2002 Adventure Tourer Comparo
When you need to visit Aunt Helga in Holland...
Get the Flash Player to see this player.The Triumph also sported the second-most ground clearance of the group, ahead of the Aprilia, even though that particular bike lacks a center-stand as standard equipment. The BMW had the most ground clearance of the trio, though this was due, in no small part, to its rather tall stature. The GS' height and comparative heft only came to the fore when we found ourselves off-the beaten path. Waaaay off the beaten path, actually, plowing through sand and snow. After a few miles of slogging through the snow atop a 7,000 foot mountain peak, we dropped down into a valley and took a detour on a few county-maintained jeep trails. All bikes performed as well as could be expected of machines who will likely never see dirt (though it's nice to know you can if you want to. It's that whole "adventure" mentality, remember?).
Of the three, it was the Triumph that felt most dirt-worthy. Its compliant suspension and upright ergonomics actually made the bike fun to slide around a bit. In comparison, the BMW felt solid, albeit large and more able to handle the softer sands of the few washes we crossed, no doubt helped by its more aggressive treads. The Aprilia had the same sneakers as the Triumph on its feet, though the CapoNord's dicey suspension had things feeling too skittish too soon for comfort.
Back into the twisties for the final stretch before the drone home on the super slab and it was again the Triumph out front until the long straight stretches where the Aprilia's power began to help it bear down on the Tiger. The BMW, meanwhile, was content to sit back. After long stints in the saddle, the GS' rider stayed fairly fresh compared to how the Aprilia and Triumph pilots felt. The GS is a big bike, but it rewards smooth riding and never makes its rider feel on-edge.
After a quick topping up of fuel tanks and depleting the fluids from our own bladders, heated vests and extra sweatshirts we taken from each bike's saddlebags and donned. The CapoNord gets the nod from the Best Luggage department since the bags work easily and, because of the under-seat mufflers, neither bag has to make room for side-mounted exhaust cans.
It was drone time, and the bike of choice on cold nights such as this is the BMW. Comfortable ergos and decent wind protection aside, the GS' heated grips go a long way towards making your whole body feel warm and toasty even though our particular bike lacked any sort of hand protection (an option we'd have liked). Aprilia saw fit to make hand guards an option as well, and so the Truimph got the nod over the Aprilia (again) as it comes standard with these little lifesavers.
In the overall tally, the Triumph gets our nod over the Aprilia, too. This surprised us since we really have a soft spot going for these Aprilias. After all, they've won every one of MO's comparisons they've contested.The CapoNord is a touring bike, first and foremost, making only enough slight winks and nudges to subtlety hint at all-out adventure touring. The BMW, in stark contrast, looks like it just left the staging area for the Paris-Dakar rally. It's the true adventure tourer of the group, but its motor leaves some people wanting more and, in terms of its overall size, some wanting less.
Striking a near perfect balance between tour and adventure is Triumph's Tiger. With its well-sorted suspension, motor and ergonomic package that seem so well suited to just about any ride you have planned -- short or far, paved or rally style -- it's the winner of our first shootout of 2002.
Brent Avis: Even though it came down to my picking the Triumph as the best bike here, it's certainly not the one I'd own. Maybe it's my german heritage or my love of big things and being the underpowered underdog, but the BMW just suits me perfectly. It's quirky but good in every way, if only because it's not bad in any way. The ABS is cool on this bike (I usually hate ABS), the heated grips rule and the big, wide bars are wonderful to hook car mirrors with. So what if little, weak people have a problem with this bike?
Calvin Kim: All the bikes have lots of suspension travel, decent engines and great ergos. This sounds great for the city, but they're so darned heavy. Oh well. Can't have everything, I suppose. The Capo' is the smoothest of the three motors on the highway. The suspension needs to be adjusted, though. I hear that the spring rates and such were set up for the European market. I hope that's true, because that means that stuff might change for us in the US. The BMW is a great machine; large, torquey and stable. If it weren't for the other bikes, the weak motor would be a non-issue. However, the price tag is just a tad steep for mere mortals, and the lack of standard handguards at such a premium price left me wondering, "what gives?". Which leaves the Tiger. Perfectly capable in every way.
Just John: I think I like the Triumph the best of these bikes actually. Most compact riding position fits me best -- lower bars, higher footpegs, maybe most comfy seat of the 3. Purty good suspension, too. Gives it more feel on the road.
The Aprilia I din't like much. I already said it looks like a high school welding project gone bad, but the bars are too hi for me, seat is least favorite, and suspension kind of mushy in back.
BMW still has (maybe) best chassis -- especially offroad. Seems to have low center of gravity, and that longitudinal crank makes it feel like you can't fall off. But the motor is wheezy compared to others. Let's face it, wheelies are important with these bikes, and the other two do great ones. BMW requires real skill. Most of all I hate those ridiculous turn signals. Every time I use them I'm reminded of the sort of arrogant pig-headedness that gave us two World Wars and then get pissed off all over again.