In the thrilling world of motorcycle adventure, one pivotal question consistently emerges: Can any bike be an adventure bike? Well, the short answer is yes: any motorcycle can be an adventure bike with some modifications, of course. True adventure motorcycling, which encompasses both on- and off-road capabilities, demands an upright riding position, typically achieved with taller, wider handlebars, as well as essential attributes like a comfortable saddle for racking up long miles at a time, long-travel adjustable suspensions, generous ground clearance (typically 200mm), appropriate fender design, and dual-sport tires to manage every kind of terrain. The adjustable windscreens shield you from the wind, rain, and debris.
Granted, when you have a motorcycle — any street-mannered bike with just enough engine power for you and your cargo — you can ride out and have yourself an adventure. But there is a catch! When that shortcut you saw on your GPS turns out to be unpaved midway (thanks, Karen Jacobsen – “the GPS Girl”) and you cannot head back, you suddenly realize you have the wrong tool for the job.
Your suspension is stiff, your tires are too slick and rounded to provide any meaningful traction, and if your bike has a fancy computer, you will be flicking through modes and not find an off-road setting. At best, you will have a rain mode to keep your horses calm. But whether it be the laid-back domination of a cruiser or the crouched stance of a sport bike or cafe racer, you will feel every bump go through your spine. Or, flip over on hitting even the slightest obstacles, and any intense braking is a sure low-side or highside (not pretty on gravel!).
As Gary Inman eloquently highlights in his instrumental eBook ‘How to Build a Motorcycle: A Nut-and-Bolt Guide to Customizing Your Bike:’
“The journey’s success and quality intertwin with motorcycle preparation, mirroring life’s readiness, where every bolt tightened symbolizes the diligence needed to secure life’s adventure”
In essence, not every bike is ready for adventure riding, and it’s crucial to select a motorcycle tailored to your intended journey or prepare your current bike for the thrill ahead:
Essential Motorcycle Accessories for Adventure Riding
Scroll to the right to find out where to buy, discover the best prices, and see if you might be lucky enough to get a discount from the sellers.
|Product Name||Category||Measurement||Get Yours|
|RAM Mounts X-Grip Handlebar U-Bolt Base||Best Motorcycle GPS/Phone Mount||0.50" to 1.25" Clamps, Max Width 4.5”, Max Depth 0.875’’||RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|Rox 2" Pivot Risers for 1 1/8" Handlebars||Best Handlebar Risers||2" Rise x 1 1/8" Stem Clamp/Handlebar||RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|ZLAntastic Kickstand Pad||Best Motorcycle Kickstand Pad||Universal Fit||RevZilla | J&P Cycles | CycleGear|
|Oxford Heaterz Premium Adventure Heated Grips||Best Heated Grips||Standard: 5.19", Min Cut: 4.80", Grip: 1.35"||RevZilla | Amazon|
|Pro Taper Evo Adventure Handlebars 1-1/8"||Best Handlebars||1-1/8 Inches||RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|Michelin Anakee Adventure Tires||Best Tires||120/70 R17 58V||RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|BikeMaster Performance Motorcycle Tube||Best Tube||TR-4/TR-6 (8mm Valve)||RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|Dowco Guardian Weatherall Plus Motorcycle Cover||Best Cover||MD, LG, XL, 2XL, 3XL||RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
|Motul Chain Care Kit||Best Chain Lube||16 Fluid Ounces||RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon|
Now, let’s delve into the specifics of preparing your bike:
8 Tips to Getting Your Motorcycle Ready for Adventure
Standard, enduro, and dual sport motorcycles offer a neutral to upright riding posture and can be easily adapted for on- and off-road riding without altering much of their frame geometries. Also, considering that most lightweight ADVs and trail bikes are fitted with budget suspensions and tires, I have found — through my journey with motorcycles dating back to the early 1970s — it’s sometimes convenient to adapt the bike you have, one whose weight you are already accustomed to, for long adventures.
No miracle transformations—just simple mods and accessories that make the biggest difference.
1. Consider Upgrading to an Aftermarket Seat
A comfortable adventure seat offers better padding and ergonomic support for long rides, a feature lacking in most street bikes and even some ADVs. For instance, I find the saddle on the Honda CRF300L Rally, the cheapest ADV motorcycle in Honda’s lineup, rather uncomfortable for longer rides despite it being pricier ($6,149 compared to $5,695 for the base model), than BMW’s G 310 GS with a plush 100 mile+ seat.
2. Get Your Bike More Aggressive Off-Road Oriented Tires
The keyword is dual-sport tires when hunting down the perfect pair to ready your bike for the muddy, sandy, or loose gravel sections you must cross on your quest. The brand is important, but watch out for knobby tires with a good balance of on- and off-road features. Michelin makes a respectable pair, and BikeMaster has ADV tubes to accompany your dual sport or enduro tires, which have somehow refused to evolve to the more reliable tubeless technology.
3. Install Proper Engine Skid Plates and Radiator Guards
Things can get a little rocky off the beaten path, and so, you will be doing yourself and your bike a great service by installing a sturdy shield on its underbelly to guard your vital drivetrain components from rocks, roots, and other hazards that might crack the casing. I also prefer to replace the inexpensive plastic OEM parts with proper radiator guards such as this one by R&G Racing, which is made specifically for the capable KTM 1090 / 1190 Adventure / R.
4. Handguards: Better To Have Them And Not Need Them
Riding off-road, it’s not a matter of if you’ll fall but when. Your wrists will thank you if your handlebar crashes into rocks, roots, and other obstacles, but you escape unscathed. Plus, when you are not avoiding tree branches, a good pair of handguards doubles as your armor against strong chilly winds and wetness that can ruin your entire trip. Keeping your hands warm and dry is a priority for grip and comfort, enhancing safe riding.
5. Add Soft or Hard Pannier Luggage Sets
There are two schools of thought on soft or hard luggage compartments. It’s indisputable that you need to bring a little piece of home and your garage to live off your saddle. While there are advantages to each style, I feel it would be an injustice to the flickable chassis of the legendary Yamaha Tenere 700 to add a rigid luggage rack and panniers.
Heck, even the Africa Twin loses its dirt bike aura when I bring the missus and a few items for the weekend escapade. A GS, almost any GS, on the other hand, has that low boxer twin to its advantage and will remain controllable hauling a kitchenette back there.
6. Consider Aftermarket Handlebars and Foot Pegs
Riding stance makes or breaks the trip in terms of bike comfort on the road. And this, in turn, depends on the handlebar and footpeg sets you choose to use. Stock options are often weak and limited with a crossbar to reinforce the steel tubes, which gets in the way of reading your instrument cluster and mounting your GoPro. ProTaper EVO makes 1-1/8″ tapering to 7/8″ handlebar sets and 8” of straight section, allowing you to mount more controls for your ADV and higher rise for standing on the bike when needed.
Similarly, footpegs are a cost and weight-reduction area for manufacturers, and your bike will often come with narrower, less grippy foot rests. ADV-oriented pegs are wide with sizable “teeth” to sink into the boot’s sole, and you securely anchor on the motorcycle as you attack that challenging rocky rut hill climb.
7. A Tweak Or Perhaps Overhaul Of The Bikes Suspension
Depending on your choice of bike, your own weight, plus the luggage, and the road condition where you are going to spend the most time riding, you might want to consider minor to major suspension upgrades. Chasing sweepers on the weekend and every day riding on the street may favor stiffer shocks, but venturing off-road, they can be a real pain.
A front suspension with a thickness of 43 to 48 mm and a travel range of 7 to 9 inches (175 to 225 mm) is sufficient for most ADVs. But again, it depends on your bike’s fully loaded weight and how much air you will be grabbing. At the rear, you should aim for at least 7 inches of travel, rebound damping, preload, and adjustable spring rate for the different load scenarios. Other technologies like progressive linkage and flattened leverage curve can further boost off-road performance.
8. Other Accessories For The Bike
There is always that small addition you can make to the rig to make it that much safer to venture off-road. Whether it be a simple phone/GPS mount, USB port charger, or heated grips for Alaskan weather, or powerful LED auxiliary lights to improve your visibility under low-light conditions, these items are cheap and available but could make a world of difference out there.
And remember the windshield, which provides wind protection, weather resistance, and improved aerodynamics to enhance your comfort and safety during long rides.
But what if you’re pressed for time but still want to up your game? Read on!
Top 3 Best Adventure Ready Bikes Today
For many of us, converting or upgrading a motorcycle for adventure-style riding is simply too much work, and the costs will eventually pile up. So, there is always the option of getting a motorcycle that was solely made for this purpose. This way, you will have fewer modifications to worry about and a bike you can count on to carry you from point A to wherever and back. Here are my top three picks by weight category:
1. Honda CRF300L: Best Lightweight and Beginner-Friendly
Adventure Performance Specs:
|Engine Type||286cc Liquid-Cooled, 25º Single-Cylinder 4-Stroke|
|Suspension||Showa 43mm Inverted Fork and Showa Pro-Link Shock|
|Ground Clearance||285 mm (11.2 in)|
|Tires||Front: IRC Trails GP-21F (80/100x21); Rear: IRC Trails GP-22R (120/80x18)|
|Brakes||Front: 256mm Disc, Two-Piston Caliper; Rear: 220mm Disc, Single-Piston Caliper|
|Seat Height||880 mm (34.6 in)|
|Wet Weight||313 lbs. (142 kg)|
Normally, the CRF300L would be out of its depth here, going up against the likes of the techy BMW G 310 GS or even the rugged Himalayan at 411 cc, both of which take on wilder adventures demeanor. But the CRF300L has been getting a lot of media attention lately with the phenomenal Dutch Woman solo traveler Noraly Schoenmaker (standing at 5’6″ and weighing 58 kg), famously known as ‘Itchy Boots,’ taking it from Patagonia to Alaska and then to Africa!
And suddenly, the Honda’s baby adventure bike is now a rockstar, facing off with the purebred ADV segment’s baby giants as well some of its own kind like Team Greens handy KLX 300, which is just an oomph more powerful.
The CRF300L: Best Entry-Level Adventure
As a lightweight and approachable adventure motorcycle (with a seat height of 34.7 inches), Honda’s smallest CRF used to be a 250, and they decided to add an extra 36 cc and call it 300 (yeah, the math beats me, too). To their credit, they revised the timing and camshaft lift mechanism and even added a slipper clutch.
And whichever way you look at it, the Honda CRF300L is a great entry-level bike to start your ADV journey, even if you have never spent a night away from home on a motorcycle trip.
Value vs. Cost: CRF300L vs. Baby Shark GS
But I feel like you don’t get what you pay for because it costs roughly $500 more than the Baby Shark GS; the suspension enjoys long travel but the rear shock by Showa can feel soft-ish and cheap right off the bat, the seat not its greatest highlight and the handlebars come with an ugly crossbar (implies they are weak), which obscures instruments cluster and mounting your cameras. Perhaps why you should consider aftermarket Pro Taper SE Handlebars!
2. Yamaha Tenere 700: Best Middleweight
Adventure Performance Specs:
Engine Type 689cc Liquid-Cooled, Parallel-Twin CP2
Suspension KYB 43mm Upside Down Forks and Shock
Ground Clearance 240 mm (9.4 in)
Tires Front: 90/90R21; Rear: 150/70R18 Pirelli® Scorpion®
Handlebars 1 1/8" Oversize Bars
Brakes Front: 282mm; Rear: 245mm, Hydraulic Discs with ABS
Seat Height 875 mm (34.4 in)
Wet Weight 449.7 lbs. (204 kg)
Only the greatest motorcycle ever made! Well, at least for off-road aficionados who like to shred the dirt and enjoy the great power-to-weight ratio of the Tenere with its indomitable 689cc. Crossplane crankshaft parallel twin CP2 engine and flickable chassis built to relax into natural power slides through trail corners effortlessly.
Middleweight Dominance in the ADV World
Because we are in the ADV discussing, the Tenere 700 qualifies as a middleweight (412 lbs.) compared to the 560 lbs. Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro. Notably, the T7 is still nimbler than the BMW F 850 GS, which can be a bit fiddly despite the low-set boxer twin. But perhaps the Tenere magic lies in the way it has been marketed as an aggressive piece of equipment to attack any kind of terrain with an angry demeanor.
The Heart of the Tenere: The CP2 Engine
I would say the most interesting part of a Tenere is the CP2 engine, which Yamaha “puts in everything.” This feat of engineering is slightly lighter (115 lbs.) than say the KLR 650 ‘s thumper (125 lbs.) thanks to its reduced parts count, but makes a whopping 74 hp and 50 ft.-lb. of torque to the unkillable KLR’s measly 40 hp and 39.1 ft.-lb. of torque.
Then, you have the light chassis, which is only 39 lbs., counting the non-detachable rear subframe that brings the center of mass low and forward despite the tall seat height (34.65 in) and thoughtful ground clearance (9.4 in.).
Exploring Alternatives in the Middleweight Segment
Of course, not every avid adventurer seeks the thrills of hardcore enduro, and so, the sportier KTM 890 Adventure can be a weapon of choice for spirited on- and off-road riding. Now, for beginners looking to get into this middleweight section but feel the Tenere is too much, I would recommend, with caution, something like the Suzuki V-Strom 650 or Kawasaki Versys 650.
The two are as close to a full-blown ADV as any beginner should dare to venture. And these are relatively tall bikes (32.9 in) and (33.3 in), respectively, with the power that can be intoxicating too. Be careful!
3. Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin: Best Heavyweight
Adventure Performance Specs:
Engine Type 1,084cc Parallel-Twin
Handlebars 1 1/8" Tapering to 7/8"
Suspension 45mm Inverted Showa Telescopic Fork/ Pro-Link® System
Brakes Front: 310mm Hydraulic Disc, 4-Piston Calipers; Rear: 256mm Hydraulic Disc, 2-Piston Caliper, ABS Optional
Ground Clearance 250 mm (9.8 in)
Seat Height 850 mm (33.5 in)
Tires Front: 90/90-21; Rear: 150/70R-18 Dunlop Trailmax
Wet Weight 498.3 lbs. (226 kg) - 520.3 lbs. (236 kg) DCT
It’s a CRF once more! Thanks to her years of experience and leadership at the Baja 1000 and the Dakar Rally, The Big Red once again asserts her dominance over the ADV market with a tall and agile beast capable of covering a lot of ground in a single day of riding. The Honda XRV750, a Dakar Rally winner from the 1980s, was its ancestor. Even though it stayed true to its off-road roots, it is still heavy, tipping the scale at 551 lbs., which puts it in the same range with BMW R 1250 GS Adventure and KTM 1290 Super Adventure R – and this is before we add you and the luggage.
Speaking of luggage, the Adventure Sports version of the AT features a secret 1.3-liter storage compartment at the left and rear tail section – great for bringing your chain care kit to keep your freedom chain healthy. The bigger tank (6.37 gallons up from 4.97) gives you more range, one inch more cushion in the front forks and rear shock (9.9/9.5 inches front/rear), and 1.3-inch taller handlebars with greater pullback give you more saddle hours before you call quits.
Brawny and Balanced
The AT’s modest 100 hp, 4-stroke, 8-valve parallel twin makes up for its lack of ponies with pure grunt as it puts the Dunlop Trailmax tires (complete with tubes) to the test against the gravel. But when compared to the menacingly gruff Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro, the AT’s power delivery can be characterized as well-mannered.
Higher up the rpm range, the AT transmission has overdrive sixth gear, built-in for cruising at highway speeds without burning a hole through your wallet for gas money.
The “Big Dirt Bike” Essence
But what I love the most about the AT is its “big dirt bike” aura, which probably has to do with the 270° crank offset that makes it feel and behave like its V-twin grandfather in off-road mode. This essentially means that unlike the rapidly yanking T-plane on the Tiger, the Africa Twin engine simulates the power pulses of a V-twin or thumper, giving your rubber some time to relax and regain traction.
Michael’s Summary and Conclusion
Can any bike be an adventure bike? Most motorcycles can be adventure bikes, so the first question one must ask oneself is what expectations he or she has for the motorcycle, how challenging the off-road terrain will be on which they intend to ride, and for how many hours and over what distance they plan to ride. Once this is known, it’s easier to answer the question of which motorcycle can serve as an adventure bike.
For me, an adventure bike must be relatively lightweight, but many riders would disagree. There are some quite large adventure touring bikes that weigh more than the street bike I have. For adventures, I like to have a motorcycle light enough that if it falls on top of me, I can easily get it off alone without any assistance. So, that eliminates most motorcycles over 400 cc. I prefer 250 cc, which would be small for many riders.
In Vietnam, I own a Kawasaki KLX 250 that I use as an adventure bike, even though this bike is a traditional enduro. I’ve just adapted it by having some more street-friendly tires and a few other additions like lighting, but it’s basically a stock Kawasaki KLX 250. For me and the roads I’m riding in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, that’s perfect, and I wouldn’t want anything bigger or more street-oriented for adventure.
In Ukraine, I bought a Tekken 250, which is sort of like an inexpensive Chinese version of a KTM 250 adventure bike. My Ukraine off-road riding is not like in Vietnam. It’s more like dirt and gravel roads than single tracks, where I’m going through streams and more enduro-type riding. Due to the war, I had several other considerations like fuel economy, and to be on the safe side, I moved my two small emergency fuel tanks from my KLX 250 to my Tekken 250 so that I would have greater fuel capacity.
The riding position of the Tekken 250 is lower than the Kawasaki, and while it’s perfectly suitable for dirt and gravel roads and smooth paths, it is not a good choice for moderate to severe off-road riding. On the street, though, it is more comfortable than the Kawasaki since it has a softer ride and a wider, softer seat. However, the distance to the ground is not too great, unlike many off-road motorcycles.
Price was also a significant consideration because I only spend a few months in Ukraine each year, and due to the military conflict, I didn’t feel comfortable having an expensive motorcycle there. It’s one thing to lose a $2,500 motorcycle; it’s another thing to lose a $7,500 motorcycle.
For me, Tekken is perfect for Ukraine, but the key point is that you have to know your own planned riding style and not buy your bike based on someone else’s ideas. Another rider may want to ride across the country or even across Africa, but that doesn’t mean their choice would be a good fit for you.
I would say the only universal traits that an adventure bike must have are an upright riding position, decent ground clearance, not being too heavy, and tires that are suitable for dirt and gravel roads, or at least, some tires suitable for such conditions. If you have those aspects covered, there are literally thousands of adventures you can have anywhere on a motorcycle.
I've diligently categorized my motorcycle gear recommendations into all available categories, with the aim of providing you with a comprehensive analysis that showcases the absolute best options for all your needs. These items are the culmination of in-depth research, extensive testing, and personal use throughout my vast experience of 50+ years in the world of motorcycling. Besides being a passionate rider, I've held leadership positions and offered consultancy services to reputable companies in over 25 countries. To See Top Picks and the Best Prices & Places to Buy: Click Here!
FAQs — I Have The Answers!
Q: Can Any Bike Be an Adventure Bike?
Yes, every motorcycle has the potential to become an adventure bike and serve a wide range of purposes, from casual weekend trail rides to epic global journeys.
Q: What Makes A Bike An Adventure Bike?
An adventure bike is defined by its incorporation of key features borrowed from dirt bikes, primarily characterized by tall, long-travel suspension.
Q: What Is The Difference Between A Normal Bike And An Adventure Bike?
An adventure bikes is designed for a combination of on-road and off-road use with an emphasis on long-distance touring comfort, while a normal bike is primarily intended for on-road riding.
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Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations: