Sport-touring motorcycles have a confounding job description. They need to be sporty and deliver plenty of performance capability while still managing to be comfortable enough for when the highway gets straight, flat, and boring. While both of our winners here lean towards the sporty side of the equation, they both manage to take the pain out of long days in the saddle while transporting us to distant locations with big smiles.
Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of the Year Winner: KTM Super Duke GT
When a bike is based on our 2014 Motorcycle of the Year and the 2017 MOBO Streetfighter/Hooligan runner up, you know it’s gonna knock your socks off. The KTM Super Duke GT does just that. In fact, during our Sport-Touring Three-Way back in April, the GT handily bested its two competitors. That victory, in addition to the mouth-watering experience we had testing it, is what nets the KTM Super Duke GT our selection as the Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of the Year.
The GT inherited one of the best engines on which we’ve ever had the pleasure of twisting the throttle. When we tested KTM’s 1301cc V-Twin engine, it cranked out 94.5 lb-ft of torque and a whopping 153 hp peak. All those ponies are controlled by an electronics package that includes Street, Sport, and Rain ride modes plus a semi-active suspension, Cornering ABS, cruise control, and a quickshifter. The GT also receives as standard equipment electronic tire-pressure monitoring, self-canceling turnsignals and LED cornering lights.
The SDGT’s visage would never be confused for anything other than a KTM. The sharply angled headlight and fairing are pushed forward into a distinctive snout. The windscreen allows enough breeze to flow past and help take the load off of the rider’s upper body and sporty grip position. Behind that, the touring range of the beast is augmented by a capacious 6.1-gallon tank. Bringing up the rear, an aluminum subframe supports the rider and passenger accommodations while providing mounting points for the standard (in the U.S.) saddlebags.
With a riding position decidedly on the sporty side of sport-touring, the GT manages to be aggressive without being uncomfortable during freeway stints. Get it on a serpentine road, and it will unwind the curves with its wide handlebar, formidable suspension, and ample torque. The seat is a reasonable 32.9 inches above the tarmac, and the pegs are rearward and high enough to offer good ground clearance without cramping folks who carry long inseams.
All that is cool, but it is the GT’s aggressive character that will really win over the hearts of performance-focused sport-touring riders. All that attitude and wide range of capabilities come with a big price – $19,999 – but if we could select any bike we wanted for a few days long tour that involved an abundance of twisting tarmac, we’d look no further than the Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of the Year, the 2017 KTM Super Duke GT.
Honorable Mention: Kawasaki Ninja 1000
The Kawasaki Ninja 1000 has been a MO favorite for a long time. So, we were excited when Kawasaki announced that it had been updated, and we were even more enthused when we discovered that Kawasaki had refined the Ninja 1000 in all the right places. While whole sections of the motorcycle remain mechanically the same, the big changes for the 2017 Ninja 1000 affect both power delivery and braking.
Although the big Ninja didn’t get ride-by-wire (or cruise control), some major electronic updates took place. A Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) allows additional precision in both the Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) and the Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS). Using information gathered on five data points, the Kawasaki Cornering Management Function (KCMF) can intercede on the rider’s behalf when acceleration and braking requests exceed the limits of available traction. The engine, one of the things we’ve always loved about the 1000, remains mechanically the same, and the updated EFI settings still deliver grin-inducing acceleration from the bottom end right up to the rev limit.
The updated fairing clearly marks it as a member of the Ninja family. The windscreen is easily adjustable for fine-tuning the airflow over the rider as weather conditions require. Stylish saddlebags are available, and their mounting system no longer requires trimming of bodywork.
The Ninja 1000’s $12,199 (without bags) only adds to its desirability. The almost $8,000 dollar difference between the class-winning KTM Super Duke GT can pay for a lot of road trips, making the Ninja a great value choice for the Sport-Touring market, which is why it is the Honorable Mention in the MOBO Sport-Touring category.