Defining what an adventure bike is can get hard at the extremes. At one end, you can fit out an Enduro bike with luggage and head for the hills; at the other, you have large capacity road bikes with an extra bit of suspension travel and a high front mudguard. The amount and degree of off-road use you expect to do is the governing factor.
As a category, this type of machine has come a remarkably long way in a short period, Today’s ‘bikes are significantly more capable than those from six or seven years ago, but there’s still a lot you can do to tailor the performance.
Buying second-hand can make a lot of sense if you do intend to do some tough off-roading. A few scratches won’t matter.
Off road, the smaller and lighter the bike the better, as a rule of thumb. But if distance is your priority, big-capacity machines come into their own.
Machine choice, then, is all about horses for courses. A lot of people automatically think of the big GS 1200, KTM Adventure, Triumph Tiger Explorer, Yamaha’s Super Teneré and similar as adventure choices, and they are all amazing machines. But you don’t need 1200cc to make a great adventure bike. Smaller, lighter machines around 800cc are easier to handle in the muck, yet can still swallow distance comfortably. Smaller singles, like Yamaha’s Eternal 660, come into their own off road. But if your real focus is touring on tarmac, there are plenty of bikes with some adventure style and practicality without the off-road focus. Machines like Kawasaki’s Versys and Suzuki’s V-Strom make great, comfy tourers.
Some of the latest ABS and Traction Control systems no longer need switching off for off-road use.