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Best Adventure Bikes

The SUVs of the biking world, the do-it-all appeal of adventure bikes has a huge following – we pick our 10 favourites of the current crop

Phil West

Words by: Phil West

Published on 2 February 2024 | 0 min read

The term ‘adventure bike’ might be a slightly clunky one, spawned as it is from BMW’s original R1150GS Adventure of 2001. This was the big-tanked, off-road capable ‘world travel’ version of the already versatile R1150GS and earned global fame through Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman’s televised ‘Long Way Round’ travelogue, pretty much defining the whole adventure bike class in the process.
As rugged-looking, highly-equipped, do-it-all machines that can ‘scratch’, tour and dip their toes in the wilds, they’re effectively the two-wheeled equivalents of the car world’s SUVs and, like their four-wheeled cousins, have huge appeal for their style, practicality and equipment. Which is why they’re also Britain’s best-selling category. With a huge variety of alternatives ranging from affordably manageable middleweights to 1,300cc powerhouses with big-ticket pricetags it’s hard to know what’s out there, the arrival of electric options further complicating the buying process. To help take the stress out of it we’ve streamlined the crop into 10 of our favourites…

Triumph Tiger 900

Triumph was years ahead of the curve when, back in 2010, it launched its first middleweight adventure bike, the Tiger 800. Up to then adventure bikes were either big-engined heavyweights or rather basic, budget-priced all-rounders like Suzuki’s V-Strom 650. Thanks to a flexible and distinctive three-cylinder engine, fruity 90+ horsepower, sweet handling and variety of spec options the Tiger was a genuine and tempting alternative to bigger adventures, though. It proved such a success it lives on today in much improved form, effectively inspiring a whole ‘middleweight adventure’ class joined by offerings from Husqvarna, KTM, Yamaha and more. Now available in road-orientated GT or more off-road Rally form, the latest 888cc 900 incarnation boasts 108 horsepower, a slick seven-inch TFT dash, full suite of electronic riding aids and tons of optional accessories. Enough, in fact, to make you wonder why you’d need anything bigger.


So, we haven’t yet reviewed it properly (watch this space) but on the strength of it being an all-new incarnation of the previously best-selling R1250GS we’d have been remiss not to include it here. The old R1250GS boasted 136 horsepower from its legendary boxer engine, shaft drive, versatility few other bikes could match and the biggest options catalogue in motorcycling. The new 1300, with an all-new engine, chassis – everything – is seemingly better yet. Power is up to 145 horsepower, it’s more than 10kg lighter so is more nimble and manageable, it has improved electronics which now include radar-guided cruise control and, if early sales reports are anything to go by, it’s currently the hottest motorcycling ticket in town.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

KTM made its name in off-road motorcycle sport and still dominates motocross and enduro, so it’s no surprise its more road-orientated adventure bikes have a better off-road pedigree and capability than most. Its largest adventure bike offering started off as a 950cc V-twin in 2004 before steadily growing in both performance and sophistication. In 2013 it morphed into the 1190, introducing a raft of impressive electronic riding aids while the latest 1290 version debuted in 2021 with a feisty 160 horsepower and an impressive spec including pioneering radar-controlled cruise control. As usual, two versions are available, the road-orientated S (which is still actually better off-road than most) and the more dirt-targeted R, which is arguably the most dirt-capable big adventure bike of all.

Honda CRF1100 Africa Twin Adventure Sport

Honda created one of the most iconic adventure bikes of all time with the 1980s XRV750 Africa Twin before the category even existed as ‘a thing’. This original was inspired by a Dakar racer, its all-rounder abilities almost a happy accident before Honda revived the name for its first big adventure bike in years. Launched in 2016 as a 998cc parallel twin although capable, versatile and impressive off-road it lacked the performance and specification to truly rival the likes of the then R1250GS and Ducati Multistrada. In response the engine grew to 1,084cc with output now 102 horsepower in 2020 and two main versions are now offered, comprising the touring-oriented Adventure Sport with a big tank and tall screen and the lighter standard version built with off-roading more in mind both with an improved TFT dash, uprated electronics and more. It may not have the blistering power or sophistication of some, but the latest ‘Twin is a truly great all-rounder, has classic Honda build quality and is more affordable than many.

Honda XLV750 Transalp

Another great Honda adventure bike name revived from the past, this time as recently as 2023. The original ‘80s Transalp was a pioneering mid-weight adventure bike that was arguably before its time. The new version is based on Honda’s brilliant Hornet parallel-twin roadster, has true road-biased versatility, is great-looking, well-made, fun, easy to ride and has most of the spec you actually need, including riding modes. An adjustable screen would be nice, but you can’t have everything and there’s little to really complain about with a starting price of under £10K.

Yamaha Ténéré 700

Yamaha has a long history of producing impressive adventure bikes under the Ténéré name. As a road-going replica of Yamaha’s then Dakar racing the 1983 XT600 Ténére is another bike with a claim on being one of the first true adventure bikes as we now understand them while the latest, introduced in 2019, has proved so popular it’s spawned a whole family of variants. Although based on the perky, 73 horsepower parallel-twin engine from Yamaha’s excellent MT-07 roadster, the Ténéré has a dedicated off-road chassis with the result that it’s both a great roadster and better-than-average dirt bike, too. It’s also impressive value, with prices currently starting at just over £10K for the base model rising to just under £12K for the big tanked, uprated World Raid edition.

Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE

Despite the V-Strom name harking back to Suzuki’s first road-biased V-Strom 650 adventure bike of 2006 this latest 800 DE is another recent and impressive addition to the growing middleweight adventure category. Launched in 2023 and, following a similar pattern to Honda with its Hornet based Transalp, it shares its grunty 776cc, parallel-twin engine with Suzuki’s GSX-8S roadster. This absolute gem of an engine is paired with a sweet handling, if admittedly road-biased, chassis, smart TFT dash, various electronic riding modes and more. It’s even decent enough off road, and all for less than £11K. If you want something perky and fun on a budget that’s a little newer than the Ténéré and harder-edged than the Transalp, you won’t be disappointed.

Husqvarna Norden 901

With its dirt bike roots KTM arguably remains king of this class given it has 390, 790 and 890 options in addition to the 1290 mentioned above. But we’re restricting ourselves to just 10 bikes here so we can’t fit them all in! Bringing us to the next best thing, Husqvarna. There is a link here as well, given the historic Swedish brand was bought out by KTM in 2013 and now offers a variety of bikes built on shared running gear. In the adventure segment the Noden 901 stands out. Based on the already impressive KTM 890 Adventure it shares that bike’s punchy 105 horsepower V-twin engine, excellent off-road ability and slick electronics. At the same time it stands out from the sea of KTMs and their signature orange colours by having an individual style all its own.

Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally

Ducati effectively redefined the versatility of the adventure bike when it launched its second generation Multistrada 1200S in 2010. With its combination of a superbike-derived V-twin and pioneering introduction of switchable electronic riding modes governing engine, suspension, traction control and other characteristics at the press of a button it recalibrated both the performance and versatility we could expect from an adventure bike. After subsequent updates the the all-new V4 version now packs 170 horsepower, radar-guided cruise control, phenomenally sophisticated electronics, luxuries like backlit switchgear and heated seats and has, again, redefined that versatility again. Our pick of the bunch is the latest Rally version, which keeps all the above while adding touring and off-road ability by way of a larger 30-litre fuel tank, bigger screen, off-road wheels and more. In fact, it has so much and does it all so well it's almost impossible to criticise … except, that is, for the price, which now starts north of £23K!

Zero DSR/X

You’d be forgiven for thinking adventure and electric bikes make unlikely bedfellows. After all, key to a being a successful adventure bike is a long range, while light weight is desirable for off-road ability. Both of which, due to the often limited range and the weight of the batteries, electric bikes don’t have. But there is one delivering so impressively and capably it’s worth mentioning here, this being the top-of-the-range DSR/X from leading electric bike brand Zero. No, it’s not cheap with a starting price currently over £24K, but with a reasonable range of 110 miles plus, 100 horsepower performance, easy manners and lots of nice touches, it’s the best electric adventure bike so far.

Adventure bikes need to know

How large? How many cylinders?

If you’re serious about going off-road on your adventure bike (most owners aren’t, in reality) smaller and lighter is best, such as Yamaha’s twin cylinder Ténéré 700. If you’re after substance, features, performance and comfort, bigger is often better – hence the popularity of BMW’s big R1250GS and even Kawasaki’s four-cylinder Versys 1000. Bigger can also mean more features but extra cost, too.

True off-road ability

As hinted at above, although all adventure bikes are ostensibly dual-purpose most rarely dabble in the rough stuff. If you’re serious about that ability many manufacturers offer dedicated off-road variants of their models, such as Triumph with its Rally version of its Tiger 900, KTM with its ‘R’ versions of both its 890 and 1290 Adventures, Ducati with its new Rally version of the Multistrada V4 and more.

How much?

Another defining feature of adventure bikes is the vast range of optional extras and accessories, whether that’s luggage, riding or comfort aids, cosmetic items of more. So much so that, with a big adventure, you can often find yourself looking at a price, including add-ons, of well over £20K. With that in mind do your budgeting carefully – and compose a shopping list of stuff you actually NEED!

Is an adventure bike practical?

Very much so – they’re the Swiss Army Knives of motorcycling able to tour, go on pleasant Sunday afternoon rides, have almost superbike-equalling performance, take a pillion and luggage and even go off road. That’s why they’re so popular, after all.

What are the down sides?

For the most part price and bulk. If you go after an ‘adventure bike with it all’ you end up with a very big, bulky and ungainly machine, and also one that can be very expensive. Which, again, is why smaller, more affordable adventure bikes have become so popular. Again, consider carefully what you actually want and need, how important manageability and off-road ability is and stick to what you want to spend.

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