Shifting sands | Top 10 Best Adventure Motorcycles [up to 1000cc]

Can new entries from Ducati DesertX, Aprilia Tuareg 660 and Husqvarna Norden 901 reach the summit of our Top 10 Adventure Motorcycles up to 1000cc?

xDucati DesertX

With a river deep selection of quality options, it’s no surprise sales in the adventure motorcycle segment are soaring mountain high right now.

At the top of the chain we have the likes of the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, KTM 1290 Super Adventure and Triumph Tiger 1200 doing some impressive heavy lifting, while even affordable options like the Royal Enfield Himalayan and KTM 390 Adventure ensures you don’t need big power to go further.

However, it is the mid-to-large adventure motorcycle market that is booming right now with new entries from the Ducati DesertX, Husqvarna Norden 901 and Aprilia Tuareg 660 shaking things up.

So join us as we get our knobbly tyres dirty as we hit the rough stuff to bring you the Top 10 Best Mid-to-Large Adventure Motorcycles, or put another way, the best adventurers up to 1000cc

10 - Moto Guzzi V85TT [priced from £10,450]

Moto Guzzi has made a habit of doing things a little differently to its rivals over the years, but given it has just celebrated its centenary, it’s clearly doing something right.

It goes a long way to explaining why Guzzi - famed for its exotic Italo-American style sportsters - went off piste again in 2018 with the launch of the V85 TT.

Straddling somewhere between off-roader, tourer and scrambler, while the V85TT perhaps doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up, it will at least look good doing so, as it deftly evokes the retro desirability of 1980s rally raiders.

The V-Twin 853cc engine is a brisk performer and while it is perhaps a touch too sophisticated to chuck hard around on the rocks, it holds its own when the going gets tough. It will take you a long way too with a class leading 23 litre fuel tank keeping you in play when its rivals have to go home.

9 - Suzuki V-Strom 650XT [priced from £8,699]

We’ve always had a soft spot for the Suzuki V-Strom 650XT. Yes it’s very long in the tooth, yes it isn’t as refined as its rivals and yes there is a whiff of it being something of a ‘white goods’ motorcycle… but there is a certain honesty about Suzuki’s venerable mid-range off-roader that charms.

With its last major update coming in 2017, the V-Strom XT does feel a little tired but that advancing age has its advantages too because at £8,699 for the flagship XT version, this is a lot of motorcycle for your money.

Moreover, while the 645cc V-Twin engine can trace its roots back to the 90s, like your Dad at the disco, it’s still eager to prove it can perform, while the trusty mechanicals are both hard-wearing and compliant.

So while rivals can dazzle you with tech, when all you need is a good value workhorse that does the job, the Suzuki V-Strom 650XT is - for many - all the motorcycle you’ll ever need.

8 - CFMoto 800MT Touring [priced from £11,099]

If the Chinese are indeed coming, then it is CFMoto leading the way as it continues to prove motorcycles from our friends in the East are an increasingly competitive option.

The latest example of this is the CFMoto 800MT, a motorcycle that is new for the brand but otherwise very familiar as a re-imagined version of the now discontinued KTM 790 Adventure.

Not that this is simply a hand-me-down model though. For a start, we reckon CFMoto have restyled it into a more attractive proposition and while the 800MT isn’t perhaps the last word in refinement on the road, it does at least benefit from its Austrian donor’s impressive off-road capabilities.

As a buying prospect though, the 800MT really stands out with this flagship Touring trim offering a heap of kit, plus a class-leading four-year warranty. Priced at just over £11,00 thousand pounds, CFMoto have even thrown in pannier cases as standard.

In short, the 800MT makes a very strong case for itself. Literally. It literally comes with strong cases.

7 - Husqvarna Norden 901 [priced from £12,349]

Fittingly, the CFMoto 800MT comes hot on the heels of another manufacturer pushing into the lucrative adventure market with its own KTM-based creation.

This is the Husqvarna Norden 901, the Tesco Finest to CFMoto’s Tesco Value… it makes use of the current generation KTM 890 platform, but dresses it in a signature style that marries both premium and rugged aspirations. 

Whether ‘Huskie’ has been successful in this objective we’ll leave up to you, but it’s a similar story on and off the road, with the Norden 901 attempting to prove it’s a rough’em, tough’em adventure bike while being a compliant, refined tourer yet not quite hitting the mark at either.

But, in a saturated market of options you might find a touch generic, the Husqvarna Norden 901 is an adventure motorcycle for the discerning rider.

6 - Honda CB500X [priced from £6,699]

OK, so the Honda CB500X is not going to out-perform many - or any - of the other entries in this countdown off-road, but then no-one is going to buy this to sling mud every other day of the week.

Instead, if you approach it from the angle of needing a capable, compact and affordable urban runaround that just happens to have the versatility to go rogue now and again, then the CB500X has a lot going for it.

With Honda’s four-strong ‘500’ range an excellent choice for those stepping up in the size and power stakes without surrendering their A2 licence, the X does exactly what you’d expect and does it well.

Better still, at £6,699 it’s an absolute steal too. However, if you’d like your Honda to have a bit more grit between its tyre treads, then hold out for the return of the twin-cylinder, 750cc Transalp.

5 - Aprilia Tuareg 660 [priced from £10,600]

Aprilia has waded back into the adventure segment with the third model to spin-off from its new 660 platform after the RS sportsbike and Tuono naked.

With its boxy, upright appearance very clearly inspired by those rally-raiders we gaze back at so fondly, this - the Aprilia Tuareg 660 - is quite a departure from the slinky lines of its brothers.

It’s quite a different proposition under the skin too, with the revvy, eagerness of the 659cc parallel twin engine being toned down for the Tuareg in favour of gruntier low down torque. 

Even so, with 79bhp on tap there is still evidence of Aprilia’s sporting DNA out on the road and weighing in at 187kg, the Tuareg is lighter than its rivals too

On the flip side, compared with the Tenere 700, it is easy to tell it prioritises on-road use over going to extremes off it.

4 - KTM 890 Adventure [priced from £11,449]

If you put ‘conquers mountains, breaks rocks and never backs down from a challenge’ at the top of your motorcycle wishlist, then the KTM 890 Adventure is the motorcycle for you.

With all of its off-roading experience and know-how distilled into the middle child of KTM’s Adventure line-up, the 890 Adventure and the hardcore Adventure R are the Bear Grylls of motorcycles.

Recently updated, the latest 890 Adventure smooths off some of the rougher edges for a more enjoyable ride on the road, but be in no doubt, it still takes its off-roading very seriously.

Light yet powerful with 103 ponies available from the 889cc engine, the 890 Adventure isn’t cheap starting at £11,449 but it’s got the go as well as the show with WP XPLORER suspension, top notch Metzeler tyres and Dakar-style Rally modes as standard.

3 - Triumph Tiger 900  [priced from £12,195]

The Triumph Tiger 900 Rally is so capable off-road, it’s even the motorcycle of choice among baddies in the latest James Bond flick No Time To Die.

Fortunately, you don’t need to work for an international criminal to enjoy what the Tiger 900 has to offer. In fact, far from it being ‘baddie’, it’s actually rather good.

In Rally trim, the Triumph Tiger 900 is tougher than the sister GT tourer version but still benefits from a similar level of on-road refinement and touring gusto.

However, where the GT has to leave its skills on the Tarmac, the Rally can get right down to business off it with the 94bhp 937cc triple-cylinder engine making light of heavy work.

At £12,195 for the base Rally version, the Triumph Tiger 900 is quite pricey but it is well equipped, is well built and comes brimming with tech that complements - rather than disrupts - your progress.

2 - Ducati DesertX [priced from £14,095]

Considering the segment’s popularity and the success of its increasingly off-road inclined Multistrada range, it is surprising it has taken until 2022 for Ducati to join the adventure mud fight.

So is the Ducati DesertX better late than never… without a doubt. Indeed, Ducati - being Ducati - has taken its proper adventure debut very seriously, going to the lengths of developing an all-new chassis and frame around the well-proven 937cc Testastretta twin.

Far from betraying its novice status in the rough stuff, the DesertX is a convincing first stab at a trails bike, while it is packed to the brim with riding modes for every occasion.

Naturally, Ducati hasn’t abandoned its sporting DNA on the road either with the 110bhp engine feeling frisky, while the DesertX handles with eagerness. We also love the simple modern-retro design that pays homage to the Ducati-engined, Dakar Rally winning Cagiva Elefant.

So why doesn’t it win here? Well, it is arguably a better motorcycle in isolation than our winner… but at £14,095, the DesertX commands a hefty premium over similar engined rivals. 

Nevertheless, if you’re willing to pay extra, you won’t be disappointed.

1 - Yamaha Tenere 700 [priced from £9,900]

They came for the throne but the King is still sitting pretty.

Yes, the Yamaha Tenere 700 fends off its rivals for another stint as Visordown’s favourite adventure motorcycle.

There is a lot to like about the Tenere 700, which focuses on doing the basics very well. It’s an excellent companion off-road, proving chuckable and easy to handle, while it gives the KTM 890 Adventure a run for its money in the rough stuff.

It’s a peppy performer on the road too, with the 689cc crossplane two-cylinder engine feeling brisker than its modest 72bhp on paper might have you believe.

Better still, having been criticised for its limiting 16-litre fuel tank in standard trim, Yamaha has not only listened to its customers, it’s gone to lengths with its response of the new Yamaha Tenere 700 World Raid.

Using a clever bit of repackaging, the World Raid comes with a vast 23-litre fuel tank, while other upgrades - such as more sophisticated suspension and multi-functional GPS tech - single it out as an off-roader for the more intrepid of adventurers.

There are certainly more desirable and cutting-edge options out there but with prices starting at under £10,000 going up to just under £12,000 for the bells and whistles World Raid, the Yamaha Tenere 700 is the best at a bargain.

* prices correct at the time of publication [July 2022]