Yeah, we know, calling a tie seems a cop out and a way to avoid pissing off one of these two manufacturers. The truth is, we haven’t yet been able to compare these adventure models directly. But one thing is clear: There are no better bikes for exploring far-flung roads regardless of their surfaces, paved or not.
We’ve tested the BMW R1200GS and KTM 1190 Adventure separately (2014 KTM 1190 Adventure Review & 2013 BMW R1200GS Review). From those individual reviews we know that both are highly enticing globetrotters, with potent 1200cc twin-cylinder engines, electronic rider aids including traction control, ride modes and ABS, accommodating riding positions, and similarly priced. They are so closely matched that the results of a head-to-head shootout will likely be determined mostly by the terrain chosen to test them on.
On paved roads, the BMW’s comfort and all-around versatility will be balanced by similar capabilities from the KTM but with a motor that pumps out nearly 15 extra horses. Output from BMW’s new wasser-Boxer is delivered lower in the rev range and boasts a slight torque advantage, again, at a lower rpm. The 1190 Adventure is faster, but the power of the GS is more accessible.
A GS rider benefits from shaft drive, while a Katoom pilot will be saddled with chain maintenance. The Paralever shaft also contributes to the BMW’s weight penalty over its rival, scaling in at 525 pounds to the 1190’s 507 pounds. So, the comfy GS (and its simpler to adjust windscreen) might be preferable on highways and byways, but the lighter KTM will likely have a slight advantage when ridden off-road. The BMW’s tractoring ability and balance at a crawl will be counterbalanced by the Adventure’s outstanding performance on faster, rougher terrain.
Price may also be a key factor in a final verdict, and various levels of trim makes direct comparisons murky. The base GS, if you can find one, retails for $16,100, while the 1190 Adventure starts at $16,499. However, for the BMW to have an electronically adjustable suspension like the base KTM, it’ll require BMW’s poorly titled Standard Package which adds $1,495 and includes heated grips and cruise control that’ll cost extra or is unavailable, respectively, on the Adventure.
Regardless of which you or we choose, the runner-up will be a winner in its own right. Overgrown dirtbikes with transcontinental capabilities have never been better.