2012 Adventure-Touring Shootout - Video
BMW R1200GS vs KTM 990 Adventure vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio vs Triumph Explorer vs Yamaha Super Ténéré
On The Pavement
‘Round-the-world aspirations aside, asphalt is the surface these bikes will be most familiar with during their lifetimes. Visions of emulating Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are what Adventure-Touring bikes are all about, but reality suggests more sedate existences.
All the attributes elevating the KTM above the others in off-road performance now relegates the Adventure from first to last: a wandering front end in fast sweepers from its 21-inch front wheel and more knobbyish tire, to severe fork dive under hard braking. "Its seat is quite firm,” says Duke, “but I wouldn't say it was uncomfortable during the length of our longer stints. However, shorter riders will dislike its tallest-in-class 34.7-inch seat height."
It’s the more well-balanced handling attributes of the BMW and Yamaha that have them battling for first-place rankings.
“The R1200GS continues to impress us when fired down a twisty road. Its wide handlebars enable quick steering transitions, and it is sure-footed once leaned over in a corner. Front-end feel from the Telelever is minimal, but it works well once you learn to trust it. In addition, the Telelever’s anti-dive design results in far less chassis pitching than the other bikes,” says Duke.
The Beemer and its ergonomics are quite comfortable over long distances. Wind flow over the front of the BMW hits a six-foot rider about chest level, allowing air into jacket vents on hot days without undue buffeting. Hight provided one of the few negative comments, explaining the seat’s lip limited his ability to adjust his riding position.
If it weren’t for the Ténéré’s lackluster engine performance it may very well have bested the BMW due to its sublime handling qualities. Duke says he became impressed with the Super Ten’s handling when riding the sinuous Highway 58. “It delivers solid front-end feel for an adventure bike, and it’s able to be confidently thrown into corners.”
Troy gave the Yamaha props for the ability of its gripper-style seat to hold its rider in place. Hight complained of wind buffeting no matter which height of the adjustable windshield it was set to. Other testers didn’t experience the same problem.
As it was in the dirt, so it remains on the pavement, the Triumph’s top-heaviness and touchy R-b-W throttle impeding an otherwise proficient chassis and the hands-down best engine of the group.
“Twelve-hundred-fifteen cc’s of smooth, stomping inline-Triple power and a smooth-shifting gearbox hampered by limited ground clearance and a weight problem,” laments Hight. But the Triumph does have a great rear rack for attaching a bungee net, camping gear, etc., to the bike.
And what about the Stelvio? While MO staffers busied themselves attending MotoGP matters, Hight took the Guzzi for a solo day ride.
"I cruised south on Highway 1 to Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd,” relates Hight. “After scraping the center stand numerous times, I tractored over some of the forest roads, through sand, over ruts and rocks along the forest road, and the Guzzi was surprisingly stable. “At the end of the day, I was very happy with my selection. The Guzzi was very comfortable with an excellent seat and adjustable windscreen, and its cruiser character encouraged me to stop often and enjoy the scenery.”
In the Ergonomics/Comfort category scoring overall layout, adjustability (seat, levers, footpegs, etc.), and wind protection the Guzzi came in second with 83.75% to the BMW’s 86.25% with the KTM third at 82.5% while the Triumph and Yamaha tied for last with 77.5%.