Sports tourers. Snag finds a super bargain in a 13-year old mile-eater.

The sports tourer. The thinking person’s motorcycle. New ones are expensive, not getting around that. But there are cheap rippers out there with a few kays on them…

I have to own up here. This has always been my favourite category. For mine, the sports tourer really does what is says on the packet – cuts out big miles in relative comfort and does it with a good degree of sporting ability. Perfect.

Manufacturers have long recognised that Australian riders cover big distances, in fact, probably more than any other market in the world.

Yes, sports tourers are a big key to market share Down Under. But you have to part with a pretty penny to get a newie, and (don’t tell them we told you this), the real gems are in the used market.

This is good news for you, if you are in the market on a budget. There is a very nice range of hardware that fits the bill.

So, before we get started, let’s define what constitutes a sports tourer for the purposes of this guide.

The key is all there in the name. Sports tourer.

The bike needs to be relatively quick, big enough to carry a rider and pillion in good comfort for lengthy periods, offer good stowage ability, have good economy and tank range, possess a good degree of adjustability and offer a strong range of add-on options to personalise the bike to specific buyer needs.

That represents a lot of ticks in a lot of boxes.

For our purposes, I have stuck to big bore sports tourers. There are mid-sized models from the same time period (around 2009 model year) that fit the bill well, but they deserve a guide of their own and we’ll do just that in a future web article.

I have also left out the tourers.

Some may argue that things like the BMW R1200 RT of the time fits this bill, but I would disagree.

While bikes of that ilk are remarkably capable and can be pushed along at a very good clip, they have at their heart the touring element.


We have kept the list small on purpose.

There are other offerings that you could consider, but this group was very mainstream, used ones are readily available today and represents some of the major players in this category in 2009.

Let’s examine each, point out strengths and weaknesses as we go and try to arrive at a verdict. Phew, let the games begin…

The list is: (2009 Model Year)

Kawasaki 1400GTR

Triumph Sprint ST 1050

Suzuki Bandit GSF1250S

Yamaha FJR1300A

Honda ST1300

Kawasaki 1400 GTR – New price: $23,999. Price now: $8500-$9500

Uses the same engine as the venerable ZZ-R1400 (which is a bloody rocket) in a detuned state. This was a big, solid, mile-eater, powered by the aforementioned 1352cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 16-valve, four.

Kawasaki has always done big bore motorcycles well. In fact, it used to be the company’s stock in trade.

They are generally bulletproof when it comes to longevity and reliability.

The GTR is a shaftie and many sports tourers will love the lack of chain maintenance required.

Maximum power new was116kW at 8800rpm and maximum torque 138Nm at 6200rpm.

There were dual 310mm petal discs with four-piston radial calipers at front and a 270mm petal disc with dual-piston caliper at the rear. ABS was an option.

Fuel range was good with 22 litres aboard.

There was a nice range of add-on luggage including panniers and top box.

Seat height is 815mm but legs are splayed wide so it is a tall bike.

A lower seat option was available as well, and shorties will need to look hard at finding one of those on the used market.

Efficient, built well and muscular.

Suggest you are somewhat the same if this one comes into your calculations – after all, wet weight is 308kg and that’s a lot of bike.

The pick if you like:

Top-end horsepower and revs. The engine comes on song around 5000rpm and goes ballistic up to around 8000rpm. It’s a top-end screamer.

Not the best here at:

Low down grunt. In this category you really shouldn’t have to stir the gearbox as often as this one requires in the lower rev range. Torque figures are good though, it’s the weight that hurts it there.

Triumph Sprint ST – New price: $15,990. Price now: $5500-$6500

The Sprint consists of a lovely 1050cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 12-valve triple. There’s a very sexy single-sided swingarm, triple outlet underseat exhaust and three headlight cockpit – put this one firmly at the ‘sport’ end of the sport touring equation.

Maximum power new was 93kW at 9250rpm, max torque sees 104Nm at 7500rpm.

Stopping power comes from dual 320mm discs with four-piston calipers at the front and a single 255mm disc with two-piston caliper down the back.

Triumph did brakes very well indeed. ABS was an option.

Dry weight is 210kg (once again, think ‘sport’ here) and seat height is 805mm, but the bike is relatively ‘slim’ so that shouldn’t discount those of slightly lesser height.

Fuel capacity is 20 litres.

There was colour matched panniers (included in the price), and optional ABS available.

In fact, the range of add-ons for the Sprint was truly impressive.

The pick if you like:

To be different. The engine is a sweetheart and that triple yowl is downright sexy.

And hands-down winner on price.

Not the best here at:

Plush comfort. It tours without a problem but there is a slight racer crouch going on there – when weighed against this opposition.

Honda ST1300 – New price: $24,590. Price now: $7500-$10,000

Powered by a turbine-like 1261cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 90-degree V-4, the ST also had Honda’s Linked Braking System (which I grew to enjoy over the gens).

This runs through dual 310mm discs with LBS three-piston calipers and and the rear has a single 316mm disc with LBS three-piston calipers.

ABS was optional.

Maximum power was 93kW at 8000rpm and maximum torque sees 115Nm at 6000rpm.

Dry weight was 289kg, seat height 790mm – very manageable at low speed for a large motorcycle.

A big plus is the 29 litre tank. You can set course on the ST and cut out a big distance before having to stop for juice.

Touring features included a three-way adjustable rider’s seat, optional 35-litre panniers and an electric adjustable screen.

This one was built by Honda. That almost guarantees reliability and quality. Honda still leads in both of those departments, simple as that.

The pick if you like:

Comfort. The big Honda was marvelously appointed and you can ride it to the moon and arrive feeling chipper. Outstanding as a mile-cruncher.

Not the best here at:

Sporting prowess. It’s all there in the maths – this is a big ship and it behaves like one. You can press on, no doubt, but anything this size will have its limits.

Suzuki Bandit GSF1250S – Price new: $12,200. Price now: $5000-$7000

First of all, you may be wondering why this bike is in this field. After all, was it really a sports tourer?

You betcha it was. It was a whole bunch of things.

As underrated bikes go, the Bandit S was probably number one.

Dealers report though, that buyers often bought them on a multiple basis.

The engine was a 1255cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 16-valve, four, giving 98hp at 7500rpm and 73Nm at 3750rpm.

Yep, lots of torque, early in the rev range.

Final drive was chain and the fuel capacity 19 litres.

Brakes are dual 310mm discs with four-piston calipers at the front and a

single 210mm disc with single-piston caliper at the rear.

ABS was optional and only $500 extra. I’d be going for it all day, were I looking at the Bandit as a used buy.

Dry weight was a reasonable 229kg and seat height adjustable between 790 and 810mm.

There was a factory top box available, but panniers were aftermarket items.

The pick if you like:

A super-bargain. It’s a shipload of bike for the money, and it is right up there in the pace department. Very quick indeed.

Not the best here at:

Top-end appointments. If you are cutting out big mileages, you can get to like the niceties. The Bandit gets the job done, but if it’s primo period running gear you are after, look elsewhere.

Yamaha FJR1300A – Price new: $24,099. Price now: $8000-$9500

A few years ago, I tested seven sports tourers on one of my famed Capers.

Huge distances, seven riders.

A very comprehensive test. What won? The Yamaha FJR1300, that’s what.

A hugely competent machine (but by no means cheap when new), the Yam was powered by a 1298cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 16-valve four.

There’s 108kW at 8000 rpm and 125Nm at 7000 rpm.

Final drive was shaft and fuel capacity 25 litres.

Brakes are dual 320mm discs with triple piston calipers at front and a single 282mm disc with single piston caliper at the rear. ABS was standard.

Another ‘big ship’, dry weight was 262kg and adjustable seat height 818mm. Once again, shorties need to do their research here.

You get a wide range of cockpit adjustability, windscreen height and handlebar sweep angle.

Fabbo panniers came as standard.

The pick if you like:

The entire package, delivered, set to go. This is one of my all-time favourite motorcycles. It has one of the finest powerplants ever built.

Looks great too.

Not the best here at:

Smooth running. Engine resonance through the frame is evident at around 3000rpm, but sorts itself out. Small criticism though.

Do you really want a sports tourer?

If you’ve been following these guides at INFO MOTO, you’ll note that I ask that question of potential purchasers in each category and then seem to spend a fair whack of screen real estate trying to talk people out of choosing it.

The idea with this ‘self-examination’ is to ensure that you are going to be satisfied with a purchase after the initial ‘buyer-excito’ period is over.

Can you live with it, was it the right choice?

Let’s see if the used big bore sports tourer is the category for you… Try and answer the following questions as honestly as you can. After that, hey presto, you’ll know if sports touring is your thing…

[qsm quiz=1]

Okay, pens down.

If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, you are certainly in the right category, and can go to the canteen and relax for a while.

If you answered ‘yes’ to four of the above, well you should examine which ones to which you answered ‘no’ and think through whether the compromise you will have to make is worth it.

If you answer ‘no’ to four of the above, you should seriously be thinking again.

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Warren Davis
Warren Davis
2 years ago

Excellent choices here. Yes I am biased having owned all of these bikes excluding the Triumph. I did test ride a Triumph but the wife chose the ST1300 on that occasion. No lemons in this lot.

2 years ago

Nice list Snaggy…

Now 10 years old, my much loved Ninja 1000 should be close to getting a gig. A ridiculous new purchase price allowed plenty of room to purchase improvements (I’d suggest rear shock and seat to begin). Mine does nothing wrong, at ’12 there’s no niceties aside from ABS, but I’m old so that’s ok. The current model has up/down quick shifter! Thatd be a hoot…..

Cheers darky…

2 years ago

Nice list. Nothing from Team Green though! Love my Ninja 1000….
darky out…