Inside Intermot – part 1, the Adventurists

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Scrambler Classic
 

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 ….

THE ADVENTURISTS

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.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000
The Versys 1000 gets a style makeover, but is more tourer than adventurer.

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.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 650
Being a twin, the 650 could have been pushed into more of an off-road mode.

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.

2015_VFR800X_Crossrunner-action
Like the Versys, Honda’s Crossrunner is more tourer than anything else and unlikely to come to Canada.

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.

2015 Suzuki V Strom 650XT 4
We’d like to claim that the new wire wheels are due to our project bike, but it was an obvious add-on.

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.

2015 Suzuki V Strom 650XT8
This is a good road for the XT.

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.

Ducati’s Scrambler could prove to be a pretty big hit.

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.

Photo: H Mitterbauer
The new 1290 Adventure gets the super moniker but it makes it hard to justify the 1190.

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.


 PHOTO GALLERIES

2015 Kawasaki Versys


2015 Honda Crossrunner


2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT


2015 Ducati Scramblers


2015 KTM Super Adventure 1290

20 COMMENTS

  1. “The big companies don’t listen much about what people want”

    Actually they do. they conduct market research, they keep tabs on each others sales, they watch the after market to see what’s selling and then they make their decisions about what they believe they can make enough money on to justify production.
    I realize that you’re convinced there are countless souls waiting with cash in hand to plunk it down on a small displacement adventure but I come back to the fact that IF a large enough market existed there would be bikes already for sale.

  2. Thanks Editor this is better and more thorough explanation. And as you say quite common to hear bring it and will buy it and I am also guilty of this , either it will take them too long or the competition release something more interesting and often it will have to do with finance, finance is my actual issue at the moment , I am not rich and must keep and have a bike in 2 different countries and might move to a third one. To satisfy my needs I have 2 smaller displacement bikes and it`s the reason that I keep an eye on KTM to see if they might still come up with the 390 Adventure this way I could manage to have an adventure bike and keep my other bike. I would have to make more sacrifices to afford the CCM or one of the bigger option but I am not ruling them out , i still wish for them to come to market since I see many asking for them but will it be the same story where in the end these same people ( could also include myself ) will leave them in the showroom, quite possible with the CCM considering it`s price.

    Somehow surprising that Yamaha US and Canada have decided against the 660 but they are importing the Super Tenere which is rather expensive. Might be that Americans cant justify spending big money on a smaller displacement bike but can justify doing so on a bigger one, it`s what I tend to observe

  3. I can get along as long as they also make something for us who want a lighter and smaller displacement bike that is more off-road worthy. There lays my problem they just think about cashing in on the adventure trend and making them bigger while ignoring the rest of us. Thanks to CCM and AJP who seem to be listening.

    • There would appear to be lots of those like the KLR650, XL650, DR650, DL650 plus lots of others from various manufacturers. If neither of these meets your needs then maybe it’s too narrow a niche and therefore to costly too produce. There are choices whether you are a hard core world traveller, weekend blaster or commuter. You may just have to do more homework.

      • I personally have other options available and i by the rest of us i am speaking for the many I have seen asking for a lighter adventure bike, it`s not everyone who want to buy something that they will need many modifications to make it what they want it to be, There is already many big adventure bikes on the market and we just don’t want to be left aside .Still the major manufacturers are just making them bigger and more adapted to the road while not listening to many asking for a purposely built lighter Adventure bike in the like of the KTM 640 Adventure which KTM could easily produce already having the 690 Enduro as a base or even a 450 adventure bike based on their 450 Rally , these would not be too costly to develop and produce

        Yes the dual sport that you mention are also options and are already in use by some as adventure bikes but they are all outdated and would need more modifications to fill my purpose , Yamaha XTZ 660 Ténéré or a KTM 690 Enduro with a Rally Raid UK kit or if i have to take the modification route i would also consider the WR250R as i like smaller displacement bikes.So far the best option for me are the CCM and the upcoming AJP PR7 as it is meant to be rather lightweight and AJP are known for their good pricing ,also waiting to see if KTM will finally release the 390 Adventure,

          • In my case I can see modifications to be made on most bike and I struggle to leave a bike stock, just that in the case of what I see as an adventure bike I much prefer when the fuel capacity , front fairing and long travel suspension have been taken care of at the factory, yes fuel tank and some fairing are available aftermarket but most of the time they look like an afterthought and they don’t always fit very well , Rally Raid Products does create a nice fitting kit for the KTM 690 Enduro so I do consider this one. As for long travel suspension this is not an easy task and can mess up the geometry and impose extra stress on the frame.

        • I understand what you’re saying but if there was sufficient demand for what you’re talking about somebody, likely KTM would have made it.

          I’m surprised that Yamaha doesn’t bring the 660 here though. I could see it selling pretty well in North America. I’d like one.

          • There is a demand for it otherwise a small company like CCM wouldn’t put all their resources to make one, it`s a big gamble for such a company and AJP is having an overwhelming response since they showed their PR7 prototype at Intermot. The KTM 640 Adventure was also a good seller but they stopped making it when they switched to the 690 format and now they have join the fray of the big manufacturers and they try to compete with them as they intend to be one of the biggest manufacturer.

            The big companies don’t listen much about what people want and it`s not only with adventure bikes. They seem to prefer making the same thing as others to get their share of the market or simply try to create something new hoping they can reach a new market or start a new trend. Seriously have you seen many asking for a bike like the Honda DN-01 before they made it.

            I am surprised too about the Yamaha 660 not being imported here, of course the Canadian market is dependent in big part of the US market but in this case I often see people in the US asking Yamaha to import it. Actually we can see so often on the big manufacturers pages that they don’t or rarely answer customer`s requests , they tend to do so only when someone as a problem with their bike and start giving them s…t .

          • This is the crux of the matter, the importers will not bring a bike in unless they’re pretty sure it will sell as it costs a lot of money to get it testing to ensure it satisfies import criteria. If the bike comes to the US then it’s considerably cheaper for the Canadian importer to bring it here.

            I asked Yamaha Canada about the 660 when it came out and they said that they worked out the cost and decided it would have too high a price tag to be able to sell it here. Look at the WR250 as an example – brilliant and serious 250 dual sport but it came at a substantial cost which no-one was willing to pay.

            It’s also common for people to say “bring it and we will buy it” and when they do, it just sits on the showroom floor gathering dust.

            When it comes to getting bikes here, yes there is a factor of the importer getting it wrong, but more often than not it depends on whether the US opts to bring it in and then on whether the buyer actually puts their money where their mouth is and buys it.

  4. There is an old adage in the 4 wheel off road segment that the difference between 4 wheel drive and 2 wheel drive is about 70 ft. Much the same can be said of these bikes. Having taken my Big V off road I can attest that it can be done, albeit carefully! It ain’t a dirt bike!

    • I think as long as people can accept that there is a BIG difference between what is categorized as an adventure bike and what is categorized as a dirt bike, we’ll all be able to get along 🙂

      • The operative word here is BIG. There’s no such thing as a 400 plus pound “dirt bike”. Still, railway right of ways, unopened road allowances and logging and cottage roads are fair game and are a lot of fun. The real enemy of the big adventure bikes is gravity, whether trying to launch one into the air or pick it up off its side, both can be pretty unpleasant experiences.

        • From my experience the issues come when trying to turn it around in a tight trail or when things start to go wrong – the extra weight just adds to the wrongness … 🙂

    • Yes of course it can be done and being often done and i wont discourage you to not attempt it to the contrary if i had such a bike i would also do it while keeping some reserve for the more extreme terrain . It depend what kind of adventure we are seeking, our preferences , size and budget. I just prefer smaller displacement lighter weight and tall legs

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 1050 KTM is a more of road oriented adventure bike rather than strictly a budget bike. They’d be crazy to try to compete based on price with stuff like the 650 vstrom and the Kawasaki. There’s plenty of budget bikes available and none of them come from Europe. KTM likely gets a lot of their street bike buyers through their off road line anyways; that’s how I got hooked on them.

    I expect (hope for) an updated 950/990, or maybe an adventure-like update of my 990 SMT with 19/17 spoke wheels and a redesigned fairing. That would be the ticket for me.

  6. Hi Ry,

    I’m with Mike on this one. Yes they are not off road bikes but the better suspension, ground clearance and a bigger front wheel will noticeably extend your ability to go further Into the dirt

  7. i ride a 950 super enduro and ride with a gs1200 adv on occasion .with a good rider these big bikes are quite capable you just need to have an awareness of your surroundings and your limitations.

  8. If you take a 550 lb, 160 HP, $20,000+ KTM 1290 Super Adventure on anything much more challenging than packed dirt or gravel roads, you’re freaking nuts. So really, it’s about as much “Adventure” as the Versys 1000, the Multistrada, the big new Aprilia, etc. Oh sure, if you don’t mind wrecking your bike, and/or yourself when you try to heave one of these behemoths back onto its wheels in a mud hole (if you can lift it by yourself at all), you can use of these oversized ADV bikes for off-roading, and (some of them, anyway), have the spoked wheels, ground clearance and suspension to put up with it, but you’d have to be a real masochist to want to do it, IMO. Most of them will never see anything much tougher than the aforementioned gravel or dirt roads, in any case.

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