What makes an adventure bike an adventure bike? Is it the styling? The performance? The tech? Well, the short answer is, it’s all these things. Adventure bikes have gone a long way from where they were a couple of years ago. The sub-segment of motorcycling which involves long distance touring with a dash of off-roading has branched out such that it has become accessible to riders of all sorts of experience levels. However, the basic formula of the good old adventure bike has, more or less, remained the same. Here are a few key features which define an adventure bike.
Most if not all adventure bikes will come out of the factory equipped for some light off-road riding. While other bikes such as the KTM 390 Adventure, will come slightly more decked out than the likes of the Honda CB500X, there’s no denying that adventure riding sometimes takes us beyond the confines of paved roads. With that in mind, manufacturers have fitted their adventure bikes with long-travel suspension systems to add ground clearance, as well as off-road capability into the equation.
Tires play an important role when it comes to riding both on and off-road. As such, more often than not, the tires you will find on your adventure bike will be a compromise between safe road riding and basic off-road capability. Now, the fact that the tires found on adventure bikes are meant to fulfill two purposes means that they aren’t exactly stellar in either—think of it as a jack of all trades, master of nothing kind of scenario. That being said, swapping out to more off-road specific tires, or conversely, road-centric tires, depending on your intended use, isn’t an uncommon practice.
More often than not, your thirst for adventure will require you to slug it out for kilometers on end on the highway. If you’re accustomed to riding naked bikes, then you’re well aware of the physical burden and fatigue riding for extended periods of time on the highway can bestow upon you. That said, most adventure bikes worth their salt come with adjustable windscreens and fairings which are designed not only to look burly and aggressive, but to channel wind and unnecessary vibrations away from the rider, providing a relaxing and comfortable ride.
Going on adventures sometimes means you’ll be away from home for a couple of days. Now, riding a motorcycle is a very involved sport, and you’re going to want to keep your body as lightweight and unrestricted as possible. That means minimizing the use of heavy backpacks, and making use of your motorcycle in order to carry your luggage and necessary supplies. Now, nearly all motorcycle manufacturers offer their adventure bikes in a special edition trim level which comes decked out with a bolt-on luggage compartment. However, if you find yourself a bit tight on budget, you can always opt for one of the many aftermarket luggage options available. These options range from generic strap-on type luggage, to fancy custom-built luggage racks and rigid aluminum cases.
These days, nearly all big bikes come equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS). While this feature is extremely useful on road, it can get a little intrusive and disconcerting when it comes to riding in off-road terrain. Sometimes, you just need to lock the rear wheel in order to negotiate tight turns or emergency stops off-road, and ABS just doesn’t let you do that. Just a couple of years ago, switchable ABS was found only on high-end, performance focused machines. These days, this feature is becoming more and more ubiquitous, even among entry-level adventure tourers.