Top 10 adventure bikes for the road

Our pick of 10 adventure bikes that give their best on tarmac

Best adventure bikes

WE LOVE adventure love bikes, don’t we? The sales figures don’t lie and no wonder – they’re some of the comfiest, techiest and versatile bikes money can buy.

But 2017 is an uncertain time for Earth. Forget uncertainty over the future of Europe and the Trump administration, the big question is: what does the term ‘adventure bike’ even mean anymore? No longer is it restricted to big bikes with off-road aspirations; now it’s a broad term that’s come to mean something tall, comfortable and versatile and capable of covering big miles.

So an ‘adventure bike’ might not necessarily be the best choice for off-road riding, but there’s a reason for that – let’s not kid ourselves, most adventures had by owners of these bikes are likely to be tarmac-based.

There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, that’s where the appeal is because adventure bikes are so versatile, they make touring, exploring and everyday life that bit easier, comfortable and more convenient.

No wonder then that manufacturers are only too happy to oblige our penchant for adventure and when it comes to road-biased adventure bikes, we’re spoilt for choice, so here are 10 of our favourite road-biased adventure bikes from the last couple of years.

10. Suzuki V-Strom 1000

SUZUKI revealed its updated V-Strom 1000 at the end of last year. We haven’t ridden the new model yet but it’s an evolution of the current bike, which in this company, isn’t exceptional.

Evolution isn’t necessarily a bad thing - the big V-Strom 1000 is Suzuki’s road-oriented long distance, long-legged touring offering and Suzuki markets it as being suitable for people who want a big adventure bike but with less of the heavy bulk you get with something like an R1200GS.

Having said that, it’s heavy and feels it. But if your idea of a tarmac-based adventure bike is something with about 100hp from a V-twin motor, plus traction control, adjustable suspension then you’re in luck.

9. Honda CB500X

FOR A FEW reasons, Honda’s CB500X is the most accessible road-biased adventure bike here: it’s the cheapest, is accessible to A2 licence holders, has a low seat height and is a little smaller than most adventure-styled bikes.

With the parallel-twin engine delivering just under 47hp, it’s outgunned by everything else in this list but it is economical, easy to get on with and is more than capable of taking on a long journey in relative comfort...

… as long as you stick to the road; you’d never want to take the CB500X off-road because the soft suspension would never handle it. But if you’re looking for something inexpensive, or are a young rider wit a burning sense of adventure, he CB500X is a basic distillation of the core ingredients of an adventure bike and no less enjoyable for it.

8. Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

HONDA'S VFR800-powered Crossrunner is definitely in the territory of sports-tourer-on-stilts but it subscribes to the same aesthetic as the rest of the bikes on this list and is as up for the job at hand as anything here.

But the Honda has an ace up its sleeve – its V4 engine, with its howling induction noise, sweet fuelling and decent economy.

It’s also the only bike in this list to feature self-cancelling indicators, if that’s the sort of thing that gets your juices going.

Like the Versys 1000, it’s heavy but manages its weight well and as you’d expect from Honda, it’s not short on quality either.

7. Kawasaki Versys 1000

KAWASAKI doesn’t pretend to have an off-road adventure bike in its range, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t getting involved in the adventure bike party.

Its biggest participant is the Versys 1000, which is powered by a 120hp engine based on the lump in the Z1000SX. The result is a bike that’s got plenty of low down shove with loads in reserve for motorway-speed cruising. When conditions are poor, the two riding modes and traction control are a useful addition, but the Versys 1000 has a roguish charm to it, so the electronics are likely going to be useful if you get it wrong when doing the misbehaving this bike encourages.

The styling follows suit – it’s sharp and aggressive in a similar vein to the Z1000SX and ZX-10R.

The Versys 1000 doesn’t lack in the comfort stakes thanks to soft and comfortable seat, ample wind protection from the adjustable screen and 150mm of well controlled suspension travel.

You wouldn’t want to take one of these off-road because they aren’t light, but the suspension performance and wide bars don’t hamper it on country roads.

6. MV Agusta Turismo Veloce

MV AGUSTA doesn’t make off-road bikes, but if they did they’d probably be the best off-road bikes in the world. Probably not.

However, MV does make a tall adventure-style bike that comes on dual purpose Pirelli Trail Sport tyres, so it’s got a model that can at least dip a toe into the dust, if pushed.

The Turismo Veloce exists in the same vein as the Multistrada – a tall and nimble Italian tourer.

Powered by a detuned F3 triple engine, the Turismo Veloce (literally ‘fast tourer’) benefits from a brilliant spread of torque and the suspension strikes a good balance between precise handling and long distance comfort.

5. Triumph Tiger Explorer

TRIUMPH'S latest three-cylinder 1215cc Tiger Explorer comes in no less than six variations and is the most technologically advanced iteration of the bike.

The top spec XCa has all the goodies – active suspension, an IMU, traction control, cornering ABS and riding modes.

At the push of a button the bike XCa can be set up to cope with a bit of light off-roading but in reality, most of these will spend their lives rolling over the black stuff, which means that in reality, the tech-packed Tiger has all the tools to keep you secure when conditions aren’t in your favour, and lend a hand when you get it wrong.

With punchy performance from the three-cylinder motor along with willing handling, the Tiger Explorer has what it takes to deliver during every stage of an epic road based adventure tour.

4. BMW S1000XR

WITH AN upright riding position, reminiscent of the R1200GS and power from a detuned S1000RR engine, BMW’s S1000XR borrows a little from the adventure bike camp and a little from the sports bike set.

The result? A rapid, comfortable and very versatile bike that does a superb job of bridging the gap between sports and adventure bikes.

With 160hp, traction control, riding modes, active suspension, Brembo four-pots plus adventure bike comfort and ergonomics, the S1000XR does everything Multistrada, KTM 1290 Adventure can do, without any off-road pretence.

3. Ducati Multistrada 1200/S

THIS HAS TO  be one of the greatest adventure tourers ever. Maybe that seems like a bold statement but the Multistrada 1200’s blend of 160hp V-Twin power, active suspension, top drawer electronics, sharp handling, and comfort mean that it’s a proper intercontinental ballistic missile.

The big Multi’s versatility mean that it’s a proper all-rounder and rewards whether in town, touring, or even when being given a pasting round a track.

It comes on dual purpose tyres as standard, so can handle a little light off road use, but stick some dedicated road rubber on it and this is a bike that offers a near-unsurpassed blend of road riding reward.

2. BMW R1200GS

A SALES phenomenon and the bike that kick started the adventure bike boom, where would we be without the much-loved R1200GS?

In a less comfortable and versatile place, that’s where.

The recently launched R1200GS Rallye is the big GS that’s really designed to cut it off-road and while the standard bike can handle some trails, it’s definitely at its best on the road…

.. where it delivers a sumptuous, comfortable and accomplished ride experience that inspires going out and getting lost and if that’s not the sign of a good road-biased adventure bike, we’re not sure what is.

1. KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

IT'S GOT THE word ‘adventure’ in its name, so KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure S must be ready to razz down a dustry trail at a moment’s notice, right? Almost – the 1290 Super Adventure R is the more off-road ready model, and with its cast wheels, the S is the road-biased version.

Powered by a 1301cc V-twin, with 160hp and 73 lb/ft torque on tap, KTM’s big adventure bike isn’t short on the kind of power that’ll see you crossing borders with regularity and ease.

The 1290 Super Adventure really excels when it comes to technology – IMU, traction control, cornering ABS, riding modes, semi-active suspension and a quickshifter. The result is a bike that delivers a superb ride experience and flatters you while encouraging an ever increasing turn of speed.