2011 Adventure Touring Shootout

JC Hilderbrand | September 19, 2011

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere
We gathered the major players in the premier adventure touring segment and took them around the western states.

Epic. It’s the way every ride is supposed to be, so MotoUSA decided to make our big-bore ADV test as epic as possible. We gathered five of the newest premier AT bikes and rode them across the western states. The loop started in Southern California and wound its way up to Big Sky, Montana where we took a rest day to watch the Big Sky XC hare scramble. From there we went back across the smoky interior of Idaho and plowed down to company headquarters in Medford, OR. For more details on the trip, check out the daily updates (sidebar), but let’s meet the contenders in the 2011 Adventure Touring Shootout.

We asked the OEMs to provide their machines with only minor guidelines. All luggage and accessories were left up to the manufacturers’ discretion with the exception of any engine or exhaust modifications. Anything added would also be factored into the scoring in regards to pricing, weight, fuel economy, acceleration testing, etc.

The big news for 2011 is the arrival of a Japanese entry. Yamaha’s early release 2012 XT1200Z Super Tenere has sent waves of expectation and excitement through the ADV world. After sampling it, we knew the Yamaha was going to be a legitimate contender straight away. It comes into the fray as the most moderately priced yet bristles with advanced technology and upscale features. The Tenere is a big boy, and it’s come to play with the rest of the heavyweights.

BMW entered its 2011 R1200GS loaded with a loaded factory package. The Beemer is the only air-cooled motorcycle in the test but it has earned a reputation as a hard-working machine throughout decades and countless miles. It is BMW’s most successful bike in the history of the brand and the originator of the adventure touring segment so the R1200GS continues to set the standard which all others must compete against.

Ducati blasted its way into the hearts of adventure riders last year with the introduction of its new Multistrada 1200 and took top billing in our 2010 Adventure Touring Comparison. The upscale 1200 S Touring version showed up this year with high-end suspension and more advanced electronics. With a long list of expensive components, the Duc makes no apologies as it rocks the competition with its superbike engine. Unbridled performance helped this bike score major points in its debut and there’s no getting around its massive

motor, nimble handling and advanced electronics. The Ducati is an in-your-face assault on the riding senses.

We secured a KTM this year as well with the new 990 Adventure Dakar edition. Rally raid enthusiasts and dirt riders in general clamor for this bike every year. Long-travel suspension, high ground clearance and aggressive ergonomics make it an imposing force for remote riding. The only question is whether or not it has the street performance to match its dirt prowess and whether or not the overall package can defeat the muscular Multistrada, balanced BMW and brutish Yamaha.

Triumph loaned us a bike with an Arrow slip-on exhaust installed. Even though this was against the rules, we let it slip considering the Tiger 800 XC is giving up a serious displacement advantage to begin with. The Tiger is not officially scored in the final rankings. We put it alongside these big

bikes as a general comparison to see how the new middleweight machines fit into the overall AT landscape. The British bike was chosen due to its recent narrow victory over the F800 GS in our 2011 Middleweight Adventure Touring Comparo. The Tiger’s scores are listed on the final scorecard for general reference, but it does not receive an official placing against the open-class machines. That said, there’s a big question as to whether or not those big-displacement, high-dollar machines are really necessary to get the job done.

As usual, the bikes all passed across our in-house digital scales with a full tank of fuel. They also made multiple runs on the MotoUSA dyno for horsepower and torque ratings. All of the bikes were taken to the Barona Drag Strip to see if their clutches held up during 0-60 acceleration and quarter-

mile time trials. Our riding impressions were formed with everything intact, so we also performance tested them that way to represent the manner in which they were ridden across the western states. We filled the tanks and emptied the cargo, but left all of the luggage and accessories in place to replicate the weight and aerodynamics of the bikes as tested. Mileage is tracked at every fuel stop, carefully monitoring the amount of premium gasoline it takes to cover such large distances of dirt and street.

The objective data is collected and quantified, giving a black-and-white view of how these bikes stack up on paper, but the real evaluation happens on the open road. We don’t spin laps in a controlled area, confined to a racetrack or even a designated route. We sank more time, resources and gasoline into this adventure ride than ever before. The tires are literally worn out by the time we finished, and yes, we take

notes on that too. There are no manufacturers providing technical, emotional or moral support along the way. It’s real-world testing with real-world riders.

The regular MotoUSA faces of Managing Editor, Bart Madson, Off-Road Editor, JC Hilderbrand and Associate Editor/Photographer, Justin Dawes, all signed on for duty. For 2011 we added two new men to our crew. We’ve ridden with both of them around our Southern Oregon region and invited them to participate based on a high level of experience specifically tailored to ADV riding.

For starters, Dave Riant has been to the northern and southern tips of North America on two wheels. Four decades of riding has seen him chase ISDE glory in his younger years and he’s since transitioned into dual sporting, trials riding and adventure touring. His regular travels have taken him across the U.S. and he visits Mexico every year. Ron Maddox has almost five decades of two-wheel exploits to his credit.

2011 Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Our testing crew included two adventure riders with decades of experience and a different perspective on the crop of 2011 AT machines.

He can usually be found tearing up technical single track on small-bore dirt bikes or working with the local motorcycle club. He’s frugal and ingenious, owning a KTM 640 Adventure modified with homemade accessories.

Our testing troupe consisted of five men, separated by up to 30 years of age and 75 pounds – dirt fiends and street lovers with over 135 years of combined riding experience. We scraped frost off the seats in Eastern Oregon and sweat our asses off in a 118-degree inferno of the Mojave Desert. Our tires left tracks across secret two-track jeep roads, freshly graded dirt, compact gravel, chip-seal, grooved highway and glass-smooth tarmac. Five bikes. Six states. 10 days. 12,430 miles. This is the 2011 Adventure Touring Shootout. 



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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