Twenty odd years ago the sports tourer was where it was at. With everyday sports bike performance and the ability tackle a European tour as comfortably as the daily commute these Jack of all trades may have been masters of none, but they were still damn good all rounders.
Bikes like the Honda VFR750 and Triumph Sprint ST were best sellers, only for Ewan and Charley’s Long Way Round series to kick start the adventure bike revolution. Suddenly the BMW R1150GS and its clones were the great all-rounders as the sports tourer slowly shuffled out of manufacturers’ ranges.
But there is still as small but loyal following for traditional sports tourers. Lower and more manageable than the off-road styled adventure bikes, there are still a good few still on the market today.
What’s more, the sports tourer usually represents a lot of new bike for the money. Here’s five of the best…
Triumph Sprint GT
The 955cc Sprint ST of 1999 was a real gamechanger for Triumph. It took the three cylinder engine from the T595 Daytona and gave it an ideal home in a more practical package. It was aimed directly at the Honda VFR800 and bettered its Japanese rival in many ways.
In 2005, the all-new 1050cc Sprint ST was warmly received and it’s that bike that morphed into the Sprint GT you can still buy today. Launched in 2010, the GT was longer and more touring focused, with an all-new back end allowing better pillion comfort and luggage capacity.
Outdated and never well received upon launch, the Sprint GT has nonetheless lasted for seven years. To be honest, we’d pretty much forgotten about the GT and were surprised to see that it’s still in the Hinckley company’s line up. In many ways it typifies the age old plight of the sports tourer. Not sporty enough for the sports guys and not touring enough for the guys who really want to rack up the miles, the Sprint GT struggles to find its audience. In a range full of superstars, the Sprint GT is the forgotten old uncle of the Triumph range. It’s outdated and uninspiring, but Triumph have thrown a lot of spec at it (now known as the Sprint GT SE) and at £8,999 it includes the humongous three-box luggage system from the Trophy. A lot of bike for the money.
The bike that created the class, the original VFR750F of 1986 garnered a massive following.
Launched on the back of the unreliable VF750 range, the V4 motor was hugely over engineered and featured gear driven camshafts to overcome its predecessor’s Achilles Heel.
The first VFR800F entered the world in 1998 and gained the VTEC variable valve timing system in 2002. This bike polarised opinion among VFR owners, who didn’t like the stepped power deliver or the lack of practicality from the underseat exhaust system.
The current version was introduced for 2014 and remains a steady rather than stellar seller. At £10,829, without any luggage, the VFR is not cheap. It’s not a particularly thrilling ride either, but it is superbly well built and a quality machine.
Bavaria’s latest entry to the sports tourer rank was launched in 2015 to a lukewarm welcome.
Not that there is anything wrong with the R1200RS, far from it, it’s just that the £11,440 RS faces massive competition from not only other brands, but also the numerous other models in BMW’s own range.
For so many riders looking for a hugely capable all-rounder with round-the-world comfort, the R1200GS is the automatic choice – while the R1200RT fills the roll of the quintessential fully loaded tourer.
Both are more expensive than the RS, but not by enough to really matter for the typical purchaser of a new BMW. The RS is a big bike, albeit a little lighter and more manageable than both its stablemates.
The R1200RS is an extremely competent yet overlooked sports tourer. It may lack the cache of other models in the BMW range, but for riders looking for that classic boxer experience in a simplified package, it’s definitely worth consideration.
While the sports tourer genre is generally in decline, one bike that consistently features strongly in the sales charts is Kawasaki’s Z1000SX.
Based on the hooliganistic Z1000 naked, the faired SX feels like two bikes in one. Some love it and some hate it. The bombastic motor is pure Kawasaki, with lots of revs and a 140bhp top end. The chassis has been designed to carry luggage and a passenger, making it quite long and heavy (235kg), but it can be hustled along at pace if need be.
Unlike many manufacturers, who update their sports tourers once a decade, the Z1000SX benefits from Kawasaki’s continued development of the model. At £9,999 the big Z is a bargain bruiser and for £600 more you can spec it up to the Tourer edition, complete with panniers and a GPS bracket.
New for 2017, the Ducati SuperSport is the Duke you can ride every day.
As sports tourers go, there are few better than the Italian company’s Multistrada – though the tall suspension and upright styling but it more in the ‘adventure’ sector than ‘sports touring’.
The SuperSport provides a bit more of a sporting edge in a package that’s more amiable to shorter riders or those who are not so keen on the whole adventure bike thing.
On paper, the SuperSport sits close to the Honda VFR800F but on the road it’s much sharper and sporting, as you’d expect from Bologna’s finest. At over £12,000 it’s not cheap, and that’s before you add in some panniers and additional touring goodies, but as a practical sportsbike that really can do it all, Ducati has knocked it out of the park with the SuperSport.