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What is it about tourers?

I just perused the latest edition of Superbike, which is very complimentary about the new Triumph Sprint GT.

I never thought the original Sprint was much of a looker, and much as I appreciate the bulkier fairing makes for better weather protection, the redesign hasn’t done much for the front end. But that’s just my opinion, I guess and I’m sure some people will find the lines pleasing.

But it’s the rear end of the machine that’s the real mess.

Thirty-five years ago, just as a cafe racer meant fitting dropped bars and maybe a fibreglass race fairing kit to a bog-standard model, a touring bike meant buying the same model, fitting a touring fairing, topbox and panniers.

Now, back then there wasn’t much choice of panniers if you wanted hard luggage. Craven or Rickman were the two big names. Rickman racks and pannier frames were chromed steel, whereas Ken Craven’s designs always seemed to use surplus to requirements pieces of the Forth Bridge. Pretty and light they weren’t.

Anyway, whatever you chose, you then stuck a topbox on the rack, bolted fixed cases on the pannier frames and that was it. They were fibreglass and the best that could be said about the design was they were boxy.

Time went by and Krauser came and went. Givi appeared. Materials changed from fibreglass to plastic and mounting systems got smarter and removable.

But essentially, they remained bolt-on extras that were a total PITA in traffic. Couriers used to fit super-slim panniers to keep the width down.

Now, it’s mid-2010. We’ve got elegantly sculpted fairings on sports bikes and radically styled roadsters. We’ve got factory customs that, like ’em or loath ’em have flowing lines and integrated looks.

But somewhere along the line, the touring bike missed the 21st century.

The Triumph would be instantly recognisable to anyone who bought the first BMW R100RT or Kawasaki’s GT1000. It is still fitted with humungously wide bolt-on side cases that stick out well beyond the fairing.

Yes, the mounting points have been hidden and the carrier framework is not so obtrusive, but the designers went to all the trouble of fitting a longer subframe and different seat for the GT.

Surely those panniers on the Sprint GT could have been moulded into the rear end rather than hung out like a pair of Dumbo’s spare ears?

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