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Thread: BMW vs American V-Twin Touring

  1. #1
    Fortes fortuna iuvat
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    BMW vs American V-Twin Touring

    Looking for wisdom from those here who have ownership experience with BMW's RT and either Indian or HD touring offerings. I have owned both the R1200GS and GSA but I am now looking for a more road biased touring alternative with better long range comfort and am leaning towards a new water boxer RT. I don't however wish to eliminate American V-twin alternatives (electra glide or chieftain) without doing my homework first. I have done the HD dealer test rides but find them pretty useless to determine what it would be like to spend multi-day 8-12 hour rides on - maybe the next step is a rental. Regardless I'm looking for opinions on what the more feet forward design of the U.S. bikes does to one's back and hips after extended seat time compared to the RT seating position. I realize that the BMW's are in a different league altogether when it comes to technology and performance. All opinions good, bad and indifferent appreciated. Cheers.

  2. #2
    Registered User OnYerBike's Avatar
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    I've not ridden an Indian, but have about 45K miles on Harley Electra Glides. They are all-day comfortable, after you get the seat and windshield aerodynamics sorted.

    One advantage to the feet-forward positioning is the ability to move your feet/legs around on the footboards. Adding highway pegs to the engine tip-over bars adds even more options for foot placement.

    Once you select a seat that works for you (Harley, Mustang, Saddlemen all make alternatives, or have a custom one done by Russell, or whomever), you are still locked into one position for your derriere. There is no fore-aft movement available on the seat design.

    Aerodynamically, the batwing fairing is an abomination. A combination of windshield, lower wind deflectors, and fork deflectors are needed to reduce buffeting to a tolerable level. I was never able to get any of mine to be close to OK. The Road Glide frame-mounted fairing is purported to be better, but I haven't owned one of those.

    Overlooking the antiquated technology and the power deficit compared to an RT, the HD Electra Glide is not a bad way to spend all day in the saddle on a straight road.

    With that being said, I am again in the market for a two-up touring machine to compliment my GS. I'm looking for an RT.

    Hope this helps,
    -Drew

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by CdnGS View Post
    Looking for wisdom from those here who have ownership experience with BMW's RT and either Indian or HD touring offerings. I have owned both the R1200GS and GSA but I am now looking for a more road biased touring alternative with better long range comfort and am leaning towards a new water boxer RT. I don't however wish to eliminate American V-twin alternatives (electra glide or chieftain) without doing my homework first. I have done the HD dealer test rides but find them pretty useless to determine what it would be like to spend multi-day 8-12 hour rides on - maybe the next step is a rental. Regardless I'm looking for opinions on what the more feet forward design of the U.S. bikes does to one's back and hips after extended seat time compared to the RT seating position. I realize that the BMW's are in a different league altogether when it comes to technology and performance. All opinions good, bad and indifferent appreciated. Cheers.

    I have owned several BMW's , currently two.a 2002 / K1200LT & a 2004 / R1150R roadster...Also own a 2012 Victory CrossRoad @ my age 67...I find the Vic to be the more comfortable . Handles well, enough power , good brakes, 'decent' wind management [windshield & deflectors only] , plenty of storage . Worth a look IMO.....Not the brands(s) you inquired about .....but hope it helps.
    Ron Prior {AMA member ,MOA member}
    Milford,Oh
    2002 KLT
    2004 Roadster

  4. #4
    Left Coast Rider
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    As a rental, I put a few thousand kilometers on a Road King. As you say, from a performance perspective there is no discussion required. But it was quite comfortable and felt stone axe reliable. Here is something else it was which quite surprised me - boring. Without the handling, acceleration, or braking I was used to, the whole experience became an exercise in "when will this ride end?".

    I've ridden a new RT and its a wonderful bike. More like "all week" comfortable than all day.

    As with all things, others' experiences may vary.

  5. #5
    Dress for fall & avoid it AlanColes's Avatar
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    I have an RTW and, for me it is the best solution to sport touring that I've found.

    I've ridden Harleys from the 1200 Sportster to a 2012 Road King, but not their other touring bikes and none for more than 2 hours at a time. Most have hit on the fact that the H-Ds will run all day without issue and are great on super-slab, but not very entertaining on roads below that level. They can be made to handle quite well with a fair bit of work, but that still leaves you with the very real issue of the ergonomics. I've ridden several of the new Indian models and really like what they offer with the exception that you still have the ergo issue.

    Primary issue for me with H-D / Indian / Cruiser ergos is that they are virtually a one position proposition. That's fine for riding 2-4 hours per day if I've got plenty of stops available, but if I want to do 400 or more miles per day, than the RTW is far better. Not only can you use different positions but I will typically stand upright on the pegs every hour or so for a very short distance as a preventative measure to stretch and change everything for my back and knees. The other issue with cruiser ergos is that it is impossible to raise my butt off the saddle when riding over train tracks, etc. This eliminates the "shudder" that would otherwise go directly through my spine with a cruiser. The BMW K1600 GT/GTL will also give you many of the Cruiser benefits with virtually none of their drawbacks except that neither are as sporty as the RTW. The GT/GTL can definitely haul through the twisties, etc., but you still have all that mass to deal with even though BMW does a very good job of masking it.

    I have a touring Ducati (2006 ST3s) and will be selling it this spring because for me, the RTW is the first RT to have sufficient power and is sporty enough to be what I want. YMMV
    Regards, Alan - President BMWONS - MOA Charter Club #097, BMWMOA/BMWRA/BMWONS/Airheads
    Current: '14 R1200RT / '06 Ducati ST3s / '91 R100GS / '86 R80RT / '75 R90S / '73 850 & '70 750 Commando Prev: '04 R1150RT / '81 Honda GL1100 / '77 Suzuki GS750 / '73 Norton 850 Commando

  6. #6
    Registered User ExGMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanColes View Post
    I have an RTW and, for me it is the best solution to sport touring that I've found.

    Primary issue for me with H-D / Indian / Cruiser ergos is that they are virtually a one position proposition. That's fine for riding 2-4 hours per day if I've got plenty of stops available, but if I want to do 400 or more miles per day, than the RTW is far better. Not only can you use different positions but I will typically stand upright on the pegs every hour or so for a very short distance as a preventative measure to stretch and change everything for my back and knees. The other issue with cruiser ergos is that it is impossible to raise my butt off the saddle when riding over train tracks, etc. This eliminates the "shudder" that would otherwise go directly through my spine with a cruiser.
    I'm with Alan on this particular idea. At 6'4" I've got a high seat on my RTW modified by Russell Day Long, and Ilium Sport-Boards. Even with those, any chance I get below 35mph, I'm standing up just to stretch some. In 40K miles of cross-US touring, no LEO has ever stopped me to discuss my riding style. I think ATGATT persuades them I'm OK.
    John Gamel
    2015 Ebony Metallic R1200RT
    BMW CCA 2006 - Present; BMW MOA 2009-Present
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  7. #7
    Registered User powwow's Avatar
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    I've had several Harleys over the years (Road King, Electra Glide) and am currently on my third BMW (K1100LT, K1200LT and current ride is a 2015 R1200RTW). Here's my .02:

    I found both the Harleys and the BMW's to be all day comfortable, although the BMW's have all required an aftermarket seat while the Harleys were comfortable (for me) from the factory. I did add highway pegs to the Harleys and did enjoy slabbing along, listening to that beautiful twin. However, once the twisties started, the Harleys quickly become pigs (hogs?) for my riding style. All of my Harleys ended up with the front corner of the foot boards ground down from touching on the corners. It made a beautiful spark show, but took away a lot of the enjoyment for me. I finally decided the Harleys just didn't work for my preferred riding style, switched to BMW and have never looked back. BMW bikes can be ridden very aggressively and I enjoy that.

    So, the question you need to ask yourself before you make a decision is what kind of riding style do you prefer? Once you narrow that down, deciding which bike supports that style will be easier.

    Good luck...there aren't any wrong riding styles...just wrong bikes to support them.

  8. #8
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    For me Road King, Electra-Glide are great all day Interstate cruisers. Point and shoot, but not as engaging when the road starts to get curvy. Biggest con on EG, even at 70 MPH on multi-lane slabs, engine heat especially with cross winds. RT is one of the best heat management bikes that also provides superior function in areas that H-D doesn't, like better handling, with close to same relaxed seating, acceleration, braking and wind management via better fairing design and functionality. Then there's also the more exclusive aspect of a Beemer. And you don't have to dress like a Pirate (and forego protective gear) to be part of the "posse". And yes, I like Harley's too.
    MOA #46783

  9. #9
    I don't know. My only Harley was an 80cc Shortster. I do know that the forward control position tortures my lower back and I need my feet back beneath my torso after about 2 miles. YMMV.

    I don't really think the HD, Indian, etc models match BMWs on anything but the interstates. Once you hit the backroad twisties I don't think the crusiers match much of anything. JMO
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
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  10. #10
    Cowboyatheart
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    Quote Originally Posted by PGlaves View Post
    I do know that the forward control position tortures my lower back and I need my feet back beneath my torso after about 2 miles. YMMV.

    I don't really think the HD, Indian, etc models match BMWs on anything but the interstates. Once you hit the backroad twisties I don't think the crusiers match much of anything. JMO
    What Paul said.

    And to add...Ergo on cruisers are back/spine killers. JMO
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  11. #11
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanColes View Post
    I have an RTW and, for me it is the best solution to sport touring that I've found.

    I've ridden Harleys from the 1200 Sportster to a 2012 Road King, but not their other touring bikes and none for more than 2 hours at a time. Most have hit on the fact that the H-Ds will run all day without issue and are great on super-slab, but not very entertaining on roads below that level. They can be made to handle quite well with a fair bit of work, but that still leaves you with the very real issue of the ergonomics. I've ridden several of the new Indian models and really like what they offer with the exception that you still have the ergo issue.

    Primary issue for me with H-D / Indian / Cruiser ergos is that they are virtually a one position proposition. That's fine for riding 2-4 hours per day if I've got plenty of stops available, but if I want to do 400 or more miles per day, than the RTW is far better. Not only can you use different positions but I will typically stand upright on the pegs every hour or so for a very short distance as a preventative measure to stretch and change everything for my back and knees. The other issue with cruiser ergos is that it is impossible to raise my butt off the saddle when riding over train tracks, etc. This eliminates the "shudder" that would otherwise go directly through my spine with a cruiser. The BMW K1600 GT/GTL will also give you many of the Cruiser benefits with virtually none of their drawbacks except that neither are as sporty as the RTW. The GT/GTL can definitely haul through the twisties, etc., but you still have all that mass to deal with even though BMW does a very good job of masking it.

    I have a touring Ducati (2006 ST3s) and will be selling it this spring because for me, the RTW is the first RT to have sufficient power and is sporty enough to be what I want. YMMV
    I routinely put in 400-600 mile days on a Gold Wing that allows basically only one position. Though I could stand up on pegs, I find no need to if I make appropriate stops for fuel / hydration / energy snack/ etc. on a regular basis.

    As for thumping over obstacles, we use cruiser-style bikes for some students in our motorcycle instruction. While separating your seat from the motorcycle seat is crucial for negotiating those 'thumps,' it's simply and efficiently accomplished by pulling forward on the hand grips - causes your seat to rise off the motorcycle seat - not an issue.

    As an LEO working the streets for three decades, I never detained anyone for standing on pegs, though I don't consider it as safe a method for 'stretching' as walking and bending during a fuel stop. It's not a violation of anything I am aware of. Always looked like 'posturing' (as in "showing off") to me.
    Kevin Greenwald - MSF Lead RiderCoach # 121656 (BRC,SBRC,IS,IME,SMARTrainer)
    Nationally Certified Law Enforcement Motor Officer (Ret.) / IBA Member #34281
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  12. #12
    RK Ryder
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenwald View Post
    As an LEO working the streets for three decades, I never detained anyone for standing on pegs, though I don't consider it as safe a method for 'stretching' as walking and bending during a fuel stop. It's not a violation of anything I am aware of. Always looked like 'posturing' (as in "showing off") to me.
    Unfortunately Kevin, in Ontario, standing on one's pegs, is part of our government's definition of "street racing" which carries a fine of $10,000 and loss of your vehicle for I believe ten days.

    Having said that, once while riding in downtown Toronto, with no place to pull over and directly behind a police cruiser, I developed a severe leg cramp and relieved it by repeatedly standing up and down on the pegs until it relented. Fortunately, either the officer ignored it or did not see me in his rear view mirror.
    Last edited by Paul_F; 01-01-2017 at 08:47 PM. Reason: syntax
    Paul
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  13. #13
    I think I kinda disagree to the premise that there is any connection between the bike you choose and touring. I've been Sport Touring since about 1965. Started with a Honda CL160 that I strapped on my gear and took off. First thing to be established is what YOU consider touring. The second thing is what bike do you think fills the bill of accomplishing your idea of touring. I have an FJR and a GS that I consider to be excellent sport tourers. I have serious issues with the entire concept of touring on a motorcycle. In running the Appalachians from WV to N. GA I run into gaggles of primarily HD riders. Don't know if sight seeing and touring are exactly synonymous but IMO taking in the sights on a moving MC is flat dangerous, BMW or HD. These gaggles tend to slow traffic well below speed limits and in many cases show no common courtesy. At least the groups of BMW's riders I have come across will make room for you AND most of all are predictable when you try to pass.
    Old But Not Dead
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  14. #14
    Dress for fall & avoid it AlanColes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenwald View Post
    I routinely put in 400-600 mile days on a Gold Wing that allows basically only one position. Though I could stand up on pegs, I find no need to if I make appropriate stops for fuel / hydration / energy snack/ etc. on a regular basis.

    As for thumping over obstacles, we use cruiser-style bikes for some students in our motorcycle instruction. While separating your seat from the motorcycle seat is crucial for negotiating those 'thumps,' it's simply and efficiently accomplished by pulling forward on the hand grips - causes your seat to rise off the motorcycle seat - not an issue.

    As an LEO working the streets for three decades, I never detained anyone for standing on pegs, though I don't consider it as safe a method for 'stretching' as walking and bending during a fuel stop. It's not a violation of anything I am aware of. Always looked like 'posturing' (as in "showing off") to me.
    I used to have a GoldWing as well and agree that it is very comfortable and does allow standing on the pegs to some degree, a H-D touring bike does as well to a significantly lesser degree. I've had even less luck with cruisers such as H-D Fat Boy Lo, Breakout, etc. While I do employ the method you suggested of pulling on the bars, etc., and am able to take weight off my spine doing so, I find it not only hard on my lower back but the need to assume a position of tensed posture definitely reduces my control of the bike for that brief moment.

    As Paul mentioned, in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New York and elsewhere it is illegal to stand on the the pegs while riding. Because of this I deliberately stood on my pegs while riding in Ontario in May whenever I went over railroad tracks, or potholes. I believe that both are far safer to traverse while standing and was prepared to go to court over it. We have far too many politicians passing mindless / dumb laws that virtually defy logic. I think there even some states that outlaw standing on the pegs but allow lane-splitting. I have mixed feelings about lane-splitting, but certainly can't conceive that it standing on the pegs to go over a pot hole would be more dangerous than many lane-splitting endeavours.

    Like you, I try to make stops every 1.5-2 hours and stretch / walk / etc., but I also find that if I make sure to stand on the pegs for just a moment half to two-thirds the way through those riding periods than my whole body is happier. Often I don't even have to consciously think about it as I try to ride secondary roads vs interstates and there is usually a train track, frost heave, or hump/depression in the road that I prefer to be up on the pegs for. The older I get the more I need to adjust for riding over 2 hours. In the 70's it was ride those old vibrating british machines until they needed gas, fill up and tear off again. ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by chewbacca View Post
    ...I have serious issues with the entire concept of touring on a motorcycle...IMO taking in the sights on a moving MC is flat dangerous, BMW or HD...
    I started my "motorcycle touring" in 1974 on my 73 Norton 850 Commando and in 2016 put a bit over 10,000 km on my RTW, Commando, R1150RT and R90S. During those miles I took in plenty of beautiful scenery. I did not quak at it and certainly didn't give it anywhere near the attention that I would if I'd been a passenger or driving a car, but did consider myself to have been a far safer rider than most of the riders and drivers out there. Forget about "taking in the sights" there are far too many out there who aren't looking at anything.

    I think the real issue is how much of one's attention is diverted to various things and what is a person's situational awareness level.

    When I rode Mt. Washington in July part of me really wanted to take in the tremendous vistas while climbing and descending the mountain, but virtually all of my attention was focused on my exact position on the road. The same was true of some sections of Fundy National park I road in September and some sections of the Scottish Highlands I drove in November (especially when there was an oncoming tractor-trailer). Riding, of all types, touring cruising, or urban riding requires rider awareness and definitely good situational awareness.
    Regards, Alan - President BMWONS - MOA Charter Club #097, BMWMOA/BMWRA/BMWONS/Airheads
    Current: '14 R1200RT / '06 Ducati ST3s / '91 R100GS / '86 R80RT / '75 R90S / '73 850 & '70 750 Commando Prev: '04 R1150RT / '81 Honda GL1100 / '77 Suzuki GS750 / '73 Norton 850 Commando

  15. #15
    Registered User powwow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chewbacca View Post
    I think I kinda disagree to the premise that there is any connection between the bike you choose and touring. I've been Sport Touring since about 1965. Started with a Honda CL160 that I strapped on my gear and took off. First thing to be established is what YOU consider touring. The second thing is what bike do you think fills the bill of accomplishing your idea of touring. I have an FJR and a GS that I consider to be excellent sport tourers. I have serious issues with the entire concept of touring on a motorcycle. In running the Appalachians from WV to N. GA I run into gaggles of primarily HD riders. Don't know if sight seeing and touring are exactly synonymous but IMO taking in the sights on a moving MC is flat dangerous, BMW or HD. These gaggles tend to slow traffic well below speed limits and in many cases show no common courtesy. At least the groups of BMW's riders I have come across will make room for you AND most of all are predictable when you try to pass.
    One of the first rules of safe motorcycle riding...NEVER get fixated on anything you see. You can enjoy the sites as part of your constant scanning ahead routine, but if you want to examine a view more closely, pull over and stop. So far (knock on wood), this has kept me safe in over 50 years of riding.

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