Wow, what did the Germans put in their breakfast this week? The Intermot motorcycle show is often considered second banana to the Italian EICMA show when it comes to new model releases, but not anymore with a whole bevy of new models unveiled in Cologne this past week.
As always, there are the usual “bold new graphics” mob, but there are also some seriously interesting all-new bikes released, and it’s those that we’ll take a more detailed gander at here, kicking off with ….
With this category being the darling of the motorcycle manufacturers recently, it’s not surprising we’re seeing the most activity here – though of course, many of the offerings are only really adventure in name only, 17-inch wheels and lack of suspension/ground clearance being their Achilles’ heels when it comes to venturing any further than well-packed gravel.
Now this seems like a great time to establish what the industry means by “adventure”. To us it’s a bike that has the capability to leave the pavement and — at the very least — negotiate a gravel fire road without fear. In our opinion, that means a larger front wheel (19-inch minimum, to aid in rolling over objects rather than ploughing into them), spoked wheels (that flex on impact rather than bend) and long travel suspension (to absorb the irregularities and give the bottom of the bike the ground clearance needed to pass over rocks).
But we talked about that in fine detail in this column here. So now you know what an adventure bike is (or at least should be), let’s start with Intermot’s lesser adventure capable bikes and work our way up from there.
Kawasaki’s Versys 650 and 1000 both saw minor updates and restyling tweaks, with the 650 also receiving motor tweaks (more power higher up), better brakes and a stronger subframe for more luggage carrying capacity and the 1000 getting the beefed-up subframe and wheels, a centrestand and adjustable windscreen.
It would have been nice to have seen the 650 (which is a twin) get a push into a more off-road capable role with some spoked wheels and a 19″ front. The 1000 — with its huge inline four motor — is so far out to left field in the adventure world that I think it should stay where it is.
Despite my ruminations about their lack of real world adventure capabilities, what we have here are a couple of old style standard motorcycles with longer-travel suspension and great ergonomics. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think claiming adventure status for them is taking the piss a tad.
Another bike in the same pseudo-adventure category of the Versys is Honda’s Crossrunner that gets some tweaks. It has not yet made it to Canada since its initial release in 2011, and it likely won’t make it any time soon. Still, with the VFR V4 motor and longer travel suspension/comfy ergos, the Crossrunner would likely be a great touring machine – just let’s not get too adventurous with those 17-inch cast wheels.
And that leads us nicely to Suzuki’s new V-Strom 650XT. You will likely remember the V-Strom long termer that we had for the last couple of years and which we added all sorts of aftermarket accessories to, including a pair of wire wheels. These enabled the Strom to go onto rougher dirt roads but lack of suspension and ground clearance meant that once it got rocky, the Strom would start to struggle.
The new XT comes with wire wheels as standard, laced to allow for tubeless tires (sweet) and unlike our own, retains the ABS rings, though we’re not sure if the ABS can be turned off or not (let’s hope so). There’s also an adventure beak added that seems to be de rigueur for adventure bikes now, though no-one seems to know why. Oh and the front fender is unchanged which really needs to be higher to avoid breaking from rocks caught in the tire treads (as it did on our project bike).
Basically, Suzuki have made the Strom into a more accessible adventure bike, though by not lengthening the suspension in the process, the bike will still run foul from ground clearance issues (unchanged at 175 mm), but with the new wheels, at least you won’t have to worry too much when you whack that rock hidden in the gravel.
Perhaps a more honest derivation from the adventure moniker, but related none-the-less, is the scrambler that was revived by Triumph in 2006, taking their Bonneville 865cc twin and slapping on high pipes, taller suspension and some styling mods. Although no other manufacturer has really run with the genre, Ducati were taking notice and (8 years later) have re-introduced their delicious air-cooled motor from the Monster 796 to drive their new Scrambler collection.
Available in four different incarnations of varying adventureness, two come with wire wheels — The Classic and Urban Enduro — and switchable ABS to boot.
The cheapest version is a grand less (though the wired wheel versions are $700 more) than Triumph’s offering, and they boast an additional 16 hp (at 75 hp), have comparable torque and are a massive 44 kg lighter over claimed wet weights. We may have a winner ladies and gentlemen, though we still have to see if the bikes can do what they purport.
And finally to what will likely be the most adventurous bike of them all, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure. It’s hailed by KTM as perhaps the safest adventure bike ever – due to KTM’s rather trick cornering ABS, engine torque control and semi-active suspension that adapts to changing terrain on the fly.
But it also raises the question, how many big bore adventure bikes is KTM going to make? It already has the 1190 Adventure and R models and has just confirmed that there will be a new 1050 model coming, likely aimed at the less affluent customer.
If we look at the stats, the 1190 R is the most dirt suitable machine thanks to its 21-inch front wheel, longer travel suspension and better ground clearance (by 30 mm over the others). It’s also 12 Kg lighter than the new 1290. However the standard 1190 and the new 1290 seem to be stepping on each others toes as both are geared to the pavement a little more (19-inch front wheels, tall screens, comfy seats).
Which raises the question whether the 1190 Adventure is in danger of being discontinued only a year after its launch – the 1290 boasting more fuel capacity (30 L vs 23 L), more power (+12 hp) but also more weight … and let’s not forget the all important “Super” tagged on to the name.