Are big adventure bikes killing adventure riding?


New bikes

 01 May 2012 09:20

In this week’s MCN the new BMW G650GS Sertao is tested against Yamaha’s Tenere 660. Part of the discussion between the testers concentrates on how much easier off-roading is on a bike that feels light and agile – which both these single-cylinders do compared to behemoths such as Triumph’s Explorer and Yamaha’s Super Tenere 1200.

But are these two middleweight adventure bikes still far too big? Renowned global adventurer Austin Vince thinks so. When we asked him how big an adventure bike should really be, here’s what he said:

“Every time anyone at MCN refers to a 1200cc machine as an ‘Adventure Bike’ you are doing your part to ensure that the long distance overland motorcycling fun that I experienced, and changed my life, will be enjoyed by fewer and fewer people in the future. There is no way on God’s green earth that a bunch of utter novices like the Mondo Enduro team [Austin and his mates, who went round the world on minimal budget] could have achieved what they did on 650s and to suggest they could have done it on a giant 1200 is pathetic in its dishonesty.

“The 1200cc bikes are just a farce if what you want to do is ‘adventure motorcycling’.

“Go to a Horizons Unlimited Travellers’ Meet and drift around the crowd asking the single question: “On your trip around the world did you ever wish your bike was heavier?”   You know what they’ll say…

“But the manufacturers would rather we bought a £12,000 bike and stayed in the UK rather than buying a £3000 bike and actually doing something bike-exciting with the £9000 you saved!

“Also, the way the ridiculous giant adventure bike thing has been launched by the industry/media/Touratech has, at a stroke, excluded pretty much any normal female biker from the scene. If they turn up at an event on a manageable 250 they are mocked and pitied by a load of middle-aged men in twat suits ‘Ho Ho, goin’ round the world on that are we darlin’? Ho Ho, I don’t think so!’

What do you think? Does Austin have a point?

Comment here and click this link to vote on the web site

Author: advgrrl

Avid ADV rider! This Blog is all about the adventure in adventure riding. Researching new bikes, routes, accessories, learning about other riders and hopefully a great place for others to comment and explore with me. PLUS, up and down's, wildlife, my dogs, my life!

21 thoughts on “Are big adventure bikes killing adventure riding?”

  1. Absolutely agree. I do not see any bike over a 650 as an off road adventure bike. They become multi-surface bikes that allow you to run down roads which would be not possible to travel on your standard road bike, I would never take my F800 places that I take my KLR and for that matter I would never take my KLR places where I used to take my 250 Honda. As the bike gets heavier the options for “off road” get fewer.

    1. but there is such a difference between dirt biking, single track than adv riding..I mean look at this way…going to Alaska for instance and riding a street bike or a small 250cc is not in anyone’s best interest but taking the bigger ADV bikes makes for more comfort, better long distance riding for luggage and still go off road/pavement etc. Maybe a 1200 is over kill but who cares. If you can afford a 1200 and keep it up right who should judge? A bike is a bike as long as you enjoy it and it gets you to wherever you want to go. I would never take a 250cc on a long trip, my ass would hate me and seriously when we go away we do enjoy having some level of comfort while we endure the hail, rain, cold, wind and at times sunshine! 😉

  2. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks fuel economy and light weight trumps the ability to do wheel stands on the highway, lol.
    For myself I prefer the comfort and payload capacity of “ADV” bikes rather than smaller D/S bikes. But IMO the size weight and technical complexity of top end ADV’ers has gotten a bit out of hand. They aren’t the bikes for me.

      1. I was taken back by Triumph coming out with the Tiger 1200 after just having released what appears to be a perfectly wonderful 800. Does the extra 400cc really improve the ridability of the bike, or is it just a marketing ploy to compete with the GS? Then you posted the pics of the “alleged” KTM 1200 Adventure,and I have to ask, why?
        I am currently in the process of thinking about replacing my Strom 650. Because the manufacturers keep increasing size and complexity at the expense of weight and fuel economy I don’t think there is anything left out there that fits the bill. Except for some ease of maintenance issues the Strom was a great bike for me to build on and make the bike I want. It’s frustrating 😦

  3. I would like to quote here this great saying: “It is not the arrow, it is the indian”. I will also mention some related facts:
    You can have a wonderful seat on a very small motorcycle, as many scooter users can testify.
    A short person, like Henriette (read her account on N69 – S54 Americas blog), can manage a lowered 650 motorcycle, so choosing a sutiable model not necessarily leads to small displacement motorcycles for short people.
    If you read the accounts of many globe-trotters, you will find a significant amount of rebuilding done on engines, transmissions an chassis performed on 800 and larger displacement motorcycles, including BMWs, so thinking that having a big BMW or Triumph or any other famous brand guarantees reliability on the long run is mostly wishful thinking.
    So, the real limit would be amount of weight the motorcycle can carry indefinitely while retaining an acceptable level of handling. If you plan to span the whole globe, the fuel-carrying capacity of the motorcycle is critical and a very small engine not necessarily will be the most economical. Some people travel very light while others carry a huge amount of luggage, so your personal style of traveling is also very important.
    In the end, if you do not need the approval of other riders but make do with what is comfortable, capable and affordable for you, enjoy your ride, regardless of the size and brand, and let us know about it, so when any prejudiced or ignorant person states that “it cannot be done using that motorcycle”, your account will finish any nonsensical arguments, that normally showcases only the shortcomings and biases of the arguing party.

    1. In the end we buy what feels right for us at the time. No misconceptions that any bike would be immune to troubles but for us we are at the point where we know what we like to take on trips, what we like to ride, what we look for in a bike and I think that is was biking is all about. What you can afford and what tickles your fancy! 😉

  4. A very interesting read that is for sure, there is no such thing as the perfect bike, each is really built with a specific ride in mind. Some times you just have to reach a good compromise, saying that thouh I do agree that the 1200’s are far to big. BUt if you can handle it and it works for you then go for it, for me the 650 would be as big as it would get I think.

  5. And just in case someone may be doubting that it is the indian, not the arrow, on the following link (I hope the grrls will not take issue with the cross-reference) you will see a very nice story about a couple of guys riding pre-1975 Honda XL motorcycles from Tenesee to Bolivia, one a 350 and the other a 250. So, if you are determined enough, it certainly can be done. The story can be read at–Misadventure-Riding.aspx

    1. I have a 1973 Honda CL350 and I will definitely be checking that link out, Hans. But I know that I could never be THAT determined. The primary problem would be that, when riding the CL I can’t get that stupid Beach Boys song out of my head. (it’s not a big motorcycle just a groovy little motor bike) LOL

  6. The main issue I have with most Adventure bikes is not the engine size but the seat height. A 5′ 7″ I ain’t the tallest bloke in the world but I’m also no hobbit either but trying to find an adventure bike where I can put both feet on the ground is a challenge in itself!

    1. I never have both feet down…I am so used to only having my left foot planted while right is on the back brake when stopped. I know I will never fit these bikes totally but have learned to make them work and I feel confident on them now.

  7. Hey Don I hear ya but even though the bigger bikes are more complex it’s not always a bad thing. The 800cc bikes are almost perfect as far as torque, power and speed. Also, they are great and more than able to handle decent luggage for long trips. All other more powerful bikes, with more HP etc…is just reaching out to as many potential buyers as possible. The bigger cc bikes would make riding at high speeds on the road more comfortable. Less vibrations and some like that. I am just glad we have so many choices and these engines are sound. Yeah they have issues like anything but from what we have found out with our Beemers, the more mileage you put on a BMW the better engine gets. Just my opinion.

  8. Mondo Enduro was done with Suzuki DR350’s…I like a challenge and find riding my KLR650 really tough to make long distances in Canada, and wish I had a larger more comfortable bike at times. “If” I had a year to travel I would pick an even smaller bike, do absolutely only side roads camping or sleeping in motels. Its a bug and the bike someone chooses has nothing to do with killing it.

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