Lineage of Sport-Touring Motorcycles

Motorcycle WheelsHappy Birthday Rider Magazine: 35 Years Old

I’ve been enjoying a number of motorcycle mags every month for many years.

Rider magazine is among those and their April 2009 issue contains a series of articles that are likely of interest to many riders. One of my favorite articles in this issue is “Touchstones” (p. 64), by Bill Stermer, which outlines “The 35 most significant motorcycles of the past 35 years.”¬† The bike list covers the majority of motorcycle categories and there are several motorbikes uniquely pertinent to riders passionate about the lineage of sport-touring bikes.

The “35” motif reflects the celebratory theme of this issue’s 35 years in print for Rider mag (congrat’s!).

So, for sport-touring riders, and particularly for those interested in the purpose-built, sport-touring bikes featured on this website, here are a few tidbits:

The 1979 BMW R100RT (Reise-Tourer, or “Travel Tourer”)

This is the grand daddy of the whole sport-touring evolution of purpose-built motorcycles. Actually, at that time, the RT was considered a full-dress touring bike since the class of luxury tourers had not been established yet. Of all the bikes on this website, the RT is the only one that can boast a production lineage going back to the 1970’s. I recall this bike well, as I had a framed poster of this machine hanging on my walls, and just a few years later I elected to get a brand-new version of this bike’s younger sister, the 1984 BMW R80RT. Since 1979 all RT’s have come equipped with full-fairing, large windshield, shaft drive and saddlebags. The 1979 model was priced at $6,345, although if you were to find one in good condition today, you would pay more. Of course the currently available BMW R1200RT remains as one of Beemer’s best-selling bikes.

The 1984 Yamaha FJ1100 ($4,999)

This was a great bike, but unlike each of the other bikes in this article and, in fact, featured on this website, this was “not” a sport touring bike — or more correctly, it did not come with a large fairing and windshield, shaft drive or saddle bags. Its mention here is because this is the bike that the evolved into the FJR1300 that was introduced to Europe in 2001, before arriving in North America in 2002 for the 2003 model year. And of course the Yamaha FJR1300 is an award-winning complement to the purpose-built sport-touring bikes with full fairing, large windshield, shaft drive and hard saddlebags featured on this site.

1986 Kawasaki ZG1000 Concours ($5,699)

This was the first year for a bike that would enjoy a production run until 2006, to be ultimately replaced by the Kawasaki Concours 14. Like all the sport-touring bikes on this website, this bike came equipped from the factory with a large fairing and windshield, saddlebags and a shaft drive: the main items that make for a comfortable long-distance ride, but without all the bells and whistles of a full luxury tourer. Twenty years is an amazing production run for any motorcycle! Of course another amazing feature of this bike is that as a result of so many years of production with very little change to the bike, the machine always maintained a high-value, low price in its market. The last Kawasaki ZG1000 Concours (2006) was only $8,499, which offered unprecedented value relative to the rest of the bikes in its class which went from about 13K to 20K (depending upon optional equipment). Having owned several of these Concours bikes over the years, and ridden them coast-to-coast on various ocassions, I can attest to their reliability. (Heck, 5 of my friends bought these bikes due to my appreciation of them).

1990 Honda ST1100 ($8,998), also known as the Pan-European

Honda has introduced some significant machines to the motorcycle world over the years, and this bike was particularly significant for the sport-touring crowd. The Concours was still in its early years of production as the definitive, low-cost, sport tourer. And BMW’s RT maintained the high-end range of the sport-touring machines. Honda’s ST1100 not only added an alternative right in the middle, this was a machine that was built specifically for sport-touring, whereas the Kawasaki Concours and BMW RT were machines that evolved from other model lines. Honda’s ST1100 was the quintessential “purpose built” sport tourer which was designed solely as a sport-tourer, including its V-four engine, specifically made for this model which was built until 2002 and replaced by the current Honda ST1300.

2009 BMW K1300GT

Of all the currently available purpose-built, sport tourers, only the BMW GT series lineage was not mentioned in the article. Bear in mind that the GT series is the newest kid on the block in the family of bikes featured on this website: The K 1200 GT was introduced in 2003 and the BMW K 1300 GT was introduced in 2008 for model year 2009.

Although I enjoyed reading about all 35 bikes represented in this article – covering a broad swath of the motorbike world – I’m sure other experienced motorcycle enthusiasts might reminisce about their own list of “most significant” bikes in the past 35 years….

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Lineage of Sport-Touring Motorcycles”

  1. turbo Says:

    it will be interesting to see how the new honda vfr 1200 tests out. i’m looking for reviews on that.

  2. Riley Says:

    I tend not to write comments on articles, but your article called on me to thank you for writing up this great read.

  3. Skip Says:

    Cool. Thanks for putting this here.

  4. john2856249 Says:

    keep up the great work on the site. I love it. Could maybe use some more updates more often, but i am sure that you have got other things things to do like we all have to do unfortunately. =) 28562

Leave a Reply