Whilst they may not have the razor-sharp handling of the very best sports machines, sports tourers are not always as compromised as their name might suggest, in fact in many cases the average rider would be hard-pressed to use their performance to the full even on the confines of a closed racing circuit. Advancements in motorcycle technology have not only offered increased performance, but also improvements in overall ‘rideability’, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the sports touring bike market. Now you can have 99% of the thrills on a bike which is often much easier to live with if you like to rack up the miles, and definitely more comfortable if you regularly carry a pillion passenger!
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As if to underline that fact, the majority of manufacturers now include at least one sports touring bike in their range, and in many cases they have proved to best sellers. Honda’s VFR range spans back decades, but is still a firm favourite. Early VFR750’s are still popular, but the more recent VFR800 (and it’s technically advanced brother-the VFR800 VTEC) are proof (if it was needed!) that sports tourers can handle like a sports bike if you want them to. BMW offer a range of sports touring bikes including the boxer-engined R1200ST and R1100RS, the K1200R with an in-line 4-cylinder motor and even parallel twin powered machines such as the F800ST. Kawasaki’s ZZR range is a perennial favourite, with 600cc and 1200cc versions offering great all round performance combined with acceptable levels of rider comfort. From the UK, Triumph’s Sprint ST is a very capable machine which has a loyal following and an enviable reputation for great handling and practicality.
If you are looking to buy a used sports touring motorcycle, it’s well worth taking the time to ride a few before you make your mind up, particularly if you have been used to sports bikes previously. Designed to eat up the miles with ease, many sports tourers will have covered more miles than the equivalently aged sports bike, so a careful mechanical inspection will pay dividends. Though their generally lower powered motors will be less stressed than that in a sports bike, it’s well worth seeking out a bike with a carefully documented service history.
In keeping with their touring ability, many machines will be equipped with accessories such as panniers and top boxes, in some cases aftermarket items, though often factory fitted. Other popular accessories intended to improve rider comfort include heated grips, adjustable windscreens and even motorcycle sat nav systems. Many modern sports tourers are also fitted with ABS brakes, which whilst being generally very reliable, can be more expensive to repair than conventional systems and should be carefully checked.