Finding the best minimalist adventure bike is a perennial source of debate and argument amongst the adventure motorcycling fraternity. Deciding what bike to buy is also one of the most common reasons to research online for help, advice and information. We’ve put together a list of the most important factors to consider whilst choosing your perfect bike, and a guide on some of the best and most popular minimalist adventure motorcycles out there.
Minimalist. We’ll consider bikes up to around 590cc as ‘minimalist’. These bikes will offer few comforts or concessions to long distances on the tarmac. They’ll generally be enduro focussed and likely to have engines around 400cc.
Very minimalist bikes appeal to the true overland traveller as they can be easily lifted and moved over obstacles, return great MPG and are generally easy to repair.
Deciding Factors. There are some pretty key requirements for a minimalist adventure motorcycle; here are the top ones.
Weight. Lighter bikes are easier to ride, particularly off road in the wet, and easier to lift (or manhandle onto a vehicle if need be). There’s also a trade off with a great MPG return – useful for long distances between fill ups and for saving money.
Luggage. Because the engines are smaller there is a need to pack light and scrutinise the kit taken much more carefully. The bikes are often designed for a solo rider with no equipment so care must be taken to keep the overall weight on the frame and luggage points to a minimum.
Here’s some of our recommended lightweight adventure motorcycles for minimalist overland travel.
The definitive lightweight adventure motorcycle of the nineties. Still out there as the cheap option. Production stopped in 1999 and the model was superseded by the DRZ400.
• Simple engine and ease of access for maintenance
• Light weight makes for good off road ability
• Plenty of spares available worldwide.
• Getting a bit long in the tooth – may be high mileage and heavily used.
• Narrow seat and limited wind protection
As used by Austin Vince in his Mondo Enduro adventure.
This bike set the baseline for minimalist motorcycle adventure. But has it retained it’s credibility today?
The 398cc single in the DRZ400 is well balanced for a mix of off road ability and some on road power. With a few refinements it can be made to carry gear and rider in comfort.
• Robust, reliable and easy to work on
• Plentiful spares available
• Limited road power
• Tank range of 100 miles on standard tank.
A great all rounder with a bias towards enthusiastic off road use. Virtually indestructible with a great reputation for reliability these bikes have a loyal following and deservedly so. With some modifications they can be made more capable for long distance but not all will appreciate the lack of comfort or refinement.
Just released from CCM in the UK. Review en route.
Very lightweight but capable off road.
Cruises around 55-60mph fully laden but makes up for this with good off road ability.