The R1200GS is the best overall streetbike, the Suzuki the best bang-for-buck. But when you consider the KTM’s advantages in almost every area of performance—plus, its standard MSRP gets you all the electronic rider aids at about the same price as the BMW without such equipment—the outcome here is a slam dunk.
In the March issue of Cycle World, we stated that the KTM 1190 might be the best all-around bike in the world. We still believe that but with a small word change: Replace “might be” with “is.”
Which brings us to the KTM. Once you quit the tarmac and hit the dirt, the 1190 morphs from a take-no-prisoners streetbike to an ass-kicking dirt bike. In agility, stability, balance, steering, suspension, and adjustable power delivery, the KTM was this test’s off-road class act. It was less bothered by rocks, ruts, and other trail obstacles, and even coped with the sand a little better. With the traction control in the Offroad position, the ABS even allows rear-wheel skidding while still applying antilock to the front brake.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Suzuki. With its traction control either turned off or on the least sensitive of its three settings, the V-Strom churned through the aforementioned with no trouble whatsoever. The fork digested everything we bounced over without a hiccup, and the shock only bottomed on some of the whoops. You can’t turn off the ABS, so we had to be mindful of that when braking on slick terrain.
And what terrific motorcycles they are! The 2014 R1200GS, the direct descendant of that ’81 R80 G/S, glides down the road to the soothing thrum of its 1,170cc twin, the first liquid-cooled Boxer motor ever. Bags of torque lurk in reserve, making the bike sneaky fast and always ready to push the 525-pound GS forward at an impressive rate at any rpm and in any gear.
So, too, was the BMW impressive off-road, considering its greater weight, shaft drive, and two big cylinders poking out like fat outriggers. Its smooth, linear torque was easy to modulate in riding mode’s Enduro setting, and the low center of gravity provided by the opposed-twin layout helped disguise the GS’s mass. We were a little disappointed with the previous R1200GS’s suspension, but the new bike’s Telelever fork and Paralever rear combination—together with a new stering damper for 2014—is vastly improved.