2016 Adventure Bike Buyers Guide

2016 Adventure Dual-Sport Bike Buyer's Guide

Article Index


The world of adventure motorcycling covers a wide spectrum of bike types. One of many important factors to consider when selecting a bike for ADV riding is whether it is designed for mainly street or dirt use. Understanding what modifications (if any) need to be done to suit your needs beforehand can go a long way towards picking the right bike, saving both time and money. Although there are obviously many other good new and used models on the market, ADVMoto has selected eight motorcycles in four size categories we believe are a good representation of the ADV motorcycle spectrum. 

• Small Bikes

HondaCRF250L

• Honda CRF250L

This is the easiest bike to ride in our line-up with a low seat height of 34.7-inches and a feather light clutch. It’s well balanced in slow, tight situations. Aggressively styled after its CRF motocross brethren (the name is the only thing they share), the CRF250L in its stock form is actually suited more for street commuting rather than off-road excursions. The little CRF is quickly becoming one of the most popular entry-level ADV bikes because of its user-friendliness, low price, and Honda reliability.

The CRF250L’s fuel economy makes driving a Prius to save gas look like a joke. Honda says to expect upwards of 77mpg while riders are reporting about 65mpg on average, making this the most fuel efficient bike in our line-up. The CRF seems happy revving from stop sign to stoplight, making cakewalk out of city commuting. However, the freeway is where the little CRF really struggles. The bike feels wound-out at highway speeds and doesn’t offer much acceleration for passing.

If taken off road, suspension is the major drawback on the CRF250L. It bottoms out easily, even with a 150 lb rider. It will do fine cruising down dirt and gravel roads, but don’t expect it to stay composed after catching some air. It’s geared too high for any serious backwoods riding. Race-Tech has solutions to make this bike a trail worthy machine. MSRP: $4,999.00 Powersports.Honda.com Similar Bikes to consider: Kawasaki KLX250S, Suzuki DR200, Yamaha XT250

PROS

CONS

 Inexpensive  Low power-to-weight ratio
 Easy to ride  Stock suspension is too soft
 Phenomenal fuel economy


YamahaWR250

• Yamaha WR250R

The WR250R is a high-tech dual-sport that offers the most versatility in the small bike segment. A tall seat height of 36.6-inches automatically disqualifies some riders. Fully adjustable suspension and an eager motor make performance a top priority for this bike.

The motor on this bike loves to rev and keeping up with traffic is easy. The WR is top heavy and isn’t as well balanced as the Honda CRF250L requiring a bit more skill when weaving through parking lots. The on/off throttle transitions can be abrupt. Like the CRF, the highway isn’t where this bike wants to be. The stock seat is hard and uncomfortable on long rides and there is no wind protection.

The WR250R is the most dirt worthy factory street-legal, Japanese 250cc dual-sport on the market. In stock form it’s ready to hit the trails. Take the time to adjust the suspension for your weight, gear it down a little bit and you’ll be surprised at how capable the bike is in single track loops. MSRP: $6,609.00 YamahaMotorsports.com Similar bikes to consider: Suzuki DRZ400S

PROS

CONS

 Long valve service intervals (26,000 miles)  Quirky fuel injection
 High-tech motor  Uncomfortable, and tall stock seat
 Good stock suspension  Expensive for a 250cc

• Medium Bikes

Vstrom650

• Suzuki V-Strom 650

The chassis and engine of the V-Strom 650 are derived from Suzuki’s SV650, a very popular sportbike. This bike excels as a street bike offering ample wind protection and a punchy motor. The 19-inch front wheel gives it some ability to travel off road, although tire selection is key. A cult following has proven its reliability and for the money, this is the most balanced street bike in our line-up. Revised in 2015, the older models are just as good although they come with cast wheels.

The Wee-Strom is fun to ride especially through twisty mountain roads. It handles great and its V-twin torque shoots it out of corners. The seat is comfortable for the rider and passenger. Adjustable windscreens do a fair job managing wind and a giant 5.3-gallon gas tank is convenient for the long distance commutes.

The V-Strom feels heavy in the dirt, especially towards the top of the bike. The suspension is too plush for anything other than cruising gravel and smoother dirt roads. Spoked wheels on the new XT model are more rugged and shave weight. The exhaust and oil filter are low and expose so a skid plate is essential. If taken off-road, consider filling the gas tank only half-way to help keep the weight down. MSRP: $8,499.00 SuzukiCycles.com Similar bikes to consider: Kawasaki Versys 650, Honda NC700X

PROS

CONS

 Fun and capable on the road  Barely dirt worthy in stock form
 Ample torque from V-twin motor  A face only a mother could love
 Comfortable seating and ergonomics

HondaXR650

• Honda XR650L

This used to be the dual-sport standard. Racing heritage, beefy long travel suspension, reliable, easy to maintenance motor, the XR650L is technologically the oldest bike in this lineup but still able to hang with the young guns. If you’re on a tight budget this might be the best way to get a good bang for your buck. The current model year model is the exact same bike they produced back in 1993. Valve services are simple and regular checks can be done in 15 minutes. Many pre-owned bikes already have the necessary mods—larger gas tank, comfy seat, higher handlebars, etc. This bike is a prime example of Honda reliability.

The XR650L is a gas guzzler and the small 2.8 gal. tank doesn’t help, resulting in frequent gas stops. The seat is wider and plusher than most dirt bikes. The seat to foot peg distance is short, cramping-up taller riders. Ironically, because it takes a taller person to mount the 37-inch high seat. The big XR will sustain highway speeds for extended periods of time, but the lack of wind protection creates helmet buffeting and the rider takes a windblast to the chest.

Off road the XR650L feels light and nimble for its size, and many bikes in this category weigh 100 lbs. more. Riding-up on the gas tank in a corner and roosting around a berm feels natural on this bike, a feeling that’s missed on bigger bulkier ADV bikes. Great throttle response and eleven inches of suspension travel help the big XR hold its own in the trails against newer, younger, prettier models. MSRP: $6,690.00 Powersports.Honda.com Similar bikes to consider: Suzuki DR650S, Kawasaki KLR650, KTM 690 Enduro R, Husqvarna 701 Enduro

PROS

CONS

 Highly off-road capable  Cramped ergonomics
 Super reliable air-cooled engine  Looks old because it is old
 Supple stock suspension  Still carbureted

 

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