I fully admit it. I’m the kind of guy who likes switching motorcycles a lot. In the 12 years I’ve had my motorcycle license I have owned 6 motorcycles. To me, that’s a lot. Although to others it might not be 🙂
In chronological order I have owned:
- 1999 Yamaha XJ600S (Diversion) – My first bike – Will never be sold!
- 2003 BMW R1150R Rockster
- 2003 Honda VFR 800 VTEC (Interceptor)
- 2009 Buell 1125CR – The Beast
- 2013 BMW R1200RT – Still own it. Trying to sell it.
- 2016 Yamaha FJ09 (Tracer) – Still own it. Will be sold next year!
Overall I’ve been happy with all of these bikes. They all have something special or are good at some specific thing. But, if I had to choose now, I’d take my old trusty 1999 Yamaha hands down! It was my first bike and even though it’s in the autumn of its life now, it has yet to let me down.
It’s not only the emotion and reliability though. I like the simplicity and efficiency of it. No riding modes, no digital dashboard, a good old carburator and not even a fuel gauge let alone gear indicator. This is pure riding without distractions. And should it break down, then every mechanic on a random street corner will be able to fix it.
It’s not the most powerful of all bikes I owned, in fact it’s the least powerful of all, but it brings a smile on my face every time I ride it, and it has plenty of grunt to keep up with my friends in the twisties.
Another advantage of such an old bike is that you can be a bit more careless. It’s not a big deal if you drop it or scratch it. So I’ve taken it offroad on trails, where even my friends on their KTM’s had a rough time. Sure, it’s hard work, but it can handle just about anything.
So why do I even own other motorcycles besides this one? Well… that’s a good question 🙂. I guess it goes back to the title of this article. It’s heart winning from mind, emotion trumping logic and function loosing to looks.
Even though logically this is the only bike I need, it’s not a head turner and it’s not as smooth as a new bike. Also, because it’s been financially written off (I wouldn’t get much for it if I would sell it now anyway), I can afford to keep this around as a ‘spare’ bike while my main ride is something newer. I still use it for the occasional ride around the block and for when I have motorcycle buddies visiting from overseas. (You see what I’m doing here? I’m bending logic so it fits with my heart 😃)
Choosing a new motorcycle
I’ve had my new Yamaha, the FJ09 Tracer, for about a year now, which means, going by my average, I’m due for a new bike next year.
As I’m a bit of a nerd and like looking, comparing and scouring the internet for reviews (mostly I know everything about a motorcycle before I even set foot in the dealer showroom), I’ve already narrowed down my choices. And again it’s a typical choice between Heart and Mind, Emotion and Logic and Looks and Function.
Here are the two bikes I’m thinking about at the moment:
Before I get into the details on these two motorcycles, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one having difficulty choosing between two very different motorcycles. So, even if you don’t like these specific two bikes (I don’t see why you wouldn’t 😉), at one point or another, you’ve probably been torn between two motorcycles with very different purposes too. In other words, torn between your heart and your mind, between your emotion and logic and between looks vs function.
So… meet the contestants! On the left we have the beautiful retro-styled Z900RS CAFE by Kawasaki. On the right we have, what has been the adventure bike standard for decades, the BMW R1250GS. Now, what do these bikes have in common you ask? Nothing!!! and I mean absolutely nothing, nada, zilch… EXCEPT… that I both like them… A LOT. But obviously for very different reasons.
Before I get into the details of those reasons, please keep in mind that:
- I live in Mexico which means good riding weather 95% of the year
- Mexico has bad road surfaces and topes (=speed reducing bumps in the asphalt…some as high and narrow that ground clearance of my FJ09 is not enough… with a horrible scratching sound as a result)
- I ride about 95% road, and 5% offroad (varying from mild dirt paths to more serious trails with small to medium sized rocks)
- The road riding I do is about 50% highway and 50% twisties.
The Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE
The Z900RS CAFE is one of those machines that are quite popular nowadays: old-school styling with new technology underneath. In this category it has quite a bit of competition, like the BMW RnineT, the Ducati Scrambler, the Triumph Scrambler & Thruxton, the Yamaha XSR900 and the Suzuki Katana.
In my opinion Kawasaki hit the nail on the head with this design. While all of these models have some degree of retro design (some more ‘neo-classic’) Kawasaki has managed to give it the perfect balance. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the looks of some of those other motorcycles in the category too, but to me personally, the Z900RS CAFE just stands out.
Add to that:
- the amazing sounding and butter smooth 4 cylinder (i’m a fan of 4 cylinders)
- the simplicity in which the modern technology has been applied
- the throw-back analogue dashboard dials
- the fact that, like the BMW R1250GS, it gets raving reviews and more than a few journalists uttered the sentence “I’m getting one”
- It’s got that Japanese reliability
All these points together make it the winner of its category in my book.
Are there any downsides? Well, yes, of course there are. Its engine is not the most powerful of the bunch, but with its 109 hp still double compared to my old Yamaha. That’s more than enough for me. On top of that the torque curve goes up very fast, meaning it delivers plenty of grunt right from the lower rev ranges. Another point of critique mentioned by journalists is the suspension being a bit on the soft side when you start to push it hard in the corners. Here’s a review of the CAFE:
The BMW R1250GS
A lot has been written and said about the BMW R1250GS. About 99.9% is good. The only downside is the price tag (more on that later). I can say a lot more about this motorcycle, but if you just google ‘R1250GS review’ you’ll find plenty of reviews.
What I will say is that this is, by many account, the best all round, do-it-all, motorcycle you can get. It’s good for long haul highway touring, handles extremely well in the twisties and is one of the best in class (the heavy adventure bike class) for offroading. Lots of this comes from the amazing boxer engine which offers around double the amount of torque compared to the Z900RS. Here’s one of the many reviews of the 1250GS.
I don’t dislike the looks of it either, but it doesn’t come close to how I like the 900RS CAFE. Also, you won’t be anything special on a 1250GS. A lot of them riding around.
Mind, Logic and Function
This is the easy part. We’ll just make a table and add everything up to a total score 🙂.
|Kawasaki Z900RS||BMW R1250GS|
|Power & Torque||+||++|
|Reliability (0-5 years)||++||+|
|Reliability (>5 years) |
(based on brand)
So… the BMW R1250GS wins logically, despite of its high price and lower reliability. The Z900RS CAFE is around 12,000 USD. The BMW starts at 18,000 USD, but will probably be around double the Kawa’s price when you finish configuring.
Heart, Emotion and Looks – Let the logic bending begin
Now look at my amazing logic bending skills. I can bend logic like David Copperfield can make tigers disappear. In the end you too will wonder why the BMW was an option in the first place 🙂.
|Logic Bending Statements|
|Power & Torque||Even thought the GS has double the torque, who needs that? The CAFE has more than enough for me!|
|Looks||Who wants a bike that ‘everyone’ has? I want a special bike that turns heads and fits my ‘image’.|
|Suspension||Yeah, the kawa suspension is a bit soft, but I’m also getting older. I don’t need to press it hard in the corners. I prefer to take it a bit slower and enjoy the views.|
|Offroad Capability||I only ride 5% offroad and am able to do it on my old yamaha, new yamaha and heck, even on my BMW R1200RT I’ve been offroad. Only those topes / speed bumps… hmmm.|
|Highway comfort||My yamahas don’t have much wind protection either and I’ve been fine so far.|
|Twisties||That engine sound will make up for the lack of power and lesser suspension. And even then… 109 hp is more than enough in the twisties.|
|Price||This is a no brainer. Price for the Kawa is half of the BMW.|
|Reliability (0-5 years)||What’s there to say. Japanese reliability trumps everything.|
|Reliability (>5 years) |
(based on brand)
|I’ve had myself, and know some people with, bad experiences with older BMW’s.|
|Electronics package||Who needs electronic rider aids? They only take away and distract from the pure riding pleasure.|
|Kawa adjusted score||+++++++++++++(13)|
Do we have a winner?
So, we have ourselves a draw. The ‘logic-bended-adjusted’ score for the Z900RS CAFE is equal to the BMW R1250GS score. What a coincidence 🙂. Luckily I still have a year to go before I need to make a decision, so I can let it sink in a bit more.
Obviously test-rides will be done before that time, but then it will be decision time. HELP!!! PLEASE!!! If you have any tips or tricks to help me choose please leave a comment below.
Perhaps consider choosing your bike as if you were matching yourself in a relationship. Is this who I want to be associated with out there in public? Do we share some history and is the story music to my soul? When you’re riding, do you smile or are you all in your head? Do you like to be together, can you enjoy the bike even when not riding?
For me it is a no-brainer. Heart wins every time! Grant compares a new motor cycle with a relationship. Right on! Do you have a relationship because it suits you? Logic. Our because you love someone? Heart. No-brainer.
So go for the Kawasaki. Enjoy the Kawasaki. Love the Kawasaki. Laugh at how comfortable people ride on a BMW and know: I ride by heart. I enjoy my ride every time. The harder, the better. Comfort makes sleepy, you want to ride, not sleep.
But how about a Yamaha MT-01? 😉 I have one now for about a year and love it!! It is customised to look like a cafe racer. The ride is less comfortable, but do much better!!!
I was just starting to lean towards the GS as it’s just a more suitable bike for Mexican pavement and a better all round bike, but now you have me doubting again. Haha 🙂.
MT-01 is very nice too but the Z900RS just gets my heart racing.
I ride every day so a “Swiss army knife” motorcycle is always the best choice for me. Then there are those trips and expeditions… get the GS.
Truely agree….I ride a BMW R1250GS HP and a Yamaha MT01s…..
Best of both worlds!😁☀️
LOL, this is just like the thought process for getting my first bike: I was torn between getting a Honda NC750X or a CB650R. On all logic and rational accounts, the NC should have won, and yet… I am now the happy, happy owner of a blue CB.
Kawasaki. Life is about living and you sound like you would be much more alone on the Kawi. And $6k in your pocket can make you live even just a little bit more.
Personally though, I love my street Scrambler. Just saying. 😬
Errrr. I meant alive on the Kawi. Not alone. But actually I guess alone works too if that’s your thing. And it fits here. You wouldn’t be alone on the GS since everyone has one. And with a little less hp you would be alone at the back of the pack enjoying those smooth 4 cylinders. Hmmm, logic-bending. I think I can get used to this.
You guys are even better logic benders than I am. 😃
The Kawa is not a head turner, with all respect. At least not in Kawa green.😬
Go for heart and mind and take a look at other bikes. One which can handle the mexican roads and gives you the thrill and which makes you feel proud owning it.
The GS everybody owns. And the money.. To me that is a no brainer.
OK. Let’s throw the Yamaha Tenere 700 in the mix. Also a very simple and clean back to basic bike with good reviews. Better for the Mexican roads, but not as good handling in the twisties I suspect (not available yet in Mexico).
Suspension is easy to fix with a few extra pesos. I have a 1200 GSA and love the bike for long distance touring with a bit of off road or Dempster thrown in.
My next bike will likely be a Tenere 700 with suspension and saddle upgrades. Reliable, with off road capabilities. 40kg lighter. Can’t carry as much, can’t go as fast, chain is a PITA after 15,000km, but I can live with that. Go a bit slower and enjoy the scenery.
Ok not a 4 cilinder. But i promiss you a good thrill.
But as i said, be proud to own the bike and take in consideration “do i still like riding this bike when i cannot ride it as intended”. Will still be proud owning it but still to bad. On the other hand, as i see you (frequently) change your bikes, go for it.
But still the 1250 gs when i read the reviews, will not make me happy. But thats me. Good hunting!
But Guido! You obviously LOOOVE the Kawa. Take it! As you say, you will soon get another bike anyway. Then you cam go for the new BMW GSA then.
I am a GSA guy myself – totally love it. It’s a 2008 with all the bells n whistles. Bought it in late 2018 based on a trip in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. What a companion!
So, I would choose easily. Basically because it fits the purpose I Mexico perfect. Well, anywhere perfect.
BUT, it is SO clear you love the Kawa. DO IT! Otherwise you will be beating yourself for NOT doing it, and spoiling your ride on the BMW.
Follow your heart this time :-). ENJOY.
The BMW will be the best on the poor road surface, no question. Either are more than powerful enough and handle well enough to do all you need.
Here’s how I look at these problems:
Imagine your self having bought and riding one of the bikes when you see someone else riding the other bike. What goes through your mind. If you’ll think, “damn I wish I had one of those”, then that would be the bike to choose. But if instead you’d just think, “hmm, nice bike”, then the one you’re riding (in your imagination) is the right bike.
It always works for me as obviously deep down, I know. Just needs bringing to the conscious level.
Me, I’d go for the 1250GS as they are simply a great motorcycle. Who cares what anyone else is riding. I’ve had a Z1 and many other in-line 4 cylinder bikes and in truth, I find that engine configuration rather soulless and boring even. Plus, I’ve grown out of any desire to have to mess with a chain. I will never buy another new chain driven bike.
But that’s just the way I see it.
I have a trail of broken hearts…motorcycles I have bought with the heart with a hope that my love will be strong enough to overcome any unpractical aspects of ownership and riding. I own a 2013 1200GS with over 150 000km (just shows how much I ended up enjoying this bike even though I never really enjoyed the looks of it) and a vintage Vespa. The Vespa gives me the opportunity to swing spanners and enjoy raw motorcyling and the BMW allows me to tour or hoon, depending on my mood.
Having said that, I do have my eye on the S1000XR. I’ve done a test ride and even though it’s not going to win any beauty contests, it is one of the best all rounders I have ever ridden, in my humble opinion. I should also add, I’ve long given up any fashion or image statements which a lot of riders tend to worry about more than the actual ride itself.
All of your comments make sense to be honest. Ken’s answer really got me thinking. It’s a really good way to approach this. I tried it, and I believe, in the end, after the first ‘love’ has passed, that I’d be happier with the GS. Also Jason makes a good point… I’ve had the same… eventually my love for a bike never overcomes the unpracticalities in the long run indeed. After a while you don’t ‘see’ the looks anymore, but you’re just annoyed about some thing or the other. Perhaps that’s the reason why I’ve been switching bikes so much.
The way I’m leaning now, after heaving read the comments so far, is to go for the GS. With all the configuration options (I really like the HP style like in the picture) the looks are also more than acceptable. It remains true that ‘everyone’ has a GS, but there’s a reason for that I guess.
Hmmmm… food for thought 🙂
My rule is you buy the bike just for you. When you come out the door and look at all the bikes parked together you think to yourself “wow who’s bike is that! …..Oh yeah that’s mine.” Impress yourself no one else. Either bike, you already know which bike you want. Follow your gut instinct.
PS. If you buy the Kawi you can use the remaining money on a used Adventure bike that you can drop (it is inevitable) without thinking it’s brand new and how much it cost. Also you might buy one you could actually pick up when you do drop it.
Because almost everyone rides a GS doesn’t mean you have to ride one!
Yes a GS is a stunning bike with a lot features but do you really need that to enjoy your rides?
You wrote you love riding your basic XJ600 so there is your own answer… go for the Kawa!
It has the looks, it has the 4-cilinder motor you love, it has enough power and it’s not a GS which you see on every corner in the streets 😉
in the 12 years you have had your licence and 6 bikes, I have owned just one: a BWM R1200 GS from 2006 that I bough second hand.
It’s hard to beat in terms of confort and handling.
It has seen the twisty roads of the French Alps a couple of times and experienced the Autobahn at 180 for hours all while the pilot was having a blast.
I wouldn’t want anything else.
Look at your hight. I’m 179 cm and the GS is a bit to high for me to maneuver by foot on uneven terrain. I tend to fall to the valley side of the slope, 🙁
I had the R1200RT and traded it for a Harley Softail M8. The BMW was just perfect on the road, but it lacked the joy per km.
I am 56 now and for me riding changes from speed to more experincing the machine feel on the road.
Your heart decides between 2 or 4 cylinders. You should hear to that. For me it’s V2
Just my two cents
Guido, I like your rationalizing approach to help decide what your mind has already decided for you. My brain works in a similar way with the exception that I offen ask myself “What if I am in a situation I need more hp? What if I’ll be in a situation I really need off-road capability?” I try not to follow the rule that the life you lived is indicative of how you’ll live it going forward and for that reason the GS would push me more out of my current box.
Apart from all of that, I used to have GSA in the past, sold it and since then I regret the decision. The good news is that new GSA is coming to the dealership this week and I’ll be finally in my desired “square one”.
All the best and thanks for all you and folks do for us bike riders.
Hi Everyone. Honestly I was not expecting this much feedback. Thank you all very much all for sharing your your tips, insights and own experiences. Although it’s still a little while before I’ll actually be buying a new bike, I’m more and more starting to lean towards the GS. It’s like some of you said… all my motorcycling life I’ve been switching bikes… following my heart… but in the end, I always got bored really quickly and after a few months of use already started looking at new bikes. I think that will also happen with the Z900. It looks cool, but in the end looks is something you only notice for a short while, and you start noticing all the inconveniences.
The GS is much more suited for my situation and riding: Great suspension to handle Mexican-bad road surface, no problems with occasional off-roading, superb comfort on highway, awesome torque and power in the twisties, no chain maintenance (I HATE cleaning/lubing chains). Also, the GS, in certain styling options, doesn’t look too shabby either.
Some of you also offered alternatives and compromises between these two bikes. Of course there are many alternatives, and many have crossed my mind too. Like the new Suzuki V-Strom, the Yamaha Tenere 700, the BMW RnineT, the Yamaha SXR900, and many more. But the truth is, that none of them are so complete and cover my riding situations as good as the GS. So… it’s probably going to be the GS. Now, next problem. GS or GSA? 🙂
Just buy the z900rs I had the 1200gsa 2016 bike, nice to ride but very boring like a car. I have the bmw nine t alu/black, z900rs green yellow and the street triple rs grey red 2020. I like them better then the GS they are less clinical!!