Showroom Showdown: Back road bombers

Update: Due to a bit of a mix-up in specs (our research was prepared during the changeover from 2018 to 2019 models), we’ve updated this article to reflect the most recent changes to the Versys 1000 model.

Adventure bikes might be the best option for the Canadian rider who wants to rip up a bad back road. This month, we’re looking at four litre-class bikes aimed at the sporty side of ADV riding.

The Kawasaki Versys 1000, Suzuki V-Strom 1000, BMW S1000 XR and Ducati Multistrada 950 are all intended more for street or bad-road usage, or a gravel road at the most. While there are other adventure machines in the litrebike class (Honda Africa Twin and KTM 1090, for instance), those machines are mostly built with more offroad utility in mind. The Versys, the Strom, the XR and the ‘Strada are all built with street performance as the first intended use. There is also an offroad version of the Strom, with wire wheels, but we’re looking at the street version today.

The S1000 XR looks more like a sport tourer than an adventure bike, but BMW slots it in there with its GS machines.

Engine

The Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and Ducati Multistrada 950 use V-twin engines, while the BMW S1000 XR uses a retuned version of the previous-generation inline four from that company’s superbike line. The Versys also uses an inline four.

The Versys has 1043 cc capacity, the V-Strom is 1037 cc, the XR is 1000 cc and the Multi is 937 cc.

The BMW wins the horsepower rating by a long shot, with 160 hp at 11,000 rpm. The Multistrada and Versys are nearly equal, at 113 hp and 118 hp respectively; both bikes see max power at 9,000 rpm. The V-Strom has the lowest horsepower rating, 99 hp at 8,000 rpm.

The S1000 XR also kills it on torque, with a maximum rating of 82.6 lb-ft at 9,250 rpm. All the other bikes are in the same ballpark: the V-Strom 1000 makes 74.5 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. the Versys makes 75.2 lb-ft at 7,500 rpm and the Multistrada makes 71.0 lb-ft at 7,750 rpm.

The Beemer is the big winner here, the Multistrada and the Versys are roughly making the same output, and the Strom, while making far less horsepower, makes plenty of torque.

For some reason, Kawasaki builds heavy touring machines; the Concours 14 is no lightweight either, and the Versys 1000 pictured here is the heaviest machine in the comparo.

Weight

One of the biggest indications these machines aren’t intended for hard off-road use is weight. The lightest bikes here, the BMW and Ducati, are 229 kg and 228 kg respectively (wet weight). The V-Strom weighs 232 kg, and the Versys 1000 is a porky 253 kg. Time to put your machine on a diet, Team Green!

The V-Strom 1000’s engine sees its roots wayyyyy back in the old TL1000 superbike.

Ergonomics

The adventure bike scene pretty much has the formula standardized by now, and that’s why all these machines sport 840 mm seat heights, except the V-Strom, which has a slightly taller 850 mm seat height. That shouldn’t be enough to make a difference for most riders.

The Multistrada 950 rolls on cast wheels, like its competition.

Suspension

All these machines have adjustable inverted front forks. The V-Strom has 43 mm Kayaba forks, fully adjustable; the Versys forks are also 43 mm, with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability. The S1000 XR has 46 mm forks, adjustable for rebound and compression. The Multistrada has KYB forks up front, and they’re fully adjustable.

Most of these machines have more modest rear suspension. The Multistrada has a fully adjustable Sachs monoshock with remote spring preload adjustment, while the V-Strom is only adjustable for spring preload — same for the Versys (remotely adjustable) and S1000 XR.

Props to Kawasaki for including hard luggage with the bike. Too many manufacturers are selling luggage as an add-on, at inflated cost.

ADV Touring bits

As these are fancy-pants adventure bikes, they’ve got all sorts of touring pieces available, including hard luggage — saddlebags and topcase.

Hard saddlebags are standard on the Versys 1000, but optional on all the other bikes. Prices vary, depending on whether or not you include the panniers as part of a full touring package, or whether you buy aftermarket, but you’re going to pay at least $600 no matter what route you take, and likely more than $1,000.

Cruise control is standard on the Versys this year, but not standard on any of these machines, although it should be. It’s optional on the Beemer from the factory, and the Multistrada and V-Strom have various aftermarket solutions available.

All these bikes have a chain drive, so you’ll have keep an eye on driveline maintenance, unlike a big shaft-driven ADV bike. They all roll on cast rims, which is another reason you’re not going to push these bikes offroad. The Kawasaki and the BMW have 17-inchers front and rear, and the Ducati and the Suzuki have 19-inch front wheels and 17-inch rear wheels.

Along with the XT version of the V-Strom 1000, which is a ruggedized variation that’s more capable off-road, there’s a Multistrada 950 S and a Versys 1000 SE, both of which add a variety of fancy-pants suspension and electronic bits. There’s no other version of the S1000 XR, but the standard bike has a wide range of flash accessories available, including quickshifter and electronic rider aids.

Although the V-Strom isn’t as up-to-date as the other machines here, it still has leaning ABS and traction control, which keeps it modern.

Brakes/Electronics

All these bikes have dual front discs in the 310-320 mm range, and a single rear disc, and ABS. That’s the standard for this class now. The Versys 1000, V-Strom 1000 and Multistrada 950 all come with leaning ABS as original equipment for 2019, but it’s part of the optional Dynamic package for the S1000 XR.

All these bikes feature traction control. The Versys has three different engine power delivery profiles, or engine modes; the Ducati has four riding modes, and the BMW has two riding modes. The V-Strom has some measure of engine output control through its three traction control modes.

For extra money, you can add other electro-trickery to the Beemer: BMW’s Dynamic package adds the leaning ABS mentioned above, along with more riding modes.

It’s the most expensive bike here, but the S1000 XR also has the most power and the lowest weight.

Pricing/Summary

If you want a high-power adventure bike, you’ve got to pay to play. At this point in the season, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 is selling for $16,599; the Ducati Multistrada 950 is $15,995; the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 is $13,499; the BMW S1000 XR is $17,700.

Are any of these bikes a bargain? The Suzuki is significantly less money than any other model, but is definitely the most dated platform — it still offers a refined riding experience, though, with leaning ABS and traction control.

The BMW S1000 XR has the most horsepower, the most torque, the least weight, but doesn’t come with leaning ABS as standard, and is the most money by a long shot. But when you’re in this price bracket, are you going to quibble over a thousand bucks?

If you are looking for a good deal, then the Multistrada is probably the bike that offers the most for the least, at its $15,995 price tag.

Really, when you’re spending this much money, it’s hard to make a decision anyway; a test ride will be your best bet, if possible. There is a big difference between some of these models, and while a demo day won’t be a true real-world display of the machine’s capabilities, it would at least give you an idea as to whether you’d settle for the sensible Strom or splurge on the silly-fast Beemer. That’s the kind of important decision that’s best made after time in the saddle.

9 thoughts on “Showroom Showdown: Back road bombers”

  1. I’ve bought and ridden (hard and long) three new ‘Stroms over 180 000 trouble free kilometers. It’s a decent bike, and there’s nothing wrong with decent. However, while I adore the 90° V-Twin’s character and reliability, until the rest of the package gets some much needed refinement, I’ll just keep the ‘Strom I have now. Which brings me to my point: Why buy a new bike? There are incredible deals on slightly used and “demo” bikes, some of which are farkled to the max. My advice: Stay far away from the new bike showrooms, buy a bike with a few thousand kilometers on the clock.

    1. I hesitate to include fuel range because some riders might get 40 mpg while others might get 60 mpg on the same bike. When I ride my DR350 alongside 650s, I get 40 mpg. When I ride with 250s, I get 60 mpg. So–fuel capacity is the only hard number here.

  2. Versys1000 has cruise control even on base model; also Versys LT SE is the + version in Canada…available with cornering ABS

  3. I like the fact the V-Stom makes its maximum torque at only 4000 rpm while the other 3 don’t until 7500 rpm (Kaw), 7750 rpm (Duc) and 9250 rpm (BMW).

  4. “All these bikes feature traction control; the Kawasaki also has three riding modes … The Versys 1000 doesn’t have riding modes.”
    Guys, please!
    So which is it?

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