BMW R1200GS Adventure vs. KTM 1190 Adventure R - Long-Term Test Update

Like Johnny Cash, they've been everywhere man.

BMW R1200GS Adventure and KTM 1190 Adventure R group shot

I can't get those Johnny Cash lyrics out of my head when I think about all the amazing places these two bikes have already been. Our version would go, "California Sierra, Moab, Tijuana, Ensenada, Gunnison, Crested Butte, St. George, and Santa Ynez. We've been everywhere, man."

After returning from Baja (DREAM ADV TOUR: Adventure Surf and Turf Trip in Mexico), we did some basic maintenance to get the pair ready to ride to Gunnison, Colorado, for our company's Adventure Rally. The Conti TKC 80s on both bikes were in okay condition after Mexico, so we decided to push our luck and see if they could survive the week of riding. Our BMW was delivered with a plethora of accessories, leaving only a couple of wants from the aftermarket. The KTM, on the other hand, needed a few key things, but only a few showed up prior to our departure. Among the arrivals was a Garmin 590LM GPS ($799.99) unit, which we bar mounted because the trick mount ($229.99) from KTM arrived the day before we left. Next up, we'll mount an AltRider skid plate ($394.97), Fasst Co. Flexx bars and hand guards ($359.99/$135), and AltRider Hemisphere ($569.97) soft saddlebags.

BMW R1200GS Adventure studio side view
BMW R1200GS Adventure
NEXT SERVICE|18,000 miles
PRICE AS TESTED (2014)|$21,671

If you haven't taken a gulp of the ADV elixir yet and bought into the whole idea of riding a gargantuan quasi-dirt-bike-sport-tourer off highway, let me assure you these bikes are no poseurs. In the right hands, they can go almost anywhere. Accompanying me to Colorado was Cycle World tester and off-road ace Ryan Dudek. After an early-morning departure, we beelined directly to Moab, Utah, for an overnight stay. At the crack of dawn, we headed out to ride the famous Slickrock trail, a loop normally tackled on a mountain bike or light enduro. It was challenging for Dudek and at times downright harrowing for me, but we survived without dropping either bike off a cliff. Whew!

We then spent the next two days riding a huge variety of terrain, chasing points in the poker-run-style rally around Gunnison. Asphalt, gravel roads, rocky Jeep roads, mud, and roots greeted us each day, but on the second day, while riding up a rocky ATV trail, I crashed the GS. It was one of those crashes that when you get to your feet you can’t believe you survived. But I was worried about the BMW. It was hemorrhaging oil out of the left cylinder-head cover that had a hole punched in it by the accessory crashbar that had flexed into it. GSs are not designed to be launched 5 feet in the air off an embankment. After patching the cylinder cover with QuikSteel, we nursed the bike through the rest of the day and the two others it took to get back home. Our trip back required multiple stops to modify our QuikSteel patch (and top off the oil), but we were pleased it kept the oil leakage to a trickle. Overall, I’m very impressed by how well the GS survived the crash; it’s a burly machine.

KTM 1190 Adventure R studio side view
KTM 1190 Adventure R
NEXT SERVICE|9300 miles
PRICE AS TESTED (2014)|$18,134

As for the KTM, it didn’t miss a beat on the same Colorado trails that challenged the GS; the KTM is clearly the bike of choice if a lot of off-highway riding is on the menu. The BMW, on the other hand, can go anywhere the KTM goes, but it’s much more of a challenge. Where the GS shines is on the highway, treating its rider to cruise control, a more comfortable seat, and better air management.

Impressively, the Contis survived the Baja and Colorado trips, the tires putting up with around 3,000 miles of abuse. When we were on road then off again repeatedly, we settled on 27 psi for the TKC 80s but set them higher for our long highway stints (38 psi). Upon our return, we took the BMW into Irv Seaver BMW in Orange, California, for repairs and service. New TKC 80s ($306.90) were mounted ($120.68), and a Level 1 Service ($222.82) was performed. Damage from the crash tallied $1,245.41 for parts and $470 for labor.

Next up: another ADV Rally in California’s Sierras, where we’ll try out all those bolt-on goodies we mentioned. We’ll also get a fresh set of tires on the KTM.

Epic scenery.
Moab, Utah.
Moab, Utah's Slickrock trail.
BMW crash site.
Water action.
Gunnison National Forest.
On the road repair work.
QuikSteel patch work.
BMW R1200GS Adventure studio right-side view.
KTM 1190 Adventure R studio right-side view.