Sport touring motorcycles refers to either a style of motorcycle design, or a philosophy of riding. It is an attempt to blend performance with long-distance capabilities while providing comfort and relative safety to the rider. Sport touring has evolved over decades from simply strapping a bag to the back of any sporty motorcycle to a very specified genre of motorcycle riding for which specific models of motorcycles, luggage, riding apparel and other accessories have been designed.
Sport touring motorcycles
For the majority of the sport-tourer models on the market, it has been common for the manufacturer to utilize an existing engine and technology from the current or last generation of their sport bikes. This is cost effective because of the reuse of existing tooling and parts,rather than creating a dedicated engine design from scratch.
Differences vis-à-vis sport bikes
As a result, engine designs were usually modified from their sport bike origins, typically being re-tuned and re-cammed (change of valve cam lift & duration) for an emphasis on greater mid-range torque rather than absolute peak horsepower. Additionally, it was common for certain rotating subcomponents such as crankshaft and flywheel to be replaced in the sport-tourer version of the engine with heavier versions to smooth power delivery and improve reliability. Other differences from the sportbike class include:
- Larger fairings than are implemented on their sport-bikes are usually added for better weather protection.
- The frame is usually designed from scratch to provide a more upright/less aggressive riding position ("all day comfortable").
- A longer wheelbase & more relaxed steering angle are usually also incorporated (both of which provide more straight-line stability than their sport bike origins, but not to the degree that most pure tourers do). The addition of these heavier parts (full fairings, longer frames, heavier engine components) also serve to increase the ratio of sprung to unsprung weight, giving the bikes a smoother ride over poor surfaces.
- Finally, ground clearance is usually left fairly high, permitting more sport-like riding on twisting roads than would a pure touring bike.
However, the class has become important and competitive enough that many manufacturers now offer purpose-built engines for their sport touring models. The Honda ST series engines have never been used in any other models. There are no other bikes in the current Honda range that utilize the Honda VFR800's unique V-4 powerplant. The Yamaha FJR1300's engine, though closely related to the 1000cc R1 sport bike engines in design, is in fact a dedicated engine available only in the sport touring FJR models.
The size and presence of sport touring bikes combined with their power and maneuverability have made them popular with police departments and emergency services. Sport-tourers tend to install accessories, called farkles, to better enjoy the ride.