Decision time / Ten tips for buying an adventure bike
It looks like 2022 is the year of the adventure bike!
There has never been a time in the history of motorcycling when brands have focused so much on this segment. There was a street bike era; cafe racers have had their time, even scooters, but over the past five years the market has been saturated with many new adventure bikes, designed to appeal to all different customers: big or small, slow or fast .
If you don’t believe me, look at it this way: Harley Davidson and Ducati have targeted this market, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
Because there are so many bikes to choose from, it’s easy to make the wrong choice, especially if you’re new to the segment. Here is a list of 10 important aspects to consider when choosing an adventure bike:
As basic as it sounds, this is the first factor to consider when buying a new bike. Your budget determines which brands to look for and which to avoid, as some are more affordable than others.
You can probably separate adventure bikes into three price brackets: under $10,000, $10,000-15,000, and over $15,000. In Europe, $10,000 seems like a pretty solid price line separating the most basic machines from competent middleweights. For example, the Tenere 700 sold for exactly 10,000 euros for years. Above or below this point, there is a clear difference in quality and performance between the bikes available.
2. Engine displacement
Ultimately, torque is the pump that propels us with raw adrenaline. For many riders, torque output is the determining factor that makes one bike more exciting than another. These days, with modern engine design and more advanced fuel management, you don’t have to buy a 1200cc beast to get thrilling performance from your engine.
In the early days of adventure motorcycles, 650cc was usually the entry point. Today, with the advent of the 300-400-500-700-800-900cc categories and advanced technologies, you have many entry points into the ADV scene, depending on riding style and experience. . If this is your first time riding a motorcycle, I recommend entering this world through the smallest gate (300-400-500) – starting small is the easiest. These bikes usually have lower ground clearance, with easily manageable torque. These machines are generally lighter too, which makes everything easier. If you need more power from your engine, there is no replacement for displacement, but keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility.
In recent years, improvements in motorcycle technology have made it easier to ride adventure bikes safely. The motors are designed and manufactured in series with laser technology, which reduces errors and production defects to a minimum. The quality of materials used, and even basics like engine oil, has also improved, resulting in lighter components with long-lasting performance. As a result, service intervals are also longer and engine failures are rare. Therefore, even the cheapest bikes are reliable.
Now, the difference between ADV bikes with similar prices often comes down to the options included in their “tech packs.” Of course, more affordable bikes have less fancy electronics, simpler dashboards, and fewer sensors installed. Most bikes will have ABS as standard, which was only an option a few years ago, and most bikes also have traction control as an option now.
However, this drives up the price of a new bike.
4. Height and weight
Oddly enough, it often seems that the bike’s relative size and weight tends to match its rider.
Handling a motorcycle that weighs more than 250 kg on a full tank of gas is quite a workout for most people. If your legs or back aren’t ready for the work, it’s best to get something lighter and enjoy the ride more. As they say in surfing, “the best surfer is not the one who catches the biggest wave, but the one who has the most fun”.
5. Driving style
Adventure bikes are versatile motorcycles, but each brand has its own unique style that is also expressed in their bikes. Depending on the riding style you like, there’s a brand for you. You just have to find it.
Some brands, like KTM, have a clear racing and off-road bias; their adventure bikes are made for customers who need speed. Other brands, such as BMW or Suzuki, are geared more towards cruising and travel. Kawasaki has always been known for making “workhorses,” focusing less on aesthetics and performance, and more on comfort and basic design. Other brands like Harley-Davidson and Ducati focus more on niche markets, selling expensive, street-oriented motorcycles in the past; with the Pan America and the DesertX, these two brands have stepped out of their comfort zone, and I think they have succeeded.
There are other equally interesting newcomer brands, such as China-based Benelli and CFMoto. These companies offer cheaper alternatives than other European or American brands. Honda is another notable mention, with maneuverable machines that have excellent long-term reliability. Triumph’s bikes have long been considered edgy but street-focused, but the latest Tiger aims to change that.
6. Street or Path?
Most adventure riders only tackle off-road terrain that you can handle with almost any standard motorcycle, but that’s a consideration.
If you think you’ll regularly ride a 200+ kg bike through dirt, mud and sand, congratulations on your fitness plan – you’re in for a great workout! If an ADV bike has a 21-inch front wheel and a Dakar bike look, you’ll look more badass at your local coffee shop, but be realistic about the terrain you’ll actually be riding. There’s no point in having a big enduro type bike with knobby tires if you’re only going to ride gravel roads. I know it’s cool to show your friends photos of your adventures on forest tracks, but there’s no point buying a motorcycle made for the desert if you’re mainly using it to commute to work.
7. Which seat? And what about the shock parameters?
Seat design is not a common talking point when choosing a bike, but different options are now available. Your choice could make a big difference in your driving experience.
Most motorcycle manufacturers offer different seat options for their bikes, and you can find aftermarket options for most bikes as well. For example, on my KTM 890 Adventure S, the standard saddle was quite wide; after switching to the Rally seat, I gained 2 centimeters in seat height and overall clearance from the seated position to the ground and the pegs. It gave me a better seated position and a more comfortable riding position when I was on the stakes.
Adjusting my suspension preload was another key to finding the right ride height. Some brands also offer lowering kits for smaller riders, so check to see if your favorite bike has them. Suspension companies like Hyperpro or WP also offer options for shorter shocks or other upgrades. In my experience, investing in a better seat and suspension is much better than investing in 15 more horsepower. Don’t waste your money on a $1000 muffler!
8. Service and Support
Before buying a bike, ask yourself: who will work on it? Unless you are already a mechanic, you may need access to parts and professional help when servicing or repairing your motorcycle. Buying a cheap bike and not having a repair shop in your area could be a long-term problem.
Similarly, buying an expensive bike just because there’s a dealer nearby is no guarantee of reliability. Unless you care about warranty details, you don’t need an official dealership to service your motorcycle. This is useful to have one nearby, especially if you need parts. Yet, in many marketplaces, eBay, Amazon, and other online retailers are great sources for aftermarket, used, or even new OEM parts.
Many people’s ego drives them to buy a fat bike, but there’s no point riding around looking scared or inexperienced on a machine you can’t handle. I’ve seen it many times in my racing career, and I don’t understand why anyone would make themselves miserable in a failed attempt to look cool. Nowadays it is easy to find people with no experience and the economic capacity to buy any motorcycle, even the biggest and most expensive machines. I have ridden many times with people who buy these powerful bikes but have absolutely no idea how to ride them because they go too fast from 0-100.
It is much more difficult to learn to ride a big and heavy motorcycle than to ride a small and light one. This is just basic logic, but many riders still go for big heavy machines with no experience.
10. Budget for riding equipment
Buying a bike can be a tough decision, but remember that your budget should include your riding gear. There’s no point getting yourself a shiny new bike if you’re putting your safety at risk by riding in sneakers and a cheap helmet. Even if you are the most experienced biker you know, remember that motorcycle accidents are also caused by other riders and you can’t always avoid trouble. So, buying proper motorcycle gear is an important part of the buying process.
Unfortunately for us, motorcycle stuff doesn’t come cheap. Even buying the cheapest kit on the market, a complete setup will cost you at least $500. To save a few bucks, I recommend buying a nice helmet and some nice boots; the rest can be bought used.