Words: Rob Harris Photos Richard Seck
PART 2 – ROADABILITY
|But how does it cope in the twisties?|
Okay, so in part one we covered how these big dualies deal with the dirt (albeit relatively mild dirt), so for part two we’ll take a look at how they react to the asphalt.
But before we go into details, let’s take a minute to define exactly what we’re looking for in a bike’s abilities to perform on-road. As far as the CMG collective sees it, there’s two distinct areas of the paved experience; Twisty side roads and long stretches of highway.
In reality, we suspect that most of the bike’s life will be spent on the highway, and so have erred our ratings to reflect this. Admittedly, this may not be the criteria of all, so if you happen to live in the middle of a whole whack of forest roads and paved twisties, then you might want to juggle our ratings around a bit to suit.
4th) KTM 950 ADVENTURE
|KTM has excellent balance …|
The KTM’s a fun bike and scores big on the smile factor. The motor is just what a v-twin should be – full of character, spinning up like a sporty four-cylinder and laying down the kind of power that makes pulling out of a tight corner a blast. It’s also got a wild growl emanating out of the pipes that compliments the experience.
The downside is a rough vibey patch between 5 and 6,000 rpm, although in top gear this means that you have to be going at 140 km/h + before you hit it. The box is smooth and mechanical, but the clutch needs to be pulled all the way into the bars to fully disengage the transmission, making smooth changes a bit of a challenge.
In the comfort department, the riding position is good with ample room for the pilot, and the screen does a good job at keeping the blast off. However, that seat is ‘orribly ‘ard and although it never got as torturous as it could, it wasn’t something that you’d like to spend too long on – thus severely reducing its touring credentials. It’s also the tallest ride at 880 mm, which will definitely limit who will fit on it.
|… and was a blast on the track.|
Brembo brakes are excellent too, and there’s WP suspension front and rear – simply put, it’s all quality stuff. It was a real shame that we experienced some problems with both of the bikes we had – each featuring the trait of overheating and puking out coolant.
Where the KTM excels is on twisty side roads rather than the open highway. We even took it to the track and had an absolute blast as we flicked the Adventure over from side to side with ease, with nary a peg scraping – despite ludicrous lean angles.
Why we decided to place it last in the Roadability category is its failings in highway usage. We considered trying to get one for the Fall Tour with the other dualies, but no-one wanted to have to use it on the long highway stretches in between, so we didn’t bother.
Of course, if you’re not looking for a bike to master this area, then the KTM suddenly becomes a much more viable machine.
3rd) APRILIA CAPONORD
|Once familiar with its anomalies, the ‘Nord became a lot more fun.|
Of all the machines, the Caponord was the one that demanded the most attention from the rider before the fun starts. But once you’re familiar with its oddities and learn to keep the revs up above 6,000 rpm, it’s really quite a capable machine on the road.
It’s also a very comfortable ride and has probably the slickest box of the lot (save for the occasional false neutral between 4th and 5th). Wind protection is good too and there’s plenty of room for the rider, although the tank cut-outs do get in the way for taller riders.
The soft suspension requires a bit of thought when braking – to avoid a big dive effect in the front forks – and the brakes lack initial bite, but once again, when you get used to this it all seems to work well. Although it’s the heaviest bike of the lot, the weight does seem to disperse when you get it going at a good clip, and it’ll carve a twisty road surprisingly well, although after a while, it starts to feel like a bit of work.
2nd) TRIUMPH TIGER
|Although it doesn’t like dirt is does like asphalt.|
The Triumph is quite a different experience to the Caponord. With the move away from the dirt and more towards asphalt on the 2005 model, what you have is a pretty competent sport-tourer. It’s hard not to like Triumph’s triple mills, and in Tiger format it’s tuned to give a linear and predictable laying-on of power. This makes it a no-brainer to use, and the easy-spinning motor will purr along a highway without vibes or fuss.
The brakes are also competent, but they need a good squeeze if you want to stop righhhhht now! Oh, and the gearbox is a bit notchy, yet precise, with no missed shifts.
With harder suspension than the others, the Tiger likes the smooth stuff and gives a very planted feel … well, unless the road is rough. In these scenarios, when going at a good clip, the suspension tends to get a bit overwhelmed and it’s easy for a wheel to skip out, which can be a tad un-nerving, never mind jolting for the rider.
Position-wise I found it a bit tight between seat and pegs, although the rest is all good, with decent wind protection, body position and a very comfy seat. The only little nagging problem is the right hand exhaust guard that sticks out at the peg and makes getting on your toes somewhat awkward.
1st) BMW R1200GS
|New 1200 boxer motor is a vast improvement.|
Although the GS was pushed out by the KTM in the off-road comparo, on-road it’s got it them all beat. This is a bike that I’d quite happily take on a grand tour, and enjoy every minute of it. Well, most of it.
The boxer motor is at its sweetest in 1200 form, pumping out masses of low-down torque while matching the max power of its competition to boot. It makes for lazy highway riding (needing only a blip of the throttle to pass) and fun in the twisties thanks to all that torque coming in just off idle.
Gear shifting is remarkably smooth for a BMW, but not the best of the bunch. Still perfectly acceptable though.
In the dirt, the Telelever front suspension can have a remote feel, but it copes perfectly with any road irregularities, and the shaft rear is as compliant as any chain-driven machine. And hey, a shaft-drive rear is virtually maintenance-free too.
|Track capable, but not as happy as the KTM.|
BMW seem to have finally sorted out the power-assisted brakes, and the fronts are eye-popping strong with good graduation, although maybe a tad lacking in feel. The GS also comes with optional ABS which works very well unless you’re hitting bumpy stuff at speed, at which point it can get a bit confused and release when you want it to be fully on. Thankfully, there is the ability to turn the system off if you prefer.
Although it’s only 1 kg heavier than the KTM it does feel its weight more. It’ll tackle twisty roads well, but it’s more work than the KTM. This became apparent when we took them both to the track, where it was more work to flick around and would grind out quite readily, but fun nonetheless.
Comfort wise, it has great wind protection with an adjustable screen for different rider heights. There’s plenty of legroom too, although yer arse would tend to get mildly sore sooner than you’d expect … due to the seat that is.
|Well done everyone …|
Okay, let me say that all these bikes work very well on the road.
The Caponord and Tiger are about equal in their abilities to happily eat up the miles and keep you entertained in the twisty bits. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the ‘Nord is quirky, and the Tiger doesn’t like it so much when pavement irregularities show up. It can also be argued that the Tiger’s motor is a bit too linear, thus lacking a bit of character.
Talking of character, this is where the KTM excels. As soon as you hit the more interesting roads, laughing-out-loud-in-your-helmet moments are easily achieved. However, getting to these interesting roads can be painful as this same character doesn’t translate to the long haul.
The BMW has a capable foot in both worlds – able to pull grins in the twisties yet cruise along happily all day on the highway. With its superb suspension, torquey motor, and unyielding flexibility – it is the king of the road!
All that we have left to do now is merge the road with the dirt ratings and come up with the definitive Adventure Touring ratings. To see that, you’ll have to click here.