An adventure bike can be any motorcycle that provides a platform to experience the world, whether you ride on the street or in the dirt. This feature concentrates on large, street-legal motorcycles, but there’s clearly overlap between the machines we call adventure bikes and those we call dual-sport bikes. For the 2019 Dual-Sport Buyer’s guide, click here.
For a collection of all Dirt Bike Magazine Buyer’s Guides, click here.
KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R: $19,499
The 1290 Super Adventure R’s heritage is in the dirt, and its WP suspension, steering damper, brakes and chassis transform the machine into a 160-horsepower, six-speed, electronically advanced two-wheeled machine that rips. It weighs just under 500 pounds (dry) and has a Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) package with multi-mode combined ABS and Multi-mode Traction Control (MTC), including Sport, Street, Off-Road and Rain settings that allow the rider to fine-tune the power application in any situation. Turn-by-turn navigation is new on the TFT dash, with distance to next turn, street names, arrival time and distance to destination.
BMW R1200 GS ADVENTURE: $18,895
This is the Queen Mary of the adventure world and BMW’s ADV line. The powerplant of the 1200GSA is a twin-cam, liquid-cooled boxer motor. Its electronics are advanced, including ABS at the base level and two standard ride modes—Rain and Road—that offer two completely focused riding experiences. In BMW terms, “adventure” translates into beefed-up suspension, protection, more fuel and, in this case, even a different frame. Dealers more commonly stock the premium package.
BMW R1200 GS: $16,695
BMW completely updated the R1200 motor three years ago, so there are no performance changes to the big boxer-powered motorcycle. You can get one with a new Connectivity option if you want to add high tech to your adventure machine. You’ll get a TFT display that is highly customizable and interactive with your mobile device of choice. And, if you add the Dynamic package, you also get electronically controlled active suspension, additional riding modes and a quick-shift option.
TRIUMPH TIGER EXPLORER 1200 XC/XCA: $19,550–$21,750
The Triumph 1200 XC line has received big changes for 2018. The XCX is 5-percent lighter, has an upgraded inline 1215cc triple, a new lightweight rear silencer and five traction-control modes. The XC line also has adaptive cornering lighting, full-color TFT instruments and keyless ignition. And, if you go big with the XC, you get LED cornering lighting, shift assist, an Arrow silencer, an additional traction mode in the Off-Road Pro, another 5-percent weight decrease, heated seats, heated grips and an electric adjustable windscreen.
APRILIA CAPONORD 1200 RALLY ABS: $16,499
Aprilia’s Caponord Rally 1200 ABS is wrapped around its 1197cc, 90-degree, V-twin motor that produces 125 horsepower. The Caponord Rally has three tiers of traction control and three power modes, as well as ABS that can be manipulated by the rider. Aprilia fits the Caponord 1200 with ADD, a semi-active Sachs suspension system that automatically alters itself based on the road surface and your riding style. The machine tips the scales at 547 pounds.
BMW R NINET SCRAMBLER: $12,995
BMW’s R nineT Scrambler is a throwback to the ’70s when big, high-piped, four-stroke scramblers were seen in every field throwing roost and getting sideways. BMW’s R nineT Scrambler is a stripped-down adventure bike fit with an old-school, 1200cc, air-cooled boxer motor with minimalist equipment, twin exhausts, ABS braking and a riding position that’s dirt-oriented. It tips the scales at 485 pounds with fuel.
DUCATI MULTISTRADA 1260 ENDURO/ENDURO PRO: $21,295/$23,295
Ducati’s Multistrada 1260 Enduro produces 152 horsepower and features vehicle hold control, traction control, Ducati’s safety pack (cornering ABS/DTC) and wheelie control. It has a 19-inch front wheel, a double-sided swingarm and increased suspension travel via DSS (Ducati Skyhook Suspension) Evolution, which is based on a 48mm fork and a Sachs rear shock. The Enduro Pro has cruise control; hands-free, backlit handlebar controls; a Ducati Multimedia System (DMS); a color TFT display; Ducati Performance tank; Touratech side guards; a Ducati Performance single titanium exhaust pipe; LED additional spotlights; a low windshield; a steering damper and Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires.
DUCATI MULTISTRADA 1260 PIKES PEAK: $24,995
The Ducati Pikes Peak is a super-high-performance sibling to the 1200 Enduro. It comes fit with an Ohlins fork, a TTX36 rear damper, superlight carbon fiber components and a Termignoni carbon silencer. It makes considerable power via the double-variable valve. Timing is further managed with ABS cornering, Ducati wheel control and the Skyhook suspension, which communicates with the Bosch inertial platform.
The VRF1200X occupies a unique niche between the adventure category and full-on touring bikes. It’s fairly compact for a 1237cc V-four, drive-shaft-equipped machine. Honda offers several transmission options, including a six-speed manual gearbox, a DCT automatic and push-button shifting. The wheels are a 17-/19-inch combo and are spoked. Honda’s traction control is tagged as Selectable Torque Control, and it has ABS as standard equipment. The frame is aluminum, and the windscreen can be raised and lowered with one hand.
*2017 price and photo
MOTO GUZZI STELVIO 1200 NTX: $16,190
The Stelvio 1200 NTX offers 105 horsepower and is suspended by a Marzocchi fork and a Sachs rear damper. It’s molded around a modern version of Guzzi’s transverse V-twin motor. They’ve tweaked the ECU for better power, and it includes ATC, which prevents sliding when there is a sudden loss of traction. It can be deactivated just like the ABS. The Stelvio comes standard with an 8.5-gallon gas tank, ABS, traction control, aluminum side bags, handguards, an adjustable windscreen and saddle height, cylinder guards, spotlights and an aluminum sump guard, making it extremely well equipped, even before you bolt on the first accessory.
YAMAHA SUPER TÉNÉRÉ/ES: $15,099–$16,199
Yamaha’s 2018 Super Ténéré is fast and has a very dirt-oriented feel to the rider cockpit and ergos. The 1199cc parallel twin burns out strong mid-to-top power via its 270-degree crankshaft. A button on the dash allows you to alter or disable traction control. The Super Ténéré ES has traction and cruise control and electronically adjusted suspension with four preload settings and three damping presets. An additional seven fine-tuning damping adjustments allow the suspension to accommodate the needs of the rider and come standard on the ES model.
KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R: $15,699
The KTM 1090 Adventure R targets the more dirt-oriented ADV rider with an excellent power-to-weight ratio and impressive electronics. It weighs 503 pounds while toting 6 gallons of fuel, making it one of the lightest in the category. The suspension is WP, has just under 9 inches of travel, and uses a tubular trellis frame and an open lattice swingarm. With 125 horsepower, the smaller-capacity engine churns out competitive power and has traction control (TC) with four different ride modes, ABS and a slipper clutch.
BMW S1000XR: $16,695
The BMW S1000XR niche is racing performance with a touring bike’s endurance. Basically, it’s a high-performance street bike that can deal with hacked-up roads and long trips on questionable terrain. It lacks the dirt-going abilities of the GS line, but with its 165-horsepower, inline, four-cylinder motor, it pumps out big power and reacts like a full-blown sport bike. The selection of ride modes is limited to Street and Rain.
The Honda Africa Twin is fit with a 998cc, SOHC, eight-valve, parallel-twin engine that has a new airbox with a 20mm-longer funnel length matched to redesigned exhaust internals that improve midrange response and sound quality. It uses a new lithium-ion battery that is 5.1 pounds lighter and Honda’s automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), which makes for consistent, quick, seamless gear changes. There are three shifting modes, and a G switch enhances off-road functionality by reducing the amount of clutch slip during gear changes. Africa Twin models have the Throttle-By-Wire system (TBW) and an expanded Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) system.
All new for 2018, the Africa Twin AS has a larger fairing matched with an 80mm-taller screen, and it comes standard with heated grips and a 12-volt accessory socket. Its Showa suspension has more travel (10.6 inches), and it has a larger sump guard and front light bars. Brushed-aluminum cowling and aluminum side cases are available, as is an aluminum top box with mounting equipment specific to the Adventure Sports model. There’s a new 6.37-gallon fuel tank (compared to 4.97 gallons on the standard model). It has an extended seat with a flatter profile that is 1.2 inches higher than the standard model. To match the raised seat height, the handlebar position is 1.3 inches higher, resulting in a more upright riding position. The bike hasn’t yet been officially offered to U.S. dealers, but that will reportedly happen soon and the price will be about $2000 more than the standard version.
SUZUKI V-STROM 1000/XT: $12,999/$13,299
Suzuki’s V-Strom 1000 and 1000 XT have received a facelift for a hard-edged, modern look. It is equipped with a strong V-twin motor and good suspension. On the electronic side, the Suzuki may be lacking compared to some other adventure machines, but it does come standard with ABS and Suzuki’s version of traction control. The Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT is an upscale version with frame guards, hand protectors and spoked wheels. It sells for $13,999.
DUCATI MULTISTRADA 950: $13,995
While it has the appeal of a canyon machine, the Multistrada 950 has the inherent technology to challenge the lighter facets of the ADV world. Powered by a liquid-cooled, twin, 937cc powerplant that pushes out 113 horsepower, the Multistrada 950 is economical on fuel. It’s lightweight because of the trellis frame. The aluminum subframe caters to a more street-happy environment, yet it will take on minimalist dirt with its brilliant Ducati looks and an appetite for fun.
BMW F 800 GS ADVENTURE: $13,895
Powered by an 85-horsepower parallel-twin engine, the F 800 GS Adventure targets a more off-road attitude than the standard GS model. The electronic Ride-by-Wire system allows the rider to control the accelerator more precisely, and it’s fit with a 6.3-gallon tank and fuel economy of 55 miles per gallon. The Rain and Road riding modes are standard features, and the Enduro and Enduro Pro optional modes make the machine even more ready for the dirt. With ABS as standard and ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) and ASC (Automatic Stability Control) as options, your ride will be more comfortable.
BMW F 800 GS: $12,295
With 17-inch and 21-inch wire-spoke wheels, the 2018 BMW F 800 GS has a dirt-worthy attitude. With long-travel suspension—over 9 inches in the front and 8.5 inches in the rear—the F 800 GS has an appetite for exploration. The F 800 GS has a tall seat height (34.6 inches), though BMW offers a saddle that drops the height down to 32.3 inches. With a weight of 478 pounds, the tonnage isn’t too brutal for an ADV machine, so it can be ridden off the pavement with confidence. There are several packages that add traction control and other upgrades, but even the base model comes standard with ABS.
DUCATI SCRAMBLER DESERT SLED: $11,395
The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is a throwback machine. They call it the Desert Sled, but this baby would be a handful on a hard-packed dirt road. The basic machine is a stripped-down, 803cc V-twin with a higher seat, a reinforced frame, adjustable suspension, engine armor and Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires. The design team gets an A+ for building a machine that has that retro appeal that makes you want to cruise it down Hollywood Boulevard wearing your Steve McQueen Persol shades.
TRIUMPH TIGER 800 XCX/XCA: $13,700–$15,500
The Triumph Tiger continues to carve out a place in the adventure world with the dirt-oriented XC. There are four different Tigers. The XR and XRX are the two more street-oriented models, with cast wheels and a lower seat height. The XC and XCA are the dirt-oriented machines. They have spoke wheels, with a 21-incher in front, longer WP suspension travel and more adjustability. The Triumph 800 XC 800cc triple, equipped with three (traction) eider modes, comes with switchable ABS. The XCA model is an upscale version and comes equipped with heated rider and passenger seats, heated grips and a beefier 65-watt alternator, cruise control and various guards.
2018 brings a 75cc displacement increase to 745cc for the NC750X. The addition of two-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) and mode changes to the automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) allow the possibility of higher-rpm shift points. When it was originally introduced in 2012, the NC700 was a crossover machine. It’s now considered sportier and more versatile.
HUSQVARNA 701 ENDURO: $10,999
The Husky 701 is very dirt-oriented and features a single overhead cam with a two-spark-plug ignition and a slipper clutch. The 701 puts out 74 horsepower and uses a WP 4CS fork with just under 11 inches of travel and a WP linkage rear shock. The stripped chassis is rather naked compared to the heavily accessorized bikes in this group, but it does have a 21-/18-inch wheel size, 300mm front disc and a Ride-by-Wire where the EMS continually monitors the throttle valve for strong, clean power. There is no doubt that the Husky caters more to the dirt purist than the touring elitist.
2018 BMW F 700 GS: $9995
BMW’s F 700 GS uses a 798cc parallel-twin motor that has been detuned to a 700 platform. Still, the horsepower comes in at 75 ponies and is designed for a rider who wants less intimidating power. The BMW F 700 GS is street-oriented, has cast-aluminum wheels with 6.7 inches of suspension travel and tips the scales at 461 pounds.
KTM 690 ENDURO R: $10,899
The KTM 690 Enduro R has strong roots in both the dual-sport world and the ADV arena. It’s a stripped-down adventure bike and has an impressive single-cylinder powerplant. The six-speeder is fit with a slipper clutch and features a twin-plug ignition and Ride-by-Wire technology. It comes fit with quality WP suspension, and although it’s a minimalist by nature, it has superb dirt bike credentials.
HONDA XR650L: $6899
Incredibly, this machine still has a solid footprint in the ADV world. It’s virtually unchanged since the early ’90s, and the suspension is still surprisingly good on the trail. The ergonomics are dated, but the bike works well and has electric start. It struggles at higher speeds without wind protection but works in the dirt. Fitting up luggage and a windscreen is feasible.
The Kawasaki KLR650 is an affordable and popular adventure bike simply because all of the basics are covered. The KLR is smooth and powerful enough. It has a large fuel tank (6.1 gallons) and can easily be fit with various luggage packages. The KLR has always had a large adventure fan base because it is an excellent value.
SUZUKI V-STROM 650/XT: $8799/9299
The 2018 V-Strom 650 shares the profile of the V-Strom 1000, having strong engine performance and superior fuel economy. It has been fit with several engineering accomplishments, resulting in less weight and a nimbler chassis. It’s now more versatile, more controllable and a better do-it-all ADV machine. The XT version, like the 1000 bigger sibling, comes with spoked wheels, handguards and engine protection.
2018 SUZUKI DR650S: $6549
The Suzuki DR650S has been around for quite a while and is fit with an air-cooled engine and is normally aspirated. It is really dirt-worthy, thanks to its 366-pound weight, and is a good machine simply because it is nimble. It’s stripped down, lacking a fairing or any comfort features, but it can be updated with some imagination and a good look at the aftermarket.
HONDA CB500X: $6599
The CB500X is equipped with a 471cc, parallel-twin DOHC engine that features parallel cylinders with dual overhead cams and programmed fuel injection. It sports an upright handlebar; an adjustable, compact windscreen; and a big fuel tank that’s designed to give the rider an unrestricted riding position.
BMW G 310 GS: $5695
BMW’s G 310 GS price tag is designed to attract riders to the BMW lineup. Its motor is a liquid-cooled, single-cylinder six-speed that makes peak power at 10,500 rpm. The frame is tubular steel and is fit with an upside-down fork with 7 inches of travel. It comes with two-channel ABS braking and a 19-inch front wheel that mates to a 17-inch rear. It weighs 387 pounds fully fueled up.
The Versys-X is Kawasaki’s newest machine designed for adventure touring. It’s powered by a 296cc parallel twin, which is fed through a digital fuel-injection system. It comes equipped with a 41mm Showa fork, a 19-inch front wheel, a 17-inch rear wheel and a 4.5-gallon fuel tank that is good for a long exploration ride. An ABS model can be had for $300 more.
The Honda CRF250L Rally uses a fuel-injected single-cylinder engine with an electric starter, counterbalancer and double-overhead cams. It uses a larger throttle body, a higher-flow muffler and an updated airbox to enhance the bike’s low- and midrange power. Its ADV appetite has it equipped with a large fuel tank, new Dakar-style bodywork, handguards, a windscreen, a skid plate and increased suspension travel. ABS braking is an option.