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.
With the looks and utility of a capable off-roader and the balance and handling of a sport-standard, adventure motorcycles are a bipartisan look at how to tackle paved roads and dirt. With a set of purpose-balanced tires (not too knobby, not too slick) an adventure motorcycle will handle 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 thanks to 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 1290 Super Adventure R
According to KTM, the Super Adventure R is the “the world’s most advanced Travel Enduro chassis.” Not many would dispute that claim, and the Adventure R is a straight-up off-road superbike. The 148 horsepower 1,301cc engine is never left wanting for power, even if you find yourself at 14,000 feet. And while dirt and gravel are where the Super 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: 1,301cc V-Twin
Torque: 118 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 478 pounds
Rider Modes: Street, Sport, Rain, Off-Road
Triumph Tiger 800 XCx
Light weight, manageable power and rider-focused electronic systems 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): 450 pounds
Rider Modes: Road, Off-Road, Off
Honda Africa Twin
The Africa Twin is an incredibly capable bike. The chassis and suspension shine thanks to the incredible engineering at work. regardless if you choose the DCT or six-speed manual transmission, as a package, the Africa Twin is a seriously well-sorted machine. Regardless of transmission choice, it won’t disappoint adventurers keen on piloting a direct descendant of a Dakar winner, down any dusty path.
Engine: 998cc Parallel-twin
Torque: 72 lb-ft
Weight (fully-loaded): 511 pounds
Rider Modes: Normal, Sport (Level-1, -2, -3)
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: 92 lb-ft
Weight (wet): 580 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 $12,999, 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 (Wet): 511 pounds
Rider Modes: TC1 (low sensitivity), TC2 (high sensitivity), Off
Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro
The 1198cc 152 horsepower V-Twin hints at superbike performance, and there’s no doubting the Multistrada’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, double sided swing arm and semi-active suspension makes the Multistrada 1200 the most advanced bike in Ducati’s lineup.
Engine: 1,198cc 90-degree L-Twin
Torque: 94 lb-ft
Weight (dry): 496 pounds
Rider Modes: Sport, Touring, Urban, Enduro
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