Comparison test BMW R 1200 RT, Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Tenere and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT


Comparison test BMW R 1200 RT, Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Tenere and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

BMW R 1200 RT, Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Tenere and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

A concept comparison of the 1200 two-cylinder tourer

On the way through the Bohemian Imperial Forest. With three touring concepts: Do luxury, sport and enduro tourers go well together? After all, they all have two cylinders, a displacement of around 1.2 liters and electronically adjustable chassis. BMW R 1200 RT, Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Tenere and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT in a concept comparison.

Kurt Tucholsky knew: “The greatest sight there is is the world itself – take a look at it.” We like to do it, that’s why touring motorcycles were invented. Your basic blueprint is not rocket science: a confident engine, large tank, comfortably upholstered seating, good wind protection, high payload, easy-to-swallow spring elements and space for belongings in suitcases and on luggage racks. But opulently equipped luxury tourers, fiery sports tourers and versatile travel enduro models approach this basic theme in very different ways. Spoiled for choice? No, all options.

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Comparison test BMW R 1200 RT, Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Tenere and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

BMW R 1200 RT, Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Tenere and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
A concept comparison of the 1200 two-cylinder tourer

1290 Super Duke GT not until 2016. It is based on the brilliant naked bike “R” and its splendid 1.3-liter V2. Well, and then the Yamaha XT 1200 Super Tenere with a row twin has been around since 2010.

The ZE version (since 2014) has heated grips like BMW and KTM and a main stand like the RT. There are also chic blue anodized aluminum rims for the spoke wheels. But above all an electronically adjustable chassis: 84 setup variants promise comfort and suitability for travel. With the Yamaha this is pure pre-adjustment: the preload of the rear shock absorber can be varied from solo to pillion passenger with luggage, while the damping can be adjusted in three stages while driving. In contrast, the spring elements of BMW and KTM work semi-actively.

Here, the on-board computer adjusts the damping on the basis of information from the lift and acceleration sensors “in real time” to the driving status, load and road conditions. Only one question remains: what to do with the great trio? To the Czech Republic! We are attracted by the triangle between Eger, Karlsbad and Marienbad. Peter on the KTM and Gabriel on the Yamaha were often there in the 1990s, on the Most racetrack. So go east! As far as curiosity takes us. 400 kilometers in a row are child’s play. Can tourers be under-challenged? Certainly.

The gray-orange Austria-Express doesn‘t like to wiggle, runs straight ahead like clockwork when the left lane 260 is free. From the top, the 75-degree V2 roars like a whole paddock, but you can’t hear that anymore with the wind noise. Peter has to duck down quite a bit, because the window doesn’t shield that much, even when turned up. “The GT is like a greyhound, it wants to run,” says Peter with a smile during the first refueling stop. Well, when you switch from the BMW to the KTM, you can’t believe where the wind is coming: your knees, neck and shoulders are exposed.

Yes, you sit more bent forward on the KTM. And therefore enjoys by far the best feedback from the front wheel. Of course, there is more weight on the wrists here. But that only bothers at crawl speed. Where on earth do all those drowsy left-wing drivers and traffic jams come from – in the middle of the day? Sporty you merge with the Super Duke GT. “I didn’t want any more tourers,” says Peter, who usually drives the GSX-R. For this test, the KTM had to move out without the proven optional suitcase. Peter simply straps a packing roll onto the back, done.

Length runs. This motto is true for the Yamaha. Here, the longest wheelbase meets the flattest steering head angle and the greatest caster. This stabilizes the long-legged stilt tourer. For its focus, loaded aluminum cases are far back and high at the rear of the worst case. Gabriel thinks that he felt minimal stirring on the XT 1200 ZE. No problem: simply set the damping from soft to standard to hard (each of the three levels has seven sub-levels). And the spring is relaxed at the back. Then the XL-XT runs flawlessly even with cases. Next, from Franconia to Bohemia.

On BMW and Yamaha you travel with a perfect overview. Welcome to sightseeing, upright and sublime. The Yamaha handlebar rests particularly wide and high on high risers. You can already say that your seating comfort is extremely good and suitable for long journeys. The ZE does not seem as bloodless and constricted as the first Super Tenere (XT 1200 Z). Still, it doesn’t feel like 1200 cubic meters. When it comes to acceleration and torque in sixth gear, the Yamaha is always left behind, and at top speed too. So shift down more often. 270 degree crank pin offset mimicking a 90 degree V2. But a Ducati Multistrada 950 makes more band with the same power.

The on-board optional entertainment program plays on the music steamer RT. On the left and right in the wide cladding are the speakers for the stereo system. The BMW navigation system, which is subject to a surcharge, shows the way perfectly integrated. Only minutes to the exit. The extensive on-board computer projects tons of information onto the high-contrast, tablet-like TFT color display. Peter is now driving RT and is happy to be able to “fine-tune the huge electrically operated disc” to the millimeter. He can drive over 200 with the visor open. If the Yamaha shields pretty well, then this is wind protection from another galaxy.

You sit very much in the BMW, on large and soft seats. Peter has moved the lowest seat of the trio to the higher position, goes in no time. The good-natured travel giant shines with proper running culture. The KTM-V2 vibrates most, barely within tolerable limits, and the Yamaha-Twin vibrates least – the tourer here with the highest saddle. Good for tall guys, short people have to fluff. With the 2017 RT, the gearbox is a fulfillment. Alleluia! Has that ever happened to a BMW? The travel tourer R 1200 RT was the world’s first series-produced motorcycle with a blipper: its “Shift Assistant Pro” enables upshifts and downshifts without the clutch. Worked great from the start.

But now it shifts itself much more smoothly conventionally with manual clutch actuation. Compliments to the new shock absorber on the transmission output shaft, the revised shift drum actuation and new transmission shafts. The slight tendency to stagger when driving off with cold tires is soon forgotten. Or do sensitive people feel the steering damper here? The slight tilt disappears when warm. We are now at the open border. Vignette obligation? For cars only, we are told at the gas station. Dĕkuji, thank you. Czech is a sensual language. At least when women speak to them.

The Czech motorway has potty-level surfaces. Digital boards show the temperatures of the air and asphalt, and there is fast internet for cell phones practically everywhere. Not everything is always better in Germany. Karlovy Vary welcomes us in style. Proud spa houses stand next to venerable sanatoriums. Everything exudes sophisticated charm. Steam rises from hot springs in the middle of town. We slip into the hotel “Embassy” from 1836, with great rooms, an original ambience and a great breakfast buffet ( Scenes for the James Bond film “Casino Royale” were filmed here in 2006. At night this is not really a party mile, despite the many Russian and Chinese tourists.

The motorcycles are parked overnight in the freely accessible parking lot in front of the hotel. No problem. All still there. The KTM turns at its highest after a cold start. Nevertheless, the V2 staccato remains well muted. The Yamaha twin sounds a bit rickety mechanically, the sound from the cheaply painted sheet steel silencer is rather bland. Discreet, but sonorous, the BMW boxer bubbles out of the somewhat clumsy, chrome-plated exhaust. The KTM clutch is digitally disconnected: “on / off” on the last millimeter of lever travel. A good dosing range is different. Especially since the KTM requires the greatest manual force of the three hydraulically operated clutches. BMW’s hand lever can be easily pulled.

The world-famous spa town of Karlovy Vary casts a spell over us. Nevertheless, the rule is: get out of the city, into pleasure. It is always astonishing how nimble the fat BMW truck rolls. The wheelbase is almost as short as that of the compact KTM. At least 285 kilograms, including standard cases, swing here through the combination of curves. When fully loaded, it is a half-ton, a gross vehicle weight of 495 kilograms. “The RT rolls great, drives great,” says Thomas happily. Longitudinal crankshafts make them easy to use.

Only in deep inclines does the BMW sometimes fold a little further than planned on its own. Then easy corrections are required. The Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT already have a reinforced casing. Great: the punch with which the real 128 hp boxer pushes and pushes. Elastic and really strong. It’s hard to believe that this is the trio’s weakest displacement. Good power output meets a suitable flywheel. The “Dyna” driving mode is perfect for the grippy asphalt.

There are only two driving modes on board as standard, “Rain” and “Road” with adapted throttle assumptions and intervention thresholds for traction control. You can see the flashing in the cockpit without any noticeable loss of power. The semi-integral brake grabs doughy and mushy – the hand lever activates all three discs, the pedal only the rear stopper. Ingenious concept, but for the first few millimeters on the lever, very little happens, only then do the three stoppers suddenly come in full.

In the curves of the Kaiserwald, KTM’s curve artist is in his territory. The GT drives boldly precisely, draws precise radii. It holds the targeted line well. The 1300 rolls wonderfully round to the edge of the tire on a great Pirelli Angel GT. This is a sensual driving experience for active, sporty drivers. The Super Duke GT, which weighs 232 kilograms, offers you the greatest driving pleasure. With a more inclined position, the cornering light LEDs on the left and right in the tank panel are activated.

When the V2 starts, you shout for joy. The Austrian thoroughbred lifts 169 hp and 137 Newton meters! The downside: In the upper corridors, the mallet jolts and rattles under 3000 tours. The minimum speed in the sixth is therefore 80. Nevertheless, the torque values ​​are great. The thickest pistons (108 millimeters in diameter) with the shortest stroke (71 mm) work in the cylinders. With such long flame paths, double ignition is mandatory. The power output in rain mode is noticeably gentler. The street mode, which usually fits perfectly, offers more pep. The traction control regulates earlier in the rain setting, sensitively but clearly. It’s good when it matters.

In sport mode, the rear tire is allowed more slip, it sometimes pulls lines when exiting a curve. The standard gearshift only works high here. “MSR” is part of KTM’s technological fireworks: The adjustable engine slip control automatically increases the speed when the accelerator is suddenly released: Then the ride-by-wire lifts the huge 56 throttle valve. The KTM discreetly hides the current consumption. The range display also reacts rather sluggishly, not as situationally as RT and XT. Just not to distract from the driving? Well, the GT cockpit usually reports a lot in many submenus.

Yamaha has specifically throttled the lower gears – heavy punch from turns looks different. So it’s more like turning. But the pseudo-V2 does not look really pleasurable. We know from the endurance test at MOTORRAD that this engine is built to last. Still, there are more sensual drives in this class. For example in the cross-over bike Yamaha MT-09 Tracer with street-oriented 17-inch chassis. In contrast, the long-throw Super Tenere is a real cold blood. No, their qualities are not revealed in the first few meters. It’s just very comfortable.

The worse the road, the better the XL-XT stands out. Only she conveys the typical enduro feeling of absolute sovereignty in this trio. You could if you wanted to. And offroad should. Hug the broad handlebars and the world too. 190 millimeters of travel at the front and rear can take a lot and offers plenty of reserves. And the large 19-inch front wheel rolls over potholes more calmly than the 17-inch models of the other two. The narrowest tires (110 and 150 millimeters wide) promote easy handling. First. Because when you turn wildly in fast, rapidly changing bends, the Yamaha stiffens typical of the enduro. The large gyroscopic forces of the larger front wheel and the fairly high center of gravity act here.

A fully pre-tensioned shock absorber makes it easier to handle: it brings more lean angle and load on the front wheel. Caster and wheelbase decrease minimally. It’s always an impressive feeling when the rear of an electronic chassis rises under you. Goethe already knew: “The greatest thing a person can achieve is astonishment.” We reach Loket, in English elbow. The town of 3000 inhabitants is definitely worth a detour: the old town and the castle towering over everything are located in the middle of a high granite ridge. The river loop of the Eger surrounds it on three sides.

Goethe wrote about the picturesque town of Loket: “It is beautiful beyond description and can be viewed from all sides as a work of art.” In 2006, parts of “Casino Royale” were also filmed on the colorful, authentic market square. Unfortunately, it is not only here that the XT with suitcases is extremely difficult to jack up. Removing and attaching the luggage boxes is a science in itself. BMW can do that better. And even gives the RT an optional central locking system. The hotel “Kaiser Ferdinand” with its own brewery Svaty Florian ( is highly recommended. Very tasty, the beers for immediate consumption!

The brewery is decorated with historical swing top and decorative bottles. Plus pictures from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy: 100 years ago, Bohemia was still part of Austria-Hungary. In the evening there is wild discussion: the XT weighs 271 kilograms without the case, 282 with it. Despite the jagged footrests with rubber pads for cross boots, Gabriel, who is experienced in the field, is angry: “This should be an enduro? It’s just too heavy. ”As a full dresser, the RT weighs only two kilos more – with everything: full fairing, electric window, two-liter tank, audio system, heated seats, etc..

The third day is waiting. Every time the ignition is switched on, the Yamaha switches to defensive level one of its traction control. She settles very early. Japanese caution. Level two regulates noticeably later, allowing some small drifts offroad or mini wheelies onroad. On a dirt road, Gabriel turns off traction control completely. ABS on the carefully metered Yamaha stoppers always remains on. Driving mode S for sport is more direct, in T mode the throttle response is particularly tame. Does T stand for touring or sluggish? Aging Bridgestone tires Battle Wing BW 501 and BW 502 “E” stick much worse in wet conditions than the Michelins and Pirellis on the other two bikes. They are the first to slip away, especially on bitumen.

On the KTM, the semi-active chassis from WP reproduces the asphalt relief in the popometer with absolute feeling. The contact with the street is right. However, the directly hinged strut sometimes reaches its limits. Short, hard heels are not as fluffy as the RT and XT counterparts due to the lack of progression. In addition, it springs out partly dry, quite quickly. The damping preselection “Sport” is smoother and firmer. Mercilessly crisp, radial Brembo M50 monoblocks bite into 320 brake discs. Great braking power meets fine controllability.

Annoying: Just the KTM, the only representative with a drive chain in this tourer trio, does not have a main stand. This means that two people are needed to clean and maintain the chain. Oh, how good are the low-reaction cardan drives from RT and XT!

The RT strut works better than in the first series. Not to be felt that the BMW has the shortest suspension travel! In addition to the 12er GS, the last remaining Telelever in the BMW range works at the front. Its central spring strut irons smoothly and keeps the front high when braking hard. Wrap the driver in cotton wool too. We stroll into the past, in the motorcycle museum in Bečov nad Teplou, a place also with a large castle and chateau. Fascinating motorcycles are here. For example the long Bohmerland from the 20s or a Jawa road racer “894” based on a sand track machine with over 55 hp methanol single from the 70s.

The third evening washes us to Cheb, Eger. Pilsner Urquell as a pioneer of this type of brewing costs only 1.50 euros. Drink up courage for the return trip? On the last day, another 400 kilometers of motorway await us, in heavy rain and nine degrees Celsius. No children’s birthday. Peter even gets wet from behind on the KTM: Inadequate splash protection completely sucks man and machine in. Gabriel can drive the BMW wonderfully safe. “Rain, what rain?” Not a drop of water hits him head-on. Neither on the hands, shoulders nor on the helmet. Effectively styled in the wind tunnel, mirrors, small acrylic glass fins on the front and the huge pane shield.

Protection is mediocre on the XT. It stashes 23 liters of fuel, just like the KTM. On the country road, the enduro is content with a good five liters. But on the autobahn, the Super Tenere as a year old Euro 3 model presses more than KTM and especially BMW through its injection nozzles. At high speeds, the jagged structure of the Super Tenere – high and wide – with the handlebars protruding far, takes its toll with higher air resistance.

But it is the cheapest for around 16,000 euros. The KTM costs from 18,000 euros, the fully equipped BMW even over 22,000. Uff. In 2017, the KTM had the most buyers in Germany: 744. The BMW had 593 registrations, the Yamaha only found 268 buyers. Younger travel enduros sell much better, from Africa Twin to GS. No matter, we are always looking for the distance. The season is not over yet. Tucholsky was right.

MOTORCYCLE test result

1. BMW R 1200 RT

The space glider is the best tourer in the world! It cures wanderlust in no time. The combination of equipment, comfort and range, security, protection and handling is great. Tourers that offer even more are much heavier.

2. KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

Sport and touring: the KTM is a wonderfully active, rudimentary disguised naked bike. Her V2 looks sensual and fiery, and her chassis is quite comfortable. Only wind and weather protection should be better.

3. Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Tenere

A good touring motorcycle for balanced riders. The XT drives homogeneously and balanced. Unfortunately it is quite heavy and without a big kick. Maybe it is time for a little engine update?

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