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Top 10 Adventure Bikes for New Adventure Riders

Practical, affordable and fun Adventure Bikes for new adventure riders.

Published on 03.26.2014

1. Kawasaki Versys

Kawasaki Versys 650

Powerplant: 649cc Fuel-Injected Parallel Twin, 6-Speed trans.
Horsepower: 58.1 hp @ 8,100 rpm
Torque: 44.8 lb.-ft. @ 6,800 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gallons (19 l)
Front Suspension Travel: 5.9 inches (150 mm)
Rear Suspension Travel: 5.7 inches (145 mm)
Seat Height: 33.3 inches (845 mm)
Wet Weight: 461 lbs (209 kg)
Years Produced: 2007 – Present
2014 Base MSRP: $7,999 US

The Kawasaki Versys is more of an Adventure “Styled” Bike than a true Adventure Bike. The bike has a comfortable upright riding position and stepped seat that works well for 2-up riding. The charismatic twin-cylinder engine offers good power and smooth operation on the highway. A tall windscreen and good fuel mileage give it long-range touring capabilities. ABS brakes are standard on the new 2014 Versys as well.


Sporty handling and a fast-revving engine make it a fun bike on twisty backroads. The Versys also works well as a reliable and nimble daily commute bike. The bike has just enough ground clearance for exploring the occasional graded dirt road. However, with 17 inch rims the bike is clearly designed for street use. The Versys is a good option for new adventure riders that intend to ride primarily on pavement.

Author: Rob Dabney

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102 thoughts on “Top 10 Adventure Bikes for New Adventure Riders

  1. Pingback: Dual Sport or Adventure Bike — Which is best for you? » ADV Pulse

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  3. Wht KTM chose to not to continue to develop this bike remains an absolute Mystery. Claiming the 690E is a sutable replacement couldnt be further from the truth.
    I live in hope that they will release a Proper single cylinder adventure bike in the not too distant future.

    A KTM 690 Engine in a 640 adventure chassis wityh suspension Tank and fairing to suit. I wish.

  4. How do you feel about the Honda NC700x for some possible dirt road riding? I’m not talking about hardcore off-loading, but just taking the bike into the woods, gravel, etc.?

    • Hi Pat.

      If your aspirations are not high in the dirt, the NC700X may work for you. But it is a heavy bike for the middle-weight class with not a lot of suspension travel and a 17″ front wheel. It’s not the best choice if you want to learn how to ride off-road. If you are just sticking to gravel and smooth dirt roads, it will be fine. The main complaint about these bikes is that they don’t have much character. But that docile, nonthreatening power delivery also makes the NC700X a good street bike for newbies.

      • Interesring fact – the Honda NC700 engine is simply the Honda Jazz (Honda Fit in USA) engine chopped in half – that’s why it only revs to 7000.

    • IT is not a dirt bike and has no off road capability.The engine is half a car engine and not well suited to ANY bike road or other wise.Good for very heavy dudes who want to save on gas but dont like to reallylike riding bikes at all.Does not rev out like all normal bikes.

      • Everyone has thoughts on this bike… I own one and its a great bike revs great plenty of speed, sure its not a total offroad bike but gravel roads light trails etc its fine.. simple to ride and maintain.. most people that talk bad about it can’t ride a motorcycle at all.. I’ve been in all types of back country trails with it, just depends if you can ride….

        • I agree with francis. Just got my 05 Dakar and plan to ride all types of forest roads and even single track with it, going to take it to my local OHV areas and shoot some video of what it can do as well as twisty canyon roads. And I’ve owned roughly 20 bikes to compare it to

  5. Just curious why a WR250R didn’t make the list as a bike aimed at new adventure riders, specifically less experienced riders.

    • Hello Gifters.

      As we mention in the intro, we excluded 250cc machines from the story because of their limitations for longer range travel and carrying luggage. If you are a smaller rider, then a 250cc may be your only option or if you are primarily looking for a lightweight dual sport bike to link up trails. But for any serious travel that includes some highway sections, you are better off with at least a 400cc. However, the WR250 is a great bike and would be a top pick for the 250cc class.

      • I would disagree vehemently with that statement. The wr250r may be a 250, but it’s head and shoulders above the other 250s in terms of power, and is definitely a viable adventure bike. There are plenty of drag races on YouTube where they are shown to only lose a few metres to a drz400 in stock form. Add some altitude and the fi on the wr will have it passing the bigger, carb’d competition.
        AsTo for me – I have a KTM 690 and a wr250r. I am 5’11 and 95kg. I have ridden my wr250r across Australia, cruising at 150kmh in the Northern Territory, 110kmh everywhere else when on the freeway. I have friends on drz’s, the wr is better off road and with 6th gear cruises on the highway with less vibes and using a lot less fuel. I love the 690 but if I had to choose one for another trip across Australia id take my wr. I have done 12,000km on the KTM, and 75,000 on the wr, 8,000 of those in 2 weeks across the outback solo, unsupported. The wr has been a lot less hassle… Only one valve clearance check so far, never a single let down! It seems to crash a lot better than the 690 or my friends drz’s and old xl600. Little things occasionally break on the other bikes, the 690 rest indicators are always dangling and covered in masking tape and epoxy. Time and time again we pick up the wr and it just send to shrug the spills off. It is lighter and easier to ride off road than the 690 when you’re fatigued and not trying to ride fast…. And basically I think if you neglect to include the wr250r in your list, you are leaving out one of the best options available. I’d choose it over half the list without a second thought.

        • People need to stop claiming a bike is great as a general recommendation based on anecdotal experiences. Ed March is traveling on a scooter so what? Great for him but that doesn’t mean scooters are ideal bikes for that kind of travel. And sorry but a drag race has nothing to do with whether a bike is good for New Adventure Riders or not.

  6. have waited for ages to get some insights on how to buy a big adventure bike , without worrying about what electronics will fail in a desert, or thru deep wading.. non of the manufacturers replied ….

    • Tip -dont but a bmw they are just not reliable in remote areas.For riding in 3rd world nations select a simple aircooled bike that locals can fix like a Suzuki DR650.If u go BMW prepare to be stranded for weaks while the freight out suspensions and electrons black boxes that quit. MOst over 800cc advneture bikes are just too haevy -if you toppleover thats it -too heavy to lift up unless there are 2 or 3 strong men.The over 800cc are best suited to smooth or rough tarmac or smooth dirt roads -not sand ,where they handle terribly and can break your legs

      • I have a GSA. Regularly have it loaded with 100 lbs of gear. I am 6’3 190# and 64 years old. I pick it up often and fine. All technique. Watch videos of 5 ft Jocelin Snow lift a 600# bike!

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  8. Seriously, Rob? The ten best adventure bikes for new riders? You make a huge leap in assuming a new adventure rider cannot afford or even should not spend more than $10,000 on a bike. I think is’s great advice had the title included “for under $10,000” or “for those on a budget.” I find it patronizing.

    • I for one am very glad I didn’t get an expensive bike until I knew what I was doing! And a lot of people I know that were new to the sport feel the same. It is not a matter of whether you can afford it or not (they explain this well in the article IMO). It just makes more sense when you are first getting into a sport. Of course, there are always exceptions to anything…like in general it doesn’t make a lot of sense to take a sport bike off-road but hey! a few people still do it.

    • Hi Eric. The recommendations have nothing to do with whether or not someone can afford a $10k adventure bike. The fact is, adventure bikes that cost $10k or more tend to be bigger and heavier, and that makes it harder to learn how to ride off-road. Most new adventure riders, without a significant off-road riding background, will find a smaller displacement adventure bike less intimidating and more fun to learn on. For those that do decide to go straight to a big bike, it’s best to take an off-road training course that specializes in adventure bikes. It will help you get up to speed a lot quicker and improve your safety.

    • I am sick to death of heavy,brutish, expensive bikes that are sold to fat wallets with low iq. More kool aid for you. Bigger is not better especially off road.

  9. Thinking of riding from west coast of Australia to east coast through deserts next year with an organised but seemingly hard core group. I’ve got 30 years road and road racing experience but not much off road. Was thinking KLR650 and good to see it on your list. Pity it’s only got 37hp though. Otherwise it sounds pretty good.

    • Been wanting to do the same for years. Is this a tour mob or just a group of mates.
      30 years experience on dirt tracks and all terrains on Stations in WA and found the only problem is overheating and radiator problems on the newer bikes. Used a range of DR’s and XR’s over the years. Good Luck with the trip, sounds awesome.

    • mate the tank size may be the only concern, just did over 2000km on my tenere, 4.5l per 100km and the thing just chewed up the kms

    • Better ride on a DR650 -much lighter and more Hp with no body work to smack around.Much better in sand. Take lots of water or have a back up vehicle full of water (ok beer since you’re an Aussie) .

    • The Honda CB500X didn’t make the cut primarily because of its limited off-road ability. With only 5.5 inches of travel in the front and 4.7 inches in the rear,it’s really more of a street bike with adventure styling. It’s good enough for non-challenging dirt roads though.

      • Ah, but see the new Rally Raid off-road upgrade kit that they’ve just developed for the X. A rider can start on a good all-rounder and, if they want more dirt capability, move later in that direction.

        • I was leaning towards this bike, but then I saw it is made in Thailand and has very early valve check. Machining in Thailand has me concerned about throwing an additonal $3500 at this bike.

          • There are no valve probs with the 500X.Just a media beat up. It is a smooth road bike with adventure styling .The problem is it is too heavy ,not the right sort of power.Good for general touring on road and will handle rough roads, dry packed dirt but not sand or mud or grass.

      • The CB500X may not be the best off-road, but it sure beats the Versys and V-Strom in off-road capability, and seems to be on part with the G650GS. Leaving it off this list does not seem to make sense.

        • THe Vstrom 650 or wee strom as its often called is a very well proven design. Never judge a bike by it s looks but how it performs. A smooth powerful motor.The bike is set up for taller riders over 5ft 10″ (hint get thicker soles on your boots if you cant flat foot on one side). THe wee strom is the best sorted all round adventure bike-popular world wide and a lot cheaper than a BMw. Adventure bikes are made for smooth and rough tarmac and hard packed dry dirt.If you put on more knobby tyres u can handle more mud grass and sand but the road touring suffers. If you want to do sigle track dirt paths get a DR400 or DR650. The 400 is no good for touring being geared low and no 6th gear. Also v tall seat like a true dirt bike not an adv bike. Travel light as u can if touring esp on dirt of rough roads.

      • By the way, what would you tell about Suzuki DR650SE? First appeared approximately at the same time as Kawasaki KLR650, it seems to has simular characteristics, but weight only 160kg (or so). It would be interesting to know what do you think about these two bikes, in comparison with each other.

        • The DR is a superb bullet proof bike with a fantastic, reliable engine. THere are hundreds of parts you can add on to improve stuff. THe std seat is way too hard for any touring but $200 will fix that.(more and softer padding and narrow/round the front 8″ of the seat.)The std height is ok for 5’10” and over but if you are shorter get the shop to lower the suspension.It drop it by 1 1/2″ (40mm) and is great. Taller riders(say over 6ft 1”) will need taller bars if they ride standing up.The DR650 has awesome midrange grunt .Lower the front cog 1 tooth if u do mainly dirt.If you road tour in a flat are you can raise the front cog 1 tooth.THis works if you are a smaller or lighter dude without much of a load.

  10. Great list! A few key attributes of the DR650 that bear mentioning for aspiring adventure riders –

    Very long production of current model – 20 years now – this means tons of aftermarket mods available, cheap replacement parts all over ebay, and a wealth of knowledge online for how to fix stuff.

    Maybe the lightest one on your list? – easier to pick up when dropped, chuck in a canoe to cross a river, or hoist into a train car.

    Super simple. Less things to fail than just about any other bike. It’s a scaled up version of the 125cc bikes ridden everywhere around the world, so if you can’t fix it, someone else probably can.

    also note – rear wheel is 17” rather than the 18” as mentioned

  11. Honda XR650L looks like the perfect bike for me.
    Simple, durable, reliable.
    really fun and capable off road, plus I like the retro style.

  12. A Versys is approx the same price as a Tenere and Transalp and its much heavier than the two mentioned bikes and less suited for adventure biking as coming to rim sizes, suspension and ground clearance. Very strange choice….

    • You must be talking about the 660 Tenere because the big bore one is not cheap at all. And unfortunately the middle weight Tenere is only available in Europe.

  13. I own a 2007 Kaw. KLR. I’m 6’4”, over 300 pounds and quickly discovered the bike is more suited for commuting than dirt. However, I once ventured a trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This particular trail was disfigured by a severe record setting rain storm in 1995, and is known as the stovepipe. I would have turned around had that been possible. I should have mentioned shortly after purchase I swapped the original tires for Michelin Anakke 2 all weather type which are great on normal surfaces….this trek wasn’t normal. But I’ll remember this trip across the mountain, ladened with boulders and rocks that were strewn about in a way that formed no path. Mud puddles well in excess of one foot, maybe as much as 2, tree branches slapping the fairing as well as myself, and ditches…lots of ditches, scary, deep, no way to figure out a way to best maneuver this virgin lose pebble terrain, untraveled by any vehicle since the flood. I was also pushed for time as darkness was approaching. What seemed hours on this unforsaken journey came to an end when it merged with a more tolerable fire trail. After cleaning the KLR I discovered it came through unscathed, no damage due to rocks, and I don’t think any bike of any kind could have faired much better. Maybe it was providence.

    • Hey Tim. The 2007 is the last year of the 1st gen KLRs which are better off-road than the 2nd gen.They are lighter, have more suspension travel, better ground clearance and less breakable plastic. The perfect bike for the situation you found yourself in. But all the KLRs are great bikes and will get you home one way or another. Thanks for the story!

    • righto read through at saw their reason for leaving it out, not that much of a price difference between the tenere and the bmw’s though………..

    • I’ve spent heaps on my tenere to make it a good of roader. Hence mainly dirt riding. I wish somebody could make a reliable 450 with all the bells and whistles of the new gen 450 enduro bikes. Then it would be easy to lift when ya drop it. There are total limitations for a big bike in the desert and real adventure riding than 70 percent spent on bitumen.

      • If money is no problem the new British CCM 450 Adventure is perfect. Just needs a cush drive
        As chain needs adjusting every 3 days or so of heavy use.

  14. If you include mostly 2014 models it seems to me you did a dis-service to KTM by comparing all 2014’s to a 2008 KTM 640 and not a 2014 KTM 690. Inho.

    • Hey Steve. A major focus for this story is affordability. Most people that are entering a new sport don’t want to spend big money until they really know they enjoy it and understand the type of riding they like. A new KTM 690 Enduro R is $10,000+, then to get it adventure ready with larger tanks, luggage, windscreen you could spend thousands more. A used 640 Adventure gives a newbie everything they need to start adventure riding for less than half the price of a new 690 Enduro R.

      • You’re right, man..bcoz Im in this state wondering,’s not wise to buy new bike with that amount then after shirt you realize that she is not for you what you lie to your self;she is not fit to your category at all..then if the resale is down then you are in big loss,..ride save go for the gold

        • That’s right. Make sure you are really die hard about Adventure Riding before you go buy the top bike. Starting with a smaller bike will help you build up even more appreciation for the big-bore adventure bike of your dreams. And you’ll always have nostalgia for the smaller bike that started it all.

          • Well said, i see you tube videos of 55 year old women buying 1200gs’s . Bmw salespeople are lovin it i guess.

  15. I guess adventure riding now consists of back roads and the occasional smooth Forrest roads. A visit to Starbucks and no loss of cell service. These bikes except the single cylinder bikes mentioned here will never be seen on a proper adventure. I would consider it “adventure light”

    • Hey John. Everyone’s got their own definition of adventure and there are a range of bikes listed here to meet different off-road appetites. Adventure isn’t all about how hard you ride off-road. Who’s to say riding a V-Strom on a smooth dirt road in the jungles of Guatemala is less adventurous than riding a DRZ in your hometown OHV park. The further you travel from home, the more likely you are to want a bike that’s more comfortable.

  16. Spend about $150-$200 on a DR Suzuki 650 and you have a great bike.IT goes off road it commutes and is good for light touring which will imvlove road and dirt.It has very LOW vibs for a single and will cruise all day with std gearing at 75mph without any strain.Very reliable.The high seat can be factory lowered in 20mts or do it yourself -no special tools or partsneeded. There are at least 10 diff screens on the mkt -Aussie “screens for bikes” is a good one. Std suzuki carrier is ok for light loads or strap a bg to the rear seat.

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  20. Travelled lots on klr 650 around australia, first bike 50 000ks of fun without any break downs.
    Only issue is the water cooled. I dropped the bike on rough ground and damage the radiator…
    Maybe ok in iceland but in central aistralia ots not.
    Still might considere getting a new one. Or a DR650.
    I found heavy bike are harder to ride or really rough places. If they on the edge of falling you better jump away.
    Pro and cons for each

  21. Even though dual sport bikes are different from adventure bikes and should not be included in the adventure category, there are some nice motorcycles for new adventurers.

    But what about the Honda CB500X. Isn’t that an adventure for the newbies?

    From the selection you guys are giving i see the Vstrom as a nice rider friendly adventure bike that will not scare new riders.


    • The CB500X is not a bad choice if you keep the speeds low on dirt. It’s fairly light, has 17″ wheels which help give it a lower seat height and make it easier to change direction. It also has a short wheelbase making it feel more maneuverable. But the cast wheels won’t hold up if you start going faster in rough terrain and the suspension travel is very limited (4.7 inches in the rear) so it will bottom easily. If you just want to get out in the dirt and get started, the CB500X definitely gets the job done. But if you want to get serious with off-road riding, add the Rally Raid kit to the CB500X and it completely transforms the bike into something much more capable in the dirt.

  22. I like going on long-distance ride like 20 30 day rides from the west coast to the east coast and back stuff like that would I be better off with the bigger bike or would this 650 be sufficient

    • Longer distances are not a problem on a 650. If you plan on riding much highway, you should consider the V-Strom 650. It has a very smooth-running v-twin engine and it can also handle some basic dirt roads. The V-Strom 650XT with wire spoked wheels is even more durable off-road. Get a decent set of hand guards and skid plate and it will take you to some interesting places.

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  24. I agree with “Bob35” that why Honda cb500x is not on the list? I think it is pretty Adventure “Styled” Bike which offers great comfort and thrill at the same time. Admin can you please update the list?


  25. I don’t care enough about anyone’s opinion to click through 10 pages of ads to see a list.

    Let me know when your website quits doing this and I will come back.

  26. I recently bought the latest 2022 KTM Duke and I can’t stop grinning every time I get to ride anywhere on it! This is one of the best bikes I’ve ever ridden; especially built for off-roading.

  27. It’s a trade-off of less comfort in exchange for style and performance and one that many riders are willing to make. But when it comes to a long day in the saddle or a multi-day trek across different states and terrains, it’s hard to beat an adventure motorcycle.

  28. The G650GS is a reliable bike and ABS is also included as standard equipment. A large number of aftermarket accessories are available, allowing you to customize it to your Adventure Biking needs.

  29. The 2022 Triumph Tiger Sport 660 is an ADV-styled sport-touring bike that is immensely capable, and sized for a wide range of riders. It has plenty of power and handling for weekend backroad romps, while also being predictable and easy to manage.

  30. I bought it at your recommendation and guess what, my friend—you were right! This bike is worth the money. It’s a great addition to my collection, and I love it. Thank you for helping me find this treasure!


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