As RIDE Adventures is in the business of setting people up with motorcycle rentals and motorcycle tours, riders are constantly hitting us with the question of "which is the best adventure bike?" There are probably dozens, if not hundreds of blog posts and magazine articles revolving around this question already, but many of them are conspicuously promoting a specific motorcycle. We won't do that here.
So if you're asking "which is the best adventure bike," we're going to ask you "which country or countries are you going to be riding through?" Are you going to ride in the U.S.? Bolivia? Colombia? Argentina? Pakistan? Do you want to stay on the pavement, or get off-road? Do you strive to have as little contact with locals as possible, or do you cherish the opportunity to interact with the people in your path? How tall are you? Are you carrying camping gear or just a credit card? I could literally fill up the rest of this article with questions, but you get the point...there are TONS of factors to consider. From this rider’s perspective, at least these 3 highlights make up the best adventure bike:
No Limitations – This is saying that the best adventure bike is the one that won’t limit where you can go or what you can do. For example, some riders might think they’re destined to only ride in the pavement, but what your wants and needs change? As a new rider, non-paved routes might be too intimidating or uninteresting to some. Keep in mind though, the more you ride, the better a rider you’ll become, and then curiosity to ‘what else is out there’ will creep into play. – Plus, being a motorcycle rider instantly connects you with other people…other riders. We all tend to congregate naturally, and invitations to join up and ride together are therefore quite frequent. If the bike you’re on limits you from participating in some group rides though, you might not be able to accept that invitation to hit the trails (suspension travel and ground clearance needed) or head out into remote territories (fuel and carrying capacity needed.)
Inevitable Encounters – Sure, if you’re headed out across the plains of Mongolia, it’s probably a good idea to start with a new-ish bike that is least likely to have mechanical issues. (Although, with the modern day bikes quickly becoming electrical nightmares, dependability is not always ensured with new bikes these days.) On the other hand, if your travel plans will generally keep you within reach of society and motorcycle assistance, sometimes the most fantastic experiences are realized when you’re in need, and someone helps you out. Don’t forget, unless you’re cranking on the throttle through snobbish communities with a ridiculous “LOUD PIPES SAVE LIVES” sticker on your bike, people are generally very helpful and kind to lone motorcycle riders. They want to help you. That being said, buying a used bike that maybe has a few gremlins within might force you to get creative, accept a helping hand, and in turn, enjoy unexpected encounters with amazing new friends. After all, the word “Adventure” is defined as “An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” If your trip is absolutely perfect and organized from Point A to Point B, and you never have to solve a problem or overcome a challenge…well, it might be fun overall, but sometimes “predictability” is equated with “boredom.”
The Bike That Fits You! – Just because other riders are mounting these beastly 500+ lb adventure bikes that cast shadows that compete with aircraft carriers doesn't mean you need to as well. If you’re of below average height and girth, choose a bike accordingly. There’s nothing cool about needing to pull up next to curb just to comfortably put your foot down, and it’s even less cool to have to pick up your bike in front of onlookers because it’s too big for you to handle. Most 650cc bikes are plenty powerful and fast, such that trying to keep up with these 100+hp monsters might only be an issue in severe altitude and desert style Rally Raid racing. How often are you doing either? Your comfort, enjoyment, and ultimately riding safety stem largely from how well your bike fits you. Think about that and shop accordingly: Your ideal adventure bike will fit you, not the other way around.
While we might all have our own definitions of what “Adventure Riding” is all about, this rider/writer is suggesting that it’s exploration and new experiences…not how fast you get there or how cool you look doing so. If your definition is similar or the same, hopefully this will set the tone for helping you choose “The Best Adventure Bike.”