RAPID TOUR­ING

MT-10 T RACER TAKES ON THE BIG BOYS

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - By Michael Neeves SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

There aren’t many bikes that re­ally let you have your sports-tour­ing cake and eat it. Most are a com­pro­mise of sorts. Sure, you could ar­gue that you can tour on just about any­thing and that most mo­tor­cy­cles can be rid­den hard and fast, too. But is there a one-stop-shop ma­chine that can do it all – on a trip to the Nür­bur­gring, for ex­am­ple?

We want to find out if there’s a bike that can be rid­den in com­plete com­fort on the mo­tor­way from MCN’S HQ in Peter­bor­ough down to the Chan­nel Tun­nel and when it pops out the other side, along through France, Bel­gium and into Ger­many. I’m talk­ing zero sore wrists, neck, hips and knees.

Then can that same bike han­dle the per­fect curves and pris­tine tar­mac of the mag­i­cal B258 to the ’Ring with a smile? And could it go on to con­quer the most fear­some cir­cuit in the world: the 12.9-mile Nord­schleife?

The kind of sports tourer we’re search­ing for to­day needs to ooze com­fort and hit ev­ery sin­gle one of the dizzy­ing cir­cuit’s apexes. But most of all it has to make you grin like you’ve won the lot­tery. For­get sports tourer, we want a fun tourer.

We think we’ve cre­ated that bike. We’ve taken Yamaha’s new MT-10 - the first Ja­pa­nese ma­chine to bloody the nose of the Eu­ro­pean su­per-naked brigade - and decked it out with of­fi­cial Yamaha tour­ing ac­ces­sories (see right). We’ve made our own MT-10 Tracer.

If Yamaha ever de­cide to build an of­fi­cial MT-10 Tracer there’s a dan­ger it could be dumbed-down in its trans­for­ma­tion to tourer. But the beauty of our Tracer is it’s still the same ma­ni­a­cal, mono-wheel­ing track lu­natic we’ve quickly come to love, with the added prac­ti­cal­ity that comes with a screen, heated grips, a deeper-up­hol­stered com­fort seat, pan­niers and a tank bag. We’ve also fit­ted Yamaha’s bril­liant quick­shifter, to help us slice through the MT’S slick six-speed ’box with ease.

For our 1000-mile trip, we’ve also brought along four chal­lengers: BMW’S K1600 GTL is the ul­ti­mate lux­ury tourer, but it sat­is­fies the need for speed with its scream­ing six-cylin­der en­gine. The Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally comes with a boom­ing V-twin mo­tor and semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion, Kawasaki’s iconic ZZR1400 has a tur­bine-smooth en­gine a power sta­tion would be proud of, and fi­nally we have the new KTM 1290 Su­per Duke GT - the cra­zi­est sports ad­ven­ture bike of them all.

On pa­per the KTM ticks all the boxes on our fun tourer wish list. It’s comfy, prac­ti­cal, crazy-fast and steers as crisply as a su­per­bike. But here’s the strange thing: in its trans­for­ma­tion from su­per-naked to fun tourer, we’ve ac­tu­ally turned the Yamaha into the KTM, al­beit one that’s nearly five­g­rand cheaper.

The sim­i­lar­ity be­tween the Aus­trian and Ja­pa­nese con­tenders is un­canny. Both are light, sporty and flick­able. They have the same spa­cious, nat­u­ral rid­ing po­si­tions, equally ok-ish screens (but not the last word in wind pro­tec­tion), lug­gage space, and have char­ac­ter­ful, ex­cit­ing en­gines. They both purr at cruis­ing speeds, de­liver wild ac­cel­er­a­tion and don’t run out of breath around the Ring.

Ex­it­ing the triple-apex set of fi­nal turns at the Ring and on to the long fin­ish straight the Su­per Duke GT and MT-10 are neck and neck as they creep to­wards their rev lim­iters in top gear.

It’s the first time Yamaha’s in­line four-cylin­der cross­plane mo­tor has

‘Most of all it has to make you grin like you have won the lot­tery’ ‘You could do a whole lap of the ’ Ring in sixth on the KTM and still set a hot lap time’

lived in any­thing other than an R1 su­per­bike or M1 Mo­togp mis­sile. Stick­ing it in a naked (or semi-naked as it is to­day) is a stroke of ge­nius. Mak­ing a true 152bhp at the back wheel, the MT-10 is packed with easy grunt, a lin­ear spread of power and a wail­ing sound­track straight from Rossi’s tailpipe.

Over on the KTM, its 173bhp (around 156bhp at the back wheel) V-twin mo­tor is just as im­pres­sive. With the power of a Blade or GSX-R1000 it’s not slow, the throt­tle re­sponse is beau­ti­fully smooth and there’s a lim­it­less ocean of torque to dip into when­ever you de­sire. The Su­per Duke GT is easy to ride fast and you could do the whole of the Nür­bur­gring in sixth gear and still set a hot lap time.

The KTM and Yamaha both have elec­tronic rider aids, good and bad. In stan­dard trim the MT-10 has cruise con­trol and a su­per-safe trac­tion con­trol/anti-wheelie sys­tem that in­trudes only when you need it and lets you have fun when you don’t. The ac­ces­sory quick­shifter, lifted off the R1, is use­ful for fast and slow work and is as slick as the best com­pe­ti­tion sys­tems.

The Yamaha also has three power modes: A, B and C. The first two make the throt­tle snatchier and un­use­able, whilst C smooths things out - so that’s the one we stuck with.

Cruise con­trol and heated grips are stan­dard on the KTM, but a quick­shifter isn’t. The trac­tion con­trol is a con­stant source of frus­tra­tion - it cuts the power any time the front wheel gets be­yond a hover, so you never get to en­joy that great en­gine or the full force of ac­cel­er­a­tion the GT is ca­pa­ble of.

Of course, you can turn the KTM’S elec­tron­ics off if you’re at a stand-

‘ There’s a lim­it­less ocean of torque to dip into when­ever you de­sire’

still, but the con­trols are fussy... and then it re­sets ev­ery time the en­gine is switched off.

Through the cor­ners the KTM feels ev­ery inch the race bike and has a firmer chas­sis set-up than the Yamaha’s. The semi-ac­tive WP sus­pen­sion not only gives a plush ride, but also de­liv­ers crisp steer­ing, and sen­sa­tional feel­ing for grip at big lean an­gles. It comes on Pirelli An­gel GT sports-tour­ing tyres, which are great for all-weather dis­tance work, but fit some­thing sportier and you’ll turn the KTM into a gen­uine fast group track­day run­ner.

The Yamaha has a slightly softer set-up, but it still han­dles pre­dictably. At the Ring it gets into a bit of a wob­ble un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion and lacks feed­back at the front. The three­gen­er­a­tion-old OE Bridge­stone S20 sports tyres are re­spon­si­ble for some of the vague­ness, so more ca­pa­ble tyres would give a big im­prove­ment in grip, sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence. A se­ri­ously sporty rider might also con­sider an up­rated shock to sharpen the han­dling.

Brak­ing per­for­mance is fine at nor­mal speeds, but woolly at the lim- it. That’s more down to the way the Ja­pa­nese set their new elec­tronic ABS sys­tems nowa­days. The brakes on the KTM are sen­sa­tional, even run­ning the lat­est cor­ner­ing ABS sys­tem.

At the pumps, the KTM is the most fru­gal of all our fun tour­ers (50mpg) and the Yamaha the big­gest drinker (41mpg). With its 17-litre fuel tank, the MT can go the least dis­tance be­tween fill-ups (the fuel gauge flashes around 130-miles, or less), but to be fair it’s still a su­per-naked be­neath all that soft lug­gage. If Yamaha ever de­cided to build a real MT-10 Tracer we’re sure it would have a big­ger tank.

The Yamaha and KTM are the most fun and easy on your body over a long dis­tance. They were our favourites at the Ring, but when it comes to high­speed op­u­lence, look no fur­ther than the BMW. It lets you de­vour huge dis­tances with such ease you’ll barely no­tice the miles drift by in their hun­dreds. The first-class rid­ing po­si­tion is the last word in com­fort and there’s toys aplenty to keep you amused: a stereo, cruise con­trol, elec­tric screen, heated grips and seat, multi-func­tion dash… the list goes on.

Weigh­ing a hippo-like 348kg, the K1600 GTL is sur­pris­ingly light on its feet in the cor­ners and ca­pa­ble enough to duff up Porsches and the odd steady su­per­bike at the Ring. Push a cou­ple of but­tons to stiffen the elec­tronic sus­pen­sion, set your­self up early for cor­ners and the BMW wafts through with barely be­liev­able ac­cu­racy and sta­bil­ity.

But the Beemer is all about its mas­ter­piece of a 1649cc six-cylin­der en­gine. The silky 158bhp mo­tor a pro­duces 129ftlb, which is more than the ZZR1400. It ac­cel­er­ates with venom and wails like a tuned rac­ing car, which is prob­a­bly why for­mer F1 driver Martin Brun­dle loves his so much (see right). But the gear­box is slow and clunky.

Its sheer bulk makes it a bit hairy fil­ter­ing in heavy mo­tor­way traf­fic, but it never gets left be­hind. Short-legged pho­tog­ra­pher Joe stayed away from the BMW for the whole test. The bars on this GTL model are too close to the rider, so the flat­ter bars on Brun­dle’s GT make more sense, lean­ing you for­ward into a less slumped pos­ture.

Aprilia’s Caponord 1200 Rally is a much-over­looked gem and con­fi­dently ticks the prac­ti­cal and fun boxes. It’s spa­cious, smooth, has strong brakes and con­fi­dence in­spir­ing han­dling on the road and the track. Its elec­tronic sus­pen­sion gives a smooth ride and the trac­tion con­trol and anti-wheelie sys­tems work well, even if the dash and con­trols feel a lit­tle cheap and un­re­fined.

Over a long dis­tance the Aprilia’s

‘The Yamaha and KTM are the most fun and easy on your body over long dis­tance’

seat is the most un­com­fort­able here, but the Aprilia makes up for it with its ur­gent 123bhp V-twin en­gine and rum­bling ex­haust note when you turn off the mo­tor­way and head for the hills.

As ca­pa­ble as it is the Caponord is miss­ing the X-fac­tor of the other bikes here. It’s com­pe­tent and sure-footed around the Ring, even on its du­alpur­pose Met­zeler Tourance Next tyres, but doesn’t quite get the blood flow­ing, or the grin spread­ing across your face… un­like the Kawasaki.

If you were ever to get tired of feel­ing the un­fet­tered ac­cel­er­a­tion dished out by the ZZR’S 197bhp 1441cc in­line four­cylin­der mo­tor, we’d sug­gest check­ing your pulse to see if you’re still alive.

The ZZR1400 al­ways was and still is sav­agely fast, it paints black lines on the tar­mac un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, while its snake-like nos­trils greed­ily snort the hori­zon with the mer­est hint

of throt­tle. De­spite ooz­ing grunt, the mo­tor is friendly and pre­dictable, the throt­tle re­sponse is ex­quis­ite and the power is de­liv­ered in a smooth arc of barely con­tained fury.

Our test bike is the £2700-ex­tra Per­for­mance Sport ver­sion, com­plete with a pair of ti­ta­nium Akrapovic cans, a flip-up screen and an Öh­lins rear shock that gives a plush ride and adds to the creamy-smooth rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Sure, the Kawasaki is long and heavy, but, like the BMW, if you set your course through a set of bends early the ZZR1400 will scorch through with sur­pris­ingly lit­tle fuss. Its weight is ac­tu­ally a good thing when you’re high­speed tour­ing as it adds to sta­bil­ity and also helps to damp out any bumps in the road that you en­counter.

But com­fort isn’t up there with its ri­vals. The rid­ing po­si­tion and wind pro­tec­tion is no bet­ter than any cur­rent su­per­bike and the Abs-as­sisted Brembo brakes lack power, feel and con­sis­tency. Like the Yamaha it also comes with five-year-old Bridge­stone S20 sports tyres, so just fit­ting slightly more modern rub­ber would im­prove per­for­mance all round.

But for a trip like this the Kawasaki is su­perb. It has the kind of wide, thickly padded seat a sports­bike rider would pay big money for after a hun­dred miles and an en­gine that lets you out-drag any­thing on the road or track.

‘The ZZR’S power is de­liv­ered in a smooth arc of barely con­tained fury’

A trip from the UK to the Nÿr­bur­gring for a cou­ple of laps of the his­toric cir­cuit is the ul­ti­mate test of a sports tourer

Yamaha MT-10 £9999

We’ve fit­ted Yamaha’s en­tire range of tour­ing ac­ces­sories (£2353 worth) to their funky new su­per-naked to cre­ate the MT-10 Tracer the Ja­pa­nese firm hasn’t built... yet. De­spite all the ex­tra good­ies, it’s still the cheap­est here.

Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally £14,136

Pow­ered by a 1200cc V-twin mo­tor, packed with elec­tron­ics and semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion, the big Aprilia is an of­ten­over­looked sports ad­ven­ture ma­chine, but it’s a suave long-dis­tance ad­ven­ture tourer with a sporty edge.

On rub­ber-smeared hair­pin bends, our sports tour­ers get tested to the limit

It’s com­pe­tent and comfy, on track and off, but Caponord lacks char­ac­ter

‘Any idea where we are, lads? I’m sure the Nür­bur­gring is around here some­where...’

The Su­per Duke and MT-10 are fool­ing no one with those pan­niers...

The Per­for­mance Sport ver­sion of the ZZR1400 comes com­plete with an Akrapovic can

Dense Ger­man forests mean the Ring’s get­ting closer

Ev­ery­one wants a selfie taken with MCN’S Neevesy, even other road testers!

This €550 card is your ticket to 25 laps of the Nür­bur­gring, just swipe and ride

Bruce’s stature is per­fect for rid­ing 250GP bikes, but he’s not so suited to the K1600

Feel­ing a bit drained of adrenalin, the test team opt for a lit­tle bit of put-put ac­tion

The half-hour Euro­tun­nel trip gives Bruce and Neevesy a chance to chat bikes

Set up your turn early enough and the K1600 is sur­pris­ingly sprightly

‘The BMW is all about its mas­ter­piece of a six-cylin­der en­gine... it ac­cel­er­ates with venom and wails like a tuned rac­ing car’

Brun­dle re­gales the story about him beat­ing Schu­macher at Monza in 1992... again!

It may be fit­ted with a tall screen and comfy seat, but the MT-10 is still nuts!

Aus­tria’s cra­zi­est ex­port, the 1290 Su­per Duke is no less nuts for hav­ing pan­niers

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