The Indestructibles

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser, Andi Seiler

Dual-purpose bikes are becoming more and more popular. No wonder, this type of motorcycle offers a great riding position, a comfortable suspension setup, good power and a tough chassis that handles well on bumpy asphalt streets and gravel roads.

My leathers are soaked, my skin underneath, is wet. The little windshield and the huge, wide fuel tank of the Tiger did their very best to cover my body, but in the end, they failed. It's too warm today for additional rain gear. If you wear it on a day like this, you wouldn't be able to determine if you're wet from the rain or the sweat. My companions made the same choice.

Then it happens! All of a sudden I see a white flash of lightning to my left followed by sharp, loud thunder. It seemed like my skin was electrified and my hair was standing on end, just as if I had stuck my finger in a light socket. Wowww!!! Let's get off the road as soon as possible. Only 20 seconds later Christian pulls into a lonely gas station. What a break!

Happy to have a roof over our heads, we sit in the gas station, drink a cup of coffee and watch the rain pouring on the test bikes and covering the engines with sizzling steam; an almost mystical scene. The three big dinosaurs fight the power of Mother Nature. Tough guys, all three of them. The BMW R 1150 GS is successful all over the world; in Germany it's even the best selling bike right now. The Quota is Moto Guzzi's second effort to run their big pushrod V-2 in a dual-purpose version after it's predecessor disappeared again in the first half of the nineties. And Triumph finally donated their 955-engine (actually 956 cc) to their off-road ambassador, the Tiger.

A successful mixture
When you look over to our European colleagues you see that big dual-purpose bikes, in general, made their way up to compete with tourers, standards and sport bikes. Of course, dual-purpose isn't the fitting term any more. Just try to take your big enduro out on a moto cross track or on a trail ride. You'll turn around after the first few mud holes. Your bike will be too heavy and will demonstrate poor steering and handling abilities. The wheel travel will be too short and the tire tread won't be knobby enough to gain any forward momentum.

The better term to use would be multi- purpose bikes because the big enduros feel very comfy on paved roads, even more so if the streets are over-loaded with hairpins and winding roads as in the Alps. And if a gravel road appears, you won't have to turn around because it's tires and suspension are good enough for this kind of terrain. No wonder that these bikes are so popular over in Europe. People enjoy the powerful engines that were donated by the sporty sisters, the relaxed riding position behind wide handlebars which make handling easy and a suspension that makes long trips comfortable. BMW R 1150 GS, Moto Guzzi Quota and Triumph Tiger; only three examples of the market, but three of the best.

Chassis & Brakes
It's stopped raining and the first sun­beam puts a nice glow on the raindrops which cover the paint jobs and engines. It's time to get back on the road. The BMW leads the pack and grabs the turns as quickly as a sportbike. Handling and steering of the Beemer is easy because of the wide handlebars which give you a good lever for turning, even in narrow curves. You won't believe that this bike weighs 250 kilograms (556 lb.) when you make your way through the winding roads of North Carolina. The modern Telelever sus­pension in the front with the Paralever system in the back offer great comfort. But there's also a downside; you have to get used to the front end because there is no feedback from the front wheel. BMW beginners always need a little time to get used to it and to appreciate the advantages.

That doesn't count for the anti-lock brake system that can be switched off for gravel road use where it isn't desirable. Here, at times, you need a locking (rear) wheel for steering. On asphalt the system shows it's advantages by always leaning to the safe side, even if you face wet or slippery road conditions. In turns, however, you still have to be care­ful because the system can't eliminate the centrifugal forces.

You feel like you're in another world on the Moto Guzzi. The Quota's (265 kilograms; 589 lb.) rear end moves up and down when you switch to a higher gear, typical for a shaft drive. The front suspension works smoothly and gives you a soft ride, good on bumpy roads. Surprisingly, the bike is easy to handle, even for beginners if they are tall enough (same for the other two competitors in this test!). The reason for the neutral steering and handling of the Quota is that the tires are relatively narrow. More importantly, the front tire, with a diameter of 21 inches (BMW and Triumph 19 inches) and a width of 90/90, is perfect for a steady line in turns and works a lot better than smaller units on bumpy gravel roads. The rear tire, with a measure­ment of 130/80-17, is also a good fit.

Traditionally, The brakes on the Guzzi come from Brembo. The front one with double-piston calipers show good braking power but in slower traffic (town, parking, walking speed) are almost a bit too aggressive. Always remember that this type of a front brake can suddenly dive very deeply and your very slow turn might end with your nose on the asphalt. On the other hand, the brakes work perfectly when you push the speed on winding roads.

Nevertheless, the biggest surprise is the Triumph. With 256 kilograms (569 lb.) it ranks right in the middle of the test trio. But it's handling abilities are clearly the best and respond, on curvy roads, like a comfortable sportbike. Additionally, there 's a great feeling for the front and rear end and the direct steering. The sus­pension units have a great response even on the smallest bumps and make your ride nice and smooth. Almost un­usual for this type model, the telescopic fork and the single shock offer you a huge amount of feedback for a dual-purpose bike. You get the confidence you need for faster riding very quickly and always feel in control of the situation because you get the feel for what the bike is doing at any time.

That also counts for the brakes, which work effectively, smoothly and responsively. It's like a digital operation: with the same force you pull the lever, you get the same amount of braking power. In situations like this, the front end doesn't dive too deeply. This helps to keep the bike in the right line at the entrance of turns.

Engine & Transmission
The Boxer is well known for it's smooth operation without nasty vibrations. You can expect only a little bit of the good, low frequency ones. The balance of the masses is perfect. In the current four-valve models like the GS you also get a good amount of power and torque that help to keep up with the hp-orientated market. 85 hp at 6,750 rpm and 10.0 mkp (74 ftlbs.) at 5,250 rpm are plenty for rides on American highways and easy backroads. Here the chassis and the engine, which is equipped with a catalytic converter, make a perfect combination for the joy of the ride. The only thing that disappointed us was the six-speed gearbox that didn't make shifting as easy as on comparable Japanese bikes or the Triumph. On the BMW it takes more effort and more concentration to find the right gear and it's even worse if you try to shift into first (from neutral) at a stoplight that just turned green. Sometimes you have to push the bike a bit forward and shift down a second time. Then it works.

The gearbox of the Guzzi is similar. The distance between the gears is longer than on common high quality gearboxes and switching gears takes more effort and precision from the rider. In the lower three gears you have to deal with some noise from the tranny, period. The engine gives you enough torque to get around some of the gear changes down the road. It pulls strongly enough even with a passenger on board. The fuel injection makes this motor respond well if you go for acceleration in higher gear.

Again, the modern Triumph triple is the counterpart to its competitors in this test. Without any delay, the inline three transfers the commands coming from the throttle hand into amazing acceleration. And the open muffler, an accessory by Triumph, plays it's matching, deeply growling music to this display of power. From now on the Tiger bares it's teeth and, aside from the rider, there is nothing that can stop this power plant from pulling away from the others. Very impressive, how Triumph improved their big dual-purpose bike by implanting the 955-engine (also with a catalytic converter).

Accessories & Arrangements
There is no doubt that BMW is one of the leaders of touring accessories. And therefore it's no wonder that the Bavarian factory also offers a wide range of stock and additional features for its GS. We already mentioned the impressive ABS. Added to this, the customer receives an adjustable and convertible windshield, a fully equipped dashboard, emergency flashers, an adjustable rider seat (2 positions), an aluminum cover for the engine, a plastic guard for the cylinder head, an adjust­able luggage rack and center and side stand. Furthermore, they can purchase the distributor mounted sidebags and a topcase, which are accessories from the BMW line. And almost anything else you can dream of for a motorcycle is avail­able, like heated grips, hand guards, bags for the luggage boxes, tank bag alarm system, a more comfortable seat etc.

The Quota carries less in-stock acces­sories and doesn't have a catalytic converter or ABS. It comes with half-fairing, conventional dashboard, an aluminum guard for the cylinder head, a luggage rack and center and side stand. Not bad at all! And for the big trip, you can order a topcase and luggage boxes with the necessary hardware.

Triumph's Trophy displays a wind­shield, a complete dashboard with speedo, odometer/trip-odometer (both digital), tach, digital clock, fuel gauge and coolant-temperature gauge, an adjustable rider seat (3 positions), an aluminum cover for the engine, a luggage rack and a side stand. An additional center stand is available from the accessories catalog. And don't forget to order the great sport silencer, which gives the bike the right sound.

Test Summary
Big dual-purpose bikes are well designed motorcycles with lots of comfort. Sooner or later they will get the same ap­preciation in the U.S. which they already have in Europe. All three competitors demonstrate the multi-functional abilities of this category impressively. The BMW R 1150 GS offers a great riding position and a wide range of stock components which makes touring and cruising easy. The Moto Guzzi Quota shows neutral steering and handling and has good brakes and a torquey engine. And then there is the Triumph Tiger, a big bike with lots of power, great suspension and handling and a distinctive character. Motorcycle tourers make your own choice. What more can you ask for?

TECHNICAL SPECS:
BMW R 1150 GS

Retail Price $ 14,500
Warranty
Three years or 36,000 miles
Maintentance Schedule
600/6,000/every 6,000 miles (1,000/10,000/every 10,000 km)
Importer/Distributor
BMW of North America, Inc.,
P.O. Box 1227, Westwood, NJ 07675, phone (800) 831-1117,
website: www.bmwusa.com

ENGINE
Type 2-cylinder Boxer, 4-stroke
Cooling Air-/oil-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., hc, cams chain driven, pushrods and rockers
Bore & Stroke 101 x 70.5 mm
Displacement 1,130 cc
Compression Ratio 10.3:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control catalytic converter

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutchsingle-plate dry clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive shaft drive

CHASSIS
Frame cast-alloy front frame w/steel subframe
Wheelbase 1,509 mm (59.4 in.)
Rake 64 degree
Trail 115 mm (4.5 in.)
Front Suspension telelever w/single shock
Stanchion Diameter 35 mm (1.38 in.)
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 190 mm (7.5 in.)
Rear Suspension cast-alloy single-sided swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload, rebound damping
Travel 200 mm (7.9 in.)
Seat Height 840/860 mm (33.0/33.9 in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type spoke wheels w/aluminum rims
Front 2.50 x 19
Rear 4.00 x 17
Front Tire 110/80 H 19
Rear Tire 150/70 H 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 305 mm (12.0 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 276 mm (10.9 in.)
Anti-lock/Combining ABS w/switch-off button/no combining

WEIGHT & FUEL CAPACITY
Wet-Weight 250 kg (556 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 22 l (5.8 gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank) 85 hp at 6,750 rpm
Torque 10.0 mkp (74 ftlbs.) at 5,250 rpm
Top Speed 195 km/h (122 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 4.2 s
Fuel Consumption 5.5 l/100 km (43.0 mpg)
Fuel Range 400 km (250 miles)

EQUIPMENT
Adjustable and convertible windshield, additional lower fairing mounted to the fuel tank, dashboard w/speedometer, odometer, trip-odometer and tachometer, warning light for fuel reserve, emergency flashers, key switch in the center of the dashboard, rider seat adjustable in 2 positions, aluminum cover for engine, plastic guard for cylinder head, adjustable luggage rack, center and side stand. Mounted BMW accessories: sidebags and topcase.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 4/5
Chassis 4/5
Brakes 5/5
Comfort 4/5
Luggage w/accessories 5/5
Equipment 5/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 4/5

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Moto Guzzi Quota

Retail Price $ 9,995
Warranty three years or unlimited mileage
Maintentance Schedule
1,000/6,000/every 6,000 miles (1,500/10,000/every 10,000 km)
Importer/Distributor
Moto America, 455 W. Depot Street, Angier, NC 27501, (800) 872-6686, website: www.motoguzzi-US.com, Moto Guzzi Italy: www.guzzi.com

ENGINE
Type 2-cylinder V, 4-stroke
Cooling air-cooled
Valve Arrangement 2 valves per cyl., ohv, cam chain driven, pushrods and rockers
Bore & Stroke 92 x 80 mm
Displacement 1,064 cc
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch dual-plate dry clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive shaft drive

CHASSIS
Frame steel frame, double cradle
Wheelbase 1,610 mm (63.4 in.)
Rake 64 degree
Trail 105 mm (4.1 in.)
Front Suspension conventional fork
Stanchion Diameter 42 mm (1.65 in.)
Adjustments no
Travel 185 mm (7.3 in.)
Rear Suspension steel swingarm w/single shock
Adjustmentsspring preload, rebound damping
Travel 185 mm (7.3 in.)
Seat Height 820 mm (32.3 in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type spoke wheels w/aluminum rims
Front 1.85 x 21
Rear 2.75 x 17
Front Tire 90/90-21
Rear Tire 130/80-17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, floating double-piston calipers
Diameter 296 mm (11.7 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, floating double-piston caliper
Diameter 260 mm (10.2 in.)
Anti-lock/Combining no ABS/no combining

WEIGHT & FUEL CAPACITY
Wet-Weight 265 kg (589 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 20 l (5.3 gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank) 69 hp at 6,200 rpm
Torque 9.4 mkp (70 ftlbs.) at 3,800 rpm
Top Speed 190 km/h (119 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 4.6 s
Fuel Consumption 6.6 l/100 km (35.9 mpg)
Fuel Range 303 km (189 miles)

EQUIPMENT
Half-fairing, dashboard w/speedometer, odometer, trip-odometer and tachometer, warning light for fuel reserve, key switch in the center of the dashboard, aluminum guard for cylinder head, luggage rack, center and side stand. Mounted Moto Guzzi accessories: sidebags and topcase.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 3/5
Chassis 4/5
Brakes 4/5
Comfort 3/5
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Equipment 3/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 4/5

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Triumph Tiger

Retail Price $ 10,79
Warranty two years (unlimited mileage)
Maintentance Schedule
500/6,000/every 6,000 miles (800/10,000/every 10,000 km)
Importer/Distributor
Triumph Motorcycles America, Ltd., 385 Walt Sanders Memorial Drive, Newnan, GA 30265,
phone (678) 854-2010,
website: www.triumph.co.uk

ENGINE
Type 3-cylinder inline, 4-stroke
Cooling water-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., dohc, cam chain driven, shim under bucket adjustment
Bore & Stroke 79 x 65 mm
Displacement 956 cc
Compression Ratio 11.2:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control catalytic converter

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch multi-plate wet clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive chain drive

CHASSIS
Frame steel frame, twin beam (perimeter)
Wheelbase 1,550 mm (61.0 in.)
Rake 62 degree
Trail 92 mm (3.6 in.)
Front Suspension conventional fork
Stanchion Diameter 43 mm (1.69 in.)
Adjustments no
Travel 230 mm (9.1 in.)
Rear Suspension cast alloy swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload, rebound damping
Travel 200 mm (7.9 in.)
Seat Height 840/850/860 mm (33.1/33.5/33.9 in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type spoke wheels w/aluminum rims
Front 2.50 x 19
Rear 4.25 x 17
Front Tire 110/80 V 19
Rear Tire 150/70 V 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, floating double-piston calipers
Diameter 310 mm (12.2 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, floating double-piston caliper
Diameter 285 mm (11.2 in.)
Anti-lock/Combining no ABS/no combining

WEIGHT &
FUEL CAPACITY
Wet-Weight 256 kg (569 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 24 l (6.3 gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank) 98 hp at 8,200 rpm
Torque 9.7 mkp (72 ftlbs.) at 6,200 rpm
Top Speed 205 km/h (128 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 3.6 s
Fuel Consumption 7.0 l/100 km(33.7 mpg)
Fuel Range 343 km (214 miles)

EQUIPMENT
Windshield, dashboard w/speedometer, odometer/trip-odometer (both digital), tachometer, digital clock, fuel gauge and coolant-temperature gauge, warning light for fuel reserve, key switch in the center of the dashboard, rider seat adjustable in 3 positions, aluminum cover for engine, luggage rack and side stand. Mounted Triumph accessories: sport silencer.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 5/5
Chassis 5/5
Brakes 4/5
Comfort 4/5
Luggage w/accessories 5/5
Equipment 4/5
Design 5/5
Bike for the buck 5/5