Category Archives: Adventure Motorcycles: 900cc +

Heavyweight Adventure Motorcycles over 900cc

The Best Heavyweight Adventure Touring Motorcycles

This is the rumble in the jungle; in the heavyweight arena there are only big, torquey, bulky and powerful machines to take on the ultimate overlanding adventure.

If you’re looking for the best machine for that epic ride and need to take a LOT of gear, ride two up or want  top end power for tarmac cruising at high speeds then these are the top bikes to consider.


900cc and upwards is the widely accepted engine cubic centimetre headmark to qualify for entry into the heavy weights. This kind of engine comes with a few different cylinder configurations but often twin, opposed or triple cylindered engines feature.

Overall Weight

Bike all up weights are mostly north of 200kg wet. Predictably off road handling and overall speeds are affected by this kind of drag. Tyre choices count. This is a significant mass to pick up after an ‘off’ and advanced adventure riders will practice techniques to lift the bikes using leverage from the bike’s handlebars and their quadriceps. A solo lift from loose, wet or deep mud may be impossible and require 2 + riders in the team or a block and tackle. These are serious considerations if you’re venturing off road alone on a remote – treeless – expedition.


Power is the reward for the weight and size here; you’ll get best-in-class torque stats, very high top speeds and comfortable fast cruising on tarmac. There’s a convincing argument that these heavyweight bikes are the ultimate dual sport machine as they can keep up with anything on road and have a good off road potential. Whether you buy into the argument or not depends on your perspective on what ‘Adventure Riding’ means to you and what capabilities you find personally important. Essentially you’re trading ability on dirt for road manners.


Slower than the rest, heavy; particularly if you’re laden down with gear on the tail/panniers or a pillion – as you’re likely to be for a major exped. Locks and turning circles are still nimble but don’t expect to be really capable off road, the big bikes will use power and torque to get through most dirt obstacles rather than agility.

So here’s the Heavyweight Top Motorcycle Shortlist:

nota bona: BMW GS differences

With both the R1200 and the R1150 models there are two options; GS and GS Adventure. In each case there are small but significant differences designed for either use on road or dual sport (Adventure).


BMW R1200 GS Adventure
BMW R1200 GS Adventure

Still the latest incarnation from BMW dating from 2004/5.


Electronic ride settings designed to dial the bike in for the terrain. Rain, Ride and Sport give you a lot of great options to make the best of your road choices.

Power and range – the 2015 ‘Adventure’  model offers 92lbs of torque and 125bhp. More than you need off road or round the world but it is useable power.

BMW R1200GSA off road
BMW R1200GSA off road


260kg dry. Think twice before falling over on the dirt.

Electrics to go wrong in remote conditions.


The editor test riding the R1200 GSA in Spain

Popular for the right reasons; the classic dual sport machine. Heavy but for many the only option. Lots of customization and accessory options. Fast and strong; this bike is the current market leader and the ‘go to’ machine for anyone entering this class.



The original big GS is, for many, still the definitive adventure motorcycle. An extremely robust design, combining the classic boxer with a shaft drive, solid frame and metal tank kept this bike going longer than any other of it’s class – except perhaps for the R1100GS.

The ride for many notable RTW and overland expeditions including both Ewan and Charlie and the ‘Two Ride The World’ crew.

BMW R1150GS - The Long Way Round
BMW R1150GS – The Long Way Round


Solid, proven design. Easy to work on and plenty of spares available internationally.


Getting long in the tooth now. High mileage, well looked after models will run for ever after the final drive seals and rear suspension are replaced around the 60k mile mark.


’02 BMW R115OGS and the editor

The original benchmark heavyweight adventure bike. The ‘Adventure’ version has 20mm longer front suspension travel and a taller first gear for more control off road but looks like a meaner bike.

KTM 1190

KTM 1190
KTM 1190

Introduced in 2013 to replace the 950/990 series. Evolved from a heady DNA of Dakar Rallye know how and road design lessons from its forbears. This is primarily a street capable machine with great handling that can function off road with aplomb.


Did KTM go too far? Is this the bike you want to take round the world or is this the bike you want to ride for a weekend in a developed country? I’d be keen to have my mind changed but I can’t square the circle on this; I don’t think this is a contender for the overland heavyweight title.

KTM 950 Adventure

KTM 950 Adventure
KTM 950 Adventure

KTM came out of the Paris-Dakar Rallye series with the winning formula of low centre of gravity, exceptional stability and handling and a V Twin 950 cc engine in a large dirt bike style frame. The carb fed 950 models lifted the whole heavyweight category up a notch.


Great handling, riding and a near perfect balance between on road ability and off road agility.

Good range from the 24 ltr tank – 200 miles on the road.


Electrical gremlins worked through the loom. Over time the electrics would prove to be the weak point – particularly if water was involved.


The editor on his much loved/unreliable KTM
The editor on his much loved/unreliable KTM

If it wasn’t for the reliability issues then the early KTM’s would easily win this competition. Later models are strong contenders.

Yamaha Tenere

2015 Yamaha Tenere XT1200Z
2015 Yamaha Tenere XT1200Z

From the factory that bought you the original lightweight overlanding bikes like the XT600Z, the big Tenere has a great combination of power and handling. 270′ V Twin engine puts out 109bhp with 84lbs torque. First came out in 2010 and available since then.


It’s essentially built on the lines of a GS. Shaft drive, bullet proof chassis, great handling once on the move.

Nick Sanders rode one.

Yamaha 'Super Ten' on Nick's Mongolia expedition
Yamaha ‘Super Ten’ on Nick’s Mongolia expedition


261kg. Need more? This is a heavy bike to live with.

Pricing from new when ranged against it’s competition.


Yamaha 'Super Ten' touring
Yamaha ‘Super Ten’ touring

Recommended for experienced long distance and adventure touring riders; this machine will get you there and in some comfort and style.

Adventure Motorcycling; boom and/or bust?


Discuss: there is no adventure bike boom from an article on Visordown;

“Manufacturers are falling over themselves to get a share of the supposedly huge adventure bike market. According to Visordown’s industry expert, who in his own interest cannot be named, they’re chasing their tails.

Something you’ll never see most GS owners do
ALL the best jockeys are lightweights, right? Well, what if a 28-stone bloater not only kept up with them but tore ahead, horse buckling under the load?

That’s an equestrian analogy for the sales success of the BMW R1200GS.

All the UK’s top 10 best-selling bikes are sub-125cc – except for the GS.

Between January and September last year, the GS wasn’t just the only bike over 125cc in the top 10. Add the two versions of it together and it was number one. The base model R1200GS came in at number two, while the R1200GS Adventure was eighth. Between them they sold 2,198 units, hammering Honda’s budget commuter, the CBF125, into a humiliating second place, with 1,526 sales.

Some call it an adventure bike boom. Certainly every other manufacturer is clambering to get on the bandwagon. But none of the rivals, however good, even dimple BMW’s dominance. Because people don’t really want ‘adventure’ bikes. They want GSes.

Take Yamaha’s Super Tenere, for instance. Only a tiny number found buyers last year, a trickle compared to the rivers of R1200GSes that appear to be virtually firing themselves out of dealer showrooms and into the garages of motorcyclists everywhere.

It’s not a UK-only obsession. The R1200GS outsells the next most popular bike in Europe at a rate of around two-to-one. And that includes cheap-as-chips scooters. In 2013, a total of 21,151 R1200GSes were sold in the EU, while the number two spot was taken by the 50cc Peugeot Kisbee, with sales of 10,971. It’s that dominant.

Like a Range Rover or an iPhone – similarly expensive options with capabilities far beyond the needs of 90% of owners – the GS has hit that all-important ‘want one’ button in the buyer’s psyche.

Owners will point to its practicality, its strong residuals, but 90% are just like school-run mums in their towering (and spotlessly clean) 4x4s. Never venturing off-road, they’re like the teenager using his iPhone 5S to play Angry Birds; don’t try telling us it’s the most cost effective and practical solution to your needs.

They’ve bought something over-qualified for the task in hand, not because they have any need of it but because they wanted it.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course. Motorcycles shouldn’t be purely about satisfying practical requirement; they’re about desire and impulse. Eventually the GS will fall from favour, to be replaced by something else. In the meantime it shows us that even in tough times people buy bikes out of passion, not logic.

Long may it be so.

But be in no doubt that this is all the ‘adventure bike boom’ amounts to. If the GS were pulled from BMW’s line-up tomorrow, said boom would vanish like one if its adventure kitted owners in a sandstorm.”

From Visordown. A good, interesting, direct article. However, I think Ben, or one of his subeditors misses the point. Adventure Motorcycling does not stand or fall based on sales of the GS, either in the UK, Europe or the US. Long before the GS, people understood the synonymous relationship between motorcycles and adventure. Many intrepid travellers crossed the world on all kinds of bike over the last century; notably Ted Simon on a Triumph Tiger (500cc).

It is only the recent industry that have hyped the GS. And you know what; it’s a good thing. It creates possibility and imagination: fires rider’s enthusiasm. As long as the bike is used for the right thing journeys then who cares if it isn’t an ‘adventure’ bike. Low sales numbers of the GS alternatives (KTM, Tenere, Explorer, V-Strom) don’t equate to a ‘bubble’ around adventure motorcycling. That’s just a temporary marketing phenomenon.  If the GS is a fantastic balance of function and form then so much the better.

Adventure Motorcycling has always been possible and now is here to stay, whatever the manufacturing industry produce.

2014 V-Strom 1000 – Best Adventure Bike Value? » ADV Pulse


This is a great, and unusually comprehensive,  review of the new V-Strom. Who’s most likely to buy the new V-Strom you ask? Why, owners of the old V-Strom of course! It’s that kind of machine, a massive, useful, ugly all round compromise.

2014 V-Strom 1000 – Best Adventure Bike Value? » ADV Pulse.

Riding the new BMW R1200 GS LC 2013 in Spain

This is the first day on the new BMW R1200GS LC 2013. A good mix of mountain roads, A roads and an hour of motorway at the end. First impressions are good. The headline is that this bike has moved on; it doesn’t feel like it shares much of its former incarnations’ character.


SW of Madrid in the Gredos Mountains.


Smooth ride, good wind deflection, comfortable position over the front

Power and control. The E settings work well and put the power onto the road

Kit; luggage and sockets. it works and over decade of experience have put it where you need it


Slightly vague front under power. Poss link to reports of headshaking/tankslappers.

The switchgear on the left is temperamental, apparently a high incidence problem.

Tank size continues to limit your range compared to what the bike could let you do.



Overall to encourage a 550km day first time out the new GS is a top flight machine.