Thompson, Littleton, CO: A few years back Motorcycle Consumer News did a sport touring bike comparison. Yamaha FJR vs Kawasaki Concours 14 vs BMW K1600GT. The winner? All the testers liked the BMW R1200GS adventure chase bike the best. It was just as fast in the twisties, more comfortable and more versatile.

Adventure bikes make wonderful sport tourers. I’d say Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki V-Storm, Yamaha Super Tenere, Honda VFR1200X, Triumph Tiger. I like shaft drive for touring. Buy 3 years old from somebody with service records. Spend the thousands saved on a long trip and good riding gear!

Jeremy Zorns, Kenosha, WI: Another thought- in addition to good riding gear, a person should have SOME kind of formal rider training. MSF Basic Rider course at a minimum. That helps with low speed handling, so one won’t be as likely to drop their bike, and also basic road riding survival skills. Private instruction with a rider coach is probably better for dynamic riding.

A couple books I recommend are “A Twist of the Wrist 2” by Keith Code and “Proficient Motorcycling” by David Hough.

Gary Fourman, Indianapolis, IN: Firstly, outside our club hardly anyone knows what “sport touring” means. When people ask me about riding motorcycles, I say, “I ride a sport touring bike. It’s a Yamaha FJR and I like it because it looks sporty but is big enough for traveling with two saddle bags and a trunk.” (At this point I’m pulling a photo up on my phone to show them.)

I like that style so well that all three of my bikes (in 13 years of riding) have been that: Kawasaki Concours, Honda ST1300, and Yamaha FJR. Many people say those bikes are too big for a beginner, but I knew I didn’t want to do just day rides and would make those choices again.

Mike Bowling, Sharonville, OH: Everyone’s definition of sport-touring is going to differ depending on their background, i.e., someone coming from a diet of strictly off road riding is going to differ from someone coming from sport bikes and they’d both differ from someone coming from a big bagger who only rides interstate.

The off-road guy would likely be happy on a Suzuki V-Strom or Kawasaki Versys due to their upright seating. With cheap(er) reliable examples being fairly easy to find, who could argue?

The sport bike guy will likely be happy on Honda VFR/Kawasaki Concours/Yamaha FJR type of bikes and no arguing they are reliable mounts that would still satisfy.

Dan Steinberg, Chicago, IL: Making the choice to buy a motorcycle should be a very thoughtful and intelligent process, ultimately ending on choosing the bike that you feel most comfortable on, regardless if it’s called a “sport touring,” “sport bike,” “super naked,” etc. I own all three types and have done sport touring trips on all of them just fine.

The bike you feel most comfortable on will also be the bike you enjoy riding the most. Just about every bike out there can be fitted with tank and tail bags, so my recommendation is start with the bike you feel most comfortable on right out of the box. Then add what you need to suit the riding and trips you want to take.


Connect with local Ohio Motorcycle Sport Touring Association riders at these monthly breakfasts:

Southwest Ohio Breakfast, 9AM May 18

Village Family Restaurant
144 S. Main St.
Waynesville, OH 45068

Central Ohio Breakfast, 8AM, June 2

Portside Cafe
6515 S High St
Lockbourne, OH 43137

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