Adventure Touring Bikes: Jack of All Trades but Master of None?


Mark’s Versys 650, being all adventurous!

The genre of “adventure touring” has experienced huge gains in popularity over the past several years. This category of motorcycles was once occupied almost exclusively by the BMW GS and Triumph Tiger, but is now seeing competition from almost all mainstream manufacturers (aside from Harley-Davidson), with more and more people choosing to take the road less traveled, so to speak.

I’ve heard a snippet of motorcycle lore that goes something like this: “think back to when you were a kid, sliding down a hill on your toboggan. Did you go down feet first? You belong on a cruiser. Head first? You belong on a sportbike.” Hmmmm. What about adventure touring riders? They must have been the kids that packed a lunch and hiked off to some far-flung hill that no one else even knew about.

What exactly is an adventure touring bike? The definition of “adventure touring motorcycle” (henceforth referred to as ADV bike) is hard to nail down. The way I see it, an ADV bike has the following characteristics:

  • High, dirt bike style handlebars
  • Footpegs  underneath rider, dirt bike-style
  • Comfortable enough for all-day travel
  • Powerful enough for long highway rides
  • Wind protection
  • Capability of carrying luggage…lots of it
  • Long-travel suspension for off-pavement use
  • Abundance of OEM and aftermarket accessories to make your bike do what you need it to do

I completely understand why ADV bikes have become so popular. As the SUV’s of the motorcycle world, they’re comfortable, versatile machines, and make no apologies for putting function over form. They don’t have shiny chrome or stylish plastics. These bikes were meant to be ridden hard and put away wet.


Newfoundland is so beautiful it’s a shame to have to stay on the pavement

In a previous post, I wrote about my dilemma in looking for a touring bike. It had to be comfortable, stable on the highway, good wind protection, waterproof luggage, good performance, and I had to be able to touch the ground on it. I bit the bullet last week and in an almost spur-of-the-moment decision I traveled to the other side of the island and bought a bike: 2009 Suzuki Vstrom 650. Yes, my very own ADV bike!


In Steady Brook, heading out for my first ride on my Wee

It being September, I haven’t had the opportunity to do any long rides on the Vstrom yet, but I’ve commuted on it daily and it’s an absolute joy to ride. The seating position allows me to get a great view of the road ahead,  and there’s plenty of low end torque for quick starts at intersections. Its SV650 heritage makes it sporty enough to be lots of fun, but in a utilitarian package that won’t win any beauty contests. But then again, neither will I. 😉

So, it’s time to answer the question I posed in the title of this post. My Vstrom (or “Wee” as the forum people are apt to calling it) does most things well. It has performance, but you won’t get around a track as well as you would on a GSX-R. It’s comfortable for touring, but not as comfortable as a Goldwing. It’s great around town, but a naked sportbike like the Triumph Street Triple is more fun. It’s a wonderful commuter, but a scooter will get you much better fuel mileage. You can keep going after the pavement ends, but it’s no dirt bike either.

So, I think it’s fair to call ADV bikes “jack of all trades but master of none”. It’s impossible to design a bike that will do everything without flaw, but ADV bikes really do have the edge when it comes to real-world practicality.

I really can’t think of another motorcycle readily available in Newfoundland that would suit me any better than a middleweight ADV bike. I’m really looking forward to exploring this island on a whole new level.


Posted on September 15, 2013, in Behind the Visor and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Congrats Krista! Nice Bike! I did post your request for a trailer up over at RtheR, but got no bites … there are more than a few WeeStrom riders over there, but the website has since been hacked and has been down for several days …
    Enjoy your new Bike … see you down the Road!

    • Thanks so much for posting that for me…fortunately we got a trailer after. With the rain that day it would NOT have been a fun ride across the island! Loving the bike so far, I was a bit hesitant because of the taller seat, but the bike is so well-balanced that I can manage quite well 😀

  2. Congratulations! I LOVE that picture of the coast, and you have a very nice looking Wee. Looking forward to more images – enjoy!

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