MC Comparo: Aprilia Caponord 1200 vs. BMW R1200GS vs. Ducati Multistrada vs. KTM 1190 Adventure vs. Suzuki V-Strom 1000

Imagine someone told you that you were going on a motorcycle ride tomorrow. You aren’t told how long it will be for—could be a day, could be a year—or where you’re riding. Could be across the Southwestern desert, pounding the slithery streets of Seattle stalking hipsters, or along the coast roads of Belize in search of the perfect serre la sus. Right now: Pick a motorcycle. Quickly. Anything you want—just understand that you can’t change your mind once the duration or route have been given to you. Ready?

If your imagination is anything like ours, you probably ran through your mental flashcards before landing on the generic image of an adventure-tourer or ADV. Why? Because this class contains the best do-it-all wonders, able to cruise, tour, or hit dirt roads (in moderation), as well as commute and play on the weekends.

This particular group consists of five big ADVs with an orientation that favors blacktop over boulder gardens. (In August, we anointed the KTM 1190 Adventure R as the best dirt-biased ADV machine, with the costlier BMW R1200GS Adventure in hot pursuit.) These are upright touring machines, really. And as such we ordered factory luggage for those that didn’t already come with bags—the Aprilia and Ducati enjoy standard hard luggage.


For our comparison, we loaded up each machine and headed for the hills—the Sierra Nevada, to be precise. Over the course of three days, we added 1,150 miles to each odometer. If those don’t sound like long days, consider the middle one was given over to photography; our high-mileage day rolled 566 miles of broken asphalt, choppy concrete highway, and velvety tarmac under our wheels. We pounded along California’s Highway 99, reveled at the amazing length of road that is CA 190, ran two stunning but equally different Sierra passes—Ebbetts (Highway 4) and Sonora (Highway 108)—and scratched a few pegs on Highway 49 north of Mariposa, California’s version of the Tail of the Dragon. By design, our route took us over small secondary roads, often with dodgy pavement, all in an effort to prove that plush, long-travel suspension, sit-up-and-see riding positions, and torque-rich engines made for real-world endeavors are what make ADVs so fun and flexible.

By the end, we had a very clear sense of each bike’s personality—some stronger than others but all unique—as well as a pecking order that created no more than the usual amount of fit-throwing and blame-storming. Here’s how they shake out


4th Place


Here’s an example of the new, post-economic-crisis Suzuki punching above its weight. Only after adding Suzuki’s own hard saddlebags does the V-Strom get within $1,175 of the next-cheapest Caponord. (For that matter, taking the V-Strom 1000 ABS Adventure package gets you those saddlebags plus a taller windscreen, hand guards, tubular light bars, centerstand, and an underbelly pan for just $13,999. Suzuki didn’t have one to test, otherwise that would have been our model of choice.) And while the Suzuki might be down on displacement and shy a few features, it’s not totally out of its league here.
We admire the ’Strom’s quiet composure. Said Mr. Smith: “Smooth, polished, and competent, like a typical Japanese bike, and easy to live with.” We have praised the Zook’s uncommonly composed and compliant suspension and powerful, quick-acting brakes before; they let you know that Suzuki did not scrimp on these dynamic essentials. The previous big ’Strom—admittedly a child of the late 1990s—did not excel here, so we didn’t expect a lot from the new machine. We are pleasantly surprised.

For the new bike, Suzuki thoroughly reworked its long-running 90-degree V-twin, aiming for more torque, better fuel efficiency, and smoother running. It’s the smallest and least powerful in this test, but that’s not the end of the world. “I honestly have trouble believing it only makes 87 horsepower,” young Zack said. “It feels much stronger than that. It doesn’t have that raw power to wheelie over a rise in third gear like the Multi or 1190, but the power is smooth. Because it packs all the power in the midrange—indeed, the torque peak comes at just 3,700 rpm—the engine is willing and ready all the time.”

In many ways, Suzuki has pegged the take-it-easy approach to adventure-touring. Low engine vibration, supple suspension, very good ergonomics (as long as you don’t hurt yourself staring at the obviously cheap handlebar too long), and solid weather protection make the ’Strom an easy mile eater. There are big ’Stroms out there in the world with tons of miles, and you can see how they got there.

On some of the tighter, nastier roads we traveled, the V-Strom began to fall behind, mainly on power but also because the suspension calibration is just soft enough to make cornering clearance an issue and because its response to steering inputs is a bit lazier than the top bikes’. Still, we admire the V-Strom for sticking with this group at all, considering the displacement it gives away and the fact that it’s meant to inhabit an ADV subclass just below the other four.



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