BMW R1200GS Vs. Buell XB12X Ulysses Vs. KTM 990 Adventure - The End Of The Line - Adventures In Reality

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Brian J. Nelson

Adventures are like adventurers, or snowflakes or rain ruts or subdural hematomas. They're all different. What's the best adventure bike? What's your idea of adventure? How far? How fast? How dirty do you want to get between that first cup of coffee and the last beer? Be honest. Is groomed gravel as far as you want to get from the pavement? Or are you downloading GPS coordinates for every logging track and goat trail between Cabo San Lucas and Chicken, Alaska?

Effectively a sit-up sport-tourer with attitude, the Buell is happiest on something that's been classified as a road sometime after the Louisiana Purchase. If what you want is a comfy sport-tourer that can carve up a good road and isn't afraid of bad ones or packing a passenger and gear, this is it, especially if your inseam measures less than 34 inches.

Fast enough to humiliate a sportbike in the twisty bits or threaten bona fide dirtbikes once you lever on proper knobbies, the KTM covers more terrain in less time than the others can dream of. It's just less comfortable than the GS for long-hauling you and your kit to the middle of nowhere and back, a little rough around the edges and not as rock-solid reliable. Did we mention it's fast?

But if your idea of adventure is waking up in a place the neighbors can't even spell, miles from the nearest motor homes and matching metal-flake bass boats, there is only the GS. With a towering seat height and a price tag to match, it's not for everyone. But when at least half the fun is following roads most people can't just to see what's at the other end, BMW still builds the best way to get there.

2007 Buell XB12X Ulysses

PRICE
MSRP $11,495 as tested
ENGINE
Type a-c 45-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement ohv, 4v
Bore x stroke 88.9mm x 96.8mm
Displacement 1203cc
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Transmission 5-speed
Final drive 14mm Hibrex belt
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 510 lb. (231kg)
Weight (dry) 487 lb. (221kg)
Rake 22.0 deg.
Trail 4.8 in. (122mm)
Wheelbase 54.1 in. (1374mm)
Seat height 31.8 in. (808mm)
Fuel capacity 4.4 gal. (17L)
SUSPENSION
Front 43mm inverted fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear single shock, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping.
PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 84.2 @ 7000 rpm
Torque 67.5 lb.-ft. @ 6220 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 12.31 sec. @ 110.27 mph
Fuel mileage
(low/high/average)
31/50/43
*Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level standard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

2007 KTM 990 Adventure

PRICE
MSRP $13,998 as tested
ENGINE
Type l-c 75-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement DohC, 8v
Bore x stroke 101.0mm x 62.4mm
Displacement 999cc
Compression ratio 11.5:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive #525 chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 517 lb. (235kg)
Weight (dry) 482 lb. (219kg)
Rake 26.6 deg.
Trail 4.69 in. (119mm)
Wheelbase 61.8 in. (1570mm)
Seat height 33.9 in. (860mm)
Fuel capacity 5.8 gal. (22L)
SUSPENSION
Front 48mm inverted cartridge
fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear single shock, adjustable
for spring preload, compression and rebound damping.
PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 92.7 @ 8770 rpm
Torque 73.9 lb.-ft. @ 4780 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 11.73 sec. @ 111.63 mph
Fuel mileage
(low/high/average)
36/40/38
*Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level standard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

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