Guy Boutin's Motorcycle Touring and Travel Pages

dventures in Sport Touring with the Honda ST 1100, 1300 and the BMW 1200RT

Exploring North America...One Road at a Time

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                         ST or RT?

After riding both bikes for 5 years on various tours, I felt the need to update this page.

Let me say at the outset, these are 2 fine motorcycles that do the same thing, but in different ways, and that makes owning them fun and rewarding.  I am in a unique position, and here to help a guy decide which bike is right for him.

Each bike has attributes that are special to its character.  For the Honda that would be its sublime powerful motor, and for the BMW its beautiful 2 piece fairing, overall looks, and comfort.

A pattern has emerged over the miles and tours with the bikes.  I prefer the Honda on the long West Coast Tours.  I like how it devours those empty stretches of road at 100 mph effortlessly.  I feel more comfortable on the Honda when I'm out that way, because BMW dealers are as rare out there as common sense with Britney Spears.

In the east, with its tighter mountain riding, and less open spaces, I like the nimbleness of the RT.  I could reverse the scenario and do fine, but it wouldn't be the optimal option. 

Locally, I ride with the panniers off the RT.  Something you can't do on the Honda.  When the bags are off the 1300, it looks like something is missing, not so on the BMW.

Another thing I noticed over the miles; how much taller the RT is than the ST.  Without the optional low seat, the bike would be almost impossible for me.  If it weighed as much as the ST, I'd be in deep trouble, but the bike is light, and that makes its height somewhat manageable.  The Honda has a lower center of gravity, but that is cancelled out by the RTs lower weight.

The RT delivers 7-10 mpg more than than the Honda, and on the same brand tires, returns 2-3k miles to the good.  The ST seems to go through brake pads at a faster rate also.  You can read more about such stuff on the maintenance pages.

When I say this bike does this or that better, that is not to say other is no good, it is, but the stable mate just does it better, and I have to be honest and point it out.

I hope this comparison helps.

March 2008

What can the RT do better than the ST?

Comfort-  In the beginning I rated this area a toss up, but after a 5,000 mile trip to Prince Edward, and then a 2,300 mile fall tour, I had to move this category to the RT's column.  The RT's riding position is the sweetest in sport touring, down and in the cockpit, and upright.  The handlebars are swept back to the rider, taking all weight from the wrists.  The seat is better, and the RT's superior wind management is less fatiguing on the rider.

Wind Protection-The RT has the better wind protection, it offers less buffeting, and more quiet.  In fact, I'd say the RT has NO wind noise.  Even with the screen down, a smooth flow of air is all the rider notices.  The fairing is larger, and the screen more tilted and aerodynamic than the ST 1300's.  The Honda screen is effective, but does not do as good a job at reducing wind noise.

Handling-  The carving ability of the RT is unmatched in the world of touring bikes.  It is that good.  The telelever/paralever set up of the BMW is better than the Honda's.  It takes bumps with aplomb, and still offers excellent handling in the twisites.  On the RT, a mediocre rider (like me) can keep pace with the Honda.  But the opposite can't be said.  A lackluster rider on the Honda is quickly left behind chasing an RT in the hands of an aggressive rider.  I'm sure there will be riders who don't agree, but if 10 guys had to make a call, 7 would give this award to the BMW.

Do Dads and gadgets-  The RT has a vast array of gizmos, and all of them work very well.  These are things that make long distance riding better for the rider.  Heated seats, heated grips, cruise control, ESA suspension, gear indicator, 3 different top box options, special gas tank for tank bags, 2 external plugs for heated gear or battery tender, trip computers with all the info a guy needs.  The Honda has a few of those items, but is lacking in a few others.  The Honda should have at least everything the BMW has, riders like me don't care about the cost, just put them on.

Two-up riding- If you ride with a partner, you have to take a long look at the RT.  The load capacity is better than a Gold Wing.  The problem with the Wing is it is so heavy to begin with.  By the time you add another rider, you're already pushing the limits.  The RT is light, and still gives the passenger a lot of room.  Debbie enjoys the RT more than the ST.  She says the backwash is gone, and loves the quiet the RT gives her.  True, she does not ride much, but when she does she wants to take the BMW.  Also, the RT handles better than the 1300 when she is on board.  

Before buying a Wing I'd tale a good look at the RT, the money is going to be about the same, but the RT is a much more versatile bike.  Still nothing, matches the couch like seat of the Wing for the passenger.

Lights-  This was another item I moved from the toss up field.  The RT's lighting is 20-25% better than the 1300's.  At night I'm often signaled to dim my lights, when I don't have even have the high beams on.  The BMW headlamp is powerful and intense, and does a good job lighting the roadway.

What can the ST 1300 do better than the 1200RT?

The Motor-  Give a decided edge to the Honda.  The V4 motor in the ST 1300 is the best power plant in the touring business.  Fast, smooth, and reliable.  It makes power across a broad band, and pulls like a tractor.  At 120 the motor is loafing along, and at 100 it can be positively sedate.  It does not require much maintenance.  You never worry about the motor overheating, well you never really worry about it doing anything but taking you where you want to go at maximum warp.  I've never known either version of ST to ever suffer a catastrophic motor or drive failure.

Reliability- Not really had the RT long enough to make a call on its reliability, but I'm going to give this to the Honda.  I just don't see it otherwise.  All you have to do is look at the records of the STs on this web site.  In almost 150,000 miles the 1100 and 1300 have not had anything ever break, and have never failed not to start right up when the button is pushed.  Heck, I've never even had one run anything less than perfectly.  

Warranty- Another check to the 1300.  Can you say 6 years, unlimited miles, fully transferable?  Standard factory is 3 years unlimited miles, for 500 dollars, Honda doubles the warranty, whatever it might be.  Fully enforced and backed by Honda, not 3rd party.  One extra year, 3rd party on the RT?  Over 400 dollars. still shopping for a better deal)

Brakes-  Another switch from the toss up field.  After spending more time on the bikes, the Honda has the superior stoppers.  Not by much, but noticeable for sure.  They are very smooth, precise and powerful.  The RT's are  good, but feel just a little more wooden.  The Honda's ABS and partial linked units are flawless.  The BMW has excellent brakes, some of the best in motorcycling, but the Honda still wins.

Dealer Network- If a McDonalds is in town, good chance a Honda shop can be found.  Riding cross country you don't know how important that can be till you have a problem.  For 35 dollars a year Honda Riders Club will pick me and my bike up, and take us to the nearest dealer, where I  get out my warranty card.  The club also pays my  expenses while I'm layed up. 

Price- In the States the 1300 goes about 4k cheaper than a nicely equipped RT.  For some, that can be the deciding factor.

Toss ups

Looks- Strictly personal, but if you like one, probably going to like the other.

Luggage-  Each bike has spacious, easy to operate luggage.  I like the mechanisms on the RT  just a little better, but the Honda's are good.  Each has optional top boxes that look nice and functional.


As you can see I can't make a call, why I own both.  Sometimes I prefer the Honda, others I go for the RT.  Depends on which one I've been riding the most lately.  

If money is a factor, than the Honda is the way to go.  It is in the ball park with the things the RT does better, except handling.  The RT is just super good.   

I think the RT is a little more fun to ride, but has a greater cost of ownership.  

Otherwise I don't know.  Check the things that mean the most to you.  Motor? Handling? Do Dads? Warranty? From there make a decision.  You can't go wrong with either bike, I love both, and enjoy riding them.  Each have virtues unique to its character, that make owning them fun. I needed a stable mate for the Honda that could do the same, but in a different and unique way.  The RT does that.

 Sometimes I ride the bikes back to back.  I'll take off on the RT, putting down 60-80 miles on my favorite loops.  I'll come home and wheel the ST out and take off for another 60-80 mile jaunt.  I do it several days a month.  I ride each bike a couple hundred miles a week.  Year round.  It is the rare occasion one of them sits idle for more than 4-5 days.  But it does happen when the weather is bad.

Sometimes it is hard to keep the peace in my garage.  I hear all kinds of noises out there late at night.  Like putting the Yankees and the Red Sox in the same room.