Motorcycling, Routes, Ride Outs & Custom Culture
Adventure bikes or ‘tall tourers’ were a strange category that were almost ignored by the majority of the motorcycle community a little more than a decade ago. Now they seem to be everywhere, no small thanks to Charlie Boorman & Ewan McGregor and the BMW R1200GS. The idea you can ride a quasi-off-road motorcycle around the world appealed to many bikers getting tired of super sports and race reps, as the image of two bikers crossing a desert appealed to the adventurer in all of us.
But in 2012 the Adventure Class looks set to take the adventure away from the dirt trails and sand dunes and onto tarmac and concrete as Kawasaki, Honda & Triumph look to take sales away from BMW, Yamaha and KTM. After all, how the Adventure Bike seems to have turned into the biking version of the ‘Chelsea Tractor’ so why not make a motorcycle that’s designed for the black stuff? So with that in mind here’s my top three most desirable adventure motorcycles:
1) KTM 990 Adventure
2) Honda XL700V Transalp
3) Triumph Tiger Explorer
The KTM 990 Adventure is a proper adventure bike in every sense of the word. Its sleek looks are a world away from the ugly BMW and being lighter and more agile it is also a better handling motorcycle on the trail. The KTM is also largely free of misconceptions about the rider, unlike the GS, which keeps it firmly in the left-field of motorcycling.
You what? A Honda Transalp? Hell yeah! Not only is the latest model vastly improved over previous generations it’s neo-retro futurama-esq looks tick my cool box. It has proven off-road and touring ability, is rock solid and has quirky looks. It’s a cool bike and that’s all you need to know!
Triumph rocked the Adventure Bike class earlier this year when the Explorer was announced. Triumph made no bones about the intended market “we wanted to beat the R1200 GS”. Indeed. While it might not handle the soft-stuff or bounce off boulders nearly as well as the BMW it has certainly won over the motorcycle press for its touring abilities on pothole-ridden UK roads, where let’s face it, most adventure bikes end up. It looks like a quality machine and given the choice of this or the BMW the British bike gets my vote every time.
“What! No BMW R1200 GS?”
No! While Ewan and Charlie might have brought the big Beamer to the masses they are also responsible for the hoards of wealthy wannabe adventure bikers buying into the brand. Just as there is nothing cool about a second division football player driving a top of the tree Range Rover there’s something damn-right unappealing about a middle-aged accountant riding a BMW R1200 GS Adventure. It may be loved by the genuine adventure riders but most of these bikes will only ever see the fast lane of the M6 motorway. Very uncool!
There’s no Yamaha Super Tenere because although they’re pretty cool (especially in Worldcrosser trim) I’d rather live with one of the bikes in my top three. The Kawasaki Versys 1000 would have taken the Triumph’s spot hadn’t the Hinckley done such a grand job on the Explorer so runs a close 4th. The Honda Crosstourer is in my opinion a good looking bike but it’s really just an adventure bike-style touring motorcycle and Suzuki, well er, where are you? The V-Strom 650 Adventure is probably a good enough bike but is it desirable? Hmm I think not. The same can be said of Kawasaki’s Versys 650 and while I can vouch for it being a decent enough motorcycle it hardly gets my juices flowing with excitement.
But what do you think?