While driving around town or driving on the highway, you might see a motorbike that looks like a cross between a street motorbike and something destined to participate in the Dakar rally. It will feature high suspension, a bulbous fuel tank and a compact windshield that looks ready for miles of bad weather. There will be some semi-knotty tires and probably some neatly packed storage cases near the rear fender. In other words, it looks like an adventure bike.
The adventure bike category, long dominated by BMW with its GS series motorcycles, grows in popularity as bikers seek new ways to explore different places, whether on the highway or on dirt roads. . According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, sales of dual-use motorcycles (approved bikes that can go off-road) increased 22% between 2019 and 2020.
Harley-Davidson capitalized on this trend by launching its Pan America adventure motorcycle in 2021, giving a unique American take on the category long dominated by European brands.
Let’s explore what makes adventure bikes so fun and functional, and why they continue to grow in popularity.
The ability to go anywhere
Riding a motorcycle is all about fun. Being on the road and feeling the wind as the miles go by is a pastime enjoyed by many. With the engine in the open and the cylinders spinning right in front of you, it’s a more visceral mechanical experience than driving a car.
But when the freeway ends, on most motorcycles you will have to turn around and go back. Those sticky tires that work so well on asphalt are of little use on gravel roads or rocky trails. But if you’re on an adventure motorcycle, the ride continues wherever you want, as its bespoke suspension and all-purpose tires eat away at whatever awaits you.
Take a look at the motorcycles used in the famous Dakar rally and you will see where today’s adventure motorcycle designs draw their inspiration. Using aerodynamic fairings, large fuel tanks and a suspension reminiscent of a motocross motorcycle, Dakar motorcycles are designed to travel long, grueling roads in a test of both human and mechanical endurance.
And all the same, the everyday motorcyclist can plan their own adventure, whether on the road or on the track, and be assured that their adventure motorcycle will be able to cope with whatever they encounter.
Adventure bikes provide long-distance comfort
As cool as most motorcycles today are, a lot of them lack comfort over long distances. That cafe racer or sports bike that looks so gorgeous in photos or buzzes on the road isn’t a great companion for all day rides. It’s a trade-off between less comfort in exchange for style and performance and a trade-off that many riders are willing to make.
But when it comes to a long day in the saddle or a multi-day ride through different states and terrains, it’s hard to beat an adventure motorcycle. Much like the riders who endure the Paris Dakar rally, a motorcyclist on an adventure motorcycle is well equipped to go mile after mile, whatever the conditions.
Do you encounter rough pavement? No problem. Need to drive long distances without refueling? With the large reservoir you can go there hour after hour before taking a break. Need to pack clothes and essentials for a long trip? Sleek luggage that attaches to the bike is up to the challenge.
All in all, today’s adventure bikes are versatile machines that will take a rider wherever they want to go.
They have a functional design
When you analyze the design of an adventure motorcycle, every element is about function. From the aerodynamic fairing that blocks the wind to the upright riding position that reduces fatigue, adventure motorcycles are designed to cover any road for long distances.
If you look at other types of bikes, like cruisers or standards, tradeoffs are made in the name of style which can increase visual appeal but end up hurting performance. The bare, fairy-less look of a standard might look cool on the boulevard, but driving on the freeway isn’t very comfortable. Or those miles of chrome on a cruiser can glow in the sun but add untold extra weight that undermines performance.
The vehicle pictured above, the Honda Africa Twin, has been in production for over 30 years. The first Africa Twin was a replica of the four-time Paris Dakar winner NXR 750. Although years have passed and different versions have appeared, the focus has always been on a purely functional motorcycle derived from rallying.
The Honda Africa Twin is a good example of why adventure motorcycles are so appealing to riders who need a reliable machine to take them anywhere.
The Miata was designed for maximum engagement at all times, and that includes the small numbers of horses associated with it.
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