BMW R1200GS vs. KTM 1290 Adventure – Five Essential Differences

Not such a tough decision

BMW vs. KTM – maybe the biggest rivalry in the upmarket big-adventure segment. About the same price, same weight, both packed with same electronics and featuring same status. Tough decision? We don’t think so, as long as you know what you need. 

Chain vs. Shaft

This is an important difference. The shaft is for the lazy ones that want to forget about maintenance, while the chain is for the performance-oriented guys that want less weight on the rear wheel and stress-free usability. It’s easier to replace a chain than to repair a shaft in the middle of the jungle. On the other hand, if riding a GS, you can have a beer instead of lubing the chain after a rainy day. 

Engine Power

You have a 160 hp ballistic V2 on the KTM, while BMW offers “only” 125 hp. However, the boxer gives you plenty of torque, and you won’t really feel the need of more horsepower. Just put it in the dynamic mode and learn how to ride it. It will be faster than you think. However, if you’re on the performance side, KTM is for you. 

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Suspension

There’s nothing as plush as a BMW telelever – paralever suspension setup. However, KTM also features high-performance WP dynamic suspension. Both are good options. It depends on what you like the most. 

Front wheel

If looking for a more enduro-oriented front end, KTM offers the Adventure R version with a 21-inch front – better suited for off-road. Still, both KTM and BMW offer tubeless spoked wheels for increased comfort and durability. 

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Ready to Race vs. Boxer Heritage 

And, of course, it’s the marketing. When buying such a bike, the status you get is also important. BMW offers the #spiritofGS and the #makelifearide movement. The GS is the most powerful adventure name on Earth, and you’ll ride the same bike as Ewan McGregor. KTM, on the other hand, is the rebel child that wants to fight the status quo and it’s always “ready to race.” 

There isn’t such thing as a wrong choice. All these differences act as a filter. And there are two more things: the dealership you trust the most and the test ride first impression. You won’t buy a $50 jacket without trying it. So you shouldn’t buy a $20,000 machine without testing it. 

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