Top 10 BEST all-terrain go-anywhere ADV Motorcycles of 2021

Some motorcycles are designed for speed, others for comfort... but which is the best motorcycle to buy if you need to really go anywhere and everywhere?

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally

There’s no doubt that adventure bikes are more popular than ever with new models cycles seemingly occurring every few weeks at the moment to give buyers more choice than ever.

As an example, BMW’s R1200/50GS has been a perennial UK best seller for over a decade and the German firm currently offers four different capacities of adventure bike – 310, 750, 850 and 1250. 

Nor are they the only ones: Triumph currently also has three different families of adventure machine, KTM has its 390, 790 and 1290s and Honda at least four different types of Africa Twin, not to mention its Crosstourer, Crossrunner, NC750X and even the X-ADV scoot (although maybe that’s pushing it a bit!).

But when it comes to TRUE adventure bikes – credible, hard-core, on/off-road machines that are genuinely capable of circumnavigating the globe and traversing any terrain, what’s really out there and which are the best? Here’s our pick of the current crop…

10. Yamaha Super Ténéré XTZ1200Z (from £12,547)

Yamaha’s big twin 1200 is something of the ‘forgotten adventure bike’ having been introduced way back in 2010, barely updated since and, with its minimal electronics, poverty of luxuries and at best average 110bhp performance, it’s easy to see why. 

But that also overlooks the fact that the big Ten, with its shaft drive, genuine dual-purpose ability, rugged build and, nowadays, relatively affordable price, still ticks a lot of boxes. Being a grunty but reasonably lightweight twin helps its off-road ability; it’s as tough as old boots and is an underrated road performer, too. 

If the spec is a little disappointing, there’s also the ZE version, with electronically adjustable suspension, albeit priced at a fairly hefty £14,347, and the top of the range ZE ‘Raid Edition’, which also comes with twin aluminium side cases giving 74-litres of luggage capacity, high screen, bash plate and fog lamps, for £16,197.

9. Triumph Tiger 1200 XcX (from £15,250)

Triumph’s biggest Tiger adventure bike was introduced as the ‘Tiger 1200 Explorer’ in 2012, was gunning for BMW’s GS from the outset, had a big, purpose-built shaft-drive triple and, with 135bhp was both faster and, arguably, more comfortable than the GS from the outset. 

Unfortunately, at a whopping 259kg it was also heavier, lacked the German’s pedigree and wasn’t as capable off-road. Triumph has been working hard to narrow the gap ever since. 

The first big update came in 2016 with a raft of engine, chassis and spec updates including semi-active suspension to deliver three XR (road-biased) variants and three more XC (more off-road) ones with wire wheels etc, 

While a further significant update in 2018 saw it shed 5kgs and the Explorer name, new TFT screen, further improved electronics including five modes (plus an optional ‘Off-Road Pro’ mode on the top of the range XCa) and more spec than you can throw a big stick at. It’s still, big, hefty and daunting, but it’s also classy, powerful, durable and, in the right hands, genuinely capable off-road.

8. Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro (from £17,895)

Ducati’s big, 150bhp, electronics laden 1200 Multistrada was a true game-changer in 2010 for bringing astonishing electronic adaptability and superbike performance and handling to the adventure bike class – but with its 17in sport wheels and comparatively fragile construction it was no off-roader. 

That changed in 2016 when the Italian firm introduced the Multistrada 1200 Enduro which, with off-road wire wheels (19in at the front), longer-travel suspension, stronger ‘dual-arm’ swing arm (in place of the previous single-sider), big 30-litre tank and more rugged bodywork made a decent stab at off-road ability without losing any of its by then 160bhp performance, although, being taller and heavier, it wasn’t quite as nimble on road. 

This was updated further in 2019 to become the Multistrada 1260 Enduro with more manageable ergonomics including lower seat, slightly shortened suspension, marginally reduced weight and refined manners, all making it less daunting off-road. 

It’s still no pure off-roader like, say, a KTM, but, certainly for experienced riders, it copes better than you might expect – yet still delivers all the thrill and brilliance of the sophisticated Multistrada package.

7. BMW F 850 GS Adventure (from £11,105)

BMW’s first true middleweight GS adventure first arrived way back in 2008 based on the existing F800 parallel twin platform and impressed from the outset for its genuine off-road ability. 

Its lighter weight and more manageable proportions compared to the then 1200GS made it a comparative doddle to ride off road and as a genuine, dual-purpose adventure bike had a lot going for it. 

A more road, novice-orientated F650/700 version, albeit with the same, but detuned, engine, debuted at the same time. Both have had significant updates since, becoming the F850GS in 2018 with the F850GS Adventure, complete with bigger 23-litre tank, 94bhp and better weather protection, arriving last year. On paper and in practice it’s a brilliant mix of road and off-road ability that’s accessible to all and at a fairly tempting price. 

For all but seasoned off-roaders it’s more than capable in the dirt yet is a versatile and practical road bike, too. And although base spec is fairly minimal, being a BMW means tons of options including luggage, ESA, heated grips, protection etc are all easily available, so much so you can easily argue it’s one of the most versatile bikes around. 

On the slight downside, fully kitted it’s fairly pricey, it’s not the best looker and there’s always that slight niggle that, if you’re going for a BMW GS, you might as well go the whole hog and get the 1250…

6. Honda Africa Twin CRF1100L (from £13,049)

You can’t criticise Honda for not trying when it revived the legendary Africa Twin name with the CRF1000L in 2016 – and it was a true dual-purpose adventure bike. Its 94bhp twin was adequate on road and effective off; its dirt-biased chassis made it among the best 1000cc adventures off road; it oozed typical Honda quality and the DCT, semi-auto option was a unique sales feature. And yet… it didn’t quite blow anyone away, either. 

So, for 2020, Honda shook things up again. The capacity hike boosts power to 100bhp, although it’s still nothing to write home about, the clocks are improved and there’s now decent electronics but confusingly the base version is now the longer suspension, more off-road focussed option while the big tanked Adventure Sport is now more road tourer. 

That said, the stocker is still one of the better 1000cc adventure bikes off-road being slim, relatively manageable and with brilliant ergonomics and manners. While the DCT option (for £13,949) is also intriguing and effective.

5. KTM 790 Adventure R (from £10,999*)

You’d expect Austrian off-road experts KTM to come up with a brilliant middleweight adventure at its first attempt and, with the 790 Adventure, introduced in 2019, they’ve done just that. 

As with other KTM adventure offerings, two versions are available: the road-biased base 790 and the more off-road R – and it’s the R that, if you’re looking for a brilliantly performing off-road adventure, is probably the best of all. Both bikes share a 95bhp parallel twin derived from that of the 790 Duke and typical tubular steel trellis frame. 

The R, however, gets proper off-road 21/18in wire wheels, longer travel, fully adjustable off-road suspension and revised ergonomics. The result, while still perky and perfectly usable, in a big trail bike sort of way, on road, is simply in a different league off it. 

Light, punchy, slim and rugged, the 790 R also benefits from a pannier type fuel tank to help keep the centre of gravity low, class-leading electronics including a special, customisable Rally mode, class, clear TFT dash with all the off-road accessories you’d expect from KTM. 

It may not be as cheap and versatile as Yamaha’s similar Ténéré 700 – although a current £1600 discount* brings it close – but as a classy, dirt capable adventure, not much comes close.

4. BMW R 1250 GS Adventure (from £14,870)

Given its success, popularity and continued status, there was no way BMW’s big, class-defining GSA was going to get left out here. In fact we were very tempted to make it No. 1. But if we’re emphasising and concentrating on off-road ability, it just misses out. 

As we all know, the GS, particularly in big-tanked, adventure-kitted ‘Adventure’ spec, does it all – tour, hustle, take a pillion, dabble in the dirt and, importantly, has cast iron residuals, kudos few others can match and a classy accessories list as long as your arm – and all of that combined is why it’s so popular.
Since 2019, when it got a significant 10bhp power boost thanks to the clever new ‘ShiftCam’ engine plus sophisticated new TFT dash, it’s also been better than ever. If you want a Range Rover among bikes this is the one. 

However, although it copes impressively off-road, at 268kg with the bulk to match, unless you’re a Paris-Dakar god like Simon Pavey few, truly, will take it far in the dirt. A brilliant all-rounder and class act, yes. A genuine global traveller in fact. But as an off-roader it’s too intimidating for most… 

3. Triumph Tiger 900 Rally (from £11,700)

While British firm Triumph has struggled to make its big Tiger 1200 competitive, its smaller version, first launched as the Tiger 800 in 2010, has been brilliant from the word ‘go’, been repeatedly enhanced and improved over the intervening years and proved a consistent best seller for the Hinckley marque. 

Its two key strengths have been its unique three-cylinder engine which, being an enlarged, longer stroke version of that in the already brilliant Street Triple 675 is not just characterful and brisk but also torquey and versatile; and the option of coming in XR (road) or XC (off-road, with larger wire wheels etc) guises. And although a relatively wide and heavy triple, the rugged XC has always made a decent fist of life in the dirt. 

Best of all its been improved repeatedly since, gaining decent electronics including off-road mode in 2015, new TFT dash and more in 2018 and, for 2020, evolving into the all-new Tiger 900, with seriously off-road capable Rally and Rally Pro versions, bristling with tech, features, modes and more. It may no longer be cheap, but if you want the most sophisticated, dual-purpose capable and characterful of mid-weight adventures, this is probably the one.

2. KTM 1290 Super Adventure R (from £13,399*)

KTM’s big, V-twin adventure bikes have set the class standard for dirt ability ever since the original 950 version debuted in 2004 thanks to their mix of V-twin slim manageability and pukka off-road chassis – and although due for an overhaul in 2021 their latest 1290 Super Adventure, introduced in 2017, remains the litre-class benchmark for off-road ability. 

As with other KTMs, two versions are available – the road-biased S version (although still decent off-road) and the dirt-focussed R, complete with larger 21/18in off-road wire wheels, longer travel suspension, slimmer seat and lower screen. 

All of that, combined with the brutally potent 160bhp V-twin, class-leading electronics including off-road modes, slick TFT screen, LED headlight and more make this far and away the best off-road litre class adventure available and probably the one we’d take on any trans-world adventure. 

It’s main downside – price and dealer network – are largely irrelevant here and, besides, thanks to a current £2400-off KTM offer*, it’s actually presently temptingly cheap. Next year’s version, however, should be even better yet.

1. Yamaha Ténéré 700 (from £9147)

If price was no concern, the result may have been different – but not by much. Introduced in 2019 as a long awaited middleweight adventure bike, as based on the already brilliant MT07 budget roadster but with genuine off-road ability, the Ténéré 700 has proved a big hit for Yamaha – and with good reason. 

In short, it ticks every box going – including value – and is also a genuinely good off-roader. Think of it like a more basic and budget KTM 790 Adventure – but not by much. Its 72bhp twin is perky and tractable; it’s slim, light yet tall chassis makes it among the best of all adventure bikes off road (its suspensions and quality can’t quite match that of the more expensive KTM but for most it’s fine) and yet, being taller and roomier than its sibling it’s a pretty decent and versatile ‘full-sized’ road biased adventure bike, too. 

For just over £9K there’s not really anything it can’t do. Criticisms? The budget build shows in some places, such as flimsy switchgear, basic clocks and slightly crude suspension – but if you want a bit more bling go for the recently announced Rally Edition, at £10,447 instead. In every other respect though, it has it all.