Photographer, Videographer, Writer, Motorcycle Racer, Dakar Rally Finisher and BRAKE Magazine's big dog, Llewelyn really likes to do things involving motorcycles. He also likes bicycles, coffee, pop punk and making horrendous puns.
Four Bikes, Five Days Riding and One Outcome. 2019 was an incredible year for new bikes and progression in Adventure Motorcycles. The market as whole has listened to the consumers and produced some very interesting bikes.
The debate however continues to rage. KTM 790 vs Tenere 700, Honda fans dribbling over a new Africa Twin and tens of thousands still buying GS’s. So what better way to answer the question than by taking the four best versions, of the four most popular bikes and testing them back to back for four different awards.
When we set about planning this test, the main questions that needed asking were; How do we answer everyone’s questions about these bikes and how do we fairly decide a winner?
We needed a fair test crew, a fair environment and a broad range of riding. Starting with the test crew, we have myself as a washed up racer turned adventure riding, magazine bike tester. Next on the list was Si Pavey, eight time Dakar finisher and sporadic bike tester. Third was Sam Davidson, KTM and Yamaha super fan, long time adventure traveler and a fan of every bike being lighter and smaller than the last. Our final test rider is Carl …., washed up MX racer, occasional adventure touring rider and GS Adventure Owner.
For our environment, we chose Southern Portugal. Winter in the UK sucks. It’s tough to get two days back to back where it’s not raining and heading south gave us all the off-road and road we could dream of in a concentrated location. Great for testing and even better for filming.
Scoring a test like this has the potential to be a mine field. These bikes aren’t like for like. It’s not a 1000cc sports bike test. Every machine has a different end goal, appeals to different users and a completely different price. So we devised four categorey’s to help the different strengths and weaknesses of each bike be shown fairly. They are Best Off-Road, Best On-Road, Best Touring, Best Value and Best Overall.
We then road a day with each category the sole purpose of that day’s testing, before ranking the bikes 1-4 at the end. Bikes could draw if they are equal. Each tester’s scores were added together and that produced each bike’s scores within the category. The Best Overall Category was the sum of the other three categories. The scoring system was as follows;
Final Scores – Adventure Bike Of The Year
Touring/Long Distance Riding
R 1250 GS Rally +Sport Suspension
Honda Africa Twin CRF 1100L Standard
KTM 790 Adventure R
Yamaha Ténéré XTZ700
The outcome of the test was very interesting and will undoubtedly set Youtube commenters down the path of telling everyone how a big BMW can’t go off-road or how the KTM is ugly and will fall apart. Five solid days on bikes taught us a lot about them however. Firstly, the Honda isn’t a bad bike, it’s just mildly outclassed. if you bought however, I doubt you’d be upset with it. It felt like a re-valve of the suspension would transform it across the board too, for the areas that is was weak.
Secondly, as boring as it is, the GS is a phenomenal all-round bike. The size is without doubt intimidating when you first take it off-road but that diminished very quickly once your brain gets past it and it shines because it’s so easy to ride. I understand why it’s gets a lot of abuse. BMW are the man, they’re mainstream in 2020 but they’ve gotten there by producing a bike people adore and currently they deserve that title.
Lastly we learnt that both Yamaha and KTM have stepped into the market with two genuinely fantastic motorbikes that are worth buying. At present, they’re better bikes than everything that came before in the mid-range category. The real key to that is the lack of corners that have been cut. They’re both very well rounded machines that provide a very a finished riding experience. They don’t have glaringly obvious flaws, such as bad handling traits and that’s awesome.
And that brings us to the end of the test. Let us know what you think in the comments and thanks for watching!
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