Sports tourers are the great all-rounders of the motorcycling world but, by their very nature, they can be somewhat compromised.
Not quite sporty enough for full-on track day action, but a bit too racy for transcontinental touring, there are nonetheless a number of small but effective modifications that can be made to improve the comfort and practicality of your sports tourer, and give you a steed that can take you to the Alps in the complete comfort – and still provide plenty of thrills when you get there. Here are five of our favourites…
First things first, let’s define what we mean by ‘sports tourer’. In America, the term ‘tourer’ has come to encompass behemoths like the Honda GoldWing, BMW LTs and a myriad of fully faired models from Harley-Davidson and Victory. To the Yanks, big shaft drive bikes like the BMW R1200RT, Kawasaki GTR1400, Triumph Trophy and Yamaha FJR1300 come firmly under the banner of ‘sports tourer’ even though us Brits would definitely be dropping the ‘sports’ for that kind of motorcycle.
To us Brits, a sports tourer is something like a Honda VFR800, Kawasaki ZZRs, Triumph Sprint or the new Ducati SuperSport. These bikes are definitely on the sporty side of the sports tourer genre and almost always feature a chain, rather than shaft or belt, drive.
It makes sense, because a chain is lighter and a more efficient way of transferring power to the back wheel. It gives better performance and helps handling. The downside is that they need more maintenance; regular adjustment and can wear out quickly – especially on powerful bikes.
That’s where the Scottoiler comes in. Other automatic chain oiler systems are available, but the Scottoiler name has become as synonymous with the breed as Hoover is to vacuum cleaners.
In fact, vacuum is at the heart of the Scottoiler system. A little plastic reservoir tube holds the specially formulated oil and is mounted discretely on the bike (usually under the seat). From this runs a thin tube that carries the oil along the swing arm and out through an injector that drips oil onto the rear chain and sprocket. The whole thing is operated by a vacuum feed from the engine, meaning that the flow is controlled and oil only comes out when the motor is running. Simple, but genius too.
Chain oilers extend the life of a chain by up to seven times and reduce the need to make such frequent adjustments – making them a must have for any riders of chain driven bikes who rack up serious mileages.
Sports tourers are designed with sturdy subframes that allow the fitment of a top box and panniers to help carry your gear while on a biking holiday.
There are generally two types of luggage: hard luggage and soft luggage. As the name suggests, soft luggage is less sturdy but has the benefit of being cheaper and more flexible. As well as soft panniers, tank bags and tail packs are popular choices. Hard luggage, whether from the bike’s original manufacturer or from brands such as GIVI or SHAD, are more expensive and bulkier, but can be locked for when you have to leave the bike parked up. Top cases are popular with pillions too, as they also provide a backrest, and they’re great for when you have to filter through traffic too, as they don’t usually impact on the width of the bike. Panniers, also known as side cases, can add even more luggage space, but they add width to the bike and can sometimes make it more difficult for passengers to get on and off the bike.
Full blown tourers and adventure bikes come with all the bells and whistles, and factory fit heated grips are almost standard fare on most touring tackle these days.
It’s one option that’s rare to find on lighter, and lower priced sports tourers, but well worth investing in for most riders. Anyone who rides year-round in the UK probably knows only too well how wonderfully decadent that sensation is when you flick the switch and feel the warmth slowly toast your hands. It’s well worth looking into for summer tours too.
After all most long trips involve early mornings and/or late nights, when the temperature drops, or trips up stunning mountain roads where, let’s be honest, it can get a bit nippy at the best of times. Heated grips are a relatively low cost investment. Most factories offer heated grips in their accessory ranges, and these usually slot straight in and integrate seamlessly with your bike. Third party grips can sometimes look a little bit clumsy when installed, and the added thickness may reduce comfort for some riders, so make sure you try them out before heading off on that once in a lifetime trip.
Touring bikes have big (and usually adjustable) screens that can be adjusted to deflect wind and reduce fatigue when cruising at speed.
Sports tourers, on the other hand, tend to have lower screens that require the rider to adopt more of a crouched position. If that’s something that bothers you and you want to sit more upright while clocking up the motorway miles, there are a number of manufacturers offering aftermarket touring screens. These can be ‘double bubble’ race style windshield or more upright varieties. You can also buy adjustable screens and small spoilers which allow you to really fine tune the aerodynamics to deflect the wind.
Often overlooked by everyday riders, the custom seat is the first item on the list for Iron Butt riders around the world.
Like almost every component on a production motorcycle, the saddle is a compromise of cost and convenience – designed to be a happy medium to riders of all shapes and sizes.
A plush seat can be a great way to reduce fatigue on long tours. Taller riders can add more padding to give a sofa-like level of comfort, while those shorter in the leg can sculpt and shape the seat to help them reach the ground better at standstill while improving comfort on the go.
Some aftermarket seat options can, shall we say, look a little tacky but many companies allow you to make completely bespoke saddles. It’s not only one of the best ways to improve the comfort of your steed, it’s also one of the biggest things you can do to really personalise your bike.