|YAMAHA SUPER TENERE
We had a brief affair with the new Yamaha twin-cylinder adventure bike last year and loved it. It’s more high tech than most of its kind, with a traction-control mode that doesn’t let the rear wheel spin. This can be disabled when wheelspin is just part of the fun. Yamaha offers sturdy luggage and other accessories.
KTM 990 ADVENTURE
There are some riders who are just too small to deal with something as massive as the R1200GS, but they still want all the off-road panache and luxury. That’s why the F800GS exists. It’s a vertical twin with a chain drive, but it can be loaded with all the same long-distance trappings as the big guy.
This is positioned as kind of an entry-level BMW. At 652cc, it has a smaller displacement than the “other” 650 in BMW’s line, using a single-cylinder, DOHC motor manufactured by Kymco. The seat height is deliberately low, and the machine weighs a claimed 386 pounds without fuel, making it a featherweight adventure bike.
This machine is a much more capable dirt bike than most people assume. It isn’t that far removed from the original XR600R dirt bike that Scott Summers raced in the East and guys like Johnny Campbell raced in Baja. The dual-sport version has an electric starter and a few more pounds, and these days it has very dated ergonomics.
|SUZUKI V-STROM 650ABS
Suzuki has been very conservative about releasing updated models in recent years. But one of the early 2012s is the adventure-oriented V-Strom. It’s a bike rarely used off-road, but clearly it has the look and features for dirt-road touring. For 2012 it gets ABS, which is becoming more common on adventure bikes due to insurance and regulations.
Husqvarna was actually the first company to offer what we now call “hardcore” dual-sport bikes. The TE511 and TE449 carry on that tradition as dirt bikes that are street-legal. They are big machines, but the suspension is stiffer this year and the fuel injection much smoother. They, too, use the BMW motor with the crank-mounted clutch.
It turns out that 350cc is a great size for a dual-sport, so Beta downsized its 450 and now offers a choice for the same price. The 350’s bore is 8mm smaller and the stroke is 6.4mm shorter. Otherwise, they both have a new chromoly frame this year, along with Marzocchi/Sachs suspension and a six-speed gearbox.
We absolutely loved the TE310 dual-sport bike in 2011. Our test bike ran perfectly once we configured it in competition mode. But metering inconsistencies from one model to the next plagued the production run. The issues seem to be worked out now. Husky will make a limited run of short-seat-height versions.
A couple of years ago, Yamaha tried to make a big splash with the aluminum-frame, fuel-injected 250. It overshot the market with too much complexity and a high expense. Now, the old-world XT250 makes up for it with a good price and simplicity. The XT has an air-cooled, two-valve motor that’s been around for years.
When Yamaha came out with this bike in the early ’90s, no one could have guessed what would happen. It became the all-time favorite bumper bike on motor homes all across America. It’s small, light, inexpensive and has a super-low seat height thanks to its funky little wheels. The air-cooled. two-valve motor will run forever.