When most people think of ADV motorcycles, they think of weekend warriors hitting the dirt or gravel trails. While this is one popular use for these adventure bikes, there’s another interesting application: using them as commuter machines. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the on-road worthiness of ADV motorcycles and see how they stack up against traditional street bikes when it comes to commuting.
ADV motorcycles have off-road riding features, making them a solid choice as commuter bikes. Their more upright riding position is ideal for improved visibility in traffic. Plus, features such as handguards and engine crash bars provide peace of mind and protection in the event of a spill.
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I ride my BMW R1200 GS almost every day, both for off-road fun and to commute to work during the week. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and challenges of commuting on an adventure bike, based on my experience.
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Benefits of using an adventure bike for daily commuting
Safety – Modern ADV bikes come stock with many safety features. Most adventure bikes come equipped with elements like ABS brakes, bright LED lighting, and indicator systems, crash bars & cruise control, and a variety of suspension modes, which can be tailored to what your ride environment is like on any given day.
The ergonomics of an adventure bike create a tall-riding posture that provides good visibility for the road ahead of you. Combined with the ability to stand up on the pegs during travel, I find my visibility equal to (or often better than) an SUV height.
Comfort – They are comfortable! That upright riding position discussed above also translates into more comfort on long commutes versus a sport bike’s crouched position. Additionally, many adventure bikes come with features that make them even more comfortable, such as tall windscreens and heated grips.
The large 19-21″ front wheel, coupled with ample travel suspension, provides a smooth ride on-road, even if your journey includes potholes or speed bumps. Furthermore, the different rider mode settings available on adventure bikes allow for customization based on both preference and weather (for example Rain mode on a BMW or Urban mode on a Honda)
Passenger/pillion comfort is also excellent on adventure bikes. While many street bikes offer minimalist passenger seating, an ADV bike will offer a thick cushion seat, and secure handholds to give your plus-one a very pleasurable journey.
Storage – They have vast storage capabilities. Adventure bikes have options for side panniers, tail bags, tank bags, and more. Choosing the gear and setup that best matches your needs makes it easy to transport your daily necessities safely. Commuters will appreciate luggage that keeps its shape for carrying laptops, lunch, and spare clothing if they need to change for work once they get there. Either rigid or semi-rigid bags will meet these urban needs nicely.
Rigid or hard panniers are a popular choice and often come stock on certain adventure bike models. They offer lots of space and sturdy locking mechanisms to keep your items secure if you have to leave your bike in a theft-prone area.
I find semi-rigid bags best meet the needs of both daily commuting and weekend adventure touring. This means one investment satisfies the demands of all my riding, which is a nice cost saver. A benefit that I like about my soft pannier bags is that they don’t dent or scratch like hard panniers, and yet they still offer weather-tight seals to keep all contents dry and clean. If you want to check out the luggage I use, this affiliate link will take you straight to the Lone Rider Gear website.
Flexibility – City parking can be a challenge in the best of circumstances. Motorcycle commuting allows easy navigation of tight side streets and minimal space requirements for parking.
Traditional street bikes are not built to handle the varied types of terrain that ADV bikes can. This means that if you have a gravel driveway or live on a dirt road, an ADV bike may allow for easier travel. The flexibility to take a scenic off-road detour on the way home from work also helps to ease the stressors of the day before reaching home to enjoy family time. Since filling your tank every day gets old, the larger fuel capacity of an ADV bike is a nice added convenience.
Challenges of a daily commute on an ADV motorcycle
Weight & Width – At an average of 500lbs/227kg, ADV motorcycles can be heavy to maneuver in city traffic for some riders. Additionally, ADV bikes are often much wider than typical street motorcycles, making it difficult to lane split (where allowed) and navigate through heavy traffic. These facts, when combined, can be a safety issue for some riders considering commuting on an ADV motorcycle.
Outside element exposure – Depending on where you live, one of the biggest challenges to motorcycle commuting is exposure to the elements. Riders are exposed to wind, rain, snow, sun, and heat. They also have to deal with cars and trucks kicking up dirt and debris. Puddles and oil spillage on paved roads also present their own safety concerns. Cars and trucks also produce a lot of pollution, leaving motorcycle riders right in the middle of it.
Injury potential – In the event of an accident, a rider is dependent on motorcycle riding clothing to protect themselves. A helmet, padded jacket, padded pants/trousers, boots, and motorcycle gloves are the minimum any commuting rider should be wearing. But even with all the best gear, a motorcycle rider or passenger will be exposed to greater injury potential than a driver or passenger of an automobile. All The Gear, All The Time is the motto to adopt to reduce the risks of injury or damage.
Is an adventure bike good for city commuting?
Any motorcycle can be a great option for city commuting. However, ADV bikes have the added benefits of comfort, durability, and a wide range of flexibility in the types of terrain they can handle. A multi-terrain-worthy bike used for city commuting provides freedom from traffic jams, expands parking options, and allows you to ride your bike twice every day!
What steps are needed to start commuting to work on your ADV motorcycle?
- Ensure you have a valid motorcycle license
- Find a motorcycle that is comfortable for you and fits your budget
- Get proper insurance for your motorcycle
- Take time to practice riding your motorcycle in different traffic situations to help you become a more confident and safe motorcycle rider
- Reduce risk by following all the rules of the road when you are riding your motorcycle. This includes wearing a helmet, using turn signals, and obeying the speed limit.
Never assume that drivers of cars and trucks around you understand the needs of a motorcycle rider. Stay within the view of rearview or side mirrors of the vehicles around you to improve safety. Adventure motorcycles are big compared to many street bikes, which improves visibility and therefore commands the respect of your fellow commuters.
Daily commuting on my adventure bike makes sense for me. I get to enjoy the outdoors and practice my riding skills every day. If motorcycle commuting is in your future and you also enjoy weekend adventure touring or off-roading, consider letting an adventure bike meet all of your needs.
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.
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