Top 10s

Top 10 Used Adventure Motorcycles

These big trail tools are bitching fun and practical too. Visordown lists the best used big capacity adventure style motorcycles

Buying an adventure bike

Off road use
Despite these bikes’ weight, some owners do take them off road both here and overseas, especially BMWs. It shouldn’t do any major harm but check for dings and bearings damaged from too much jet washing.

A few bikes actually have been on huge trips and may be loaded with the specialist kit – and scars – to prove it.

Buying Tips

Unlike other market sectors, the right extras can add value. Quality luggage is the most desirable but decent, functional parts from good suppliers do to, especially on BMWs. Be aware of factory options on BMWs.

Private sales
Can be a good option as these machines tend to get thrashed, crashed and nicked less than sports bikes. A warranty can be handy on BMWs which have a few issues that can be costly.

High miles
They can handle it. Engines should be fine, check suspension and chassis bushes.

10. Cagiva Navigator

10. Cagiva Navigator (2000+)

Engine: 996cc, 8-valve, injected, V-twin
Power: 99bhp
Torque: 70 lb/ft
Weight: 210kg
Top Speed: 135mph
Used prices: £1,750 - £5,000

A great bike never imported in large enough numbers to make an impact on the UK market. It’s more upright sports bike than off road continent crosser. The TL engine seems much peppier than in rivals like the V-Strom and the handling on road tyres and comparatively firm suspension’s tight and tidy.  Due to scarcity and concerns about parts backup and Cagiva in general, prices are usefully low. Not enough machines have been sold to identify problems but some had issues with batteries leaking; swopping to sealed ones solved this. A decent bike for playing but you’d be brave to take one round the world. Overall, a bit of a lottery.

Click to read Cagiva Navigator 1000 reviews

09. Aprilia Caponord

09. Aprilia ETV1000 Caponord (2001+)

Engine: 998cc, 8-valve, injected, V-twin
Power: 98bhp
Torque: 71 lb/ft
Weight: 215kg
Top speed: 140mph
Used prices: £2,200 - £6,000

A machine of highs and lows. The good stuff? Superb comfort, awesome grunty and powerful engine, neat handling, low seat, slipper clutch, excellent headlights. Not so good? Common electrical issues, unadjustable and bouncy forks plus a few finish issues including rusty spoke nipples which can be hard to remove. Never a popular machine with the UK bike buying public and indecently cheap when used as a result. It’s a very worthwhile bike but you’ll need to get on an owner’s forum and pre-empt the electrical gremlins. An update in 2003 saw a subtly different fairing, better front suspension and minor tweaks. Rare Rally Raid version available in 2003.

Click to read Cagiva Caponord review

08. Suzuki V-Strom

08. Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom (2002-2009)

Engine: 996cc, 8-valve, injected, V-twin
Power: 98bhp
Torque: 75 lb/ft
Weight: 207kg
Top speed: 140mph
Used prices: £2,200 - £5,750

Close but no cigar. The ex-TL engine’s great and the Strom’s lighter than most rivals. But it’s freaky looking and the handling gets squidgy at speed, more so with Suzuki’s genuine panniers (get Givi instead). The upshot is it’s cheap and for the price you get a lot of motorbike. Overall it’s reliable but early (2002) bikes suffered juddery clutches which needed a new basket. 2006 onwards bikes had modified mapping which made the throttle response smoother. Finish is poor with corrosion first appearing on brake discs. Grand Touring (2006-’07) version had centre stand, heated grips and Suzuki genuine luggage.

Click to read Suzuki DL 1000 V-Strom reviews

07. Buell XB12X Ulysses

07. Buell XB12X Ulysses (2006+)

Engine: 1,203cc, 4-valve, injected, V-twin
Power: 103bhp
Torque: 84 lb/ft
Weight: 193kg
Top speed: 135mph
Used prices: £3,500 - £6,500

Buell add long suspension and very slightly knobbly tyres to a high tech streetfighter with an antique engine and they call it an adventure bike. Amazingly it works well on the road – but not off it. On the Tarmac it’ll whup many rival machines. Reliability is far from perfect. But The Ulysses does seem to have fewer problems than other XB Buells – and owners love them anyway. Servicing can be expensive with 5,000/10,000 mile work costing £300/£700 at main dealers but fuel economy’s good and purchase price low on the used market. So astonishingly ugly that it makes a Varadero look beautiful and other road-users will openly laugh at you.

Click to read Buell XB12X Ulysses reviews

06. Yamaha TDM900

06. Yamaha TDM900 (2002+)

Engine: 897cc, 10-valve, injected, parallel twin
Power: 86bhp
Torque: 66 lb/ft
Weight: 190kg
Top speed: 135mph
Used prices: £2,100 - £6,100

A sensible choice. It’s a hybrid, not a real adventure bike but for many people that’s a better option. It’s been slowly refined since appearing in 1991 and while the latest bike’s not the most exciting thing out there, it’s still fun, incredibly competent, reliable and cheap to buy and run. Later models with improved forks springs handle the best and make sure tyres are at the correct pressures (36/42psi) or it can feel a bit wobbly. Fork springs updated for 2003, fork springs changed again for 2004 along with YISS immobiliser, and larger front brake master cylinder, ABS an option from 2005, black engine, white clocks, extra catalysis and other tweaks for 2007.

Click to read Yamaha TDM 900 reviews

05. Ducati Multistrada

05. Ducati Multistrada 1000/1100 (2003+)

Engine: 992cc, 4-valve, injected, V-twin
Power: 86bhp
Torque: 65 lb/ft
Weight: 195kg
Top speed: 130mph
Used prices: £2,600 - £6,500

It’s only got very slightly knobbly tyres and is really a road bike. But it’s a damn fine one. Quality suspension, set up for the road, powerful brakes and wheels that’ll take the latest grippy street rubber make it a potent real world road package. The engine’s low tech two valve per cylinder and air-cooled but it’s got oodles of torque and does the job well. Running costs can be high. Bikes from mid 2007 onwards need less service work and less frequently (every 7,500 rather than every 6,000 miles) so make more sense. 2005 on bikes improved, capacity increased to 1,100cc in 2007. High spec S-model even better.

Click to read Ducati Multistrada reviews

04. BMW R1150GS

04. BMW R1150GS (1999-2005)

Engine: 1,130cc, 8-valve, injected, flat twin
Power: 85bhp
Torque: 71 lb/ft 
Weight: 229kg
Top speed: 125mph
Used prices: £7,500 - £2,300

The bike that really began the GS effect. Although little different to its 1,100cc predecessor the 1150 became massively popular. It’s supremely comfortable and capable but it also handles far better than such a big, ungainly looking thing should. Loads rack up massive mileages, some on exotic trips and others just commuting. Problems are well documented but it’s still an incredibly reliable bike – more so than the 1200 say some. Clutches are costly to replace and oil seals can fail, final drive and ABS can give problems so check high milers carefully. Adventure model (from 2002) has longer suspension, optional lower first gear and bigger fuel tank.

Click to read BMW R1150GS reviews.

03. Honda Varadero

03. Honda XL1000V Varadero (1999+)

Engine: 996cc, 8-valve, carb’d, V-twin
Power: 92bhp
Torque: 72 lb/ft
Weight: 235kg
Top speed: 130mph
Used prices: £2,200 - £6,800

It looks like an adventure bike but the Varadero’s more of a stylish all rounder / tourer. Most of these bikes will have a dabble on the dirt but not the colossal Honda. It’s great on the Tarmac though – although heavy. Fuel consumption’s poor. Later (2003 on) bikes got a six speed box, injection and are slightly more frugal – but are heavier again at a portly 235kg. They also have an adjustable screen and other minor mods. 2001 bikes got HISS and modified rear suspension. It’s incredibly reliable and does everything well. The ex-Firestorm engine can have minor camchain issus at high miles but it’s rare. Offensively ugly, mind.

Click to read Honda Varadero reviews

02. KTM 990 Adventure

02. KTM 990 Adventure (2003+)

Engine: 999cc, 8-valve, injected, v-twin
Power: 98bhp
Torque: 70 lb/ft
Weight: 199kg
Top speed: 140mph
Used prices: £3,500 - £8,500

Best in class? It’s a close call. The BMW’s the comfier, easier option and the KTM’s more hard edged. There’s no denying it’s a superb bike and a genuine round the world machine, not a dressed up imitation or parts bin lash up. Throttle response varies from machine to machine and some riders find some bikes too instant. There are mods to improve it but they don’t always work. Early models blew the head gasket on cylinder one, but that was fixed. S-models longer travel suspension and fancy paint, R models more performance and no ABS. 950cc had carbs, 999cc not injection until 2006.

Click to read KTM 990 Adventure reviews

01. BMW R1200GS

01. BMW R1200GS (2004+)

Engine: 1,170cc, 8-valve, injected, flat twin
Power: 98bhp
Torque: 85ftlb
Weight: 199kg
Top speed: 140mph
Used prices: £4,500 - £9,500

The ubiquitous big GS. It’s everywhere from TV screens to a street corner near you thinks to massive sales success. And it really is that good. Its ace is handling – it’s capable of staying with sports bikes on twisty roads and it’s much less soft and baggy than most adventure bikes, part in thanks to innovative suspension. Adventure version is bigger, butcher and more expensive. Arguably better suited to overland trips but it’s heavier too. Prices are high and they’re not trouble free. Gearbox problems are not unheard off and the CAN bus wiring and immobiliser antenna ring may play up.

Click to read BMW R1200GS reviews

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