OK, maybe it seems like we're being a bit harsh on the BMW. The K12 does benefit by having a host of options. Heated grips have become a BMW mainstay by now, and as mentioned earlier the bike even has heated seats for both pilot and co-pilot. The bars are six-way adjustable via the Torx bit included as one of two tools underneath the seat (the other a multipurpose screwdriver), and the saddlebags can easily gobble up a helmet per side and then some. The bike even comes with cruise control for those long hauls. Niceties aside, the K1200GT failed to wow us in the areas where it counts and scored a resounding last place in the process.
Too Close To Call
From here on out things get a little more heated. During our ride the Yamaha and the Kawasaki were like two heavyweight contenders fighting for the belt, each trading blows until the final bell. And while both went the distance, it would be up to the judges' scorecards to decide the victor. In the case of the FJR1300A you have a motorcycle that embodies the essence of sport-touring: a strong engine, good suspension, strong brakes and saddlebags, all wrapped up in a nice and tidy design. All three testers agreed that the FJR felt the most compact of the bunch. At its heart is a 1298cc dual-overhead-cam engine with four valves per cylinder that pumps out 120.8 horsepower and 86.4 ft-lb of torque. Interestingly, Yamaha chose to stick with five forward gears instead of six on the other bikes, resulting in widely spaced gearing and a tall fifth gear, which spins the engine to around 4000 rpm when cruising at 80 mph. Also of note is that some testers felt the gearbox to be clunky in the bottom gears. Despite this the FJR still got the highest average fuel mileage of the trio at 39.1 mpg, besting second-place Kawasaki at 38.2 and the BMW at 37.5.
Kawasaki Concours 14
As you can see, all three bikes come with hard saddlebags that can easily store a medium-size helmet. The bags are all removable, and the locks share the same key as the ignition. In the case of the Yamaha a soft carrying bag with handles and straps is included should you want to take your things with you once you reach your destination.
Previous-generation FJRs have been plagued with stiff throttles that behaved more like on/off switches-making it near impossible to gradually feed in power. Thankfully Yamaha finally solved that problem with a revised throttle pulley in the '08 version. Though throttle action is still stiff, it's now possible to slowly get on the gas-say for corner exits or to make line corrections. That little improvement coupled with the FJR's eagerness to carve a corner gave it high marks on our testers' scorecards. Of the three the Yamaha had the most neutral handling, holding its line with just the initial input on the bars. Keeping the rubber on the road is a fully adjustable 48mm front fork that provides excellent feedback. A single shock, adjustable for preload and rebound damping, takes care of things out back.
Just like the BMW, the FJR relies on twin four-piston calipers to squeeze 320mm rotors with linked ABS. Initial bite is strong, and using just the front is enough for most endeavors, but to fully experience maximum braking both levers must be used.
All testers were unanimous in that the saddle was slightly too wide-in direct contrast to the BMW. Wind protection left something to be desired, as no matter where we put it the adjustable windscreen never formed that comfortable bubble. These were really the only qualms the Yamaha faced. Creature comforts include multiposition heated grips (unlike the two-position on the BMW), adjustable seat height and bars, roomy saddlebags, functional mirrors in the perfect location and a glove compartment with built-in power outlet-great for charging cell phones or powering GPS units while on the go.