BMW R 1250 GS Adventure
Whats the best adventure motorcycle? Not all adventure motorcycles are equal.
I have listed 15 bikes. These are the most popular adventure motorcycles with strong communities and a stack of aftermarket accessories.
But what one is the best adventure motorcycle? Well, that depends on what you want to do, and how you ride.
There is no universal system for classifying all types of motorcycles. I want to make it clear that this is not in order of best adventure bike, but the leading bikes in the adventure moto industry.
Here we go...
Best Adventure Motorcycle
Heavy Weights (Big Enduro)
BMW R 1250 GS Adventure
From the Bavarian Adventure Factory
The BMW R 1250 GS Adventure. The latest addition to the GS family.
The BMW GS range is considered by some (And sales) the leading adventure bike. The “GS” refers to either Gelände/Straße (German: off-road/road) where BMW cut out a new market segment over 30 years ago.
The BMW GS has arguably founded the adventure segment when it made the R80G/S in 1980.
You can order two versions, the standard GS and the adventure. The most popular of these two in America is the GS Adventure with all the extras as it holds resell value.
There are three main areas of difference between the GS and GS Adventure models. They are size, protection, and suspension.
The new shift cam motor will fit the Euro 5 emissions requirements (effective from in 2020) and give more power and reduce fuel consumption.
Air/liquid-cooled, four-stroke flat twin, DOHC, BMW's ShiftCam variable engine timing system
136 horsepower @ 7,750 rpm
105 foot-pounds @ 6,250 rpm
549 pounds (GS), 591 pounds (GSA)
KTM 790 Enduro R
KTM Makes the Best Adventure Enduro
Built from the same rally DNA as all KTM bikes. The bike sells the dream of hitting sand dunes at breakneck speeds and sharing the podium with Dakar's greatest riders.
The parallel twin has the same architecture as 790 Duke, but with custom power delivery mapping for off-road adventure riding.
When you have rally legends like Toby Price, Marc Coma, and the kiwi king Chris Birch backing this bike, for sure it will make waves that will be felt by other bike manufactures.
This is one of the most important bikes of this year and a big move for KTM. A lot of people will now have the confidence with this bike to move onto dirt without the massive learning curve. It comes with some of the longest travel suspension in class front and back.
I'm going to get one for sure.
799cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel twin
95 hp @ 8,000 rpm
65 lb.-ft. @ 6,600 rpm
417 lb. (189kg)
Africa Twin & Africa Twin Adventure Sports
BEST DUAL SPORT
The Adventure Sports Model is an attempt to grab that premium customer in the adventure moto market. It has a bigger tank, heated grips, better seat, bigger foot pegs, a flashy new paint job and crash bars to name a few. One of the main differences is the riding position, the handlebars are higher and you sit more upright and in control. Standing position ergonomics is far superior to the standard Africa Twin.
It has a 24.2L fuel tank that should go 300 miles/482km, and comes with Honda selectable toque parameters. It has 4 riding modes with ride by wire total control, and now has ESS or emergency stop signaling.
A badass bike with a good community and the build quality is fantastic.
998cc liquid-cooled Unicam® four-stroke 22.5º parallel-twin
555.8 lbs. Adventure Sports
KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
Best Big Enduro from KTM
The KTM is a modern day adventure touring machine that packs a lot of power and can take on anything you can throw at it.
KTM is positioning it as “the bike” to explore the road less traveled. It’s tougher and better equipped to take on tough off-road riding while chewing the miles on the blacktop. Well, you can't argue with them as the bike is a beast.
For the serious off-road enthusiast (That needs to do big miles too) this is the bike.
Built in Austria, to control the massive 160hp V TWIN, KTM has given you 4 drive modes to tame the best.
The roots of this bike started in the dirt and this is carried throughout the design with engine mapping, chassis, and suspension.
This bike is the big daddy of dirt bikes.
V TWIN 1301cc
Ducati Multistrada 120 Enduro
Best Big Enduro from Ducati
When the Italian bike manufacturer felt the industry moving more into the adventure off road market it had to react.
Ducati realized the Multistrada wouldn't cut it and developed the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro and now the 1250 to pit for its place as the best adventure motorcycle.
Holding true to the brand “Multistrada” the Italian engineers added a 19-inch front wheel, increased suspension travel, and revised and optimized the geometry to make the bike handle better off-road.
With the newer Ducati's, its got the upgraded Testastretta DVT 1262 engine. The torque is better than the previous engine and this has prompted a new chassis design. Ducati's new engine boosts the power delivery is smoother at lower speeds and makes maneuvering the big 1200 easy.
I would never need it myself at 6.1... But I like the “Vehicle Hold Control” option that holds the bike for hill starts up to 24.5 degrees.
One thing I love is the 15,000 km service schedules, but as I know Italian bikes (Or is that women?) they need a lot of attention to keep them running smoothly.
Testastretta DVT 1262
116 kW (158 hp) @ 9,500 rpm i
128 Nm (94 lb-ft, 13.0 kgm) @ 7,500 rpm
225 kg (496 lb)
Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere
Best Big Enduro from Yamaha
Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere is one of the big boys. It keeps the others in check with affordable adventure moto packages full of extras other adventure bikes make as optional.
The Super Ténéré ES is a sophisticated piece of machinery that is often overlooked when it can clearly keep up with the BMW's and KTM's of this world.
A rugged, durable, and built for long stretches in the saddle. The bike is well executed and rounded for on and off-road, with many added off road features making it the perfect bike for exploring beyond the pavement.
Yamaha has added new graphics, increased the screen height and added fog lamps. All inching towards a more “Adventure” rugged look. They are selling the lifestyle before the bike for sure.
Going back to some of the add-ons other manufacturers make you upgrade and pay for, the Tenere has KYB electronic suspension, heated grips, cruise control and a four-position adjustable windscreen.
1199cc liquid-cooled inline 2-cylinder; DOHC; 8 valves
80.9 kW (108.5 hp) @ 7,250 rpm
114.1 N⋅m (84.2 lbf⋅ft) @ 6,000 rpm
261 kg (575 lb)
Best Adventure Motorcycle
Middle Weight Class
KTM 690 Enduro R
KTM's disruptive mid weight bike
The first bike is the middleweight section is the latest 690 Enduro R and 790 R Adventure bikes.
It is clear that KTM wants to disrupt and make its mark in the middleweight adventure bike category with this bike. It makes sense for them too as they will be more than capable of dominating the space.
Looking at the numbers in the United States, KTM has almost doubled its market share. A massive boot and now KTM is scrambling to educate mechanics, dealers, and set up logistics to keep up with demand.
Ok, back to the bike. The best thing about these bikes is you can go everywhere. It an 80% dirt and 20% road bike.
They say that KTM makes their seats hard because they want you to stand…
But if you want to do some long distance travel with this bike you will need to upgrade a few things. Seat, luggage, fuel and a few other creature comforts.
It is the bike I would take to do the miles, then rip off the luggage and excess kit to go Enduro riding. That makes it the dream bike right?
With this power to weight ratio, you could lift the front wheel in every gear. It comes with ABS but you can turn it off, this bike is at home in the dirt so for 100$ you can buy a dongle to keep ABS off. Crazy, these days you have to pay to make it less safe and more fun.
I can see KTM adding more and more features to tap into the adventure market, in 2019 they added 11 new features in this direction.
Single Cylinder, 4-Stroke, SOHC
146 kg / 321.9 lbs
Suzuki V Strom 1000XT
Suzuki answer to the Adventure Moto tribe
The Suzuki V Strom has come a long way from its market debut in 2002 with the V-Strom DL1000.
The most notable movements from Suzuki is it's moving away from the budget no frills angle, and providing more and more comfort for adventure motorcycle riders.
The Suzuki V Strom 1000XT Adventure is a carry-over factory model but loaded with accessories. Some of these accessories include 37-liter aluminum panniers, a center stand, and heated grips and a touring setup.
I must admit I have ridden all the other bikes in this lineup but not this Suzuki V Strom 1000XT. I have a friend in Brazil traveling through South America on one and speaks wonders. A well priced, do all bike that is for sure building a loyal following with every build year.
4-STROKE, DOHC, 90° V-TWIN, LIQUID-COOLED
Triumph Tiger 800
The British Adventure
The Triumph Tiger 800 is ramping up its feature list with over 200 new updates and carried them over to this years model.
Some of the most notable features are the restyled bodywork, revamp and changes to the ergonomics, adding LED lighting, manually-adjustable windscreen, and putting in a new electronics package.
They are very affordable and have enough power for a everyday bike. The exhaust is lighter and sounds amazing when you open it up.
If you like clicking buttons it has 6 riding modes (Upgrade needed) but ABS and traction control is standard.
Let's be honest here, if Bear Grylls is riding one, it must be a badass bike.
Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder
452 lbs (205 kg)
BMW F850 GS Adventure
The Bavarian Adventure Factory
I got to test drive one in Switzerland and coming off a bigger 1200 GS it felt nimble and a easy to throw around.
Upgrading the F800 models after almost a decade of faithful service, the F850 gets all the modern add-ons and safety features at a reasonable price.
It feels very nimble even with a 21 inch front wheel. It take a little getting used to but I would stiffen up the factory suspension settings as when you slam on the Brembo brakes you feel the bike dig in far too much.
While I’m there, I would change the muffler too, the sound of the 850 is brilliant but the stock muffler is letting it down. The new 853cc parallel twin is in both the F 850 GS as well as the F 750 GS. The engine is made by Loncin. A high-quality Chinese manufacturer.
The new steel bridge frame lets the engine sit much higher so you get more ground clearance. There is a lowered suspension option, but the Dynamic ESA is only available via the premium package. All this combined makes it a strong contender for the best adventure motorcycle.
Liquid-cooled, two-cylinder, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, and dry sump lubrication
90 horsepower @ 8,000 rpm
63 foot-pounds @ 6,250 rpm
504 lbs (205 kg)
Best Adventure Motorcycle
Light Weight Class
BMW G310 GS
The Bavarian Adventure Factory "Mini Me"
Doesn't big always mean better? Asking for a friend...
Big bikes get the big headlines but there is a new wave of bikes wanting to be lighter, simpler and more accessible to new adventure moto riders.
The “baby” GS is a new addition to the BMW GS family range. It brings with it all the aesthetic features off the bigger bikes but in a way smaller package.
BMW is not pushing the bike as a full adventure bike, but more of an urban jungle bike that can go off-road? The advertising and language from BMW are not as aggressive as the 850's and 1250's.
Although new, this bike opens the door to a whole new market in the adventure moto industry.
The bikes are accessible to the Indian and Asian markets, this is the strategy from BMW in my view, a seed bike that is accessible to the masses with desired BMW branding.
Plant the seed now and reap the benefits as the east keeps developing at breakneck speeds.
One sign of this is the size and the brakes they use. For Asian, and African markets 310cc is a big engine. And the brakes have been softened down compared to the incredible Brembo brakes we are used to in the west.
Many reviews note is travel comfort is superb and I would agree. You can buy an abundance of aftermarket accessories to tailor your G 310 GS to your personal tastes.
Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
34 horsepower @ 9,500 rpm
21 foot-pounds @ 7,500 rpm
HONDA CRF 250L RALLY
Best Lightweight Adventure Bike
Last but not least is the Honda CRF 250L Rally
The first feeling riding the Honda CRF 250L Rally, was the power was predictable and not intimidating.
At 6.1 and 222-pound guy, I was comfortable right off the bat on this bike. A little surprised with that. I think they did a great job with the ergonomic aspects of this bike.
One other surprising area, they did a great job with mapping the power at low revs. Saves shifting down and you can hold longer with lower end power.
On the highway it chugs along nicely, I would get a bigger screen but there are a lot of extras for this bike.
249.6cc liquid-cooled, 20º single-cylinder four-stroke
21 foot-pounds @ 7,500 rpm
Best Adventure Motorcycle
New Adventure Bikes
Yamaha Ténéré 700
The endless wait for the next gen Ténéré.
Available on pre-sale now
What is a Adventure Motorcycle?
Enduro / Dual Sport motorcycles are also called dual-purpose or on/off-road motorcycles. These are street legal motorcycles that are fully capable of going off road.
Soft definition of an adventure motorcycle (Widely accepted in the community)
Any bike that you go on an adventure with.
What is Sport-Touring?
Any motorcycle equipped for long distance travel. Generally, road focused motorcycle riding.
What bike did I miss? What bike do you think should be in this list of the best adventure motorcycle? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for getting this far!
Need more ADV Moto goodness? Checkout my Best Adventure Motorcycle Boots article while you are here.
Rider, designer, and hustler. Adventurer and vagabond. Beer connoisseur. Conqueror of Africa, a survivor of bandits and anti-malaria crusader. I have been on the road for 15 years, traveling to far-flung lands on bike, horse or backpacking. Today, running a number of online ventures in the motorcycle industry. – Currently, Traveling in Asia.