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The Best Adventure Touring Motorcycle

Updated on October 8, 2010
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BMW R1200GSDucati Multistrada 1200KTM 990 AdventureTriumph TigerYamaha Super Tenere
BMW R1200GS
BMW R1200GS
Ducati Multistrada 1200
Ducati Multistrada 1200
KTM 990 Adventure
KTM 990 Adventure
Triumph Tiger
Triumph Tiger
Yamaha Super Tenere
Yamaha Super Tenere

Choosing the Best Adventure Touring Bike

Adventure Touring motorcycles, sometimes referred to as ATs or ADVs, are heavy-duty dual-sport bikes designed to put nearly any global destination within reach, paved or unpaved. Their heavyweight size and long-distance capability and comfort distinguish these bikes from more singleminded off-road and motocross bikes, and they generally offer...

  • High Ground Clearance
  • Long-Distance Fuel Reserves and Range
  • An Understressed, High-Torque Motor with Great Reliability
  • Accessories Such as Metal Luggage, Skid Plates, Rugged GPS Navigation, and Off-Road Lighting Systems

BMW has long been at the cutting-edge of Adventure Touring design and sales, and the R1200GS (along with smaller displacement siblings) account for nearly 1/3 of global sales for BMW Motorrad. However, the best adventure touring bike is the one that fits your needs, budget, style, and proportions. Let's look at the leading ATs.

BMW R1200GS

As we stated before, the GS series of bikes is the workhorse of BMW motorcycle sales, accounting for 30% of units sold on a global scale. Since the beginning, the heart of this bike has been a Flat-Twin engine. For 2010, BMW says the air/oil-cooled 1170cc Boxer gets a 5% boost in power output, making a claimed 110 hp. Torque, an important factor off-road, is abundant: 88 lb-ft and lots of low-RPM grunt. For $1100 extra, you can opt for the ABS braking system, which is supremely confidence but usually not utilized off-road.

The R1200GS weighs in at 448 lbs (dry) and retails for $14,950. Many ADV riders would call this the best adventure touring motorcycle, bar none.


Ducati Multistrada 1200

Ducati's entry in the AT market, the Multistrada 1200, is perhaps the sportiest option on the market. Power comes from the 1198cc L-Twin motor utilized to such success by Ducati's World Superbike (WSB). Of course, the engine has been retuned for better real-world practicality for this application.

The bike also offers a single-sided swingarm, Marzocchi/Sachs suspension, an upright seating position, and multiple engine maps. It retails for about the same as the BMW and KTM:  $14,995.

KTM 990 Adventure

KTM has long been a player in the Paris-Dakar Rally - the global pinnacle of adventure touring man and machinery. And the KTM 990 Adventure is a part of the racing pedigree. Powered by a 999cc 75-degree twin inside a chromoly trellis frame, it packs some serious torque for off-road tomfoolery. Top of the line components such as Brembo brakes with ABS comes standard.

That said, for those concerned with appearances, the design of the KTM is beginning to look a bit dated in comparison to some of these other ATs. The 990 Adventure retails for slightly more than any of the other bikes in this comparison:  $14,998

Triumph Tiger

The Triumph Tiger is significantly more affordable than any other adventure touring motorcycle on the list, retailing for only $11,999 - that's about $3K less than the BMW, Ducati, or KTM. However, the Tiger doesn't come standard with as many features as some of its competitors; this is especially true in terms of electronics packages.

The bike, like so many Triumphs, is motivated by a 3-cylinder inline "Triple" with a displacement of 1050cc. Unlike the BMW, which comes with a rugged "exoskeleton," handguards, and knobby tires, this bike looks decidedly more asphalt-happy. That said, how many AT riders under-utilize their bike's off-road potential?

Yamaha Super Tenere

Before you get too excited, keep in mind that the Yamaha Tenere and Super Tenere are, sadly, NOT available in the US...yet, at least. The Super Tenere, designated the XT1200Z, boasts a 1199cc parallel-twin, making it the largest displacement bike in the comparison. It also has traction control, linked front and rear braking, ABS, and host of other cutting-edge features.

Currently the Super Tenere retails for 13,500...Euro

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