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Well, after several years of luxury touring and falling behind the leaders in the mountains on my K1600 GT, that itch returned and I had to start looking at a new ride. Here is my saga of eight test rides, and the surprising conclusion I arrived at. Hopefully, this will be instructive for others who may be struggling with the same mid-life crisis ride issues I did.


First, some history. After a previous RT (2002 1150) and GS (2005 oilhead), I made the jump to the K bike. The power, ride quality and build were unbelievable, and I plopped down my money in 2012. It now has 15,000 miles on it, and is just getting warmed up. The only downside is heft. As others have reported, it’s a load in the garage, and just not that nimble when chasing lighter bikes on some of Ken Insley’s SR routes through technical turns in the Appalachians. After this year’s START, I finally had to bag the group Saturday afternoon and stay on the general routes. So the search began.


The goal was to find a lighter bike that could handle the trips to the mountains comfortably, and let me regain my twisty confidence. The target was somewhere around 200 pounds lighter than the 735 lb wet weight of the GT. I did a lot of research, and also examined carefully other sport tourers that I encountered on my rides.


• I first tried the RT. I had been pining for an RT with all the goodies that the GT had for many years. Then, they came out with a similar design in a boxer version, and similar if not better acceleration! I had no doubt that I would be trading in the GT for the RT when I did the test ride. Unfortunately, the ergos were not as good as I had expected, and the weight just a bit better, but not the significant jump I was looking for.

• The next obsession was a Yamaha FJ 09. The lines looked modern and the write up in MCN was very positive. After delaying a few weeks for the summer heat, I couldn’t take it anymore and hopped on a demo one Saturday under the sun. The engine was nice, and it certainly was nimble, but the comfort level just didn’t feel right. I knew it was a no go when I hopped back on the GT for the ride home.

• Next up was a Triumph XCX. Really more of an ADV bike with great WP suspension, the engine was pretty good, but it didn’t move me. Also, being another warm day in the Carolinas, there was some surprising engine heat on the right side at stops.

• To be thorough, I also rode the Triumph’s sibling, the new XRX. Same nice engine, pretty good ergonomics, but almost zero protection from the elements on the highway. I knew it would not do for the mountain commute. Triumph ruled out, even though the triple was pretty special.

• Next, I fell in love with the magazine raves and internet videos of the MV Agusta Tourismo. This was to be MV’s first foray into the sport touring realm and, at 460 lbs wet, the size of the bike was intriguing – at least on paper. The dealer did not have Tourismo, as they just started shipping to the states, but he did have a Stradale on the floor. He suggested that I ride that to see if I really liked it, as the frame and engine were roughly comparable to the Tourismo. Walking around the bike revealed a real bit of eye candy. The design and build of the MV’s is special. Unfortunately, after less than 5 minutes. I knew it was not for me. While the engine rev’d nicely and it was quite flickable, the cockpit was extremely confining and I felt that I was riding on top of the front tire. The dealer was happy I added very few miles to an expensive machine. Next.

• All these rides except for the Yamaha were staging out of Motorcycles of Charlotte, where they maintain a nice selection of MVs, Triumphs and BMWs. After noting the issues I was having with these other brands, Charlie, my very knowledgeable and patient salesman, suggested I try a GS. No thanks. Been there; done that. I wanted to stay with the sport touring class. OK then, how about the new BMW 1000XR. Like the GT, 160 hp, but only four cylinders and a nice new design. I had just read the review of the XR in MCN and was game. Charlie said there was one consistent observation about the bike from other test riders, but he didn’t want to tell me until our ride was over. The bike had great power and a nice feel, with wide bars and well distributed weight. It felt much lighter than its 500 lbs. But, what was that through the handlebars? As noted by a couple of MCN testers, the buzziness was unbelievable. When I mentioned that as I dismounted, Charlie said, yep, that’s the issue. It is not just an annoyance, but a real issue with this bike that BMW will have to address if they want to sell them. Scratch another one.

• We next tried the new RS. I really loved the redesign, and had ridden a friend’s years ago and was quite impressed, so was excited to try the new incarnation. The boxer engine was outstanding, but the forward lean was more than I expected at an advancing age, and was just too much. It had a more comfortable cockpit than the other bikes, and I was very comfortable with the dash and controls, but it still just wasn’t right.

• Charlie persisted. “I think you really need to try the new GS. It sounds like just what you are missing in all these other bikes.” Thinking that I might have been too premature in rejecting the GS because of the desire to find the perfect sport tourer, I relented. They pulled out their 2015 demo and fired it up. After I got on, sitting up straight, and put my hands out to the wide bars, I let out an audible gasp. Oh my gosh, this feels just right, I thought. Then, on the ride, I was blown away with the new water cooled boxer. I felt a wide grin under my helmet. This one was perfect.

Being the conservative bargainer, I said I would sleep on it, which really meant I needed to talk to the wife. She was all for it and I told Charlie I wanted the new Light White GS they just got in and hadn’t even uncrated yet. It had all the add ons, except spoked wheels, which they threw in to cement the deal. After a weekend in the mountains chasing Chris Kinney, Slumgulian and Foot, I can finally keep up again and feel like I’m back home. What an amazing machine. I don’t think I’ll ever need another motorcycle. See everyone at START with a new set of wheels!


Randy Shields


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Great choice in a new bike.


By the way, I just picked up a 2015 GS Adventure (lowered) a couple of weeks ago. I was moving from an '06 RT, so I have a reasonable idea what sort of things you were thinking about.

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You know the saying: Without pictures...


So here is a picture of Randy and his new GS. The smile on his face says it all!




He had that smile the whole weekend!



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  • 5 months later...
Chal De Cecco

Nice choice. As I read down your list of try outs I kept saying it's either an RS or GS. My inseam helped me choose the new RS. Both of these are outstanding motorcycles and loosing about 200 pounds of bike weight is a blessing........

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