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2012 Adventure Touring Comparison

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


After the arduous-but-awesome 2011 Adventure Touring Shootout, every MotoUSA test rider has been waiting for the 2012 edition. Even those who weren’t along previously were bidding for a seat in this comparison, but once the bike list rolled out, it became clear that there really isn’t anything new in the market segment, save for one bold new bike. As for the rest, a stagnant carry-over year meant we whittled our selection down to the reigning champion versus the new challenger. We quickly discovered that fewer seats don’t necessarily mean less drama.

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2012 BMW R1200GS Comparison Video
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Does the Beemer have what it takes against the competition? Find out in the 2012 BMW R1200GS Comparison Video.
The BMW R1200GS emerged from our biggest multi-bike AT test as the overall winner, and it did so in its unassuming German ways. The GS is actually very unconventional in its design as an AT bike, and yet has managed to become the standard that others are judged by. Cylinder heads that are the first thing to hit the ground doesn’t immediately seem ideal for a riding style that is more likely to crash than other street bikes. The Telelever front suspension leaves the fork holding the wheel assembly while an additional single shock is responsible for bump absorption. It all seems a bit odd, but there’s not one test rider who will say it doesn’t work. It’s those same designs that allow for a low center of gravity and nimble handling from such a heavy bike. As a result the GS has become BMW’s top-selling motorcycle out of its entire lineup of sport, standard, touring, dual sport and other AT machines. Over the years MotoUSA has become a steady believer in the formula, but even we had some big concerns when faced with the new Tiger. 
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2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer Comparison Video
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Triumph says it wants a piece of BMW, now it has its chance in the 2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer Comparison Video.

Triumph wants to beat BMW at its own game. Company reps don’t even try to hide it, in fact they boasted about it during the 2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer First Ride in Southern Spain. The Brits aren’t being jerks, it’s actually a compliment to the Bavarian tribe as they recognize the impressive sales presence and have certainly spent their own time evaluating why the GS is so popular. But don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a form of flattery by imitation. Triumph has its own ideas about the right way to build an adventure platform, and at the heart of it is the signature Inline Triple engine layout upon which the company has rebuilt its empire. That alone should spark interest from the ADV community since different forms of Twins have become the dominant number of cylinders. Triumph uses a left-side shaft drive and Kayaba suspension components. It also incorporates fuel injection, ride-by-wire throttle technology and a slick cruise control. It certainly looks the part on paper and in person, but the question was whether or not it has the stones to make good on company claims.

We enlisted a pair of experienced riders to sort out the two bikes’ attributes and give riding opinions for each. Off-Road Editor and author, JC Hilderbrand, has been on the majority of AT bikes that MotoUSA tested in recent years. He loves this type of exploration and is always the guy who brings a tool pack (good thing, it turns out). Filling the other seat is Brian Steeves, a veteran professional street stunter and longtime off-road rider. That means he’s one of the weirdos
2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer
2012 BMW R1200GS
The Adventure Touring fight is on - Triumph
Tiger Explorer vs. BMW R1200GS.
that prefers the rear end to move at every opportunity whether it’s dirt or pavement. At 5’9” and 165 pounds, he had a different view from the saddle compared to our heavier editor at 5’11” and 190 pounds.

We spent five days flogging the touring motorcycles across dirt, street and everything in between as we explored southern Utah. Our troupe passed through this area last year and resolved to spend more time sampling its variety of roads and scenery. It didn’t disappoint this time around as wild weather ranged from a bout of hail to over 101 degrees and dotted the sky with amazing cloud formations. The weather also allowed us to get a better feel for the rider protection on each machine. When we weren’t logging miles, we collected horsepower and torque numbers from our in-house dyno, riding weights came from our Intercomp digital scales and onboard data acquisition determined braking and acceleration. Considering that these bikes aren’t likely to find a drag strip, we opted to include a more realistic 60-0 mph braking category in place of the traditional quarter-mile times. We still evaluate acceleration by ranking the bikes on 0-60 mph. Throughout the trip we counted miles and fuel consumption to see which is most economical and calculated what brand offers the longest range. With the guidelines set, let’s see how it shakes out.


2012 BMW R1200GS Photo Gallery
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2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer Photos
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La Luz Desert Retreat
2012 BMW R1200GS
We had the good fortune of running into Ricki Brown during a fuel stop in Escalante, Utah and striking up a conversation with the amiable local. Ricki operates La Luz Desert Retreat alongside Sandy Brown, their cozy abode a perfect way to experience many of Utah’s southern wonders. Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument are all right out the front door. The small retreat sleeps up to six guests, and hopefully has enough space for some motorcycle gear because we’ll probably be staying there in the future. Ricki guided us onto his favorite road and obviously knows the local landscape. Adventure riders would be well served to chat him up and find out how to get the most out of their time at La Luz.

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Comments
Poncho167   September 25, 2012 10:59 AM
These bikes are suited for highway, gravel, or fire roads. Even my 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 is a handful off road because of its 432 lb. wet weight. Nothing but smooth trails if every with that bike. It is my daily communter.

A past friend had a 2007 Tiger that he took over a little jump of maybe one foot high and on impact his left foot peg broke off. He had to unbolt the passenger peg to mount for the ride home.
Phaedrus   September 22, 2012 08:32 PM
TR vs GS may be a better title than "Adventure Motorcycle Comparison Review". C´mon guys you are comparing two HEAVY bikes to select the best of... A reality check, unless you father is Hulk and mom is Wonder Woman, off roading in +500 lbs bikes is either crazy or something better done with a full support crew ready to lift your fallen mount. Sorry, I forgot, you can go to a 3 day course with BMW and become fully proficient in offroad with you preferred elephant. Yeah, right. Care to check what the pros are using to run Dakar-Buenos Aires races? 450 now, 650 a few years ago and last decade a few braves on KTM 950´s that were as close as superheros as there have ever been. These two bikes, and the whole category in general, are better suited to Tour in comfort, mostly on road. For that they are very good, for anything else bring strong buddies along, and many of them for that matter. We American riders, and many others around the world, have fallen into the marketing trap of bigger is better. Smaller bikes are just not cool enough for the Marlboro man in us. KTM Duke 690? out of the US catalog. A 750 is a "small" cruiser. A 500 cc bike is considered a member of the "beginners bike" group so one can evolve into a real bike. I met recently a 5´5" lady on a safety course getting acquainted with her new Victory Vision 850 lbs baby as she call it. At least she had the sense of taking the safety course, but she looks a bit stretched to say the least. Reading this note I have to apologize to my fellow riders, forget all I said, just get out there with whatever you like and enjoy the heck out it.