KTM 1920 S.A. is an awesome bike. I test rode one back to back with a water-cooled 2013 R1200GS. It was easy to mistake one for the other unless you were getting into the throttle. I have heard from a few KTM 1290SA riders that the chain guide becomes quite noisy an d requires oiling every 500 miles or so. This was my FB post:
The Motorcycle Channel. Shopping for a new bike – BMW vs. KTM.
I loved my air/oil cooled, 100 horsepower 2006 BMW R1200 GS. It was not perfect but it was very, very good. Well designed and well made. The service from BMW of Southeast Michigan is outstanding. Brand loyalty predisposes me to getting a newer or new, now water-cooled, BMW R1200 GS. BMW invented and dominates the Adventure Touring motorcycle market segment. The KTM 1290 Super Adventure is probably BMW’s strongest competitor for top Adventure Touring motorcycle. The KTM 1290 Super Adventure was voted by Cycle World as the best adventure bike of 2015.
I borrowed a water cooled, 125 horsepower 2013 BMW R1200 GS and rode it to the KTM dealer for an extended test ride on a 160 horsepower 2016 KTM 1290 Super Adventure.
In back to back laps of the same test course, I put 120 miles on the GS and about 100 miles on the KTM. The test rides were both on the same route over some of my favorite motorcycle roads in Northwest Ohio. Route 65 along the south side of the Maumee River from Waterville to Grand Rapids. Then over to old 24 and 224 along the north side of the river through Napoleon to Independence. Then Adams Ridge Road through Ridgeville Corners back to Route 108. I did not ride either bike off road.
2016 or newer GS’s and KTM’s are alike in many ways. They are both at the top of the Adventure Touring segment of the motorcycle market. They are similar in size and capacity. They both have state of the art technology including lean-angle-sensitive ABS brakes, traction control, stability control, programmable suspension settings, tire pressure monitoring, cruise control, fuel injection, etc. They are both German. The bikes that I tested were both white. They are both expensive.
The bikes differ in a few major attributes. BMW has been manufacturing horizontally opposed, twin cylinder “Boxer” engine layout and shaft drive motorcycles for more than 90 years. The BMW has a “Telelever” feature to the front suspension that is an additional pivot point that takes much of the load off of the forks and braces directly to the frame. The KTM is a V-twin engine and chain drive. The KTM has more horsepower – rated at 160hp compared to the BMW at 125hp. On the dyno the BMW made 115.6 horsepower at 7,900 rpm at the rear wheel, and 82.4 lb-ft of torque at 6,700 rpm. The KTM makes 136 rear-wheel horsepower at 9,300 rpm and 86.1 lb-ft of torque at 6,900 rpm.
The KTM has Bosch’s full suite Motorcycle Stability Control. Bosch MSC combines an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and GPS. The IMU monitors the bike’s orientation and accelerations in the three dimensions. GPS tells the system which way is up. The IMU constantly measures the machine’s lean angle and its angle of pitch (nose down or nose up). With this data, angle algorithms tell the system how much extra grip each of the tires has at a given angle of lean or pitch, for turning, braking, or accelerating. The BMW uses a Continental-Teves integrated system.
The KTM also has Motorcycle Slip Regulation – MSR. If the rider releases the throttle or the clutch too quickly an unstable situation may arise from engine braking torque. MSR intervenes and raises the revs automatically to prevent rear wheel slip. From what I can determine a 2016 GS does not have slip control. In other applications this effect is achieved through what is called a “slipper clutch.”
The BMW runs like a Rolex watch. Very precise and unstrained even at maximum performance. It feels like something that an old school machinist would ride. You can sense the low center of gravity afforded by the Boxer engine layout. The bike is more than adequately powered for any type of riding. There are many BMW shaft drive Boxers with several hundred thousand miles on them that are still on the road. A few with a million miles on them. BMW comes with a 36 month – 36,000 mile warranty.
The KTM rides like a sport touring bike. Zoom zoom ! The 1290 Supper Adventure was intentionally made to be one of the most powerful bikes in its class. It is lighter than the BMW and is easier to throw around in tight corners. The KTM is downright fast. KTM comes with a 24 month – 24,000 mile warranty.
BMW has available NAV with a thumbwheel control that seems to be quite good. The BMW hard luggage cases and available soft bag liners are excellent.
The KTM has a better dashboard display where the analog tachometer is the center of attention. The KTM comes with LED cornering lamps built into the gas tank fairing and the lamps move so as to aim in the direction of a corner. L.E.D. driving lamps on the BMW that I rode were a $1,000 + add-on.
A comparably equipped 2017 BMW R1200 GS costs about $2,500 more than a new 2017 KTM. There are still some new 2016 KTM’s available and they would compare in price to the slightly used, low miles 2016 GS’s that I have been looking at.
Once I got settled in at a normal touring pace the bikes seemed pretty much interchangeable. On the KTM you could easily think that you were cruising on a GS; and vice versa. One noticeable difference would be that when accelerating to pass on the KTM you have to be careful not to hit the car in front of you.
I love them both. The decision is going to be tough.
While I have not seriously considered any of them, there are several other Adventure Touring motorcycles. The Ducati Multistrada “Enduro.” The Honda Africa Twin. Yamaha Super Tenere. Triumph Tiger. MotoGuzzi Stelvio NXT. My motorcycle friends all espouse the same idea: it does not matter what you ride as long as you ride.
Is this a great county – or what ?