Sportbikes are great for high speeds and getting low in turns; dirt bikes are right at home threading through dense wooded trails and slingin’ dirt. But, if you were to ask either to do the other’s job, they (and you) would quite literally fall flat. You used to have to choose one or the other depending on the day’s ride that lay ahead of you.
With the looks and utility of a capable off-roader and the balance and handling of a sport standard, adventure motorcycles are a segment taking a bipartisan stance when it comes to paved roads and dirt. With a set of purpose-balanced tires (not too knobby, not too slick) you can take an adventure motorcycle on a long-haul tour across the country and then confidently set off down a forest service road in search of a quality campsite. Like the crossover in the four-wheeled world, the adventure motorcycle segment is rapidly expanding for its sportiness and utility and there are now more options than ever, to take you wherever.
Home Is Where the Dirt Is
Even in the adventure bike world, there are varying degrees of dirt dedication. If you find yourself off the road more than on, the “adventure touring” category is where to look. These are the bikes you’ll see teams decking out for the Dakar Rally. But in stock trim, though these bikes are more than capable on asphalt, they prefer to be roosting all day, caked in dirt.
KTM Adventure R
According to KTM, the Adventure R is the “the world’s safest motorcycle” and “without doubt the twin-cylinder with the greatest off-road capability.” Not many would dispute those claims, and the Adventure R is a straight-up off-road superbike. The 148 horsepower 1190cc engine is never left wanting for power, even if you find yourself at 14,000 feet. And while dirt and gravel is where the Adventure R sings, with the advanced level of adjustable fuel mapping, traction control and suspension, it’s hard to find the KTM out of its element.
Engine: 1,195cc 75-Degree V-Twin
Torque: 100 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 518 pounds
Rider Modes: Street, Sport, Rain, Off-Road
Triumph Tiger 800 XCx
Light weight, manageable power and rider-focused electronic systems make make the Tiger 800 XCx Triumph’s best off-road handling bike ever. The 800cc inline-three 58 lb-ft of smooth, even torque via a ride-by-wire system is enough to keep things exciting on the pavement and predictable in the dirt. But one of the highlights of the Tiger is the defeat-able ABS. In Off-Road Mode, ABS to the rear wheel is switched off, allowing for better rotation, tighter turns and a little more fun under braking. Pound for pound, the Triumph Tiger 800 XCx is one of, if not the best middleweight adventure bike on the market.
Engine: 800cc In-Line Three-Cylinder
Torque: 58 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 487 pounds
Rider Modes: Road, Off-Road, Off
BMW R1200 GS Adventure
30 years of perpetual refinement, iconic exposed cylinders, minimalist styling and aggressive body work lets you know the BMW R1200 GS Adventure isn’t just some weekend warrior’s plaything — it’s the bike you choose in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max scenario. With 125 horsepower and a 400-mile range, the only foreseeable limits are the rider. Electronically adjustable ABS, traction control and suspension means that, fully loaded panniers or stripped naked, the R1200 GS Adventure is one of the best-handling and most versatile bikes, on road or off.
Engine: 1,170cc Air/Oil-Cooled Flat-Twin
Torque: 89 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 564 pounds
Rider Modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic (On Road), Enduro, Enduro Pro (Off Road)
Adventure Sport Touring
For the majority of the world’s population that has to navigate city blocks and cabbies before they can spin a wheel on dirt trails, the adventure sport touring segment makes more sense, day to day. Shorter suspension travel than a full-on adventure bike, but more utility than a stiffer sport bike, adventure sport touring bikes could live their entire life on pavement, and with street tires, make for decent commuters. But why hinder their potential? Slap some knobbies on ’em and hit some backwoods two-tracks.
Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS
At a fraction of the price of most of its competitors, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS makes big-ticket tech more attainable. With ABS, two-stage traction control and adjustable suspension, the V-Strom stands apart at its price point. At $12,700, it’s hard to ask for more. With proper dirt tires, you can throw an entire mountain at the V-Strom and it’ll take it in stride.
Engine: 1,037cc 90-Degree V-Twin
Torque: 76 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 511 pounds
Rider Modes: TC1 (low sensitivity), TC2 (high sensitivity), Off
BMW S1000 RX ABS
BMW took their 30 years’ worth of “GS” know-how and mated it to the incredible 999cc engine from the S1000RR. The benefits of being a cross-breed between BMW’s best adventure touring bike and arguably the best sport bike in the world is the top-of-the-line shared tech. The XR gets a quick shifter that allows for clutch-less up and down-shifts, semi-active suspension, various traction control modes and heated grips. The result is an incredibly balanced, slim-profiled adventure sport touring bike, capable of carving streets on its way to tearing up dirt roads.
Engine: 999cc In-Line Four-Cylinder
Torque: 83 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 502 pounds
Rider Modes: Rain, Road
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S
The 1198cc 160 horsepower V-Twin hints at superbike performance, and there’s no doubting the Multistrada 1200’s track capabilities. It may sit tall, but its balance only lends itself to total versatility — the quirky Italian style is just a plus. The reworked Testastretta engine with Desmodromic variable timing and dual spark ignition, combined with ABS, four ride modes, traction control and semi-active suspension makes the Multistrada 1200 the most advanced bike in Ducati’s lineup.