Adventure Motorcycles

It was almost nine years ago, shortly after beginning my full-time RVing, that I first encountered what I later discovered was called an “Adventure” motorcycle. I might not have noticed it if not for the fact that it was a BMW that didn’t look like any BMW I was aware of. I had owned a BMW R90/6 when I was 20-ish in the early 1980s and hadn’t paid much attention to motorcycles since then, so I thought all BMWs still had opposing-cylinder “boxer” engines. This one had a parallel twin motor.

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My bike, which if memory serves looks much like the first adventure bike I noticed and wondered about almost nine years ago. That one was likely an F800GS or F650GS since the F700GS, the latter’s successor, hadn’t come out yet.

19A25093-1F51-4AE0-8BB9-70FB3EF52B50I looked up BMW motorcycles and saw that I was woefully behind the times. Adventure motorcycles were a thing—the best-selling kind of larger bike there was, in fact. This popularity exploded after the 2004 made-for-TV series, “Long Way Round”, a documentary featuring two British actors on an overland journey from London to New York going the “long way”, via Eastern Europe, Mongolia, Siberia, Alaska, and Canada (among others).

Fascinating as the idea was, I had just started full-time RVing and such an endeavor was out of the question, even if I wanted to tour ‘round the world… which I didn’t, never have, and still don’t. I’ve never had any particular urge to travel to foreign lands. I can spend the rest of my life exploring just the western US and still have too many places I’d like to visit. Especially since my travel style is to stay in each locale for sufficient time to feel like I know it rather than pausing overnight then racing to the next stopping point the next day. Weeks, if possible, not hours. As a campground host I’ve had months at a time in wonderful sites and I’m not tired of them—I’ll probably revisit some on my motorcycle tour!

Fast-forward eight years of RVing and suddenly—and sadly due to my cat’s passing—I’m in a position where getting a motorcycle and touring for an extended time was feasible. I started looking into “Adventure” motorcycles again, this time seriously. I liked the idea of a bike that could more than handle every terrain that my body and skill could handle. That’s a low bar since I’m hardly a street speedster, nor an off-road maniac. And I knew what my limits were due to seven years & 22k miles using a Kawasaki KLX250S dual sport motorcycle for shopping runs and riding rough unpaved roads to trailheads for day hikes. My travels would always be along fairly safe routes since I’d be solo. Breaking down or getting injured in an out-of-the-way and cellular-free place is a recipe for ending my life early. No fun at all, that.

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The term “Adventure Motorcycling” was probably originated by Chris Scott with his “Adventure Motorcycling Handbook”. Published in the 1990s and now in its 8th edition, it was one of the first things purchased by the British actors before their “Long Way ‘Round” expedition. Since then it has become a motorcycle marketing classification similar to “sport”, “enduro”, “cruiser”, or “touring” motorcycle labels. The aspirational image they want to convey is that of someone with way too much testosterone popping wheelies across Sahara sand dunes… and such.

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A lot of motorcyclists totally buy into that image and scoff at the “adventure” ability of more toned-down adventure-classed bikes, calling them merely “adventure styled” with a sneer. The twisting of the original meaning is so bad that Chris Scott now uses “travel bike” instead, though his handbook continues to carry the “adventure” moniker. And it’s not “adventuring” anymore, it’s “overlanding”. This helps convey the true purpose of the bikes—the ability to competently get from here to there over many kinds of terrain—and tries to avoid the distorted idea of a street-capable motorcycle that can ride twisty paved mountain roads like a supersport bike; cruise the superslabs all day long, rock stable even in high crosswinds; and also rush through rocky Himalayan passes, Mongolian desert, or Central American wetlands while catching air under the tires like a enduro bike in a professional race. Oh, and carry a passenger and 200 lbs of luggage. It’s no wonder they’re always complaining about some new bike, saying it would be perfect if only this and that would change.

I wish I had discovered Chris Scott’s website early on in my bike decision-making process. It would have saved me a lot of time! He even has positive long-term reviews of the two adventure motorcycles I ended up choosing between: a Honda NC750X and a BMW F700GS. It was quite satisfying to read someone so knowledgeable and experienced write the same conclusions I came to after my amateurish studies and decision. I admit I was swayed to the BMW over the more practical Honda due to sentimental good feelings from my previous R90/6 ownership… and that BMW adventure motorcycle that I saw nearly nine years ago. It must have been slumbering in my subconscious, influencing my desires. I didn’t consciously remember it until these past few weeks.

Anyway, no regrets so far with my Travel Motorcycle and it’s less than three weeks till I hit the road on my 7-month US Western States overlanding jaunt. Everything is purchased and mostly tested, though I haven’t yet tried to load it all on the bike as if ready-to-roll. I’m starting to get a little excited.

This is somewhat of a throwaway blog post—it’s raining outside for the second day and I was at loose ends, tired of reading or watching videos. I normally try to structure my writing better, cut the fat, get to a point with less wordage and digression. Sorry ‘bout that. I do hope it wasn’t a complete waste of your time and thanks for reading!

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