2014 BMW R1200 GSA vs KTM 1190 Adventure R

Justin Dawes | November 24, 2014

Adventure bikes offer many things to their owners, but most of all they provide possibilities. While a large majority may never see the other side of the horizon or hardcore trails, they are capable of bringing true adventure to those willing to get out there and push the limits. Big-bore adventure motorcycles are the top of the ADV food chain and the BMW R1200 GS and KTM 1190 Adventure are the two baddest gorillas in the jungle. Yet there are even more extreme versions available from each marque – the R1200 GS Adventure and 1190 Adventure R – both of which are specially outfitted for serious travel off the beaten path. As soon as the GSA and Adventure R were announced debates raged online, and in the MotoUSA office, about which would be the ultimate mount for finding the end of the trail

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BMW has offered an Adventure model of the GS for years, but fans had to wait a year for the water Boxer version. For 2014 BMW outfitted the R1200 GS Adventure with all of the updates on the new-for-2013 R1200 GS. The new water-cooled Boxer Twin, along with a host of electronic rider aids, ups the capability and usability of the GSA. On top of the new mill and tech updates, the GSA gets a massive 7.9-gallon fuel tank, more suspension travel and off-road friendly hardware such as handguards, crashbars and burly footpegs. Equipped with the premium package, olive green paint and aluminum panniers our test unit rings in at an MSRP of $23,463.

KTM took a huge leap forward in the big-bore ADV bike word when it introduced the 1190 Adventure. In our first ride review we said it was the best streetbike KTM has produced to date. But with the 1190 Adventure R the Austrian company is looking to dominate every area of the segment. Replacing the ever popular but sparsely appointed 990, the 1190 brings a massive power increase, sophisticated electronic rider aids and more comfort. Changes from the standard 1190 Adventure to the R model are crashbars, more suspension travel, increased ground clearance and a 21/18-inch wheel and tire set-up. The KTM 1190 Adventure R as equipped for our test with KTM Power Parts aluminum panniers and mounting hardware will cost you $18, 091.

As these are the most extreme examples of the biggest ADVmachines, we decided it would only be proper to scout out some legitimate off-road adventure, rather than just hitting the road from hotel to hotel and diner to diner. So instead we loaded up the bags with tents, sleeping bags, food, water and, of course, camera gear, and headed for the hills above Santa Barbara, California to find out what living with these two bikes on a real road trip would be like. Afterward, we spent two days in the mountains of Southern Utah for some additional seat time. Most of our miles were on dirt roads of varying quality, but we also hit the street and even pounded out a few hundred on the highway.

2014 BMW R1200 GSA vs KTM 1190 Adventure R

We also recorded some objective data with hard numbers such as curb weight, horsepower, torque and 0-60 acceleration. Subjective evaluations such as engine feel, suspension action and comfort carry equal weight on our scoresheet. We retained our standard comparison scoring, with a win in any category earning ten points and second-place getting eight. At the end we tally up the scores to declare a winner. And while the scoring helps suss out a ranking, this test was close almost too close to call. Both bikes excel in different ways, and depending on what is or isn’t important to you, readers may find removing a category will swing the results in either bikes favor. With that let’s get into the meat of this comparison.

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The BMW R1200GS is the yardstick by which all other large ADV motorcycles have been measured. Several brands that have come close to toppling the GS giant, but BMW has always won out in the end. While various rivals have individually trumped the Beemer on power, handling and styling, none have been able put it all together in a comprehensive package. And that is were the GS Adventure’s strength lies. It’s the king of all-rounders and epitome of the large-displacement ADV segment. And judging by the sales figures, buyers would agree, as the GSA is second only to the standard GS in global sales for BMW (with Adventure sales even with or slightly exceeding the standard GS in the U.S. market).

2014 BMW R1200 GSA
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Justin Dawes

Digital Media Producer | Articles | Raised on two wheels in the deserts of Nevada, "JDawg" has been part of the industry for well over two decades. Equal parts writer, photographer, and rider, he is a jack of all trades and even a master of some.

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