Ten years ago no one had ever heard of the term ‘adventure bike’ now they are the most popular style of bike on sale. So just what’s available for the would-be round-the-world traveller?
Blame Ewan and Charley. Most people do. A decade ago, if you wanted a comfy bike but didn’t want a full-blown tourer you’d be looking at something like a VFR or a Sprint, but since the phenomenon of the Long Way Down franchise the sports tourer has all but been killed off by the GS and it’s like.
Which motorbike is best for adventure motorbiking?
These tall-rounders may look like pumped up motocrossers, but it would be a brave rider to take one of these monsters off road. What they are, though, are supremely comfortable and practical all-rounders with a commanding riding position and plenty of luggage carrying capability. For long intercontinental trips, there’s not much to touch them, but just which one should you buy? Here’s some of the best.
If BMW didn’t invent the genre, their marketing men have certainly made it their own. The GS brand is as synonymous with adventure bikes as Land Rover are with four-wheeled SUVs and the R1150GS is a living legend, with all the image, plenty of accessories and a dealer in every city. Despite the off-road styling, the GS is best suited to the tarmac due to its heavy weight and road-biased tyres. Adventure version has more off-road capability thanks to the larger, spoked wheels, but the bigger fuel tank means even more weight. Reliability is generally good, although driveshafts are a known weakness and are expensive to replace. If you want to sell your GS, you’re in a great position. The market is very strong with plenty of demand for good bikes with practical options.
BMW also makes a range of smaller GSs. The F800GS twin is more capable on tricky terrain thanks to its lower weight, although the lack of a shaft drive does put some off. The F650 model (although actually 800cc) is a great entry level bike, even if it’s not a milemuncher like the bigger bikes.
Of the other manufacturers, Triumph has had some big successes with its Tiger sub-brand. The original Tiger 900 of 1993 was an absolute monster of a machine but over the years the model evolved into the classy Tiger 1050 of today. With alloy wheels and sports tyres, the 1050 has no off-road pretentions whatsoever, but the upright riding position and glorious triple engine make it one of the best value all-rounders on the road today. Cashing in on the adventure trend, the British company has added a whole host of other Tigers to its range. The 800 and 800XC are best sellers that go head to head with (and generally better) BMW’s 800 models, while the new Explorer is an unashamed R1200GS competitor, complete with a similarly sized motor, gargantuan driveshaft and an accessory catalogue that would make Argos proud.
One could argue that it was Yamaha who created the modern adventure bike with its Tenere and Super Tenere models of the 80s. From 1975’s XT500 to the parallel twin XTZ750 Super Tenere of 1989, Yamaha developed the dual sport concept that was a massive hit on the continent and which would eventually be adopted in the rest of the world as ‘adventure bikes’. The current, 1200cc, Super Tenere, introduced in 2010, generally struggles against the GS and Tiger Explorer, handicapped in no small part by its high price in the showroom and excessive weight. Despite this, it is still a very capable tourer if you are a Yamaha fan and can get a good deal on one.
While the big adventure tourers typically have heavy drive shafts, there are several sportier models that utilise chain drive. For those who like the idea of an adventure tourer but can’t quite let go of their sports bike tendancies, Ducati’s Multistrada is a slightly pricey but sportier alternative. The latest model, with its 17” wheels and supertrick electronic suspension, is simply a practical and reasonably comfy sportsbike, though don’t confuse the latest (2010 onwards) 135bhp model with earlier versions, which were launched in 2003, as the first bikes were something of an acquired taste, with its strange styling. The aforementioned Triumph Tiger 1050, in its latest Sport guise, is an excellent alternative to the Ducati, trading the electric gizmos for big cash savings.
And if you want to talk about bikes that can go off the beaten track, you can never count out KTM. Their 1190 Adventure is the lightest and most powerful bike in the sector. It seems that everyone wants to get into the adventure bandwagon…