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Home Ren's Biking Blog

Small Adventure Bikes Gosh-Darn-It

Blog Date - 08 November 2016

After years and years and years and years I finally bought myself a brand new motorcycle - the CB500X. 

In the preceding months I'd considered the Honley Ventura (Honley Venturer - Would I?) because it had a 250 motor which in my opinion provides the ideal compromise between the light weight and fuel efficiency of a 125 and the additional performance of a larger machine. I decided against this as I doubted it would be a big seller which makes aftermarket parts hard to come by and I had no frame of reference to guide me regarding reliability and longevity.

The Honley Ventura in a showroomThe Ventura sure looks the part. 

I'd yearned deeply for the Honda CRF250L (Test Ride Review Of The CRF 250 L) which was great except for that ridiculously small tank (7 litres). I would have been driven spare looking for fuel all the time and I'm not quite so sure the narrow off-road seat would be comfortable on longer trips. 

Honda CRF 250 L
The CRF250L is great...but not quite "adventure style" enough for me.

Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and a few other brands all have motocross styled models with the same issues as Honda's CRF250L. As such the CB500X provided the tank range, very good economy for a 500cc engine and the adventure style comfort that I was looking for. I didn't particularly want a 500, it was a case that nobody except Honley was making a 250 adventure bike.

Of course the moment my bank account was emptied I learned that BMW was going to make a GS310. Single cylinder motor, BMW build quality (hopefully), not too heavy and adventure style comfort. Then I learn that Suzuki are going to put the Inazuma motor in a Strom 250 adventure style machine. Kawasaki also have plans for a Versys 250 although right now I've not heard anything about a Yamaha Tracer 250 - or probably a 320. 

Then today to really twist the knife Honda has unveiled the CRF250 Rally. Damn. Blast. Poop. Gits. ARGH! That said it's not quite adventure styled more rally styled as the name suggests. 10 litre tank - better but not enough. Still got the narrow seat. It does have a screen but then I've already removed the blighted screen off my 500. No, no it's not quite the bike I would have made from the CRF250L but it's a lot closer. Give me 14 litres and a comfy seat then I'm sold. 

A montage of the CRF250 Rally, Strom 250 Versys 250 and Honley 250So much choice!!

Why oh why oh why oh why does this happen? Meh, that's a stupid way of thinking and I'm quite happy with my 500 so far. What I would like to understand is why there's suddenly a glut of 250-300cc adventure styled motorcycles coming onto the market? In the UK and other wealthy countries the BMW GS 1100 then 1150 then 1200 then 1200 liquid cooled have been phenomenally successful. Is there to be a shift towards smaller capacity bikes? In the non adventure styled market there is already a burgeoning choice of street and race styled options. 

I would like to think it is because more people are thinking like myself. Fuel economy and ease of use are more important than outright performance especially on roads filled with speed cameras, ever decreasing speed limits, rising fuel costs and more and more traffic. Versys 1000s, GS 1200s and mahusive KTMs look great at the biker hangouts but they drink like a hen party and cost a similar amount to maintain.

Several large BMW GS adventure bikes at a campsiteAre the days of the massive adventure dinosaurs coming to an end?

I would like to think it is because more people are thinking like myself, but I doubt it very much. In a world filled with "austerity" I'll never cease to be amazed at the number of high end expensive BMW and Audi executive cars on the roads today. Even the "poor folks" drive around in 3 to 6 year old trendy hatchbacks and have 50 inch widescreen TVs. In case you're wondering I have a '56 plate Ford Ka and a CRT TV. I'm not poor, I'm just tight, that's why I'm not poor.

I suspect the 250-300cc market is a result of world markets that are not quite as rich as "The West" but are up and coming. Take Malaysia for example. Sharon's Z250SL is popular there it seems because it is every bit as sporty and stylish as a Z1000 but considerably cheaper to buy and run. I could be wrong and if you have your own theories I'd love to hear them. Once a bike has been developed for that market it doesn't cost too much more to bring a few to the UK and sell them to those folks who think like myself.

In the meantime I'll be interested to watch what happens. Will these bikes even make it to the UK? If so what will be the prices? Will they become popular? Will we witness a paradigm shift away from massive machines to smaller more cost effective and user friendly models? I do hope so, but I'm doubtful at the moment.

Addendum

Sharon and I stopped at Bowker BMW Preston on Sunday just for a mooch and a brew. I enquired about the 310. It seems the G310R, the naked street bike, is due to arrive any time soon. The list price is £4,300 which while not cheap is less than I expected for a Beemer. The seat height is listed as 780mm with *possibly* a 760mm low seat option. This could be REALLY great news for Sharon's hobbit dimensions. She's a long way off being rich enough to buy one but this could be a fantastic second hand option in the future. The GS adventure styled 310 is coming to the UK but the salesman has no idea when.

Kudos to Bowker BMW too. 2 random bikers NOT dressed in high end branded bike gear or dripping money out of our over stuffed wallets were treated cordially and with a smile. My enquiry was answered swiftly and thoroughly. My asking about the seat height caused nothing more than a raised eyebrow followed by a printout of all the details they have on the model at the moment. Professional and friendly.

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Reader's Comments

Alan said :-
So what was the seat height? Is it Hobbit compatible?
09/11/2016 14:45:43 UTC
Bob said :-
Interesting.
But the problem with a lot of these is weight.
The CRF250L at 147KG is the lightest of the bunch, but it's still more than the BMW G650X I used to own.
The BMW will probably be around 155KG and the Inazuma is an incredible 183KG!
250cc is still not a lot of engine and these bikes are all too damn heavy for their own good. If you've only got 20-25ftlbs of torque what you don't need is weight.
Of the lot, the CRF250 with an aftermarket tank is the only one I'd give house space to. I've been down the BMW route and the myth of BMW build quality is just that - a myth.
09/11/2016 15:23:02 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Alan - the seat height I have is for the BMW G310R which is a naked road bike. The seat is 780mm with a 760mm option, although the option is not confirmed.

Bob - yes you're right about the weight, these are heavy bikes. I suspect what's happening is to keep the price down they're not using exotic materials. Remember these are Adventure STYLE motorcycles. The Honda with wire wheels and lighter weight will take on the trails but the others are - much like my own 500 - not really serious off roaders.

They could use ally frames, trick components and clever design to reduce the weight but that would add to the price. If these models are really targeted at the not-too-wealthy then price matters.
09/11/2016 17:02:38 UTC
Latchy said :-
you emptied your wallet?
I FEEL FAINT
04/12/2016 11:28:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Thanks Latchy, I knew I could rely on you.
04/12/2016 15:38:14 UTC
Henrik said :-
Upcomming 2018 KTM 390 Adventure, 44HK, 130 Kg,... only thing interesting I have seen yet

Fresh news ,.... google on the following days !


www.cycleworld.com/spied-new-2018-ktm-390-adventure-bike-adv ...
06/01/2017 14:20:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
130kg!! I'll believe it when I see it for real. That *might* be dry weight but still it's blooming light. We shall wait with baited breath.
06/01/2017 16:14:29 UTC
Andy said :-
I have to say that I'm intrigued by BMW's new 310GS.
On the face of it, what's not to like.
A miniature GS for (according to my local dealer), about 5 grand.
YES PLEASE.
It's not in dealers yet,
I heard July / August this year, possibly.
Very exiting.



20/02/2017 22:26:55 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I must say Andy I'm not sure I'd buy the GS310 but I'm desperate to have a go on it. Maybe if I do I'll change my mind.

More importantly I want to see how well it will sell, particularly in the UK. We still have this "bigger is better" thing which reduces the sale of Z250SLs for example. I do hope it sells well.
21/02/2017 16:29:36 UTC
Andy said :-
I have to admit that I may well have fitted the profile you've given of the bigger is better biker.
I think it was a kind of conditioning.
When I started riding (as per some of you I suspect), I was young, and looked with envy and awe at the older riders on their Z1R's and BMW R100RS's.
The ultimate goal was to climb the cc / cylinder ladder, till you got to a big four.
Then Kawasaki / Honda and Bennelli moved the goalposts still further by creating across the frame six's.
It was all about bigger being batter.
A marketing ploy of course to keep us young riders aspiring to own the next thing.
Although I'm much older and wiser now, that ethos has kind of stuck.
Don't get me wrong.
I'd still choose one of my big bikes for a long trip, or a touring holiday, but to be honest for everything else, the 250 Ninja trumps them both.
Especially in terms or pure fun.
I just wish I'd chosen the naked one like Sharons, as opposed to the sports faired version I bought.
It's quite heavy on the wrists, which can get a bit tiresome.

21/02/2017 23:59:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I think there's some truth in saying the "bigger is better" mentality is driven by our consumerism culture.

What we NEED versus what we want is quite different. I can understand that a 2-up tour of Europe - especially with camping equipment - would be incredibly difficult on a 125 and hard work even on a roomy 250. My CB500X would be sufficient and a BMW 1200 would make it luxurious.

I find my 125 meets my daily requirements for commuting and has also proven to be most excellent for touring. That said I am but 5'8" tall and about 12 stone 6 (oh hang on 173cm and 80kg). I know Bob at 6 feet odd rides a KE100 but I'm not so sure he'd tour on it.

We certainly don't NEED a ZZR1400 to go out for an afternoon blast. We don't NEED a GS1200 to go off road in Spain. We want these things because they're considered the fastest or the greatest and despite austerity, political mayhem and questions over the fiscal stability of the world's economies many people still seem to have enough cash to buy them. Look at how many BMWs and Audis there are on the roads today.

The Z250SL (or Ninja 250SLS) will easily reach and break the speed limits, you can't legally go any faster. It will sip petrol. It's light and easy to park or pull out the garage. Insurance is cheaper. They're more fun.

Shame most folks will still by 500cc and more.


22/02/2017 10:55:12 UTC
Andy said :-
A lot of it is image.
Big numbers to brag about in the pub car park.
I'm convinced that if you asked the average owner what those numbers actually meant, they wouldn't be able to tell you.
I used to own the latest generation two, 1700, 200bhp VMAX.
I only owned it for a few months, because whilst it was an astonishing machine, it was totally at odds with the kind of rider and person that I am.
I'm just not into making grand entrances.
I do however like my other big bikes.
I suppose we can compare it to our cars.
Why don't we all drive Nissan Pixo's, Hyundai i10's and the like.
They'll seat four in comfort, and easily cruise at the speed limit.

22/02/2017 12:29:41 UTC
Dan Favata said :-
There are quite a few tiny terrors being built today to choose from,but I ask this..can you name me 1 proven and durable motorcycle that is or has been ever built in India??? I cant put durability and made in India together.
13/11/2017 03:54:05 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
I think my inzuma might gave been made in India or Taiwan. It seemed very well made. I would say the alloys used to make the hangers and levers were actually much better than my cb500x.
The paint finish was super and it had a decent hugger as standard.
My only let down was the awful underslung exposed exhaust which should have been stainless but was rusty within a week. I suppose it would last the warranty period but then could be swapped for a decent aftermarket one.
13/11/2017 08:21:29 UTC
Ross said :-
The Inazuma is made in Chine, Pocketpete. You're spot on about the build quality though...it's much better than most other Chinese built bikes I've seen (presumably the Suzuki influence?) but the centre section of the exhaust is poor. I've managed to keep my one in good nick (from new in 2013 and 8400 miles) by not using the bike over winter and regularly wiping the black painted section over with an oily rag, especially after it's been out in the rain!
13/11/2017 10:10:55 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
My Honda CBF125 was made in India. Early models were, later models were made in Thailand.

Regular readers will know my 125 now has 68,500 miles on the clock and apart from a few minor issues as you'd expect from ANY motorcycle it's been a cracker.

It's not WHERE the bike is made that matters, it's HOW it was made.
13/11/2017 14:05:57 UTC
 

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