The one overriding edict in choosing this year’s consortium of adventure bike players is obvious from the story’s title – spoked-hoops, which essentially demonstrates a manufacturer’s commitment to the off-road worthiness of its bike. The introduction of Honda’s new Africa Twin has the potential of re-racking the pecking order in motorcycling’s hottest category, so we gathered five of its likely competitors that are either top-rated or recently updated. The Honda bridges engine displacements, ranging from Triumph’s 800cc Tiger XCx to Yamaha’s 1199cc Super Ténéré ES, and we also included ADV icons like KTM’s 1190 R Adventure and BMW’s what-will-they-think-of-next R1200GS Adventure, plus Ducati’s radical A-T entrant, the new Multistrada Enduro.

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Instead of traversing California’s entire coastline like last year’s 2015 Ultimate Sports-Adventure-Touring Shootout, we kept things local this time ’round, taking the longest, twistiest route to SoCal’s Big Bear Lake area. Once in the mountains, the plan was to spend a couple of days riding a variety of mildly challenging off-road routes an adventure bike rider might encounter. What we discovered, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of the bikes ridden, is the MO staff’s terrible sense of direction and inability to follow turn-by-turn GPS instruction.

Adventure bikes are available in a variety of sizes, weights and prices. Some are more off-road-worthy, while others prefer paved adventures, and a few can almost match a Gold Wing bell-for-bell and whistle-for-whistle in a touring role.

Adventure bikes are available in a variety of sizes, weights and prices. Some are more off-road-worthy, while others prefer paved adventures, and a few can almost match a Gold Wing bell-for-bell and whistle-for-whistle in a touring role.

Day 1

Things got underway normally enough with an early morning breakfast at Hill Street Cafe at the base of Angeles Crest Highway. Bellies full, we traced Hwy. 2 northeast toward a rendezvous with Sean Alexander. Triumph’s scramble to provide a Tiger 800 XCx had Alexander picking up and packing the Tiger Tuesday morning instead of prior to our launch date. The tight timeframe meant Alexander missed breakfast, and the Tiger missed having saddlebags installed. Once our entire crew was assembled, including Scott Rousseau from Dirtbikes.com subbing for Troy Siahaan, our boy band left the Angeles National Forest for the adjoining one in San Bernadino.

Climbing into the San Berdoo mountains, we wend our way up a seriously tight roadway, still on course to the tasty lunch spot I pre-programmed into the BMW’s GPS. Riding the Tiger behind Alexander on the GS Adventure, there’s an expected lack of corner exit punch from the smaller-displacement machine. The Tiger’s sporty-quick steering makes quick work of the unrelenting stream of 15-mph corners, but they’re accompanied by the sound of dragging footpegs, which are positioned comfortably low to allow plenty of legroom on an adventure bike with only a 33-inch stock seat height.

The most dirt-oriented Tiger 800 in Triumph’s lineup, the XCx, was lauded as an exceptionally sporty street machine. The inline-three-cylinder engine can take a lot of the credit, as Triumph Triple streetbikes are well-loved by the MO brigade.

The most dirt-oriented Tiger 800 in Triumph’s lineup, the XCx, was lauded as an exceptionally sporty street machine. The inline-three-cylinder engine can take a lot of the credit, as Triumph Triple streetbikes are well-loved by the MO brigade.

“On the street, the XCx handles like the sportbikes from which it is derived, even with its skinny 21-inch front wheel,” says Rousseau. “It turns into a corner easily, delivers decent feedback through the front end, and is fun to hammer the throttle on the exit so that the ears can hear the sweet growl of that silky Triple.”

2016 Triumph Tiger 800 XCx Review

The least physically imposing bike of the six bikes assembled, the Tiger resembles a VW Beetle outfitted in off-road attire among monster trucks with bigger-is-better attitudes. “A great choice for a smaller person like myself,” says 5-foot-8 John Burns. The Tiger also boasts the only non-Twin engine arrangement in the group. While not an especially strong characteristic in the dirt (more on that later), the inline-three was a favorite among all testers when riding pavement.

It should be noted the Tiger enjoyed the weight advantage of not having hard luggage mounted. For equity, we weighed an XCx with saddlebags mounted, and used that figure in determining its Scorecard ranking.

It should be noted the Tiger enjoyed the weight advantage of not having hard luggage mounted. For equity, we weighed an XCx with saddlebags mounted, and used that figure in determining its Scorecard ranking.

“Quick revving, with considerably less flywheel effect than the others here,” says Kevin Duke. “The Tiger’s three-cylinder motor sounds terrific as it revs up, sonically delicious aside from the traditional Triumph whistling noise at lower revs.”

At the other end of the weight/displacement spectrum is BMW’s R1200GS Adventure – the lovechild of Angus MacGyver and Robin Leach – the solid gold Swiss Army Knife of the rich and famous. The GS Adventure does everything, from interstate-straight to light-footed sportiness to competent off-roading, but it clearly distinguishes itself from the other bikes here as the indisputable king of electronic gadgetry, with a price tag ($24,384 as tested) commensurate with its amount of gizmos.

The MSRP of a base model R1200GS Adventure is a comparably affordable $18,695. It’s the added packages (Touring, Premium, etc.) that make your eyes bulge at the final figure. Even the soft luggage fitted to our test unit retails for $1,319. But who cares when you can afford it? Duke sums it up nicely: “Does an ADV bike need a Gear Shift Assistant? No! Did I have fun using it on twisty paved roads? You bet!

The MSRP of a base model R1200GS Adventure is a comparably affordable $18,695. It’s the added packages (Touring, Premium, etc.) that make your eyes bulge at the final figure. Even the soft luggage fitted to our test unit retails for $1,319. But who cares when you can afford it? Duke sums it up nicely: “Does an ADV bike need a Gear Shift Assistant? No! Did I have fun using it on twisty paved roads? You bet!

“If cost was no object, the GS would be my first choice if I had to ride from California to New York via Utah and Colorado,” says Dukester. “It’s super comfortable and capable of traversing rock beds and canyons and interstates with unmatched aplomb.”

At 632 wet pounds the Adventure scales in 15 pounds lighter than Ducati’s new Multistrada Enduro (647 pounds wet), but some of that is attributed to the soft luggage of the BMW vs. the hard luggage of the Duc. Both bikes carry 7.9 gallons (about 48 pounds) of fuel, which is 1.8 gallons (11 pounds) more than the bike with the next most voluminous fuel capacity, Yamaha’s Super Ténéré with 6.1 gallons.

The Atacama Adventure Luggage System on our test bike is new from BMW, and the only soft luggage in the test. Both the saddlebags and the top case are waterproof, durable, much lighter and more flexible than hard luggage. The top case includes backpack straps, and is large enough to fit a tent, sleeping bag, pillow and bed roll.

The Atacama Adventure Luggage System on our test bike is new from BMW, and the only soft luggage in the test. Both the saddlebags and the top case are waterproof, durable, much lighter and more flexible than hard luggage. The top case includes backpack straps, and is large enough to fit a tent, sleeping bag, pillow and bed roll.

Like the Duc, the BMW is outfitted with semi-active suspension, which works satisfactory, but compared to the Multistrada and its Skyhook suspension, some of our testers thought it could be better. “While the GS never put a wheel out of place on the street, the Dynamic ESA felt a little soft for my tastes with the ride being too floaty,” says Brasfield. Conversely, Duke had praise for the Beemer’s suspension that could be dialed up to his liking no matter the terrain or speed, and he had kudos for its Telelever fork that nearly eliminates front-end diving during deceleration, a feature appreciated when two-upping a passenger.

We didn’t make it far from our lunch stop – about 15 seconds after saddling up, in fact – before veering from the route I painstakingly planned. After looping aimlessly around the residential area of Crestline, CA, we were again enjoying the twisty, elevation-changing roads mountains typically deliver. So what if we missed a turn, there’s always another twistier mountain road just around the bend, making it easy to keep gathering the mileage necessary in assessing the streetability of each machine. If only we’d known how much our streetwise, cavalier attitudes would come to haunt us the next day.

Hold that thought, as we’ve a few more models to suss out on the pavement today.

Our Multistrada Enduro was piecemealed together from the Ducati parts catalog, but it basically has the same equipment you’d get from purchasing the Enduro Pack: engine crash bars, radiator crash bars, oil radiator guard, sprocket cover, broader kickstand base. Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires replaced the stock Scorpion Trail IIs. These accessories lifted its MSRP up from $21,295 in stock trim to a lofty $24,841 as tested.

Our Multistrada Enduro was piecemealed together from the Ducati parts catalog, but it basically has the same equipment you’d get from purchasing the Enduro Pack: engine crash bars, radiator crash bars, oil radiator guard, sprocket cover, broader kickstand base. Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires replaced the stock Scorpion Trail IIs. These accessories lifted its MSRP up from $21,295 in stock trim to a lofty $24,841 as tested.

It’d be easy to assume that Ducati’s fire-breathing 1198cc DVT Testastretta Twin would vanquish anything in ADV land, but it had yet to meet KTM’s 1190 Adventure R. On paper the Duc’s Twin clearly has the upper hand: 132.7 hp at 9,700 rpm and 80.6 lb-ft of torque at 7,600 rpm vs. 119.7 hp at 9,900 rpm and 74.3 lb-ft of torque at 7,800 rpm of the KTM. The 13 horsepower and 6.3 pound-feet to the Duc’s advantage isn’t enough, though, to make up for the 82-pound difference in wet weight the KTM enjoys, 647 pounds vs. 565 pounds.

2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro First Ride Review

The Scorecard reveals the power-to-weight equation, with the KTM moving 4.7 pounds per horsepower to the Duc’s 4.8, and 7.6 pounds per pound-foot for the KTM vs. 7.8 pounds per pound-foot for the Duc, but there’s no denying the roll-on comparisons where the KTM stepped away from the Ducati in 6th-gear races, as well as edging the Duc in a 4th-gear contest. The BMW did well to nearly keep pace during the 6th-gear roll-ons.

From the Honda’s 85.7 hp to Ducati’s 132.7 hp, there’s a wide variance in horsepower output, but note that where it matters most – in the midrange – all bikes (except for Triumph) are making in the neighborhood of 80 hp. The KTM’s knobby tires apparently clipped off a couple of ponies from its max output, as the non-R KTM we tested last year with street tires measured 123.6 hp at 9,400 rpm, and 77.3 lb-ft at 8,000 rpm.

From the Honda’s 85.7 hp to Ducati’s 132.7 hp, there’s a wide variance in horsepower output, but note that where it matters most – in the midrange – all bikes (except for Triumph) are making in the neighborhood of 80 hp. The KTM’s knobby tires apparently clipped off a couple of ponies from its max output, as the non-R KTM we tested last year with street tires measured 123.6 hp at 9,400 rpm, and 77.3 lb-ft at 8,000 rpm.

“The KTM’s V-Twin delivers serious punch on and off the trail,” says Rousseau. “To me, it felt as if it was in a close heat with the Ducati for overall power output. The 1190 isn’t as smooth as the Honda once you venture off-road, but the big orange machine more than makes up that by being snappy and fun.”

The Ducati’s failure to whoop the KTM in roll-on contests can also be blamed on the significant dip in power from 4,000 rpm to 6,000 rpm. The Duc actually dips below the Honda’s torque production at 5,800 rpm.

The Ducati’s failure to whoop the KTM in roll-on contests can also be blamed on the significant dip in power from 4,000 rpm to 6,000 rpm. The Duc actually dips below the Honda’s torque production at 5,800 rpm.

Brasfield chimes in about the Ducati, “In the twisties, the engine was able to unleash its beast mode. Ripping through the gears after exiting a corner never failed to put a smile on my face.” To which Sean Alexander adds, “Like the KTM, the Multistrada feels better the faster you ride it – that’s a lovable trait in a motorcycle.”

Ducati got dirt-serious with the Multistrada Enduro, but it hasn’t lost much of its street chops. The heaviest bike in the test, the Multi still makes quick work of straightening corners and breaking speed limits.

Ducati got dirt-serious with the Multistrada Enduro, but it hasn’t lost much of its street chops. The heaviest bike in the test, the Multi still makes quick work of straightening corners and breaking speed limits.

Almost equal to the BMW in bells and whistles, the Multistrada should make for a fantastic long-distance travel companion, but more than one tester commented about the bike’s ergonomics. Brasfield says it best:

“The Duc’s riding position was quite odd,” he says. “First, the seat is really high when you’re trying to mount the bike or just put both feet on the ground. Then, the seat is really low when you’re actually riding. This feeling comes less from the seat-to-peg relationship than the seat-to-bar. When sitting in the saddle, the grips seem strangely high. However, when standing on the pegs, I thought the bar was the right height.”

Light makes right, right? The R is the more dirtable model of KTM’s two 1190 Adventure bikes. Not as powerful as the Ducati but weighing significantly less gives the KTM impressive thrust on the street while being far more manageable when off it.

Light makes right, right? The R is the more dirtable model of KTM’s two 1190 Adventure bikes. Not as powerful as the Ducati but weighing significantly less gives the KTM impressive thrust on the street while being far more manageable when off it.

Already a ringer for best dirtbike in the group, KTM’s Adventure R comes outfitted with knobby, Continental TKC-80 tires. Providing more grip and stability in the dirt than any other tire in the group, the knobby tires moved around like bags of jello on the pavement. Slower corner speeds were redressed with aggressive corner exiting throttle application, squirting the KTM out of bends and keeping it nipping at the rear wheels of bikes with more streetable tires. The other downside to the soft and grippy TKC-80s is that they burn up quickly when ridden on the pavement.

“The choice of knobbies on the KTM ruined the street portion of the ride for me,” complains Brasfield. “The tire squirm kept me from trusting the bike when leaned over on pavement. Though the knobbies worked great in the dirt, they didn’t wear well and were nearly toast by the time our test was finished.”

At 565 pounds, the KTM 1190 weighs a mere 20 wet pounds more than the 1000cc Honda Africa Twin but outputs substantially more power. The KTM’s brakes are well-suited to both street and dirt riding, with a more powerful feel than the Honda while not sacrificing much in the way of modulation.

At 565 pounds, the KTM 1190 weighs a mere 20 wet pounds more than the 1000cc Honda Africa Twin but outputs substantially more power. The KTM’s brakes are well-suited to both street and dirt riding, with a more powerful feel than the Honda while not sacrificing much in the way of modulation.

Burnsie wasn’t as affected by the knobbies as he was with the bike’s height, but he’s also much shorter than Brasfield. “On pavement, those knobbies feel pretty sketchy until you get used to them, and then they still feel sketchy. It’s fun to ride on the street anyway, thanks to the motor. Tiptoe in and just whack the throttle at exit and it closes the gap on all the other bikes, using its TC to keep the rear knobby marginally in traction.”

As for the two Japanese bikes, besides sharing parallel-Twin engine architecture, they couldn’t be farther apart from one another. Honda’s Africa Twin makes do with only switchable TC and ABS, while Yamaha’s Super Ténéré ES features those technologies plus cruise control, EAS, ride modes, tire-pressure monitor, and an adjustable windscreen. For these electronic upgrades and a 201cc increase in engine capacity, expect to fork over an additional $3,674.

Honda’s new Africa Twin won our Best On-Off-Road/Adventure Motorcycle of 2016 by virtue of its light weight, affordable price and ultra-friendly riding dynamics. It’s so amazingly well-rounded it could be the only bike in your garage. Alexander, a longtime devotee of Kawasaki’s Versys, says the Honda might just replace the Kawi as his favorite all-around motorcycle.

Honda’s new Africa Twin won our Best On-Off-Road/Adventure Motorcycle of 2016 by virtue of its light weight, affordable price and ultra-friendly riding dynamics. It’s so amazingly well-rounded it could be the only bike in your garage. Alexander, a longtime devotee of Kawasaki’s Versys, says the Honda might just replace the Kawi as his favorite all-around motorcycle.

What was largely determined between the two Asian bikes is that while the Honda excels in both on- and off-road capacities, the Yamaha makes for a better street bike than it does off-roader.

2016 Honda Africa Twin Review

“The Super Ten would make a good candidate for a cross-country tourer, as it’s wonderfully comfortable, never needs a chain oiled or adjusted, and it has a huge dealer network nationwide, not that it’ll probably ever need much mechanical attention,” says Duke.

Tragedy would strike our Yamaha Super Ténéré prior to our photo/video session leaving few images of the Ténéré in-action. We still flogged it on the street ride, and most of the dirt portion, surprising no one with its preference for paved roads over dirt ones.

Tragedy would strike our Yamaha Super Ténéré prior to our photo/video session leaving few images of the Ténéré in-action. We still flogged it on the street ride, and most of the dirt portion, surprising no one with its preference for paved roads over dirt ones.

On paper the Honda fails to impress, but as every rider in our group found out after throwing a leg over the Africa Twin, the bike simply works and works well. It’s not the most powerful or otherwise standout bike here in any category, it just quietly (not really, it’s one of the best sounding Hondas in a long time, barking out an appealing V-Twin-like note from its 270-degree crank arrangement) goes about the task at hand.

“Feels far and away the most natural as soon as you sit on it…. then keeps feeling the most natural,” says Alexander. “The Africa Twin has ‘motorcycle’ blood and can’t help but to feel and act exactly like you expect a motorcycle to feel and act. I absolutely love it.”

Even with 198cc more displacement, Honda’s parallel-Twin loses out to Triumph’s Triple by a couple horsepower 85.7 hp at 7,600 rpm vs. 87.5 hp at 9,200 rpm. The AT makes up for it in the torque department: 67.0 lb-ft at 5,900 rpm vs. 52.9 lb.-ft. at 7,700 rpm.

Even with 198cc more displacement, Honda’s parallel-Twin loses out to Triumph’s Triple by a couple horsepower 85.7 hp at 7,600 rpm vs. 87.5 hp at 9,200 rpm. The AT makes up for it in the torque department: 67.0 lb-ft at 5,900 rpm vs. 52.9 lb.-ft. at 7,700 rpm.

So, if your adventure-bike riding is 90% or more a paved experience, each bike here boasts certain qualities you might find attractive depending on your needs. The three heavier, electronically laden vessels – BMW, Ducati, Yamaha – make for great long-distance tourers, while the two lighter, less electronically burdened bikes – KTM and Honda – provide better short-distance machines, with the Triumph falling somewhere in the middle.

092316-Wire-Wheeled-Adventure-Tourers-Group-7377

And with that, we end our first day street portion of the test with arrival at Pineknot campground. Due to fire restrictions – not even a charcoal fire was allowed, thus hindering our ability to BBQ anything – we chose a location close to the town of Big Bear so we could enjoy a wholesome dinner without having to ride 20 miles into the wilderness afterward. This decision worked to our favor even more the following night.

Day 2

For the off-road portion of our trip, I reached out to Miguel Burgi of the Big Bear Trail Riders Motorcycle Club. Miguel supplied me with a couple of GPS files containing two loops surrounding the Big Bear Lake area. I loaded them into the BMW’s Garmin and figured the adventure portion of our test was covered. Following an early morning rise and a large breakfast, we were underway with the GPS leading us directly to our transition from paved to dirt road. So many miles thereafter, I’m not sure how many, it became apparent we took a wrong turn, or three, at which time we didn’t know what lay ahead, but we sure as hell weren’t turning around and going back. Adventure was upon us.

Although undeniably top-heavy, most testers were impressed with the Multi’s off-road capabilities. In “Enduro” mode its big-horsepower engine proved to be very user-friendly, tractoring some testers up inclines they might otherwise shy away from. The Pirelli Scorpion knobbies seem like a better compromise of street and dirt than the KTM’s dirt-focused TKC-80s.

Although undeniably top-heavy, most testers were impressed with the Multi’s off-road capabilities. In “Enduro” mode its big-horsepower engine proved to be very user-friendly, tractoring some testers up inclines they might otherwise shy away from. The Pirelli Scorpion knobbies seem like a better compromise of street and dirt than the KTM’s dirt-focused TKC-80s.

Ducati must have known something we didn’t when they insisted we take a Multistrada Enduro outfitted with Enduro Pack accoutrements. It’s not often we professional testers drop a $24k-bike, but on this occasion it was more than once, and on both sides. The good thing is, besides the plastic handguards (see JB’s Top 10 Disaster Preventives When Adventure Riding) the Multi survived largely unscathed. The bad thing is, most all of these incidents were mere tip-overs – the Duc carries its weight high, so once it starts leaning, it’s hard to stop.

“On the trail the Ducati felt tall at just the wrong times,” says Burns. “I laid it down gently the first time when I put my right foot down to stop in some soft forest duff, and not even a scratch. The second time I laid it down gently also, when my right leg just couldn’t support it at a stop at the top of a rocky trail, and broke the right plastic handguard. (The left plastic handguard I’d already broken when I sideswiped a tree branch that was in my way.) Aside from the handguards, the rest of the bike came through all that unscuffed.”

Besides the plastic handguards, the expensive Duc proved to be quite crash-resilient. “Specs say the tank holds 7.9 gallons, and I think filling it up halfway and leaving 24 up-high pounds in the pump might be the way to go for shorter dirt jaunts,” imparts Burns. The brake master cylinder and hydraulic clutch fluid reservoirs are (normally) both attached to their respective handguards.

Besides the plastic handguards, the expensive Duc proved to be quite crash-resilient. “Specs say the tank holds 7.9 gallons, and I think filling it up halfway and leaving 24 up-high pounds in the pump might be the way to go for shorter dirt jaunts,” imparts Burns. The brake master cylinder and hydraulic clutch fluid reservoirs are (normally) both attached to their respective handguards.

Top-heavy or not, though, the Multistrada Enduro proved to be a formidable off-roader. “Being a big, heavy motorcycle with a mega motor and expensive looking bodywork means the Multistrada Enduro should be a terrible off-road bike,” says Alexander. “It isn’t.”

Even our dirt-riding-ringer Rousseau was impressed with the Multi’s off-road performance. “I was blown away by the Duc’s Testastretta L-Twin. I would never have believed that an engine designed primarily for road use can be so capable in the dirt. Switching to Enduro mode backs the output down by 60 horsepower and makes the Multistrada smooth and silky, but it still delivers plenty of grunt and excellent response at any rpm. I was especially impressed by the traction-control system which helps it crawl up hills like a C1 Ariete tank. What an awesome powerplant!”

“When it came to suspension performance,” says Rousseau, “the Ducati was again a surprise. At one point I inadvertently ran smack dab through a few Hare & Hound-style sand whoops while moving at a decent clip during our short desert hop through Lucerne Valley. The suspension competently soaked up hits that might otherwise have resulted in the mother of all yard sales. Later, I took the time to change my shorts…”

“When it came to suspension performance,” says Rousseau, “the Ducati was again a surprise. At one point I inadvertently ran smack dab through a few Hare & Hound-style sand whoops while moving at a decent clip during our short desert hop through Lucerne Valley. The suspension competently soaked up hits that might otherwise have resulted in the mother of all yard sales. Later, I took the time to change my shorts…”

As good as the Duc’s engine is, the whole package failed to impress everyone. “The Multistrada is one of my all-time favorite bikes,” says Duke, “But, for me, the Multi Enduro misses the mark. I disliked how big and heavy it felt off-road, and it doesn’t handle on the road as predictably and fluidly as the regular Multi.”

Even for my 5-foot-11 frame, which can touch the ground when sitting atop the Ducati, it’s top-heaviness got the better of me at a standstill when my foot slipped on a rock and the bike tipped over. The Ducati being nearly the same weight as the BMW, I felt more in control of the GS due to its lower center of gravity, especially when navigating it through a slower technical section or down a rocky decline. And I wasn’t alone in this assessment.

Given the same tires as the Ducati, the BMW would probably hang with the more powerful, equally heavy, but more top-heavy Ducati. Our GS included the BMW dongle that allows for Enduro Pro mode, which made all of us better riders in the dirt.

Given the same tires as the Ducati, the BMW would probably hang with the more powerful, equally heavy, but more top-heavy Ducati. Our GS included the BMW dongle that allows for Enduro Pro mode, which made all of us better riders in the dirt.

“Handling is stable and steady, and more than acceptable, although a tad cumbersome on the trail due to the overall weight of the package,” says Rousseau about the GS. “Its saving grace is the low CoG that the Boxer engine brings to the party. Despite its considerable size and weight, it doesn’t feel top heavy.”

To which Brasfield adds, “The engine has the grunt to make ultra-low speed maneuvers a breeze on the GS. Even when just pushing the bike around in the dirt to take photos, I used the torque and nursed the clutch in the friction zone.”

“The Boxer motor oozes low-rpm torque and is extremely tractable,” says Rousseau. “Throttle response is clean. You don’t need to rev the GS to get where you’re going; just pick any gear and the engine pretty much takes up the slack. It is extremely easy to ride fast or slow.” Note the scratches on the engine guards. MO tested, MO approved!

“The Boxer motor oozes low-rpm torque and is extremely tractable,” says Rousseau. “Throttle response is clean. You don’t need to rev the GS to get where you’re going; just pick any gear and the engine pretty much takes up the slack. It is extremely easy to ride fast or slow.” Note the scratches on the engine guards. MO tested, MO approved!

Although Alexander’s in denial about the KTM being the best dirtbike of the bunch, it most certainly is. Third heaviest of the group – only 20 pounds more than the Honda – the tall, comparably thin KTM relies on the company’s history of off-roading prowess to deliver an exceptionally dirt-oriented adventure bike. If I lived in an area such as Big Bear with off-roading nirvana only a short paved-road-ride away, the KTM is the obvious choice (or maybe the Honda).

“The 1190 R would be my first choice if riding dirt trails were a priority and I needed to get there in a hurry,” Duke raved. “I’m still amazed at the single-track dirtbike trails I was able to ride the KTM on at its launch in Colorado, and it again proved its mettle in the silty crap we rode on this time out.”

What was hard on some of the heavier, less dirtable bikes was easy on the KTM. The tires helped, no doubt, but it’s the weight of the KTM (565 pounds) that really makes a difference – the BMW, Duc and Yamaha are all in excess of 600 pounds, and that’s a lot weight to have off-road on two wheels by anyone’s standards.

What was hard on some of the heavier, less dirtable bikes was easy on the KTM. The tires helped, no doubt, but it’s the weight of the KTM (565 pounds) that really makes a difference – the BMW, Duc and Yamaha are all in excess of 600 pounds, and that’s a lot weight to have off-road on two wheels by anyone’s standards.

And Rousseau adds his stamp of dirt-worthy approval. “In the dirt the KTM was almost without equal for me, delivering an arrow-stable feel at high speeds while cornering with precision. The KTM didn’t steer as lightly as the Honda when plonking along in first or second gear, but it also didn’t feel as top-heavy as the other bikes in this group.”

Although lacking the electronically adjustable suspension of its non-R stablemate, the 1190 Adventure’s WP suspenders, with easy-to-reach clickers on the top of the fork legs, didn’t fail to impress. The fork and shock can suck up bumps, rocks, roots and whatever else you throw at it. Even Alexander admitted enjoying the KTM in the dirt. “The KTM felt a bit odd to me ergonomically at first, but I have to admit that it becomes much more natural feeling when ridden very fast off-road.”

KTM’s instrument cluster is simple, and accessing the various electronic settings are straight-forward once you’ve done it a few times. The “Favorites” can be manipulated to display whatever information is pertinent to your situation.

KTM’s instrument cluster is simple, and accessing the various electronic settings are straight-forward once you’ve done it a few times. The “Favorites” can be manipulated to display whatever information is pertinent to your situation.

We’ll let Burnsie point out the obvious. “Adding an “R” onto 1190 Adventure was a bad idea in my book, because it caused the seat to rise from 860 to 890mm. I can barely ride this one on pavement, much less off-road. Actually it’s not the riding at all, it’s the stopping and starting. Once it’s rolling, it’s a magic carpet if you’re a decent off-road rider.”

Close behind the KTM almost everywhere off-road is the Africa Twin. Suffering a huge power deficit to the KTM never stopped the Honda from keeping pace, although the more street-biased tires it’s outfitted with certainly did. Honda may be late to the current adventure-bike party, but it was worth the wait. It is equally as comfortable in the dirt as it is on pavement.

For the money Honda’s asking for the Africa Twin, you just can’t go wrong. Whether you’re a dirt guy or street guy, the Honda handles both equally. ABS and TC are switchable (although TC always reverts to level 3 when the bike is switched off), and that’s about it for electronics. It’s windscreen, unlike the others, isn’t adjustable for height.

For the money Honda’s asking for the Africa Twin, you just can’t go wrong. Whether you’re a dirt guy or street guy, the Honda handles both equally. ABS and TC are switchable (although TC always reverts to level 3 when the bike is switched off), and that’s about it for electronics. It’s windscreen, unlike the others, isn’t adjustable for height.

“The Africa Twin handles like a dream, and I’m convinced that if it had been fitted with more knobby tires of similar quality to the Continental TKC-80s on the KTM or the Pirellis on the Ducati, the Honda would have thoroughly dominated the dirt portions of our ride,” says Rousseau.

“The Africa Twin’s suspension was my favorite of the group, and it should feel the most familiar to the majority of dirtbike riders – plush yet controlled,” Rousseau continues. “And while the rest of the bikes here force the rider to consult owner’s manuals and/or have a degree in computer science in order to make adjustments, the Honda’s screwdriver slots on the top and bottom of the fork and manual preload adjuster on the shock allow easy suspension tuning.”

Duke had high praise for the overall capabilities of the Africa Twin: “It’s the inverse of the complicated and heavy GS – it’s lacking features but not capabilities, and it’s almost 50% cheaper. It’s a stunning achievement for the money.”

Says Rousseau: “I can understand how some of the more street-savvy guys in our group might think that the Honda’s brakes feel as if they lack power on the street, but I never had an issue with them, and they were the best of the lot whenever we hit the trails. The Africa Twin delivers the quintessential dirtbike braking feel, with lots of modulation to help prevent wheel lockup. Simply put, they’re awesome.”

Says Rousseau: “I can understand how some of the more street-savvy guys in our group might think that the Honda’s brakes feel as if they lack power on the street, but I never had an issue with them, and they were the best of the lot whenever we hit the trails. The Africa Twin delivers the quintessential dirtbike braking feel, with lots of modulation to help prevent wheel lockup. Simply put, they’re awesome.”

Probably the biggest detriment to the Honda are its saddlebags, which use nylon tabs to slot into their mounts. They were put to the test when an unexpected sandwash jerked the AT’s handlebar sideways and launched the bike off the trail. Even though I was able to reattach the right bag with a busted front mount and continue, there’s no dressing up the luggage – not even the chrome latches.

“For $13k, it’s a ton of ADV bike, but what you don’t get and I’d miss terribly is cruise control,” says Burns. “The bag mounts are kind of Fisher-Price too, but it looks like you can replace the broken mount instead of the entire bag.”

Not as nice or as rugged as the hard luggage attached to the other bikes, the Honda’s bags deserve some props for their continuing endurance after the right one was ripped from its mounts following my Evel Knievel impression. Check out those snazzy chrome latches!

Not as nice or as rugged as the hard luggage attached to the other bikes, the Honda’s bags deserve some props for their continuing endurance after the right one was ripped from its mounts following my Evel Knievel impression. Check out those snazzy chrome latches!

As delivered, the Yamaha Super Ténéré lacked a real skidplate which would eventually hobble the Ténéré when Alexander rode it down a rocky descent, catching the drain plug on a stone ledge in the process. The Ténéré did its best Deepwater Horizon impression when it stopped at the bottom of the hill, puking oil from the newly formed gouge in its oil pan. It’s our fault, really, not just for causing the incident but for not specifying that the stock nylon skidplate be replaced with the 3mm-thick, aluminum skidplate available from the Ténéré’s accessory catalog.

For riders who intend to get aggressive in off-road situations, Yamaha’s accessory department has got the S10 covered, including a beefy aluminum skidplate ($220.95) and steel engine guards powder-coated black ($488.95). Additional sump protection is available via a World Crosser skidplate extension ($289.99), but it can’t be used if the engine guards are fitted. Also from the World Crosser line are aluminum guards for the driveshaft ($274.99) and rear brake ($184.99).

For riders who intend to get aggressive in off-road situations, Yamaha’s accessory department has got the S10 covered, including a beefy aluminum skidplate ($220.95) and steel engine guards powder-coated black ($488.95). Additional sump protection is available via a World Crosser skidplate extension ($289.99), but it can’t be used if the engine guards are fitted. Also from the World Crosser line are aluminum guards for the driveshaft ($274.99) and rear brake ($184.99).

Prior to its ultimate demise, Brasfield enjoyed both riding and crashing the Ténéré. “I’m bummed that I didn’t get more time on the Ténéré in the dirt,” he says. “When ridden off-road, I set the ride mode to Tour to soften the throttle inputs. I also turned off TC since it tended to cut the throttle more than I liked when the rear wheel spun on softer surfaces. Also, the Tenere crashes pretty well. On one steep downhill, I clipped a large rock with my front wheel, sending the Ténéré into a wobble. I overcorrected and ended up careening into the brush. Not only did the Ténéré’s hand guard withstand the impact, but the remainder of the bike also showed no real damage – not even scratches. The bags stayed in place, too.”

Always the perfectionist, Alexander popped two holes in the Yamaha’s oil pan just in case the first one wasn’t bad enough.

Always the perfectionist, Alexander popped two holes in the Yamaha’s oil pan just in case the first one wasn’t bad enough.

Like the Ducati, however, the Ténéré is a top-heavy motorcycle. Although its suspension seemed well-configured for riding either on- or off-road, it’s parallel-Twin engine isn’t much more impressive than Honda’s mill.

“For an engine that displaces 1199cc, I expected the Super Ténéré’s inline-Twin to be a little more ballsy off the bottom” says Rousseau, “but its power appears to be concentrated more in the midrange, which was excellent for highway riding but not so great when I needed to get it to respond at low rpm in order to clear obstacles on the trail. The Yamaha engine is clearly aimed more toward pounding the pavement than slogging through the dirt.”

Late night, camp-side emergency Ténéré repair was fueled by pizza, beer, scotch and Camels. The next morning our repair efforts proved insufficient (so they ditched the bike and had me rescue it. Meaning I got to sample the beautiful roads near Big Bear… in my truck -TS). We’re blaming the beer and scotch.

Late night, camp-side emergency Ténéré repair was fueled by pizza, beer, scotch and Camels. The next morning our repair efforts proved insufficient (so they ditched the bike and had me rescue it. Meaning I got to sample the beautiful roads near Big Bear… in my truck -TS). We’re blaming the beer and scotch.

Late night, camp-side emergency Ténéré repair was fueled by pizza, beer, scotch and Camels. The next morning our repair efforts proved insufficient (so they ditched the bike and had me rescue it. Meaning I got to sample the beautiful roads near Big Bear… in my truck -TS). We’re blaming the beer and scotch.

Which brings us, finally, to the Triumph. As mentioned earlier, the testers enjoyed spinning its three-cylinder engine through paved twisties, but were less fond of the bike’s lack of bottom-end grunt when riding in the dirt. It’s easy to see why a twin-cylinder arrangement is the engine configuration of choice among ADV bikes.

“I had the least fun on the XCx whenever we ventured off-road,” says Rousseau.

But Duke, fresh off a broken hip, was kinder to the Tiger. “In this group of big rigs, the Tiger feels especially lithe. I was happy to be aboard it while navigating some of the more technical off-road sections we traversed. In the dirt, it’s held back only by an engine that revs too quickly and a clutch with a narrow engagement zone.”

The Tiger and the KTM never once went horizontal when all the other bikes were taking occasional dirt samples. The Tiger and KTM are two of the lightest bikes in the group. Correlation?

The Tiger and the KTM never once went horizontal when all the other bikes were taking occasional dirt samples. The Tiger and KTM are two of the lightest bikes in the group. Correlation?

Helping the Tiger in off-road situations, though, is the amazingly well-thought-out combination of preset parameters in its Off-Road riding mode. A simple button push on the left front of the instrument cluster switched the Tiger from Road to Off-Road mode, effectively changing the power delivery, TC and ABS settings to better suit unpaved conditions. And, if you’re not happy with the factory settings you can modify them in Rider mode, personalizing them to your preferences, which is then also selectable via the same instrument cluster button.

“The off-road ride mode worked well, though the narrow clutch engagement late in the lever travel meant that the Triumph was easier to stall in the slow, tight, rocky stuff than the other bikes,” says Brasfield.

Although unable to get hard luggage mounted prior to our trip, we did take time to inspect the bags post-ride. The silver aluminum bags and mounting hardware add $1,250 to the Tiger’s price tag, but are attractive, rugged and hold 19.6 gallons.

Although unable to get hard luggage mounted prior to our trip, we did take time to inspect the bags post-ride. The silver aluminum bags and mounting hardware add $1,250 to the Tiger’s price tag, but are attractive, rugged and hold 19.6 gallons.

The Tiger’s seating position is somewhat more road biased with its handlebars positioned lower than other off-road adventurers, forcing a rider to lean over a tad further when standing on the pegs. Taller riders never complained of discomfort, and shorter riders welcomed its relatively low seat height adjustable from 33.0 to 33.8-inches.

For anyone entertaining the thought of longer-distance traveling, the Triumph’s cruise control is almost worth the price of admission alone. The set-it-and-forget-it option for long stretches of straight lines can’t be beat, a feature also available on the BMW, Ducati, and Yamaha.

“This is cruise control the way it should be: click only the set button to engage it, with no silly on/off switch,” says Duke. The Tiger is also blessed with the only self-cancelling turnsignals of the group, which are cool once you get lazy enough to let them do their job.

Post Adventure

After dispatching Troy to transport our injured Super Ténéré back to Yamaha headquarters, we continued about our business of riding and photo/video production. In Lucerne Valley we stumble across the post-apocalyptic remains of a Breaking Bad motorhome – the perfect backdrop to our adventurous adventure seen in this article’s video.

Once we did return home and showered the stink off, we set to the task of tallying scores and comparing notes. This is when the disparity among the variety of machines gets interesting again, for we basically have three different winners.

Objective Scoring

BMW R1200GS Adventure 76.93%
Ducati Multistrada Enduro 80.13%
Honda Africa Twin 94.54%
KTM 1190 Adventure R 91.83%
Triumph Tiger 800XCx 90.05%
Yamaha Super Ténéré 83.95%

Winning the Objective category of the Scorecard by virtue of its low price and weight, the Africa Twin managed to defeat the more powerful KTM by 2.5%, while the weight and price of the BMW and Ducati had them languishing in last (especially the relatively expensive but underpowered BMW).

Subjective Scoring

BMW R1200GS Adventure 90.16%
Ducati Multistrada Enduro 89.71%
Honda Africa Twin 85.26%
KTM 1190 Adventure R 89.23%
Triumph Tiger 800XCx 80.48%
Yamaha Super Ténéré 84.62%

Moving on to the Subjective scoring we find a very tight race between the BMW, Ducati and KTM, finishing in that order with the OG measuring stick fending off the newcomer Ducati by a scant 0.45%. Three editors chose the BMW, one tied the BMW with the Duc, one chose the Duc, while a one lone editor picked the KTM first (that, of course, was guest-tester dirt guy Rousseau).

Overall Scores

BMW R1200GS Adventure 87.68%
Ducati Multistrada Enduro 87.92%
Honda Africa Twin 87.00%
KTM 1190 Adventure R 89.72%
Triumph Tiger 800XCx 82.27%
Yamaha Super Ténéré 84.49%

Surprisingly, when all the scores were combined together, it was the dirtable KTM 1190 Adventure R claiming the overall win by a 2% margin over the close-scoring Ducati, BMW, and Africa Twin, finishing in that order. Had we stayed on our designated dirt route, or if the Honda or BMW had tires similar to those mounted on the Ducati, maybe the finishing order would have been different.

But for now, in this test, the KTM reigns supreme!

2016 Wire-Wheel Adventure Shootout
Hover your mouse over the overall score for individual category ratings.
Motorcycle Overall Overall Overall
BMW R1200GS
Adventure
Ducati
Multistrada Enduro
Honda
Africa Twin
KTM 1190
Adventure R
Triumph
Tiger 800XCx
Yamaha
Super Ténéré

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  • Gabriel Owens

    The 1190’s will be gone for 2017. Ktm will have three big adv bikes. The 1290 super adventure, the 1290 super adventure R, and the 1290 super adventure s. The s model will have cast wheels and smaller fuel tank. The R model will have same setup as the current 1190 R but bigger motor. The standard super adventure will be unchanged.

    • Kevin Duke

      That’s sounds too specific to be just a rumor. It’s absolute fact?

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Haven’t seen anything anywhere. I keep up with everything KTM related. Seems to be just rumor mongering or KTM hating.

      • Gabriel Owens

        I don’t know. It’s just the crazy stuff we dream up on adventure forums. I really wanted to believe in the brand. A 1290 adventure s with cast wheels and 5 gallon tank would be the best motorcycle I could imagine for my needs. Just like a more ergonomically friendly Duke Gt. But the allure of shaft drive and Yamaha dependability may keep me on fjr’s for a while. Just need to sort the suspension, and get rid of the George Jetson exhaust sound.

    • DickRuble

      They’re not serious about adventure. If they were, they’d have an 890 in the lineup, lighter by 100 lbs. It’s irrelevant anyway.. given the questionable reliability, no one in their right mind would consider a KTM for real adventure touring.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        The 800 parallel twin is coming. Questionable reliability? The KTM 1190 R wins a six adventure bike shootout but is not serious about adventure? As for Gabriel Owens, where is he getting his insider news that no one else (including KTM) knows about?

        • DickRuble

          Yeah, serious about adventures from Starbucks to Starbucks. Call me when you see one going from Tangiers to Cape Town. GO owned two recent KTMs and said they were way too often in the shop. Ask him.

          • SerSamsquamsh

            If I need to cut accross the field from Costco to the liquor store to stock up on PBR I most certainly need a $25000 dirt bike. There is literally no other choice – it’s *200 yards*!

          • DickRuble

            Pick carefully, some brands might need an engine rebuild before they complete the 200 yards.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I don’t know why you hate KTMs. Seems like a personal problem. Do you have any personal experience with a KTM motorcycle? My 2015 KTM 1190 R has 15,000 miles with zero problems. GO doesn’t seem to be a reliable source since he is spreading unfounded rumours about KTM models. Anyway I do not wish to waste my time arguing with you. I would rather spend my time enjoying riding my bike. Goodbye!

          • DickRuble

            The 1190 R was on my list for most desirable until several people mentioned reliability issues. Your time is precious and frankly, nobody asked you to stop by.. go spend some time at the dealership.

          • Dave

            https://www.facebook.com/ridemust/

            That guy seems to be doing quite well on such a unreliable machine. Weird. Maybe some folks just spend too much time being keyboard warriors and reading the forums where everyone just post their complaints and issues. If that is the case, I could point everyone in the direction of pages of “flaws and complaints” of each of these models. AT owners have had their fair share of complaints from random stalling, corrosion issue, and DCT fails. BMW owners have had electrical issues and final drive complaints. And so have the rest….according to the forums. But, Bonjor….welcome to the internet. Personally speaking, I’ve had great luck with my 1190r so far and from what the dealers I’ve used, they’ve all said the same. But, who knows if they would tell me other wise.
            Granted, we all know that if you’re riding the (insert sarcasm) “almighty” KLR650, no other bike will ever live up to your expectations…
            But, too each their own and if you’ve got enough time to continue to keep logging in a trolling for the last two days, I’m sure you’ll continue to do so. Good luck!
            MO, great review and awesome video. Very entertaining and enough to make me want to head out west and ride! Happy trails everyone.

          • DickRuble

            Read this exchange, from three days ago

            DickRuble Gabriel Owens • 3 days ago
            3000 miles a month is a lot. I used to live in Houston, TX 20 years ago. Visited back two years ago and things have changed a lot. The heat was the only thing that was the same.

            2016 ktm adventure 1190 is one of the top 3 bikes on my list. Can’t imagine someone would trade it in.

            Gabriel Owens DickRuble • 3 days ago
            I owned a 2014 1190 and a 2016 1290 super adventure. Both stayed in the shop a lot. I was all too eager to leave ktm for Yamaha/Honda.

            And now, here’s what the guy on facebook, who I think is sponsored by KTM, really thinks would be a good bike to tour the world, in his own words

            Ride Must Go On Larry Kropp I think the KTM 640 Adventure was one of the best overlanding bikes imho. Good suspension, strong frame, big tank windshield etc. But they are not producing those type of bikes any more. So in best case, I would get a nice lightweight bike (690,701,Drz400 etc) and build it according to my needs.

          • Dave

            Ok. So? His opinion about what type of bike he would like next does not change the subject at hand; the reliability of the 1190. Correct? And even more so, if you’re questioning KTM’s reliability and using his words against that, he also states that he’d consider a 690 or 701, both of which are KTMs (Husky owned by KTM…you get it).

            Don’t get me wrong, I know some folks have had issues with their 1190’s and I’m not stating that they’re “perfect”. There’s no such thing as the perfect bike for everyone.

            But in this day and age, so many “new” riders expect their bikes to have amenities like their automobiles and they cry about some of the silliest of things. I’ve read/heard folks complaining about loud chains & chain slap, (as if they don’t know that chains require adjustment), issues as results of improper maintenance, headers being to “hot” for their sensitive bottoms or legs….

            I thought we rode motorcycles because we love tinkering, straddling loud high-powered engines, and being exposed to the elements? I guess everyone is is it for something different.

            Within a week of ownership I had the KTM torn down to inspect everything, make adjustments, check proper lubrication, etc. I understand everyone doesn’t “want” to do this stuff, but after have owning 24 different bikes from this Austrian thing to Japanese and Italian bikes, I can tell you that any machine built on an assembly line does not receive the attention that I myself would prefer MY machine to have. Even my Honda’s revealed loose bolts (last new Honda was a 2012 CBR) and a leaking base gasket! Brand new bike! My last Duc’ was a reliability nightmare. Literally sat in the shop longer than in my garage before I decided it had to go. (ECU/Coil/DTC kept burning itself up and the tech’s could never discover the root cause). But I accept the fact that it was one of many Hyper’s that had the issue. Many riders reported having no issues whatsoever and rode theirs daily. I could go on and on.

            I understand that you had some issues with yours. Sorry for your luck. I’ve had my bad bikes as well, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who has owned that same model or brand has. So I simply don’t see the need to come to forums or comment sections to brand bash based only on your experience. If you’re not brand bashing, I apologize, but that is how it is being taken.

            Best of luck in your ventures.

    • not-a-fanboi-honest

      I want the big tank and cast or forged wheels. :(

  • SRMark

    Yamaha is having trouble with testers knocking holes in cases.

  • gjw1992

    My focus is on the Honda – the AT may be the least exciting bike in this test, and it might have some claim of serious off road ability, but it looks like a contender for the ideal general purpose transport. A next step up from the NC700X/NC750X in the recent long term test report. Especially with DCT

    • gjw1992

      And noting elsewhere – the 2017 AT has a few upgrades notably stainless steel spokes and cruise control as standard. Sorted.

      • not-a-fanboi-honest

        It just needs tubeless tyres and symmetric (i.e. high and low on both sides) headlights next. 😉 Maybe for 2018 …

  • JMDonald

    The Africa Twin with knobbies and better luggage.

  • Shlomi

    Question #1
    Why didn’t you fit all bikes with the same (off road) tires?
    Question#2
    Why didnt you fir the Tenere with proper skid plate?

    • Kevin Duke

      Designing a motorcycle is fraught with compromises, and so is organizing a six-bike comparison test. There’s dozens of reasons why most publications don’t do big shootouts like MO does, but the biggest one is logistics. Getting six bikes and six riders available at the same time isn’t always as easy as it sounds. FWIW, the bikes were requested to be in stock condition, and that’s pretty much the way they came except for the Ducati. That means all bikes except the KTM and Ducati were tested without knobbies, which is the way they come off a dealer’s floor. All had stock skidplates except the Duc.

      Changing tires from stock equipment is often frowned upon by the OEMs, as manufacturers develop their machines around specific tires and their specific characteristics. For example, Yamaha enjoyed CW’s superbikes shootout in which all bikes were put on Bridgestone rubber, which is the brand fitted as stock to the R1, but other OEMs were less happy with the choice of rubber. We spooned on Pirellis for our SB shootout, and the R1 wasn’t rated nearly as highly in our test as it was in CW’s test.

      I’m confident in our findings that the KTM and Africa Twin are the best off-roaders in this group, and the Multi is also right in the hunt. These resuts are also backed up by our riding impressions from bike launches, in which the AT and Multi Enduro were ridden on dirt rubber as well as street rubber.

      • Shlomi

        I truly appreciate the effort. I have no doubt that the off road fight is between KTM and the Honda. Only same set of tires would prove which one is better. I guess next time. I just can’t see someone going extreme off road with those machines without knobbies (except you MO :-))

        • Sayyed Bashir

          MO was correct in testing the bikes just like a customer would buy them and just as the OEM intends to sell it. It is not their job to second guess or one up the OEM. The OEM is aiming for a specific segment of the motorcycling public. Honda expects that most of its customers who buy the AT will use it mostly for commuting and occasionally for touring and off-roading so they have chosen the tire that gives the best performance for that use. KTM split the 1190 into the standard and the R. The standard is for people who will use it like the AT and comes with more street oriented tires. The R is for hard core off-roaders and comes with the appropriate tires for that use condition.

        • not-a-fanboi-honest

          The Honda uses tubed tyres and the KTM tubeless so without changing the wheels (which would mean yet another variable) it would be really hard to use the same tyres.

  • Terry George

    Why are spoked wheels better, any links to explanations would be good. This is a serious question.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Spoked wheels flex. Cast wheels either break themselves or transfer the hit to the bike frame breaking and bending other things (such as drive shafts).

      • Terry George

        Thank you

  • DickRuble

    The scores don’t tell the real story. To determine the best ADV bike of the group, ask yourselves the question: which of these bikes would I want to ride from Morocco to South Africa, and have a chance to make it? Yeah, the KTM is probably the most exciting one if your adventure doesn’t take you farther than 20 miles from a KTM dealership. But if you had to bet your life on a bike, which would it be? I’d want the Honda in my corner.

    • spiff

      I won’t argue the merits of the Honda, but I think you are a little tuff on the KTM. I would like to hear anyone with personal experience of the KTM failing. If I were to have concerns with the group I would be nervous with the Ducati out in the wilderness.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        I have a 2015 KTM 1190 R with 15,000 miles on it with zero problems. Dick Ruble has a personal problem with KTM. Like you said the KTM haters should cite specific personal examples of KTM failing. KTM makes high performance, fun and exciting motorcycles “Ready to Race”. They need more maintenance just like MotoGP bikes do. KTM doesn’t make boring and cheap motorcycles that you wish would die so you could buy a real motorcycle.

        • DickRuble

          You have severe reading comprehension issues. Read my post again. I don’t have a problem with KTM. You seem done proselytizing for Harley and have taken up KTM..

      • DickRuble

        The 1190 R was my dream bike, though I had read that KTM is a craps shot; you have 50% chance of getting a good bike or a lemon. A couple of days ago Gabriel Owens wrote that he owned a 2014 1190 and a 2015 Super Adventure which he traded in/sold because he was too often at the dealership. I still think they make the most exciting bikes out there. Would I take one on an adventure? I would probably entrust my life to a KLR 650 before that. Maybe the key here is defining Adventure. If Adventure means there’s a friend within range that can pick you and your bike up on his truck, then KTM, Ducati, are probably awesome.

        • PS-RagE

          I ride my 1190R like it is a giant dirt bike. Other than burning off two or three rear tires per season, I have absolutely zero issues. Fantastic machine!

          We recently did a 1200 mile all dirt tour of Northern Ontario and of all the bikes on the ride (2x KTM1190R, 1x KTM990A, 1x BMW 1200GSA, 1x BMW F650GS, 1 Honda XR650, 1x Kawasaki KLR650) only the KLR broke down (clutch cable)

    • Vrooom

      I know several people who have had a fair number of issues with their KTM. I read some here have not. Yeah, I’d probably trust the Honda, Triumph, or Yamaha if I was going off the beaten path, the first two more than the third.

  • Chris

    On this kind of test, probably more than any other, the bikes need to be equipped comparably, luggage and tires included. It makes a huge difference in a test w/this kind of demand on versatility. I’m sure it’s a pain to do so, and there are all kinds of obstacles, but, as you say yourselves,had they been, “maybe the finishing order would have been different.”

    Alas, I still enjoyed the test and a lot of good info given.

  • Gruf Rude

    A small vendor at the Top o’ the Rockies BMW Rally in Paonia Colorado was renting the new Africa Twin (6-speed) for day rides. They were fitted with DOT knobbies, a bigger aluminum bash plate, some unobtrusive crash bars and soft luggage as desired. Everyone I saw come back after a day’s ride had an ear-to-ear grin.

    • DickRuble

      They should do rental programs like that all over their dealership network.

  • John B.

    Mo’s shootouts always give me a clear idea of which bike would work best for me in the sliver of the world I ride given my age, ability, and preferences. The shootout winner, though interesting, is almost beside the point. I enjoyed this article.

    • Kevin Duke

      That’s a wonderful compliment, thanks!

  • Numbone

    Why no Tiger Explorer 1200? It would seem a better choice than to compare those bikes to the Tiger 800.

    • Kevin Duke

      Triumph couldn’t supply the Explorer during the window of this test, but we’ve tested it fairly recently: http://www.motorcycle.com/shoot-outs/heavyweight-adventure-touring-shootout
      It’s appealing in its own ways, but wouldn’t have won in this shootout.

      • Numbone

        As per John B.’s comment above, I’m less interested in whether it would have ” won “, than how it would have compared to the others. Good stuff though guys and keep it up!

        • Kevin Duke

          I’ll get Burns and Roderick to weigh in on that angle, as they had most miles on the updated Explorer.

          • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

            I’ll put forth that the Explorer 1200 is probably better than the Tenere, and would give the BMW and Ducati a run for their money, but doubtful it would surpass those two. Without having it along for the ride, I’m loath to offer any further opinions, as they’d probably turn out to be wrong and come back to bite me. Evans reviewed the 2016 model here: http://www.motorcycle.com/manufacturer/triumph/triumph-tiger/2016-triumph-tiger-explorer-xca-review.html

          • Numbone

            Thanks for being so accessible guys. Your comments support what I’ve been thinking. At 6′ and with a pillion and gear in mind I’m kind of partial to the Triumph 1200. I don’t have one yet but I think I may soon. After all it’s whatever bike tickles your fancy that wins your heart.

          • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

            If you’re leaning toward the Explorer, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. It really does have a great electronics package, is comfortable, and does well for a big bike in off-road situations. The worst thing I remember is that our test model had immense amount of heat build-up emanating from the seat/tank juncture. Otherwise, the perfect Adventure-Touring rig, and you’ll love making its inline-Triple sing!

          • Numbone

            I live in Canada lads, a little heat is well appreciated – about 90% of the season anyway 😊

        • john burns

          the 1200 is 625 pounds, as opposed to the 547 of the 800. The 1200 would’ve done well against the big bikes, but as for me I was glad every time it was my turn to get on the “lightweight” Triumph or Africa Twin. It all depends on the size of the pilot; I’m 5’8 and 150 llbs. If you’re 6’5 and large you’ll like the 1200 I’m sure. Triumph really does have the Modes thing down tho, it seems, great throttle response and CC on both the 800 and 1200, there’s nothing not to like.

          • Gruf Rude

            At 5’6″ and 68, the big ADV bikes are simply too big for me. My ’06 KLR650 is almost too much but set up as an ADV bike it will go anywhere, reliably.

  • TC

    Good article, thanks. BTW, the Moto Guzzi Stelvio has wire wheels and is still for sale. And, it’s not a big deal for you guys to crash or damage bikes that you can return to the manufacturers, but it is if you own it and have to pay for the repairs. My Stelvio will not see anything rougher than asphalt. I have my DR650 for the fire roads.

  • Auphliam

    Great article. All things considered, I’d personally have to go with the Africa Twin. I don’t see the “as tested” price for the KTM, but I would think you’re getting mighty close to the $20k neighborhood fully loaded with luggage and whatnots. Is it really $5000+ better than the AT? You can buy a lot of those Pirelli knobbies with that extra change in your pocket.

    • Auphliam

      Finally got to watch the video (fun stuff like that is blocked at work). Good stuff. Now I want to go spend some money on something :)

      • Old MOron

        Aye, same here. Can’t get the video at work, but it was worth coming back for. I like the beginning. Good job, Jay McNally.

        On a separate note, I like the polo shirt that Sean had on. I wonder if the MOrons are going to market it.

  • Craig Hoffman

    I live in Colorado, which has tons of graded dirt roads up to baby head rocky class 10 Jeep trails that are tough to navigate on my 300cc two stroke dirt bike.

    Sounds like the Honda would be the one for my day tripping, graded to rutted dirt road and maybe, if the dirt road leads to it and it is particularly interesting, trail exploring duties. 24K is just too much money to pay for a bike that is going to actually get dirty.

    As a lifetime dirt bike rider, I have come to realize simple and effective is good. That carbureted 300cc two stroke I mentioned earlier is as simple as it gets, and man is it effective off road :)

  • kenneth_moore

    A question and a comment:

    If a bike gets broken on a shootout like this, who gets the bill? I’ve always assumed the manufacturer covered it. Does it depends on how egregious the f-up is?

    I’ve often wondered how a true off-pavement version of the FJ09 would do (19/21″ spoked wheels, more suspension travel, bash plates etc. It’s certainly light and powerful in its current config.

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      Most times the manufacturer covers repair costs, but a publication may be asked to pay depending on situation or if there’s a history of costly repairs.

      The FJ-09 will suffer the same power production problems the Triumph did in this test. Multi-cylinder engines (beyond Twins) are just not as user-friendly when off-roading. Unless, you’re of-roading is generally fast dirt roads, then a Triple will work fine.

  • DickRuble
  • ADB

    Stelvio?

  • Old MOron

    The truth is I’m not in the market for an ADV bike. But I still love reading this content. Its descriptive language, insightful analysis, nuanced evaluations, and fantastic photos allow me to experience the weekend vicariously. You guys keep me sane in my cubicle existence. It’s good to be a MOron!

  • Branson

    Glad you included the Yamaha S10, it’s rare to see it in shootouts any more.

    Question though. How did the Tiger leapfrog it in the chart within the overall detail, when the overall summary table had the Yamaha scored higher.

    Both places say “overall” but the Tiger is scored different across the two – 82.2 7 in the summary, but 84.6 in the detail. The other bikes seem to be scored the same in either.

    • Branson

      That was a quick fix — thanks!

  • Brian Cordell

    Specs section doesn’t stay visible in Chrome.

  • Tdude

    Why no KTM SA????

  • novemberjulius

    The KTM appears to have asymmetric saddlebags. I’ve seen other bikes with asymmetric saddlebags from the factory. How to you load balance these types of bags? Thanks.

    • Numbone

      Put the heavier stuff in the smaller bag.

  • Starmag

    I haven’t ridden one yet, but because of aesthetics and dealers, to say nothing of price and reliability, I’m pretty sure I end up on the Honda, even though I’m not one of the “nicest people” of ad lore.

    I’m not sure taking along Luigi and his pizza oven count as “roughing it” adventuring.

  • FreeFrog

    The right tires for the right terrain/bike really matter. I wish you’d have spooned on like tires on all of them. I know the Tiger and Africa Twin both can use lower speed rated DS tires, so things like the Mitas and Shinko’s even work (i’ve tried both), whereas the big CC bikes need higher rated rubber. Still, any of these bikes would be blast once you adapt to it. I for one LOVE my Tiger 800xc (2013) for light dirt/gravel/trail riding and ripping the snot out of it on canyons and touring.

  • EcoMouse

    I’ve ridden them all except for the Honda Africa Twin. For my money the lighter Triumph Tiger makes the most real world sense. Smooth engine, great fuel mileage, I can actually pick it up, even fully loaded with gear.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why a 1200cc bike even exists for adventure/dual sport riding? I found even the 800cc Tiger to be way more than I need once the pavement ends. I fail to see the need to go 120mph on unknown, pot-hole laden, bumpy rock garden roads. I ride a lone a lot, and I need to be able to get myself in AND out of where ever it is I find myself.

    I think the adventure segment needs to include more choices in the 500cc to 700cc range. This to me, seems to be the goldielocks range for real world riding and reliability. Spending upwards of $30k for a side hobby is hilarious. But I guess, as long as people are willing to go into debt, just to have the next newest thing, the big manufacturers will continue to price them that high, laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Skitch

    No love for the Moto Guzzi Stelvio again. I’d say it’s every bit as good as the BMW at a lower price. And it comes with all the accessories you could want. Too bad they don’t get more press.

    • Kevin Duke

      Not even Guzzi thinks the Stelvio is every bit as good as the BMW, as they didn’t want to supply one for this shootout. We gave it a good workout in this shootout: http://www.motorcycle.com/shoot-outs/2012-adventuretouring-shootout-video-91439.html

      • RPJ

        Rumor has it that Moto Guzzi is going stop selling the Stelvio & a number of others from its current line. I have close to 30K on mine & love it, even off road. Shame on MG for not upgrading with cruise control, electronic suspension. They seem to think that they are going to break into the Harley market with cruisers. They are apparently not the sharpest group there at Piagio (IMHO).

  • MikeHell

    I am a little stumped why you chose the XCx instead of an Explorer?

    • Kevin Duke

      The Tiger 800 gave perspective to the 1000cc Honda.Also, Triumph didn’t have an Explorer to loan us at the time.

  • Patriot159

    “What we discovered, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of the bikes ridden, is the MO staff’s terrible sense of direction and inability to follow turn-by-turn GPS instruction.” lol!
    Great write-up. As for the tire disparity, its kind of a “Duh!” that different tires for different conditions are better. I’ll put on the tires I want for the typical riding I do thank you. The Africa Twin checks the most boxes for me but ‘light makes right’ and my Suzuki DR650 that is modded, farkled and lightened makes for a fantastic ADV light mount that is great on the street and trails.

  • James Dwyier

    Nice article. Appreciated hearing the various opinions on the bikes with them equipped for Adv use. Still would have preferred seeing all bikes tested with the same rubber, especially for such a mixed use test (which was nice to see!) Putting each bike head to head with widely varying rubber would seem to skew the results. Maybe you all did your best to make allowances in your scoring because of differences in tires but man, tires make such a huge difference when one starts pushing things no matter what the environment is. I will say fwiw I have own two of the bikes you tested and ridden another two, of those four that I have personal experiance with I thought you covered their traits fairly. Though I’d have rated the Tiger a little higher. 😉

  • http://danilovargas.com/ Danilo Vargas

    The Africa Twin is an exceptional value and a clear winner in the dirt, all things considered. It’s an amazing, game-changing bike that should have been the bike of the year (btw)!

  • Rajiv Jayanth

    Can someone please help me choose a bike? I’m thoroughly confused between the Honda AT, the Triumph Tiger 800 and the KTM 1190 Adventure. Not the Adventure R. My requirement is to tour long distances in good comfort mostly on paved roads in India but I want the bike to be able to handle bad patches of roads. I’m not an off road rider and don’t intend to do hardcore off roading with the bike. Would the Africa Twin be a good two-up all day bike for a long distance 10-15 day tour? Please advise.

    • Kevin Duke

      The Honda seems like it would be a good choice for you. The Triumph is also good, and the XR version might be a better selection for someone who doesn’t intend to go far off road. But the Africa Twin’s torquier motor and plusher rear seat might be preferable for bringing along a passenger. The non-R KTM is also excellent, but it’s pricier. Hope that helps!

      • Rajiv Jayanth

        Great! Thanks a ton for the advice, Kevin :)

  • le Queef