Honda CRF1000L vs KTM 1190 Adventure vs BMW R1200 GS – Which is the most Adventurous?

Come later this year, adventure riders will have three fantastic choices when it comes to truly off-road capable adventure bikes. The leader of the pack is undoubtedly the BMW R1200 GS – BMW’s most successful model and inspiration for many a midlife crisis. The KTM 1190 Adventure R is  slightly more focused at the off-road rider but is nevertheless a competent and capable tourer. So what chance does Honda’s reborn Africa Twin, aka the CRF1000L have?

The hype surrounding the all new Honda CRF1000L was huge and started last year with the unveiling of the True Adventure concept. But like so many things that are heavily anticipated, the reality can sometimes disappoint. There were high expectations that reborn Africa Twin would be light, powerful and cheap – but it seems it won’t really be any of those things. But it most certainly shouldn’t be written off due to its spec sheet alone. In fact, a closer analysis of things shows that the 2016 Honda CRF1000L will still be a potent competitor.

2016 CRF1000L Africa Twin Official Specifications Released


The Honda CRF1000L is the most under powered of the three bikes we’re looking at. It’s not only down on horsepower but it’s heavily down on torque. The former we’re not really concerned with as 94 horsepower is more than adequate for off road bikes and in reality is enough for the road too – although we wouldn’t have complained about an extra 10 or 20 horses.

The fact that it’s down on torque compared to the KTM by 21 per cent and the BMW by 19 per cent however is more of an issue. Being able to twist the throttle and get the power you want to maintain momentum – especially when negotiating steep inclines – is a big deal for adventure bikes. That the new Africa Twin is so down on torque may necessitate more gear changes which not only makes riding it more difficult, it also increases fatigue.

Thankfully, the CRF1000L comes with DCT as an option, however that creates problems of its own…

ktm 1190 adventure r


Perhaps the biggest disappointment when the specifications for the CRF1000L were released was its weight which starts from 503 lb. But its an unwarranted criticism as in comparison to not only the KTM 1190 Adventure R and BMW R1200 GS but almost every other big capacity adventure bike out there, it’s quite reasonable.

What people tend to forget is that adventure bikes are not designed like enduro bikes that start their life as a dirtbike. Adventure bikes are made to be extremely tough and resilient – and that generally means thick and sturdy frames which translates to more weight.

Sadly, that 503 lb figure quickly rises if you add ABS and DCT – having both pushes the weight up to 534 lb, making it heaver than the KTM and the BMW but with much less power. That’s a pretty big power to weight disadvantage.

One thing to keep in mind however is the weight distribution of the bike. Honda is very good at disguising the weight of their machines – they often feel a lot lighter than their actual mass. It’s also important that the weight be over the front wheel on an adventure bike which is critical for handling. Just by looking at the new CRF1000L you can see that Honda has got that sorted.



Here is where the Africa Twin shines and shows that it’s more dirt focused than road (and therefore potentially less of an all-rounder than the competition). Up front is a 21 inch wheel – bigger than the 19 inch on the R 1200 GS but matched by the 1190 Adventure R. Ground clearance for both the Japanese and Austrian bikes is 9.8” which again eclipses the BMW’s 8.1”.

But it’s the front and rear suspension that show what Honda’s interest is. Front travel on the Africa Twin is 230mm, and 220mm at the rear. That’s 10mm more at the front and the same on the rear as the KTM. The BMW’s more all round nature is demonstrated by the fact that it’s front/rear travel is 190 mm/200 mm. That means it’s less capable of absorbing hits from potholes and rocks that are common on grueling rides.

2016 CRF1000L Africa Twin Official Specifications Released


From the specifications we’ve seen so far, there are two other areas that have us concerned with the new CRF1000L. The first is the fuel tank capacity. Quoted at 4.96 gallons, that’s down on both of its rivals (and also goes some way to explaining its lighter weight when fully fueled). Honda is claiming that the all new parallel twin will offer great fuel economy which may make its smaller tank irrelevant.

The other head scratching issue is the options available in the US. For the US (and we assume Canadian market) you can either buy the standard model without ABS, or the top of the range model with ABS and DCT. You can’t buy the bike with ABS and not DCT. That’s an extremely dumb decision as we have no doubt that there will be far more people wanting ABS than DCT. Not making the Africa Twin available with ABS on its own is a baffling decision.

The other big question is the price. Only pricing in some European countries has been confirmed which often doesn’t simply translate to the UK, US or Australia so it remains to be seen how much of a value proposition the Africa Twin will be. But in our opinion it will need to come in under the KTM and BMW to stand a chance.

Honda CRF1000LKTM 1190 Adventure RBMW R 1200 GS
Engine998cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke 8-valve Parallel Twin with 270 degree crank and uni-Cam2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°Air/liquid-cooled four stroke flat twin engine, double overhead camshaft, one balance shaft
Capacity1,000 cc1,195 cc1,170 cc
Power93.9hp @ 7500 rpm150hp @ 9500 rpm125 hp at 7,750 rpm
Torque72.3 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm92.2 @ 7500 rpm89 @ 6000 rpm
Gear BoxConstant mesh 6-speed MT / 6-speed DCT with on and off-road riding modes6 gearsConstant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
Front Brakes310mm dual wave floating hydraulic disc with aluminium hub and radial fit 4-piston calipers2 x Brembo four piston, radially bolted caliper, brake disc Ø 320 mmDual disc brake, floating brake discs, diameter 305 mm, 4-piston radial calipers
Rear BrakesBrembo two piston, fixed caliper, brake disc Ø 267 mmBrembo two piston, fixed caliper, brake disc Ø 267 mmSingle disc brake, diameter 276 mm, double-piston floating caliper
Front Suspension256mm wave hydraulic disc with 2-piston caliperWP-USD Ø 48 mm, 220mm travelBMW Motorrad Telelever; stanchion diameter 37 mm, central spring strut, 190mm travel
Rear Suspension220mm stroke, hydraulic spring preload adjustorWP-Monoshock, 220mm travelCast aluminium single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable at handwheel, 200mm travel
Front Tire90/90-R21 90/90 R 21120/70 R 19
Rear Tire150/70-R18150/70 R 18170/60 R 17
Wet Weight228kg (STD), 232 kg (ABS), 242kg (DCT)526 lb (238 kg)525 lbs (238 kg)
Tank Capacity18.8 litres23 liters/3.5 liters reserve20 litres/4 litre reserve
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  • Dan H

    I do think not making ABS available without the DCT is going to be a huge negative on this bike and cost Honda sales in the long run. Why didn’t they just make ABS Standard on both models? This day and age, ABS is becoming the norm on new bikes, so it kind of baffles me to see flag ship models being offered without it. I suppose though had Honda made ABS standard on all US bikes, then all the “magazine editors” (who think they know best for the general public) would cry and say they couldn’t turn ABS off when off road. I would personally welcome ABS on a bike using a skinny 21″ front tire both on and off road. ABS systems have become way better off road than in the past, so I think the point about turning them off is way more mute than it used to be. Usually the aftermarket crowd figures out how to override it anyways if that is a big concern for a rider.

    The 21″ front tire and very nice suspension travel is a big plus for this bike and being Honda quality, I think many riders could look past the lower HP & TQ to have a good riding bike with nice suspension and good quality. If the bike is as well balanced as it sounds, off road this could really be a real winner for a big adventure bike. I’ve never ridden the DCT yet, but I am interested to see if it works as good as it sounds. It’s really like having a rekluse built in for your big Adventure bike. However, if I decided I didn’t like the DCT overall, the no ABS on the regular model would be a deal killer for me. I just couldn’t convince myself to buy a big adventure bike I’d be riding all over the country and not have ABS on it. Maybe Honda will see that issue and change that. It should be an easy change since I would imagine the EU bikes and others come with ABS standard.

    • Yeah Dan, it’s a bizarre decision. Yamaha continues to not offer ABS on many of its popular road bikes in the US too. I honestly don’t understand it.

      • swamp

        Personally, I prefer bikes without ABS. I do not like the extra weight or the extra electronics. I just want a motorcycle. Im sure that the government is going to mandate ABS upon us soon.
        I put a deposit down on the new Africa twin two weeks ago. the dealer told me that the USA would not be receiving a NON ABS NON DCT model. I put my deposit down on a non DCT model. Your article states that the USA will receive a non abs non dct model. where are you getting this information from ? how do you know this and the Honda dealers don’t? I find it strange.

      • Alex

        On Honda’s Canadian website they show ABS as standard on all models. There is no non-ABS/DCT model shown there. American reviewers at the South Africa introduction also alluded to this as well.

    • Freebase

      Looks like the Aussie market will have 3 models: base, ABS, ABS+DCT – so the ABS/No DCT option is there. Price for that one about 17K, so a far way below BMW etc.

  • Craig Warden

    Is it fair to compare this to the larger KTM 1190 / BMW 1200 GS? Would it not be better suited to an Adventure Bike comparison to the KTM 1050 or Suzuki V Strom 1000 or Tiger Triumph Explorer XC or Yamaha’s Super Tenere ???

    • From what I’ve heard from both US and AU sources, it’s going to be priced roughly where the 1190 R and 1200GS are.

      Definitely not comparable to the 1050 which is clearly a road focused adventure bike. The 1000 VStrom is heavier and less powerful than the AT and all it plus the other ones all have 19″ front tires – the Africa Twin is definitely more dirt focused (like the 1190 R) and the 1200 GS is the benchmark as far as the market is concerned, so they make the most sense for a comparison.

      • Tharaphita

        From what I’ve heard from both US and AU sources, it’s going to be priced roughly where the 1190 R and 1200GS are. – Are you joking? It costs 3k EUR less then 1190R/1200GS

      • Lee Rhodes

        The V Strom is lighter than this Honda…474 lbs dry..507 lbs wet. Also the V Strom is more powerful…91 hp at the rear wheel (CycleWorld) vs Honda’s 94 hp at the crank.

    • Mike Vaughn

      i don’t think so, i’ll explain…
      the 1190R is the 990R predessesor (sorry if miss spelled)
      the 990R is a true off road ADV bike. Honda is targetting this and not the tourers such as GS and KTM 1190, 1050 that are 90% road bikes.

      My opinion only…

    • Lee Rhodes

      I think you are right!

  • Bjørn Leiberg Reenberg

    How can you “review” a bike you havent even tried? And even seen in real life?!?!

    • Where does this article state it’s a review? It’s clearly a look at the specs of the bikes and finding out where the strengths and weaknesses of the appear at the moment. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  • Freebase

    These big bikes are really road bikes that can go on dirt, so describing the one that is more dirt oriented as “less of an all rounder” is a bit odd.

  • patrickmcswain

    What puzzles me is Honda’s technology. This is 2016, and this bike costs almost what a Honda car costs. While nobody will actually know what Honda has on-board until they are in showrooms, info from Honda and pictures say this about it:

    Tube-type wheels.
    Cable clutch.
    Cable throttle.
    Single throttle body for a 270° firing order. (Why?)
    Mild steel frame.
    Simple parallel twin design that’s shared with a 4-wheeler.
    Chain drive.
    Average brakes.
    Low specific output from it’s engine.

    That is not 2016 technology except in the budget models, even for Honda. From a tech standpoint, it’s a big CRF250L. Yes, it appears that the Honda will be 25% less money than the big bikes (KTM 1190R, BMW 1200). But the big bikes are not only bigger engines, they have more technology. In fact, the CRF1000L seems to be less advanced than any $15,000 (Australian) offering that isn’t a fashion item (cough, Harley, cough).

    • Freebase

      Hmmm. Your list makes it seem like the love child of a union between 1200GSA and KLR 650. If they get the mix of technology and simplicity right, the bike could have broad appeal.

    • Morsa85

      It must be extremely reliable, proven Honda tech in 2016 at this price point… I think it will run for ages. It appeals to me because i use a bike every single day, and I don’t have much money to spend on post warranty interventions and time for trips to the dealership. Shame about the chain drive, it’s a pain to grease it every 300 miles. My next bike must have a shaft drive.

  • James Robinson

    Bit disappointed in the Honda. 530 lbs and only 92 horsepower? I have never owned a motorcycle with less than 130 HP. Although it will be quite a bit cheaper than the others, there’s a reason for it. Hardly any technology or power.

    • Mike Vaughn

      up till a month ago, i hade the old Africa Twin, 60HP, 223 Kg, and rode along all GS’s and KTM adventure bikes.
      the only diferense was, mine never broke down!

      true that in long roads it is not as fun and fast…. but still… it’s a 20 year old bike!

      • Lee Rhodes

        Bikes breaking down is becoming an ‘old wives tale’.
        Most major brands of bikes are very reliable today.

  • Brokenfuelstrip

    The amount of actual speculation by the author is truly off the hook! Honestly, your a very good spec sheet examiner and reciter but are completely focused on preserving the presidents of the ADV class. Down the list you go, performance, weight, geometry……..on and on…….about a bike non of us have ridden! Why don’t you compare a 1200GS to a KLR……tell me how much your Beemer is superior! Wasn’t the 2005 1200GS only 95hp……and weighted more?

    Why don’t we look at it this way, I can buy a NEW Africa Twin, ride everywhere and anywhere a KTM or BMW can ride and STILL add a brand new dirt bike from any brand, to ride up the side of a mountain…….for the price of ONE new BMW 1200GSA! Now that’s something to talk about!

    Fact, new Africa Twin, $12,999 + KTM 500EXC $10,500 = $23,499

    Loaded BMW 1200GSA = $26,000+………..

    Now who looks ridiculous!!

    P.S. I forgot to add the all the broken fuel strips, final drives and way over priced parts and service to the non speculation of this article……AH-hahahahaha…….BMW and KTM…….Ahhhhh-hahaha…….

    • Lee Rhodes

      The fairer comparison is the base GS to the African Twin. They are similarly equipped. GS may have a farkle or two more.

      The Base GS is $16,500. The African Twin is $13000. For the extra $3500 you get a larger, more powerful motor…lighter weight…more nimble performer…longer warranty.

      As an FYI….few, few issues with the GS. Hence it is BMW’s top selling model. The fuel strip you mention was discontinued in 2011-2012. Those bikes with a fuel strip issue…are replaced (even if out of warranty) by BMW free…and warranted for 10 years. Final drive issues…the few there were…were resolved in 2007…and again warranted for 10 years.

      Honda builds a good bike. But equip int like the GS or the KTM….and you will be well over the current $13000 price tag.

      • Lee Rhodes

        Also…don’t forget the BMW has shaft drive vs the chain.

        As for parts and maintenance costs…you must have done a study. Most comparisons that I see in Motorcycle Consumer News…show marginal difference between parts and labor costs….between the different bikes.

        • pismopal

          I have never broken a chain but I have seen a number of final drive failures on BMW..I have owned several..including one of my own on a GS. BMWs are a hole you pour money into.

          • Morsa85

            Well, I’m on my first BMW and no faults yet. 8 months and 14 thousand kilometers on the clock.

          • pismopal

            8000 miles? 9000 miles? So far so good🙁

          • Morsa85

            It’s an F bike with 800 cc. I think they are well proven at this stage. They told me that, unlike the boxers, there’s no need to top the oil level. And, to be honest, I’ve never checked it. I’ve only took it to the dealer to service it. Also great mpg.

          • noreversegs

            same as you here ,,very good bike…its my 6 bmw and never had trouble and always make profit on resale!!

        • pismopal

          Shaft drive is more convenient but far less reliable and being without final drive in Bumphuque, Wyoming is a problem for you