Toured Stupid

Can three ‘sport tour­ers’ fit the bill for Fast Bikes? Three men, three bikes, three sets of tyres, many road miles and a cheeky track thrash will give us the an­swer…


It’s all too easy to get snobby or elit­ist about sports­bikes. Stuff that doesn’t make nearly two-hun­dred ponies or fea­ture at the front in Bri­tish Su­per­stock 1000 races of­ten gets over­looked, some­times even sneered at. Try boast­ing about a ‘lesser light’ down the boozer and it’s guar­an­teed you’ll raise a snig­ger or ten. If it ain’t the lat­est or light­est, can’t bust the dyno or a lap record, you’re re­ally best stay­ing sch­tum…

But while head­lin­ers like the amaz­ing new GSX-R thou’ quite rightly get raved about and lusted over, there’s a fair se­lec­tion of sec­ond-string stuff that war­rants some recog­ni­tion. Just ’cos it ain’t seen as the ul­ti­mate, or can’t be rated as the best of the bunch doesn’t mean it can’t play a part. Out in the real world, miles away from any booze-fu­elled brag­ging ses­sion, there’s a load of stuff that can do the busi­ness and make you happy. Plenty of speedy and ca­pa­ble kit wor­thy of a shout is on of­fer and well worth look­ing at. Just be­cause it isn’t rated as the best, doesn’t mean it should be dis­missed.

To prove the point, we picked a trio of such ‘also rans’ to see just how much lower they ac­tu­ally sit on the cred­i­bil­ity lad­der. To help iden­tify their real rank­ing, we took our cho­sen three – Du­cati’s new Su­per­Sport S, a KTM 1290 Su­per Duke GT, and Kawasaki’s Z1000SX – on a 750-mile, three-day jaunt round some good roads ’oop north. Bang in the mid­dle of the study we fired ’em round Oul­ton Park to see how well they coped with a track thrash­ing. If they were up to the task, fell short by ei­ther a whisker or a mile we’d know all about it al­right.

Be­fore we whizzed off here and there, we fit­ted some of Bridge­stone’s ‘lesser’ rub­ber to see if the same story of ‘be­low the ul­ti­mate’ holds true with tyres. It’s likely you’ll not see the hoops we tried ever be­ing lev­ered onto any race bikes. And though we never went round to in­spect all of the other bikes lap­ping at the No Lim­its track­day, there’s a pretty good chance none of what we’d cho­sen was be­ing used by any of the other track day crowd, ei­ther.

Even so, we were pretty con­fi­dent the Bridge­stones on all three bikes could prob­a­bly hold their heads high and put on a de­cent show. To help with the tech­ni­cal as­sess­ment of the black and round things (mainly over beers at the end of each day’s rid­ing), we also took along an ex­pert in the field in the shape of the tyre firm’s Euro sales boss Gary Hartshorne. Join­ing him was the mag ed­i­tor’s for­mer span­ner­man, Neil Wind­sor. I’d not met him be­fore, but ban­ter on the phone while mak­ing plans for the test sug­gested he’d fit the bill nicely.

We all met at Du­cati’s HQ in Sil­ver­stone, chucked a bit of soft lug­gage on the bikes, glanced at a map for a minute or two and headed off to Oul­ton. None of us knew ex­actly how well things would go, but it was sure to be a right laugh find­ing out…

Whi ch woul d you choose?

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