A horse is only as good as its rider. The same works for adventure motorcycles as well. It doesn’t take much to be able to ride a huge and heavy adventure motorcycle like a BMW R1200 GS or a KTM 1290 Super Adventure on tarmac. In fact, these heavy motorcycles are a joy to ride on tarmac due to their weight. Like in the case of heavy cruisers their weight keeps the bike stable at high speeds on highways. However, it does take a tremendous amount of skill to be able to ride these motorcycles fully loaded in the dirt, gravel, sand and muck. Even if you do have the required skill you will drop the bike. Maybe you will drop it a lesser number of times than an unskilled rider. But you will go down. And the more you go down your adventure will start turning into a nightmare.
I’ve read quite a few books and watched videos of people riding their huge adventure bikes around the world. Some have needed to unpack their luggage before attempting to lift their bikes up after a fall. That’s just ridiculous. A fully fueled up BMW R1200 GSA weighs more than 250 kgs. I leave it up to you to figure out the weight after adding luggage, spares, camping and cooking gear and other stuff.
Clearly something has gone horribly wrong here. As the years have gone by manufacturers have made their adventure motorcycles larger, heavier and quite simply unmanageable. They have engaged in a pissing contest trying to outdo each other by bumping up the numbers on the spec sheets without giving a thought to the capabilities and needs of the people who will be buying and riding these motorcycles, fully loaded over large distances, sometimes all by themselves.
It’s one thing to drop your motorcycle on a trail ride along with a bunch of crazy friends hell bent on doing some epic shit that day. It’s quite another to go down when you are touring on a vacation. In the first case, you can afford to break stuff on your bike or get injured not too seriously. You can limp your way back home at the end of the trail ride. But if the same thing happens while touring, that could be the end of your adventure.
In my opinion, the ideal adventure motorcycle should have an engine capacity of around 800 cc and weigh not more than 150 kgs. A large fuel capacity would be desirable, but not absolutely necessary. You could strap extra fuel to your luggage only when you need to. The main thing is you should be able to lift the motorcycle on your own with all its luggage without getting completely wiped out.
The KTM 690 Enduro R matches these requirements perfectly. Weighing just 140 kgs its as light as a Duke 390 but with the body of an off road biased motorcycle. Quite a few people have been kitting out the 690 Enduro with a larger tank, wider seat, luggage and other adventure stuff, riding it across continents and having a ball of a time doing it. Unfortunately KTM appears to have discontinued the model for next year. But the company is allegedly working on a 790 twin cylinder platform which will first appear as a Duke street fighter and then as an adventure motorcycle.
Truth be told, I will gladly trade in my Triumph Tiger 800 XRx and Hero Impulse for something like this. One motorcycle that I can (a) cruise on highways over long distances, (b) monkey around on a trail for a day, and (c) go explore the world for weeks or months. That would be the ideal adventure motorcycle for me. I’m waiting…
Pic courtesy The Gear Dude