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2011 Adventure Touring Shootout Conclusion

Monday, September 19, 2011

All of the bikes in this test are terrific adventure touring mounts. Equally impressive is how they all demonstrate unique traits that give them individual personalities. The key is matching the rider with the right bike. That’s easier said than done, as even our testers wanted a particular model for one trip and another for a different ride. Once our epic adventure was finished, gear unloaded and bikes and bodies scrubbed clean, the crop of premier 2011 ADV machines broke down like this.

Horsepower Dyno  All Bikes
Torque Dyno  All Bikes
The Ducati was clearly above the others in the engine category, but all of the bikes have more than enough power to haul rider and gear through difficult terrain.
Triumph Tiger 800 XC – Alternate
The wild card proved to be completely at home in this group of motorcycles. Even though it comes up short on the spec sheet, Triumph has built a bike capable of offering performance, comfort and versatility that is on par or better than the so-called premier bikes. There wasn’t a test rider among us that wasn’t impressed with the Brit. Add in the excellent components such as the fog lamps and panniers and the 800 XC becomes even more attractive. A little customization to make this bike fit the rider and it will be everything they need.

KTM 990 Adventure Dakar – 4th
If going off the beaten path is a necessity then the KTM is tops. Nothing comes close to it in dirt performance and anyone who adventure rides knows that most of the world is unpaved. The Dakar version looks the part of a rally winner and it takes a Spartan approach in regards to wind protection and comfort. The fit and finish is nice, but the engine needs to be pumped up and smoothed out to really run with the other open-class bikes. The factory luggage gives it better touring credentials and the KTM’s thoughtful maintenance features can be appreciated by anyone.

Yamaha Super Tenere – 3rd
Yamaha’s first effort with the Super Tenere is a good one. The only real complaint about this motorcycle is the sheer size and weight. It’s a lot to handle for even larger riders, and the negative effects of added girth are played out on-road and off-road. Stability and top speed are strengths for the Yamaha and it cradles its rider with the most comfort available from ADV bikes. This is the bike that eats up long-range pavement without breaking a sweat. Lots of technology and an affordable entry price will bring riders flocking to Yamaha dealerships.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring –2nd
Macho riders will have to spring for the Ducati. There’s nothing else like it in the ADV class in terms of sheer performance. The beautiful Duc shreds asphalt with its massive superbike-derived engine, up-spec Ohlins
2011 KTM Adventure 990
Each bike has its own personality. The BMW is best at suiting the widest range of riders and adventures.
suspension and perfectly balanced chassis. The big question is whether or not it will hold up over time, and if the owner can afford to purchase and keep up on the maintenance. A rider with deep enough pockets and a bias for pavement has no reason to look anywhere else.

BMW R1200GS – 1st
Once again the BMW grinds down its competition through consistency. The dual-camshaft Boxer puts out plenty of power and engineers have mated it to a chassis that is deceptively agile. A low center of gravity is key and makes the GS the best option for two-up touring. All-day comfort extends onto the dirt and BMW gives its rider the easiest control over the cockpit. There are very few chinks in this German’s armor. There’s no better full-size adventure touring motorcycle for the all-around ADV pilot.

For My Money

We ask our riders to choose which bike they would choose for their own riding needs and interests. More importantly, we ask them to consider the price of these beasts which have a range of nearly $10,000 between them. For some, money is not an option, and for others it’s all about the most bang for the buck. Our riders have varying levels of skill, size, experience and age. After burning through nearly 293 gallons of fuel, these are their personal preferences in the 2011 Adventure Touring Shootout. 

Ron Maddox – Age 58 - 6’0” – 145 lbs. – 49 years riding – Triumph Tiger 800 XC
I love the little Triumph, I have no plans to travel more than a thousand miles from home in the near future. That, combined with the low price, would make it an easy choice for me. But keep in mind that I only weigh 145 pounds and I
2012 Yamaha Super Tenere
The Yamaha was Dave's pick for its value, comfort and stability.
like to ride 125s in the dirt. This makes me a little bit unique and should help explain why I like the little Triumph so much. Now if someone were going to give me one of the bikes it wouldn’t even be a contest; I’d take the Ducati. I’d sell it and buy two Triumphs!

Dave Riant – Age 55 – 5’11” – 160 lbs. – 40 years riding – Yamaha Super Tenere
The most features and best performance for the money. The Yamaha would fit a niche I have for an ultra-long distance adventure tourer - returning to Newfoundland and riding the full length of the Trans-Canada Highway, including the Labrador Highway. The Tenere’s long legs and superb comfort top all the others for long distance adventure touring.

Justin Dawes – Age 35 – 5’10” – 220 lbs. – 26 years riding – BMW R1200GS
After some serious thought and really being honest with myself, for me the BMW is really the only choice for an adventure touring motorcycle. While every bike here might be able to do one or two things better than the GS, none of them are consistently as good across the whole range of criteria that make up the adventure touring segment. It works
2011 Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Two riders chose the Triumph Tiger 800 XC and two chose the BMW R1200GS.
in any situation and has been proven time and time again to be up to the task of going around the world.

Bart Madson – Age 34 – 6’0” – 200 lbs. – 5 years riding – Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Including the Triumph 800 was an experiment, a comparison of how a middleweight holds up to its larger rivals. And I think the Tiger more than holds its own. It feels the lightest, but despite being down on power it has more than enough for touring, even when heavily laden by a touring kit. But the real advantage to me is the MSRP – at three grand less than its nearest competitor and nearly half the price of the Ducati it’s the bargain in this test.

JC Hilderbrand – Age 28 – 5’11” – 185 lbs. – 15 years riding – BMW R1200GS
First I picked the Triumph because it’s so affordable. Then my dirt roots kicked in and I opted for the KTM. Then it was back to the Tiger for its light weight, and back again to KTM because of a strong dealer network. Eventually it dawned on me that I really want the BMW. I tried to ignore it because of its $20,000 pricetag, but there’s no denying that it answers all the needs of an adventure touring bike. If I really want to ride 80% dirt then I’ll get a big dual sport. That’s not really what these bikes are about for me. The comfort of the GS is undeniable whether it’s on pavement or off. I absolutely adore its handling and it’s easily the most refined package. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it seems to be the least difficult to work on. Plus I feel it’s the most solidly built, which means it should take less work in general. I was wooed away by the shiny new toys, but in the end I went back to the tried and true. BMW’s formula works. 

2011 BMW R1200GS Photo Gallery
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2011 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Gallery
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2011 KTM 990 Adventure Dakar Gallery
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2011 Triumph Tiger 800 XC Photo Gallery
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2012 Yamaha Super Tenere Gallery
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Quarter Mile Comparison Weight Comparison
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protondecay123   February 20, 2012 08:22 PM
@ neo1piv014. Now look at the ratings. They acutally rated the Multistrada better in the dirt than the Super Tenere!! You can't hardly stand up on the Multistrada for more than 10 seconds unless you've just finished P90X in the last week or two!! Look at the pricing! The guy says, I tried to ignore the $20,000 price tag. That's the base for the Multistrada and not even the comparably equiped GS comes in that low. It's almost 24K. My car didn't cost $24,000 dollars new and to spend that on a motorcycle!! It's hard to ignore $20,000 when it's coming out of your bank account. BMW reliablity. Go google BMW final drive and see what comes up. The Multistrada has only 6.7 inches of front and rear travel almost an inch less than the Super Tenere and 17 inch wheels front and rear. How can it be better in the dirt? This review is nowhere close to reality. It's great to read some article that reaffirms your choice when you are dropping 20K+ on a motorcycle. But wait until something breaks and you have to drive 3 hours to the nearest dealer. There's not even a BMW nor Ducati dealer in the entire state that I live!! Believe what you will but please go out and ride these bikes yourself and buy the bike you like. If this article affirms your choice great. But if you are out in BFE don't be surprised when your start looking for a TORX wrench and can't find one!! I told you so!!
neo1piv014   February 6, 2012 10:18 AM
RE protondecay123: Couldn't agree more with you. Two major faults on the test bike. Losing your rear brake is a pretty major deal, and your fuel sensor is at least a serious inconvenience. Sure, the Duc is a firey, sporty, and beautiful machine, but I bet the rider on the Yamaha is laughing their "bland," "character-less" butt all the way past the Ducati repair shop. I'll take a little less character if it means I don't have to worry so much about breaking down every weekend out. Turns out, "dependability" is a pretty awesome character. For the money, that Yamaha just looks like the killer deal of the year.
fivedecadebiker   January 7, 2012 08:54 PM
No 9's on the scorecard. What am I missing? Great article on the most interesting category of motorcycling this year. I know it's hard to leave opinion out of the mix but it seems there could be more actual performance data and less feeling. Some categories also carry a heavier weighting than others in the real world but it didn't show up in the comparison. Lot of good info though. Thanks.
protondecay123   October 13, 2011 07:56 AM
The Japanese in general get no love from the moto press. They ride these bikes for a few days and write articles. Owners live with the bikes for years. In a large number of articles you will see the cliche complaints about Japanese bikes > boring > no character > basic, etc. Look at this article. The Ducati (expensive) basically falls apart requiring dealer service and they rank it second. The most expensive bike they rank first because ?? Well, it didn't fall apart during the ride. The journalists don't have to pay for the bikes or pay for the service. They were merely inconvenienced for a day by the Ducati's breakdown. When I take my annual one week motorcycle vacation I build in a day for such, but the stress of having a breakdown and finding a dealership is too much for me. They had to go to Salt Lake, Utah to get it fixed! I want a bike that doesn't break down. Something bullet proof. Not something that has a lot of "character". The detachment from press review of a motorcycle to real world motorcycle ownership couldn't be more clearly demonstrated than in this article.
psyop   October 11, 2011 11:39 PM
Why does the V-Strom continue to get no love? How about including one next time you do a review? Or maybe just do a review without the comparison? They're great bikes, but rarely get head to head evaluations.
dutch97501   September 21, 2011 07:40 AM
I always enjoy your adventure shootout and realize it is all subject to rider opinion and needs. Even with the BMW's short comings I to have opted to purchase the R1200GSA and now have 28k on the ODO with only one failure and it was bad the day I bought the bike and is still not working. Yes the dreaded fuel indicator. And it wouldn't be so bad if the fuel consumption was consistent riding hwy and dirt but when you mix them its better to error on the side of more than less which with a full tank of fuel makes the adventurer a handful on a dirt road. As far as how the bike performs in its stock trim the only thing I find lacking is the headlight which is curable with a HID kit. So there you go my 2 cents worth.
phxrider   September 20, 2011 02:56 PM
In this test, where road performance was 99% of the weighting and the bikes really only needed to not completely suck off road, you should have used a KTM 990 SMT instead of the Adventure. The Adventure is a completely different bias than any of the other bikes in the test, a real off-road racer in a group of bikes with "off-road styling". The SMT, with its intent being far more focused on on-road riding (without completely sucking off-road) would have been a perfect match for the rest of the group. *The author of this comment rides an SMT and has previously owned an Adventure.*
frankenfurter   September 20, 2011 02:05 PM
too bad Yamaha didn't make a 500 twin version of the wr250r dual sport. This would be more highway capable while still keeping the weight manageable.
wildpig   September 20, 2011 01:10 AM
ADDENDUM ............cut your purchase price in half and hope you find a fish.........................
wildpig   September 20, 2011 01:08 AM
the single-sided swingarm with sealed shaft drive has earned a reliable reputation, it still has slack in it which causes the bike to lurch----- obvivously you hav'nt kept up with bmw's dismal failure rate on final drive units. in addition bmw has never nor will ever admit as a company it has ever had problems with final drive issues. This secrecy is typical of bmw as a manufactorer. ONE SHOULD NOTE YALL DIDNT MENTION A WORD ABOUT RE-SELL,, IN WHICH CASE BMW DISMALLY FAILS,,, BMW RE-SALE VALUE-- CUT YOUR PURCHASE PRICE IN AHLF AN HOPE YOU FIND A FISH..........................
CBR250R   September 19, 2011 02:33 PM
O.K. - I'll bite. Perhaps I missed something in the article on how the 0-60 mph times were calculated - but I laughed out loud when I read those times. A perfect high rpm clutch-drop on a modern 1000cc supersport might be able to eek out a 3.0 second 0-60 time. However, I don't think a Yamaha Tenere or any adventure tourer for that matter can do it in 1.95 seconds (a full second quicker). Better calibrate the equipment! :)