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Comparison test: travel enduros from Ducati, KTM and BMW

Three travel enduros in comparison

With four different riding modes – Touring, Sport, Urban and Enduro – Ducati wants to transform the Multistrada into the most universal of all travel enduros. Does the Italian really manage the extreme balancing act between the sporty KTM 990 SM T and the tourist BMW R 1200 GS?

Athletes, tourers, city bikes and enduro – all of these areas of application should be covered by a comprehensive motorcycle concept. But the egg-laying woolly milk pig cannot and will not exist in motorcycle construction either. After all: travel enduros come closest to this ideal of the all-rounder. It is no coincidence that the top dog in this category, the BMW R 1200 GS, is at the top of the German sales hit list.

Comparison test: travel enduros from Ducati, KTM and BMW

Three travel enduros in comparison

Ducati Multistrada takes this route. However, it goes up a gear: four different driving modes, which fine-tune the suspension settings and engine management to the respective areas of application, should significantly increase the range of the Italian. Which is why the simple question arises: How broad is the Duc really positioned?

Touring rating


In the touring rating, seating comfort, wind and weather protection and luggage storage play a role.

It is in the nature of things: In the touring segment, the self-proclaimed all-rounder Ducati Multistrada blows the wind hardest in front of her tight-fitting fairing. After all, the GS series from BMW has been a synonym for the term travel enduro for three decades. KTM also dedicated all modifications such as a lower seat bench, luggage bags, reduced spring travel or front paneling, which distinguish the T-model from its uncompromising Supermoto sister, the 990 SM R, solely to this goal: significantly improved touring suitability.

And this manifests itself primarily in three core areas: seating comfort, wind protection and luggage storage. Aspects where the R 1200 GS continues to set the bar high. Whether the fluffy seat cushion for the driver and co-pilot, the effective windshield or the high-quality Vario case with topcase, which can be quickly changed in capacity (overload 995 euros) – all of this demonstrates the fine tuning that BMW has given the GS to its flagship over the years.

A tough nut to crack, which BMW gives the Multistrada’s beak, which is visually not by chance reminiscent of the Bavarian woman, to crack. However: In the Touring version, the Duc with heated grips, suitcases, main stand, handle shells, on-board computer and two sockets leaves hardly any equipment wishes unfulfilled. A topcase costs 475 euros, a set of bulky case lids (73 instead of 58 liters volume box) 253 euros. However, the Duc’s lightweight luggage system does not compete with the high-quality workmanship of the BMW parts. In general, the Multistrada always remains a small step behind the Bavarian for the big tour. After a few hundred kilometers, you would want a somewhat more generous cushion on the flat and at first chest of drawers bench, with the manually height-adjustable window, the shoulders and the upper part of the helmet remain in place for drivers over 1.80 meters even in the highest position Airstream.

In terms of travel qualities, the Italian keeps the KTM in check without any problems. The wide, but somewhat thinly padded seat, the narrow cladding with a relatively low pane or the dainty, non-waterproof softbags, all of this makes the 990s clearly more suitable for touring than their thoroughbred Supermoto sister, but remains in direct comparison to the BMW and Ducati the T-Modell, however, is still more of a sprinter than a marathon runner.

Touring winner: BMW R 1200 GS – full marks in all three categories.

Especially since the two colleagues also shine in the secondary virtues of the travel group. In the forefront the BMW. With the moderate consumption of 5.1 liters (Ducati: 6.3, KTM: 5.8 liters) and the resulting 392 kilometers of range (Ducati: 317, KTM: 328 kilometers), the GS is ahead of the curve as well as through their barely achieved passenger comfort. The luxury offer of the excellently shaped passenger area of ​​the GS relegates the slightly sloping seat cushion of the Ducati and especially the leanly padded back seat of the KTM to the ranks.

No wonder that BMW remains the undisputed boss in the travel segment. The Multistrada does respectably well behind this crushing competition, but cannot endanger the GS in any of the core categories. Ultimately, no one is surprised that the KTM – as a touring bike of the second educational pathway – does not meet these highest standards.

Sports rating


The sport rating depends on handling, power delivery and the brakes.

Sport – in terms of the conceptual orientation of this trio, this term does not, of course, just mean the ride on the very last groove. What counts on this side of the extremes is agile handling, homogeneous power delivery and powerful brakes. Criteria that ultimately determine whether a motorcycle can meet the most important requirement. Namely, simply having fun on winding country roads.

Sport – with the electronically controlled chassis and engine set-up of the Ducati Multistrada, this driving mode means: firm rebound and compression damping on the fork and shock absorber as well as direct response from the electronically controlled throttle valves. The top performance remains – as in touring mode – at a measured 147 hp. At BMW, the ESA’s sport mode also defines a tighter damping adjustment. As with the KTM, which does not have any electronic aids at all, the engine tuning is basically unaffected.

Nevertheless, it is primarily not the electronics that give the Ducati an impressive appearance. What an engine! With its grandiose pressure, this domesticated superbike unit pulls everyone, but really everyone, under its spell. From 3000 tours the water-cooled 90-degree V-engine pushes ahead with a seldom experienced sovereignty and power, igniting a veritable firework of emotions when the gas is opened after every turn. Even the rougher throttle response in sport fashion can be seen after the Italian out of sheer enthusiasm. Finally, the chassis of the Duc also beguiles in curves with its superb directional stability, neutrality and excellent feedback. It couldn’t be better. Especially since the braking system of the Multistrada with moderate manual force, fine controllability and – of course – standard ABS completely rounds off the fun bike experience.

Sport winner: Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring – apart from a cut in handling, the Duc can claim the full number of points for itself.

Which brings the KTM – so far the icon of the driving fun-oriented travel league – in serious trouble. Of course, because of her weight of 214 kilograms (Ducati: 234 kg), nobody can fool the Austrian when it comes to handling. Tight radii, alternating curves, this terrain remains KTM land. Also because the 75-degree V-Two is more lively than any other big twin on the gas. However, the fun of the curve twist can sometimes be ruined by violent load change reactions. And as for the brakes: first class. Even smoother and easier to dose than the Ducati system – just no ABS. A pity.

It is well known that BMW does not have the subject of sportiness at the top of the designer’s specifications. Nevertheless: with the Dohc valve train, the boxer has had a bit more liveliness since 2010 – even if the good-natured and easily controllable unit for the vehemence of the engines from Ducati and KTM is missing a whole portion. In the end, it is only logical that the Bavarian woman cannot compete with her well-trained colleagues in terms of handling, despite the imposing joy of cornering at 246 kilograms and impressive dimensions. In this respect, even combination brakes and record deceleration values ​​no longer rehabilitate the Bajuwarin in the sports studio. The medals go to Italy and Austria.

Urban rating


The urban test depends on the seat height, the engine setup and the dimensions of the bikes.

Urban calls Ducati a set-up that should bring one thing above all else: the easiest possible controllability and comfort. This minimizes the compression and rebound damping as well as the spring preload of the monoshock, while the peak power of the engine is reduced to 98 hp in favor of a smooth response and even torque curve. The only thing the KTM driver has to do with the moderate pace is reach for a screwdriver and look at the – by the way, extremely practical – set-up specifications on the bench floor. BMW calls the softest suspension setting of the ESA system down-to-earth with comfort, and this also noticeably reduces the damping.

The pilot immediately senses how serious Ducati was with taming the Vau-Two. The castrated L-engine starts up significantly softer and even more cultivated, almost tame to the touch, and at mid-revs it can already be good with the vehement thrust that was previously unique to it. The test bench (see performance curve on page 44) also confirms the subjective feeling. From 5000 tours the torque curves of the sport and urban mappings separate, the torque in city mode goes downhill from this point on. It is easy to manage. Nevertheless: In view of the grandiose character of the Ducati engine in Sport / Touring mode, the thought of the how-it-if remains a constant temptation to change modes. Especially since the urban setup with less progressive opening of the throttle valves cannot completely prevent the Ducati from jerking at about 3000 rpm. On the other hand, the basically tightly tuned strut offers a bit more comfort in this adjustment than in the sport or touring setup. At 840 millimeters, the seat height is the lowest of the trio anyway. To be bothered by the dimensions of a travel enduro in city traffic would certainly be foolish. However, the Duc is a little more expansive than the KTM.

Urban winner: Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring – This time the Ducati can only achieve seven out of nine points because it is a bit too big and its engine set-up is inferior to that of the BMW.

Speaking of KTM. The massive tank is deceptive. From the driver’s perspective, the Austrian feels significantly more graceful than her colleagues and, with a seat height of 850 millimeters, is within the normal range for this class. Moderate weight and the direct steering behavior – like when wagging around bends – also make city hopping with the 990 in a great mood. The only disturbing thing is the somewhat bumpy engine running up to 3000 tours and the extremely hard and sometimes annoying throttle response in city traffic.

Its concept, which is consistently geared towards travel, the BMW few plus points in this category too. The two-way height-adjustable bench places the driver between 855 and an impressive 875 millimeters seat height. Nevertheless, the high seat remains only a symbol of the imposing appearance of the BMW. The R 1200 GS is tall, big, wide and heavy, a colossus of motorcycle construction. However, this fact mitigates one aspect in the urban environment: your engine. Outstandingly coordinated and running as smooth as butter, especially in the speed range between 2000 and 4000 tours, the GS conceals its lush dimensions even when meandering through city traffic.

Nevertheless: around the house and – a matter of taste or not – also in front of the ice cream parlor, the Multistrada cuts a fine figure. A feat as an Italian.

Enduro rating


Enduro rating: This depends on the weight, the suspension settings and the ground clearance of the bolides.

The dichotomy of their being is inherent in travel enduros with their name. Because basically the ability to tackle demanding ground and the claim to touring comfortably – and quickly – on the road are largely mutually exclusive. Which is why the weighting has always remained the same since the creation of the first travel enduro, the BMW R 80 G / S 30 years ago: What counts is the journey – which, as a bonus, can sometimes also take you on unpaved roads.

An orientation that gives travel enduros this typical off-road driving position – which has probably become one of the most important success factors of this vehicle concept. The upright upper body provides an overview, the wide handlebars make it easier to control the bike. Things that also make sense in everyday operations. Especially since the long suspension travel required off-road also enables a wide tuning range of the suspension elements on the road.

And again it is the Ducati technicians who have made the greatest technical effort. The Enduro setup of the Multistrada lifts the spring base of the Ohlins monoshock, lifting the rear of the vehicle by at least two centimeters. The damping is based on the level of the Urban setup, as is the mapping of the engine management. The only difference: the traction control allows significantly more rear wheel slip.

Despite all the effort – the dusty element will probably never become the Italian’s domain. The 17-inch front wheel alone, which can be steered indifferently off-road, never conveys any real confidence, the ground clearance remains the lowest of the three at 14 centimeters despite the rear lift, and the weight is still at a level that is formidable off-road at 234 kilograms. The fact that the DTC (Ducati Traction Control) actually allows enough slip for an impressive drift on gravel does not turn the tide. On the road, the Ducati definitely makes its owner happier.

Winner Enduro: BMW R 1200 GS – Although the KTM can keep up with the BMW, this time it’s the little things that bring the BMW to the KTM. The better tires keep the BMW on course.

That should actually be the case with KTM. After all, the SM T conceptually has the lowest demands on universality. Nevertheless, the roots of the Austrian off-road forge are still driving in the native supermoto bike. With its significantly lower weight of 214 kilograms, off-road ergonomics, acceptable ground clearance (16 centimeters) and a progressive suspension setup that is also suitable for off-road excursions, the 990 can be directed surprisingly well over uncomfortable terrain. All in all, the KTM moves unexpectedly close to the BMW in the field.

Which at least means something. After all, alongside the KTM Adventure, the Bajuwarin is still very popular with desert travelers. Indeed, it is always astonishing how safely the almost five hundred pounds of the BMW can be guided over jumble slopes. Last but not least, this is also due to the 19-inch front wheel (Ducati and KTM: 17-inch), which steers much more precisely off-road. Only the cardan drive, which hits hard at cross gutters, interferes with somewhat more brisk off-road rides. On the other hand, the engine trumps on rough terrain. If you like it a little more spectacular, you can keep the high-legged desert ship with 18 centimeters of ground clearance on scree with dosed gas in controlled drift – which, incidentally, works best with switched off traction control (ASC).

How important the off-road capabilities of travel enduro bikes are ultimately remains a highly individual decision. In any case, the great-great-granddaughter of the old G / S preserves – if so, then – in this respect too, the legacy with dignity.

Technical specifications

Drawing: archive

Performance diagram: With measured 147 hp Ducati sets a new record in the travel enduro segment. The motor, which can be wonderfully dosed, does not actually need the much tamer urban / enduro mapping (98 hp). Whether 121 PS (KTM) or 112 (BMW) – the competition is also in good shape.

Technical data BMW R 1200 GS


The new Dohc cylinder head gives the GS a bit more pressure at mid-rev.

Two-cylinder boxer engine
Injection Ø 50 mm
Clutch Single-plate dry clutch
Bore x stroke 101.0 x 73.0 mm
Cubic capacity 1170 cm³
Compression 12.0: 1
Output 81.0 kW (110 hp) at 7750 rpm
Torque 120 Nm at 6000 rpm

landing gear:
Frame supporting-engine-gearbox-composite
Fork telescopic fork guided by trailing arm, Ø 41 mm
Brakes v / h Ø 305 mm / Ø 265 mm
Assistance ABS / slip control systems
Wheels 2.50 x 19; 4.00 x 17
110/80 R 19 tires; 150/70 R 17
Metzeler Tourance EXP tires

mass and weight:
Wheelbase 1507 mm
Steering head angle / caster 64.3 degrees / 101 mm
Suspension travel f / h 190/200 mm
Seat height 855/875 mm
Tank capacity / reserve 20.0 / 4.0 liters
Weight with a full tank 246 kg
Service intervals 10,000 km
Price / price test motorcycle 13000/16245 * euros

* including ABS and DTC (1220 euros), automatic gearshift (360 euros) and special paint (475 euros)


Maximum speed (manufacturer information):
215 km / h


0-100 km / h 3.7 sec
0-140 km / h 6.1 sec
0-200 km / h 16.3 sec

60-100 km / h 3.8 sec
100-140 km / h 4.0 sec
140-180 km / h 5.4 sec

Consumption on highway 5.1 liters of super
Range of the country road 392 km

Technical data Ducati Multistrada S Touring

Ducati remains true to its trademarks, as with the Multistrada’s 90-degree V engine.

Two cylinder 90 degree V engine    
Injection Ø 64 mm
Clutch Multi-plate oil bath clutch (anti-hopping)
Bore x stroke 106.0 x 67.9 mm
Cubic capacity 1198 cm³
Compression 11.5: 1
Output 108.8 kW (148 hp) at 9250 rpm
Torque 119 Nm at 7500 rpm

Landing gear:
Frame tubular steel frame
Fork Upside-down fork, Ø 48 mm
Brakes v / h Ø 320 mm / Ø 245 mm
Assistance systems ABS / traction control
Wheels 3.50 x 17; 6.00 x 17
Tires 120/70 ZR 17; 190/55 ZR 17
Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires

Mass and weight:

Wheelbase 1530 mm
Steering head angle / caster 65.0 degrees / 104 mm
Suspension travel f / h 170/170 mm
Seat height 840 mm
Tank capacity / reserve 20.0 / 4.0 liters
Weight with a full tank 234 kg
Service intervals 12,000 km
Price / price test motorcycle 17990 euros *

* including ABS (1000 euros)


Maximum speed (manufacturer information):
245 km / h

0-100 km / h 3.3 sec
0-140 km / h 5.2 sec
0-200 km / h 10.1 sec

60-100 km / h 4.1 sec
100-140 km / h 4.3 sec
140-180 km / h 4.9 sec


Consumption on the highway 6.3 liters of super
Range road 317 km

Technical data KTM 990 SM T

Despite the balanced power development, the KTM engine could not keep up with that of Ducati or BMW.

Two cylinder 75 degree V engine
Injection Ø 48 mm
Clutch Multi-plate oil bath clutch
Bore x stroke 101.0 x 62.4 mm
Displacement 1000 cm³
Compression 11.5: 1
Output 85.0 kW (116 hp) at 9000 rpm
Torque 97 Nm at 7000 rpm

Landing gear:
Frame tubular steel frame
Fork Upside-down fork, Ø 48 mm
Brakes v / h Ø 305 mm / Ø 240 mm
Systems assistance        –
Wheels 3.50 x 17; 5.50 x 17
Tires 120/70 ZR 17; 180/55 ZR 17
Continental Sport Attack tires

Mass and weight:
Wheelbase 1505 mm
Steering head angle / caster 65.6 degrees / 109 mm
Suspension travel f / h 160/180 mm
Seat height 850 mm
Tank capacity / reserve 19.0 / 3.7 liters
Weight with a full tank 214 kg
Service intervals 7500 km
Price / price test motorcycle 12,595 euros *

* including Yoshimura GP EVO IV exhaust system (1355 euros)


Maximum speed (manufacturer information):
220 km / h

0-100 km / h 3.6 sec
0-140 km / h 5.8 sec
0-200 km / h 12.0 sec

60-100 km / h 4.8 sec
100-140 km / h 4.6 sec
140-180 km / h 5.7 sec

Consumption country road 5.8 liters super
Range of the country road 328 km

Overall rating & Conclusion


In the overall ranking, all three bikes are close to each other. The serious differences only become apparent when the partial results are examined more closely.

The fact that Ducati did not create the egg-laying woolly milk pig with the Multistrada is at most a surprise to the company’s advertising copywriters. Because universal motorcycle concepts inevitably have to live with technical compromises. Even refined setting options do not change anything fundamentally, be it the ESA of the BMW or the four driving modes of the Ducati. Ultimately, the electronics, no matter how sophisticated they work, only perform fine-tuning within the framework of a basic structure determined by chassis and engine data. Given this knowledge, the Multistrada still surprises with a range of possible uses that has really hardly been achieved until now. It only has to admit defeat in the – for most users rather subordinate – Enduro rating. In the important touring segment, the Duc manages to keep the distance to the proven travel icon BMW within unexpectedly narrow limits. In return, the Italian plays her trump cards, in addition to her urban qualities, especially in the sport rating, knocking the previous regent of this discipline in the travel enduro environment, the KTM, from the throne. Which ultimately helps to position the Multistrada clearly: as an excellent fun bike with distinctive travel qualities.

1st place: BMW R 1200 GS
(Total: 25 points – Touring: 9 – Sport: 4 – Urban: 5 – Enduro: 7)

30 years of experience in the travel enduro segment can be seen in every detail of the BMW. With the direction of the GS, Bayern are on a much broader front. While off-road suitability is conceptually of subordinate importance for the KTM and Ducati, the 1200 series is committed to using gravel solely with its 19-inch front wheel. Which, however, does not detract from their clearly defined focus, suitability for travel. The GS is and will remain the boss in the ring for the time being. The fact that the electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) of the BMW, despite the significantly more complex technology of the Ducati, covers a much broader area in comparison, can probably be seen as the result of decades of experience, see above.

1st place: Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring
(Total: 25 points – Touring: 6 – Sport: 8 – Urban: 7 – Enduro: 4)

With an unprecedented wealth of innovations, the Italian is breaking into the travel enduro segment with power. And the first appearance succeeded. In addition to the Urban rating, Ducati shows its core competence in the sport category in particular. You can clearly feel that this reflects the company’s tradition. Nevertheless, the technicians succeeded in expanding the range of applications of the Multistrada far into the travel segment – even if in this category with the BMW, a concept that has matured over many years has tenaciously and successfully defended its bastion. The fact that the electronic voting options play a secondary rather than a key role may be surprising, but ultimately speaks for the successful overall concept of this Ducati.

3rd place: KTM 990 SM T
(Total: 22 points – Touring: 3 – Sport: 6 – Urban: 6 – Enduro: 7)

Her genetic predisposition as a supermoto bike can be seen on the KTM at every moment. Country roads and curves of all radii are a magical attraction for the Austrian. The T version with its lower seating position, cut spring travel and front paneling does not fundamentally change this either. The fact that the 990, which was designed entirely for road use, still cuts an unexpectedly good figure away from the road may be credited to it, but in the context of this comparison test it signals one thing above all: The range of use of a travel enduro is mainly determined by a sophisticated basic set-up and the Equipment set. Then, even if it sounds old-fashioned, a screwdriver and handwheel are sufficient for fine adjustment.

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