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Saturday, December 27, 2014

What is an Adventure Bike?


When I was twenty-one I took my first cross country adventure trip. I had a 1965 305cc Honda Super Hawk, an army field jacket, a Boy Scout sleeping bag, and a plastic sheet to sleep under if it rained. I had a great time riding the TransCanadian Highway, but I have to admit that you would have to hold a gun to my head before I'd try that combination again.


At the opposite end of the spectrum is a BMW GSA. Selling for over $22,000 with options to make it a two wheeled Winnebago that will go around the world doing wheelies - if the BMW brochures are to be believed. Of course most owners will not take them farther than the nearest Starbucks and think busting the rear wheel loose on a gravel driveway is just so darn cool.

Somewhere between the wing nut and the leviathan is a sweet spot for real riding. However, let's stop and remember that adventure riding is all about exploration. The journey can be as important as the destination. Whatever gets you off your butt and down the road is the best bike in the world.


A couple of years ago a friend of mine graduated from college and was moving to San Francisco. He came to me and asked about the best way to get his bike to the left coast. I gave him a dope slap and told him to put his butt on the seat and head west. His bike was a Honda CB550 that was manufactured the year before he was born. To make a long story short, he rode that bike from Boston to Anchorage and then down to San Francisco. I'd say that 1976 CB550 qualifies as an adventure bike.


Lois Pryce rode a Yamaha XT225 from Anchorage to Ushuaia at the tip of Argentina. Solo! Not the largest person on the planet, a bigger bike would have been too much for her. Since any path you choose implies an occasional tip over, you need to be sure you can pick the bike up. In the mud. On a hill. In the rain!


So an adventure bike is any bike that will take you where you want to go and carry the stuff you want to take with you. And one you can pick up when it falls over. That's it!

All that other stuff like metal panniers and multiple lights with lens guards is just bling so you can look butch and keep the Chinese economy going.

Here's a list of what you really need:
  1. A reliable engine
  2. Reliable electrics
  3. Good wheel bearings and seals
  4. A big gas tank
  5. Something to hold your stuff
  6. Appropriate tires

That's it. Notice that engine size is not on the list. Electronic traction control is not mentioned. Neither is integrated engine control mapping or ABS.


Ted Simon went around the world on a 500cc Triumph T100.

One of the greatest motorcycle videos of all time - Buy It!!
I know some riders in India who think that a Royal Enfield 350 is a great bike.

In the next post I'll show you some examples of different bikes and discuss the pros and cons of each. Stay tuned.


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