Adventure bikes: the new SUVs?

Ramblings by Zac Kurylyk. Photos as credited.
Ramblings by Zac Kurylyk. Photos as credited.

Dear Motorcycle Manufacturers: Please stop turning adventure bikes into SUVs.

SUVs were originally built for offroad action, taking after tough vehicles like this Jeep CJ-7. Photo: TheUsedJeep.com
SUVs were originally built for offroad action, taking after tough vehicles like this Jeep CJ-7. Photo: TheUsedJeep.com

Some readers might think that’s an odd request, but let’s take a trip down memory lane. Remember when the SUV craze kicked off in the 1990s, with O.J.’s Bronco and Arnold’s Hummer? The following years saw every carmaker jump on the bandwagon, with a growing emphasis on style and luxury over capability.

adventure motorcycle SUV
Behold the evolution of the SUV, seen here in its current habitat, the shopping centre parking lot. Photo: Wikipedia

Initially, they were a hit; millions of North Americans bought the gas-guzzlers.

At this point, even luxury brands like Lincoln and Cadillac have SUVs in the lineup – a far cry from bare-bones vehicles like the Suzuki Samurai, or Jeep CJ-7. Carmakers have taken a utilitarian design, and morphed it into an obese grocery-getter with running boards and heated seats. Take a look at Hummer’s H3 for the current state of the SUV; it can hardly claim to be Sporty, or even Utilitarian.

Now, compare that decline to today’s ‘adventure’ bike trends.

For years, the adventure motorcycling dream has been sold through online forums and the odd dedicated magazine. It’s always the same basic message: Hop aboard your bike, strap on some luggage, and you can blast through the world’s wildest regions, regardless of inhospitable conditions. Sand? Mud? Water? Desert? It doesn’t matter – you can ride through it all on your adventure bike, meeting new people and cultures along the way.

adventure motorcycle SUV
Sites like ADVRider do a lot to promote the idea of adventure motorcycling. Who wouldn’t want to wheelie across a salt flat?

Of course, there’s the reality that accompanies this pitch: While many riders are doing just this sort of thing, there are many other riders who buy adventure bikes and don’t take them any further than the local Tim Hortons.

adventure motorcycle SUV
This photo of the original R80 G/S gives you a good idea of what the original adventure bikes looked like. They were minimalistic machines, ready for off-road action.

It’s the SUV story playing out all over again and like the SUV’s spiral into uselessness, I blame those coffee-swilling wannabes for the current state of adventure motorcycles.

When adventure bikes first came out (think of BMW’s 1981 R80G/S, or maybe even Honda’s XL500 or Yamaha’s XT500), they were more porky than standard street-and-trail machines of the day, but they were an honest attempt at off-road travel.

They were lighter than most street machines, had more suspension travel, and not much in the way of easy-to-break bodywork. They didn’t offer much in the way of street amenities, but these bikes were raced at Dakar and rarely seen at the local java stop.

Compare that to the current crop of bikes carrying the adventure motorcycle label. Fairings are in, minimalist design is out. There’s a growing array of electronic gadgetry that would make a 1960s-era James Bond jealous.

adventure motorcycle SUV
Here’s what happened when ‘Arris piloted an adventure bike with cast rims during his 2012 Morocco adventure. Photo: Rob Harris

Many even come with easily-broken cast wheels, instead of dirt-friendly spoked rims. And indeed, some even shun the minimum-for-off-road 19-inch front wheels in favour of a pair of sporty 17-inchers, shod in tires more at home on a track than a gravel road.

adventure motorcycle SUV
Here’s what the CMG project V-Strom looked like, before installing a skid plate. That’s an aftermarket exhaust, but the stocker was similarly unprotected, like the oil filter. It wouldn’t take much of an offroad adventure to bash this up, yet this bike is classified as a dual sport by Suzuki. Photo: Rob Harris

As a result, riders are riding much more comfortably on the street, but the adventure element is being reduced to marketing doublespeak.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with taking a powerful street-biased motor and adding long-travel suspension and luggage. However, slapping the adventure motorcycle label on that machine is a misnomer. A lot of modern adventure bikes are actually just sport touring machines with slightly longer suspension.

You could argue that’s not a big deal – after all, the beaten track pretty much circles the globe these days, and you can ride just about everywhere on pavement. But if that’s the case, why buy an adventure bike in the first place? The same traveling can be achieved on a Harley-Davidson, like Peter and Kay Forwood, or even an R1, like Sjaak Lucassen? Are cruisers and crotch rockets the same thing as adventure bikes?

adventure motorcycle SUV
Check out this show snap. That’s a Kawsaki Versys 1000 adventure bike in the foreground, and a Concours sport tourer in the background. Check out the similarities, and take a peak at the tread pattern visible on the Versys’ tire. Photo: Rob Harris

There’s another slightly amusing side to this marketing spiel as well. When travelers arrive at those far-off exotic countries, what are most of the locals riding? Not big-bore duallies, that’s for sure. The majority of the globe’s two-wheeled tribe is running little 100-150 cc motorcycles, and in many cases, even scooters.

adventure motorcycle SUV
Ride to the far corners of the world, and you’ll find the locals don’t need 120 hp and traction control to get around.

The point to all this jibber-jabber, is that motorcycle marketers and riders are actually missing the point. Adventure bikes used to have to earn their title by proving their capabilities, but as time has passed, the capabilities of those bikes have diminished, and been replaced by style and luxury.

They may be more powerful, more comfortable and showered with safety features, but guess what? You don’t need 120 hp, heated seats and traction control when you’re buried up to your axels in the sand. You need to be able to pull your bike out and keep moving.

I asked Austin Vince his thoughts on this issue. You might not have heard of Vince’s name before, but his classic adventure riding film Mondo Enduro (click here for the trailer!) was part of the inspiration for Charley Boorman and Ewan MacGregor’s Long Way Down and Long Way Round. You could arguably call Vince the godfather of modern adventure riding.

adventure motorcycle SUV
Austin Vince and Lois Pryce have traveled the world on small-displacement bikes. Vince thinks the move towards larger adventure bikes has discouraged many women from riding the machines. Photo: Austin Vince

He didn’t slam today’s large adventure bikes, but here’s the wisdom he did share.

adventure motorcycle SUC
Heated seats won’t help you at a moment like this. Photo: Loisontheloose.com

“If you gathered together the world’s greatest adventure motorcyclists, people who have done things that are truly impressive and inspirational, and then interviewed them all for two hours each … when asked, ‘What would you change about your trip if you could do it again?” not one of them will say: ‘I wish my bike had been bigger.’ ”

Vince knows what he’s talking about. He’s circled the globe on a Suzuki DR350. His wife, Lois Pryce, is also a well-known adventure rider. She took a Yamaha XT225 from Alaska to Argentina, and wrote a book about it.

The SUV car craze started to die out when the public realized that emperor had no clothes. Hopefully, motorcycle manufacturer’s don’t end up killing the fastest-growing two-wheeled culture the same way, by convincing everyone to buy fancy, powerful, luxurious bikes with less and less off-road capability … and then stay home to pay them off.

45 thoughts on “Adventure bikes: the new SUVs?”

  1. If these “adventure” bikes get people away from cruisers, it makes me happy.
    I find cruiser people obnoxious–it is probably their need to be loud in order to better
    fit the “bad” image that most bothers me. If they were mostly quiet, I wouldn’t even
    notice them. Adv’ bikes are mostly quiet, right?

  2. Ok I’m with Jim up there at the start of the responses. As an original owner of a 1987 Honda Trans-alp,which I still have.The seating position with lots of leg room. Relatively high ride height to see over traffic. Fairly lightweight and the biggest point, relatively good fairing coverage with a higher Gustafsson windshield without being too hot were the appeal. Yes I run Continental street knobbies so I can easily run on dirt roads and easy trails, but the Tran-alp is no XR 400! The biggest advantage back before adjustable electric windshields was avoiding the heat behind a big touring fairing! Anyway after over 40 years of riding on somewhere over 35 different bikes, I’m less opinionated about bike types and and rider motivation. Cruisers,Classic,sport bikes,dirt bikes,Adventure bikes and even Harley Davidson’s. I like them all! There has never been a better time to be a motorcycle enthusiasts !

    Sometimes riding my XR 400 through the woods I opine for the narrow handle bars of my Honda 90 trail ! Gee with that large rear sprocket that thing would climb a tree!

    John

  3. As I’ve ridden with a buddy that has the Adventure Touring bug. I must say it’s the most difficult category to slot into if your looking for a riding partner. My friend is coming from an older sport bike and uses his GS800 to go hammer down when on the pavement. My pretend ADV tour bike (17″ wheels) can keep up well on the pavement but I can’t tackle much more then gravel and hardpack. He on the other hand has climbed a local ski slope. The catch 22 was this particular ski slope was about 5 hrs ride away. My DR650 is ideal for such tasks but with lowered gearing can’t quite hold the 130-135 kph cruise he used to get there and my seat is a bit of a board for that amount of time in the saddle. My point being at least the middle weight ADV tourers do serve a function that can’t be easily replicated. They can get you to your pretend adventure fast and can still be used to when you get there. Lesser bikes are only frustration free if traveling alone or with same.

  4. Hey Zac, the photo with the 1000 Versys in the foreground actually has a Kawasaki Concours ZG14 in the background – not a ZX14 as stated in the caption.

    FWIW: The Honda CT110 is the ultimate adventure bike.
    Any chance you can get your hands on a Sym 100 (Honda Super Cub) for a review?
    I’d like to think this could be the cult item we need in North America to compete with the Australians and their postie bikes.
    Maybe you could ride one in the next Mad Bastard Rallye.

  5. It seems like many people only have one kind of adventure in mind. Some people have their adventures on 125s and some on 1200s – Ted Simon found his first on a Brit street bike. Where does it say that unless you’re up to the hubs in muck or babyhead rocks that it’s not an adventure? Even Austin Vince said (in the Jan/Feb ’13 DSN/ADVMoto mag) “that’s the essence of adventure motorcycling – being far, far from home, slightly anxious, and not sure what’s going to happen next…” – that seems possible on any bike.

    Right now I can think of a version of the KTM LC8, a BMW 1200 and a V-Strom 650 all with “adventure” in the title and Honda’s calling their new 700 an adventure bike, so what? Why do people get so bent out of shape about what I buy or why I buy it?

    As for not taking “adventure” bikes offroad, that’s not just the big ones, you can find plenty of small and mid-size dualsports out there that never go offroad either. People are always buying stuff to suit the lifestyle they wish they had because maybe, even for only a few hours/days/weeks they can actually live that lifestyle.

    And as has been said, if the bike companies had to survive on the profits they make on only their 250 – 650 dualsport bikes they’d have all been gone long ago – well, maybe not Kawasaki 🙂

    Anyway, have your adventures on whatever you like, call your bike whatever you want… it’s where you ride it not what you call it anyway.

  6. Those 250 ‘dirt bikes’ (sorry, that is what they are) or dual-sport maybe, are great on the trails, dirt roads, etc., but most of us have to ride many miles on the slab to get there. Not an enjoyable exercise for sure.

    It’s not just the manufacturers marketing them as adventure bikes, so are the bike mags. The latest Physco Canada lists bikes like the Versys as an adventure bike. It’s a street bike. It does not have anything required to take it off road. 17″ wheels, cast rims, limited suspension, street tires.

    Bottom Line: You can take ANY bike down a gravel or dirt road, some are just more fun then others.

    1. Willie, I hear what you are saying re: doing distance on a 250. That’s partly true; I bought a DR650 because my old 200 just couldn’t lay down miles on the highway very quickly, and at the time, my bike was literally my only vehicle, and I needed that capability.

      However, you can also take a back road anywhere you take a highway. I rode Honda’s new CRF250L on a Bowmanville-Huntsville trip for a couple days last fall. It got me from A to B, (mostly on secondary roads, but also down 400-series highways). It just took a little longer. And frankly, not that much longer. If you’re riding 20 kph slower down the highway, you’re only going to start noticing the difference on day-long trips. The trade-off is that if you take those trips down secondary roads, you’re going to have a lot more fun arriving at your destination, than if you superslabbed it.

      You are right, in that you can take any bike down a gravel or dirt road. Not every bike can handle it well – it’s not a question of fun, it’s a question of whether or not you are going to bash up your cast rims and then smash your bodywork in a minor tipover.

      Ultimately, which bike you choose is a decision only the end user can make, because only they know what compromise between speed, weight, cost and agility will keep them happy. I don’t think people need to be on 250s, or 650s or 1000s. They need to be on a bike that does what they need it to do. But just as I wouldn’t classify my DR650 as a cruiser or drag bike, although I can certainly cruise on it or enter it at the local drag strip, I’m saying we need to look at how the adventure bike label is being applied.

      1. I had to ride a CBR125R back from Calabogie to Toronto, and like you had an absolute blast riding secondary highways. It took 6.5 hours, but so what ? Adventure is what you make of it, ride whatever blows yer hair back. Just don’t ride yer $15K ‘adventure-tourer’ from home to Starbucks and then complain to me how the heated grips aren’t adequate…

    2. For a stock 250, that’s fair. Most that get used for longer trips have the seats and tanks replaced. The WR250R tops out above 150 km/h but it’s a bit of work to get it going that fast and won’t do that uphill into the wind. The buzzing handlebars are annoying above 120 km/h. If you’re riding legal(ish) without a passenger, you’d never *need* more than a modern 250 but certainly a bigger bike will be more pleasurable on long highway trips.

      I think the comments have beaten this to death but the right bike is the one you enjoy riding most for the kinds of riding you get to do. There isn’t necessarily a wrong bike, just misleading marketing.

      For me, I sold the VFR800 and the KLR650 and bought a WR250R. It’s the best of the 14 bikes I’ve owned — although selling the RZ350 was a mistake. That was a fun machine with more character than a fleet of anything made in the last decade. It even had decent ground clearance for casual, low speed trails if you removed the lower fairing.

      1. Rode my 1990 Rz350N on Saturday the 23. +3 and rain.
        I tour on it. I’ve been known to go down dirt/gravel with
        all of my camping gear. Even met an English chappy that
        was a former RD/LC owner.

        You’re correct; no beating them. Explains the 5 Rz’s, 1 RD/LC,
        500 Gamma, 500 RZ, Ns400R and RD400 I have owned. 😉

  7. This one topic still seems to have legs
    It is as I see it two separate conversations are going on here.

    In 2001 when I got back into riding I was looking for something like my last bike which had been a DT400 which was totaled about 10 years beforehand.
    My list was very similar to Stuarts orginal comment.At the time the real choices boiled down to a KLR 650 -the old ones with the industructible garbage can plastic fenders ,a BMW F650 or the GS 1150 and there wasn’t much more availible on the market. I ended up months later with the R1150GS , the cost difference at the time wasn’t that much .I ran it everywhere with 4 or 5 trips down gravel roads per year ,in Quebec this is or was pretty well unavoidable. It took 8 years for me to realize that my riding style had changed and that something like an RT 1200 would be more appropriate. though an RT with the suspension travel of the GS would be nice. I still have fond memories of the GS and where I went with it and I will say that, yes sir I used it about 5 % of the time on something other than pavement.There was one other advantage of the GS which was I never washed it more than once a year.
    Now the market has changed I think for the good in that it is giving more choice to any rider, how the manufacturers are promoting some of these can be questioned , but then some of the same manufactuers have had these bikes for some time but have not brought them in to North America since they thought all we wanted was either crusiers or race bikes.Honda Rune anyone?

    If I really had to do a real adventure I would be looking at a bike that has stood the test of time.
    Give me A Ural with Ivan the mechanic in the side car.

  8. I totally get the article, and many of the point of views here. I remember hating on the new breed of SUV’s when they came out. I was seeing people driving these vehicles that 5 years before wouldn’t be caught dead in them. We took our Jimmies and Explorers in the woods. Slept in them because towing a camper where we were going was not a real option. But then they changed. Got lower, heavier, body on frame style (stronger, my off road adept) disappeared. I hated it. But….

    Most people liked the creature comforts, a taller, better view of the road, suspension that soaked up our horrible roads, and loads of space to haul loads of crap.

    Hmmmmm, sounds very familiar…….

    I agree with Zack, cast wheels, 700lbs, plastic bodies and 125hp don’t add up for much in the dirt. But i also agree that adventure doesn’t need be strictly on the dirt. Any road north of the 49 begins to get adventurous. Hiway 11 or 17 in Ontario? Yeah, 7 inches of suspension goes a long way. Hiway 8, 108 or 180 in New Brunswick. Basically paved woods roads that connects the interior with the edges. The 138 along the St. Lawrence in Quebec towards Sept-iles is rough, rutted, sandy and easily ridden on a Harley, or sport bike or sport tourer, but is way more comfortable on an ADV bike.

    I think there should be a gentle rebranding. Road adventure is my my choice.

    As for me, i think i may go for a short ride today. Sunny here, and not too much snow in the driveway. My overweight, seldom offroad KLR is looking a little lonely.

  9. Wow, that’s a lot of comments. I think the underlying point is the whole Adventure category is primarily a styling exercise. I have ridden off road for many years and a few years ago bought a KTM 950 Adventure. I was under no delusion that it was a dirt bike, and any deepish sand confirmed that immediately. But it was an excellent motorcycle for all types of ROAD surfaces including seasonal access roads and easily navigated unopened allowances. It was also comfortable, durable, and didn’t look (more) rediculuous with a tank bag or luggage.

    As for what an adventure bike is I would feel more comfortable on Ted Simons 500 Triumph or 800GS or Zacs XS650 in the middle of the 3rd world than on ANY of the big Adventure bikes.

  10. Ask Costa about him riding an 883 in Parent with us. Talk about inappropriate…:D

    Or Manny with a 750 Fazer offroad.

    It’s not about the bike.

  11. I totally get the article guys and enjoy the responses. Although my question is very true, it was posted for cheaky fun. It makes me laugh seeing blokes on big bore ‘adventure’ bikes knowing they never to off road, Harley riders who have never had a brush with the law, and fat chicks in Lulu Lemon gear, but I digress. The reality is I want four, or more, bikes in my garage to suit my needs and am loath to settle for one with compromises. Now if only ICBC will allow us to have personal insurance for whatever we are riding so we can move the plate over when we switch bikes……….

  12. So help me out here guys. I’m in the market for a new bike, but can only afford one. I like the twisties after work when on my own, but want to do day trips that include sections of gravel roads. A few times a year its a long weekend road trip, highway mileage to my buddies in the states. Throw in a week long vacation trip with the Mrs. and her ‘stuff’ riding pillion, and maybe the odd trip up the mountain on logging roads for a picnic and valley views. So what ‘type’ of bike do you recommend so that I won’t be called a poser?

    1. I don’t care what anybody rides, Stuart. The point of this piece is to say – if you want to call a bike an adventure bike, build it to do adventurous things. Don’t put a lot of easily broken plastic on it, in case you tip it over on that gravel road. Don’t put cast wheels on it, so you don’t have to worry about dinging your rims on that logging road.
      If somebody likes adventure bike styling but doesn’t want to go ride the Orange Crush or the Paris-Dacre, that’s fine. I’ve never run those events either. But if you buy an adventure bike, you should have some expectancy of the machine being set up for off-road work, otherwise, what makes them different from any other machine?

      Obviously, an adventure bike is more than a dual sport. I wouldn’t call a Husky TE250 and adventure bike. But it should take more than a set of wide handlebars to earn the title, too, otherwise my old KZ440 and XS650 would both classify as adventure bikes, because I had KLR bars on them.

      1. Zac – I WOULD call the TE250 an adventure bike. Light-weight. Great fuel economy. Great dirt capabilities. Yet able to ride along the slab too with plenty of power to spare. Perhaps not appropriate for freeway cruising, but who selects a freeway when mapping out an adventure ride anyway? Certainly such small displacement dual-sport bikes seem to work well as adventure bikes for Austin Vince and Lois Pryce above. Like others here. I too don’t care what anyone rides. I love the fact that we have a choice of what we CAN ride. Yet I tend to agree with the article above that many bikes labeled as “adventure bikes” simply aren’t built with much off-road focus.

        I am a member of ADV rider and I ride a 2009 Yamaha WR250R. I think it serves as a suitable adventure bike for me. Great power for a 250. Great reliability and durability. Excellent fuel economy (with FI). Decent fuel range (I have an IMS tank). High quality suspension and components. And relatively light-weight of 298 lbs wet. Yet – it’s also expensive when purchased new (I bought mine used). Still – I can easily pick it up after a “nap” and have done so on several occasions in the dirt. Yet I think one of the issues here is that manufacturers make more profit by selling, larger, more expensive bikes. And the perception of many adventure riders is that light-weight and more dirt-oriented smaller displacement bikes simply don’t have enough power. And that they aren’t comfortable enough (riders seem to want to be coddled nowadays) for full days in the saddle. And for many – this may indeed be the case. So in many ways it doesn’t surprise me that manufacturers are moving in this direction. Perhaps people are preferring the trade-off of a bike that is more comfortable on the tarmac and are willing to put up with considerably less off-road capability.

        1. As another owner of a WR250R, I think it’s close to the perfect bike. There are two things it doesn’t do well – ride hours of highway vibration-free (but as noted already, back roads are more fun) and hauling passengers with luggage. For StuArt, he might actually have the perfect set of conditions for owning a big adventure bike. The 250 will not have room for two-up trips. He didn’t list trail riding so he should go for a big bike made for mostly asphalt but suitable for gravel. Lots of choices which is great.

  13. Hmmm. so it is all the manufacturer’s fault? I visit the dealer and see plenty of dusty non current, brand new KLRs and DR650s looking like the unwanted puppydogs at the pound, while the 100+ horsepower, heated gripped heated seat, cruise controlled, mag wheeled, no substitute for cubic kilogram adventure bikes are flying out the door as fast as service can push them into the showroom.

    So exactly who’s fault is that? And what would you do if your name was mr. Yamaha or ms. Bavarian-Motorwerks?

    1. You certainly couldn’t blame the SUV craze solely on bad marketing … and the same goes here. People are just buying bikes that suit them. That’s cool. I’m just saying, let’s call a spade a spade. Let’s not confuse it with a pitchfork or a garden rake.

  14. I could care less about the ride you have. If you’re happy with it, and it’s what brings a smile to your face, then ride on brother. This naked bike, adventure bike, sport bike, cruiser thing is all divide and conquer bullshit. If you’re into the sun, and the wind, and rain and snow in your face… the smell of cedar, exhaust, dust, and cowshit… the change in temperature as you descend, or ascend a hill or a mountain… then who really gives a fiddlers’ fuck what you’re riding!

    1. The point here isn’t to criticize bikes. Like I said earlier, I think most bikes are fine for what they’re being used for – that’s why they’re used in those roles. I am just saying they’re being marketed for roles they are unsuited for. It’s not that they aren’t capable – they just really aren’t aimed at traditional adventure riding.

  15. I helped push a new SUV stuck in the snow in front of my driveway. I then hopped in my tiny hatchback car with snow tires and drove away. I noticed in my mirror that the SUV driver was stuck again and very surprised I wasn’t. The SUV / Adventure Bike comparison in this article is fair… I used to own a bigger, heavier bike but now have a 250. With a little work and a few hundred bucks, it now has a wide seat, accessory outlet, heated grips, larger gas tank and still weighs half as much as ‘real’ adventure bike. It has crossed creeks, explored trails, rode in the snow, highway commuted, toured down to Pennsylvania and hauled food and luggage to a Quebec cottage along logging roads and dirt trails. Like an SUV, the only reason I can see for owning an ‘Adventure Bike’ would to be hauling more than one person with luggage on a road trip. They still have their place as stylish touring machines, just don’t kid yourself that they’re dirt worthy.

  16. Take a pill. The long suspension and 19 inch wheel makes gravel roads a lot better than on my Varadero than they ever were on the Bandit. There’s a lot of gravel roads I never turned down on the Bandit that I now will. Also better on badly paved roads, ie., most of Quebec and Eastern Ontario after a winter. That’s about it. No way I’d be stupid enough to imagine it an “off road” bike; in fact, in my view, even the KLR is too porky for a real trail, last trail ride I did I had the XT350, my friend had the KLR, and I was having a much better time of it.

    But yeah, there’s lots of smaller on-off road bikes that suit your “Adventure” label ideology, just get one of those. No need to set up a straw man.

  17. Did the factories really race the first “adventure” bikes? Don’t think they were anywhere near stock, much like most racing bikes aren’t. They were always too big. How can one argue things have changed for the worst and argue small bikes where always the way to go? The bikes
    were always too big, too heavy and very nice marketing tools.

  18. I agree about the coffee shop cowboys and their posing with an adv bike. Thank Ewan and Charlie for that.

    The rest of the article? A lot of generalization and in my observations, inaccuracies: If there’s a godfather in this, it’s Helge Pederson. Striking Viking and Walter Colebatch are a couple of more current riders who’ve shown the way. Pay attention to the HUBB and Advrider, and you’ll see that the major ride choice is in the 650cc range, not the scooter ones, though there are a number of folks who have done just that, good on them.

    I’ve ridden what’s called adventure bikes now for 20 years, been around to watch the bandwagon grow. I see the boom in this segment in part as a result of the riding position more than anything else. Fairly upright, good visibility in traffic, nice wide bars providing easy maneuverability. In Europe, many riders have learned this already, hence their popularity, and extensive model choices in this segment. They’re comfortable, easy on the back. Many folks who once swore by cruisers, evolve to one of these as they got older. Which brings me to another observation: That most folks riding these types of bikes evolved to them from other areas in the riding world. Which tends to make them more experienced riders, as your squid , RUBie, or BABe is unlikely to get one of these for a while.

    I was reading an interview a few years back with a BMW rep, where he stated that their own market research had shown that less than 5% of their GS model bikes would ever see a gravel road, let alone a trail. Since the GS is their best seller, and they basically started the genre, these were telling numbers to me. It reflected my impressions of those other adv bikes I’d seen in use.

    In comparison to the SUV’s, and who they changed the car market, I would agree that there are strong similarities. Both are comfortable, easy to use, and can carry all my crap.

    I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I like my crap. 😀

    1. Jim, I see what you’re saying about Pederson and Heggstad and those guys, but Vince’s films in the ’90s were the inspiration for Charlie and Ewan, who in turn were responsible for more of this adventure boom than anything. Plenty of other riders were doing the ADV thing before that (Grant and Susan Johnson, or even further back, Ted Simon) but the British TV series of the ’90s were a huge part of the boom we see today.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a comfortable bike that can carry a lot of crap, just to clarify. I think most of these bikes are very well-designed and perfect for the roles in which they are actually being used. I just think it’s misleading to imply it’s aimed at the off-road market. Some do take larger bikes there, most don’t.

      The guys on HUBB and other boards for sure like their 650s (and believe me, I’d rather have my DR650 than a scooter for round-the-world work, nor did I imply the scooter would work better). But there are a lot of adventure bike owners who aren’t on HUBB or ADVRider … or on gravel or single-track.

      1. For many riders (insert pirate joke here), it’s about the image. It sells most bikes, just ask Harley. And for a rider of one of these adv bikes, I’m happy to see more of the coffee crowd riding them, as it makes more aftermarket available for mine, plus the wonderful fact that it reduces the costs of said items.

        Seen many who threw the Touratech catalog at their new bikes, but shudder at the thought of actually getting them dirty. Fine by me, at least their riding, so good on them. Just because I single track my gsa doesn’t mean I recommend anyone do it.

        And if I was heading for the BAM, no way in hell I’d take the gsa. My DR 350 would get the nod for that job. 😀

        Think we’ve met before. See my email addy for my logon on adv.

  19. I think Honda is making the new UJMs, and adventure bikes are only part of that story … but that is a whole other conversation.

  20. It has already happened. Adventure bikes are the new UJM’s. Why all the fuss over a label? There are still lots of little bikes for the “real adventure” riders to play with. Please save us from your home videos though, it has been done before.

Join the conversation!