2010 Adventure Bike Shootout Conclusion

JC Hilderbrand | September 27, 2010

Triumph Tiger 1050

Triumph Tiger 1050
Triumph is supposedly redesigning the Tiger. Frankly, we’re looking forward to it.

The Triumph feels like a naked or standard sportbike, so in a group of adventurers, it’s simply outgunned. Admittedly, Triumph doesn’t puff its chest among the dirt crowd, and the only jungle it wants to attack is the urban setting. That said, it’s a little out of its element, but not entirely. Unfortunately for the British bike, even held in a sporting/commuting/touring light, the Ducati still trounces it. The on/off throttle and front-end bias make it difficult to ride at times, even on the pavement. ABS is a wonderful feature on the street and Triumph riders will have to pay $800 extra for it. Then again, it can’t be disabled without removing a fuse, so if you plan on attempting small amounts off-road, it’s actually an expensive hindrance. Multifaceted street riders who live and die by the Tiger name or those who crave the wail of inline cylinders, this is the bike for you.

Ducati Multistrada 1200

Ducati MTS 1200
Ducati nailed enough of the categories to squeak a narrow one-point victory on the scorecard, but that doesn’t convince us that it truly stands atop the heap.

Ducati has astounded us with its progress in the ADV market. The new Multistrada is more than we anticipated, and it’s domination on paper is unmistakable. With a superbike-spec engine and brakes and closely related transmission, chassis and suspension, of course it cleans house in the objective scoring. We’re not talking about a big difference in price and otherwise its biggest knocks were the fuel economy and range. If it wasn’t so stinkin’ fun to ride at high rpm (our riders often rode it at nearly twice the rpm as the BMW) it may just have dominated across the board. But, getting all that performance to work on a long adventure ride takes some sting out of that high-powered bang. Any number of analogies can be applied, like the high-strung racehorse. The Italian stallion can gallop away from its competition, but there’s times when a rider needs their motorcycle to get down and dirty, shoulder the load. The MTS 1200 lacks some of the comfort and off-road performance, and, surprisingly, attention to detail.

Be honest with yourself. If you ride 95% street, love racing through tight two-lanes and only want to visit the occasional fire lookout, go visit a Ducati dealership. But in order to take over the crown, you have to beat the champion. Depending on the individual rider, a compartmentalized scorecard can have little, or a lot, in common with your favorite riding pants. For what it’s worth, Ducati scored a single point more than the BMW.

BMW R1200GS

BMW R1200GS
How can a bike this large be so competent everywhere it goes? That’s the beauty of the GS – it does everything well.

Off-Road Ability and Touring Ability – these two divisions are what really separate the BMW from the Ducati. The Beemer only gathered four points advantage in these areas, but considering the major implications, they have far more real-world value. Remember, first and foremost, these are street touring bikes. They have engines and suspension capable of hauling passengers and luggage, with rider controls and comfort features that target long-range destinations. In that light, the BMW simply works the best. It offers the most comfort, best protection, superior storage and a smooth, usable engine – all the requirements of an excellent tourer. It also has unmatched build quality, 19/17” spoked wheels, a skid plate and durable handguards, wide handlebars and complementing torque and gearing to get riders through deep ravines and over mountain passes. Its composure off-road is nearly that of its behavior on the highway. Though it loses a bit in the numbers game, the BMW’s overall competence simply cannot be matched by the others. Just look at the For My Money selections.

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Check out the 2010 Adventure Touring Shootout Video to see these motorcycles in action riding around Northern California.

For riders who factor in a measure of dust and mud to their definition of “adventure,” the R1200GS is still clearly the best in this group. There are other bikes like the KTM 990 Adventure that also favor off-road conditions, plus new entries like the Yamaha Super Tenere (and rumored Tiger 1200), but that’s a test we’ll have to sort out at a later date. The BMW doesn’t care about scorecards or wow-factor. It’s an efficient, hard-working sum of its parts. Here and now, the BMW is king.

The goal of breaking down bikes into scorecard categories is to provide as much relevant information as possible. It allows readers to dissect the bikes, scrutinize our testing and pinpoint their personal needs. In some cases, like this one, it alone doesn’t tell the whole story. If a couple pounds and a few horsepower is what you care about, take that Ducati to the bank. Better yet, take it to your favorite hangout so others can enjoy simply staring at its beauty. But if you want something to haul your ass through the thick and thin no matter where, better to have the German beneath you. 

2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Street Score Card

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JC Hilderbrand

Off-Road Editor| Articles | Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

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