Touring Options??

Hi All,

Well we are looking to go off touring this year - Scotland, France and a few long weekends in Wales and Cornwall.

I am thinking of selling my Kwak ZX6R 2002 model and have several thoughts on a suitable replacement. I have a weakness in my lower back and would prefer a bit more comfort. I wondered who amongst you have owned the following and can offer comment on running costs, spares, reliability, comfort etc.

So I have narrowed it down to three:

BMW R1200GS (and the adventure would give me a longer range tank!)
Honda VFR800
Honda Blackbird

I had thought about the Triumph Sprint ST but having looked at two models recently both had what looked like the paint finish on the support arm middle lower engine support (I think!) fading and rubbing off - made it look cheap and nasty anyway!!

The VFR appears good, but have heard that the VTEC is expensive to sort if you get trouble; the BMW is costly as its well BMW and the Blackbird - well just not sure if the position would be comfortable as its similar to my current set up. Top speed is of no consequence as I am aiming to see the areas I am passing through but will be looking to carry clothing and camping equipment.

Cheers for any useful comments.


With no direct experience of any of the above I can tell you that unless I’m carefull about my posture my back aches more on my Africa Twin than on my Ducati. Granted I’ve not done a massive trip on the duke yet but I’ve found with a more upright riding position you can sometimes slump down and this causes back pain. It’s not to much of a problem for me but if you have a back issue then it’s something to think about.

Sometimes a kidney belt helps to stop this as it makes you sit more upright or you just need to sit more upright.

I used to own a ZZR1100 which was perfect for long distances. I did a 3000 mile (5 weeks) trip on it through Europe once and the only trouble that I had was some cramp in my throttle hand. You could probably pick a good one up for under £2k.

You could just get some clip-on risers to improve the comfort of the zx6?

The Blackbird is ideal, it’s great with luggage, pillion, distance etc. With a double bubble screen fitted the weather and windblast situation is fine. Comfort wise, the seat is all day comfy but some complain that the riding position is hard on the wrists and legs. Fitting Vtec VFR bars, or the bar risers from Jaws Motorcyles is a tried and tested, easy modification that sorts this out (cables and hoses don’t need changing). If you’re particularly long in the leg, Buell XB12 footrests are easily fitted, and move the feet back and down, this costs about 12 quid per side. Articles on how to do both of these mods are all over the net on Blackbird sites such as and B.I.R.D. Build quality is typical honda, and despite it’s power and weight it’s pretty easy on chains and tyres too. Petrol consumption depends entirely how you ride it. 150 till reserve can be done, but so can 110 till reserve if you’re naughty… and that engine will make you misbehave.

Any opinions on the VFR? I’m looking at getting a '98 model to do a 2000 miler this summer.

I had 3 years of excruciating lower back pain but have been able to do 400 mile days on my beemer no problemo. the upright position is fine as long as you have decent wind protection , and I do add 230-240 miles to reserve and its the business! mind you its not a gs … touring has actually helped my back so give it a go ,and get a lower back support they do help .

Much appreciated; looking at upwards of 2500 miles in France and similar in Scotland. Gonna give the GS and the K a whirl - despite the stigma associated with owning one they are just made for the job!

Thanks Nick; although the MPG could be a pain - I get 125 in to work and 170 on a run out of my Kwak.

I can sympahtise with the zx6 & backpain (after an off). I did 2K miles to scotland and back on it and I needed a new spine and anus.

Re: finish on the ST, this is a reported issue. The GS is no different, anecodately, it has “poor finish”. There’s a GS blog somewhere. I have a mate that rides an ST 2 up all over the UK and he loves it.

VFR, my mate Andy rides one and I’ve been on it. They’re more upright and comfy. I’d have one but you’re looking at pannier and topbox options… like a ferrari towing a caravan…

You say not interested in top speed, are you considering other bikes then, because all those you mention are 750+ cc?

New or used? 2 up I take it? I guess a 600 or 650 might start getting a bit dodgy 2 up with camping gear… Deauville, Vstrom, Transalp, KTM?

I went to spain last year (2800miles in a 8 days), and several bike rally’s in different part of the country. I ride a Daytona 650, it was not that much of a problem, once you have worked out how to fix the luggage

Hey G,

I think you mean Ferarri with Roofrack and top box!!

I must agree the ST does look nice; suppose the best thing is a get a few test rides booked in.

I wanted something that was gonna be well built, reliable and capable of miles so BMW and Honda imediately sprang to mind. Something with a lot of low down torque for any alpine jaunts when we do France, Germany and Switzerland next year. Someone has mentioned a want to ride north to south of Africa too!!

And I do not really want to be swapping it in after a couple of years.

It will be new, not second hand as I know how it has been run in and looked after etc (thats how I have always bought my bikes!) and occassionally two up but when I suggested the latter the other night was told that its no fun for her…so two up may be very ocasional or even rare on weekend jaunts. I doubt once the weather improves a little, warmth wise, there will be no stopping AbbeyJ getting out on her bike!!

Yeah, I like the ST, but I’m hearing little niggles about the newer ones. Still, high mileage ST’s, VFR’s and GS’s all have high re-sale values so there’s something in it, you’re on the right track I think.

I suppose any of those can 2-up on occasion with ease. So ask yourself, what will it be like the rest of the time when you’re riding it solo? Do you want the hard luggage, how often, how easy to switch out etc.?

I’ve put a lot of thought into those 3 but have only experience of riding the VFR. The honda is the sportiest, so great solo and you’re looking at soft luggage (the panniers are a pain, I know). Is the VTEC that much of a worry? I didn’t notice it. Magazines are saying it’s less noticeable this year though still expensive to service, IIRC.

The sprint is the middle option - hard luggage optional, can sport and tour, finish and electrics questionable. High rise bars. I love it, having sat on many at bike shows and showrooms, but haven’t even had a test ride. Most owners adore them.

GS’s, well there must be some Ewans on here ( ) who can comment. I do have a mate with one, and another considering buying, so I might know more in a few months. I just about managed one at the brum bike show and I’m 6 foot. Finish is defintely not what you expect from BMW, but then I hear the same is actually true of their cars…

Have you test ridden any yourself?

Same here sat on many at shows, can flat foot the GS and almost completely the Adventure just a fraction on each heel - qarter of an inch if that its so close!

Well if anyone has has experience of owning and running anything I’ve mentioned it would be really useful as sitting and test riding do not tell much until you start to live with one.

Any other comments greatly appreciated peeps.

And yes a mate has already earmarked the appropriate Pipe and Slippers if I end up with the BMW - cheers mate!!

i would personally look at a vtec vfr, they tick all the right boxes, ive had a go on one last month and they ride superbly and have the capacity to tour all day in fairly good comfort. , or try the fazer, fab tourer! ha ha, fz1 next year!!