Five Adventure Motorcycles That Need To Make A Comeback!


In the world of motorcycling, it's not uncommon popular models eventually disappear from a manufacturer's lineup after time. Often this is due to them being superseded by a newer model that does a similar job, but sometimes it is due to a bike no longer having a place in the market or the manufacturer’s lineup.

After Kawasaki resurrected the KLR650, it got us thinking about certain models we think need to also make a comeback and just how their respective manufacturers might just bring them back.

 

Honda Transalp

It’s been a while since the Honda Transalp was a part of the Honda lineup. Superseded by the CB500X, the Transalp left the lineup as a 700cc V-twin in 2012 but with persistent rumours of a smaller capacity Africa Twin styled machine being on the way we think Honda could be primed to revive the nameplate.


While we don’t think the CB500X is going anywhere, the Transalp could fit in the modern Honda lineup as a more capable, larger and more technologically advanced parallel-twin middleweight to slot in the Honda lineup between the CB500X and CRF1100L Africa Twin. Those rumours suggest Honda has an 800 class parallel-twin is in the works, which would bring Honda in line with the hotly contested European machines such as the KTM 890 Adventure and new Triumph Tiger 900 if it was backed with the latest tech, or Yamaha’s Tenere 700 if they made it more affordable rather than tech-heavy. But why bring back the Transalp name instead of badging the new machine as an Africa Twin?

We think the Transalp name has enough credibility to stand alone, but more importantly, we think Honda shouldn’t dilute the Africa Twin name. It’s the halo product in their adventure lineup after all.


Kawasaki KLE500

It’s no secret Kawasaki had a problem on its hands with the demise of the long-lived second-generation KLR650. Not only were they losing a bike that has a cult-like following, but they were also left without a model in the top-selling adventure class.

While the KLR650 saw a surprising revival as a 2022 model, we can’t help but think the Kawasaki lineup could benefit from a return of the KLE500 which in theory would slide into the current crop of 500-650 ADV bikes nicely.

Sure, the KLE300 Versys-X technically follows the path of the KLE500, but with its low ground clearance and 19/17-inch wheels is a far more road-oriented machine than the genuinely ADV capable 500.


With the adventure market screaming for a lightweight bike (unicorn) with a 21-18 inch wheelset and a circa 500cc engine, the time is ripe for Kawasaki to bring the KLE500 back in a modernised form complete with EFI, switchable ABS and a sub-200kg weight.


Suzuki DR650 / DR-Z400E

While in some parts of the world Suzuki's long-lived DR and DR-Z range are still staples of the lightweight adventure scene, here in NZ both models can no longer be found new in dealerships thanks to our ABS laws requiring all new bikes added to the fleet to have the technology.


That's not the only black mark against the old Suzuki dual sports either, with the bikes still relying on ancient carburettor technology to mix their fuel to the detriment of both fuel economy and emissions by modern standards.


A long-time top seller in the New Zealand market, the Suzuki DR650 has long been crying out for an update that consists of more than “bold new graphics”.

Kawasaki has proven that a 30-year-old thumper can be brought back from the grave and be a hit at the same time with the Generation 3 KLR650, so surely Suzuki is capable of something similar with its DR and DR-Z models.


Ok, Suzuki has the extra challenge of getting the DR650's air-cooled single to comply with emissions standards but with Moto Guzzi and Harley-Davidson still rocking air-cooled engines, this isn't an impossibility.

Maybe while they're at it Suzuki could do what even Kawasaki couldn’t and add a 6th gear into the mix as well…


BMW R80G/S


Oh, it is clearly the missed opportunity in the current BMW Motorrad range, a genuine modern classic interpretation of the iconic R80G/S or the follow-up R100 GS.


While BMW does have a modern classic G/S in the RnineT Urban G/S, the key to that bike's ability lies within its name. There's no doubt that the Urban G/S leans heavily into the Urban side of its name rather than into its adventurous heritage. With short travel suspension and low ground clearance, the RnineT Urban G/S like its Scrambler stablemate are more of a styling package than a true adventurer like its iconic namesake.

With heritage motorcycles still a strong segment it is interesting that BMW’s current offerings are cosmetic packages at best.

Going by spy photos, BMW does appear to be developing a new naked boxer enduro or adventure bike, but whether this makes it into production is yet to be seen.



Yamaha WR250R

While Yamaha is basking in the huge success that is the Tenere 700, recently the tuning fork stopped production of the lighter and even more affordable WR250R with no signs of a follow-up.


The long time king of the 250ccc dual sport class, the WR250R was head and shoulders above its Japanese competition with not only the most powerful 250ccc single-cylinder engine in the class but also class-leading service intervals and adjustable suspension at both ends.


In the time since it was announced that the WR250R was being discontinued, we've seen both Kawasaki and Honda deliver larger capacity takes on their old 250cc offerings to high acclaim - although the Kawasaki KLX300 isn't imported to New Zealand due to its lack of ABS.


The current favourite in the class is Honda's CRF300, which while still retaining the same woefully under sprung suspension settings of its predecessors has become a hit thanks to its modern styling and revised 286cc engine with improved gearing to the 250L it replaced.


If Yamaha were to return to the segment with the same basic principles as the Honda a WR300R would blow the competition out of the park if it once again featured an alloy frame and fully adjustable suspension out of the box.