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Consumer Adventure Motorcycles

The more I learn about and research the possibility of doing some serious traveling the more I wonder about the mentality of using a modern top flight adventure motorcycle.  Ever since Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman went around the world it seems the BMW GS should be the motorcycle of choice on any serious trip, especially if it involves a little dirt.  All the other manufacturers are catching up with models like Yamaha's 1200 Tenere.  

moto guzzi stelvio big trailie adventure bike
Moto Guzzi's offering into the affray.  This one's on the centre stand...I'd need ladders and a harness...

So it seems if I am to travel further than my home town I need AT LEAST 600cc's but preferably 1200.  I need a seat height that is level with my nipples.  I need a minimum of 70bhp, preferably far in excess of 100.  It must be massive with fairings, extra lights and extended screens.  If it's ever likely to go below 10 degrees C then I need heated grips and muffs.  I must also have aluminium cases, handlebar mounted sat nav and lots and lots of stickers from places I've never been to but want to visit.

This is the given wisdom for the "Consumer Traveler" for want of a better description.  That's what the motorcycle manufacturers would like to see me riding.  The first issue with a modern "Adventure Bike" is it's modern-ness.  Modern machines are incredibly reliable, but, and it is a big but, computerised ignition, electronic fuel injection and multiple sensors cannot be "fixed", they are merely replaced.  Sourcing a Lambda sensor for a Ducati Multistrada in central Africa make take quite some time.

Size?  Why are these modern "Adventure" bikes so big?  If I'm to cross a river or ride over rocky ground I'd much rather be on a dinky 125 that I can handle rather than a tall 1200 where I can barely touch the floor.  If I'm traveling on billiard smooth tarmac do I really want to be whizzing through at 90mph and missing all the sights I've come to see? A 1200 motor drinks a lot more juice than a simple 250 and fuel's a big expense on any trip.  The ONLY advantage of a big bike that I can see is the ability to pull tons and tons of luggage. There's a fine line between adventure and luxury travel.

bmw gs 1200 adventure bike
The all-conquering Beemer.  A marvel of technology that requires a doctorate in computer sciences and electronics to communicate with it's brains.

The modern big Adventure Trailie motorcycle's are amazing machines.  They're super fast, super powerful, handle extremely well and can carry an array of luggage.  And yet they're just too much, especially if you're going anywhere remote.  If you recall during "The Long Way Round" the cameraman's BMW broke a frame and while being welded something electrical fried.  He carried on riding a IZh Planeta 5 (Russian 350 2 stroke), across the Steppes this proved to be the better, lighter and more manageable machine.  It did break down, but it could be fixed, usually by locals with a hammer.

If you want access to spares and people who know how to fix your machine, the best bike must surely be the best selling motorcycle ever. That'll be a Honda C90 that will, the antithesis of a KTM 990 or Suzuki VStrom.  The C90 won't be as fast, carry quite so much, look quite so cool or make your mates jealous, but it will always get you there and sip petrol.  The locals won't think you're a big wig from the west and pester you for cash quite so much either.

Still haven't figured out why Nick Sanders uses an R1 though...

anf 125 and a italian scooter with luggage on a ship
An unlikely pair of touring machines, the ANF 125 which is really the modern C90, and some generic scooter.  I know which one my money's on to get home...

Reader's Comments

Tiger Tabs said :-
You're correct Ren, simpler and lighter is best for anywhere remote. But for blasting around Wales & Yorkshire, us westerners love modern adventure bikes!
1/1/2000 UTC
john. said :-
well in all honesty I would choose the vespa. that one in the photo is made in india, and it is much better built than the later ones from italy. but im being biased here. if the vep broke down, i would more than likely fix it some how, if the bike broke down i dont think i would know where to start.
Also, the reg plate on the scooter is private, I can tell by the PX .
1/1/2000 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It's a fair point John...I imagine the Vespa is carburetted and has a relatively simple ignition system. There'll be a whole plethora of people throughout the far east who could fix this at the roadside with a pair of pliers and a hammer.
1/1/2000 UTC
John S said :-
I'd take the C90 copy probably but I'd want to look them bot over first.

Whenever my mates and I chat a about this, I always say I would take my YBR125 if I ever got the chance to go off on a big adventure. I'd trust that little thing over anything specifically catered for by Touratech. I've owned a pseudo adventure bike before and it couldn't match the YBR for reliability, convenience, fuel economy or running costs. I can even think of a time I came to the end of some Tarmac and wanted to explore further. It looked like rough going. No way I was riding off road on a 650cc adventure bike. Nope. I went home and got the YBR out. That thing goes anywhere, eventually.
1/1/2000 UTC
Henrik said :-
I hear so much good about YBR, but how old does it have to be to be without the devilish injection ?
1/1/2000 UTC
Henrik said :-
Ok, 2007 ;-) and btw. in this case I would take the Innova, despite the fact that the one I got, and its thai-quality, is nothing to write home about,.. as far as I remember there was another BAT-contributer recently that also was not overly impressed, but its all covered elsewhere already
1/1/2000 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hey Henrik. You know...one day...you're going to have to get an injection bike. Them there carbys are getting rarer and rarer you know, I reckon even the Chinese bikes will soon be injection too. I suggest you start learning component level electronics now so that when that day comes you can fix your own sensors, computers, pressure systems and injectors.
1/1/2000 UTC
Henrik said :-
My own "feeling", coming ages back from a electronic background/education,
and the word from a few MC mechanics that I speak to now, seems to confirm that basic components for injection systems is not someting you repair, but something you are left to replace only, even as a pro that is, and only OEM parts are available typically, thus they get away with the extreme overpricing. So seccond hand shops, and ebay is only option. As for the chinese, the keeway maxi scooters sold in DK are injected, with parts a little more reasonable, but still,.. Yes I might eventually try a injected MC, and in that case likely resell while still fresh :-) I have just turned 50, and with bikes like KLE still with lot of reliability and km to run, after 24+ years, guess I am covered, needed be :-) could be interesting to see you take on how, if, and to what degree, typical injection component could be repaired, maintained, and simply supplied long term,.. with availability and prices that makes sense and keeps a beloved bike rolling on like the previous generations can.
1/1/2000 UTC
Henrik said :-
And I fully understand if this is not the time and place, so an idea for an later article some fine day, or just a little reflection perhaps,.
1/1/2000 UTC

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