According to a report from BikeWhale, KTM has just launched their World Adventure Week – and thanks to KTM’s generosity, the event promises to be hugely popular. The Adventure Week will run from July 5 to the 11th and was created to encourage motorists – specifically those with a penchant for adventure – to get out and ride.
KTM has also pulled a beauty of a move by opening the Challenge up to motorists of every brand, size,, and color – refusing to keep the challenge exclusive to their own engines.
This last act has been an amazing opportunity for motorcyclists everywhere, especially given that so many adventure rallies (including that of KTM) were postponed with the restrictions that were enforced at the time.
The challenge is set for ADV rider to complete 1000km (622 miles) in 7 days, with additional challenges each day to keep everybody on their toes.
KTM will give the most ‘adventurous’ of the bunch daily and weekly prizes, as well as the chance to be ‘that one bloke that was on KTM’s global social media platforms and theworldadventureweek.com.’
Riders who want to participate in the challenge can do so by downloading the RISER app and using the program to record the overall mileage.
In the summer of 2019, a young man named Jack Groves began his moto journey around the world – and it took a little longer than 80 days.
Disillusioned with the dream of a 9 to 5 job, Groves got his hands on a secondhand Royal Enfield Himalayan to defy all odds and travel the 35,000 miles around the orb we call home.
His route took him across Europe, through the Balkan Peninsula, and past Turkey, Asia, China, Southeast Asia, and Australia before flying to South America in January 2021.
The trip was no walk in the park. It required Groves to get used to riding in isolation, taking every precaution possible with the oncoming coronavirus as his travels took him through the Eastern Hemisphere.
The virus caught up with Groves in Cusco, South America, putting his travels to rest for a hefty 255 days. In a report from Dure Magazine, Jack recalls the incident.
“I contracted COVID-19 in early April which, at 3,400 meters (11154.86 ft) altitude, was pretty punchy – spent a month exploring the remote jungle of Manu National Park and the high sierra of the Asungate Massif, and the rest of my time was split between Cusco City and the nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas.”
Now, having returned this past Thursday to his home in Hertfordshire, Jack is officially the youngest motorist to circumnavigate the world – and as much as the memories will always live with him, even Groves will admit he is glad to be back.
“When you do spend this much time away, you start to start to really appreciate the small things in life, so you really start to appreciate the relationships in the family. Those are the one constants in life, so yeah – just spending time with them and not moving.”
Upon asking what his motivation was, Jack recalls how a good friend passed away before Christmas of 2018 – galvanizing him into action with the knowledge that there is no time better than the present.
Groves leaves us with a few words of wisdom, saying, “I’ll wrap this up with a few quotes that inspired me to get after my goals. Maybe they will work for you too”.
’20 years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.’ – Mark Twain
‘Life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.’ – Bruce McLaren.
‘No one gets out alive. Act accordingly.’ – Unknown.
I was recently lucky enough to spend three days riding some of the awesome trails around the Capertee Valley west of Sydney as part of the local launch of the new 890 Adventure R. It was one for the books. Cold mornings dawning into perfect clear Autumn skies each day as we took in the stunning countryside on the edge of the blue mountains. Covering 700 kilometres that included a mix of urban traffic, highways, backroad tarmac sweepers, gravel roads, logging tracks and tighter forest tracks. We had sandy sections, rocky sections, tricky climbs, slippery rocky descents, fern lined creek crossings, bog holes, decent rock hits and drop offs, erosion mound jumps… you get the idea.
You name it, we tackled it. Basically covering off every type of adventure riding we’re likely to encounter down under. And what an adventure it was: One of the group suffered a hernia, one came down with case of gall stones, another T-boned a kamikaze Roo – and managed to stay upright! There were three bogs (two of them mine), zero dropped bikes and countless skids, wheelies, smiles and utterings of ‘how good was that?’.
We were aptly chaperoned by a couple of semi riding gods who both have 790 Rs in their shed. Steve ‘Robbo’ Robertson was lead rider and route planner. Robbo qualified as one of two Australian rep’s for the 2019 KTM Ultimate Race which saw 12 riders from six countries compete on 790 Adventure R’s in a special class at the Merzouga Rally in Morocco. And Will Dangar was on sweep duty. Both stupidly talented, bloody funny and all around top humans. Pretty handy to have two relative locals who are intimately familiar with the outgoing 790 when planning an event for the new 890 Adventure R.
The new 890 is more than just a minor update. The three big things that stand out and really take the bike to a new level over the old bike are the motor changes, the electronics and the suspension upgrades. They’ve taken all that was great with the old bike and added more. More power, more torque, more poise. And its all the better for it. With another 100 cc of displacement, reworked electronics, seriously top spec suspension set-up and a number of chassis alterations it delivers a dramatic increase in capability. All while being even easier to ride. Austrian witchcraft I tells ya. It’s mind bendingly good in the dirt. They really do take the #Adventureharder tag seriously.
This is a bike very much at the off road end of the Adventure spectrum. It’s essentially an Enduro-Adventure bike. In fact KTM themselves are marketing this as the most travel capable off-road bike, as opposed to an off road capable Adventure bike. They’re not wrong.
Motor updates first – the obvious bump in capacity to 889cc brings a corresponding lift to 105 hp at 8,000 rpm (up from 95 hp in the 790) and more noticeably 100 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm (up from 88 Nm). The orange crew added twenty percent more weight to the reciprocating mass ie – crankshaft aiding low down lugging rideability and increasing gyroscopic force which helps stability. They’ve also reduced ten percent from oscillating mass with lighter forged pistons and redesigned rods to help linear power delivery (and its Euro 5 compliant). It’s not just a capacity increase though – there’s an increase in compression, an additional oil feed per cylinder and a larger oil cooler, new crank cases, larger valves, a knock sensor, a whole bunch of stuff.. it’s not just a big bore kit…. Still comes with 15,000 km service intervals too.
While it might only seem like a modest step up, the reality is very different. It’s hugely willing – right off the bottom. Wheelie fiends like myself will rejoice. It’ll pop the front in second and third without the clutch. And do so in total ease. The bottom and midrange are just superb, I only occasionally felt the need to rev it right out and bounce off the limiter when being silly or using it more as an over rev if a gearshift was just not quite required, but it’s silky smooth all the way to the 10,000 redline.
I need to talk about the electronics here too, because I reckon they’re the new segment benchmark. With the optional Tech pack as ridden (more on that later), you get access to Rally mode. It gives you another ride mode and throttle map to choose from on top of street and off road that’s even more aggressive, which might seem counterintuitive – but it’s essentially sport mode, sitting above street. Super direct mapping and throttle, which you can select individually. For instance, I personally found that Rally ‘mode’, with Street ‘throttle’ was the sweet spot. The slightly softer street setting for throttle was perfect even in the dirt. I left ABS in off road mode too for what it’s worth, which deactivates the rear.
You can still choose off-road throttle for really slick, snotty stuff which cuts a bit more power and response, but I found that just leaving it in that Rally-street combo and adjusting the TC on the go as needed was the bomb. The TC adjustment works so well via the two buttons on the left switch block that you barely need to look down to check what you’re doing. And you don’t need to reset it to your preferred settings every time you turn the key off! It remembers! Hel-ay-lu-ya! Other manufacturers please take note. My tip, TC set to 1 (the minimum) will allow wheelies on the tar. Bump it up a little more to 6 or 7 for creek crossings and slipperier stuff, while 9 is the max buzz kill mode.
I ran it mostly between 3 and 5 while off-road depending on the conditions, which still allowed lofting the front in the dirt. It also allowed ludicrously long near lock to lock drifts while not letting the rear get too sideways when firing out of lower speed corners. Day three had a bit of a highlight on a smooth flowy hard pack-but sandy surfaced back road when I slipped into skid mode. On corner exit, you can light it up and drift from one lock to the other in third, holding it pretty much until it’s time to shut down for the next bend… I’m a simple man. Give me a bike that handles well, does wheelies and skids and I’m generally happy. This thing rips.
The clutch and gearbox get updates to match the power increase with new friction material in the slipper clutch and revised shifting with a shorter throw lever and glass beading in the top three cogs. The quick shifter as ridden is also revised for quicker shifts. I still found myself clutch past neutral out of habit but it shifts damn well. I only had a handful of missed shifts over the three days, almost all in the higher gears and I attributed all to my lazy foot not really engaging the quick shifter properly. Has a nice auto rev matching on downshifts which combined with the slipper clutch meant compression locks just don’t happen.
Suspension wise the new 890 Adventure R gets updated serious spec WP EXPLOR forks and shock with 240 mm of travel at both ends. And they’re remarkable. Out of the entire group on the launch, with riders ranging in weight from probably 80 to over 115 kegs, not one asked for any suspension changes. I find that incredible. While at first sit and bounce on the bike they feel firm, they have an uncanny amount of feel and absolute reluctance to bottom out. Super controlled and progressive.
We took some seriously hard impacts. Rocks, ledges, jumps. Everything was handled without fuss. I managed to bottom out when arriving at one of the more serious erosion mounds several degrees too hot and landing on an uphill slope on the other side. Even that wasn’t the hard hit you’d associate with normally bottoming out. No squirrelling or bouncing offline. Just a gentle stop. Overwhelmingly the whole bike feels super stable and confidence inspiring. The way it carries its weight low translates to a bike that happily flicks from side to side beneath you and feels significantly lighter than the 196 kgs as per the spec sheet.
In fact the only time you do feel the weight is if you happen to be silly enough to bury it in a bog hole.
Within 5 minutes of each other.
I maintain that I was testing every facet of the bike’s ability and it wasn’t just a shit line choice. Ahem. Thanks to the two semi pros for each helping me haul it out. Legends.
Back to the suspension, because it is integral to the whole package. You get to trust the front end almost immediately. It steers so well. Come in a bit overcooked or need to change line mid corner when you spot an obstacle? No problem. And even when you do push too hard and it lets go, it does so in a way that’s easily catchable. It’s so well balanced front to rear, you can pick the front up whenever you need to, even on surfaces where the traction isn’t great. Bloody hard to fault.
Actually, for those not familiar with the 790 Adventure, I should explain that the fuel tank wraps over and down each side of the engine keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible. While it might seem at first to be exposed out there, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The tank’s made of pretty tough stuff anyway… and has additional protection available (which I’d probably opt for just for piece of mind). On the move, I only had one moment where the tank location even popped into my mind where I flew past a partially hidden stump pretty close to the pegs at a decent speed while ducking around some water. Other than that, it didn’t enter my mind. 20 litre capacity by the way, which will be good enough to see you out to 400 clicks.
Updated brakes are excellent too. That front ABS is just mega, allowing you to trail brake deep into corners even while leant over. Out back I found myself locking the rear slightly more than expected on low grip downhill/off camber corners. To be fair I think it was probably due to how effective the front was and how much weight was being transferred forward. Things never went pear shaped because the front was hauling things up so well that the rear never got out of shape. That said, I’d probably look to experiment with rear pads to try and find something with a smidgen more feel. Could be just me.
Ergo-wise, I rate it big time. I actually really like the width between the legs. Super comfortable and the overall riding position just feels sorted, standing or sitting – with plenty of room when moving your weight around the bike. I did find myself slowly sliding forward on some of the steeper downhills, but nearly everyone else on the launch was already standing at that point… I sit a bit more than most, it just feels more natural to me. So take that with a grain of salt. That said, there’s a nice flat seat in the power parts catalogue that the Adventure R Rally model comes with standard that would probably be worth a look for some. That’s what Robbo and Will were both running… Speaking of powerparts. There’s a big list of options, you could go nuts. I did like the look of the more hardcore carbon tank protectors and probably couldn’t go past a slip on…
I don’t need to talk about the dash or controls because the five-inch TFT was pretty great on the 790 and hasn’t changed. Some other manufacturers could take note… But it is worth pointing out that the front screen is two position adjustable with about 40 mm difference between low and high. I’m six-foot and found the higher setting gave better highway speed wind protection without being in the way in the dirt. And for those wanting to run an even taller one – the higher screen from the Adventure (non R model) is interchangeable.
Now I’ve talked a lot about it’s off road prowess, so you might be thinking that it’s less than awesome on the tar? Not so. Steers surprisingly well on that 21-inch front. Even on the tractionator knobbies. Heaps of fun lofting the front in second and third, flicks from side to side beautifully and feels utterly composed when cranked over. Seemed ok in the saddle too even on longer highway stints. It’s not as plush as the Tiger 900, but that’s not the 890 Adventure R’s main game…
So where does that leave us? As a package, it’s a pretty clear winner for me if you’re after something with an off road focus. Nothing else comes close in terms of capability in the segment. Sure, it’s more expensive than the Tenere 7, but then everything is simply on another level to the popular Yammie. Better engine, better suspension, better balance, better electronics.. If you want the best, then here it is. You ride to your capability on the 890 Adventuer R, you’re not riding to the bike’s limitations. You can’t say that for anything else in the class. BMW’s F 850 GS is at the other end of the Adventure spectrum and simply isn’t nearly as inspiring or poised. And the Tiger 900 (which I love), does everything well and has arguably more creature comforts that make it a better road mile eater, but feels bigger and heavier and just not as nimble off-road, if that’s your main focus.
Bear in mind that the bikes we were on were fitted with Tractionator Rally tyres (they come standard with Metzeler Karoo tyres which would last longer, but not offer as much grip as the Tractionators) and were running the optional Tech pack which includes the Rally mode and map selection, quick shifter plus, traction control and cruise control. I can’t see anyone NOT wanting the tech pack to be honest. This bumps the price up an additional $1,200 to what I think is a competitive $25,500 ride away.
Bloody hell. Another bike that I need in my shed.
Why I like it:
Best in class off-road ability
Additional grunt transforms the bottom and mid-range
Suspension and electronics packages are next level. On the fly adjustable TC is brilliant
Overall feeling is so stable yet agile. Never gets out of shape and still does whatever you want it to.
I’d like it more if:
A smidgen more rear pedal feel in the dirt wouldn’t hurt
Heated grips would have been nice on a -1 degree morning too…
Personally I’d like the headlight assembly ‘joined’ to the side fairing for a more cohesive side profile like the 1290 Super Adventure. Looks a bit like a beak sticking out there on its own as it is (though I hear you can get aftermarket bits to achieve the look?)
I can’t finish without thanking KTMs Marketing Manager for Oz and NZ, Rosie Lalonde for organising the whole thing and not only being a champion but riding like one too. Turns out she used to race enduros.. so that explains the latter. Shout outs also to Lewie Landrigan for our 4WD Support over the few days and to Jordan and Andy from Flightcraft for the ripper stills and videos. These guys weren’t scared to get wet or muddy to get the shot and almost make me look like I know what I’m doing. Kudos lads.
CFMoto is not only introducing a bigger adventure bike platform called the 800MT, but there will be two model variants.
Australian CFMoto distributor Mojo Motorcycles boss Michael Poynton confirms that there will be an off-road oriented spoked-wheel model and a more road oriented alloy wheel model.
Both will have 19-inch fronts and 17-inch rears, most likely with varying degrees of tread aggression to suit the terrain.
The bikes will be shod with 110/80 R19 and 150/70 R17 tyres.
“We are planning to release both variants in Australia in the second half of 2021,” he says.
Mojo has been importing the bargain-priced bikes since 2005 with sales of more than 250,000 and now has more than 80 dealerships across the country.
CFMoto’s road motorcycle range currently includes four NK naked bikes (150cc, 250, 300 and 650) as well as the 650MT adventure tourer, 650GT sports tourer and their first full faired bike, the 300SR which we will review shortly.
CFMoto also recently unveiled its 1250cc tourer with a KTM V-twin engine and announced a range of electric scooters will be coming to Australia from 2022.
Now we know that the 800MT coming next year will be in two variants, powered by KTM’s 95hp 799cc LC8c parallel twin from the 790 Adventure, now replaced by the 889cc 890 Adventure.
CFMoto and KTM have had a long association with the Chinese manufacturer producing small-capacity KTM bikes for the local market for several years.
And like most CFMoto products, the 800MT will likely be designed by Austrian designers Kiska who also design for KTM.
The 800MT adventure bikes will weigh in at a hefty 231kg, rising to 248kg when in touring mode with alloy panniers and a top box.
Modern adventure motorcycles are incredibly versatile machines. They can lean into curves and corners with ease, comfortably cruise across continental highways, and tear it up in the dirt without a fuss. More often than not, the greatest adventure that these motorcycles see is a pothole or a deep puddle on the way to and from the office—but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t up to the task of crossing deserts and slamming around mountain passes.
Whether they’re used for casual commuting or hardcore touring, one thing is for sure: everyone loves adventure bikes. But before we go about cataloging a list of our favorites, we’d better take a look at what an adventure bike really is, because the term is used fairly liberally these days.
What Defines an Adventure Motorcycle?
Generally speaking, a real adventure motorcycle should be equipped with long travel suspension, a front wheel with a diameter of at least 19” (21” is better) and be capable of tackling unsealed roads and rough terrain. It should also be comfortable for long-distance road riding and equipped with luggage options or mounting points for optional bags. In short: it needs to be something that won’t fall over at the first sight of sand, can handle well on the road, and is a joy to ride.
In our opinion, these are the best adventure motorcycles ever made—but since there is no universal metric to measure “best” we fully expect (and welcome) some staunch disagreement.
Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
The Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro is the updated version of the Tiger 800 XC, and even though we loved the outgoing Tiger, the new one is even better. It has now been optimized for real off-road riding. And the secret to its success is the new engine.
Using an 888cc inline 3, the Tiger now features a new crankshaft that allows for an unorthodox firing order that sees two cylinders fire close together, giving the Tiger a kind of thumping twin feel. The result makes it responsive to trails, and smooth on roads. Plus, it has a dedicated off-road riding mode that eases the ABS and traction control and keeps an eye on the power. There’s a mode that disables all electronic interference too, for purists.
It can go the distance off-road, but it’s also packed with comfort-focused goodies for long days in the saddle. These include heated grips, multiple riding modes, traction control cruise control, advanced cornering ABS, and a big TFT display. The Pro version also includes heated seats, tire pressure monitoring, Bluetooth connectivity, and a quickshifter!
The only stumbling block is the price. It isn’t the cheapest on the market, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck.
Aprilia Caponord 1200
Photo Credit: Totalmotorcycle.com
This one is a bit of a cheat. Why? Because it’s an adventure tourer with a definite road bias. Adventure motorcycle lists tend to feature a lot of road-biased tourers like the Ducati Multistrada, Suzuki V-Strom, and Kawasaki Versys, and that’s fine. However, if you want to talk about the best adventure motorcycle for journeying predominantly on roads, then you need to talk about the Aprilia Caponord 1200.
The Aprilia Caponord 1200 was an adventure touring motorcycle that was manufactured between 2013 and 2017. During those years it had some of the best specs in the segment—specs that still impress owners to this day. With the full “Travel Pack” accessory kit, the Caponord had semi-active suspension, which provided excellent damping for two-up travel, even in challenging conditions.
Aprilia’s 90-degree 1,187cc V-twin engine also received acclaim. Boasting 125 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque, with a nice power spread in the mid-range, this V-twin also had a number of riding aids that made it a pleasure to ride. These included selectable traction control options, ABS, and smartphone connectivity. Plus, the bike also came with panniers, a giant fuel tank, and a list of optional accessories as long as your arm.
All for a price that undercuts most of the premium competition.
The Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX is an often over-looked and under-appreciated adventure motorcycle. Named after the legendary Stelvio Pass, the Moto Guzzi Stelvio was the brand’s attempt at taking on the likes of the BMW R 1200 GS. The result was a heavy-duty adventure motorcycle that ticked all of the right boxes—with a very attractive price tag too. The North American market was given the NTX model, which came with all the bells and whistles as standard.
Aside from the prerequisite large spoked front wheel and long travel suspension, the Stelvio was equipped with a big gas tank, hard luggage, handguards, and a tall windscreen. It also included top-level technology, such as ABS (that can be disabled) and traction control too.
Using Moto Guzzi’s air and oil-cooled 1151 cc V-twin engine, the Stelvio was able to produce a handsome 103 horsepower and 83 lb-ft of torque. It was great on sealed roads, though a little sketchy on rougher surfaces. Like all Guzzis, the whole package felt a little agricultural in nature, but for an off-roading adventure machine, that is no bad thing.
Plus, it undercut the price tag of its competition by a significant margin.
For those who consider an “adventure” to be more of an off-road affair, then something like the Kawasaki KLR 650 is an obvious choice. While it lacks the wow-factor and the shopping list of accessories and bolt-on bits and pieces, it arguably one of the best overland adventure machines available. What it lacks in charisma and bling it more than makes up for in practicality.
If you’re off on an adventure, there are a few things that should be priorities: reliability, comfort, and durability. The Kawasaki KLR 650 has all of those things. It’s powered by a rock-solid 651cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine that produces 37 horsepower and 33.4 lb-ft of torque. It’s got the power, it’s reliable, and it’s comfortable too. In fact, it’s even been used on a few global circumnavigation adventures.
What’s the secret to its success? It’s affordable and simple. You don’t have to re-mortgage your home to own one or buy all the branded gear to pretend you’re a part of a club either. And if anything goes wrong on your adventure, fixing the problem won’t require a trip to a specialist technician with fancy computer readouts and tools. A simple toolkit will get you unstuck most of the time.
Royal Enfield Himalayan
The Royal Enfield Himalayan is another adventure motorcycle that we’ve chosen because of its rugged simplicity and outright affordability. Brand new, you can buy a Himalayan directly from the dealership for under $5000. In return, you’re given a budget-friendly, no-frills touring machine that you can take deep into the unknown. It didn’t get the Himalayan name for no reason.
It’s not without its shortcomings. It lacks in horsepower and that can be frustrating if you’ve got to cover a lot of miles on roads. It also lacks any modern features that many riders have come to rely on, such as traction control.
What you do get is an unbelievably simple 411 cc single-cylinder, oil-cooled 4-stroke engine that produces 24.5 horses and 23.6 lb-ft of torque. The engine is wrapped in a modern, adventure-focused package, with plenty of ground clearance, long travel suspension, and luggage racks.
If you break it, you can fix it. If you drop it, for starting prices of around $5,000, it’s not a big deal. Putting a scratch on your Himalayan is more like a cool battle scar. Putting a similar scratch on your Multistrada, however, is a costly mistake.
The older African Twin models are classics. The earlier 650s were great fun, but here to talk about the XRV750 versions. Made between 1990 and 2003, the XRV750 Africa Twin was a very special motorcycle. Inspired by the Paris-Dakar desert racing machines, the XRV750 is a tough dual sport model that ticks all the right boxes.
It’s got long travel suspension, bold twin headlights, a large windscreen, a dual-sport seat, wide handlebars, and a very comfortable upright riding position. Power is provided by a 742cc V-twin engine that produces 61 horsepower and 46.2 lb-ft of torque. It’s not overly powerful, but the abundance of torque makes up for the underwhelming horsepower rating. It’s a V-twin after all.
It’s not a sports tourer. Instead, it’s an enduro bike that you can tour on. There are many who would say that it’s not really up to the task of crossing deserts. But then again, if you were to enter the XRV750 into the Dakar Rally, it would make it to the finish line. It certainly won’t win though.
The newer CRF1000L Africa Twin is an amazing adventure motorcycle, but the old-school models have something special about them. And you can pick the older generation Africa Twins up for a fraction of the price.
Yamaha Super Tenere
The Super Tenere: you either call it an adventure bike or you don’t. It has a lot of adventure touring DNA, but it definitely leans towards sealed road cruising rather than sincere off-road riding. But that’s ok. Adventure riding means different things to different riders. Some riders prefer to stay on sealed roads and rarely venture off-road.
But even then, the Super Tenere isn’t bad. Since it comes with long-travel suspension and a large diameter front wheel, it can handle rough roads. Its downfall is the low ground clearance—this makes it an unattractive option for hardcore off-road adventurers. On-road, however, the Super Tenere is an absolute dream.
The current Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere ES draws power from a potent 1,199cc parallel-twin engine. It produces 108.5 horsepower and 84.2 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the wheel using a six-speed gearbox and a shaft drive.
The engine is great, but the electronics suite and other goodies are even better. Yamaha’s traction control (with off-road mode), electronically adjustable suspension, ABS, and cruise control make road touring an absolute breeze. Add in a comfortable seat, a tall windscreen, hand protectors, a skid plate, and luggage attachments, and you have a formidable adventure motorcycle.
BMW R 1200 GS
The big BMW GS is an inescapable feature on any list about adventure motorcycles. It has to be included, whether you love it or hate it. While many will argue that the GS is an overpriced poser bike, the GS single-handedly helped to define the segment. Ever since Ewan and Charley propelled the R 1150 GS tourer into the mainstream, it’s been BMW’s best-selling motorcycle and one of the most popular motorcycles in the world, year after year, in whatever engine configuration.
For this list, we’re focusing on the liquid-cooled R 1200 GS. The first liquid-cooled GS arrived in 2013 before being replaced by the larger displacement R 1250 GS in 2019. In its best form, the 1200 GS featured a 1,170cc boxer-twin engine that can make about 117 horsepower and 84 lb-ft of torque. Fast on the roads, the GS could hit 60 mph from a standstill in 2.9 seconds and reach top speeds of up to 137 mph.
While these BMWs are great on roads for long-distance rides, they also excel off-road too. Well, within reason. Given their bulk, you won’t be bundling over boulders and scrambling up dry river beds in a hurry, but on a bumpy unsealed road, these things can fly.
Great on highways, capable over loose gravel, and packed full of technology and riding aids: the R 1200 GS is a great adventure bike. But unfortunately for the 1200 GS, BMW makes something better.
BMW F 850 GS
The big boy GS always grabs the headlines. It’s always on these lists as the best BMW adventure motorcycle, but in reality—and if we had to choose something to take us on an adventure—we’d choose the F 850 GS instead.
This middle-weight GS isn’t a scaled-down R 1250 GS. It uses an 853cc parallel-twin engine, it has different frame geometry and offers a different ride experience. It would be easy to say that it’s smaller and therefore handles better off-road than a lot of bigger adventure bikes, but that’s not actually true. Fully fuelled, the 850 GS isn’t that light. It also has a shorter travel suspension than similar machinery too…but that doesn’t seem to matter. Off-road, it handles like a dream.
On-road, it’s just as capable. Armed with 90 horsepower, 63 lb-ft of torque, and a top speed hovering around the 125 mph marker, it’s a please to ride on the road. Plus, it features a range of practical BMW riding aids, luggage mounts, and everything you’d need for full-blown adventure.
It will never replace a real dirt bike for off-road riding, but it can handle the bumps and the loose stuff with ease. Out on the highways, it feels smooth and comfortable, putting many dedicated sports tourers to shame. The BMW F 850 GS is exactly what you expect from an adventure motorcycle—but with zero compromises.
KTM 790 Adventure R
KTM knows a thing or two about making formidable off-road motorcycle and adventure machines. The 1290 Super Adventure is a great adventure machine, the 1290 Super Duke GT is an amazing sports-touring machine, and the 500 EXC-F is a trail-riding wonder machine. But there’s one model in their current line-up that takes the best features of the above models, and rolls it into one very capable machine: the KTM 790 Adventure R.
To do this, KTM treated the Adventure R to a whole host of advanced riding aids that help make blacktop riding a joy. These include advanced cornering and off-road ABS, traction control, selectable riding modes, and KTM’s connected MY RIDE smartphone integration system. Add in a windscreen, luggage, and a comfortable riding seat, and you’ve got a motorcycle that you can confidently ride across the globe, in almost any situation.
One of the few changes for the 2021 Royal Enfield Himalayan adventure motorcycle is the ability to switch off the ABS.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it is to the adventure rider who wants to be able to lock the wheels under braking to dig into the gravel, dirt, loam or sand surface for extra braking effect.
It’s a shame there isn’t the facility to just switch off the rear.
However, they say they have tweaked the rear brake for better feel and effect.
The other changes are the addition of three new colours — Lake Blue, Rock Red, and Gravel Grey – making a total of six colour choices. The existing colours are Granite Black, Snow White and Sleet Grey.
The Himalayan also now comes with a redesigned side stand and the engine is Euro5 compliant although they don’t say whether this has affected output.
There is no word on when these will arrive in Australia, price or whether all colours will be available.
Meanwhile, Royal Enfield has joined with iconic American jeans manufacturer Levi’s to launch a range of lifestyle and riding gear, available online and in Royal Enfield and Levi’s stores in India.
They say it is suitable for riding and daily wear and the Cordura denim includes some abrasion protection and pockets for armour inserts.
The lifestyle collection includes jeans, jackets and graphic t-shirts designed by rider and artist Toria James.
So, what did they do when they ran out of “juice”, Fallon asked?
“Hope for a hill,” McGregor replies.
“I got towed a couple of times. I was the only one that ran out.
“Charley never ran out of juice and he’ll tell you it’s ’cause he’s a better rider than me and it may well be the case.
“But I ran out a couple of times, so I’d just hold on to a car.”
He explains how this stunt was performed and we assume it was at slow speed and could have been using one of the back-up vehicles.
“If you open the back windows and the front of the car you could get your arm around a pillar and you just muscle along like that for a while,” he explains.
Ewan says the first time he saw this done was in New York when he was about 21 or 22 riding in a yellow cab.
“A Harley-Davidson guy — a Hells Angels guy — who’d run out of gas or his bike was broken down clattered into the side of the cab, grabbed hold of the pillar and he shouted the address of the Hells Angels clubhouse to the driver who just took him there and didn’t ask any questions; just drove there like that.
“I think the Hells Angels owe me $5.26.”
It’s been a long time between trips for Ewan and Charley.
From 14 April 2004 to 29 July 2004, they rode across Europe and the USA in Long Way Round and from 12 May to 4 August 2007 they rode from the top of Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa for Long Way Down.
With Ewan becoming increasingly busy with Hollywood movies, Charley squeezed in the 2006 Dakar rally for his series, Race to Dakar, and has produced several other travel shows.
They include cruise, hill hold, slope and load-dependent braking, ride modes, traction control, leaning two-stage ABS and LED lighting.
The only thing missing is self-canceling indicators.
Otherwise, I reckon the flagship XT model is an ideal bike for touring our wide brown land in safety, comfort and style.
In fact, I reckon it’s the most stylish of all the sport adventure tourers, especially in the “Marlboro” colour scheme of my test bike. It looks like a handsome Dakar attacker!
The smooth ride-by-wire throttle and upgraded Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU) on the XT allow for the host of hi-tech functions that make sport-touring safer and more effective on just about any road surface.
However, even the first level of ABS and traction control are still a little too interventionist on dirt roads. I’d prefer a bit more brake lock and wheel spin for tighter and more controlled cornering on gravel. It would be also handy to have the ability to switch off the ABS on the back only.
Otherwise, on gravel, it’s probably best to just switch off both traction and ABS.
The front brakes are very effective and responsive but probably with a little too much initial bite for gravel roads, while the rear brake has good feel and effect.
The XT’s braking system also features Hill Hold, Slope Dependent, and Load Dependent controls.
Hill hold automatically applies the rear brake when stopped on an upward slope to prevent it from rolling back; Slope Dependent control monitors the angle of the bike on a downhill slope to prevent rear wheel lift; and Load Dependent system automatically compensates for solo riding, two-up and luggage.
Other tech features include Low RPM assist which adds some revs so you don’t snuff it when taking off at the lights and the Easy Start one-button ignition/kill switch.
At the heart of the 1050XT is the creamy mid-torque feel of the 1037cc V-twin engine that now comes with three engine modes to smooth out throttle response for low-traction surfaces.
Transmission is like most Japanese gearboxes: silky smooth, faultless, and easy to find neutral.
While the drivetrain won’t set your hair on fire, acceleration is brisk and response is crisp. Goldilocks would find it just right.
So is the handling.
Factory settings closely suit my 75kg frame. I just needed to wind off a bit of rear preload with the convenient knob on the left side of the bike.
Heavier and lighter riders should be able to adjust the rear preload and fiddle with the fully adjustable 43mm KYB inverted front forks to find a setting that would even suit Goldilocks!
Its long-travel springs provide a plush and comfortable ride across the roughest country roads. Yet it still feels agile and sharp for an adventure tourer with a big 19-inch front wheel.
The Voyager pack features aluminium panniers and top box in powder-coated black ($3599) and anodised silver ($3699).
The Trekker Pack ($6199 in black and $6299 in silver) includes Suzuki plug-and-play heated grips, LED fog lamps, and a 4mm aluminium skid plate.
Pillions will enjoy the generous-sized seat and large hand grips.
However, some riders might find their seat too short and may even get pinched on the backside by the join with the separate pillion seat.
I found it very comfortable sitting forward on the seat which narrows as it approaches the tank.
This not only makes it ideal when standing for off-road riding, but also easier to get your feet on the ground despite the high 850mm perch. I’m just over 6’ tall and can place both feet flat on the ground with a slight knee bend.
I like the standing position, but I would roll the bars forward just a fraction and I’d prefer the big rubber-covered footpegs a little further forward. The pegs also get in the way when you stop and put your foot down.
The firm vinyl seat feels comfortable at first but it does get tiring toward the end of a long day in the saddle.
While the adjustable windscreen provides plenty of chest protection, it creates a lot of wind turbulence around your head in either the low or high position. I’d either remove it or add a deflector accessory on the top.
It’s also annoying that you have to get off the bike to adjust the screen with the handle on the front.
(A word of warning: When following a truck, the windscreen creates a bit of weave at highway speed.)
Making your touring more comfortable and convenient is the cruise control with the on/off switch next to the throttle and the setting controls on the left switchblock. You can set speeds in fourth gear and above between 50 and 160km/h.
These same controls also allow you to toggle through the reams of information and adjustment on the massive LCD screen.
While the screen is visible in all lighting conditions, some of the information in the bottom right hand corner is small and difficult to read.
Good to see the addition of a USB port to the left of the instruments, making it even more convenient for Goldilock’s next big adventure.
Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
$20,990 ride away
1037cc 90° V-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC
6-Speed constant mesh with back-torque-limiting clutch
43mm KYB inverted forks with adjustable compression, rebound and spring preload
Link type, KYB shock with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload
The Royal Enfield Himalayan is an Indian adventure motorbike. It’s a very versatile bike that can be used for different types of terrain.
Before we get deep into this Royal Enfield Himalayan review, let’s take a brief look at the history of this motorbike.
About the Royal Enfield Himalayan
This bike is manufactured in Chennai, a city in south-east India. The motorbike industry in India is one of the largest in the world. The country has a growing population that has already crossed 1.3 billion. Some of the top motorbike manufacturers in the country roll out 1 million motorbikes per month.
Royal Enfield make a range of highly rated motorcycles, including the Continental GT, Thunderbird, Interceptor 650, Bullet, Classic 350 and the Himalayan. The average Indian rider is more interested in fuel efficiency than power or torque, which explains why most motorbikes in the country are less than 150 ccs.
As well as using motorcycling in Indian cities, many people like to ride their motorcycles in tour groups, including Royal Enfield’s own Rides program, to adventurous routes into the Himalayas.
What’s interesting about the Royal Enfield’s Himalayan motorbike is that it was designed for bike users tackling the broken roads of the countryside in India. That was the original target market. It was not meant to be a performance-oriented motorcycle. Instead it was aimed at customers who value affordability.
With that objective in mind, the motorbike was designed to have competent ride and handling, comfort and agility while being reasonably affordable. All those characteristics made it into an adventure bike not just for India, but for the rest of the world.
It is now a popular affordable adventure bike in the United States for use on dirt roads, rough terrain and mountain treks. The tagline for Himalayan is: “Built for all road. Built for no roads”.
Royal Enfield Himalayan BS6 vs. Earlier Models
2016 Royal Enfield Himalayan
The first-generation Himalayan had minor niggles that have been sorted out, and it has now become a great bike to take on a rough road or a long ride. The Royal Enfield Himalayan BS6 has all the features that a motorcycle in this category needs to have, including a switchable ABS (Anti-lock Braking System).
The design of the Himalayan is an embodiment of the Royal Enfield Bike ethos of minimalistic design and strong personality. The BS6 model has a bit more color than previous models, giving it more character.
Engine, Torque and Horsepower
The emission standards have been upgraded with a BS6 engine. The fuel economy is also better with the new version. The 411 CC SOHC fuel injection based single cylinder engine delivers 24.3 bhp and 32 Nm torque at 6500 rpm.
For motorbike enthusiasts, it becomes a matter of intense discussion whether torque is more important or horsepower. It is important to understand the difference between horsepower and torque. The horsepower has the capability of delivering more speed for the motorbike, whereas torque at higher rpm allows for greater horsepower.
So one is not more important than the other, it just depends on the situation. For the motorbike buyer, it is recommended to buy a motorbike with a good balance between torque and horsepower.
With previous Himalayan models, there were some complaints regarding excessive engine vibration. With the new model, there is an improvement in vibration control. The engine can run speeds of up to 100km/h smoothly.
Vibrations do start to become an issue around 125km/h, but that speed won’t be reached very often. This is not a performance-based motorbike. The beauty of the motorbike is in its agility and handling.
Comfort & Riding Experience
Royal Enfield Himalayan
Riding the motorbike for long hours is not a problem. The bike has a low seat height, ideal for balance and stability.
The suspension is long-travel, which is great for rougher roads as it does not pass the bumps on to the rider. On a highway, it does feel a bit sluggish. The rear suspension could have been made slighter stiffer but no complaints if you are riding the biking on rougher roads.
The Himalayan has front suspension travel of 200 mm and rear suspension travel of 180 mm. Group clearance if 220 mm and 800 mm seat height. The fuel tank has a 15-liter capacity. The chassis feels solid and well built. The size of the motorbike is well-proportioned to its components.
The riding position is comfortable with a relaxed riding stance assisted with a raised handlebar and neutrally placed foot pegs. The saddle of the Himalayan is most comfortable for motorbikes of its price range.
The length of the side stand is shorter in the new version, allowing for improved stability while parking. This is an important feature when parking on rough terrain. The tall handlebar and scooped seat mean the rider feels comfortable while feeling in control of the bike.
The high instrument cluster adds to the commanding view. The padding in the seat is firm while the fabric used feels durable.
The braking performance of the Himalayan is excellent. Royal Enfield has recalibrated the ABS taking it to a higher level of refinement. The ABS can be switched on or off on the real wheel. This feature will be most appreciated by off-road riders.
Switching the brakes on or off the rear wheel allows for the motorbike to slide, an important maneuver for adventure seekers. The front wheel has the standard braking mechanism.
The rear disc of the brake seems to have more bite in the new version. The braking does feel a bit spongy but for a 200 kg motorbike, a little softness in the braking is required. The front brakes have a 300 mm disc while the rear brakes have a 240 mm disc.
The tyre brand used on the Himalayan is the most trusted brand in India, Ceat Tyres. The motorbike features the Gripp XL tyres. They are known for their block pattern design.
The instrument cluster has been slightly updated from the previous models. The ABS switch on-off button has been added but other than that, the appearance of the instrument cluster remains similar.
There are two trip meters on the panel giving you average speeds, fuel gauge, and the current time. Hazard lamps have been added to the handlebar. There is a rear rack for storage.
Some riders have added accessories such as heated grips for trips to the colder climate and engine guard for protection. Some users are also using a crash bar system that can protect the motorbike from tip-overs. Crash bars are designed to distribute the force of the impact.
BMW G 310 GS
KTM 390 Adventure
Some of the main competitors in this category are the BMW G 310 GS and the KTM Adventure 390.
Royal Enfield Himalayan vs. KTM Adventure 390
The Himalayan has a bigger engine and a more powerful ride compared to the KTM Adventure 390, which has a slightly higher maximum torque. The Himalayan has substantial longer suspension travel is much heavier compared to the KTM. The Himalayan is loaded with more features and offers better value for money compared to the KTM.
Royal Enfield Himalayan vs. BMW G 310 GS
Compared with the BMW G 310 GS, the Himalayan is much cheaper, offering better value for money in terms of the features offered. The Himalayan has a more solid feel to it with more weight and longer overall length.
Unsurprisingly given that the BMW is so much more expensive, it does have some extra features such as a digital instrument panel and indicators. However, for the difference in price, it just doesn’t offer that much more.
For the brand-conscious, BMW will still be ahead in the race but from a value for money, the Himalayan is the winner.
If you get a chance to visit a Royal Enfield dealer, ask to try the Himalayan test bike and you will be able to experience the solid, powerful, and agile ride of the Himalayan motorbike.
Make no mistake, the Himalayan can be a pretty strong city bike. Even with one cylinder, it doesn’t feel slow in an urban setting.
With its superior handling, lane changing and cornering is very smooth. The three-piece crankshaft provides a great balance for a motorbike this size.
However, the beauty of the motorbike is on an off-road adventure. The greatest value proposition is the Himalayan’s strong quality and affordability.