If you’re reading this, then chances are you want to explore every corner of the globe on the biggest, baddest Adventure bikes available on the market today.
Kudos to you, dear reader, because there might be no better time than now to be a moto globetrotter. The ADV scene has seen huge growth recently, with several manufacturers jumping in the category and producing some fine motorcycles.
At the same time, the established players in the field have had to step up their game to compete. The result is a huge field of motorcycles, all aimed at taking you wherever you want to go.
Today, Lone Rider is going to take you through our pick of the top 5 adventure motorcycles of 2020. Now, picking only five bikes means we’ve left some models off the list, but we think you’ll agree all of these deserve to be included.
They are here in alphabetical order but don’t mistake this for a review of each bike. Rather, consider this a quick guide to get you up to speed on what each model offers (or doesn’t).
1. BMW R 1250 GS Adventure (starting at $20,195)
This list may be alphabetical, but starting things off with the grand-daddy of the adventure category only seems right. Many will argue the BMW GS created the adventure craze to begin with more than 30 years ago.
Fortunately for us, BMW hasn’t let up, and the Adventure version of the R 1250 GS is the one better suited for touring and getting dirty. Powered by BMW’s tried-and-true boxer engine. Its 1254cc displacement is bold in itself, but its Shiftcam variable valve timing gives you power anywhere you want it.
Gas stops will be few and far between since it has a huge 7.9-gallon fuel tank, and of course, being a BMW, the GS Adventure is loaded with tech like ride modes, electronic suspension, ABS, traction control, and even a 6.5-inch TFT display that’s so clear, colorful, and bright, you could watch a movie from it.
2. Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro (starting at $22,095)
Even Ducati, a brand most well known for its high-performance sportbikes, isn’t ignoring the adventure market. The Multistrada 1260 Enduro takes the popular Multistrada platform and raises it to new heights with Ducati’s ultra-versatile Skyhook semi-active suspension, tubeless spoked wheels, and a myriad of electronic rider aids like traction control, wheelie control, cornering ABS, riding modes, power modes, vehicle hold control, cornering lights, and much more.
It’s a lot of motorcycle to digest, and we haven’t even talked about the engine–Ducati’s Testastretta 1262cc V-Twin with DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing). Variable valve timing is a game-changer, providing ample power down low without sacrificing peak horsepower on top.
Ducati claims the bike makes 158 hp and 94 ft/lbs of torque - that should be enough to satisfy any power-hungry adventure rider!
3. Honda Africa Twin (starting at $14,399)
The Honda Africa Twin occupies a unique spot in the “big” ADV space. While many of the other players have gone with the “bigger is better” mantra and stuffed huge engines into their frames, when Honda re-introduced the Africa Twin in 2016 it came with a “small” 1000cc parallel twin.
For 2020, Honda has beefed up the engine a tiny bit to 1084cc thanks to a longer stroke, but has also thoroughly revamped the bike. It’s now slimmer, lighter, and comes with a Bosch IMU.
Available in both the standard and Adventure Sports varieties, you can also get the Africa Twin with either a traditional transmission or Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission, both gearboxes getting further updates as part of the 2020 refresh.
As far as adventure chops go, the AT gets 9.1 inches of suspension travel and the Adventure Sports gets electronic suspension.
There are six different ride modes, Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), adjustable engine braking, wheelie control, cornering ABS, and the ability to connect the bike to your iOS device to use Apple Carplay. Virtually everything is adjustable via the bright 6.5-inch touchscreen TFT display, too.
4. KTM 1290 Super Adventure R (starting at $18,599)
If we’re talking about the big boys of the adventure category, then it doesn’t get any bigger than the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R.
The 1290 in its name actually sells itself short, since its V-Twin engine comes in at a monstrous 1301cc.
KTM claims 160 hp and a crazy 103 ft/lbs of torque! It’s wrapped in KTM’s signature trellis frame, with long-travel 48mm, fully adjustable WP suspension.
Further off-road chops include tubeless, wire-spoked wheels measuring 21 inches in the front and 18 inches in the back, Brembo brakes, and a 6.1-gallon fuel tank ensuring you won’t have to worry about gas very often.
You can control everything on the bike, like the cornering ABS, traction control, ride modes (including a dedicated off-road mode), and a whole lot more from the 6.5-inch TFT display which is bright and colorful even in direct sunlight.
There’s so much to cover with the 1290 Super Adventure R we couldn’t possibly fit it all into this tiny space. But we think you get the idea.
5. Suzuki V-Strom 1050 (starting at $12,999)
Going from arguably the most extreme bike on this list (the KTM) to the most underrated, Suzuki’s V-Strom has quietly been flying under the radar for years with only minor updates along the way.
Nobody will mistake it for the class leaders like the BMW or KTM, but the ‘Strom has a loyal and robust following. We think this is because, as a whole, the V-Strom is a solid and capable motorcycle, even if no one individual component stands out above the rest.
Its appeal lies in its simplicity and cost. The least expensive bike on this list (and possibly in the category), its 1037cc V-Twin can trace its roots back to the TL1000 sportbike. For those keeping track, that’s 20 years ago. Even today, that engine remains a performer for its satisfying power and tractability.
That said, Suzuki’s latest version, the V-Strom 1050XT gets wire-spoked wheels, design inspiration from Suzuki’s DR line, ride-by-wire, cruise control, traction control, Drive Modes, an Easy Start System, IMU (new for 2020), combined brake system, Hill Hold Control, Slope Dependent Control, 43mm KYB suspension, and so much more.
So as you can see, even though the V-Strom is getting up there in years, it’s aging like a fine wine and adapting with the times.
We said it before and we’ll say it again: 2020 is an amazing time to be an adventure rider. With so many choices to pick from, there’s sure to be something that’s your flavor.
The wild thing is that there are some models we couldn’t fit into this list, like the Triumph Tiger or Yamaha Super Tenere. Of course, if you wanted to open Pandora’s box we could have also mentioned some mid-displacement models, too.
Nonetheless, we think you’ll agree the five models above are all excellent examples of the performance and diversity the big-bore adventure market provides.