With Adventure Riding on seemingly an endless rise in popularity, more riders than ever are looking to swap out their road bike for something that can head to the horizon by any means. So what are some of the best bikes to do just that?
Here are 5 of the Best (in our opinion) to get you started on your long road of motorcycling enjoyment.
1. Suzuki DR-Z400
Kicking things off is an old favourite of many a Kiwi Rider, the Suzuki DR-Z400. While the DR-Z might look like it will be more at home at a local trail ride, the 400cc thumper has a proven go-anywhere setup from factory with plenty of scope for modification.
Offered in two models, the DR-Z400E rolls on a set of 21-18 inch wheels while the DR-Z400SM (for super moto) rolls on more road oriented 17 inch wheels at both ends. Mechanically both bikes are very similar with the SM variant using a smaller carburettor and larger front dust than the Enduro model.
With plenty of aftermarket parts including protection parts and vastly larger fuel tanks the DR-Z is a great lightweight option to start exploring on.
2. BMW G 310 GS
Perhaps the most road-oriented bike to feature on this list, the G 310 GS is the entry point into BMW's GS range of bikes.
Equipped with a 19-inch front wheel and powered by a 313cc single-cylinder engine the little GS is surprisingly capable. With an easy to live with - and surprisingly comfortable - seat with a height of 835mm it is also one of the most accessible bikes on our list.
Out of the box the G 310 GS is equipped with a decent luggage rack as well, making it even easier to load up and hit the road less travelled.
While the GS does have a couple of weaknesses in the form of small foot pegs and vulnerable bodywork and levers these are easily rectified in the aftermarket for a reasonably affordable price.
3. Yamaha WR250R
Yamaha’s road-legal WR250R isn’t as aggressive as it’s enduro racing siblings in the WR range, but that means it is better suited for long journeys and time on the pavement. With respectable service intervals and the most powerful engine in the 250cc road-legal enduro class the WR250R stands ahead of the rest if the pack in terms of performance, but it’s because of its chassis that you really want to look at the WR250R.
With the only aluminium frame in the class the WR250R is significantly lighter than its competitors and when combined with adjustable USD forks and a decent mono shock makes for a dynamic little package. Weaknesses to sort out are limited, with fuel range easily sorted with an aftermarket fuel tank and rider protection via an aftermarket windscreen.
4. Kawasaki KLR650
It’s one if the longest serving bikes in the Kiwi motor community with over 30 years since it was first set loose, but that doesn’t mean the KLR650 isn’t a great starting point fir adventure riding.
With a simply huge 22-litre fuel tank and plenty of bodywork to keep the elements at bay the 2008-2019 KLR models are well set up for long distance riding from factory. If gravel roads and the road less travelled are what you’re looking for the KLR could be the ride for you.
There are of course downsides to the big Kawasaki, however, with that big tank and all that bodywork weighing the bike down and giving the bike a weight of 196kg fully fuelled.
The bike also lacks protection for the levers and bodywork, and the foot pegs lack grip off-road.
With a massive list of aftermarket parts you can fix most of the weaknesses of the KLR and with a price on entry as low as $3500 for shard example it is very good value.
5. Honda CRF250L / CRF250L Rally
Yep we'll admit we're a little biased here for Honda's entry-level adventurer – we own one after all - but the little Honda opens up some great adventures in a very cool looking package.
With its CRF450 Rally inspired bodywork the CRF250L Rally looks like a far more powerful bike than it really is. With 24hp at the crank it is not a fire breathing monster, but at 157kg has a decent enough power-to-weight ratio to really have some fun.
With a very long 12,000km oil change interval and proven reliability from its 249cc single-cylinder engine the CRF250L Rally can go the distance.
It’s far from perfect. The suspension in particular needs work for riders over 70kg and the factory hand guards do little. Sort these out and add some reputable tyres and the little Honda can really hang with the big boys.