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Are Adventure Tourers the new Muscle Bikes?

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by grungenut, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. I've been riding around on the old GSX1400 for more than 8 years now including a couple of tours to Philip Island as well as other adventures so I thought it might be time to replace the old torque meister. To my surprise though there wasn't much in the way of comparable bikes to choose from. Sure, Yamaha still make the XJR1300 but this really would be a step backwards compared to the GSX. So what's going on here. I couldn't believe that there wasn't a market for comfortable big bore torquey bikes with hilarious handling characteristics so I looked around at other types of bikes and noticed something quite interesting.

    Adventure Tourers have always been known for their comfortable touring ability with high handle bars, plush seats and soft suspension. These latest offerings though now come with serious performance from big 1200cc engines. Looking at the spec sheets I can only deduce that this new breed of Adventure Tourer is just an old school muscle bike in disguise. Could these overweight dirt bikes really make the muscle bike obsolete? ....and should I trade my Suzuki GSX1400 in for one? To find out I went for a ride.

    Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200

    The Explorer has the most torque of the big adventure tourers and isn't far off the GSX, but with an extra 30hp I figured the Explorer was in contention as a worthy replacement for the aging Suzuki. That was until I road it.
    I have always thought that the GSX1400 was a large motorcycle. Compared to the Explorer though, it's just a toy. From the riders seat I felt that the Explorer was more of a large open road tourer than something that was designed to tackle the unbeaten path. On the road though it was quite comfortable just wafting along. The Explorer cockpit is a very pleasant place to be cruising at highway speeds. The main comfort gain over the Suzuki is attributed to the increased distance between the seat and footpegs. The same can be said for all the Adventure Tourers though.
    Twisting the throttle on the Explorer didn't quite yield the result I was hoping for from that 1215cc triple cylinder engine. I certainly didn't get that rush of thrust that the Suzuki gives. Perhaps it's the extra weight and that power sapping shaft drive that robs the big triple of its potential. Don't get me wrong though, the Explorer does gain speed at an alarming rate for an object of such mass, it just doesn't fill the rider with much excitement as it does it. Bringing the bike to a stop from those speeds was a little disconcerting. The brakes felt a bit vague and I was all too aware of the bikes weight as I clamped down on the brake lever. The brakes always did their job OK, just not confidence inspiring.
    I wasn't all that comfortable throwing the Explorer into tight corners either. The steering was slow and I had no feedback from the front tyre so I just kept to a conservative pace through the tight stuff.

    BMW R1200GS

    The GS didn't feel like such a large motorcycle from the cockpit compared to the Explorer. It felt much lighter and agile at all speeds. In dynamic mode the throttle response was immediate, a bit like the Suzuki, however the BMW would run out of puff much sooner. The gear ratios on the GS were close to each other and geared quite low. I was always searching for another top gear. Gear changes were quite clunky too.
    At highway speeds the GS was comfortable and stable and it tracked nicely through sweeping corners. I could imagine clocking up many kilometres with ease on this bike. It did feel a little top heavy when things got tight though. My only real issue with the GS is that it's just so bloody boring to ride.

    KTM 1190 Adventure

    OK I'll say it from the outset. Of the three bikes I rode this is the only one that feels like a proper Adventure Tourer. It's a dirt bike on steroids. What was surprising to me though is that it was quite happy to be thrashed on the pavement. I could throw it into corners quite confidently and was only limited by it's ground clearance. Acceleration was good and handling was predictable. It didn't take long before I was thrashing it around like it was a 600cc sport bike. This truly is an all-rounder capable of just about anything and the only one I would consider if I was looking to buy an Adventure Tourer.

    However I am not looking to buy an Adventure Tourer. Even though the 1190 was far more interesting to ride than the other two Adventure Tourers it still lacked character. It might have 30% more horsepower than the Suzuki, but I just didn't feel it. I guess that was the common problem with all of the Adventure Tourers. They just felt numb. Perhaps it's the higher seating position or the electronic controls, but I just didn't feel connected to the bike or the road.

    Muscle bikes like the Suzuki GSX1400 are all about sensation. When you twist the throttle you feel your internal organs compress against your spine. When you throw the bike into a corner you can feel the steel frame flexing and the soft suspension protesting. You can take in all of this information and use it to control the bike like trail brake into the corner to settle the bike, then wait for the suspension to compress as you approach the apex, then twist the throttle to ride that awesome torque wave through the corner and up the next straight. Sure there might be faster ways through a corner, but I am yet to find a more exciting way.

    Now to answer the question posed earlier; Adventure Tourers are NOT the new muscle bikes. I believe Adventure bikes are a good way to get to interesting places, however I am less interested in places and more interested in riding. So it looks like I'll be holding onto the old Suzuki for a few more years.
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  2. Nah forget those, they are girls bikes. ;)
    If you want a real torque monster you want the KTM 1290 Super Duke R
  3. Hi just purchased my gsx 1400 2 weeks ago and I also like the idea of an adventure tourer.

    When looking at the specs and seen these adventure bikes with as much or more power & torque I was thinking similar thoughts, are these replacing muscle bikes and being adventure bikes as well. However looking at them I couldn't believe they would make better on road tourers.

    Your experience seems to have answered my questions!

  4. Very good observations and comparisons, have you thought about B-king its ugly IMHO but torquey, raw,exhilarating, and maybe k1300R.
    Although you are probably right, stick with the ol'girl.
    After 1400cc where do you go?
  5. OP made the right choice. Adv bike are for riders that want their bikes to be as car like as possible. 90% of them never fully use the offroad ability. No better than soccer mums in toorak tractors.

    ie I hate this craze with a passion.