Top 10 current big adventure bikes 1000cc and over

Or the top 10 best bikes for tall riders

THEY are the SUVs of the two-wheeled world and range from urban warriors to desert trekkers but the cult of the adventure bike, dual-sport or big traile is showing no sign of dying down.

Not long ago there wasn’t a lot of choice out there, just the BMW GS and a handful of others, but now the class has grown so much that we’re going to split it into two segments – covering bigger bikes of 1000cc or more in this top 10 and focussing on the smaller, sub-1000cc adventure bikes at a later date.

There’s bound to be debate on the bikes we’ve included, and on the ones we’ve missed out. Should the Kawasaki Versys 1000 be here? Maybe, but it really lacks any semblance of off-road intentions, and the same applies to the stunning BMW S1000 XR, which might be listed as an adventure bike on BMW’s website but has no intention of flexing its 170mph capabilities away from the tarmac (and the firm’s brochure calls it a sports tourer, not an adventure bike).

Each heading is a link to a review of the machine in question.

10: Moto Guzzi Stelvio

The Stelvio is oft ignored in the adventure bike class, but it’s an unfair oversight since it ticks virtually all the boxes that historically made the BMW GS the class leader. It’s got air-cooled simplicity, a shaft drive, ABS brakes and a brand name that inspires a remarkable amount of loyalty from its customers. The downsides include dealers that are relatively scarce and a slightly old-fashioned image. It takes a bit of bravery to lay down £11,635 on a Guzzi, but there are plenty of owners who seem to be pleased that they did it.

9: Aprilia Caponord 1200

With a 125hp water-cooled V-twin the Caponord – available in various forms to suit different purposes – doesn’t lack performance and has gained some interesting technology like the ADD adaptive damping system and ATC traction control. Downers include a fairly hefty set of price tags (£14,135 on the road for the 1200 Rally) that put it up against some of the most impressive machines in the class.

8: Suzuki V-Strom 1000

The new V-Strom 1000 marked Suzuki’s late leap into the latest adventure bike boom, long after the old model with the same name had been allowed to wither. But despite good looks and a heritage that includes the DR Big, arguably the daddy of all adventure bikes, the V-Strom hasn’t taken the class by storm. However, while you might not be blown away by any one particular aspect of the bike, its combination of abilities and relatively low price (starting from £9,799 plus on-the-road charges) could be enough to make an attractive package.

7: Honda Crosstourer

While we wait for the new Africa Twin the Crosstourer is the closest Honda comes to a full-on adventure bike, even though the existence of the word ‘tourer’ in its name reveals that it’s more about long distance road use than off-road ability. The lovely V4 engine and tech including an optional DCT transmission are bonuses, along with the shaft drive, but it’s a heavy beast at 275kg and that has to count against it in this list.

6: Triumph Tiger Explorer/XC

Arguably the most high-tech bike in Triumph’s range, the Explorer follows the same recipe as the BMW GS but with a Triumph twist in the form of its 1200 three-cylinder engine. That gives it plenty of grunt even if the weight is rather on high side (267kg), which like the Crosstourer means it’s best to stick to tarmac surfaces rather than venture onto the dirt.

5: Yamaha Super Ténéré

The Super Ténéré was designed specifically to take on the sales success of the R1200GS but, in the UK at least, it hasn’t managed to come close to the BMW. Which is something of a shame, since it’s a pretty impressive machine that set a new standard for adventure bike tech when it was launched five years ago. What’s more, it’s starting to look cheap compared to its rivals with a base price of £10,999 these days compared to £13,620 when it was launched back in 2010. Originally, its price was the main reason not to recommend it. Now it’s become the main reason to buy one.

4: KTM 1050 Adventure/1190 Adventure

The same price as the latest Super Ténéré will also get you onto the bottom of the KTM V-twin Adventure range, the 1050 Adventure. Not long ago, its 94hp would have made it monstrous for a dual sport bike. Now it’s an entry-level big adventure bike, but one that should be dismissed. It takes another £3,000 to step up to the 1190 Adventure, but the power leap is bigger still, taking you to 148hp. In a 217kg bike, that’s a power-to-weight ratio to shame superbikes from a few years ago, and since it’s a KTM there’s no question about its off-road ability either. What’s even more amazing is the fact that there’s still an even more powerful option to be had…

3: Ducati Multistrada 1200

The 2015 Multistrada, the first bike to get Ducati’s new variable valve timing tech, gets 160hp compared to its predecessor’s already-impressive 150hp, and represents a leap forward despite the fact that the older version was still more than competitive when production ended. As a road-going ‘adventure’ bike it’s probably the number one choice on the market, particularly in ‘S’ form if you can stretch to it. Off road? Well, maybe, and Ducati has certainly suggested it has some ability on dirt, but would you really do it? For crossing the Sahara it wouldn’t be anywhere near our machine of choice, even if it might be theoretically capable of achieving it.

2: BMW R1200GS/ R1200GS Adventure

Yes, you knew it was coming, and it was always guaranteed to be near the top of the list. The combination of being the go-to bike for the class and one of the best options on the market means that BMW’s GS is Europe’s best-selling motorcycle, as well as regularly topping the charts in the UK. The latest iteration is a tour-de-force when it comes to tech, with some of the best electronics on the market, and retains GS touchstones like the shaft drive. The Adventure version is pricier but arguably worth it, having evolved into a truly stand-alone model, with a bigger tank and enough options to push the cost past £17,000 if you want to.

1: KTM 1290 Super Adventure

It might have been possible to roll the new 1290 Super Adventure in with the other two KTM machines on this list, but while it has the same basic chassis and shares much of its engine, the ‘Super’ version gains that name thanks to more capacity, more power (160hp, matching the new Multistrada) and a bigger fuel tank. As well as one of the most powerful bikes on this list, it’s one of the lightest, at 249kg. It's probably one of the most capable off-road and one of the fastest in a straight line. It’s even got plenty of toys, up to and including cornering ABS, traction control and a heated seat. This year the BMW R1200GS really shouldn’t be the default choice.

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