A recent test ride on a VFR convinced me of the importance of ABS...I braked successfully in a tight spot, but also I never panicked for a second because of the confidence I had in the ABS breaks...and that presence of mind in an emergency situation is priceless.
I had been looking at 600's or the SV650 as my next bike...maybe I should just go heavily into debt and get a VFR instead...hmmmmm, I'll have to think on that...
Very good, thanks for the rider specs guys. The comments on ABS were indeed interesting and useful. Sound as if there are actually four winners in this comparo, depending on planned uses. Thanks again.
Doing parking lot braking from about 35 MPH with a friend (always good to practice), I locked the front wheel.
I did the right thing (released the brake, then braked again), leaving a 6 foot streak of black on the asphault and a 2 inch brown streak in my undies.
Let me tell you, there are few things spookier than feeling the bars go ABSOLUTELY dead in yoru hand. A locked front wheel will cause the steering to go totally dead. No stability from the front, no control, have a nice day.
If you are LUCKY, you will release the brake and only add about 6-10 feet of stopping distance which hopefully won't be so much that you smack into the left-turning H2 which has decided to block your path.
If you are unlucky, you just lossed all steering and >1/2 your stability, and you will be tasting asphault in about a second as the front wheel slides under the bike.
In a panic situation, you don't want to have to worry about the gravel, the oil patches, or anything else. You want the bike to just stop. Reverse thrust, fire the retros, throw out the anchor STOP. And the only way to get that is ABS.
Yes, under perfect conditions a good rider can outbreak ABS by about 1%. On bad conditions, the ABS wins. When you include that ABS is designed for when even the good rider doesn't have time to think, there is no question.
I rode my Sprint ST from Houston to Wilmington, NC and back this past January. Besides being cold, I remained comfortable the whole way. I took backroads up to Texarkana and then backroads all the way across Arkansas, Tennesse, and North Carolina. I especially enjoyed the Lookout Mountain area. I used the hard top-mount box and soft saddlebags and tankbag. All the extra luggage dropped me about 8 mpg in fuel mileage.
My wife rides on the back sometimes and says it's comfortable, especially with the top-box on the back. Triumph sells a back pad to place on it. This way your passenger has something to lean back on. For my wife, it provides both comfort and confidence that she ain't gonna fall off the back.
Anyway, good article. The Triumph has seemed to be the perfect compromise for me, especially when money is an issue. But I have never felt like the bike has let me down in any department. And though I enjoy riding twisty badkroads with my friends, I always feel as though I have to work harder. Reading your article has me thinking about the Futura. It seems to do everything the Triumph does, but does better in the twisties. Maybe it's time for a new bike.
Excellent report guys. Burns, I love your description of that route. I've ridden it many times and I love it because it is such a contrast to the yuppified coast where I live. We are truly blessed to be motorcyclists in SoCal where the diversity of the scenery is awesome.
As a Duc ST owner, I have to agree with you on the seat which is why I ditched the stocker for a Sargent (much better than Corbin IMO) and helibars so my hands would stop falling asleep. The Sargent also has excellent passenger accomodations.
I've lusted after the FJR since they appeared however with the new hog in the garage, I'll be hanging on to the Duc as my ST mount at least until a restyle is available.
while the comparison is good, the bikes are all mixed up:
Sprint ST, VFR, Ducati ST and the Futura fall under the beginner/sports-tourer category - chain drive, more sports oriented etc. They are like 600s to the litre class.
R1150RT or the K1200GT, FJR1300, ST1300, Triumph Trophy, Councours fall under the litre class of Sports-touring.
Granted, like the Kawi-ZX6R kicking the butts of 750s, some of the baby STs are comparable to their big brothers. But, one has to get their class compared first, take the winner & then take it & measure it against the big-brothers. - just like you did with the R6 couple of years back.
Oh, it is not about HP pissing contest in the ST category. It is more about all day comfort while racking up 700-1000miles a day, ergos, engine vibrations & buzziness, two-up comfort, handling when we hit the twisties (two-up), brakes, maintenance, reliability, wind buffeting & so on. It is not about dragging your knee on the track - but the bikes should be capable of doing it, when the owner desires so (the jekyl-hyde personality of STs).
Ignoring the ST1300 because it has fewer HPs to the FJR shows a lack of understanding of the segment (and grouping the Futura & Duc ST with the FJR proves it).
MO, don't know how much Yamaha is paying you, but camparos like this are useless...
I must disagree that shaft drive is a prerequisite for touring. Modern O-ring chains are very low maintenance, and offer the advantages of lower weight, no shaft effect on handling and easier ratio changes. If ya wanna go lower maintenance, add a Scotts Chain Oiler.
Ducatis make fine touring mounts and are now very reliable. Lack of a dealer network could be an issue, depending on the part of the country you live in, but certainly is not that big a problem in the west.
Check out some of the endurance records set by multi-time Iron Butt winner Gary Eagan who now rides a Ducati-sponsored, Salt Lake Motorsports prepared ST4 in endurance competitions. He also uses the Scotts Oiler I mentioned.
If the FJR is so far ahead, how come it did not win this comparison? As each tested stated, which bike wins depends on which factors you weight the heaviest. This is a sport-touring comparo, so how you balance the sport and touring parts will deternine which you prefer.
Totally agree with Dardas on his comments re: the absence of the VFR.
If the VFR is more GT than ST, than how on earth could the Ducati be included with a straight face? EVERY shootout I've ever read comparing these bikes has put the Ducati in it's own sporting category, comparatively. It's a slightly more comfortable 916/996/998--a more sensible canyon carver--but not the kind of bike you want to ride cross country upon.
Also, since the VFR is arguably the reason that the Triumph Sprint ST, Aprilia Futura, and Ducati even exist, its absence seems a glaring mistake, imho.
This was a really informative shootout--it was just missing one of the star players.