Why There's No Shame in Owning an ADV and Never Taking it Off Road

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Categories: Frontlines, Ask RideApart, Off Road

Almost exactly a year ago, RideApart declared the ADV motorcycle as the two-wheeled equivalent of an SUV. The comparison wasn't necessarily meant to be flattering.

The term SUV, after all, has become something of a dirty word. Even for people who drive them. My brother drives a Chevrolet Suburban and refers to it as the "Douche Wagon." And in the sense that the bulk of SUVs are rarely taken off road, the author of the article linked above saw a parallel.

"(T)he truth is, the harshest terrain these bikes will ever see is the pothole-filled street on the way to the drugstore," wrote Andrew Chen.

At the time, I agreed with the comparison. Then, displaying my classic propensity for saying things that bite me later on, I declared ADV bikes to be "dog-ass ugly."

Just one year later, though, I own a Suzuki V-Strom 1000. Boy, do I feel silly.

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Actually, no. I'll stand by my statement that ADV bikes are ugly. Or, at the very least, not exciting to look at. The BMW R1200GS is so unfettered in its ugliness it is almost respectably visceral, but other bikes? Meh. KTMs make me think of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Triumph's ADV offerings look as if they are made of Lego. And my own beloved V-Strom reminds me of a stupid animal.

No ADV has the hide-it-from-your-grandma sexiness of a Moto Guzzi Griso, for example. Nor even the Coca-Cola charm of a Triumph Thruxton. They are not bikes for staring at. Sorority girls don't run up and ask to have their picture taken next to one.

BMW R1200GS adv
Nope. I have no interest in doing this.

And, well, come to think of it, I still agree with the idea of an ADV being similar to an SUV in that many ADV owners –– myself included –– have no intention of taking our off-road-styled bikes off road. But here's the thing I should have realized and said a year ago: That's OK.

I don't mean "OK" in a disappointed way, like, "Tommy, your mother and I paid your way through law school, but if you want to work as a drag queen in Omaha, well, OK."

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I mean "OK" in the same sense that it is OK to eat a burger at Chili's, even though the word "chili" is totally in the restaurant's name.

Wait. Does Chili's even serve chili anymore?

And that's a good point. Increasingly, manufacturers are building ADV bikes that are deliberately designed to stay on pavement. Think of the Ducati Multistrada, the Yamaha FJ-09 (aka MT-09 Tracer), or the forthcoming BMW S1000XR. Because off-road ability is not what has fuelled the ADV boom. Instead, it's the fact that an ADV delivers so many things at once. Let's take my V-Strom as an example.

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