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Top 5 adventure bikes for under £4000

What exactly can you get for your £4000 budget, what should you look out for, what are they capable of and which are the best? Our experts make their pick…

Big adventure bikes such as BMW’s class-leading R1250GS remain best sellers for good reason. The versatile BMW, which is also Autotraders’s best adventure bike of 2019, and many other machines like it are effectively the SUV’s of the two-wheeled world. As such they combine rugged good looks, two-up touring ability, enough sporting nous to satisfy, equipment and spec options other bikes can only dream of and even off-road skills in a package other bikes simply can’t match. If you want a machine that truly ‘does it all’, look no further.
But there’s also a downside to all that ability and spec – ever increasing prices. The new-for-2019 R1250GS now starts at a fairly salty £13,415 and, in reality, most sales are £15K and up due to the desirable extra cost options. Nor are the Germans the only ones. Ducati’s latest Multistrada 1260 S chimes in at the wrong side of £17K; KTM’s latest 1290 Super Adventure is nearly £15,000 while even Kawasaki’s formerly ‘budget’ Versys 1000 now, for 2019, also comes in uprated SE spec costing an equally daunting £14,000+. But if you’re operating on a tighter budget – and most of us are, the average price paid for a used bike remains around £4000 – don’t despair: there are plenty of used, slightly older adventure bikes available for well under £5K. One by-product of the huge popularity of the large capacity adventure bike class over the past 10-15 years is that not only is there a huge choice of models from different manufacturers available there are also masses of decent used examples available, too. What’s more, by their very nature, adventure bikes are designed to be rugged, durable and capable of high touring mileages, so, compared to say, buying a highly strung sports bike, used buyers should have less to fear.
2005 BMW R1200GS, the classic choice
It’s tempting to assume a 15-year-old GS, particularly when there have now been not one, but three major model updates since, may be obsolete – not true. 2004 saw a major modernization of BMW’s definitive adventure bike from 1150 to 1200 form, one so major good survivors remain brilliant all-rounders to this day. For around £4K we found examples with around 40,000 miles on the clock, which is barely run-in by GS standards. Better still, more than a few were already loaded with luggage, heated grips and so on and most, as is often the way with BMWs, had full dealer service history as well, so there should be no reliability issues. Sure, there’s no modern electronics or modes, but it’s still classy and capable, has a flexible 100bhp and is easily capable of another 50,000 miles of all-round motorcycling. What’s not to like?
2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000, the four-cylinder smoothie
First introduced as recently as 2012 the big Versys has always been something of an oddball adventure bike – being based on the four-cylinder Z1000SX sports-tourer it’s never really had any off-road aspirations and its early styling was decidedly odd – but it has proved a popular and effective one. The detuned engine produces a smooth, grunty 116bhp; extended suspension means it’s roomy and gives a commanding view; good comfort and weather-protection makes it a great two-up tourer and, best of all, being launched at around £10K, it’s always been great value. The latter, along with its popularity, means we found first year examples with as little as 20,000 miles under their wheels for just over £4K which means that a relatively young, big bore adventure bike has never been so affordable.
2010 Triumph Tiger 1050, the sporty Brit
British firm Triumph now offers so many adventure bike models, ranging from its affordable all-rounder Tiger 800 to its monster, shaft-drive 1200, that its middle-range 1050 triple, as first introduced as a more road-orientated tourer in 2005, has become largely overlooked – which is great when it comes to looking for a used bargain. With a meaty 115bhp from its characterful triple, sporty handling thanks to its road-focussed suspension, wheels and brakes and yet adventure touring comfort thanks to its upright riding position and decent weather protection, the Tiger 1050 remains one of the most versatile of all Triumphs. It’s also durable, reliable – and cheap, so much so that we found older 2007-8 version with 40K miles for as little as £3500 while £4K will get one from 2010 in great nick that’s fully loaded with accessories.
2008 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom, the bargain all-rounder
Suzuki’s big V-Strom has always been one of the best budget options in the adventure bike category, particularly since being thoroughly updated in 2014, while its smaller 650 brother has justifiably been a best-seller. But the original 1000cc version, on sale between 2002 and 2008 with a lusty V-twin derived from that of the old TL1000 sportster, is still worthy of consideration for those operating on a tight budget. While never intended as an off-roader, thanks to that engine and road tyres/brakes/suspension, it’s a versatile, entertaining road bike, perfectly capable of two-up touring and more. Due to its slightly budget nature, condition and corrosion needs to be looked for when buying used and service history can be expected to be patchy but we found plenty within budget so you can afford to be picky. Best of all, we found 2007 examples for as little as £3200, so £4000 will certainly get a good one with luggage and more.
2005 KTM 950 Adventure, the ‘proper’ off-road one
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to big bore adventure bikes – take a road bike and give it adventure styling, as per Kawasaki’s Versys or Honda’s Crosstourer, or create a genuine off-road bike that also has touring ability. And when it comes to the latter, Austrian off-road specialists KTM have always done it best. It’s first big bore adventure, the V-twin 950 Adventure launched in 2004 not just revolutionized the class with its genuine off-road ability and rugged, sporty versatility, it set the template for all big-bore Adventures which followed. Superseded by the larger, fuel-injected 990 Adventure in 2007, its 942cc V-twin is good for 97bhp and its tall, enduro chassis good enough to take you Mogadishu and back. If you’re truly serious about adventure – and off-roading – this is the one. £4K will just about get you a good 950.

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