Here’s the full transcript of our round table conversation which can be seen in the video:
Marc Potter: So we’re here in Wales, we’ve been riding for two days with this bunch here on some of the greatest adventure bikes yet built. We’ve got the new Honda Africa Twin. We’ve got the Triumph Tiger 800 XRt, we’ve got the KTM Adventure 1050 and of course, the King of them all, the BMW R1200 GS. So first of all, the Africa Twin is the bike we’ve been waiting for to do this test, what do we think about that?
Michael Mann: I love it, I think it’s terrific. It’s a great all around package. The engine’s really strong, it’s very sensitive the throttle as well, it makes it a real joy to ride on the roads. I’m a big fan already.
Phil West: Don’t you think it’s a bit bland?
MM: Not at all, no. I was kind of expecting that but actually having ridden it for all the time we have…
MP: …look, the Honda can be a bit bland but it just works, everything works really well. I really like it.
PW: It’s really sort of integrated, really cohesive as a whole bike.
Jon Urry: I like the neat little touches on it. It sounds a bit silly but the blue bar ends, the gold bar, I quite like the fact that they’ve really thought about it, the engine casing in a magnesium colour. It’s nice touches…
MP: And the gold nods to old Africa Twin as well which I really like.
JU: The engine sound, the exhaust note is not Honda. That is really surprising, proper rawty – love it!
MM: There are elements of that bike that perhaps we don’t necessarily look at instantly like the riding position and elements like wind protection, that we take for granted and which really work.
JU: It’s got an off-road focus and I’m more of a road rider. I have no interest in going off-road so there are little things I’d like to see as a road rider like integrated heated grips, it doesn’t have that which is a real shame. And I kind of want the screen to be adjustable as well. There are things as a road rider I want on it but its focused more towards the off-road it seems.
PW: Are you going to buy this bike and go to the desert or do you just want to look good?
MP: Or are you going to ride to Skegness on that kind of adventure?!
JU: I’m the Skeggy rider which is why I kind of like the GS.
JU: It’s heavier and it’s more expensive but it’s got all the bits I want for road use. The extra bit of weight helps it feel more secure. It feels like a road bike, it corners like a road bike. It hasn’t got the feeling you get on the 19” front wheels, they’re a bit skinny and they haven’t got quite the security but the semi-active suspension makes a massive difference. You’ve got variable fuel modes, all these things on a GS that makes it such a good, practical bike. Massive tank range, extra grunt, two-up, loads of grunt.
MP: 14 or so grand in that spec we’ve got compared to 10k-ish of the Honda, 4k is a lot of money in anyone’s wallet.
JU: That is a lot of money.
MP: The BM is the King of all of them, I’ve run plenty of them as long-termers in the past and I absolutely love them but for me, it’s beginning to feel a little old, clunky and heavy so there must be another one coming soon. I still absolutely adore it, you can’t go wrong with it.
JU: It’s a known quantity. You get on it and you go ‘I know what I’ve got here, it’s a GS, let’s just go’.
MM: It’s got that premium feel.
MP: What do you think, Phil?
PW: Even though the BMW costs extra, everything is done so well, they just work. They’re intuitive, they do what you want, where you want. The ESA’s brilliant.
You could say the Tiger’s got a lot of those things but they don’t work as well. The switchgear isn’t as intuitive; the heated grips you can’t tell if they’re on or off.
(On board) The Triumph is actually an interesting proposition, it’s sort of the ¾ size adventure size of this bunch, a little bit smaller all around, about 15% smaller and that makes it easier to get on with. A bit more nimble, generally speaking it handles better, it’s sharper, a bit more of street bike. The chassis on the whole is pretty good too, it looks good and it’s good value really. You get loads of GS-style tools on it too.
(Table) The base bike is brilliant, the engine’s lovely, the chassis is lovely but they’ve just added bits to it without blending it well enough.
(On board) For me and for some of the guys on this test there are quite a few niggles. It’s not really an off-road bike either, the Honda will surely destroy it off-road.
MP: I’m a big fan of the Tiger, I’ve even told my Dad to go and buy one but they’re starting to feel a bit old in this class even though it was only updated last year. Even though it’s an 800 and the others are 1000 or 1200cc it can run in this class, I’m sure they’re looking at the next generation.
JU: You guys aren’t a fan of the KTM, are you?
MM: I have one word; uncomfortable. As strong as that engine might be, I can’t go far on it without wanting to get off again.
PW: I’m a bit hot and cold with the KTM. This is the sports bike of the bunch for me because of that punchy engine and it has arguably the sharper handling than some of them. It’s very tight, very pure and very minimal but you also question is it lacking stuff. Even though it’s the same sort price as the Africa Twin it doesn’t seem as finished, as posh, as many nice bits.
MP: And in some ways it’s the closest rival to the Africa Twin, it is in terms of price and power but for me it feels like it’s not quite finished. It vibrates a bit like a road drill and when you rev it you think oh this is nice mid-range but then you hit the rev limiter at 8,500 or so. The seat’s uncomfortable and the suspension felt a bit soft for me.
JU: Weirdly I kind of liked its handling. It’s a slightly different prospect to the other ones. The front end I preferred on the KTM because of that different width tyre. Talking about the road riding side of things, I definitely prefer the feel especially to the front end of the Triumph whose front end didn’t feel right at all. Only when I got off the Africa Twin and got on the KTM and then I noticed the seat was really uncomfortable and the pegs seem quite high as well and I’d been really enjoying it until then.
MP: And that’s the great thing of being able to do a group test and jump from one to another.
So we’ve got a 160 mile ride home, what do you ride?
PW: For that ride, the GS any day of the week. I’m really impressed by the Africa Twin but they’re different sorts of bikes. The Africa Twin I’d take to Mogadishu while the GS is a Chelsea Tractor with all its stuff on it. Great.
MM: Same sort of thing. I think for this kind of motorway ride, with the heated grips and cruise control, it’s got to be the GS but actually in the long term, I’d love to have that Africa Twin.
JU: I’m fighting for the GS. I want to be practical and put a bag on the back and if it starts to rain then it’s got to be the GS for the journey home.
MP: So for me, I love the GS, as a motorway bike it’s probably the best one here. In lots of ways it’s the best one here but I can’t get over the fact that even in its basic spec it’s about £1800 more than the Africa Twin so I’m going to take the keys to the Africa Twin.