2012 Adventure-Touring Shootout - Video
BMW R1200GS vs KTM 990 Adventure vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio vs Triumph Explorer vs Yamaha Super Ténéré
In The Dirt
“To boldly go where these other Adventure-Tourers won’t” should be the KTM Adventure’s mantra. No matter how adventurous our ride became the KTM was always out front, tackling obstacles until forced to stop and collect the laggards.
With 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, 8.25 inches of suspension travel (front and rear), and a wet weight of approximately 505 pounds, it’s no wonder the KTM doesn’t shy away from the adventure side of its A-T classification. Also helping the KTM is its use of a chain drive compared to the shaft drives of the other models.
“The KTM 990 Adventure is the only real choice if your idea of adventure takes you far away from the pavement,” says Hight.
Even the KTM’s saddlebags are more off-road worthy than the other’s in this group. “Protection wise, they're tough and sturdy,” says Siahaan, “I didn't worry at all about my stuff when Tom tipped it over in the woods. They’re kind of small but come with accessory inner liners and they’re water tight - perfect for turning into a makeshift ice chest for beer while camping!”
The bike most able to hang with the KTM in the dirt was the second lightest motorcycle of the group. BMW’s GS, with a claimed wet weight of 516 pounds, bests the next closest wet weight by 54 pounds (Claimed wet weights: Explorer = 570 lbs, Ténéré = 575 lbs, Stelvio = 598 lbs).
Garnering a 95% in the braking department of our ScoreCard, the BMW also boasts the most user-friendly ABS system. Switching off the KTM’s ABS is marginally more difficult, but the Triumph (87.5%) requires a sequence of button pushes, whereas you have to trick the Ténéré’s (80%) ABS into turning off.
Testers scored the Stelvio’s brakes (also ABS) with a third-place-tying-score of 80%, leaving KTM’s score of 78.75% at the bottom of the heap. “KTM’s front brakes require a considerable amount of travel,” says Duke, adding they’re actually preferable (less touchy) when riding in low-traction situations.
Coming in a very close third to the BMW in the dirt is the Yamaha Ténéré. All of the testers commended the Ténéré’s off-road handling manners generally saying it was a toss-up between it and the BMW. “Off road the Ténéré seems like a decently balanced motorcycle,” says Siahaan. “I'd pick it or the BMW as my second choice in the dirt.”
Turning off-road is where things really fell apart for the Triumph Explorer. Although it’s not the heaviest of the group, the Explorer carries its weight high, and top-heaviness is severely exacerbated when riding in the dirt.
“The Explorer’s top-heavy feel, extremely touchy ride-by-wire throttle, and low ground clearance made the Tiger the worst handling bike off-pavement of the group,” says Hight, the contrarian who ranked the Triumph below the Moto Guzzi in his overall scoring.
But Hight wasn’t alone in preferring the Guzzi over the Triumph during our off-road riding. Tipping the wet-weight scales more than the other models by way of its cavernous 8.5-gallon fuel tank, the Stelvio carries much of its heft lower in the chassis, making it more maneuverable and better balanced, thus more confidence-inspiring in the dirt.