The ADV Is The SUV On Two Wheels



ADV is the SUV on two wheels

SUV’s have dominated the suburban and urban landscape since the 90s. As nearly every manufacturer has created a version (and sub-versions) of these multi-capable machines the two-wheel industry has created their own version of an SUV – the ADV.

ADV is the SUV on two wheels

As the popularity of these oversized grocery-getters are declining, the adventure bike, also known as the ADV bike, is stepping up to take its place, with the same promise of excitement and versatility; strap on some luggage, and take on the world.

Of course, the truth is the harshest terrain these bikes will ever see is the pothole filled street on the way to the drugstore, a far cry from the conditions of the Dakar Rally.

ADV is the SUV on two wheels

On paper, the ADV bikes look good; they typically come standard with a bunch of attractive features, like floating disc brakes with ABS and a center kickstand. But is it really worth the higher price point to get that “adventure” look?

ADV is the SUV on two wheels

I personally prefer to buy vehicles with a specific purpose in mind and the ADV bikes don’t seem to excel in any one area. Some don’t perform well at highway speeds and some don’t last very long off-road. But if your main goal is to feel adventurous, then an ADV bike is for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What are your thoughts on ADV bikes? Would you ever own one?

  • Evil_Jim

    The only Adv bike I would consider is a KTM Adventure, the most capable of the big bikes.
    Otherwise my DR650 takes me places the other bikes in the class would cringe at.
    The rugged look of the crop of Adv bikes tempt the buyers to head off road, and when the 600 lb bike topples over it is going to be a monster challenge to get it back upright.

  • William Connor

    As an owner of an ADV bike I disagree with your assessment. Mine is used for camping, off road riding, long distance riding, and commuting. I have owned other bikes to do these but no bike has done all of them as well as my Triumph Explorer. It’s simply good at all of these items. It won’t beat a true dirt bike off road, but neither will my off road skills. It has however gone down any dirt road, fire road, and path I have wanted to take. If all I did was ride off road it would not be my first choice, but I ride 5-6 hours with a passenger before hitting trails and no dirt bike is going to do that comfortably. Do most people simply like the look, yes. Are there people who actually ride them in all conditions, yep.

    • Aaron

      I think you and other people like you are more the exception rather than the rule. A guy at my work rides his BMW Whatever almost every day, rain or shine, cold or hot, wet or dry. It is amazing. People like you guys have my respect for sure.

    • Adan Ova

      My main concern with ADV bikes is the seat height. I really like the possibility of placing my two feet flat on the floor when I’m on my motorbike. It gives me confidence and security.
      Every ADV I’ve had seen has such a very high seat., I can hardly place one foot on the ground.

      • BobasBounty

        I’m curious as to how tall you are. There are some “hardcore” dual sports that lean much farther to the off-road side that have pretty high seats. I’m 6’0″ and I’ve yet to find one I can’t get at least the balls of both feet down on. That’s not the norm though. Most are easily flat feet down for me. That includes every size of BMW GS as well.

        I’m not sure about other manufacturers, but BMW also offers a low seat and/or low suspension on all of the GS’s. Heck my local dealer got a F700GS with both low options, and I had to thigh grip the thing standing up because I had no butt contact.

      • DanO

        The Triumph Tiger 800 and 800XC have an adjustable seat. Which may get you to be flat footed. I’m 6’1″ and I have the seat in the highest setting and it works for me.

        And I purposely bought my 800XC so I can do the long haul, camping and use it for commuting. I like the ability of my Tiger to be well rounded. But I also know it’s has limitations, and that is fine by me.

        • Mr. White

          I’m 6′ but I’m all torso with a short inseam. I bought the optional “lowboy” seat for my Tiger 800XC and I can flatfoot easily now. Thanks, Triumph!

      • Stuki

        For sitting upright with your feet under you (no forward controls nor extreme rearsets), there is a tradeoff between ground clearance/lean angle, kneebend and seat height. For most of us in the, ahem, adventure bike target age group, kneebend is the one least open to compromise on a bike to be used for longer distance riding. The past few decades have given us tires so sticky even in high mileage sport touring form, that even us who aren’t 20 something racers benefit from good lean angles. Leaving seat height the only factor left where compromise is acceptable.

      • kent_skinner

        Can’t have lots of suspension travel without a tall seat.
        On the other side of things, I can’t ride cruisers or most sportbikes, because I’m tall and don’t fit. My knees can’t handle being bent up all day.

    • Brenton Piercy

      Here here. I used to own a Jeep and caught a lot of guff for having an offroad machine for grocery getting. What people didn’t see were the times we took it to Tahoe for snowshoeing where we went on the “closed” roads. After moving to a city I got rid of it since it wasn’t being used properly. Now I’ve got the KTM 990 Adventure and boy does it love to chew up twisties, gnarly trails (for a 200kg machine), and camping trips. Couldn’t ask for a better bike.

  • Vitor Santos

    Yes you are right. They dont excel in any area and thats why thell sell really well. Let me explain. I love to ride and i do own a car. But my main form of transportation is my bike. I go everywhere with it, i go shopping, i go to work, i go out, i take long trips. I am not rich so i can have a sports bike, a pure off road bike and a naked for commuting and because i love to ride, i cant bare the idea of having a bike just for the weekend or only when the weather is perfect…
    This is where the adv bikes shine, they are perfect all rounders, they can take you on a trip with ease, they will go over bad roads, big stretches of highways, they can be fun on the twisties and the tall ridding position is perfect for negotiating traffic and getting you to work everyday. Besides you look good with a big handy boxy top case which is a absolutely a must have for someone who rides everywhere, try doing that on a sport tourer, you just look silly xD

  • JBXC

    I agree with most of what you say, but some of us are old dirt bike racers. I can’t speak for other bikes but my Tiger 800 XC can take me down the slab comfortably for eight or ten hours or turn off to some old fire trail without me worrying about bottoming out or bending a bunch of plastic or chrome if I drop it. It feels natural to me. Yes, it is a handful off road, but I know my limits. But if feels kind of like a 500lb dirt bike with a 100 hp motor. That is a really fun combination. (I would probably kill myself on a Speed Triple and wouldn’t take those more adventurous trips.)

    • William Connor

      For me the Tiger 800 is an ADV bike in the same vein as the bigger Explorer. Definitely better off road due to it’s size and engine character.

  • eddi

    My V-Strom is not a full-dress ADV bike but my main reason for choosing it was not off road capability. That was asecondary factor to me

    • tobykeller

      …and the Wee is surprisingly off-road capable. I had a TKC-80 on the front of mine (Tourance in back) and I could keep up with my buddy’s DR650 on the rutted double track dirt roads in the Santa Barbara backcountry. It’s a lot lighter than a GS, which does a lot to make up for the so-so suspension.

  • grb

    Allot of people dont like it when I say this, but the reality is that when you setup a suspension to handle the terrain and extremes for off road then it doesn’t work on the road, and the other way around, if you setup a suspension for great pavement handling if will be horribly stiff an unforgiving off road. You cant escape the reality that you need a complete opposite setup required for each riding style.

    So this bikes that claim to do everything are more like a gimmick because they never do one thing great, which is ok if you are on a big trip around the world, cant take more then one bike and need a middle point, just as transportation to get from one country to the other, and dont expect that great handling enjoyment. But for any average rider youll be better off getting a proper road bike if you ride on the streets and a proper off road bike if you really want to enjoy the dirt. There is nothing like riding the proper suspension, tires and ergonomics. There is no magic middle point, only a mediocre setup that doesn’t excel at anything

    • BobasBounty

      Completely disagree. The vast majority of riders couldn’t care less about suspension nuances and whatnot. Are the perfectly competent on the road? Yes. Are they perfectly competent on bad/dirt/gravel/whatever roads? Yes. I’d wager 9/10 sport bikes I see have 3 inch wide chicken strips. How on earth are those 90% going to be inconvenienced by an ADV bike? What, they can’t put a knee down? Give me a break…

      • grb

        Whoever is riding a sport bike on the street obviously is not going to its full potential (hopefully), we all know that, and if you are still far from reaching its limits, no matter how hard you try, that just means that everything you do is a walk in the park for your bike, that just talks about how capable that bike is, and thats definitely a good thing, specially when he is riding at his personal pace and still has 40% left of machine potential to count on, but you are already riding close to the limit of your less capable machine, that is not better.

        And “suspension nuances” really? any rider experiences the suspension and its capabilities, even if he doesn’t care about it or is too ignorant to realize it. If you think suspension set up is nonsense then you’re not the kind of guy I would like to talk to about bikes

        • BobasBounty

          I’d be willing to bet that most people are like the people I ride with. They take a test ride, if the bike is capable and comfortable, they buy it (give or take a couple of test rides). They take the bike to the dealer at service intervals. Otherwise, they just ride the thing. They don’t tinker with even their preload. Most people who don’t see anything but tarmac probably don’t even mess with preload.

          Again, if you mess with your suspension setup I’d say you are largely the exception, not the rule.

          • grb

            First of all, every suspension has a setup, even if you dont touch your setting they come with a setup from the factory, somebody already did that. If you buy a street bike it is setup for optimal road use, not just preload and rebound, but also spring rate and travel, and same thing with dirt bikes, they already come the what the engineer thought was the ultimate setup for off road use. ADV bikes come with a compromise between the two VERY OPPOSITE setups, that just means they dont do anything great, they simply cant.

            And, suspension is not everything that plays in your experience and what the bike can do, tires are equally as important as is geometry and ergonomics, and a middle point in all this aspects results in nothing more then a mediocre bike, a bike that will never be great on road nor off road.

            • BobasBounty

              To somewhat reiterate, this idea of “optimal” for XYZ situation is a non-issue for the vast majority of riders. Maybe the hardcore, expensive, ADV bikes are a compromise on the road, but most people aren’t riding anywhere near the limit of darn near any bike. Ergonomics? ADV bikes are basically upright, which is what most city/sport (as in not super) bikes are.

              As an example, go hop on a cb500 then hop on a f700gs. If you find enough street difference between the two to say the gs is somehow not road worthy… I got nothing

              • grb

                Hmmm, you are comparing a $10k bike to a $5k bike (wouldn’t doubt the cb500, if not much, is more capable street bike)… If you move up the line on the next Honda, the cb1000r is right around the same price range of a 700gs, I can guarantee you the 1000r is a much more competent street bike, in every sense (same as the StreetTriple and many others in this price). And for less money then you will pay for the 700gs the crf450x is an infinitely more capable off roader.

                Everybody know tires (good-bad tires) make a big difference on your bike’s performance and safety, regardless of what kind of bike you ride. Now, tires created for tarmac dont work on dirt or mud, same as dirt tires dont work on tarmac, and so, tires created with a compromise between dirt and road will never do as good as purposeful tires on their intended surface. So starting with the tires this bikes are already compromised, just like everything else they do.

                And again, the capabilities of the bike and how it performs are there for anybody who rides it, even if some rider cant understand the difference or dont care about it.

                • BobasBounty

                  You keep going back to the same thing, but you aren’t hearing me. Of course multipurpose tires are a compromise, but most people will never notice the difference because they cant/don’t care to get near either either tire’s limit. Can a sport tire dip 55 degrees at 100 mph? Sure, but hardly anyone does that, and if the multipurpose tire accommodates everything you do, the sport tire is useless to you.

                  I actually disagree with the cb1000. Take both down a 45 mph 5 lane road. Please feel free to find a difference between the two.

                • grb

                  Oh but you are the one that keeps going back to the same thing… I explained it very well on my first answer, and have repeated it several times… It does not matter if you just cant tell the difference or you dont care about it, the suspension/tires are working, and they play a complete roll on how the bike feels, handles, reacts, and this is important not only in performance, communication, and the whole riding experience but also very important regarding safety and control, AGAIN this is happening even if you cant understand it or dont care about it.

                • BobasBounty

                  Are you implying that dual purpose tires (I’ll assume we agree we are talking about standard ADV stuff, not knobblies), which are basically road tires with deeper grooves, are going to control/perform worse than road tires in standard conditions? If so, I can’t imagine you’ve ridden a GS, vstrom, versys, etc. With stock tires. Again, feel free to call me a bad rider or uninformed, but my normal commute maxes at 55 on normal town kind of roads. There is no difference in tire performance or bike capability in normal conditions. I’m not sure how pristine your roads are, but “sport” suspension is more of a hindrance when it jars your teeth out over cracks and potholes.

                • Stuki

                  You can also get Road tires, at least Michelin Pilot Roads, in the popular adventure sizes. And TKC 80s in road sizes, if that’s our thing.

                • BobasBounty

                  Replying to the edit. I’d honestly think a good many people who are year round riders, take tours over a couple of hundred miles, and live away from cities can find a use for ADV bikes. Aside from the bit of off-road capability they have, they are very comfortable (except for that 2×4 they call a seat on the F800GS), can get big windshields (can be tough on sport bikes), and usually include some creature comfort features as standard (heated grips, 12v outlet, ESC, luggage attachment spots). Most of those features are tough to get anywhere but ADV and touring bikes, which are usually huge and expensive.

                • grb

                  You keep mentioning sport bikes, so just to make it clear, when I say street bikes Im not necessarily talking about track/sport bikes. Even so, you can travel on any bike and go practically anywhere, I mean remember the guy who traveled around the world in a R1, admittedly thats a bit extreme, but a standard bike is pretty comfortable and good to travel on. But again, all depends on where you ride and what your looking for. Truth is most of ADV owners buy for appearance more then anything else…

                  I think the conclusion is, Yes, ADV bikes are compromised by their own nature, thats exactly what they’re made for, and what makes them useful for some riders, and so Yes, they are a logical option for some riders. Which is what makes us, you and me different, we are looking for different things, Im intensely interested in the quality of the riding experience, the sensations and feeling of riding a motorcycle, you seem to be more interested in practicality, convenience and the scenery.

                  So to each their own, I respect that, all I wanted to say is I personally have no interest in compromised bikes, I want the best motorcycle ride I can have whether it be in the dirt, mud, track or roads , if I was looking for convenience, practicality, a 12v outlet, staying warm and luggage space to go see the scenery, I can just take my Jeep it excels at all that far better then any motorcycle, and it has a windshield, windows, a roof, stereo, air conditioner, and more space… But thats just me.

            • Stuki

              There are those who would argue that 6-8″ travel front and rear is optimal for “Road” suspension. 5″ for track, and 10+ for offroad. If you’re in Germany, where road with the single worst pavement is the ‘Ring, your seeming idea that road suspensions should mimic track ones in travel, might make sense, but in moonncrater potholed and concrete slabbed and earthquake damaged freeway California, travel a bit closer to the dirt side, is not necessarily a bad thing.

              • grb

                Where did I say or insinuate this? “your seeming idea that road suspensions should mimic track ones in travel” ridiculous…

              • Stuki

                “..when you setup a suspension to handle the terrain and extremes for off road then it doesn’t work on the road..”
                “..if you setup a suspension for great pavement handling if will be horribly stiff and unforgiving off road..”
                “..So this bikes that claim to do everything are more like a gimmick because they never do one thing great..”
                “..youll be better off getting a proper road bike if you ride on the
                streets and a proper off road bike if you really want to enjoy the dirt..”

                I was suggesting that at east part of the reason for the popularity of adv bikes, is because for the kind of pavement available in California cities these days, their suspension is “set up more correctly” than either shorter travel so called road (really smooth road) bikes, or longer travel dirt bikes.

                I currently ride a wr250r and an 1190 adventure. The 1190 suspension is pretty darned awesome for general road use. The heavy spoked wheels and thick, high mileage yet sticky tires, are too heavy to be ideal for pavement only use. Ditto for the GS and S10. But the Multistrada, an adv bike with similar to the KTM suspension, but lighter wheels, is probably the best general use road bike around for aggressive riders. It’s Ninja 1000 / VFR quality on smoother roads, but keeps up better when the surface inevitably falls apart.

      • eddi

        I adjust myself to the vehicle, not adjust the vehicle to me. I’m just not that interested in wringing out the last possible bit of performance. I have plenty of fun well within any bikes performance limits. And those who want to get closer to the edge should be sure they know what they are doing. It may be hard to get a controlled environment off road, but a familiar stretch under decent conditions should be an ideal test track.

  • Jeremiah Stanley

    I ride a KLR 650. It doesn’t have a higher sticker price ($6.5k vs $21k), the tires are cheaper than my previous sport bike, it gets 50 MPG, and the ergonomics are all day comfortable. This bike is the current UJM without the massive price tag (I’m looking at you CB1100). Yes, there are a lot of farklized BMWs that never see more than dusty pavement. So what. Those guys subsidize the people who actually get out and tackle the BDR routes.

    It’s not a dirt bike, which becomes very apparent when you get into the gnarly stuff. The KLR can take you to 80% of that – which is 100% of where I want to go on a bike. If you buy a Ducati dual sport I don’t know what to tell you (other than “Hey man, nice bike!”). To each their own, just because marketing research has a trend doesn’t mean people aren’t riding the wheels off of the devices they do purchase.

  • Stephen Miller

    Do you have the same gripe about sport-tourers? Because that’s what ADV bikes really are: lighter, more-comfortable sport-tourers that don’t freak you out when a road turns to gravel or dirt. They handle far better than sportbike types realize, because that extra suspension travel is surprisingly useful on poorly-maintained pavement. But no, they’re not for track days or trails and sand dunes. ADV bikes do excel at ONE thing: being a useful bike you will want to ride.

    • Josh Greenbaum

      Exactly this. Thanks for typing it for me.

    • Joseph

      Thanks Andrew – five crap articles in a row. That has to be a new Ride Apart record!

      • Carter

        Was this even an article? Less than 10 sentences, several of them questions, the rest bashing what someone chooses to ride.

        I have an ADV bike – a Buell Ulysses. And before some of you start saying it’s a sport-tourer… yes, with street tires it might be. But my spare wheels are mounted with TKC-80′s, and it goes places that are definitely ADV territory. Our local ADV chapter has to ride a hour or so to get to the “good” mountain roads, so sometimes you need something that’s capable on the street and in the dirt. We have V-stroms, Triumphs, KLR’s, and a variety of others that aren’t afraid to take their “SUV’s” out and play in the mud.

        Here’s the thing about ADV bikes – not everyone can own multiple bikes. If I was in the position to only own one bike, it would be an ADV bike. Luckily, I have a few others for different purposes, but if forced to only keep one, it would be my Uly. So maybe the SUV title is appropriate. It can haul more gear than most, is still competent on the road, and has the proper setup to go off asphalt when needed. It’s not just about a “look” – these bikes are built to handle whatever is thrown at them – and I don’t know many riders who are willing to pay for those features and never use them.

        Maybe the author needs to spend some more time with ADV riders to see what ADV bikes are really about. That “SUV” bike you just passed on the highway might just be heading straight for the nearest fire road or trail, and the only reason the author is bashing them is because he’s not seeing them in their true element. Come over to the mountains of western NC, and you’ll see enough “SUV” bikes on the trails to change your opinion on them.

    • dinoSnake

      No. You missed the point.

      The point is that not everyone rides in gravel or dirt. Therefore, not everyone wants the ridiculous seat height caused by the overextended suspension range that the ADV bike comes with from the factory…but, therefore, never gets used by that type of rider. But, thanks to how hard you types of people (and some industry scribes) push for these types of bikes, that is the majority of what we are offered when we go shopping.

      Proof? Exactly how many lowering kits are available for these tall bikes right now? How many lowered ADV and [true] dual-sports are on the road today? Just this weekend I saw a group of 3 bikers sitting at a corner, 2 of them on lowered dual-sports. There are several lowered dual-sports in my biker garage as well. So, exactly what is the supposed “benefit” of an “off-road” enabled bike if one of the advantages, ground clearance, is swept away?

      “Because that’s what ADV bikes really are: lighter, more-comfortable sport-tourers”. But some of us want SPORT-TOURERS, not wanna-be offroad bikes hiked to the moon and pretending to be otherwise. Most manufacturers are tripping over themselves to produce new or refined ADV’s every year, or as soon as possible. If you go on to manufacturer’s websites and check out exactly how many OTHER styles of bikes have been produced recently, it is rather, well, pathetic what the companies are offering those who aren’t shopping for ADV’s!

      As I was riding around this weekend I was thinking exactly what Mr. Chen posted: Yep, ADV has become the new SUV. Early in the SUV craze a lot of buyers went off-road with them. too. Then they kept on getting bigger, kept on getting more luxurious, kept on getting more expensive. So then almost NO ONE took them offroad. I am beginning to see the same pattern here.

      • Nemosufu Namecheck

        Sorry you can’t find a good sport tourer – may I suggest an R1200GS Adventure? They come in three colors you know…

      • Eric R. Shelton

        I kind of agree with the ADV=SUV analogy (few ever go off-road), but I think you may be off base when you complain about the suspensions being too tall. My old air-cooled Multistrada was definitely more of a sports-tourer (as is the newer generation), but it still handled magnificently and the suspension was well-sorted while giving the added benefit of comfortable ergos and good visibility.

        As for lowering dual-sports? I would argue it’s due to a dearth of decent standard bikes these days. Or at least, a *perception* that standard bikes no longer exist, because they’ve all been superficially tarted up to look like sports or ADV bikes.

      • Stephen Miller

        “Hiked to the moon”… have you ridden one? Are your legs even shorter than mine (30 in. inseam)? Ideally, you’d like to get both feet down, but that can be the balls of your feet or even tippy-toes. Some of us will lower dual-sports because even getting one foot down is a problem — but most ADV bikes are quite manageable for the moto-masses. Inexperienced riders like to be flat-footed, but once you have some confidence it’s completely unnecessary. My advice for comfort is to get the tallest bike you can tolerate. Your knees and hips will thank you. As a bonus, you get ground clearance and the ability to see over most traffic.

        The claim that ADV bikes have *too much* suspension travel is silly — the kind of thing that people who’ve never ridden one would say. In the real world of tar snakes, potholes, frost heaves, etc. your typical road-focused bike has far too little travel. Just think about how to set up suspension. A good rule of thumb is to have 1/3 of the travel taken up by sag, the middle 1/3 is usable travel, and the last 1/3 is only for extremely sharp bumps. Is it easier to get suspension in that sweet spot with more or less travel? But don’t trust me, go ride one for an afternoon in the twisties. They just work.

        If you’re unwilling to do that, then read the reviews here with some humility — from the CB500X to the DL650 to the MultiStrada to the BMW GS. They’re not pretenders that trade handling for image. They’re highly competent, great-handling every day bikes for the real world. They’re better sport-tourers than sport-tourers ever were. On top of that, they’re usually cheaper.

      • Chris

        I think your proof fails: A quick Google search gives me 3 different lowering kits for the Ninja 650, and one kit for the Versys.

      • Diego Martinez

        If you like a tall adv bike, you’ll love my CRF450x, 34 inch inseam and I can just barely flat foot it…

    • JamesM

      I’m just going to leave this here.

  • C G

    I love my BMW R1150GS. I bought it used, and immediately rode it 9,000 miles around the country. Taken it up rough fire roads and dropped it. Ridden it to motorcycle rallies and I take it camping. I putter around town and down back roads. I have other bikes too, but this one sees the most miles. I live in upstate New York and there just isn’t enough dirt to ride to justify a hard enduro. My motard is more dirtbike than I’ll ever need here.

    It has 40,000 miles on it; it’s dirty, the left blinker is held together with packing tape and the windshield has bugs permanently embedded in it. But for every well-worn GS, there’s an endless supply of ‘adventure’ bikes that are more shiny than your average Harley. I could ‘adventure’ on any bike, but the GS is the best mix for me. She’s my German Harley.

  • BobasBounty

    I disagree with the assessment, and I think it sort of misses the point. Why have I been looking into adventure bikes instead of another sport bike? Let me tell you…

    1) they are easier to maintain, most have panels and paint that require a hose instead of a power buffer. 2) they generally have a lot more practical factory and aftermarket support than sport bikes, need luggage, a tall windscreen, hand guards? Good luck on most sport bikes. 3) I don’t know where you live, but in the “fly over” states, it’s pretty easy to find roads that fancy Hayabusa isn’t going to cope with.

    Also, the SUV comparison is off due to the fact that most people buying those weren’t getting them for perceived off-road capabilities, low maintenance, or versatility. It was soccer moms who didn’t want a minivan and preferred a tank with high safety rating. I’m sure it varies regionally, but out of hundreds of bikes I see around here, I can count on one hand how many ADV bikes I’ve seen. We are past the SUV fad, but I still say they are half of what I’m n traffic with.

    • Stuki

      In the UK, the BMW GS is the single highest selling 250+ bike of all, from what I gather. And that’s in the country which pretty much invented the “track day.”

  • Peter Bernacchi

    Any bike that isn’t a road-race bike or a motocrosser is a compromise. ADV bikes happen to land themselves in a highly desired combination of compromises. They’re great at what they really do (light touring, commuting, light offroad). I’ll agree that ad campaigns and some owners try to over-emphasise the offroad capabilities, though.

  • Phil Mills

    My first bike was a ’99 BMW F-650, probably more “dual-sport” than “hard core ADV”, but I feel like you diss these bikes unfairly.
    Such a bike usually has:
    * very comfy ergonomics – relaxed, upright
    * very good visibility – you can see over damn near any traffic in front of you
    * very good clearance – long-travel suspension is great both on-road and off. Going OVER the bush/curb is now an option as well as “around”.
    * good MFR and aftermarket luggage – if you want to “live” with a motorcycle, it has to handle grocery runs and such.
    * versatile tires – I get pretty worried about decent dirt roads on my FJR; on the F650 it wasn’t a concern.

    Unless you’re a dedicated street/track racer, there’s not really much to NOT like about dual-sport/ADV style bikes (except for the price tag on the larger ones).

    If you’re going to actually USE a motorcycle to live (instead of just having one as a weekend toy or fashion accessory), I really don’t think you can make a better pick. Try doing a major grocery run on your GSX-R or Panigale and tell me how that works out for you.

    • Faysal Itani


  • Campisi

    “As the popularity of these oversized grocery-getters are declining, the adventure bike, also known as the ADV bike, is stepping up to take its place…”

    Comparing the current ADV craze with the waned SUV craze primarily illustrates the decade-or-so lag separating the motorcycle market from the automotive market. Just as the vast majority of SUVs largely finished the transition from multi-row trucks to tall station wagons, the ADV market has just begun to metamorphose from gritty globetrotters to tall naked/standards.

    • BobasBounty

      Depends on the manufacturer, but plenty of them have an “adventure” version for sale or plenty of aftermarket adventure parts. Same goes for anything off-road capable though. You can get a street jeep/land rover or an off-road capable one.

  • Rafe Holister

    I’m old, I grew up during the 1960′s and 70′s with “On Any Sunday” and bikes that were called “Enduro” and “Scramblers”. I fully appreciate all the technology that goes into today’s motorcycles, but you younger guys, through no fault of your own of course, missed out on an amazing time in history. Those old motorcycles did everything you wanted, they took you to work or school during the week and on amazing adventures on the weekend. The ADV is like those 60′s and 70′s bikes, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it. I own a Kawasaki ZRX1100, its a great road bike, fast enough for me yet very comfortable. But when the pavement ends, so does my ride. So I’ve also got a KLR650 which certainly is the ugly duckling but almost as fun on the street and it keeps going when that street turns to gravel. What I think Mr. Chen overlooks is that 98% of the riders out there don’t take a motorcycle anywhere near its limits, especially a sportbike. He says ADVs don’t perform well at highway speeds, but I think they certainly perform every bit as well as their riders. And unlike hardcore dirt bikes, you don’t have to throw them in a truck to get to the trail. The most significant thing he overlooked, however, is that ADV bikes are simply fun! A high performance sportbike is like a high performance horse – its very exciting, but if you don’t pay 100% attention 100% of the time, its going to turn around and bite you. An ADV bike lets you look at the scenery, enjoy the smells and sounds, and venture into places that may not be on the the Dakar route, but that you’d never get to on your sportbike, cruiser or touring bike.

    • BobasBounty

      Very well put! I don’t want to make assumptions, but this piece sounds like it is written from the perspective of someone in LA who rides sport bikes, and would have to travel 4 hours to find a dirt road.

      If that is the case, I understand seeing ADV bikes as some unnecessary “compromise” for someone in the concrete jungle who wants to carve canyons at 100 mph on the weekend. For those of us who might want the ability to camp, ride for three days straight, have gravel roads within viewing distance, and not need a hydrocodone when we get home, ADV are quite capable and practical.

  • FiveG

    Frankly, given that at least 90% of my riding is on asphalt, but there is the 10% or so on dirt/gravel secondaries, the road-oriented, sporty Adventure Bikes are perfect. Esp. since at 6’3″, sport bikes are not viable for the 4+ hour rides I do. Mine is a Multi, and so far, it’s fit perfectly the description I read once of the “sportbike for grownups who haven’t grown up,” esp. since when I do need/want to ride on dirt/gravel in Vermont, it’s capable. I’d never take it into serious off-road, but then again, it wasn’t designed for that and I didn’t buy it to do that.
    As is true in almost everything: define the mission and the tool will describe itself. The Adv Bikes (and the Multi in particular) seem to fit my mission very well.

    • BobasBounty

      What kind of SUV do you have though? From the tone of the article, I envision Tahoes and escalades, not land cruisers and jeeps. The former being pretty much worthless for anything other than streets, and in many cases driven by people with the driving skills and concentration of a 16 year old with an iPhone. Seems like they are the only thing I see in snowy ditches assumedly because 4WD obviously means you can go 80 on solid ice while instagramming.

      • FiveG

        I’ve had SUVs that run the gamut, and if used right, they are an excellent tool. Having grown up in the days pre-AWD, I spent a lot of misspent time as a yout’ doing donuts in the back parking lot at school in snow/ice, and learned to respect both. You are right — presuming that AWD will make driving on ice a piece of cake is foolhardy. BUT, even the most basic AWD vehicle, if used correctly, can assist the driver to negotiate streets that would be far more difficult in a conventional car (esp. since studs and chains are not allowed much anymore).

      • Stuki

        Tahoes can generally go anywhere I would want to take my 1190 Adventure, if equipped with 4wd and a transfer case. Simple width of the trail being the limit, of course. Escalades are tire limited. Of course, there’s not much point doing so, as there are many more suitable SUVs for off pavement (4runner, FJ, Jeeps), that doesn’t give up much in road comfort. In the bike world, getting meaningfully more off road ability (690, Wr250, DR), tends to come at the expense of quite a lot of long distance highway comfort and capability.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    LOL a lot of us take these “SUVs” some pretty cool places other than potholed streets. Example:

  • Randy S

    I can understand why you would compare an ADV bike to an SUV, but it isn’t a great comparison because motorcycles are awesome. Even ADV bikes that pose a little bit about their off-road ability/practicality are 1000% better than any car. That’s just science.

    • FiveG

      And the science is settled, right?

      • eddi

        By vox populi.

  • Clint Keener

    I do know that a bmw GS will haul in the canyons. So I can’t hate on them.

    • Nemosufu Namecheck

      Its completely sketchy, makes you feel on edge, and gives you the whitest knuckles ever – that’s the best feeling in the world!

  • Eran Journo

    I am disappointed that the Editors of RA allow this article on their webpage. I am 36 years old and own a 600lb r1200gs adventure which I have taken on single tracks (you should have seen the looks on peoples faces as that 600lb tank got in the air), I have had it on the race track beating the snot of level 1 guys on sport bikes, and on Long 500 miles in a day trips. Just outside of LA you can find anything from dirt roads to great mountain carving roads. I am sure that all the back roads you go on are pristine asphalt, well that is not the case in most places which means that an adventure bike is the best bike for those kind of roads. Ones with cracked pavement, bumps gravel thrown in and so on. The suspension is electronic so I can adjust the way it behaves with a switch of a button. In short as advertised it does it all. Will it win against a dedicated bike in its chosen field, no. It is not meant to. Its meant to do it all, survive, and give you a smile.
    In short you come of as a uninformed motorcyclist, not to talk about an arrogant journalist.

  • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

    “Would you ever own one?”

    Heck yeah. Or at least an awesome bike with 80% of the ADV look.

    [Edit: Disqus ate my picture... here's a link. Versys 1000]

  • Jordan

    There are times I think people get into riding motorcycles just so they can tell other people how wrong they are for the decisions they make.

    • E Brown

      No, that’s why people get married. ;)

  • andr01dm

    I bought a V-Strom to replace a CBR125 for two reason: Motocamping and a much better (for me) seating position. In these respects I don’t think there’s any motorcycle that can compete with an ADV bike. A cruiser or a scooter might be able to do the upright seating position, but I think the scooter would fall down a bit for motocamping and I just don’t like the look of cruisers. ADVs aren’t for everyone, but they are for me. :)

  • Nemosufu Namecheck

    Adventure bikes and adventure bike riders do all kinds of trips you would only dream of Andy. If it makes you feel better to write this article – cheers! This article editorial trolling at its finest.

  • Michael

    My 2003 KTM 950 is the perfect bike for me, it goes everywhere from the freeway to the dunes, back woods track and trail, and it can carry half a cart of groceries with a 50lb bag of dog food across the back seat. 81k miles later, I still can’t come to sell it. Of course, I’m the original owner of an 89 Transalp too so don’t think it’s a fad for me, it’s been my life.

  • dinoSnake

    As a person who is NOT interested in the ADV movement, I do indeed see some validity to Mr. Chen’s remarks. So much R&D is being spent by the companies for ADV development that other styles of bikes have become more scarce. Most of you probably haven’t noticed, because all you are interested in *is* ADV, but try shopping for something to go the distance that is not an ADV, and not a cruiser, and see what you are offered. It’s pathetic.

    As I mentioned before, a number of middle-aged riders, like myself, are keeping our money in our pockets until something better comes along. We aren’t off-roaders, know that we aren’t, and therefore aren’t interested in these products – but that’s what so much of the industry is pushing on us.

    • William Connor

      With the BMW R1200RT, K1600GT, FJR1300, Kawasaki Concours, Honda ST, Triumph Trophy and a couple others I am probably forgetting there are plenty of R&D dollars spent on other types of road bikes.

      • dinoSnake

        And you should look at your list again.

        - R1200RT, K1600GT, FJR1300, Concours 1400, Triumph Trophy

        All, except the R-RT, over 600 pounds (some quite substantially over the 600 pound mark). BMW R-RT seat height lowered this year, first time ever after a continuing rise in seat heights since 2002 capped with 2005 model’s year’s “Low seat option”…of 32.3 inches.

        - Honda ST

        Does anyone buy one anymore? What was the last update of the ST1300? 2004, when they added ABS as an option (thereby proving my statement about R&D investment). Honda has promised and promised an ST update…that never came. Again, proving my R&D statement, as Honda has introduced several ADV-type bikes during the promised development of the new ST – no ST, but ADV’s.

        VFR1200 officially listed as “Sport” by Honda Powersports, not “sport-tourer”, with both limited fuel range and limited comfort due to low bars. VFR1200′s not selling, plenty of leftovers in dealers stocks.

        - Ducati

        Discontinued ST series. Ask an official Ducati factory rep about the ST series, you get “We do make an ST! It’s the Multistrada!” (that is a direct quote, received in 2012)

        - Suzuki

        Only “ST”-type model in lineup is GSX1200FA aka “Bandit 1250″. “Touring” section of website offers the Bandit as “ST”, 3 cruisers…and 2 ADV’s.

        For touring we are offered 4 major style choices by the manufacturers:

        - +640-pound supersport “ST” (Concours, K-ST / K-GT, Trophy, FJR et al)
        - +33-inch seat height ADV (with KTM’s 35-inch seat height Adventure now taking the cake)
        - +700-pound cruiser (Star motorcycle line, Honda Interstate, Suzuki C-T line, et al)
        - +800-pound supertourer (Gold Wing, Road Star, Ultra Glide et al)

        BMW offers 2 choices as alternatives, F800GT and R1250RT, with R-RT being tall (at least seat height reduced, as noted, this year). Yamaha FZ-1 may be considered but no factory hard luggage available, removing true “ST” mark. Suzuki Bandit 1250: see FZ-1. Triumph discontinued importing the very well-sized Sprint and replaced it with the Trophy, the only bike listed as “Touring” in the line – weight, 662 pounds.

        Etc, etc, etc.

        I could go on, but your point is moot. You supporters of ADV bikes have pushed all other contestants out of the water by doing exactly what you
        are doing here – being so vocal in support of ADV’s while being so negative of anything else, that people who are looking for alternatives
        have just about NO alternatives any more. WE don’t matter, only YOU do. All the manufacturers are chasing BMW’s modern sales figures explosion that true market options have gone out the window.

        • William Connor

          Didn’t mean to upset you so much with my comment.

          What would you like to see done? I am assuming lighter weight than what’s offered, with a lower seat height, but with the same motor capacity?
          If engine capacity isn’t the primary motivator then you have the F800GT (31.5 seat height, 469 ish pounds) , the Ducati Diavel (30.3 seat height 460ish pounds) , Moto Guzzi Norge (31.9 seat height, 560 ish pounds), and Aprilia Mana 850 (31.5 seat height, )

          These are packed with all of the same tech as an ADV bike.

          • dinoSnake


            Yes, my next bike just might be the Norge. I’ve wanted a Guzzi for many, many years but every time I go shopping for bike I get distracted by something else :p I sat on a Norge last year, while I was shopping for a Griso 8V SE, and it seemed to be everything I really wanted…except the seat height (didn’t get the Griso because I need more fuel range).

            This past weekend I came across a Norge on the street, with the low seat installed, and it seems perfect! Just the right height and size, about 9/10 of every other manufacturer’s offerings. The only ‘but’ in the deal is that the 560 pound claimed weight is the (bone) DRY weight, topped off the Norge is closer to a real 620 (it carries 42 pounds of gas alone). Oh well, it’s not like I can’t deal with that weight it’s just that I would prefer light over bulk; the garage where I park is so tight that muscling around a big bike, as well as riding it in the city, is simply a bear.

            It’s personal, but I like sitting “on” a bike rather than “in” a bike, and most of these modern bikes have either a too-tall seat when designed for the “on” pattern or too-tall bodywork when configured for the “in” pattern.

    • Mr. White

      If you can’t find a bike that suits your tastes/needs in the current marketplace, you’re not looking hard enough.

  • zion

    64 comments….and I’d say someone struck a nerve.

    • Josh Greenbaum

      I’m realizing now that was the point.

  • Doug Erickson

    too bloody top heavy for town and stop/go. i’d rather tide 750 lbs of fatarsed cruiser in downtown seattle rhan 550 top-heavy pounds of “adventure” bike. comfortable riding posture, though!

  • marty

    I ride an MTS1200 and my wife rides an F700GS. Both of them are adv-style bikes with no real off-road capability. Neither of us has any plans to ride them in any off-road situation beyond the occasional gravel road. We do, however, use them to commute to work every day in comfort and relative speed, something that most other bikes will compromise one aspect for the other. Heated grips keep our hands warm and working, ABS and TC keep us safe on those cool/rainy days, and a comfortable riding position with a good view of traffic lets us breeze through socal congestion.

  • ray0of0sun

    Pissing contest: Where you are willing to take your equipment is the adventure. As the following video clearly shows all arguments by op and subsequent comments are INVALID ———> I’m never scared of taking my bike on forest roads. The bike is just styling, and I’d love to have a KLR650, and I would take it place to where the guy in the video takes his FJR. Just saying… and ADV bike is marginally better.

  • Lourens Smak

    20 years ago the most popular sports/touring bike was the CBR600F, today it’s the V-Strom. What happened? I think it’s mostly because of the weak backs of old people… ;-) The average age of the motorcyclist has increased considerably, and THAT is why adventure bikes are more popular today. Old motorcyclists still want a sporty bike, but not a sportsbike… -> adventure bike.

  • Chris Cope

    I tend to agree with Chen in an overall way. The ADV is the new SUV. Sure, there are plenty of examples of people using ADV bikes in adventurous ways; equally there are plenty of examples of SUVs being used as such. Similarly, there are examples of dudes riding a Harley-Davidson Road King to Kazakhstan and the like. But most of those H-Ds we see on the roads don’t do more than 75 miles in a day. And the same is true of ADV machines: There are people using them in an all-purpose way, but there are A LOT of people who are not.

    Personally, I find ADV bikes dog-ass ugly. But that is definitely an issue of personal taste. Not too long ago, I got a chance to ride a Triumph Tiger Explorer XC and was enjoying its comfort so much I was almost willing to overlook the aesthetics, until I got the thing up to 90 mph. At that speed, it was dancing around in its lane as if I were riding through a hurricane.

    I find it annoying that if you want a bike where you don’t want to sit like a frat boy on a couch (i.e., a cruiser), you’re pretty much limited to an ADV bike unless willing to contort yourself to sport-bike ergonomics. Is there a machine that offers ADV comfort and riding position without the top-heavy nature and inability to handle higher speeds?

  • Tiberiuswise

    At 6 foot 2 inches with a 36 inch inseam, ADV bikes make me feel like I’m NOT riding a Grom.

  • Chris

    A few questions to start: why is this a problem? Isn’t the point of motorcycling to ride your own ride? If so, why complain about what others are riding? I wouldn’t get on someone’s case for riding through a canyon slower than me, so why would I nitpick them about the bike they ride?

    That being said, the more I talk to riders with ADV bikes, or ADV-styled bikes, the more I realize they’re the evolution of the standard motorcycle. On most ADV bikes, you’re not crouched forward like on a sport bike, and you’re not splayed backwards as on a cruiser. They’re smaller than the full-touring bikes like a Concours 14 or Gold Wing or FJR1300. Yet they can bomb through the twisties like a sport bike, cruise as well as–well, nevermind, cruising is cruising–and go long tours just like a touring bike.

    I’ll admit I’m biased: I ride a Versys. I bought it because it’s a versatile bit of bike: it’s great in the canyons: real world, it’s just as fast through the corners as a Ninja 650 since both can keep up with the speed limit (I’d be the limiting factor in any event). I’ve done 1100 miles in four days on a camping trip with it. I tool around town and commute on it. It’s comfortable. I’ve got a bad back, and I can set it up so that I use all 5.7″ of suspension. I’ve also got nothing to prove in terms of riding or image (and that’s meant in the most deprecating way possible), so it’s not about looking like I could leave at any moment and take the long way ’round. It’s just a good standard bike.

    While the OP says he’d rather have bikes made for a specific purpose, I’d rather have one bike at $7500 that does most things competently rather than $50K worth of bikes that I have to rotate through. I’d venture to guess that most ADV purchasers have a similar train of thought, and it is what the market has been asking for. The automotive market has been subject to the same effect: I own a WRX wagon and a Sienna minivan, both chosen because of the myriad tasks at which they are competent.

    To give the OP some hope, let’s look at history: specifically, Porsche. Many purists were dismayed when the Cayenne was introduced. And it was the Cayenne that saved Porsche’s bacon. Financially, the Cayenne made it possible for Porsche to improve the 911, improve the Boxster, and introduce the Cayman. Of course, my Sienna is faster 0-60 than the same year Cayenne, but I digress.

  • scottdc

    I was shopping for a sport tourer when I ended up buying my Tiger 1200. It had the features I wanted and the price was right. I didn’t buy it for the ADV looks or with the intent of taking it off road or posing or whatever. I don’t do cars and needed a bike that worked well for long distance riding, commuting, getting groceries, day to day stuff, etc. It’s been fantastic do all bike for riding every day, year round in all weather conditions. Had I bought a bike like an FJR as I had originally planned I don’t think it would have been nearly as well.

  • HoldenL

    WTF is this? Wow. Just … wow.

  • Kevin Daly

    The ADV bike is what the UJM was 30 years ago but better. With the crumbling infrastructure in the U.S., especially here in the grand dark state of NY, being able to ride roads that are cracked, broken, holed and dirty confidently and safely you can’t beat a good ADV bike. I don’t see the roads getting better anytime soon either. Add the fact that a good ADV bike can be ridden on any type of road, it can change way you commute!

    SUV’s are hulking, gas guzzling, space hogging waste. Crossovers a better comparative to ADV bikes.

    • Mr. White

      ^ What he said.

  • Mr. White

    Even though I’m just going to echo what other posts have said, I feel that I have to chime in here. It’s not the fault of SUVs that soccer moms turned it into a vehicle that only rode on tarmac and went for milk runs. Just like it’s not the fault of ADV bikes that SOME riders CHOOSE to stick to the pavement. I chose a Tiger 800XC because I love the riding position, the utility of it, the fact that I can hit the dirt. My bike does great on the congested, pothole-infested streets of Chicago, powerful and comfortable on the expressway for the 2 plus hour ride to where the dirt roads start. All that and then home again on the pavement. Just like my stock SUV has taken me to the dirt roads of MOAB, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s what the rider/driver chooses to do with his/her vehicle and not the vehicle itself. This is editorial trolling at it’s worst.

  • Tyler Sax

    Can I be the noob to ask what bikes those are?

    • William Connor

      The Yamaha Super Tenere.

  • atomicalex

    Wow, assumptions much? Most ADV bikes are closer in the real world to AWD minivans – fit whatever you need, go wherever you need to go, and aren’t terribly sexy or pretty about getting there.

    I think you missed the mark here.

  • Blake Bryce

    I would rather have an Ural

  • KC

    I like the idea of an ADV, but most are way too tall and heavy for me. I don’t need the off-road capabilities, but I do need the rough road capabilities. The city roads I ride on are rarely smooth and level. My longer rides are more twisty mountain roads than (dull) freeways. My ideal motorcycle would be a 690 Duke or KLR650 with luggage – and a lowering kit.

    That’s the thing here. I want the suspension travel and utility of this type of motorcycle, I just don’t need the excessive ground clearance.

  • jas

    And Harley riders dress like pirates, but there not. The point is, Adv bikes are more capable then most, but don’t excel at anything, they can be a good comprise to get you by in most conditions.
    I have a swiss army knife with a corkscrew on it, that I never use. The that make me a wine tasting poser? Let it be, everyone’s idea of adventure is different. Does it have to be hard core to be an adventure?

  • lukeeye
  • ND

    Are you taller than 5’9″? If you are, I am shocked you’re even asking this question. I ride an older V-Strom, and at 6’3″ there isn’t a single sport tourer comfortable enough to tour on with my size, whether I like or look for dirt or not, these bikes do more for more riders in almost any situation imaginable (I also know folks who’ve done trans-lab on v-stroms, commuted on them, taken them down to Ushuaia and Alaska, all with nothing more than a few bolt on bash guards and some luggage) for less money than any alternative.

    I own one, and it’s the only motorcycle I own now, and may be the only one I’ll need for a long while… I can do 85 on the interstate all day long, spend 12 hours in the saddle without getting stiff, and still both carve some country roads and get across/down a dirt track to a campsite or a point of interest, or connecting two otherwise inconvenient places together.

  • Alfonso T. Alvarez

    I previously had a Honda XR650L that I trail rode, back roads and some highway.

    At 6’3″ I could not put both feet on the ground, so it was most definitely not ‘road riding’ friendly.

    I now have a Honda NX650 which is pretty much ideal for the various types of riding I do – lower seat height, quarter fairing, luggage rack.

    The only dual exhaust single that I have ever owned.

    I think the NX250 would be a little better, just due to the lower weight, but of course then you deal with the lower power on the road. Pretty hard to find as they only sold them for three years IIRC.