Adventure bikes started life as basic off-road pluggers that would get you anywhere. They were simple bikes, like the Yamaha XT500, Suzuki DR650, and even the R80GS.
Back in the day, an Adventure motorcycle was essentially a motocross chassis with a bigger, heavier engine. No good for MX but plenty capable for any terrain from boggy Welsh forest roads to rocky Moroccan trails.
Then, over the past decade, they got fat, went soft and have ended up miles away from the original ethos. Take BMW’s R1200GS, Honda’s Crosstourer, Moto Guzzi’s Stelvio. Sure, they’re good bikes but they are now on par with a Range Rover and miles away from the original concept or a bike that can take on any terrain.
These days, an R1200GS (now the R1250GS) is the poster-boy for the revival of the Adventure genre and even though they are capable in expert hands, for most riders, a GS is exactly what they don’t need when they’re off-road.
For most people, Adventure is a lifestyle choice. They want to look rugged and occasionally hit a gravel-laden road, but they’re not about to cross the Sahara.
But what if you really do want a motorcycle that can go off-road, handle it well and still tackle the daily commute?
We’ve picked the modern adventure bikes that we consider to best represent the original adventure-bike ethos.
Here’s a full run-down of each of these great bikes:
BMW F800GS Adventure Key Specs
What, no R1250GS? The simple fact is, that while the 1200/1250 is the big seller the 800 is the better all-round bike. So much more agile and manageable away from the tarmac, the 800GS gets our pick.
The F 800 GS Adventure has the same spec as the standard F 800 GS but with added extras for better performance off-road, and a more comfortable ride for those long journeys. The fuel tank is 8L larger but thanks to the bodywork redesign, looks perfectly balanced and in proportion. Featuring a pannier bar which doubles as crash protection, wide enduro footrests, and ABS as standard.
KTM 1290 Super Adventure Key Specs
A significant upgrade from the 1190 Adventure, the 1290 Super Adventure has an increased fuel tank to 30L plus a beefed-up look. With a multi-mode electronic WP semi-active suspension system, the bike will adapt the damping rates in real-time for the ultimate comfort. Cornering ABS, traction control and a slipper clutch come as standard for a safer ride. The Super Adventure features electronic cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring system plus LED cornering headlights. Some great additions make you wonder how you did without them.
Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro Key Specs
With a robust chassis and double-sided swingarm, longer suspension and off-road wheels; the 1260 Enduro is the perfect addition to the Multistrada range. Built to rival the BMW GS Adventure and arguably beating it, the 1260 Enduro has a 1260 DVT V-twin engine plus better off-road electronics. A large 19″ front wheel and even larger 30L fuel tank make it perfect for day-long trips miles from petrol stations or tarmac roads.
Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports Key Specs
With a larger tank to extend the range by 300 miles, there’s plenty more you can see and do before needing to fill her up again. The Africa Twin Adventures Sports has had a revamp on the seating position for a more upright ride thanks to the upright seating position. Featuring heat grips for comfort, 22mm more suspension and a more prominent sump guard.
Yamaha Ténéré 700 Key Specs
Designed with an all-new chassis and 21” front rim and 18” rear, the Ténéré 700 may only have a small fuel tank, but Yamaha claims you can get 215+ miles out of it. With a bold design and quad-led headlamps, it’s quite a different look from the usual Yamaha style. A new LCD dash tower graces the bike plus a useful bar for Sat-Navs.
For us, it’s the truest embodiment of an Adventure bike. An off-road capable bike, that can cover miles over any terrain in comfort.
The majority of adventure bike riders never go off-road but if you do, you’ll probably want to choose a bike that will make that off-road experience enjoyable and manageable.
While we have picked some big bikes in this guide, which won’t be ideal for less experienced riders, they’re all capable bikes away from the tarmac.
If you are going to spend a fair amount of time off road, you’ll want to consider smaller-capacity bikes, like trail bikes, which will plug away on any terrain but perhaps won’t be so good for the daily blast down dual carriageways.
If you’re never going off-road, then you’ll want a more road-focused bike, with a smaller front wheel, which will allow you to buy better tyres but also the smaller front wheel will naturally ride better on paved roads.
Do you know roughly what you’ll need to budget to insure your adventure bike?
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