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2006 Adventure Touring Comparo I Photo Gallery

Never in our history have we undertaken a test of this magnitude, an epic journey that left us breathless. Check out who came out on top in our 2006 Adventure Touring Comparo

Slideshow
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Our Adventure-Touring Comparo would have traipsing around the southwest on roads both on the map and off.
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Including the venerable BMW R1200GS was a no-brainer. From the moment the first GS debuted in 1980, BMW has defined and dominated the genre.
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Hutch: 'So, the Grand Canyon huh? You sure you know where we're going Duke?'
Duke: 'Sure I'm sure - I think...'
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The Ducati Multistrada is the sportiest of our six adventure-tourers - the real test for this Italian mount would come in the dirt and rocks.
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We found the V-Strom and Caponord were quite similar, with the Suzuki taking a decided edge in the performance department.
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The sporty Multistrada excelled out on the road. The carbon fiber and Ohlins suspension on the 1000S model we tested are pure moto-jewelry.
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Evaluating the 'grin factor' is subjective and factors in a rider's preferences. Guess what BC's are?
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The Caponord provided good protection with its fairing and windscreen, but its ergos didn't please everyone.
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While the dirt tended to reveal weakness in the others, the more dirt-oriented KTM shined.
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BMW's GS is the icon of the adventure-tourer niche and is thoroughly engineered. It possesses useful standard features like a height-adjustable seat, centerstand, and a comprehensive tool kit. Kenny likes it.
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After suffering a badly punctured tire, we were forced to mount a roadrace-compound tire when a proper replacement couldn't be found, making our first day on the road a long one.
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While dealing with the flat fiasco Ken kept thinking how great it was going to be to stay in Vegas. Too bad every hotel in the city was booked due in large part to a big dog show... You read that right, a dog show.
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The end of Day 1 saw everyone in varying stages of fatigue by the time a hotel room was finally procured in Mesquite near midnight.
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Having been stranded for hours in the desert with little to eat and drink during our flat-tire experience, the double-walled watertight KTM Adventure saddlebags were packed with beverages for our long ride to the Bar 10 Ranch.
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After fueling up at St. George, Utah, it was time to hit the 70 miles of dirt toward the remote Bar 10 Ranch.
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The GS made a clean transition from street to dirt, performing admirably well in both environments.
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The Duc's performance out on the loose stuff was better than expected. It even outran a feisty cow that looked at Duke and saw red.
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The KTM Adventure was the hands-down boss out on the dirt. Tom Lavine, our trusted photog and least-experienced dirt rider, got a boost of confidence behind the controls of the big Katoom.
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The Ulysses surprised us with its dirt abilities. Its wide and comfortable seat proved a bit rangy for our shorter testers.
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The destination of Day 2 was the Bar 10 Ranch, a remote cattle ranch which also doubles as an attraction for river rafters, ATV tourers, and sight-seers flying over the nearby Grand Canyon.
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A motley crew if there ever was. From left to right: Kevin Duke 'Danger' - Brian 'Wheelie King' Chamberlain - Tom 'I wanna go home' Roderick - Tom 'Dakar Rally' Lavine - Dean 'Did I hit my head on something' Hight - Ken 'Get me another Heineken' Hutchison.
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Not everyone who buys an adventure touring bike like the Aprilia Caponord will take it off-road, but it's good to know it can handle it - if you can.
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The natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, with the Colorado River still cutting through the rock it has eroded for the past 100 million years, is a sight to behold.
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The Suzuki may have been the fastest in our acceleration tests, but the Duc was quickest up to 60 thanks to its lower stature and reduced chassis pitch.
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As the champion off-roader, the KTM was the most adept in dirt conditions, the best bike to ride in a standing position, and its motor is more than capable of providing plenty of power.
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The GS can more than hold its own off-road, with a smooth power delivery out of the Boxer engine and comfy off-road ergos.
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The top-heavy feel of the V-Strom combined with its street-oriented handlebar position made us realize that the dirt wasn't its forte.
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How often to you see a Duc flying? Well, I mean an Italian Duc. Kenny says Ducs fly straight, and with a little more lip on the jump he thinks he may have been able to pull off a nac-nac.
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Our luck ran out only 2 miles from the pavement. A disgraced Dean assesses the damage he inflicted on the GS while Duke begins formulating a plan for explaining it to the BMW press fleet manager.
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Slow and steady wins the race, at least through the muddy parts. After the GS and KTM took a tumble in the slippery stuff, Ken took a more cautious approach on the V-Strom.
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With the sun dropping into a beautiful sunset, it was time to motor on toward food and shelter in Page, Arizona, a welcome relief after 15 hours on the road.
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Less than 30 miles from the Canyon's south rim, T-Rod had to make an early exit in another direction. The jovial motojournalist was missed more than the Caponord he rode back to the OC.
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Our time spent at the majestic Grand Canyon was much too short, but we had work to do, bikes to test.
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We thought the rain was pretty bad so we ducked beneath an underpass for a brief respite. About the time we began to make a run for the off-ramp, we were bombarded with a hailstorm that turned into snow.
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Neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail shall deter us from finishing our test. Plus, we didn't really have a choice, as these bikes were our only ticket home.
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The long journey of Day 4 ended in Laughlin, Nevada, where our testers enjoyed the lack of snow and hail.
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The Multistrada proved its mastery of the pavement once things returned to asphalt, as Ducatis often do.
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Our trusty mounts hitched up outside the saloon in Oatman.
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Back out on the pavement the dirt-extraordinaire KTM demonstrated its pavement shortcomings.
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The GS got the job done no matter the environment. After schooling all but the KTM off-road, its street manners were also rated consistently high.
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Six bikes await their judgment as we tally up the results from all six of our esteemed testers. Drum roll please...
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It wasn't pretty for the Caponord. The $11,999 mount was voted last by every tester and picked up the nickname 'Nard. Nice enough, but...
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The V-Strom fell short in many of the areas that a budget-oriented rider might forgive, with a strong engine and comfortable ergos.
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The Ulysses came in fourth, beaten out only by its higher-priced rivals. On the dirt it only fell behind the KTM and GS; on the pavement it lacked the wind protection you would expect from a tourer.
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The third-placed Multistrata flat-out smoked on the pavement, which offset its last-ranked position in off-road capability. An excellent purchase for the rider to whom off-road excursions will be minimal.
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The opposite of the Ducati, the second-place Adventure ruled out on the dirt and settled for just competent on the street. As such, it's the wise purchase for a more dirt-inclined consumer.
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And the winner is...The Big Beemer took top honors courtesy of its high-quality components, top fit and finish, and most of all, it's equal mastery of both street and dirt.
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In the end, the German Beemer and Austrian Katoom took the top two spots because both can put the 'adventure' in adventure-touring.
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We put many miles under our heels on this trip but one thing always seemed to remain a constant: The desert flora.
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Say what you will about the Grand Canyon National Park - the views are amazing, especially from up in the lookout tower. Too bad Duke wouldn't let us go up there though - he said it was too dangerous.
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Whether you choose the purpose-built GS or a hybrid like the Ulysses, you can go places you never thought imaginable on these bikes.
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Eventually we had to leave Bar 10 and start our long trip out of the mountains. None of us knew what lay ahead, just that we were going that way no matter what.