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BMW Executive Indicates Sport-Tourers are Being Replaced by Adventure Bikes With 17″ Front Wheels

BMW’s S 1000 XR

MD has long been an advocate of the virtues of comfortable, upright ergonomics on the street. Way back in 2006, we published “Upright is Alright” to discuss our feelings. Not just sport bikes, but sport tourers have long tilted the rider forward enough to make him/her uncomfortable on longer rides … hence the popularity of bar riser kits for VFRs, FJR 1300s, etc.

With a small amount of wind protection to keep pressure off your chest, most riders appear to prefer being bolt upright, and more comfortable when touring. Indeed, this is the type of bike developed by MD in its KTM 790 Adventure S project. where, among other modifications, we swapped 17/19″ wheels for the stock 18/21″ items.

BMW’s S 1000 XR

BMW now has two “crossovers” with adventure bike ergonomics, sporty steering geometry and 17″ front wheels … the F 900 XR and the S 1000 XR. According to Dorit Mangold, BMW F-series project manager, crossovers are eclipsing the sport tourer segment. Here is a quote from his interview on the Italian site Motociclismo:

“But the market has developed in another direction in recent years. The Sport-tourer segment has contracted and has been swallowed up by the cross-over segment: those who want to do fast touring today choose a bike with sporty frame qualities, but also with more comfortable and relaxed ergonomics, inherited from the Adventure world. That’s why there is the F 900 XR.”

BMW’s F 900 XR

Of course, BMW is not alone here as, for example, Kawasaki has the Versys line. These bikes have 17″ front wheels as well, but plenty of riders are sport touring on bikes with a 17/19″ combination. Not surprisingly, tire manufacturers are beginning to offer sport touring, and even supersport tires (such as Metzeler’s M9 RR), with a 19″ option for the front.

MD project bike: KTM 790 Adventure S with 19″ front wheel and 17″ rear.

Looking back, the canting forward of the rider on a sport touring machine may have simply been a relic of the sport bike fascination that dominated the industry until roughly 2010.

Give us your thoughts on these trends below.

BMW’s F 900 XR

154 Comments

  1. todd says:

    Face it; riders are getting old. They no longer care how a bike looks, they want to spend more money to either impress others or to reward themselves. Their inactive lifestyle means they can no longer bend their knees and their wrists are plagued with carpal tunnel. They want more power to make up for extra mass and lack of riding abilities. They want the “Adventure” look because they realize they spent their lives staring at a TV but don’t want others to think they did. They want all the latest tech because they want to seem “hip” to all the young kids.

  2. Tomas says:

    To me, a sport tourer fits in between a true tourer and a sport bike. It is smaller, lighter and more nimble than a true tourer and has more ground clearance and tauter suspension to allow aggressive cornering. It has detachable hard bags that are aerodynamic, mostly sit up straight ergos and decent wind and weather protection. Modern ST’s also have adjustable windscreens, usually electric, and on-the-fly electronically adjustable suspension pre-load and damping. Either OEM or after-market aerodynamic hard trunks can be added. And they are capable of two-up, all-day travel.

    Having owned tourers, sport tourers and ADV bikes… The ADV bikes have more ground clearance than ST’s, are lighter and more nimble. But the boxy panniers and trunks typical of ADV’s are not very aerodynamic and heavily impact mileage at highway speeds. Yes, I shut off lights at night when I leave a room.

  3. ben says:

    Big surprise: nobody wants to be folded up on a cramped bike, be it a full on sportbike, or a sport touring bike. I have been full on into ADV bikes for 10+ years after spending most of my time since age 16 on sportbikes. When I ride a sportbike now, I think HELL no , even a concours 14 /FJR1300 is a cramped pain in the butt next to an adv style platform. I am done with sportbikes. I did feel the same way about the cramped little bikes even in my 20’s though. I remember being stuck at a traffic light on my R1 and thinking it was designed for a contortionist of very small proportions

  4. VFR_MANE says:

    Don’t forget Honda’s VFR. Ride all day and attack the twisties in style !

  5. foster says:

    With 26 years of riding my Honda ST1100 under my arse, there is nothing in these ADV bikes that interests me. As Freddy said below, there is nothing like the bliss of still air behind a totally protective fairing at highway speeds.

    One day, during a ride with a Harley friend, we encountered a frog strangler of a downpour, while on the highway and pulled off into a gas station after about 15 minutes in the rain. My friend, soaked to the skin everywhere, was amazed that I was dry as a bone, my helmet and boots showing the only evidence of rain.

    So what if a sport tourer might require a bar riser upgrade to sit more upright, which I easily did with a set of Rox risers. It sure beats sacrificing all the other great amenities that only a well faired sport tourer can provide. I guess I have to keep the ol’ ST for much longer yet.

    • Jeremy says:

      I’m not sure I’d classify the ST1100 and similar bikes (FJR, Concourse, R1200RT) as sport tourers, even though I’d wager that is what the “ST” stands for. In my mind, bikes like that exist in a niche that lay between sport tourers and touring bikes. That’s just my perspective of the market, though. I’m sure plenty of people would disagree with me.

      • Bob Krzeszkiewicz says:

        I agree with that. They’re all too big to really be a “sport” tourer. The R1200RT does handle damn well for it’s physical size though.

        Real STs are slightly roomier than sport bikes and are designed to hang luggage as part of the initial design language. Bikes like the Ninja 1000SX, H2 SX SE, Triumph ST 1050, Buell XB12XT, BMW R1250RS. Too few STs are left.

        • RyYYZ says:

          The RT handles damned well for its physical size because it’s considerably lighter than the other large, shaft-drive sport-touring bikes.

          In 2019 I decided I wanted another “proper” long-distance sport-touring bike, and the RT came up top on my list for its combination of features and relative lightness (relative to those other ones). Sure, it’s a little down on the power side of the “sport” equation, but it handles really well. I ended up picking up a low-mileage 2007 model for a song, like CDN$20,000 less than price of a new, comparable model.

          At 6’2″ and 53 years old, I just couldn’t handle a week (or longer) tour on anything with much more “sporty” ergos than it has. The ADV bikes would do, though maintaining a chain when touring is a pain in the ass (even with a centerstand, forget it without one).

      • mickey says:

        since by nature a “sport” is light and lively and a “tourer” is large with amenities and capacities to carry luggage and passengers. Some bikes like Jeremy mentioned lean towards the touring end but can still be ridden in a sporty manner.

        Bikes like Bob mentioned lean towards the sport end but can still carry some luggage and a passenger if desired.

        Depending on where you live and where you want to travel and who’s going with you (if anybody), a bike at one end of the two spectrums will be better for that purpose than a bike at the other end.

        We all know ANY bike can be toured on in some respect and ANY bikes can be ridden in a sporty manner in some respects, so I guess ANY bike could be considered a sport tourer… but in our vernacular a sport tourer is a bike that best combines the qualities of a full boat tourer and a full on sport bike.

        Kinda tough to do, and still satisfy purists at either end.

      • cw says:

        I have thought before that these bikes should be called “grand tourers”.

    • fred says:

      From the comments to your post, it appears that lots of people haven’t owned and ridden the big Sport Touring bikes. I purchased one of the first Concours 14’s sold in my state, and it absolutely is a sport tourer. More than a few 600 riders were surprised just how fast a two-up C14 can be. It was marketed as both a supersonic sport touring bike and as a transcontinental sport touring bike. A bit of artistic license, perhaps, but essentially correct. An amazing bike. It would yawn at 120mph, and ask “Is that all you’ve got?”.
      So, let the doubters doubt all they want. It doesn’t change the facts.

      • mickey says:

        There are those that can ride the bigger sport touring bikes frighteningly fast on the gnarliest of roads. Some guys have tons of skill.. and no fear.

        I used to call my ST 1300 a “whale” when I had to push it around, and a “killer whale on the hunt” once it got out on the back roads. It’s handling belied it’s 720# weight, and I have ridden with guys at ST rallies that would leave me in the dust like I was tied to a pole.

        Same thing with the FJR at 630#.

        These big sport tourers are quite capable, if the rider is.

  6. xLaYN says:

    Totally offtopic … did we have bike of the year this year on MD?

  7. Bubba Blue says:

    It’s been a long time coming. My BMW R1200RT is so painful after 150 miles of leaning over and shifting that I can hardly ride farther. BMW should be horse whipped.

    I think it’s as much shifting while partly leaned over that aggravates my sciatica. That and a tough saddle too.

    It’s otherwise a great, fun ride, but I cannot tour with it and it has to be sold.

    I’m going back to Harley-Davidson.

    • Gary says:

      Hard to see how a H-D will solve your problem, but to each his own. My RT is quite comfortable. I fitted it with a bar riser.

    • fred says:

      Seems strange to want to horse-whip a company who builds bikes that lots of people like. Why would you buy a bike that is incompatible with your physical condition? Your error, not BMW’s.
      I sincerely hope you enjoy your Harley-Davidson. They also build bikes that lots of people like, but that are not compatible with other riders. It’s great to have choices.

  8. Don says:

    Your insistence on including your 790 Adv. project bike with it’s 19″ front wheel when I thought the article was about Adv. style bikes with 17″ front wheels really left me confused about what your point was.

    • Hot Dog says:

      When you’re the King, you can rest on your front knuckles, scratch whatever parts you want and do as you wish. It’s good to be the King.

    • Dino says:

      I think the subtitle of the article is essentially people touring on bikes other than traditional touring or sport touring bikes.
      Even more than that, manufacturers modifying certain styles of bikes to create a new effect. Dirk’s project bike was a great example of DIY possibilities. Just like the good Ole days!

  9. Freddy says:

    Although I’m more of a naked/sportbike guy, I will never forget the first time I raised the windshield of a Honda ST1300 rental and experienced the bliss of a still, quiet pocket of air at 80+. I still haven’t pulled the trigger for a true ST bike because of the additional cost and weight, but I have a hard time believing that this new breed of AT/ST bike would deliver the same nirvana experience on the highway.

  10. RyYYZ says:

    I’m not really sure what’s meant by “sport touring” bikes.
    Is a BMW RT an ST bike? RS? Yamaha FJR? Concours 1400?

    If so, ADV bikes aren’t a replacement for that type of thing. I consider them ST bikes, but I know some consider them straight-up touring bikes. To me touring bikes are Gold Wings, various baggers, maybe the BMW1600, that sort of thing.

    OK, leaving those aside, what on the market today actually IS a sport-touring bike? Anything that isn’t a race-replica?

    Personally, I’d still rather have an attractively-styled ST bike than a faux-ADV bike with a silly beak and other fake off-road styling.

    I’m ahead of this trend, though – I bought an ’02 DL1000 V-Strom back in ’03 for use as essentially a sport-touring bike. Didn’t have any illusions about its off-road abilities, nor any desire to test them. Liked the upright ergos and leg room, and available centrestand, luggage options, etc.

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