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ADV BikesThe 2015 BMW S1000XR Signals a Split in the ADV Category

The 2015 BMW S1000XR Signals a Split in the ADV Category

 Are we entering an era of greater specialization and variety for ADV Bikes?

Published on 12.02.2014
BMW S1000XR Adventure Sport Bike

Let’s face it, Adventure Bikes, with their dual sport capability, are full of compromises. Features that make them better dirt bikes like long-travel suspension, off-road tires, upright seating position and heavy crash protection are at odds with what works for high-performance riding on asphalt. Trying to build the perfect Adventure Bike, that can do everything well, is an engineer’s nightmare.

While Adventure Touring in the traditional sense includes some type of off-road riding, there are some riders that just like the styling and comfortable riding position of Adventure Bikes and rarely, if ever, travel off-road. Many prefer bikes like the recently announced BMW S1000XR that offers supersport performance, all-day touring capability and mildly increased suspension travel. It’s the type of bike that is perfect for touring mountain passes, rides in the countryside, high-speed motorways and the occasional poorly maintained asphalt or graded gravel road.

We’ve seen an increase in new Adventure Bike models in recent years that are more sport touring oriented. This trend for larger, faster, more sophisticated and expensive Adventure Bikes has left many off-road riding Adventure Riders dissatisfied with the lack of dirt-capable small and mid-sized Adventure bikes available in the market. Clearly there is strong demand for these street-biased ADV bikes, or top manufacturers would not produce them.

The 2015 BMW S1000XR is the most recently released motorcycle that falls into this sport-oriented Adventure Bike mold. The new model is categorized as an Adventure Motorcycle on BMW’s website but does not carry the GS name and makes no mention of off-road capabilities in its marketing copy. BMW has also created a new segment name, calling it an “Adventure Sport” motorcycle to differentiate it from its GS Adventure Bike models.

BMW S1000XR with touring cases in white.

BMW has long maintained leadership in the Adventure Touring market, and they are once again creating order in the industry by coining the term “Adventure Sport” to describe this category of sport-focused Adventure Motorcycles. The BMW and other motorcycles that fit into the Adventure Sport segment — like the Ducati Multistrada, Kawasaki Versys 1000 and Aprilia Caponord 1200 — combine sportbike performance with a comfortable riding position and the ability to handle rough roads. Adventure Sport bikes may have some vestigial remains from their off-road-capable cousins like hand guards, beaks and light sump protection, but they are freed from on-road performance-inhibiting features like long travel suspension, over-sized wheels and dual sport tires.

Now that BMW offers both the R1200GS and S1000XR, the two bikes have an opportunity to evolve on separate paths in an attempt to better meet the needs of their core audiences. Breaking off the more sport oriented ADV bikes into a separate segment should allow future GS designs to stay true to their dirt roots without the pressure to compete on all fronts. Meanwhile, the newly spawned S1000XR can focus completely on the sport side of Adventure Touring with an emphasis on lighter weight, horsepower and incredible handling on twisty pavement. BMW has laid the foundation for other manufacturers to split up their ADV lineups into on-road and off-road models instead of trying in vain to please everyone.

As the evolution of Adventure Touring continues, we may see existing models begin to drift more toward the on-road-focused Adventure Sport Bikes or off-road-oriented Adventure Bikes. With new entries like the S1000XR heating up competition in the Adventure Sport market, it’s possible Ducati may decide it’s no longer worthwile maintaining 6.7 inches of suspension travel when few owners actually use their bikes off-road. For the same reason, Suzuki may dispose of its 19″ front wheel in favor of a sportier 17″ to align the bike more with the Adventure Sport segment. If rumors are true about the development of a KTM 1290 SMT, this entry in the Adventure Sport segment could allow KTM to focus greater attention on the off-road features of the 1190 Adventure.

We hope this greater specialization in the industry will allow lighter-weight off-road-focused models to flourish as well. We’ve already seen a few small Adventure Bikes entering the market like the CCM GP450 and CSC Cyclone RX-3. Honda has made clear its plans to bring to market a Dakar Rally-inspired Africa Twin with undiluted off-road performance. We’ve also heard directly from a KTM insider that they plan on producing a middle-weight Adventure Bike with a true off-road focus in the near future. KTM recently announced the development of a 600 to 800cc V-twin engine that could give rise to a new line of middle-weight Adventure Bike models.

The popularity of Adventure Bikes has breathed new life into a motorcycle industry that struggled in recent years. As the economy recovers, we expect to see manufacturers filling out their lineups with a variety of on-road and off-road focused Adventure models to meet the diverse needs of Adventure Riders. Even if you are not a fan of Adventure Sport bikes, the release of the S1000XR could signal a new era of increased specialization and diversity in the industry that benefits all Adventure Riders by allowing them to get more of what they truly want with less compromise.

Adventure Sport Model Comparison

Adventure Sport Models HP Torque
(lb.-ft.)
Wet Weight
(lbs.)
Suspension Travel
(Fr./Rr.)
Seat Height
(in.)
Fuel Capacity
(Gallons)
 Ducati Multistrada 12001601005116.7/6.733.55.3
 BMW S1000XR16083.05035.9/5.533.15.2
 Aprilia Caponord 120012584.75906.6/5.933.06.3
 Kawasaki Versys 100012075.25495.9/5.933.15.5
 Yamaha FJ-09 85011364.54625.4/5.133.34.8
 MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 80011059.0460*6.3/6.333.55.3
 Honda VFR800X10555.05335.7/5.832.15.5
ADVPulse.com  
* Estimated wet weight

We recently had a chance to view and sit on the new BMW S1000XR at the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show Press Event. Take a look at the BMW unveiling and video walk-thru of the new model.

Video produced by Jim Downs

Author: Rob Dabney

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4 thoughts on “The 2015 BMW S1000XR Signals a Split in the ADV Category

  1. Right on the mark. We are already seeing the beginnings of more diversity with companies like KTM and BMW on their way to building a whole range of smaller displacement machines plus Honda’s Africa Twin will surely shake up things. Very exciting times since each audience gets what they want.

  2. This Quasi-Adventure design has actually been around for quite a while. The first gen Aprilia Caponord, (which goes back to 2002) the Multistrada, and the Norge are all examples of this type of styling. They proffer themselves as adventure touring but as someone who has owned one of the aforementioned bikes I can tell you they are really biased toward street touring rather than a true adventure bike like the KTM or GS.

    • Their point is more about the ADV industry officially recognizing these type of bikes as a sub-class labeled ‘sport adventure’. Yes, bikes with these features have existed for a while but with BMW finally coining an actual term for it, they have made clear the type of niche these bikes are going for: riders who want a fast touring bike with race vibes but want the comfort and ergonomics of and adv bike with no need to do anything more than easy gravel. No longer are these type of bikes ‘forced’ or ‘masked’ into the traditional adv bike niche with serious off-road intentions.This organizes the industry IMO and gives manufacturers a clear target to go for when coming up with models.

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