Adventure motorcycles have become more popular over the decades as more motorcycle enthusiasts have become attracted to the nomadic lifestyle. The rising trend of motorcycle camping in remote areas has also caused an increased demand for vehicles that can cover long distances and handle rough terrain. Adventure tourers are more versatile than any other type of motorcycle. Whether for daily commutes, city rides, cruising, or off-roading, an adventure motorcycle is a well-rounded vehicle suited for various riding styles. These bikes are also sturdy, can handle harsh road and weather conditions, can carry traveling essentials, and cost less than fully-decked tourers.
Adventure motorcycles are often considered a variation of dual-sport bikes. Over the years, popularity and demand for dual sport bikes have dropped significantly due to not being able to match adventure tourers’ versatility. Dual sport bikes are off-roaders that can also be ridden on paved roads; however, they have limited mileage. Meanwhile, adventure motorcycles are street bikes that can handle off-road trails. With improved motorcycle technology and adequate riding experience, adventure motorcycles can tackle off-road trails as well as dual-sport bikes.
As a beginner, you need an adventure motorcycle that is lightweight, generates adequate power output, and can handle light off-roading. This article brings you a list of reliable small adventure motorcycles that can help you hone your off-roading skills.
- Table of Contents
1. KTM 390 Adventure
Photo Credit: @ktm
2023 Model Base Price: $7,399
The KTM 390 Adventure is arguably the best entry-level adventure motorcycle. The 2023 KTM 390 Adventure is equipped with sturdy spoked wheels clad with tube tires and can handle off-roading. Though this bike has great off-roading capability, it is better suited for paved roads that can occasionally travel on gravel trails. Its six-speed transmission, optional quick-shifter, and standard traction control set this bike apart from other entry-level vehicles. To balance on- and off-road performance, the KTM 390 Adventure comes with an off-road riding mode, anti-lock braking system, and traction control. The TFT display is another feature that most other beginner-friendly adventure bikes lack.
The KTM 390 Adventure is fitted with a 373 cc single-cylinder engine that contributes to the bike’s low weight and manageable handling. The engine is capable of a horsepower of 44 hp and a torque of 37 Nm.
The adjustable suspension setup features a WP Apex inverted fork with a wheel travel of 170 mm and a mono-shock preload and rebound at the rear with a wheel travel of 177 mm. The single disc brake boasts a four-piston caliper for sharper stopping power. The spoke front wheels are 19 inches wide, while the rear wheels are 17 inches wide. The KTM 390 Adventure’s seat height is 855 mm, requiring shorter riders to purchase a seat adjustment kit to lower the seat to a height of 830 mm. It has a ground clearance of 200 mm, a fuel capacity of 3.8 gallons, and weighs about 172 kg on a full tank.
For ergonomic configuration, riders may have to adjust more than the seat height to maintain control over their bikes. On off-road trails, riders often have to stand up on the bike to reduce impacts on bumpy roads. The ergonomics can make it difficult to maintain your grip on the handlebars without crouching. Raising the handlebars and lowering the footpegs might resolve this issue, but many riders might find this to be too much work. Moreover, the KTM 390 Adventure is customizable, allowing you to install different luggage bags, travel-friendly accessories, and parts. The technological features, riding quality, and fuel capacity make the KTM 390 Adventure the most competitive option on the market; however, the ergonomic layout is not suitable for all riders.
2. Honda CRF 300 Rally
Photo Credit: @honda
2023 Model Base Price: $6,149
The Honda CRF 300 Rally is an entry-level motorcycle capable of on- and off-road capability. The Honda CRF 300 Rally is essentially a dual-sport bike suited for long-distance highway travel. The 2023 model includes a travel kit, a larger fuel tank, improved bodywork, and a windshield. The optional anti-lock braking system ensures better on-road capability than an average dual-sport bike.
The Honda CRF 300 Rally is powered by a 286 cc single-cylinder engine capable of a horsepower of 27 hp and a torque of 26.6 Nm. The dirt-bike-style engine and six-speed gearbox ensure a smooth transition between on- and off-roading capability. This motorcycle has a weight of 152 kg, features a three-gallon fuel tank, and has a ground clearance of 275 mm. The Honda CRF 300 Rally is the tallest adventure motorcycle with a seat height of 885 mm. The tall seat height is designed to ensure longer wheel travel and ground clearance.
The suspension system consists of a 43 mm front fork and a mono rear shock, offering 234 mm and 260 mm of wheel travel respectively. But even with this suspension system, it is recommended that you avoid riding on rough terrain without upgrades. The front spoked wheel is 21 inches wide, while the rear wheel is 18 inches wide. The standard tires offer reliable on- and off-road performance. If you purchase a brand new 2023 model, the bike will come with a one-year unlimited mileage warranty.
3. BMW G310 GS
Photo Credit: @bmwmotorcycles
2023 Model Base Price: $5,890
The BMW G310 GS features a single-cylinder 313 cc engine capable of a horsepower of 34 hp and a torque of 28 Nm. Riders can enjoy on- and off-road performance. Both upside-down forks fitted to the front and the rear monoshock offer 180 mm of wheel travel. The bike is equipped with a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear cast wheels. The front brake is fitted with a four-piston caliper that many small entry-level adventure motorcycles lack. This bike’s low weight of 175 kg ensures easy maneuverability on winding roads. The 835 mm seat is an adequate height that ensures confidence in riders. Shorter riders can lower the seat height down to 820 mm by getting an adjustment kit. The BMW G310 GS also features a three-gallon fuel tank.
The BMW R1250GS Adventure has simple functions to ensure ease of use for beginners. The standard tires offer enough traction to handle gravel, mud, and asphalt. The BMW G310 GS also features a luggage rack and full LED lighting for optimal visibility. The brake and clutch levers can be adjusted to four different levels and moved about 6 millimeters closer to the handlebars to ensure better regardless of the rider’s height. If you purchase a brand-new model, you get the benefit of a three-year or 36,000-mile warranty.
4. Kawasaki Versys X-300
Photo Credit: @kawasaki
2023 Model Base Price: $5,899 (Non-ABS) & $6,199 (ABS)
The Kawasaki Versys X-300 is powered by a parallel-twin single-cylinder engine capable of a horsepower of 40 hp and a torque of 25.7 Nm. The Kawasaki Versys X-300’s engine output and powertrain make this a better on-road adventure tourer.
The Kawasaki Versys X-300 has a low seat height of 118 mm, weighs about 175 kg, has a 180 mm ground clearance, and includes a 4.4-gallon fuel tank. The suspension setup offers a front wheel travel of 130 mm and a rear wheel travel of 148 mm. The soft suspension allows light off-roading with a satisfactory degree of comfort.
The Kawasaki Versys X-300 includes a basic braking setup, and a 19-inch front and a 17-inch rear tire offering decent traction on difficult terrain. But if you want to explore rough off-road trails, it is best to equip this bike with dual-purpose tires. This Kawasaki model also features roomy ergonomics, rear luggage rack, and a windscreen. Once you become comfortable with off-road riding, you can move on to the slightly bigger Kawasaki KLR650.
5. Royal Enfield Himalayan
Photo Credit: @royalenfield
2023 Model Base Price: $5,499
The Royal Enfield Himalayan features a 411 cc single-cylinder engine capable of a horsepower of 24 bhp and a torque of 24 Nm, and a five-speed transmission to ensure reliable performance on long trips. The 800 mm seat height is one feature that makes this bike beginner-friendly. The 21-inch front and 17-inch rear spoked wheels are fitted with standard dual-sport-style tires that provide adequate traction on different terrain. Though fitted with a basic suspension system, the Royal Enfield Himalayan has a front wheel travel of 200 mm and a rear wheel travel of 180 mm. At 191 kg, this motorcycle is slightly on the heavier side, but most riders prefer the stability the extra weight provides. The four-gallon fuel tank ensures this two-wheeler can travel long distances. The Royal Enfield Himalayan has a ground clearance of 200 mm.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan ensures effortless handling, responsiveness, and adequate power for novice riders. However, some riders might only like this vehicle for moderate on-road touring, while others might only use it for commutes. However, the Royal Enfield Himalayan can be a good introductory bike to help you get acquainted with adventure motorcycles before you move on to bigger and heavier adventure tourers, such as the Honda Africa Twin, the BMW R1250GS, or the Kawasaki Versys 1000.
6. Honda CB500X
Photo Credit: @honda
2023 Model Base Price: $7,299
The Honda CB500X features a 471 cc parallel-twin engine and has a wet weight of 199 kg. The bike is equipped with 19-inch front and 17-inch rear cast wheels fitted with standard dual-purpose tires that can handle various terrain. The Honda CB500X’s 834-mm seat height and 4.6-gallon fuel tank help this bike help with its on-road/highway performance. Though the Honda CB500X lacks modern high-tech features, it is a reliable vehicle that can allow you to go off-roading.
Many great adventure motorcycles are available on the market. However, not all adventure motorcycles are beginner-friendly due to their large engine displacements, extra weight, and included travel kits that might make it harder to keep the bike steady on bumpy roads.
All the bikes listed in this article are equipped with small engines with displacements less than 500 cc and weigh less than 200 kg on a full tank.
When choosing an adventure motorcycle, it is best to check how well the bike performs on paved roads. You need a bike suited for street riding but can also handle off-roading without fear of damage.
Once you become comfortable with navigating harsh road conditions, you can switch to bigger and heavier adventure touring bikes.
You can also convert dual-sport bikes into adventure motorcycles by adding performance upgrades and travel-friendly accessories.
If you want to make your adventure rides more comfortable, consider adding good-quality luggage bags from Viking Bags, such as ADV Touring saddlebags, ADV Touring tank bags, ADV Touring tail bags, ADV Touring backpacks, and ADV Touring roll bags.