Which is the better bike?

The Honda ST1100 or the BMW R1100RT?

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I get a fair amount of letters from folks asking my opinion on this question. Here you can find my opinion and the reasons why I chose the BMW, a comparison table, and further internet resources for more information on the Honda ST1100

In the sport touring category, there are only a few choices for the rider who wants to be able to ride hard in the twisties and also be able to last a full day in the saddle while eating up the miles. The BMW R1100RT and the Honda ST1100 are the two models in this category that are most often compared to each other.

There are a few important factors that distinguish each machine, and each must be carefully considered before purchase.

Price / Value Comfort Powerplant

You can guess which bike I recommend, but I think that the ST is a fine machine. I have ridden one, and was impressed with how solid it felt, the smoothness of the motor, and the broad powerband. However, I like the RT's styling better, and enjoy being a member of the BMW riding community. Furthermore, an RT owner has a lot of options available to really personalize the bike. The ST has limited after-market suppliers. Finally, the RT has a lot of character, both excellent and poor, but it does have it. The ST's character seems to be defined by the fact that it has none - Its just so solid and stable it seems to have no quirks! I for one find that a little boring.

ST Turn My pal John takes a turn in Crater Lake national Park on his '98 Honda ST. He is definitely not bored!

The RT And I was not far behind!

As you may have read in my account of my trip to Montana, I often ride with a buddy named John who has a new Honda ST1100. I asked him why he chose the ST when he sold his old BMW R100RT, and he said that he felt the ST was a better value than the new R1100RT. ABS was not a big deal to him, and he loved the smooth motor and torque of the ST. Basically, John felt that the BMW was not worth the extra money.

We have switched off riding each other's bikes, and we have decided that if sport touring can be put on a spectrum, then the ST is more towards the sporting end, and the RT is more towards the touring end. In other words, the RT is touring sport bike, and the ST is sport touring bike! Confused?

The best advise that I can give is that you research as much as you can about both machines, and then go out and ride each of them. Consider cost, maintenance, features, available options and your ability to customize your new bike to meet your needs. Then make your decision, and enjoy your new bike!

Specs Comparison Table



Honda ST1100

Powerplant Type 1085 cc combined air/oil cooled Flat twin 1084cc liquid-cooled 90° V-4
  Bore and Stroke 99 mm x 70.5 mm 73mm x 64.8mm
  Compression Ratio 10.7:1 10.0:1
  Valve Train HC, chain-driven, four valves per cylinder DOHC; four valves per cylinder
  Carburetion Fuel injection and electronic ignition MA 2.2 controlled by Bosch Motronic Four 34.5mm Costant velocity,  downdraft HC
  Ignition Fuel injection and electronic ignition MA 2.2 controlled by Bosch Motronic Computer controlled digital with electronic TCS
  Horsepower 90 bhp @7250 rpm 100PS @7500rpm (DIN)
  Torque 69 lb. – ft. @ 5500 rpm 79 lb. – ft. @ 6000 rpm
Transmission   5 speed 5 speed
Final Drive   Enclosed driveshaft with two universal joints and integral torsional damper Enclosed driveshaft with two universal joints and integral torsional damper
Suspension Front Telelever with central spring strut & linear-rate coil spring. Twin-tube gas-filled shock. 43mm air assist fork with TRACŪ and progressive springs
  Front Travel 4.72 inches 5.9 inches
  Rear Patented BMW Paralever swingarm & shaft drive, single-tube gas-filled shock, variable rebound setting Single shock with five-way spring preload and rebound damping adjustability
  Rear Travel 5.31 inches, progressive spring, 40 positions 4.7 inches
Brakes   BMW / FAG antilock brake system ABS ll Linked Braking System™, (ABS optional)
  Front: Dual 12.0 inch floating rotors, two 4-piston calipers, wear compensation Dual 296mm discs with two three-piston calipers. Sintered metal pads
  Rear: Single 11.2 inch diameter fixed rotor hydraulic 2-piston floating caliper Single 296mm disc with three-piston caliper. Sintered metal pads
Tires   Metzler / Bridgestone Metzler / Bridgestone
  Front: 120/70 - ZR 17 tubeless 120/70 - ZR-18 tubeless (w/ABS)
  Rear: 160/60 - ZR 18 tubeless 160/70 - ZR-17 tubeless (w/ABS)
Wheelbase (unladed)   58.4 inches 61.2 inches
Seat Height   30.7 / 31.5 / 32.2 inches 31.5 inches
Dry Weight   580 pounds. 660 pounds (w/ABS)
Fuel Capacity   7.25 U.S. gallons 7.26 U.S. gallons
Maximum Load   1080 pounds 1140 pounds

Special thanks to Steinar Fremme for his assistance in creating this table.

Internet Resources for comparing the two bikes:


For more BMW Information, please refer to the published reviews section in the  Internet Resources area of the RTSource Page.

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