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ADV Motorcycle Specs – What Makes a Bike “Adventure”

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What makes a motorcycle an “adventure” motorcycle? Is it the size? The weight? The tires? In this blog post, we will discuss the features that make a motorcycle adventure-worthy. We will also take a look at some of the most popular ADV motorcycles on the market and see what makes them unique. If you are in the market for a new motorcycle, or if you are just curious about adventure bikes, this is the blog post for you!

Here is a sampling of Adventure Motorcycle Features:

BMW 1250 GSA1254 cc7.3″
550 lbs
249 kg
Ducati Multistrada V4S1158 cc8.7″
536 lbs
234 kg
Harley Davidson PanAm1252 cc6.9″
534 lbs
233 kg
Honda Africa Twin1083 cc9.8″
505 lbs
229 kg
KTM 1290 Super ADV S1301 cc8.8″
522 lbs
237 kg
Triumph Scrambler XC1200 cc8″
452 lbs
205 kg
Yamaha Tenere 700689 cc9.6″
450 lbs
204 kg

There are a lot of descriptives thrown around labeling motorcycles … dual-sport, enduro, MX, cruisers, and more. Adventure bikes are a blended jack-of-all-trades providing a diverse range of features, but admittedly not being the expert at any one. I have tested and enjoyed all styles of bikes, both on-road and off. So what is it that makes a bike an adventure motorcycle? Let’s dive in and see which one is right for you!

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BMW R1200GS with helmet

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What do adventure riders want from an adventure bike?

Adventure motorcycle riding begins with the rider … not the bike. The adventure rider is most commonly pursuing the experience, the excitement, and the achievement of riding gravel and dirt roads while enjoying the vast outdoors on 2 wheels. It is the rider’s skills, ability, and determination that are the most important elements to successful adventure motorcycling. A great bike will simply complement and support the vision created by the adventure rider.

BMR1200GS and rider in the mountains

Adventure riding can occur on asphalt, dirt, gravel, mud, sand, water crossings, snow, and more. Each rider must consider the terrain that they have access to and their own personal adventure goals. Most riders want a bike that can evolve with them as they improve skills and gain new riding interests. The bike must also be reliable on long rides and in remote areas.

An adventure bike must stoke the passion within each rider to achieve new goals, expand comfort zones, and enjoy time with other like-minded riders and pillions. Adventures may take the form of touring & camping, dirt roads & single-track, or an around-the-world epic. No matter how the adventure choreography plays out, the bike will be the conduit that makes it all possible.

Adventure motorcycle ergonomics and comfort

When we talk about comfort on an adventure motorcycle, it is a different conversation than that of comfort on a cruiser or sport bike. Adventure riding is much more diverse than some other styles because it includes every riding surface and every riding posture, while frequently embarking on long rides with luggage needs.

Adventure bikes can be fitted to meet the needs of each rider. As we discussed in this post on bike ergonomics, simple adjustments can be made to handlebars, footpegs, clutch & brake levers, rear brake pedal, shifter, etc. When the needed adjustments can not be made, after-market add-ons fill the gap with side-stand extenders, handlebar risers, off-road folding mirrors, and more.

A great feature of adventure motorcycles is the balance of comfort they provide for both seated and standing riding. For example, within minutes, handlebars can be repositioned for relaxed shoulders and arms during seated highway rides as well as standing technical single track. This adventure setup reduces the physical stress on the rider and subsequent neck strain, sometimes seen with sport bike ergonomics.

BMW 1200GS ridden both seated and standing

Wind protection is important for comfort on an adventure motorcycle. Because we ride at all speeds and in all weather conditions, being able to adjust our windscreen to protect us from the elements is key. Many adventure motorcycle windscreens are taller and offer more adjustment than other types of motorcycles, which allows us to find the perfect setting for whatever conditions we’re riding in. Harley Davidson’s Pan America offers 4 windshield sizes up to 24″ / 60cm tall, which is great for taller riders.

Luggage capacity is another factor that makes adventure motorcycles more comfortable. Because we often ride long distances and carry all of our gear with us, having the ability to pack everything we need is important. Most adventure motorcycles have large luggage racks and pannier bags that can be securely attached, giving us the peace of mind that our belongings are safe and sound. Semi-rigid bags offer greater safety for off-road riding and save us the heartache of scratches and dents common to hard pannier bags. If you would like to check out the Lone Rider semi-rigid bags I use, you can find them here with this affiliate link.

Off-road capability and adventure bikes

Some of the features that make adventure bikes so capable include their large engines, long-travel suspension, and knobby tires. Adventure bikes also tend to be quite maneuverable on dirt and gravel backroads, where a touring bike would struggle. With additional training, rougher terrain can be tackled despite their heavier weight profile.

Wheel size is important to consider for off-road riding for two main reasons. Firstly, a larger front wheel will roll over rocks, roots, and ruts with greater ease than a smaller tire. As illustrated in the chart above, adventure bikes favor 19″ or 21″ front wheel diameter for this reason. Secondly, true off-roaders will want after-market tires with knobbies to improve grip on off-road terrain. There are lots of great 70/30, 60/40, & 50/50 off-road tire options for 19″ & 21″ front tires, but a much smaller selection at the 17″ front tire size.

Adventure motorcycle tire with mud

Ground clearance of adventure motorcycles will fall mid-range, lower than enduro or MX bikes but taller than cruisers or sport bikes. The average ground clearance from the ADV bike samples above is 8.4″ / 214mm versus the Yamaha WR250f which provides a whopping 12.6″ / 320mm of ground clearance and a KTM 300 SX that gives 13.9″ / 354mm, or on the other side of the spectrum the 5.1″ / 130mm clearance available on a Honda Goldwing or Kawasaki Ninja H2. By offering ground clearance in that middle range, adventure motorcycles are able to offer their balance of on-road comfort with off-road capability.

Despite the reluctance to drop and possibly scratch that new bike, an adventure motorcycle can take a good knock. Off-road riding is no stranger to tips and falls, so the bike is built with this in mind. Many adventure motorcycles come stock with skid plates, engine guards, hand guards, and more that provide ample protection for the inevitable tip-over. Those of us spending more time off-road versus on will appreciate the wide variety of after-market kit to amp up the bike’s protective wear.

If adventure riding is for you, test some bikes and talk to adventure-riding groups in your area. Create the adventure that best suits your personal interest. Happy adventure riding!

Rider pumping fist while riding BMW 1200GS motorcycle

About the Author

Coach Mike is a Certified Off-Road Motorcycle Instructor & founder of ADVMotoSkillZ.

Riding tips from ADVMotoSkillZ reach thousands of international riders daily through social & blogs.

Click here to learn more about Mike’s motorcycle evolution from a Harley road rider to finding his true passion for off-road riding on a BMW 1200 GS.

If you would like to send Mike a quick message or invite him to provide training at your local facility, then visit the contact page here.

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