The Ducati motors past the rolling wheat fields of Wasco County with Mt. Hood in the background. We began our return trip with this mellow scenery.
We originally planned to take two days on our return voyage down the eastern side of the Cascade mountains, but the rapid pace we set through the wheat fields of Wasco county via Hwy 197 had us well on our way home before lunchtime. Needing to stretch our legs, we stumbled upon the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint after making the junction to Hwy 97. The popular viewpoint overlooks the treacherous Crooked River Gorge where that infamous nuturing mother Jeannace June Freeman tossed two children to the jagged rocks some 300 feet below in May, 1961. She became the only woman sentenced to death in Oregon history - how's that for some joyful trivia?
After enjoying the sheer faces of death, we bailed south to Bend for the final lunch stop of the trip. The surrounding high-desert terrain is scenic, if you like decomposed lava rock and scrubby pines. Its array of jeep roads would have made a perfect stomping ground for our group of AT machines, but time did not allow for that level of exploration. Attractions like the Newberry Volcanic monument that features the Lava Cast Forest, Newberry Crater and the 1.3-mile underground Lava River Cave along with nearby Tumalo Falls, Pilot Butte and the Ochoco National Forest all contribute to why Bend had a 38% population growth rate between 2000 and 2006. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to screw around here because the final stop on our agenda - Oregon's only National Park, would offer up much more amazing photo opportunities.
Hwy 97 eventually brought us to Crater Lake National Park, another of the most recognizable features in the state that draws no less than a half million visitors each year. The setting sun cast long rays across Wizard Island and the soulfully deep blue water. Created 7700 years ago with the eruption of Mount Mazama, the crater filled with an estimated 4.6 trillion gallons of rain water and snow runoff. At a whopping 1932 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America and ranks seventh in the entire world.
The vertical cliffs of the Crooked River Gorge are no joke. Not only have many canines perished into the depths, but it was the site of a high-profile murder back in 1961.
Since all of our personal belongings were packed into the bikes we originally started with, we shuffled steeds one final time as the shadows wiped-out our photo-ops. We each retook our original positions and unlike the initial miles we logged four days prior, the road down the nearly 8000-foot tall rim are twisty, convoluted and heavily marked with sub-35 mph signs - and guess who was on the Ducati this time? After four days of riding, I was much better at negotiating long, sweeping turns without wavering on the Multistrada, but my Casey Stoner
impersonation would have to wait.
Unfortunately, a rent-a-cop patrol vehicle bisected our group and the rack of lights, dark paint, shadowy road and buzzing rear-view mirrors were sufficient to trick our lead riders into riding at a law-abiding pace. By the time the pseudo-fuzz pulled into Rim Village we had lost a considerable amount of dreamy curves. I considered turning around and blasting back to the top for another run but before I could signal the rest of the group to follow suit, I heard a howl from the Trumpeting Triple and watched the backside of Tom Lavine get small in a hurry. We set out after him, wary of the wildlife that comes out at dusk, but the retired motorcycle policeman's pace over this familiar stretch of tarmac was a little out of my league. Like a hound dog with a scent, our photog headed for home before we had a chance to even bid him farewell; we wouldn't see him again until the following day. Chasing Tom's wake was the most fun I had experienced on the Duc.
"This bike is more like a sportbike so it loved the corners," confirms Ramos. "Its lean angle is less than the other bikes so I was dragging my foot way before I expected to. The chassis is small and maneuverable, really well suited for flipping through the corners."
Even with the upgrades that come with the "s" model, the Ducati Multistrada lacks a little in the Adventure department. We'd like to see how it fares in a sport touring shootout.
At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Lavine really took notice of the Ducati's diminuitive stature throughout the week.
"Riding this Duc reminds me of riding a supermotard bike," he says of straddling the svelte Multistrada. "It's the lightest of our group and also the shortest, but it's very at home in the curves."
The BMW proved to be a worthy companion in the curvy sections as well. Though heavy and laden with oversized storage components, the R1200GS is surprisingly nimble. Every one of our riders noted how well the BMW hustles through the turns and the amount of composure it exhibits while doing so.
"I was very surprised when I started to test the handling characteristics of the GS," says our video master, Haldane. "I thought the height and weight would really make for an awkward ride, however, when I started to hit the corners it instantly became clear that BMW really knows what they are doing. The balance of the bike was great and for such a competent off-road and street machine, the capabilities were really quite amazing."
It's always interesting to add up the scorecards and see the difference between individual scoring and everyone's overall rank. Typically there are one or two given machines whose results are consistent across the board but there is alway one that does great in some individual categories but comes up short in the overall. The V-Strom was that bike in 2007. The rider-friendly 'Zook only missed second place by a single point because the tantalizing Tiger managed to nudge the 'Strom to fourth in the individuals. Basically there isn't anything that the Suzuki really excels at, but at the end of the day it's difficult to find anything particularly wrong with it other than its quite bland by comparison.
The Suzuki is really a do-all type of bike and there really isn't anything we didn't like about it with the exception of the gearbox issue. However, there wasn't a whole lot that we really loved about it either.
"Separating the wheat from the chaff is no easy task with these machines," surmises Lavine. "Some aspects stick out in your mind concerning likes and dislikes, but not a great number of them are like your favorite pair of skivvies. It's hard to put into words but the Suzuki just feels good. If this bike were ice cream it would be vanilla," he expounds, "but it's still a wonderful ride".
Since we're more concerned with the overall performance, style and purpose of each machine, we put more emphasis on the overall rankings than the categorical breakdown. That being the case, the Suzuki easily bested the Ducati which came in at the back of the pack. Despite being extremely adventurous to ride in the twisties, the Duc just lacks some overall comfort in the touring part of the equation. Its hard seat and knife-like handling characteristics don't quite fit the bill. It has the best transmission and clutch, is tied for best brakes and its easily the lightest. The light weight helps to offset its power disadvantage. This combination makes the Multistrada one of the most fun bikes we have ever ridden, plus it looks so damn good!
In its first appearance in a MotoUSA shootout, the 2007 Triumph Tiger came the closest to dethroning the king. Most of our test samplers came away impressed with the 1050's ability to do everything with a level of effectiveness and grace. It proved willing to wail in the tighter stuff, out dragged the entire crew at the strip and it has the layout, rider accommodations and luggage options to give it real touring credentials. The Triumph Tiger is a contender in every sense of the word. It just depends on whether you want a narrow-focus Adventure Touring bike or one with a little more adventurous streak or not. If you do, then the GS is the answer.
Crater Lake was our final stop before heading home. The Triumph was equally comfortable on the straight-line speeds of Hwy 97 coming into the lake and the twisty peg-draggers on the way out.
For the second year, the BMW R1200GS is the undisputed king of our Adventure Touring Shootout. It's tough to argue against the Beemer as a complete package. Sure, it's the heaviest and it's not even the fastest of the crew, but considering how well that weight is carried it's obvious that the German engineers have figured out how to build a damn fine adventure-touring machine. The sure-footed-yet-willing-turner freed our testers to focus on the adventure rather than how to manage getting from one place to another. Everything on the GS is extremely well thought out and easy to use. If you don't believe our praise, how can you argue with 100,000-plus owners who have made the GS BMW's most successful model in the Bavarian company's history?
The bikes were ranked as a whole and broken down into segments, and the Beemer trounced the competition, enjoying a clear advantage in our testers' scorecards. Not only did it receive a sweep of our first-place overall votes, but the GS topped the class in seven of our 10 categories. In the three categories it didn't dominate, the GS finished fourth in the transmission/clutch, third in value and tied for the best brakes with the Triumph and Ducati. That, my friends, is a thorough ass-whipping. The BMW is going to be the best platform for chasing adventure whether it be in the Beaver State or anywhere else.
Check out the following links for some extra tidbits about our shootout.
Hustling through the curves isn't reserved for only the Ducati and Triumph. The BMW sliced and diced our group of Adventure Touring machines for the second straight year.
- For My Money
See what each rider would do if they had to drop all that money out of their own pockets.
- Full Score Sheet
Want to see how your favorite bike did in the grand scheme of things? Check out our primary testing categories.
- 2007 Adventure Touring Comparo - Oregon
(Google Earth file)
Check out our route through the Beaver State and see how far we made it each day. If you don't have Google Earth installed, click here
to get the free download. Otherwise just hit this link
to view it in your regular web browser.
Let us know what you think about our 2007 Adventure Touring Comparo in the MCUSA Forum. Click Here