Interesting comparo; I have just returned from Sweden where I had an opportunity to compare the [unavailable in the U.S.] Highland 950 V-twin adventure bikes with the KTM 950 offering during several hours of rural Swedish back-road bashing. The KTM is indeed nicely refined and rides much lighter and nimbler than its size and heft would indicate. Having said that, the unexpectedly high vibration levels at any and all engine speeds were annoying and curious in light of the twin balance shaft architecture of the motor.
However, the Highland, in all 3 iterations [Motard, Allroad, and Adventure] simply blows the KTM away. Sportbike HP, coupled with dirtbike torque and racebike handling makes an unreal package. And, little vibration from a non-balance shaft V-twin which, by the way, is the lightest currently on the planet. The entire bike is a [relative] feather-weight at 360 lbs., dry. If I had a complaint, it is that the Highland is a little too "racy" - not surprising since it is the product of a partnership of ex-motocross and speedway racing stars and engineers from the halycon days of Husqvarna and Husaberg. The seat, peg and bar ergonomics work to push you forward over the tank with elbows splayed and on your toes. Great in the dirt but less so at high speed on pavement. Having said that, on a "technical" road course such a Louden, I would bet my Vanson leather suit I could lap faster on the Highland than on my full-race Buell Thunderbike class machine. As for canyon dicing, it would give a current liter-class sportbike fits.
Oh, I forgot to mention, the price is obscene [$16K], even in Europe, but it IS basically a hand-built homolgation special that employs all the best bits available for every single function screwed together by guys who know how these hybrid bikes are supposed to work.
At last someone had the smarts to realize that if you can go on a dirt road you can't do adventure touring. Also, the KLR still has a seat height of 35 inches. In the rocks, that is up there for the neophyte. If you're new to off-roading, it may take some time to get used to, and then appreciate, that long reach to the ground. Good test.
I've heard and read that the Tiger with a couple of suspension modes and different tires makes for a rather nice bike. Even Triumph agrees this is a street biased bike with the only off road duty is a non paved road. Still you can get Tigers for a great price and decent financing. You can do a lot with 3K differents up to the KTM. Hands down the KTM rocks. Them and BMW invented this catagory (sorry BMW, 19k?!). My original level of pain for any motorcycle was about 10k. I've now moved that up to 15k (staying under $300 for a payment) and I simply can't see that for the BMW sorry to say (I got a 1 year old 999 new off the floor for 14k this year. Amazing machine...) Only drawback to the KTM is the seat which is a easy fix..
Well done test, interesting comments and conclusions. Personally would have liked to see the BMW F650 included, either in GS or P-D configurations. Having put many miles on the GS version of a 650, and ridden the new 1200 GS, my preference still lies with the 650 version. Physically smaller and lighter in weight than a 1200 GS, less vibration and a better road bike than the KLR, it may well have rated higher than you might think. Oh well, maybe next time!
Great review. Wish you had included the 650 BMW, would have been interesting. I guess I'm a less is more kind of guy - I love my DR 650 for adventure touring (tho' I had to add a Corbin seat or I never would have ridden the thing over 100 miles again, and the big IMS tank helps a lot too). And I avoid interstates like the plague - which is easy enough to do here in Colorado.
If you include the KLR, you need to include the F650. The F650 is probably what a modernized KLR would be like, with maybe slightly more street emphasis - but still more dirt capability than the Tiger, VStrom, or R12GS
MO have trashed every motorcycle in the Triumph product line. Maybe they should go back to making TR's and Spitfires and give up on bikes? What say you MOrons?
I'd love to be a fly on the wall for the next MO comparo planning meeting.
Sean; "Hey guys don't forget to include a Triumph or a Ducati, somthing has to come in last! BTW did you guys see the new Kawasaki? It makes 0.3 hp and weighs 2 lbs less than last years model, I'm already liking those specs."
I've owned all of these bikes in the last four years ('cept it was a R1150GS, so not quite fair), and while I generally agree with the conclusions, I've got a comment though. First and foremost if you even the playing field from a cost perspective, I'm guessing the order would have been different if you could have added aftermarket products to get all the bikes up to the $16K cost of the BMW. Comparing two bikes under $10K to two at or above $12K in a contest where suspension, frame and motor design are all important is likely to result in only one outcome. You could put Works suspension front and rear, knobbies, new brake discs, lines and pads, skid plate, and crash bars on the V and still be cheaper than the KTM. The KLR could be solid gold. Seems the question is if it was your own money, is the BMW 1/3 better than the KTM, twice as good as V-Strom, and four times better than the KLR? Is the BMW worth five years of payments compared to 30 months for the V-Strom or 16 months for the KLR.
Looks to me like the KLR still fits the bill for the best choice for Adventure Touring where most of your time is spent actually Adventuring and the purchaser isn't made out of money. The $14K you save over buying the BMW will buy a lot of upgrades, a lot of steaks for Sean to tenderize for you with his K-Bar and also buy him a glass eye replacement or two.
Don't get me started on yet another one of those yuppie pimp trucks. 1,100 lb bed capacity? Oh please.
Coming in last in a comparo isn't always a bad thing. It's usually the bike I look to buy first, since it's usually under the radar. I don't think MO came off trashing the Tiger. They just said it isn't really off-road worthy.
Did you read the tester's comments on the bottom of the story?
I'm assuming you did and felt we were a little short on analysis, but the article was pushing 5,000 words! Anyway, we did touch on those things, but we tested by genre in this story, not price, and comparing modified motorcycles to unmodified ones will get you hot water with readers and OEM's alike.
I 100% agree with your implied message: the GS is NOT 3.5 times better than the KLR, and a modified KLR would be a very kick-ass adventure bike.
Intersting that the 2002 R1150GS/Tiger comparo and the 1996 (or 1997, there is no date on the story) R1100R/Tiger/CapoNord comparo both found the tiger more dirt-worthy than the GS. That new 1200 must be something by comparison.
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