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Sportbikes versus sport-tourers - what’s the difference?

We bring you the lowdown on these two popular platforms.

Sportbikes versus sport-tourers - what’s the difference?

Sportbikes and sport-tourers are among the most popular motorcycle platforms in the market, and for good reason. These bikes embody the sporty nature of motorcycling, and truly offer an exciting, exhilarating riding experience. While sport-tourers and sportbikes may indeed look very similar, there are a few key differences between the two. Today, let’s take a closer look at these bikes, as well as give you a few examples of each, so we can pinpoint what exactly separates a sport-tourer from a sport bike. 


BMW S 1000 XR

From a performance standpoint, a lot of sport-tourers are derived from sportbikes. For instance, the BMW S 1000 XR, a sport-tourer considered by many as the benchmark in the category, features an engine derived from the S 1000 RR, one of the most powerful sportbikes in the market. That being said, the S 1000 XR, despite having the same engine as that of the sportbike, gets a few key revisions to make it a more tractable machine for the street. 

For starters, sport-tourers tend to feature revised gear ratios to favour street riding. As such, lower gears tend to be shorter for a peppy ride, while higher gears are long, in order to maximize efficiency on the highway. Furthermore, sport-tourers are mapped differently than their sportbike siblings. ECU tuning for sport-tourers takes the edge off the powerband, ultimately offering a smoother, tamer, more comfortable power delivery. 


Kawasaki Ninja H2

This is where the differences become more apparent. Sportbikes are designed to go fast, both in a straight line and around a track, and pretty much nothing else. As such, we don’t usually find a lot of creature comforts on sportbikes. More often than not, sportbikes flaunt technology that’s designed to deliver maximum performance, as such, we see features like lean-sensitive rider aids, built-in lap-timers, and other go-fast goodies. 

As for sport-tourers, they’re designed to go fast on the street, while keeping the rider nice and comfortable. As such, these bikes come with creature comforts like heated grips, adjustable wind protection, luggage space, and mobile phone chargers. Bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX, however, manage to include a healthy mix of sporty features such as a quick-shifter and IMU-activated assists, too. 


Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX

When it comes to long distance riding, comfortable ergonomics is the key. This is exactly what sport-tourers prioritize. They feature upright bars, a comfy saddle, and relatively neutral foot pegs, thereby keeping the rider triangle rather comfortable. This makes covering hundreds of kilometers a day very easy and effortless. Apart from that, sport-tourers are set up such that they offer the rider ample leverage for when it’s time to ride in a sporty fashion. 

Sportbikes, on the other hand, want to go fast and nothing else. This means that they feature low-slung bars, high, rearset foot-pegs, and a tall saddle. This puts the rider in an aggressive hunched-over position prioritizing aerodynamics and physical leverage for high-speed cornering. Naturally, this position can be very uncomfortable, especially on longer rides, and can leave your wrists and lower back incredibly sore after long hours on the saddle. 

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