Monday, 2 February 2015

Top 10 Adventure Bikes for New Adventure Riders

1. Kawasaki Versys

 

Powerplant: 649cc Fuel-Injected Parallel Twin, 6-Speed trans.
Horsepower: 58.1 hp @ 8,100 rpm
Torque: 44.8 lb.-ft. @ 6,800 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gallons (19 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 5.9 inches (150 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 5.7 inches (145 mm)
Seat Height: 33.3 inches (845 mm)
Wet Weight: 461 lbs (209 kg)
Years Produced: 2007 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $7,999 US
The Kawasaki Versys is more of an Adventure “Styled” Bike than a true Adventure Bike. The bike has a comfortable upright riding position and stepped seat that works well for 2-up riding. The charismatic twin-cylinder engine offers good power and smooth operation on the highway. A tall windscreen and good fuel mileage give it long-range touring capabilities. ABS brakes are standard on the new 2014 Versys as well.
Sporty handling and a fast-revving engine make it a fun bike on twisty backroads. The Versys also works well as a reliable and nimble daily commute bike. The bike has just enough ground clearance for exploring the occasional graded dirt road. However, with 17 inch rims the bike is clearly designed for street use. The Versys is a good option for new adventure riders that intend to ride primarily on pavement.



2. Suzuki V-Strom 650

Powerplant: 645cc Fuel-Injected V-Twin, 6-Speed trans.
Horsepower: 62.2 hp @ 8,900 rpm
Torque: 41.5 lb.-ft. @ 6,400 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gallons (20 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 5.9 inches (150 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 6.3 inches (160 mm)
Seat Height: 32.9 inches (835 mm)
Wet Weight: 472 lbs (214 kg)
Years Produced: 2004 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $8,549 US
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 is another Adventure “Styled” Bike, but the off-road capabilities are improved with a 19 inch front wheel that makes it easier to carry inertia over rocks. The V-Strom 650 has a more dirt oriented feel than the Versys but is primarily a street bike. The bike makes a good daily commuter and also comes with ABS standard. The V-Strom will allow you to explore the occasional graded dirt road, but serious off-road use is not recommended (especially for novice off-road riders).
The twin-cylinder engine, tall windscreen and wide seat provide a comfortable highway ride. Gas mileage and fuel range are excellent. The V-Strom isn’t the most exciting Adventure Bike, but it is a sensible and reliable option.

Similar Models
The V-Strom 650 Adventure is another model to consider. The “Adventure” model is basically an options package that includes an adjustable windscreen, panniers and engine guards at a reasonable price.


3. BMW G650GS

 

Powerplant: 652cc Fuel-Injected Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 50 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 44 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons (14 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 6.7 inches (170 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 6.5 inches (165 mm)
Seat Height: 31.5 inches (800 mm)
Wet Weight: 430 lbs (195 kg)
Years Produced: 2009 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $7,850 US

The BMW G650GS is a street focused motorcycle, but its light weight and decent suspension travel makes exploring dirt trails more feasible than with the V-Strom or Versys. The low rpm power of the single cylinder engine is also easier to control in low traction conditions. However, a single cylinder engine emits more vibration than a twin on the highway.
The G650GS still provides good comfort for long-distance highway rides, with enough power to pass and stability at speed. Good gas mileage allows a range of roughly 200 miles per tank. This versatile bike is an excellent option for shorter riders with a low standard seat height. A variable seat height can be adjusted even lower by the dealer.
The G650GS is a reliable bike and ABS is also included as standard equipment. A large number of aftermarket accessories are available, allowing you to customize it to your Adventure Biking needs. Cost of maintenance can be higher on a BMW than a Japanese bike and finding dealers near you may be difficult. Overall, it’s a great option for new adventure riders that want a well-rounded Adventure Bike at a reasonable price.
Similar Models
You may also consider the predecessor of this bike, the BMW F650GS. Built from 2000-2007, the F650GS is essentially the same bike as the G650GS. Many were produced with off-road-durable wire spoked wheels as well.

 




4. BMW Sertão

Powerplant: 652cc Fuel Injected Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 50 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 44 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons (14 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 8.3 inches (211 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 8.3 inches (211 mm)
Seat Height: 33.9 inches (861 mm)
Wet Weight: 432 lbs (196 kg)
Years Produced: 2012 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $8,650 US
The BMW Sertão kicks the off-road capability of the G650GS up a notch with wire spoked wheels, longer suspension travel and a 21 inch front wheel. In the right hands (and the right tires), the Sertão is capable of exploring nearly any trail. However, it is still a large bike that can be a handful on technical trails for a novice.
With the Sertão, you get a skid plate and full wrap-around hand guards that will protect the bike from damage off-road. ABS brakes are also standard and a large number of options are available from the factory like heated grips and luggage.
The Sertão shares the same powertrain with the G650GS and both bikes will have a similar feel on pavement. Although, the Sertão rides higher and will have more dive on braking with the long-travel suspension. Power and gas mileage is excellent, making the Sertão a good option for long-distance travel. Cost of maintenance can be higher on a BMW than a Japanese bike and finding dealers near you may be difficult. If your idea of Adventure includes more than just occasional dirt riding, the Sertão is a great choice.
Similar Models
You may also want to consider the predecessor of this bike, the F650GS Dakar. Built from 2000-2007, the F650GS Dakar is essentially the same bike as the Sertão.

5. Kawasaki KLR650

Powerplant: 651cc Carbureted Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 37 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 33.4 lb.-ft. @ 4,950 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gallons (23 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 7.9 inches (201 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 7.3 inches (185 mm)
Seat Height: 35.0 inches (889 mm)
Wet Weight: 432 lbs (196 kg)
Years Produced: 1987 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $6,499 US
The Kawasaki KLR650 has been around for decades and its styling shows it. But it’s a bike that has been refined to perfection over the years. No fuel injection or ABS is offered on the KLR650. The engine will not snap your neck back during acceleration, but it is low-tech and bulletproof. If something goes wrong in the middle of nowhere, simple tools will usually fix the KLR650.
The KLR650 is one of the most versatile Adventure Bikes available. The bike is fairly light for an Adventure Bike and includes all the touring necessities like a windscreen, large tank and luggage rack. KLR650′s run smooth on the highway, but lack power for aggressive passing maneuvers. Range is excellent at nearly 300 miles between fill-ups, allowing you to ride in remote areas where fuel is scarce. The KLR’s seat height is a bit tall for shorter riders, but average height male riders can put both feet flat on the ground.
The KLR650 excels in the dirt with a 21 inch front wheel, supple medium-travel suspension and wire spoked rims. The standing position on the bike has a dirt bike feel and the bike is low and stable off-road. The smooth torque of the engine allows the bike to hook up good traction off-road and it is capable of negotiating technical trails in the hands of an experienced rider. However, once speeds increase off-road, the soft suspension will begin to bottom out quickly.
The main advantage of the KLR650 is its reliability, simplicity and low cost of maintenance. It is an excellent bike for new adventure riders that expect to do a significant amount of off-road miles but still want decent comfort for highway travel (at slower speeds). The KLR can do anything you ask of it pretty well, that’s why the bike has survived for more than 25 years. Aftermarket accessories are also plentiful for the KLR650.
Similar Models
You may also want to consider the KLR650 New Edition. This new model for 2014 offers a more comfortable seat and stiffer off-road suspension. This New Edition model improves on the KLR650′s off-road performance and highway comfort.

6. Husqvarna TR650 Terra

 

Powerplant: 652cc Fuel-Injected Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 58 hp @ 7,250 rpm
Torque: 44 lb.-ft. @ 5,750 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons (14 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 7.5 inches (190 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 7.5 inches (190 mm)
Seat Height: 34.4 inches (874 mm)
Wet Weight: 406 lbs (184 kg)
Years Produced: 2012 – 2013
2013 Base MSRP: $6,999 US
The Husqvarna TR650 Terra uses the same engine as the BMW G650GS and Sertão. The BMW engine’s power is increased from 50 hp to 58 hp. The TR650 Terra is a more off-road oriented G650GS with a smaller windscreen, smaller tank, lower weight and more suspension travel. The bike also uses a 5-speed transmission instead of 6-speed, which reduces some of its versatility on pavement.
The TR650 is really more of a Dual Sport than an Adventure bike. It includes dirt bike standard 21 inch front and 18 inch rear wheel with wire spoked rims. The bike can handle more technical trails, but is still fairly heavy for a Dual Sport and suspension travel is limited. It is more capable off-road than your average Adventure Bike, but will start to show limitations if ridden aggressively off-road.
The powerful fuel-injected engine and off-road prowess are the main advantages of the TR650 Terra. It is not as versatile as the BMW G650GS or Sertão, but less expensive. The bike has fewer long-distance touring equipment, so it may not be the best choice if long-distance touring is in the plans. Fuel range is limited with the smaller tank and the smaller windscreen will not block the wind as well, causing fatigue at high speeds. The performance-tuned motor may also have less longevity than the G650GS. Dealer support can also be a challenge now that BMW sold the Husqvarna brand to KTM.
Overall, this is a great option for new adventure riders that want modern technology at a reasonable price (although, ABS is not an option). The TR650 Terra is a good off-road bike with a powerful and smooth engine that makes pavement riding reasonably comfortable for shorter rides. To make this a true Adventure Bike you just need to add an aftermarket windscreen and larger fuel tank. A number of aftermarket accessories are available, allowing you to customize it to your Adventure Biking needs. The TR650 Terra has now been discontinued, but new 2013 models are still available on dealer floors.






7. KTM 640 Adventure

Powerplant: 625cc Carbureted Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 53.6 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 40.6 lb.-ft. @ 5,500 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 6.7 gallons (25.5 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 10.8 inches (274 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 11.8 inches (300 mm)
Seat Height: 37.2 inches (945 mm)
Wet Weight: 400 lbs (181 kg)*
Years Produced: 1998 – 2008
Late Model Used Price: $4,000-$6,000*
The KTM 640 Adventure is the ultimate light-weight off-road capable Adventure Bike. With high-quality components, powerful engine and stiffly sprung suspension, it’s as close as you can get to a dirt bike with touring capabilities. The KTM’s performance comes at a price though. The high-output single-cylinder engine vibrates noticeably on the highway and the bike is too tall for many riders.
The KTM 640 Adventure is the perfect tool for riders that already have an off-road background. The bike can tackle deep sand, single track, or big whoops easily. However, it is still a heavy bike for a Dual Sport so don’t get carried away on technical trails. Short highway stints under two hours are acceptable, but the vibration and uncomfortable seat can become unbearable on longer rides.
The 640 Adventure was produced for many years and has good aftermarket support. The bike also has a large tank that allows you to travel roughly 300 miles per fill-up. The reliability of the LC4 motor makes it a popular choice for long tours in remote areas where roads are rough or non-existent.
Similar Models
The successor of the KTM 640 Adventure is the 690 Enduro R. The 690 Enduro R is a pure dirt focused high-performance Dual Sport with a small tank and no windscreen. It has a 6-speed transmission and powerful fuel-injected motor, but its lack of a wide-ratio transmission limits its versatility. By adding an aftermarket tank and windscreen, it can be made into a decent Adventure Touring bike.

 

8. Suzuki DR650SE

 

Powerplant: 644cc Carbureted Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 43 hp @ 6.400 rpm
Torque: 39.8 lb.-ft. @ 4,600 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons (13 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 10.2 inches (260 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 10.2 inches (260 mm)
Seat Height: 34.8 inches (885 mm)
Wet Weight: 366 lbs (166 kg)
Years Produced: 1996 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $6,499 US
The Suzuki DR650SE is really a Dual Sport, not an Adventure Bike. With no windscreen, riders become worn out from the wind on the highway and the small gas tank requires filling up after just 150 miles. the DR650SE has no luggage rack, so there is no place to strap gear for a multi-day ride. However, with a few aftermarket modifications the DR650SE can be made into a capable Adventure Bike. Unlike many performance oriented Dual Sports, the DR650SE has a mildly tuned air-cooled engine that makes it reliable for racking up the miles. In fact, it has a reputation for being bulletproof and easy to work on, just like the Kawasaki KLR650.
Where the DR650SE excels is in the dirt. The DR650SE includes a 21 inch front wheel and 18 inch rear, a supple long-travel suspension and wire spoked rims. It has true dirt bike riding ergonomics and feels low and stable off-road. Smooth torque and a lower seat height make it an excellent bike for learning how to ride off-road. The bike is capable of tackling the most difficult trails, but the soft suspension can start to bottom out at higher speeds.
Even with aftermarket upgrades, the DR650SE is still not a great bike for the highway. Lack of power will make aggressive passing maneuvers difficult and the bike has a twitchy feel at higher speeds. Vibration is noticeable, but not as bad as the KTM 640 Adventure.
Overall, this is a great option for new adventure riders that will spend a lot of time riding off-road. The DR650SE has a low-cost of entry and is inexpensive to maintain. With a relatively low seat height (the low shock setting drops the seat height down even lower) and light weight, the bike is confidence inspiring for smaller riders off-road. A large number of aftermarket accessories are available for this bike, allowing you to customize it to your Adventure Riding needs. Just add an aftermarket windscreen, large tank, and luggage rack to make this a true Adventure Bike.






9. Honda XR650L

 

Powerplant: 644cc Carbureted Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 43.6 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 38.2 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 2.8 gallons (10.6 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 11.6 inches (295 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 11.0 inches (280 mm)
Seat Height: 37.0 inches (940 mm)
Wet Weight: 346 lbs (157 kg)
Years Produced: 1993 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $6,690 US
Like the Suzuki DR650SE, the Honda XR650L is really a Dual Sport. It has no windscreen, a small tank and no luggage rack. However, with a few aftermarket upgrades the XR650L can be made into a true Adventure Bike. The main allure of the XR650L is the ability to handle aggressive off-road riding. Its race-bred long-travel suspension was designed to absorb rough desert terrain at high speed. Its Honda reliability also makes this bike another good option for racking up the miles.
The XR650L includes a 21 inch front wheel and 18 inch rear, a long-travel suspension, wire spoked rims and a small skid plate. It has true dirt bike riding ergonomics and feels stable off-road. Smooth torque gets good traction off-road, but the tall seat height limits this bike to only tall riders.
The engine will run fairly smooth on the highway, but the bike feels twitchy and lacks the power for aggressive passing. Without an aftermarket windscreen, the rider will become worn out from the wind and the small stock gas tank will require you to fill up after roughly 140 miles.
The engine has a few more horsepower than the DR650SE and a better off-road suspension. But it is taller and has a more dirt bike feel on pavement. Expect the highway comfort to be similar, if not worse than the DR650SE. The XR650L is also extremely reliable and the simple air-cooled engine is easy to fix with basic tools if something goes wrong.
The XR650L is a great option for new adventure riders that will ride primarily off-road with just short stints on the highway. The XR650L is a low cost starting platform for low-cost durable Adventure Bike. With its healthy suspension travel and light weight, the bike is confidence inspiring for new (tall) off-road riders. To make this a true Adventure Bike, you just need to add an aftermarket windscreen, large tank, and luggage rack.

10. Suzuki DR-Z400S

 

Powerplant: 398cc Carbureted Single-Cylinder, 5-speed trans.
Horsepower: 40 hp @ 7,600 rpm
Torque: 28.7 lb.-ft. @ 6,600 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gallons (9.8 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 11.3 inches (287 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 11.6 inches (295 mm)
Seat Height: 36.8 inches (935 mm)
Wet Weight: 317 lbs (144 kg)
Years Produced: 2001 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $6,599 US
The Suzuki DR-Z400S is a true Dual Sport bike with an aggressive off-road focus. It’s small and light with good power in the higher rpm range. It has no windscreen, a small tank and no luggage rack, but its light-weight feel and off-road capabilities make it a great starting platform for building an Adventure Bike.
The DR-Z400S has a true dirt bike feel, nimble off-road handling and a high-revving engine. The bike rides on a 21 inch front wheel, 18 inch rear, long-travel suspension and wire spoked rims. A small skid-plate is also included. The bike is capable of tackling the most difficult trails at anything short of race pace. However, you pay the price with a tall seat height and significant vibration at highway speed.
The bike can maintain the speed of traffic on the highway, but lacks the power to pass other vehicles confidently. Without an aftermarket windscreen, the rider will become worn out from the wind and the small stock gas tank will require you to fill up after roughly 130 miles. The DR-Z400S’ performance-tuned engine may require more frequent oil changes and maintenance, but is known to be a reliable bike that you can put a lot of miles on.
Why would a new adventure rider buy the DR-Z400S? Smaller male or female riders will appreciate the lighter weight of the DR-Z. It’s not a great option if you are short, but a petite woman with longer legs will feel comfortable controlling the bike and may be able to pick it up without assistance. The DR-Z can be made accessible to shorter riders by adding a lowering link to the suspension.
Riders with technical off-road riding aspirations will appreciate the DR-Z400S for its primary dirt focus. However, the DR-Z400S has a milder performance tune than a KTM 500EXC or Enduro R so it’s less intimidating to ride and more capable of reliable long-distance travel. With a few aftermarket modifications like a windscreen, larger tank and luggage rack, the DR-Z400S can handle medium-distances on the highway or longer distances if you take a break now and then. Your friends on bigger Adventure Bikes might leave you behind on the highway, but you’ll be way ahead once you hit the dirt.