Third Place: Ducati Multistrada 1000S (77.6%)
The third-placed Multistrata flat-out smoked on the pavement, which offset its last-ranked position in off-road capability. An excellent purchase for the rider to whom off-road excursions will be minimal.
Obviously, the Multistrada is the most street-biased bike of the group, so much so that Ducati was hesitant about even giving us a test bike for this comparo. And although it was ranked last in off-road capability, its top marks in several other categories made it a real contender. It handles and brakes better than anything else here, and its willing Desmo motor is a real gem. Importantly, it garnered high scores in the Grin Factor and Appearance categories. Its Ohlins suspension was exemplary, but there's nothing really wrong with the Showa bits on the standard Multistrada that retails for $11,995. for '06, the S model sees a $500 price increase to $13,995, and its nicely integrated bags retail for an extra $873 for either version.
"If you plan on riding on the street and only going off-road as a necessity, then the Ducati Multistrada might be the bike for you," Kenny notes. "The bike is incredibly comfortable thanks to a neutral riding position, has excellent suspension and braking components, and that sweet little V-Twin churns out the smoothest street power of this bunch."
Second Place: KTM 950 Adventure S (80.0%)
The opposite of the Ducati, the second-place Adventure ruled out on the dirt and settled for just competent on the street. As such, it's the wise purchase for a more dirt-inclined consumer.
The polar opposite of the Ducati, the 950 Adventure is a dirt bike on steroids. As such, its tall seat, vibey motor and relative lack of creature comforts will be a turn-off for those adventurers who don't stray too far from the pavement. But this is, after all, the adventure
-touring class, and the KTM has the ability to explore remote areas that is unmatched for a bike of this displacement. Two of our most adventurous riders Kenny and T-Rod) rated it highest overall.
"It's the obvious choice for riders who plan to spend more time in the dirt than the pavement, but still want a competent streetbike," says BC.
We weren't pleased with our test bike's leaky water pump and whatever was wrong with the carburetion, but we feel these are isolated problems particular to our well-worn demo bike. And just wait until '07 when KTM will bring in the 990cc fuel-injected version.
First Place: BMW R1200GS (86.5%)
And the winner is...The Big Beemer took top honors courtesy of its high-quality components, top fit and finish, and most of all, it's equal mastery of both street and dirt.
BMW's been in this game longer than anyone, so it should come as no surprise there are few details that have been overlooked on this thoroughly developed machine. The well-engineered GS out-pointed its rivals through consistently high marks, ranking no lower than third in any category except value. At $14,700, the GS is the most costly of this group, but few among our testers didn't think it was worth every penny. It offers the most features and amenities, handles both pavement and dirt with equal aplomb, requires less maintenance, has top-notch fit and finish, and it certainly looks the part of an adventure-tourer.
"It is just such a solid package that it makes it an easy choice in this comparison" says Kenny. "Add in the many value-added features associated with the GS and it's hard to pick against it."
"While not the hands-down winner on the street or the best in the dirt, the BMW easily proved to be the best do-it-all bike in the comparison," notes Chamberlain. "For street use the Beemer is very well refined and loaded with more components and amenities than any other bike. It's my first choice for an on/off-road adventure."
"It puzzles me as to how a bike this heavy could be so agile in the dirt," Lavine notes, "And compared to the KTM, this bike was a Cadillac when it comes to comfort."
In the end, the German Beemer and Austrian Katoom took the top two spots because both can put the "adventure" in adventure-touring.
So the big bird Beemer takes the class title, but it is also the most expensive bike in the category. And we'd like to think something priced at nearly 15-large might come standard with saddlebags and heated grips.
But the fact remains that this is the bike we'd choose if we ever set off on a world tour. As such, it's the quintessential adventure-tourer.
Want to know which bikes our individual testers would spend their own cash on? See For My Money
Want an adventure like this for yourself? Check out Admo Tours and Rawhyde Adventures, both of whom were gracious to help us with some route suggestions (many of which we didn't have time for). Both companies lead adventuresome tours in California, Arizona and Nevada, and can tailor a tour according to your wants and abilities. Rawhyde even offers riding training programs to get you up to speed before you hit the trails.
To read another perspective on our epic Adventure-Touring Comparo check out Dean's blog of the whole event.
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