2013 Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout – Video

BMW F800GT vs. Ducati Hyperstrada vs. KTM 990 SM-T

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You may look at these three bikes and think to yourself this is a no-brainer, the Beemer easily bests the other two for sport-touring honors. That’s what we concluded from our riding impressions and reported in the accompanying video. But then we returned to the MO offices, filled-in the blanks of the ScoreCard and, to our surprise, the most sport-touringest bike of this group nearly lost.

How can this be? Well, there’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that the F800GT executes its duties in a markedly underwhelming fashion. And because of this lackluster performance the KTM and Ducati were able to score close to the Beemer in sport-touring categories while largely outscoring the GT in the non-sport-touring categories. The accumulated results blindsided the apparent victor.

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First up, in the heavily weighted engine performance category, the 78.4 horsepower of BMW’s parallel-Twin was crushed by the two V-Twins. The Ducati’s 11° Testastretta engine managed to output 18 more peak horses than the BMW from just 23 more cubic centimeters, and the Duc is only nine horses down on the KTM’s Twin with 178cc greater capacity.

“The Ducati is my hands-down pick for best engine, both in outright performance and also because of its chameleon-like character thanks to the different engine modes,” says guest tester and sister site (DirtBikes.com) editor, Scott Rousseau.

2013 Ducati Hyperstrada Review

“The F800 engine proves to be incredibly effective. It exhibits strong low-end pull despite its smallest displacement,” says Chief Editor, Kevin Duke. “But while the Beemer’s engine is effective, it’s simply not as pleasing as the V-Twins in this group.”

Ducati Hyperstrada Action

The new 821cc mill is a well-balanced and powerful engine, but its fuel injection isn’t perfect. It exhibits a running-lean feeling at various speeds and revs.

But, as the saying goes, there’s no replacement for displacement, and KTM’s 999cc Twin, while long in tooth and devoid of modern electronic aids, managed to outscore the others in the engine performance category: 95% to 85% compared to the Duc, while the BMW garnered only 72%.

“The KTM certainly uses its displacement advantage to lunge forward from low revs with total authority,” says Rousseau. “Its EFI is crisp without being abrupt, and it delivers such broad power that I often found myself leaving the transmission in third gear while in the twisties and letting the Katoom’s wonderfully electric torque take up the slack.”

2012 KTM 990 SM-T Review

“Relative to the others in this group, the KTM motor is the clear powerhouse, boasting a bountiful midrange that the smaller engines can’t match,” says Duke. “Timid riders won’t like the SM-T’s aggressive throttle response – and there are no softer ride modes to switch to – but experienced riders will enjoy its snappy reactions.”

KTM 990 SM-T Engine

KTM’s 999cc Twin is the eldest motor of the group. The 60-degree Vee motor is counterbalanced, but its throbby vibes are omnipresent. To calm highway vibration, KTM appears to have fitted the SM-T with tall gearing.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the big-cube KTM motor that emerged champion in roll-on contests. That honor went to the surprisingly punchy Ducati V-Twin edging its bigger rival. To calm highway vibration, KTM appears to have fitted the SM-T with tall gearing which reduces its roll-on thrust.

The GT’s handling manners surprised everyone with a lighter front feel than expected and ample cornering clearance.

“BMW’s chassis was designed for the task at hand, and its straight-line stability is unmatched by the competition here. In the tight stuff, I found the F800′s handling to be precise and predictable,” says Rousseau.

BMW F800GT Action Cornering

The non-motard riding position of the BMW puts more weight on the bike’s front end and helps carve high-speed sweepers better than the others.

Although impressive, the GT still fell a little short of the other two competitors in the Handling category, scoring an 80% compared to the 83% and 85% of the KTM and Ducati, respectively. The Ducati’s handling prowess is downright impressive, while the KTM exemplifies neutral steering and effortlessly drops into corners.

“Relative to the others, the Hyper is twitchy at highway speeds,” says Duke. “Minimal weight on the front end and its light throttle spring makes the Hyper feel busy on the freeway.”

“It may be a bit of stretch to call the Hyperstrada ‘twitchy’ but it’s definitely not as planted as the BMW or the KTM,” retorts Rousseau. “I’ve long been a fan of KTM’s streetbikes, and their excellent handling is part of the reason. For sure, it doesn’t match the Ducati’s steering quickness, but it still delivers sharp handling without feeling twitchy or nervous in a straight line.”

KTM 990 SM-T Action Cornering

In addition to its steadfast handling characteristics, the SM-T boasts the second most cornering clearance with pegs touching down long after the Duc is already throwing sparks and before the BMW scratches tarmac with its pegs.

The higher footpegs helping the BMW attain its severe cornering angles, however, diminished some of its long-distance comfort by reducing the seat-to-peg distance. It only scored an 85% to the KTM’s 82% in the Ergonomics/Comfort category – a category the BMW should have ruled with authority. Yes, it has better fairing protection, but the KTM’s roomy rider triangle was preferable among our testers. Smaller or less-experienced riders might prefer something less rangy like the Beemer.

“Although the SM-T slots into this group by virtue of its intention and price point, it feels like a larger-class motorcycle than the others,” Duke remarks. “The KTM isn’t the right choice for those looking for a sport-tourer that feels small and nimble.”

The only two categories the GT dominated were the Luggage/Storage and Transmission/Clutch categories, scoring a perfect 100% in both. The GT’s panniers are the only lockable, hard-shell bags of the group and boast a clever shelf that discourages cargo from tumbling onto the pavement when the bags are opened.

KTM’s small saddlebags hurt its luggage capacity, and there are no provisions to lock their entries or secure them to the bike. The Duc’s bags are large enough to hold more than two-day’s worth of clothing and can be locked to their hangers.

Fuel Economy and Range

Tank Capacity Average MPG Fuel Range
BMW F800GT 4.0 gal. 50 200 mi.
Ducati Hyperstrada 4.2 gal. 43 181 mi.
KTM 990 SM-T 5.0 gal. 34 170 mi.

The problem with BMW’s sport-tourer is that luggage is not included in its MSRP. It has to be purchased as an accessory at a cost of $413 per pannier, raising the price of the GT to $14,016 and making it the most expensive bike of the three.

BMW advertising touts the fact that the base model GT retails for the same price as the model it’s replacing, last year’s ST. But, as Hipster Editor, Jon Langston, wrote in his initial review of the GT; “A North American buyer can certainly get a stripped F800GT for the same MSRP as the outgoing ST, but that buyer will have to order the bike from his local dealer and then wait for delivery from Germany. About six weeks.”

Ducati Hyperstrada Action Front

The Hyperstrada is in its element when unraveling a twisty road, but it falls short as a well-rounded sport-touring bike.”

In regards to the transmission/clutch, the BMW’s worked effortlessly with the KTM a close second. It was the Hyper’s transmission falling well short of the standards set by the others in this trio. “It takes greater effort to kick into the next gear, and shifts are less than positive,” reports Duke. “Also, I’m not the only one who found a false neutral between gears.”

The GT boasts BMW’s Electronic Suspension Adjustment, potentially boosting its Technology score, but this particular version only adjusts rebound damping on the shock, not the fork, with no compression adjustment at either end. As much as we like BMW’s ESA offerings on other models in its line-up, we found the cheap-man’s version not worth the price of admission.

While the Hyperstrada’s suspension allowed a bit too much pitching movement when braking, the SM-T’s setup was just about ideal.

“The KTM’s suspension is my favorite of the bunch,” Duke affirms. “It does the rare trick of offering good control while also being nicely compliant – Botts dots all but disappear beneath its wheels. The factory setup is pretty much perfect, but there’s a full range of adjusters the others lack that can be fine-tuned to rider preference.”

While we appreciate the GT’s maintenance-free belt drive, we weren’t as thrilled about the buzz felt through the handlebars at speeds above 65 mph, nor do we like the long-turn throttle requiring a nearly double-jointed wrist to reach the throttle stop.

And that’s how, at least on paper, a more sport-touring motorcycle can almost lose a shootout to two lesser-equipped motard-tourers. The final tally has the BMW F800GT in first with 82% of the overall vote, the SM-T in second with 81% and the Ducati Hyperstrada a close third with an overall scoring of 80%.

Individual Tester Scorecard

Kevin Tom Scott Total
BMW F800GT 80% 82% 82% 82%
Ducati Hyperstrada 79% 82% 79% 80%
KTM 990 SM-T 81% 83% 78% 81%

“By almost every measure, BMW’s F800GT is the most fully realized sport-touring machine here, boasting the most effective wind protection, superior luggage and exemplary handling,” says Duke. “However, it disappoints by its limited legroom and an underpowered parallel-Twin motor that lacks charisma and transmits oodles of vibrations.”

As for the Hypermotard, Ducati asserts that it wasn’t intended to be a sport-touring machine, and that was proved during our shootout. “It’s a riotously effective sportbike/commuter,” Duke observes, “but it’s too narrowly focused to have the broad range of capabilities that a sport-touring bike should have.”

KTM 990 SM-T Suspension

The SM-T’s suspension is the only one of the group that is three-way adjustable at both ends. The KTM’s suspension does the rare trick of offering good control while also being nicely compliant. There’s very little to complain about here.

When all was said and done, all three editors shared warmest feelings for the KTM. “Climb aboard the SM-T and its upright seating position, flat, well-padded seat and wide handlebar make for a wonderful cockpit, and I’d have no trouble riding the KTM from one end of the country to the other,” says Rousseau.

To which Duke agrees. “Of this trio, the SM-T most appeals to my sensibilities. I dig its cool, rough-and-ready countenance, and the punchiness of its motor stands above the others. To me, it’s worth the $700 premium over the Hyperstrada even if its saddlebags aren’t quite adequate in size or security. There’s ample room to strap on a large tail bag.”

Middleweight Sport-Tourers

We enjoyed having the choice of three distinct flavors of lighter-weight sport-tourers whose disparate qualities add up to a very tight ScoreCard. The best choice for you in this loose class depends on how you intend to use your motorcycle.

Check out our full Middleweight Sport-Touring photo gallery here.

Middleweight Sport-Tourers Specs

BMW F800GT Ducati Hyperstrada KTM 990 SM-T
MSRP $14,016 $13,295 $13,999
Horsepower 78.4 @ 8300 rpm 96.6 @ 9500 rpm 105.3 @ 9300 rpm
Torque 54.4 ft-lb. @ 6100 rpm 58.7 ft-lb. @ 7700 rpm 66.1 ft-lb. @ 7300 rpm
Engine Capacity 798 cc 821 cc 999 cc
Engine Type DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel Twin, dry sump Testastretta, liquid-cooled, 11° V-Twin Liquid-cooled, 75° V-Twin
Bore x Stroke 82 x 75.6 mm 88 x 67.5 mm 101 x 62.4 mm
Compression 12.0 :1 12.8 :1 11.5 :1
Fuel System EFI EFI EFI
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed
Clutch Wet, multi-plate Wet, multi-plate with slipper function Wet, multi-plate
Final Drive Belt Chain Chain
Frame Cast aluminum Tubular steel trellis Chrome molybdenum steel lattice
Front Suspension 43mm telescopic fork 43mm inverted telescopic fork 48mm inverted telescopic fork
Rear Suspension Cast aluminum single-sided swingarm with eccentric adjustment for rear axle, central spring strut, hydraulically adjustable spring preload via handwheel Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with eccentric adjustment for rear axle, central spring strut, spring preload hydraulically adjustable via handwheel WP-Monoshock, electrically controlled rebound damping, spring preload hydraulically adjustable via handwheel
Front Brakes Twin fixed calipers, 320mm discs Twin radial-mount 4-piston Monobloc Brembo calipers, 320mm semi-floating discs Twin Brembo 4-piston fixed-caliper, radial-mount, 305mm discs
Rear Brakes Single 265mm disc, single-piston floating caliper Single 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS 9MP as standard Single 240mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper
Front Tire 120/70-17 120/70-17 120/70-17
Rear Tire 180/55-17 180/55-17 180/55-17
Seat Height 31.5” 33.5 – 32.7” 33.7”
Wheelbase 59.6” 59.1” 59.4”
Curb Weight 470 lbs 450 lbs 465 lbs
Fuel Capacity 4.0 gal 4.2 gal 5.0 gal
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  • Rick Vera

    Yamaha:

    FJR850 using your new triple. Make it happen.

    • Russ_T

      Indeed.

    • Kevin

      It would indeed be a great idea if they would make a true FJR850. But slapping some small hard cases and too little wind protection on a naked won’t do that. By the time Yamaha provided the FJR1300 with some sorely needed upgrades (2013), the basic platform had become dated. I’m sorry to say that the only Japanese manufacturer that shows any real interest in sport touring is Kawi, and they leave a big and gaping hole in the “mid size” market. as good as Mr. Swinton’s idea is a true FJR850 would be more to the point, and should cost even less.

  • dustysquito .

    One of my coworkers rides the 990 SM-T, and it is even more incredible in real life than it looks in pictures. He added a tail trunk to it as well as a Corbin seat, and he’s had nothing but high praise for that bike. Of the three, that’s the one I’d snatch up in a heart beat.

  • lwatcdr

    The problem with KTMs is that finding a dealer is very hard in many places.

  • Kevin

    Where is the Trumpet? With the intro of the Trophy, why doesn’t the Sprint GT fall into the “mid size” sport touring group?

    • Kevin Duke

      The Sprint draws a happy line between sport and comfort, and in a perfect world, it would’ve been in this shootout. But it started out as only an 800cc battle, and the KTM joined the battle late in the game after we saw it was only $700 more than the Duc.

      • Kevin

        Thanks for your reply. I really appreciated your perfect world comment as the questions I asked were intended for Triumph not you folks. I have been very disappointed with the way they have dealt with the US market lately. We only get the high dollar Trophy and they take the Sprint away. Even to understand the 800cc point, you did include the KTM (wisely), and at $13,199 the Sprint undercut all of these bikes. In a for my money pick (mine, not someone else’s) none of these bikes would have made the cut against it.
        So my original posting was intended to use your forum for consumer feed back to the mfg.’s, not as criticism for your article.

    • Dudbro

      The Sprint GT has been discontinued for the US market, as well. No sense in reviewing that in this company. These bikes are also well below 500 lbs. Even the older Sprint ST is quite a bit heavier.

  • Gary

    Here’s the thing the BMW has that the other two lack: classic good looks (my opinion). It is the most elegant motorcycle since the R90S. In fact, I think the F800 would look stunning with a cream/fade paint job (with red pin-striping, natch), similar to the old classic.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Never met an SMT owner who did not go on about how great the bike is. Motorcycles are supposed to be fun, and the KTM and Duc look like fun bikes. The BMW is rational. Rational is good for choosing an econobox to commute in, but my MC is my toy, something to capture my passion. Make it the KTM please.

  • Rob Alexander

    I’ve got an SMT… what a bike! A few minor musts… Get rid of the soft bags and add a tail trunk, it’s way more convenient and holds more stuff and is secure, and the zippers ALWAYS eventually crap out on the soft bags anyway. Cost – $80-$200 depending on size and brand. Shad makes the KTM stock trunks. Some of them can share base plates, I have a 37L and a 26L case that pop on and off, depending if I want small and sleek or bigger. Also, get a 16 tooth front sprocket (about $35, I believe), it fixes the too-tall gearing. Consider buying or making a cable to use with TuneECU, you can do things like disable the EPC (slows response in lower gears) and turn off the O2 sensor (smooths out fueling).

  • TonyCarlos

    You can prefer this bike or that one, but if you are actually trying to pick the best sport touring bike from this group, there is only one choice. The BMW offers better wind protection, vastly better fuel economy, and BMW’s expansive catalog of extensive touring options. There is also the aftermarket’s willingness to support BMW’s long model runs.

    The other two are fun bikes. But they are not better sport tourers.

    • Kevin

      While I agree with the statement you made, this BMW doesn’t merit at “GT” moniker, nor the “GT” price point attached to it.

      • TonyCarlos

        The lack of merit is due to what? It is certainly aimed at a touring buyer, so is it the “grand” aspect you object to? Is the BMW not as grand as say a Mustang GT or a VW GTI?
        As for the price point: BMWs are expensive. Simple as that. If you feel they don’t justify their prices, don’t buy them.

        • Kevin

          It doesn’t merit it because it is a BMW, not a Ford, VW, or a Suzuki. By BMW’s standards for “grand” it should be far more refined and comfortable, and with a greater level of standard equipment. You can certainly make a case for this bike as a “ST”, but not a “GT” nor even a “RT”.
          As for the price point: For premium prices I want premium technology, materials, features and quality, not a designer label. I don’t shop BMW automobiles against Fords or VWs, rather I shop them against Audis and Benz and even in that company BMW’s are to damn expensive.

        • Scott Baxter

          Don’t buy them new… They simply are not worth the premium new off the floor. I bought a cherry 2008 K1200 GT with the usual stuff (no traction control or tire monitor though) and 32K miles for $12K. That was a fair exchange. It’s my fifth BMW ranging from airheads, bricks, oilheads and now the whatzit, so I know what these bikes are about. New? I’m not stupid w/my money…

  • Condelucanor

    I’ve been riding a VStrom Adventure for the past 13 months & just turned 10K miles. I love it. At 6’2″ the Beemer is just too small, give me a GS & tall saddle. The closest Ducati dealer is 300 miles from me & twitchy does not do for 700 mile days through the Rockies. That leaves the KTM. I love their dirt bikes and I am sure I would love the SMT. But I paid $10K out the door for the zook and 0% interest for 5 years. Sorry KTM, but you can’t be 40% better.

    • Rob Alexander

      I’ve owned both… IMO, it is. Not saying the DL isn’t a great bike, it just doesn’t have the personality and subjective feel of the KTM.

  • Alex Tsinos

    Great article – right up my alley as far as riding style. I do have a few questions though:

    You mention the Hyperstrada feels lighter than the KTM. What do you think accounts for this? Could stability be improved on the Hyper with different tires?

    I would’ve liked to know your impression of the Triumph Tiger 800 (non-XC) relative to these 3 bikes. Any thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Alex

    • Tom Roderick

      The KTM’s heavier weight (by 15 pounds) combined with how it carries that weight, such as higher in the chassis with a more rearward bias (compared to the Duc), probably accounts for the KTM’s heavier feeling. The KTM is also physically larger than the Duc.

      Different tires on the Hyper may either enhance or degrade its stability, but the effect would most likely be minimal. It’s probably more to do with bike’s geometry such as wheelbase, rake/trail combined with longer travel suspension and weight bias.

      One big difference with the Tiger 800, even the non-XC, is that it wears a 19-inch front wheel whereas these bike all sport 17s. That will slow its handling qualities compared to these three bikes, but otherwise, it stacks up nicely. Maybe the seed for a future shootout.

  • wolfkabal

    So where would something like the full on Multistrada fit?

  • BillW

    Wait a sec! You did something called a “Sport-Touring Shootout” and only rode the bikes for one day? You didn’t actually live with them for a few days while, you know, TOURING?

    Get real, guys.

    • Tom Roderick

      The video was shot over the course of one day, Bill, but the bikes are in our possession, ridden and evaluated for more than one day (in fact, the KTM is still in my garage).

      • BillW

        But did you actually take a multi-day tour on them?

  • madskills

    All these bikes need to be using shaft or belt as final drive. Why would anyone want to mess with oiling chains while out on a weekend and maybe get it on the rider, passenger or bags. It would only have to happen once.

    • Dudbro

      Shaft drives are extra weight, complexity, and points of failure. Belts are clean, but expensive and need replacement just like chains.

      Chains are simple, light, extremely strong these days, and if oiling a chain is too tough for you… I’m sorry.

      • madskills

        Owned 10 plus bikes over the years. Started with a 1968 R69S. Never had a problem with a shaft or belt. It was a comment, sorry I offended your senses. No sense discussing it with you.

        • TonyCarlos

          I’m on my 13th BMW, and used to say the same about shafts….until my current final drive crapped out at 34k miles. Check out a BMW message board. Rear drive bearings are failing at a phenomenal rate

  • Peter Swinton

    I’ve ridden both the SMT & Hyperstrada. Both are fun & nimble, but neither would be a bike I’d want to tour longer distances on. The Hyper would make a great commuter, but also begs to put a foot out supermoto style in the tight corners. The SMT is more powerful & definitely a sharp cornering tool, but in KTM fashion, not a long distance ride.

    Why didn’t you include the Ninja 1000 in this test. Also a light tourer, long distance comfortable and the adjustable screen offers good wind protection when you need it, and fresh air when you don’t. Equipped with the Givi removable mount and either the Givi or Kawi (same thing) lockable side cases the ABS version comes in just under $13,000 USD, so cheaper than anything in your test. With 138 hp & 74 ft/lbs torque, it is also the most powerful by a significant margin. Throw a 190/55 on the rear & handling is pretty impressive.

    • Rob Alexander

      Great point… I would have liked to see that too. The Ninja was the other bike I was really hot for when I bought my SMT.

      • Peter Swinton

        Interesting, I went the other way. I was quite interested in the SMT, but as much fun as it was to test ride, I couldn’t see myself spending long days on it, and the small, soft non-waterproof non-lockable bags were a deal breaker. I didn’t pay much attention to the Ninja 1000, but took one out for a test ride on a whim and absolutely loved it. 1 1/2 years later, I’ve got close to 30,000 kms on mine and nothing I’ve tested since compares or hits all the right buttons.
        So Kevin, Tom, why wasn’t the Ninja 1000 included? Cheapest and most powerful of the bunch, has all the positives of your winner with hardly any of the negatives (leg room could be improved for us tall guys).

    • roma258

      Yeah, that’s a bike that flies under the radar a bit. But is it really a sport-tourer? When I sat on one in the dealer, it felt more like a comfortable sportbike. Maybe if you raise the bars a little and maybe install a taller screen. Dig the bike overall though, seems to be the closest thing to the spirit of the great VFR800;

  • Seth Harvey

    Great review!
    I’m looking for for something sporty to go up to Newcomb’s on with an option to do longer rides or commute with. My dilemma has always been SMT’s lack of bells and whistles(namely traction control, riding modes and slipper clutch), although in the review it didn’t sound like you missed them much. I’m an engine guy as well so maybe I’ll take the $14k and go in a completely opposite direction and get a 2014 Tuono (larger tank and ABS) and throw on a tail bag and taller windscreen.
    Ugh…so many awesome choices, so little garage space. Damn my ADD! :-)

  • Robert Pollock

    In 1974 I rode my ’72 Yamaha 650 (kick start only) from Ottawa, Ontario, to Guatemala City and back. The next year I rode from Ottawa, to Vancouver Island, where I sold it. Most of the bells and whistles on these reviewed bikes didn’t exist back then. I took the front drum brake apart two or three times trying to get it to do anything but come along for the ride. Tires, a chain or two, oil changes, points and plugs as needed and gas is all it wanted. At just over 100 mph it flexed so badly, (speed wobble, probably from the rib front tire) I could barely stay on it to stop. I kept it under 104 after that, which was close to redline in 5th anyway. I bought it used with one carb jet plugged, that fixed itself for $500. Sold it two years later for $500.

  • Murphmagictone

    Except for the BMW, none of the other bikes are sports touring bikes. They are at best standard bikes with some marginal luggage and an afterthought windscreen.

    • Piglet2010

      Well, Honda imported the Deauville (NT700V) for a couple of years and sold about 17 of them (only one I have ever seen is in my garage), so there is not much market in the US. Most riders in the US want weekend toys with Character™, Heritage™, Lifestyle™, etc, and not comfortable, competent, and understated bikes for everyday use.

  • Colin Mackintosh

    I took my Hyperstrada for a 5 day, 2000 mile tour through twisties in WA,OR, and ID last September and had a riot on it. I’d put about 150,000 miles on 2 ST2′s in the previous 12 years and I’d say that I found the HS just as comfortable and more fun to ride…but then i’m a Ducati guy. Mind you, I’m not a big guy, 5’9″ and 160 lb. And the 821 mill is just too much fun, especially in sport mode. The fueling on mine is fine and I have no flat spots or glitches(maybe I’m just lucky!).

  • jerry mander

    I’ve been getting 52 MPG on my Hyperstrada, freeway and twists, around town not so much.