Need an Adventure Machine?

The SUVs of the motorcycle world are adventure bikes. They’re the motorcycles that are designed to do anything and pretty much everything. They can take you across the country comfortably, traverse difficult terrain, and they even handle much better than expected on a twisty canyon road. 

These motorcycles are the Swiss Army Knives of the motorcycling world and they’ve become quite popular in recent years. If you want a bike that can chug along through pretty much any pavement-based environment and handle loose dirt, hard-packed trails, sand, mud, rocks, and more, you have to have one of these. So, with all that said, let me guide you through this interesting segment. 

The State of the ADV Market

KTM EICMA

Born from the need to do more than a typical dual-sport motorcycle is capable of, adventure motorcycles seek to be the only bike you need in the garage. The genesis of this type of bike is often attributed to the 1981 BMW R/80 GS, a motorcycle that basically opened the door for these hybrid off-road and on-road machines. It was a misunderstood machine at first, but it made more sense than people originally thought.

Since that first GS, BMW has crafted more and more advanced adventure motorcycles and became more or less the king of the segment, but other manufacturers were building interesting dual-sport and adventure machines right alongside them and the segment continued to evolve until we get to where we are today. 

And where we are is a wonderful place to be. What you have is a slew of fantastic adventure motorcycles that blend touring characteristics with off-road characteristics into one extremely practical and versatile package. 

These days there’s not just big adventure bikes and middleweight adventure bikes, there are smaller displacement bikes, too. Smaller displacement used to lean more towards the old school dual-sport lineups, which were little more than dirtbikes with lights and number plates on them, but now we have legit adventure motorcycles with displacements in the 300cc and 400cc range. This brings the price and barrier of entry down. It opens the door to more adventure riders, and that means even greater popularity of these bikes. 

New and Notable Adventure Motorcycles for 2020

yamaha tenere 700

So, for 2020 we have a crop of motorcycles that come in at pretty much every displacement with a wide range of technology and features. At the top end of the spectrum in terms of price and displacement, we have bikes like the new Honda Africa Twin, Suzuki’s V-Strom 1050, Triumph Tiger 1200, and the Ducati Multistrada V4 S Grand Tour. There has been a lot of great movement in the high-end portion of the market, and each of the bikes mentioned here offers several subtle variations.

When it comes to the middleweight adventure bikes, there are also several new or updated bikes in the segment. These include updates to the Suzuki V-Strom 650 lineup, Zero’s DSR Black Forest Edition, Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT Travel (one of my favorites), and Triumph’s new Tiger 900 models. 

There’s also the Yamaha Tenere 700 that’s supposed to come out soon. Yamaha has been dragging its feet on bringing it to North America. It’s available in the UK, and it’s been a couple of years since it was first revealed. The company just announced it will bring the bike here in June, so that’s a good thing. People want it. 

The lower displacement portion of the segment hasn’t been left out either for 2020. The big news for this area of the segment is the KTM 390 Adventure. Then there are new dual-sport machines like the Kawasaki KLX230. There are more small dual-sport and adventure bikes to come in 2021, like the Honda ADV150 and CT125, but I’ll leave that for future articles. 

Other Great Adventure Bikes That Aren’t New

2020 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R

Additionally, there are plenty of new bikes that aren’t new for 2020 that are still serious forces in the segment. At the top end of the spectrum are bikes like The BMW R 1250 GS, which has been more or less the king of the segment for some time. Then there are other bikes like the KTM 1290 Adventure models, Yamaha Super Tenere, and Kawasaki Versys 1000 that really do a good job of kicking butt off-road and on the road.

In the middleweight category, we have motorcycles like the BMW F 850 GS Adventure, Triumph Tiger 800 (yes the company makes an 800 and 900 in 2020), KTM 790 Adventure, BMW F 750 GS, Honda NC750X, Kawasaki Versys 650, and the non-new versions of the Suzuki V-Strom 650

On the low end, there are several bikes, including the Honda CB500X, Royal Enfield Himalayan, BMW G 310 GS, Kawasaki Versys-X 300, and Honda CRF250L Rally—that last one is a bit more of a dual-sport than a legit adventure ride but it does a good job of splitting the difference. Needless to say, there are a lot of options to choose from.

The 5 Best ADV Bikes Out There Right Now

Now that I’ve established the lay of the land, so to speak, let’s dive into the best models out there right now. It’s important to note there are so many excellent motorcycles in this segment, that choosing just five of them was really tough.

Also, my colleagues here at Web Bike World might not agree with my picks. That’s fine. They can say so in the comments, and we can argue about why I’m right. 

2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES

honda africa twin adventure sports ES DCT

The Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES is the best version of the Africa twin right now, and the updates made to the motorcycle for 2020 make it one of the best adventure motorcycles you can buy. Is it the best? To be frank, I don’t know. I haven’t ridden all adventure bikes on sale. I do feel confident in saying it’s one of the best out there. 

The bike is lighter and more powerful for 2020 with a 1,084cc four-stroke parallel-twin engine that’s fuel-injected and puts out 101 hp. The engine is either connected to a manual or DCT. The bike also gets a lot of goodies, including cornering ABS, rear lift control, wheelie control, cruise control, traction control, and Apple CarPlay. Overall, this is an amazing motorcycle that can take you to the ends of the earth. 

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R

2020 KTM 790 Adventure

The KTM 790 Adventure R is another bike that gets high praise from basically everyone who rides it. My fellow Webbiker and adventure rider extraordinaire, Jim Pruner, is a big fan of the KTM 790 Adventure, and I’m sure he would list this bike among his top five adventure motorcycle picks, and for good reason. 

The motorcycle features a 799cc four-stroke parallel-twin engine that’s fuel-injected and puts out 95 hp. The bike is ready for just about anything, with WP suspension, unified braking, advanced traction control, cornering ABS, and ride modes (including a designated off-road mode with ABS). You can add a quick shifter and cruise control easily, too. 

2020 Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel

moto guzzi V85 TT travel

Of all the adventure bikes out there, the one that gets my motor running is the Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel is the one that gets me revved up the most. It might sound silly, but it just looks freaking cool. Also, it has the goods to back up those looks, and the consistently high sales for this motorcycle indicate that consumers all over the world feel the same about it—it’s good and popular. 

There may be other motorcycles that you’ll shout about being better than this in the comments, but if I was going to spend my money on any adventure bike, it’d be this one. The Moto Guzzi V85 TT Travel gets an 853cc transverse 90-degree V-twin that’s fuel-injected and makes 80 hp. It’s ready for what you’re going to throw at it. 

2020 Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro

Triumph has plenty of Tiger models, but the new Tiger 900 Rally Pro is the best of all the lineup if you’re more adventurous. The bike is the more off-road-focused version of the Tiger 900 line of bikes. The Rally Pro version is the most-advanced off-roader that’s still happy on the pavement. I know the previous Tiger models have been fantastic, and I expect this new 900 will be even better. 

The bike features an 888cc liquid-cooled inline-triple engine that’s fuel-injected and produces 94 hp. The bike also features optimized cornering ABS, traction control, Showa adjustable off-road suspension, quick shifter, six riding modes, and a 7-inch TFT display with My Triumph connectivity system. 

2020 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure

2020 BMW R1250GS Adventure

The BMW R 1250 GS Adventure is the bike that many people think of when they think of adventure motorcycles. The BMW GS is famous for a lot of reasons, but one of them is Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round show. Since that came out, every guy who wants to go adventure riding has wanted a BMW GS, and the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure is the pinnacle of BMW’s lineup at the moment.

The bike has a 1,254cc twin-cylinder boxer that’s fuel-injected and makes 136 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque. The bike also offers two ride modes, disengageable ABS, stability control, connectivity with 6.5-inch TFT display, dynamic brake control, hill-start control, quick shifter, and BMW’s new ShiftCam engine technology is well-liked by a lot of folks out there, too, and adds power both at the low end and the high end of the rev range. 

4 Comments

  1. John Griffith
    May 29, 2020
    Reply

    Interesting that You refer to the Smaller bikes in this category as the “Low end”. Imho they are far better adventure bikes than the ungainly behemoths that get all the glory. There are also plenty of round the world trips recounted in books and on the web to bear this out. Its high time that world motorcycle journalists gave the smaller bikes the credit they deserve rather than focussing all the time on overpowered, overly expensive, oversized ego trips like the KTM’s and BM’s and the like.

    • May 29, 2020
      Reply

      John, I mean low-end only in terms of displacement, not quality or capability. Smaller bikes are far more-capable off-road, and if anyone loves small bikes, it’s me. I have five bikes in my shed right now and all of them have a displacement under 300cc.

  2. Greg Z
    May 29, 2020
    Reply

    For the five featured motorcycles, the displacement and horsepower is listed in each machine’s description. However, for these bloated adventure bikes, the more important specs to me would be the weight and seat height.

    • May 29, 2020
      Reply

      Hey Greg, definitely important numbers. I do link out to our other articles on these bikes. Our model overviews (linked in most cases to the name of the bike) show the information you’re talking about.

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