Five Reasons to Choose an Adventure Motorcycle for Touring
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Purpose-built Adventure (ADV) motorcycles are becoming increasingly popular for touring and sport-touring. ADV bikes sport many features ideal for racking up miles on any terrain - large wheels, long travel suspension, upright seating and good fuel range to name a few.
While touring can be done on any motorcycle, by design adventure motorcycles offer comfort, performance and versatility that make long-distance travel more enjoyable, and often times safer.
Some consider modern ADV bikes like the new 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 or KTM 1290 Super Adventure S to be the pinnacle of motorcycling technology since they have to perform adequately both on and off-road. Many companies are even using the R&D from MotoGP and Dakar efforts to develop these bikes. 21”/18” or 19”/17” wheel combinations help riders roll over obstacles, potholes and improve handling on soft ground, uneven terrain or off-road tours. A 19” front wheel may be the best overall compromise between seat height, rough road handling and sporty asphalt carving.
Longer suspension travel increases ground clearance to float over harsh terrain, giving the ability to ride in more technical and remote areas like an off-road tour. This benefit can be useful around town when dealing with potholes or broken pavement. Adventure motorcycles are also often equipped with large fuel tanks, an extremely important feature since gas stations can be few and far between in many parts of the world… including parts of North America.
2. Comfort and Ergos
Most of today’s large displacement ADV bikes come standard with a host of performance altering bell and whistles, including traction control, ABS, and riding modes for various terrains or weather. These aids help a rider to be safe, often reacting many times faster than a human brain can compute.
They also inspire confidence, and when you’re confident on your ride, fear turns into fun. The downside is if you get too used to having a computer make adjustments for you, when you get back on a bike which lacks electronic assistance, you may want to be careful.
Comfort features, like cruise control and heated grips or seats, are also available, straight from the factory. Many of the latest ADV bikes even have separate rear heated seats. To handle the load from these accessories, ADV bikes also generally come with larger stators, so feel free to plug in your heated gear and charge your electronics without having to worry about draining the battery.
The standard, upright ergonomics on ADV bikes give great visibility and all-day comfort. Low pegs and high bars make standing for technical riding easy but also ease pressure on your neck, arms, wrists, back, knees and hips. Adjustable suspension even makes it comfortable to carry a passenger or extra equipment.
3. Customization and Gear
Prepping or customizing an ADV bike for your adventure is part of the fun of owning one. OEM and aftermarket support is extensive and rivals any other type of bike. Options for performance, comfort, luggage systems, crash protection, and lighting and various other types of electronics are endless. You can even get bike mounted winches.
Adventure-ready gear is also available, including all-season riding suits and modular helmets with built-in communications systems. Again, the extra rugged construction, all-weather protection and looser fitting cuts make for some of the best touring armor around.
There’s even a wide variety of tire options available and more being announced yearly. Regardless of your on to off-road balance, you can find tires that can handle it. Street-tread oriented tires like Bridgestone’s new BATTLAX’s are great for pavement surfing in all type of weather and last a long time. Metzeler’s new Karoo Streets are a wonderful balance of being able to scrape pegs on pavement but still handle packed dirt or rough asphalt. Aggressive off-road biased tires like the MOTOZ Tractionators are available in big bike sizes, but best kept on dirt.
4. Serviceability, Reliability and Affordability
ADV bikes are generally easy to work on. Smaller bikes may only require a few screws to remove panels, but generally at most half-faired. Minimal bodywork means easier access to the engine and other critical components for regular maintenance, inspection and cleaning. Single cylinder engines are perhaps the easiest to maintain but often don’t have the power to comfortably cruise at high speeds for extended periods of time.
As technology advances, the service intervals for adventure motorcycles are increasing and some aren’t scheduled for valve checks until 12,000 miles or more. The components and materials on these bikes are designed for harsh, extended use so are overbuilt for most forms of touring. Shaft drives are also commonly found on ADV bikes in the 1200cc and up so forget about maintaining or tightening chains.
While newer large fully loaded ADV bikes can approach $20,000, second-hand models are available in multiple classes ranging from 250 to 400 and 650cc’s as well. If the idea of getting off the pavement appeals to you at all, then riding a smaller and lighter bike has many benefits. Lighter bikes cost less, don’t wear though consumables as fast and are easier on your body when off-road. While smaller displacement bikes generally mean slower highway speeds and fewer interstates, more and more people are finding that to be a benefit to the travel experience.
5. The ADV Experience
Image credit: Adam Barhan
Adventure riding’s central appeal is not being limited to where you want to go on two wheels. See a rough road disappearing off into the woods? Give it a go! What you may find is almost no traffic, noise or pollution as well as amazing scenery and solitude.
Meeting and interacting with others will be a huge part of your journey and ADV bikes tend to strike-up the conversation with locals who wonder where you’re from and where you’re going. High-speed interstates bypass uncountable small towns which once thrived on two-lane road traffic. ADV and back road riding let you experience and support parts of America and the world which have been all but forgotten. Organizations like the Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) specialize in finding public dual-sport routes across states which literally put small towns back on the map.
Additionally, the ADV community is growing rapidly and amazingly diverse on many levels. While big bikes are popular in the media, many are still riding smaller or mid-sized motorcycles. At a rally, you can find everything from Yamaha TW200 to KTM 1090 riders handing out together, sharing the same stories, BBQ and campfire. Even better, there’s been an explosion of ADV and dual-sport events around the US in the past five years. Be on the lookout for events in your area and don’t be afraid to stop by with some camping gear.
Whether you’re headed out on a weekend ride or circumnavigating the globe, one thing holds true for both scenarios – that anything is possible. The certainty provided by smooth paved roads with street lights, intermittent service stations, and cell phone service simply aren’t guaranteed when you’re off to explore the unknown.
Adventure motorcycles are built for reliability. The less you have to worry about the bike, the more you can enjoy the scenery. They’re built for comfort, extending your seat time for you to ride longer and farther. While all bikes have their merits, adventure motorcycles are built for versatility, designed help you overcome anything you put in their path.
Want to try an ADV bike on an organized motorcycle holiday? Sign up for a guided motorcycle tour and get ready for an unforgettable riding experience!
Carl is a guest author from Adventure Motorcycle Magazine (ADVMoto).