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ADV BikesAre Adventure Riders The New SUV Driving Soccer Moms?

Are Adventure Riders The New SUV Driving Soccer Moms?

A long-held stereotype claims most ADV riders never travel off-road.

Published on 05.21.2014

A recent story on the Ride Apart website titled “The ADV Is The SUV On Two Wheels”, makes several controversial claims about Adventure Riders. The story states that the popularity of Adventure Bikes is similar to the SUV craze that started in the early 90’s. The article asserts that ADV Bikes promise adventure, but the most difficult terrain they will ever see is a “pothole filled street on the way to the drug store.”

The author of the story claims Adventure Bikes have too many compromises and don’t excel at anything, and that owners overpay for features just to get the “Adventure” look. He even says that Adventure bikes are for people that want to “feel” adventurous.

This inflammatory article may have been written to gain attention, but there is no denying a long-held stereotype exists about Adventure Bike riders only riding on pavement. We’ve heard similar generalizations from motorcycle manufacturer reps as well. When asked “Why don’t you build a more off-road capable adventure bike?” many times the response has been, “Most Adventure Bike owners don’t take their bikes off-road.”


So where did this perception of Adventure Riders come from? Where is the data to support this conclusion? Are Adventure Bikes just oversized grocery-getters that will never be ridden off-road as Ride Apart claims?

We’ve experienced something quite different talking to other Adventure Bike Riders. While some new Adventure Riders may have no off-road experience yet, they usually want to learn how to ride off-road at some time in the future. We’ve seen the huge popularity of basic off-road training classes for Adventure Riders that want to improve their skills and safety.

When we’ve participated in online discussions about new Adventure Bikes, the models with true off-road capabilities seem to get the most attention and generate the most excitement. On the other hand, Adventure “Styled” Motorcycles that lack off-road intent commonly receive a negative response.

Is the perception of Adventure Riders sticking to pavement close to the truth? Or are a large number of Adventure Riders venturing out onto dirt?

We’d like to gain more insights about Adventure Bike off-road usage. This online survey will help us discover how Adventure Riders actually use their bikes. Use the link below to take the survey. The results will be published on our website in the near future.

Take the Survey: Adventure Motorcycle Off-Road Riding Survey
See Survey Results: The Truth About How Adventure Riders Use Their Bikes

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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Tom Swift
Tom Swift
May 22, 2014 1:59 pm

I hit dirt/gravel roads if & when i get the chance and that’s not very often, not very adventures by any means compared to the die hards who only rides dirt. That said, the occasional easy off road i do is adventurous to me. I don’t pretend to be a great adventure rider and don’t give a shit what some rednecks think, although i do wish they’d grow some balls and say it to my face. Personally i think its a money thing, cause i’ve noticed most haters are stuck riding klr’s, dr’s and other frankenstein pos’s cause mowing lawns and stocking shelves at walmart just doesn’t cut the mustard. ESAD

May 22, 2014 8:27 pm

I think that the idea isn’t far off, though SUV driving soccer mom maybe isn’t quite the right analogy. I think a better one would be the JK Wrangler. Most of them never go off-road. You see a lot of “built” ones. Many of them still never go off-road. Some of them do go off-road, but it’s small portion of their use, and they go places that really didn’t require the six grand worth of lift, tires, and body protection. Only a small minority really get used to their capability.

Many adventure bikes never go off-road. Some do, but usually in small doses compared to the pavement miles, and don’t require a lot of farkles for the terrain. Many times the most tricked out bikes see the least dirt.

While the idea of being able to go anywhere is enticing, the reality isn’t always so awesome. I think it’s quite common to do a several thousand mile trip, and get in 100 miles of dirt riding where you find cool passes or remote destinations. Much of the time, these are places that could realistically be reached on a more street oriented bike, even if a bit slower and more cautious. For the times that’s not the case, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to ride something more practical for the 98% of the trip spent on pavement, and just skip the off-road bits. You can probably find some interesting paved locations to fill in the gaps.

That’s not to say that there aren’t people who live the dream through and through, just that a lot of people think that’s what they want, but in reality, don’t really need.

I fall into the stereotype myself. I have a V-Strom 650 which I’ve taken off-road only a handful of times, and only once where I wouldn’t have dared to take a more street oriented bike. I bought it mostly because it was a smokin’ deal, and I was a week away from embarking on a 3,500 mile trip, while lacking possession of a bike with a license plate. I had a feeling at the time that I really wanted a true dual sport for shorter, more local off-road trips, and a touring oriented bike for the long trips. And of course the true dirt bike which can’t be beat off-road. I’ve found that to be exactly the case, and I’m only holding on to the Strom long enough to get a long delayed Deadhorse trip under the belt, then it’ll be on to a bigger touring bike.

Derek Mansfield
Derek Mansfield
May 23, 2014 3:05 am

Your statement “they usually want to learn how to ride off-road at some time in the future.” says it all. Easy to have intent. Doing it is still for the few.

The Truth about How Adventure Riders Use Their Bikes » ADV Pulse
June 6, 2014 1:20 pm

[…] few weeks ago we published a story titled “Are Adventure Riders The New SUV Driving Soccer Moms?” The story was a reaction to a general perception that most Adventure Bike owners never use […]


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