So what is an adventure bike really? With the Adventure Motorcycle sector showing no sign of slowing down, the manufacturers from to Honda to Harley Davidson are keen to get a slice of the action.
But is the name just a clever marketing tool? Can the likes of the mighty KTM1290 or BMW R1200GS really be seen as vehicles that are up to the job of exploring the world on two wheels?
Noah Horak thinks not, and as a man that has visited over forty countries in the last two years on his modified KTM 690 Enduro, he might just know. In an open letter posted on the Expedition Portal, he’s called out the motorcycle industry on the desperate lack of bikes that can really take on adventure travel.
So what is a ‘real’ adventure motorcycle?
Dear Motorcycle Industry,
With the recent announcement of the KTM 1290 “Adventure” I can not sit quietly anymore and watch the “Adventure” bike grow to obese proportions. I must speak up. Adventure is a word thrown around so freely in the motorcycle industry now, I am not sure you remember what a true adventure actually is.
Who am I? I’m a guy who has spent the last two and a half years riding a KTM 690 around the world. It was not an adventure bike when I bought it, but with some work, it has taken me to hell and back. After 120,000km and 42 countries, she is still going strong. My bike and all my camping gear is about 210 kilo. If you can not pick up your bike fully loaded in any situation, it is not an adventure bike.
Now I see the adventure bike market treading into Harley Davidson territory, which is to say selling an idea or image rather then a capable bike. Sorry to the HD fans out there, but the XR750 is the only HD I drool over. Every year manufacturers pump out more and more street touring bikes and slap an “Adventure” bike name on it. KTM, BMW, Triumph, Suzuki, Aprilia, Ducati, Yamaha, Honda are all doing it. The list of 1-litre behemoths is so long I can not keep up. They sell the image of adventure, but when you try to go off the pavement, you quickly find out the bike was not designed for it. So you search for a smaller bike only to find there is a huge gap in the market that no manufacturer seems to want to cash in on. I’ll call the small adventure bike market what it is, the enduro bike market: 250s, DRZ400, 450 race bikes, and outdated air cooled 650s. 450 race bikes are too highly strung for travel. Most of the air cooled 650s are great bikes, but they are all in desperate need of an update. So there is basically the choice between DRZ400 and KTM 690. Both are very capable off-road bikes and have been ridden around the world many times by many people. The gap between these 2 bikes is huge. What gives?
Now I see the adventure bike market treading into Harley Davidson territory …
selling an idea or image rather than a capable bikeNoah Horak
The formula for a proper adventure bike is easy: less then 150 kilos, good tune-able off-road suspension, around 50 hp, fuel injected, liquid cooled, and at least a 7500 km oil change interval. A 500 km fuel range would be icing on the cake. I challenge the manufacturers to build the adventure bike I described above and I will be the first person in line with a fist full of dollars.
Maybe this is asking too much. Take one of your 450 race bikes and give it a reliable engine. The weekend warriors would love it if they didn’t have to change their oil every 10 hours. I would love to travel on a that bike. As stated before, the gap between the Suzuki DRZ400 and KTM 690 is huge. So once again, take a minute to let this sink in. We want a reliable lightweight off-road travel bike. We don’t want another 200 + kilo street bike. Adventure comes from the ride and the bikes you are pushing off onto the public are limiting that adventure.
All images are from Noah’s Facebook site RTW with Noah. You can follow his intrepid adventures – that’s REAL adventures – on his website.
So what do you think is a real adventure motorcycle? Has Noah hit the nail on the head or is he missing why people are buying adventure bikes? Please let us know your comments below.
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