2018 Adventure Touring Shootout

On a humid and hazy southern California morning our cast of misfits began to stir to life from all stretches of the LA basin. Showers were had (by some), coffee was made and consumed, gear was donned. We seven fortunate souls set out on what would be our first true challenge of the next 72 hours, the first gauntlet that our machines would be subjected to, weekday traffic in Los Angeles with a destination of none other than Starbucks. The unofficial meeting place of adventure riders the world over, yet, for so many, the journey’s end before it ever even begins.

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Since our 2016 Wire Wheel Adventure Shootout, key players in the adventure market have developed new models while others received tweaks, and some only paint jobs. KTM’s flagship big-bore touring range has undergone yet another reorg with two 1290 Super Adventure models, the S for streetier touring and R, included here, for off-road duty. Honda, with the release of the Africa Twin Adventure Sports, plans to come to the fight better equipped to be compared to the other big adventure bikes everyone was already comparing it to. Triumph has also revamped its Tiger 1200 lineup which sees the XCa dripping with accessory parts and new tech. Though it is decidedly not as dirt-oriented as the others, Ducati’s new Multistrada 1260 has also undergone a fair amount of changes, most notably, receiving the DVT 1262 cc engine used in the XDiavel. Unfortunately, there was no Multistrada Enduro, which more closely would have matched the dirt/street ratios of some of the other bikes, available when we needed the bike, although that may have ended up playing to the Ducati’s advantage.

With caffeine pumping through our veins, our merry septet of motorcyclists set off into the scorching and unforgiving lands of San Bernardino county.

We set out on our iron horses, some of which are nearly as tall as horses, into the desert for a long freeway haul in order to get our sweaty selves up into elevation as soon as possible. We chose Kennedy Meadows as our proving ground for these big adventure bikes due to the area’s large trail system which ranges from wide-open gravel roads to fun 4×4 trails, and tight snarky single-track. The fact that the few paved roads in and out of the area also slither their way though beautiful mountainous scenery while opening up into magnificent vistas around nearly every turn also provided ample opportunity to test the handling of our fleet on the pavement.

Evans and I had taken it upon ourselves to do a one day scouting run up to Kennedy Meadows to better familiarize ourselves with the area a couple of weeks prior to bringing the whole crew up. We sampled all of the local faire: backroads, jeep trails, double track, and dead ends, alas, even on the KTM shod with TKC80s I couldn’t convince Evans to taste the single track, probably for the better since I was on the Tiger 1200 with street tires, not to mention the Triumph’s skid plate looks like it would cave quickly under its 632-pound heft. Ultimately, we found a great 4×4 trail that would keep the folks with less of a dirt background comfortable, while allowing those of us with more dirt under our brow to test the capabilities of these machines off-road.

One of the beautiful meadows Evans and I came upon during our scouting trip. Alas, the others would never see it…

Along with the usual suspects of Evans “Dad Jokes” Brasfield, Troy “Trizzle” Siahaan, Sean “Auto” Matic, Brent “@j00py” Jaswinski and myself, we were joined by dirt sensation and former EiC of Dirtbikes.com, Scott “The Frenchman” Rousseau, and special guest John Nave, who started out as a friend of Evans’, and rounded out the trip a friend to us all. It was a special treat to have John along with us for this ride in part because he is planning on purchasing one of these big adventure bikes soon, making his feedback especially pertinent. Not to mention he has plenty of dirt experience and also apparently makes a lot more money than all of us.

We had a successful first day, making it to Kennedy Meadows, setting up camp, and spending the rest of the day shooting and testing. Our content campers dined on dehydrated food, which was rehydrated into mostly soupy messes, and spent time telling ghost stories around the campfire under the moonlight.

Never has Troy looked so happy to be camping.

After some early morning espresso, courtesy of Evans’ camp espresso maker, and videography, it was time to set out on what most of us were looking forward to: testing these big boys in the dirt.

We navigated our way to the trailhead Evans had deemed worthy, and after a wrong turn of whose fault I selectively can’t remember, we paused before leaving the pavement. I gave everyone a speech about staying to the right and being responsible on the trail, and we set off. Approximately an eighth of a mile into the trail Evans and I had scouted all of previously, our dirt test came to a dusty and oily halt courtesy of some sand, a root, and possibly a handful of throttle. I had maimed the Africa Twin.

As the lifeblood of the Honda gushed on to my boots and cascaded down the trail, it was at that point, I knew I had f*cked up. All the careful planning by our acting EiC, who had confessed that placing all of the pieces of this shootout had gone rather smoothly, had suddenly been dashed by one ill-placed root and one eager 20-something who couldn’t wait to test the Africa Twin Adventure Sport’s pogo sticks in the dirt.

After careful trailside deliberation, we decided we would contact Honda and turn this trip into a street only test with a dirt portion to follow. Honda graciously supplied us with a second DCT Africa Twin Adventure Sports which John Burns brought up to us that evening, in order for us to have the bike fully covered for our new street only test. Thank you, Honda.

Wait! Hold that Africa Twin! It would turn out that our rescue AT had a screw in its tube-type tire.

After swapping the rear tires, we once again had one well-working Africa Twin Adventure Sports and John was on his way with the not-so-fortunate AT, to deliver back to Honda.

While taking the full blame for the damage to the Honda, I would also like to take credit for bringing the entire crew together that evening by having John join us – something that happens all too little. I will also take credit for the extra day out of the office we will be using to test these bikes in the dirt with proper dirt tires courtesy of Continental. You get a TKC80, and you get a TKC80!

2015 Ultimate Sports-Adventure-Touring Shootout

2016 Wire-Wheel Adventure Shootout

So how did this do-all bunch of capable adventure bikes handle the new-fangled street-only portion of our test? In ascending order, last but certainly not least, the Yamaha Super Ténéré.

Yamaha Super Ténéré ES – 79.30%

When the Super Ténéré ES received its last major update in 2014, Yamaha was playing catch-up with the big boys in the adventure touring market and, for the most part, succeeded in bringing the Super Ten into the same zip code as the other contenders. Unfortunately, four years is a long time to sit still in a hot market segment, and once again, the Ténéré is showing its age. While that doesn’t keep it from being a competent adventure tourer – the bike’s popularity and the availability of aftermarket items says a lot about how riders feel about it – the Super Ténéré ES’ shortcomings are readily apparent when ridden side-by-side with the rest of the wire wheeled set.

The basis of the Super Ten is its 1199cc parallel-Twin with a 270-degree firing order to improve rear tire grip on slippery surfaces. In order to quell the vibration caused by this firing order, the mill uses two counter-balancers, which do a good job of keeping the rubber-mounted grips buzz-free. However, the inline-Twin has never been a powerhouse, and its 97.6 rear-wheel hp put it in third from last place in this gathering.

Although the EFI is improved from previous versions, our Super Ten had an extremely noisy top end.

When it came time to discuss the engine, our testers all commented on two things. First, the top-end clatter was noisy enough for a couple to ask if the valves needed adjustment. Second was how the exhaust sounded from the saddle (with me as the lone rider who liked it). Friend of MO and former Dirtbikes.com E-i-C, Scott Rousseau provides an example: “The Super Ténéré makes decent power, but its exhaust note is uninspiring, and was I the only one who noticed just how much top-end clatter this particular twin produces?”

One noticeable improvement from the last time we rode the Ténéré was that the throttle response in Sport mode was less abrupt than before. Previously, I’ve kept the ride mode set to Touring to maximize the fluidity of the throttle. Now, riding a series of corners in Sport was a mostly lurch-free affair. Combining the improved EFI with the smooth shifting made running through the gears a fun activity, but the bike still fell short in impromptu drag races.

The engine’s power was adequate, but the Ténéré got left behind in contests of speed. For sporty riding, the wide bar helps to compensate for the 19-inch front wheel. Canyon carving with a full load was surprisingly fun.

The Ténéré’s handling at speed was average for this grouping, and unlike with a couple of the other bikes, the rider always knew what the front tire was up to. “The big wide bar on the Ténéré made it easy to point the bike where I wanted it,” noted Ryan. The ES in the Super Ténéré’s name means that it has an electronic suspension. Changing the damping settings was as easy as pressing a few buttons while you’re riding. If you wanted to change the preload, you’d have to wait until you were at a stop. With the saddlebags loaded with all my camping and camera gear, I bumped the preload to the rider and passenger with bags setting, and the chassis stayed stable in the canyons yet offered a compliant ride on the interstate. Just what you’d expect from a machine designed for touring.

You’d think that by being the third lightest bike in the test, the Ténéré would be easy to maneuver at low speeds, but you’d be wrong. Despite being 63 pounds lighter than the heaviest bike, the Yamaha carries its weight so high that it becomes ponderous at low speeds – and this is on pavement. Said Troy, “It’s only six pounds heavier than the Ducati, but from the saddle it feels like it ate a Ducati for lunch.”

Though eminently functional, the instrumentation looks dated by comparison to the bikes with TFT displays.

Scott shared similar thoughts: “It’s so top-heavy that it feels like the heaviest bike in this comparo, and I know that it isn’t. That high C of G feel makes the Yamaha’s steering more cumbersome… At low speeds, especially in the dirt, it felt too tippy to gain my confidence.”

The Super Ténéré features Yamaha’s Unified Braking System (UBS) along with ABS. The purpose of the the UBS is to minimize the chassis pitch of the bike by applying some of the pressure from the front brake to the rear. However, unlike other linked braking systems, if the rear brake is applied first, the front and rear brakes remain on separate circuits to provide the rider with traditional braking feel. The ABS was not overly intrusive on street riding, but it cannot be disabled for the dirt. The traction control, however, gives the rider three choices, including off for in the dirt.

While the electronics package that the Ténéré comes with is welcome, particularly the heated grips and the easy-to-use cruise control, the other, newer adventure tourers offer more. For example, the LCD display offers plenty of information and can be navigated easily while on the road, but in a category where four of the seven contestants have TFT displays, the Ténéré’s instrumentation feels cheap and dated. Then there is the lack of a quick shifter. While it’s not necessary, its absence creates a clear divide with the top-tier adventure tourers.

The windscreen offers a good combination of protection (in the upper position) and airflow (in the lower), but adjusting the height is unnecessarily complicated.

When it comes to racking up the miles, the Ténéré fares reasonably well. The windscreen offers good weather protection while still allowing a cooling breeze in its lower position. Adjusting the screen, however, is needlessly fidgety. Where I found the seat to be a firm but good platform for racking up the miles, other riders had the opposite opinion. Scott was the most vocal about it, saying, “My biggest complaint lies with the Super Tenere’s saddle, which I wouldn’t want to be in longer than a trip to my local convenience store let alone a long-distance journey. The padding is stiff and the contours are hard-edged, which left me wanting to stand most of the time.”

The optional saddlebags were what made me choose the Ténéré as my camera mule for the trip, and I wasn’t disappointed. Between my camera gear, my camp stove (and pots), and my clothing, I filled both bags to capacity. I liked the two-step locking feature that assured me that the bags were in place. (I lost a saddlebag once on the West Side Highway in New York City, and I never want to experience that again.) The bag mounts also offered solid, easily accessed tie-down points for the gear that didn’t fit in the bags.

When they work well, saddlebags don’t get the credit they deserve. The Ténéré ’s panniers were capacious and well thought out.

When it comes time to sum up the experience of traveling on the $18,134 Super Ténéré ES, I’d say it is a competent adventure tourer that I would be mostly happy with if we weren’t directly comparing it to more recently updated machinery. Of all the shortcomings (and I’m mostly thinking of the newer technology here) the only one that can’t be overlooked is the Ténéré’s top heaviness. For a bike that has even mild off-roading as one of its intended uses, this is a major oversight. The Super Ténéré is a nice bike, but the adventure touring class has moved on.

Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa – 82.53%

When it comes to adventure touring bikes, defining the word “simple” isn’t so simple, and the 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa is a perfect case study. Simply put, Triumph’s grandest adventure cat is a very good all-around adventure rig, but it has taken a lot of work and a host of new technology for Triumph to get it there.

Not that the previous model, the Triumph Tiger Explorer, was incompetent, but the new 1200 XCa, the most off-road worthy model in Triumph’s sextet of mammoth-sized three-cylinder adventure bikes, is worlds better thanks to 100 updates that have been implemented to hone its character on the pavement and in the dirt.

Shedding the Tiger platform of about 22 lbs. of weight was a heck of a start, but it was just that – a start. The Tiger also bristles with the latest version of Triumph’s howlin’ and growlin’ 1215cc triple, complete with the requisite liquid-cooling, dual overhead cams and EFI that are standard fare in the modern sporting motorcycle world. However, in a class dominated by twin-cylinder machines, Triumph’s big and beefy three-banger presents some performance challenges when it comes to adapting the mill for dual duty. The key to success lies in maintaining its creamy smooth and exciting on-road character while keeping its 114.6 horses tractable enough to deal with unpredictable terrain in the off-road environment.

To pull it off, Triumph has equipped the Tiger’s ECU with six separate riding modes that are easily accessed via the five-way joystick located just below the turn signal switch on the left handlebar. The modes attenuate the Tiger’s torquey output, traction control and ABS to varying degrees, with Triumph’s Off-Road Pro mode cancelling the traction control and ABS in order to give the rider the most leeway when negotiating off-road obstacles. Fortunately, the riding modes combine with the smooth and abundant power of the Tiger 1200 XCA to haul its heft down the road or up a two-track trail. Triumph’s riding mode system works so well you wouldn’t believe it’s so complicated.

“The Triumph is tech heavy,” Adams proclaimed. “A beautiful TFT display that is easy and intuitive to use, a million-way adjustable electronic suspension, ride modes, electronic windscreen, heated seats and grips, auxiliary lights. Man, I’m getting sweaty just thinking about it.”

The riding modes, along with all of the Tiger 1200 XCa’s vital signs and trip computing functions are housed in that crystal-clear, full-color TFT instrumentation to which Adams alluded. It allows the rider to adjust the info display to suit personal preferences. The TFT also has illumination options that allow it to be set for easy reading in different lighting conditions or set to an auto mode that will adjust the contrast as needed.

The Tiger’s engine has been tuned for quicker response through its ride-by-wire throttle. Changes that include a lighter crankshaft and smaller flywheels help the engine to rev more freely as the Tiger snarls through its Arrow muffler, the latter also contributing to the XCa’s significant weight loss. However, Brent Jaswinski suggested that the XCa could use more snap right off the bottom. Still, the Tiger may be the best-sounding adventure tourer in its class, and it’s a lot of fun to wind it up and make it roar.

Every rider raved about the Tiger 1200’s exhaust note. Criticisms, however, included narrow clutch engagement and a need for a little more power in the bottom end.

“Off the bottom, the Tiger’s triple leaves more to be desired,” Jaswinski said, “but once you get into the upper rpm, that’s when it starts to come alive.”

Troy Siahaan agreed, “The 1215cc triple is a nice engine, but it feels soft on the bottom before it really picks up steam.” Once it does pick up steam, the Tiger 1200 XCa’s engine can provide quite a rush.

“The 1215cc Triple is bitchin,” Adams enthused. “The way it makes power is interesting. While scouting the dirt portion of our ride, I rode the Tiger all over Kennedy Meadows on everything except single-track. The motor will lug deep into the depths of the rev-range while still pulling in a linear fashion while you feather the clutch. Its torque curve is smooth and steep, though the motor does have to be wound up to really start hustling.”

The seat was long-distance comfortable and included separate heat adjustments for both rider and passenger.

The Tiger 1200 XCa’s electronically shift-assisted six-speed transmission and final gearing offer plenty of flexibility for high-speed cruising or low-speed loafing, but all is not well in Tiger-ville. Our main gripe lies with the Tiger’s extremely narrow clutch engagement range, which can’t be massaged into a more acceptable range by adjusting the rotary dial on the Tiger’s clutch lever.

“What doesn’t make me smile is a narrow friction zone that is way out near the end of the lever travel,” Brasfield noted. “If this were the only bike I rode, I’d adapt quickly, but I still wouldn’t be happy about it when performing tight, low-speed maneuvers – or riding in the dirt.”

The Triumph’s quickshifter is a little too sensitive on upshifts for me. I like to always keep enough pressure on the shift lever so that I can feel it but on the Triumph I had to adjust my style to avoid inadvertently grabbing the next gear.

The lack of clutch friction range can make it more difficult to help ease the hefty Tiger into action along a technical trail while attempting to maintain balance before you build enough momentum to nullify its top-heavy feel when at rest. On the plus side, the Tiger 1200 XCa’s electronics contain a Hill Hold feature designed to prevent the bike from rolling backward when you’re trying to get underway on a steep incline.

For such a big bike, the Tiger 1200 XCa handles surprisingly well once you get it moving, with relatively effortless steering that allows the chassis to maintain a precise line through corners on the road. It’s also stable as a supertanker in a straight line. Unfortunately, our test unit exhibited a lack of off-road feel brought on by its Metzeler Tourance Next tires. Even so, Triumph’s Optimized Cornering Traction Control and ABS systems do a good job of feeding the right amount of traction control and braking power based on the Tiger 1200 XCa’s lean angle, making off-road riding less of a chore than it would be otherwise.

Not everyone was sold on the Triumph’s handling character, though – at least not in all riding conditions.

“I’ve always liked the Tiger a lot as a road bike because it rides and handles very well.” Commented Brent, “When compared back-to-back with other bikes in its class, though, it didn’t shine as bright as I originally thought it would. That’s not to say that it did anything poorly, it just felt heavier and a little more sluggish than the rest of the bunch.”

Kudos are also due the Tiger XCa’s WP-built Triumph Semi-Active Suspension – or TSAS – which senses the terrain you’re riding on and makes split-second adjustments to maintain smooth and precise suspension action. The TSAS also offers the rider a choice of two riding modes. There’s Auto mode, and then there is Off-Road mode, which allows manual adjustment of the suspension settings through the TFT display. If you’re not a savvy suspension tuner, leaving the TSAS in Auto Mode is a virtually foolproof way to enjoy the Tiger 1200 XCa’s excellent suspenders.

“I’m impressed with how much Triumph updated on the XCa since our last adventure shootout in 2015. Case-in-point is the TSAS electronically adjustable suspension,” Brasfield said. “With a couple button pushes and careful massaging of the multi-directional toggle on the left control cluster, the ride mode and suspension can be easily adjusted to the rider’s preference.”

And it works well, I think that the Tiger’s WP-manufactured TSAS might be its best feature, delivering a floaty ride with plenty of control through the bumps.

Comfort counts in adventure riding, and the Tiger 1200 XCa delivers nice ergonomics. Its silky triple is vibration-free from idle on up to its 10,000 rpm redline, which keeps rider fatigue to a minimum. Its bars are placed at a comfortable height, and the reach and width should be more than acceptable for a wide range of rider sizes. Likewise, its beautifully sculpted and comfy seat is two-position height-adjustable to accommodate riders of varying inseam lengths.

“The Triumph also has great creature comfort features that allow its rider to lay down long stretches of riding,” Jaswinski said. “It’s a bike I’d be happy to jump on and ride across country in a heartbeat, but maybe not the bike I’d choose to take off-road on anything more than a fire road.”

The Tiger’s electrically adjustable windscreen can be raised or lowered to suit the tastes of most riders, and the XCa also offers heated grips and heated seats for both the rider and the passenger, a big bonus in cold-weather riding. Our test bike was also fitted with Triumph’s accessory Silver Edition panniers, which offer plenty of storage space for long adventures.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the Triumph’s panniers were clearly designed to take the best features of the BMW’s into account.

“The electronic gizmos weren’t the only improvements to the XCa,” Brasfield said. “The saddlebags are much beefier options than the previous generation Tiger 1200. Clearly, Triumph looked the BMW’s luggage for inspiration, and I think Triumph’s designers nailed it.”

But our test crew unanimously agreed that there’s one big hitch in the Tiger’s stride when it comes to comfort, and that’s heat. A lot of heat. MO guest tester John Nave summed it up with one word, in three capital letters: “HOT!” The Tiger’s sexy, tightly sculpted bodywork does nothing to prevent the engine and radiator heat from wafting back onto the rider’s legs, which can make for some sweaty drawers when riding long distances in the summer months. This and the Tiger’s lack of clutch feel are the two issues that Triumph could address in the next model year to make an already very good adventure tourer even better.

But we’re betting that neither the clutch nor the heat nor its $21,750 base MSRP will be enough to dissuade hard-core Triumph fans from taking a good look at the Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa. As big adventure tourers go, it’s a pretty good package that could use just a little more refinement in order to challenge its rivals for top honors on the more road-oriented adventure touring side of the ladder.

Adams ultimately defended the big Triumph’s honor, stating, “There are a lot of haters on the Triumph. Here, in the comments section, wherever. I don’t get it. I’ve spent a ton of time on the Triumph on the street and a good amount off-road. Aside from the relatively small gas tank causing the fuel light to come on around 165 miles and the heat that wafts up onto the rider from the engine (kind of a big deal), I really dig this hepcat.”

Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT – 83.37%

In the stacked field of adventure-touring motorcycles, it’s easy to forget about the Suzuki V-Strom 1000. A staple of Suzuki’s lineup since 2002, the V-Strom 1000 has evolved over the last 16 years to become a highly-capable dual-purpose motorcycle. The big brother to the V-Strom 650, which was introduced two years after the 1000, both motorcycles share V-Twin power from other notable motorcycles in Suzuki’s lineage.

While the smaller Strom repurposes the SV650’s dual cylinders, which have been a hit since the SV’s introduction in 1999, the 1000 borrows its power from the long discontinued TL1000 sportbike. In 2018 trim, two decades of refinement have turned the 1037cc Twin into an engine that doesn’t win any size wars among its competitors, but will still hold its own against anything out there.

The 1037cc 90º V-Twin in the V-Strom 1000 is derived from the 996cc V-Twin first seen in the TL1000R sportbike way back in 1998. Two decades’ worth of refinements and improvements have really paid off.

In addition to the twin throttle bodies, 10-hole injectors, and SCEM (Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material)-plated cylinder bores, the V-Strom 1000 also adopts the Low-RPM assist function first seen on the current SV650. In short, the system cracks open the throttle butterflies at the first release of the clutch to increase revs just as the bike leaves from a stop to reduce the chance of stalling the motorcycle. It won’t prevent stalling altogether, but it helps the rider focus on clutch modulation if maneuvering through a tight space, for example.

When put on the dyno, the Strom 1000’s rear-wheel output of 92 hp and 67 lb-ft are easily lost in comparison to the competition, but from the rider’s perspective it’s a Goldilocks of a power curve. “Affable” is how Evans described it in his notes, “[It] offers plenty of grunt no matter the rpm. Keep the engine spinning in its mid-range, and you’re in for a fun time on any winding road.” Guest tester, Rousseau, went one step further. “I was blown away by how linear and easy to ride the Vstrom’s 90-degree V-twin engine is,” he said. “It doesn’t feel all that punchy, and yet it is still very exciting to ride whether you’re on the street or in the dirt.”

Earlier iterations of the Strom looked like alien life forms on two wheels (at least in our opinion…). While not a head turner, the current V-Strom’s dirt-inspired look is elegant and clean. In fact, it’s hard not to notice the yellow seat and gold rims…

Apart from the engine, the supporting cast received some touch-ups as part of the bike’s makeover in 2017. The most visually obvious difference is the tweak in its styling to more closely resemble the DR line of dual-sports and off-roaders, with a consistent line from its beak to the fuel tank. Under the bodywork, however, the aluminum twin-spar frame was combed over with FEM analysis to produce a piece that’s stiffer than before while being 13% lighter. The 5.3 gallon fuel tank remains, but has been reshaped to make it narrower at the seat/tank junction – which is particularly useful for shorter riders. New for 2018, the Strom comes in XT trim, seen here, giving it 19-inch front/17-inch rear wire wheels, Motion Track & Combination Braking (Suzuki lingo for cornering ABS and linked brakes), tapered handlebar, and a few other revisions for greater comfort and/or better emissions compliance.

On the road, though, the chassis and revised ergos were both features appreciated from the MO staff and testers, with Rousseau calling the former “unflappable” either on- or off-road. Others, too, enjoyed the handling of the Suzuki, or were perhaps so impressed by its fluidity that it became such an afterthought as to not include it in their notes. However, Ryan did note, “Being able to put both feet on the ground is not overrated.”

Radial-mount Tokico calipers are a nice touch, and stopping power was never a complaint. The complaint came from the initial bite offered by the linked braking system. While never dangerous, it did catch some of us off-guard initially. The addition of a five-axis IMU and cornering-ABS (although Suzuki don’t want to officially call it that) is a nice touch, especially at this price point. You can clearly see the wheel speed sensor, which also serves a function for the three-stage traction control system.

From a tech perspective, the V-Strom loses out to its more esteemed rivals from Germany, Italy, or Austria – but we MOrons weren’t really missing the extra tech (save for cruise control) anyway. “It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles like some of the other bikes in the test, but maybe that’s a good thing – less things to break or malfunction,” says Brent, who packs the “Chevy Fine Tuner” – aka, a large crescent wrench – in his adventure toolkit.

Apart from the Low-RPM assist feature, the V-Strom comes with three level traction control (1, 2, and Off), as well as linked braking and Cornering-ABS, assisted by a five-axis IMU. ABS is always on, though off-road riders who take the dirt more seriously can reach under the seat and pull the ABS fuse very easily. As far as chinks in the Strom’s armor go, abrupt initial brake feel is one of them, as more than one tester pointed out in their notes. This, surely, is a byproduct of the linked braking. Once you adapt to it, though, it’s hardly an issue.

When it comes to bang-for-the-buck, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT is a home run. Sorry Strom owners, your secret’s out.

And while harsh initial brake feel and a lack of technology are the Strom’s biggest downsides (if you can call the latter a downside), perhaps – no, definitely – the Suzuki’s biggest selling point is its price. Starting at $13,299, the V-Strom 1000 XT is an absolute steal of an adventure-touring machine. It doesn’t necessarily excel in any one category, but as a sum of its parts it’s an outstanding performer. Delve into the humongous aftermarket, and any perceived flaw for the V-Strom is easily cured. Every one of our testers jotted down something in their notes about the Suzuki being a sleeper in this category, but now the secret’s out: Don’t sleep on it anymore, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT is a winner, regardless of price.

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