What is the difference? // ADV jumper
Recently I was asked to write an article about different types of motorcycles for a bike safety company. Everything was fine until I hit the ADV/Offroad segment: besides the three main categories – adventure, dual sport and dirt bikes – you have so many little subcategories and niches within niches that I would have gone well on the word count to list them all. And while for more experienced riders the difference between an adventure bike and a dual-sport bike is clear as day, what about someone who is just starting?
It seems the golden age of high capacity adventure bikes like the BMW GS 1200 is moving in a different direction, and the post-Long Way Round world wants bikes that are smaller, lighter and more nimble than beasts gigantic ADVs. Unsurprisingly, riders are looking to venture out on dirt bikes instead of trying to make big ADV bikes more off-road friendly. Dirt bikes, motorcycles designed for off-road riding and usually no larger than 450cc, can easily be made road legal; with new mods like rally kits, these bikes can go from dirt to adventure in no time. Steph Jeavoirs managed to circumnavigate the world on a HondaCRF250Lwhile the Rolling Hobo is the king of adventure the KTM 500 EXC. Dirt bikes are fantastic for beginners, as they are much lighter, easier to handle and cheaper to maintain than larger adventure bikes, and they can easily double as touring bikes with improved suspension and soft luggage.
A dual-sport bike is essentially a hybrid between a dirt bike and an adventure bike. Capable off-road and bearable on the road, dual-sport bikes are versatile bikes capable of tackling more technical terrain while maintaining acceptable highway speeds when needed. A weapon of choice for many RTW riders – roughly one in three travelers probably ride around the world on a Kawasaki KLR650 or Suzuki DR650 – these bikes are usually between 450cc and 750cc, mid-weight and fairly easy to ride. maintain by yourself. A new generation of dual-sport bikes, the Yamaha Tenere 700 or KTM 790, shows that more and more riders are hitting the road on lighter, more dirt-oriented machines.
Although the trend is toward smaller, lighter, and more off-road-ready motorcycles, adventure motorcycles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Wide and heavy but powerful and comfortable, these bikes are in the range of 850-1200 cc; unlike dual-sport bikes, adventure bikes are excellent on-road and tolerable off-road. Aimed at riders who put in high mileage and occasionally venture off-road, these beasts are capable of anything and everything from a weekend getaway to a two-year RTW.
mix and match
While most riders start out with stock bikes, soon enough the different types and purposes of motorcycles begin to merge and mix in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. Any adventure bike can be more ready for all-terrain with the right suspension, light luggage, aggressive tires and some serious skills. dual-sport bikes can be modified for travel and rally racing, and dirt bikes can be turned into RTW-ready adventure machines. Even if you’re not mechanically minded, with time and experience you’ll probably start experimenting with bike mods to one degree or another – to suit your riding style, your level of competence and your expectations, it’s a tall order for a production bike. I went from not being able to locate by carburetor to upgrading the suspension to completely rebuilding my Suzuki DR650 (engine overhaul included), and if, heaven forbid, a new motorcycle had the misfortune to find me as new owner, I would immediately embark on a mission to modify it as much as possible to suit the type of riding I do.
So whether you choose an off-road motorcycle, a dual-sport motorcycle or an adventure motorcycle as your first motorcycle, nothing is definitive. People travel the world on small dirt bikes and race rallies on 1200c adventure beasts – nothing is impossible, and it all depends on who you are, what kind of riding you do and where you want to go . Perhaps in the future, the lines between off-road, dual-sport and ADV bikes will blur even more: as adventure riding evolves, so does the industry around it. Maybe in five years there will be a bike that can tackle tough technical terrain, race the Dakar and travel for years all in one.
Which is your preference – dirt, dual-sport or adventure, and which bike would you like to see the manufacturers work on next? Share in the comments below!
Featured Image: Adobe