The fact you’re reading this means you’re well aware of the rise in the adventure bike category. Humans have long had a desire to explore, and while earlier generations explored with horses or donkeys, today we’ve got the convenience and thrill of motorcycles to chart new paths.
But where does one begin? With so many motorcycles to choose from, which one should you get?
And while the R 1250 GS might be tempting, not everyone has a bank account that can afford to bring one of those home. Not to worry; there are still plenty of new models well equipped for adventure that won’t break the bank.
The following seven adventure bikes are all great options for affordable ADV bikes in 2021. While you can certainly buy a used bike and stretch your Euro a little more, there’s something about buying new that’s reassuring.
A note before we begin: There are other affordable options from Chinese and Southeast Asian motorcycle brands, but many of them are unknown quantities with dubious reputations. We’re fairly certain the manufacturers on this list won’t disappear in a week.
7. Royal Enfield Himalayan
The sleeper on this list, some might consider the Himalayan to be counter to the point we made earlier about not including unknown motorcycles on this list. The truth is Royal Enfield has really established itself in the past few years, with investments within the company to help it remain stable.
And besides, when you consider the far-off places people ride their Enfields, do you really doubt the Himalayan won’t take you there?
With a name like that, adventure is what it’s built for. Powered by a 411cc single-cylinder engine – the first new engine from RE since 1955! – the Himalayan is built to be stone reliable and easy to tend to basically anywhere in the world.
The tradeoff is a lack of power, but all the power in the world means nothing if you’re stranded somewhere with a mechanical issue you can’t fix.
Other than that, the 21-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear gives you a decent amount of rubber options, and wire-spoke nature of the wheels is another nod towards being easy to maintain pretty much anywhere.
The spacious cockpit is fine seated or standing, and the overall look and feel of the Himalayan gives off this aura that it could easily navigate the globe. Not very quickly, but still.
6. BMW G 310 GS
If the big R 1250 GS is out of your price range, maybe the entry-level G 310 GS is more within your price range? The gateway drug to GS ownership, the G 310 GS certainly looks the part with its front beak, minimal flyscreen, upright bars, and adventure styling.
And being a BMW, though the price tag may be small, it doesn’t give up anything in terms of fit and finish. This is one well put together motorcycle.
Power comes from a 313cc single cylinder, so there’s little fear about it being overly powerful if you’re new to adventure riding. You have long-travel suspension, which is basically mandatory for an ADV, and a 19-inch cast aluminum front wheel. A wire-spoked wheel would be better for serious off-road duty, but if you truly are starting out it likely won’t matter yet.
For being such a small bike, the riding position is awfully comfortable for adults. And being a BMW, you don’t have to worry much about reliability, and if you do run into an issue a BMW shop won’t be hard to find.
5. Kawasaki Versys-X 300
We’re not really sure what to call Kawasaki’s Versys-X 300. Is it a smaller adventure bike? Maybe. A small commuter? Kinda.
A little bit of everything? Sure. That’s the point of the “versatile system” family from Kawasaki – you can’t necessarily pin it down to any one category.
Its styling would suggest a little bit of adventure riding is up its alley, and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. It’s got upright bars, a windscreen, a small rack in the back, and a 19-inch front (spoked) wheel.
That’s all well and good, except the rubber is clearly more street biased than dirt. No matter, a change in tires should be enough to propel the Kawasaki well into the dirt and really transform its adventure capabilities.
Speaking of propelling, the Versys-X 300 is powered by a 296cc two-cylinder. It’s the same engine that has been in many different Kawasaki models for several years.
So, its reliability and robustness aren’t in question. There’s not much in the way of electronics, either, save for ABS, making it all the more suited for adventure duty (though you can’t easily defeat the ABS, unfortunately).
Kawasaki builds quality, combined with styling and components that can take you off the beaten path (though not very far off the path, at least in stock trim), all in an affordable package, make the Versys-X 300 another good budget option in the ADV category.
4. KTM 390 Adventure
It’s impossible to bring up the adventure category and not mention KTM alongside BMW. With the KTM 390 Adventure, you get a ton of big bike attitude and performance, but with a much smaller hit on your wallet.
And before you go thinking this is yet another beginner bike, think again. The 373cc single-cylinder packs a punch. You’ve got something in the neighborhood of seven inches of suspension travel, too. So you can go places.
Well, you can go places that won’t be too tough on the cast-aluminum wheels, which some might say do the Continental TKC70 tires a disservice. Nonetheless, the 390’s adventurous spirit is evident because it has crash bars, a skid plate, and handguards. KTM’s pretty clear in what this bike is meant for, and it’s just as inviting for less experienced riders as it is for veterans.
Whatever the case, if a budget adventure bike is what you’re after, the KTM 390 Adventure knows how to get you there.
3. BMW G 750 GS
If you want something with a little more punch than the first three bikes on this list, then another affordable option is the BMW G 750 GS.
The next level up from the 310 GS, the 750 is actually powered by a 853cc two-cylinder engine, giving you a noticeable extra pep in your step.
Note, the 750 has a fraternal twin in the F 850 GS. What’s the difference? Quite a bit, actually.
The 750 engine is tuned for more street riding, with its power higher in the revs. The 850 is tuned with power focused a little lower, making it the better option for dirt and adventure riders. Keep in mind both engines are physically the same, just tuned differently.
Being the more street-focused of the two, the 750 also wears cast-aluminum wheels, gets a slightly more street-oriented suspension package (which also means lower ground clearance), and a smaller 19-inch wheel in the front. Both bikes wear 17-inch rear wheels and the 850 gets a 21-inch front.
Since these are BMWs, after all, the price tag might border on the high side for some, but as an access point to ultimately graduating to the big 1250 GS, this is a legit consideration.
2. Suzuki V-Strom 650
Simple. Reliable. Capable. Affordable. All of these are terms that are absolutely fitting for the Suzuki V-Strom 650. Suzuki has been selling V-Strom 650s for around two decades now with hardly any major changes. Why? Because it just works.
The 645cc V-Twin engine sitting in the middle of it can trace its roots back to the SV650, another Suzuki motorcycle with a cult following. It seems like whatever Suzuki sticks this little engine in is a winner, and the V-Strom is no different.
No, it’s not the most powerful bike. Nor is it particularly light. It’s not even the best at adventure riding. But everything works well together with a charm that’s hard to quantify.
But of the things you can quantify, you’ll find a 19/17-inch front/rear wheel combo on the ‘Strom. Base models get cast wheels, or you can spend a little extra for the XT version (the one better suited for ADV work) and get tubeless spoked wheels.
The XT also gets handguards and a “skid plate” – said in quotations because it’s mostly plastic and doesn’t entirely cover the lower parts of the engine.
Off the showroom floor, the V-Strom 650 is marginally capable, but there’s a huge aftermarket for them, allowing you to build it up to go practically anywhere you want.
1. Yamaha Tenere 700
When it comes to bang for the buck, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more impressive adventure bike than the Yamaha Tenere 700. Built with the basics of adventure riding in mind, there are minimal electronics encumbering the 689cc parallel-twin in the T7.
It’s a shared engine among a couple Yamaha models, but it works very well in the Tenere 700, its low and midrange grunt perfect for adventure duty.
Inspired by Yamaha’s own rally raid bikes that tackle the Dakar every year, the Tenere 700 is slim, tough, and wears all the right hardware to get after your own version of the Dakar – wherever that may be.
You get adjustable suspension, lots of travel, and spoked, tubed wheels in the 21/18-inch variety. The Yamaha was made for adventure.
Of course, it’ll handle the pavement, but this is the option for those on a budget looking for a capable adventure bike. New riders can have a bike that’s not so intimidating, while experienced riders will get a thrill from riding the Tenere for all it’s worth.
When we say bang for the buck, this really is a great package.
Depending on your budget and skill level, there’s an adventure bike here that will meet your needs. Of course, by the very fact that you’re shopping with a limited spending cap, you also have to accept that you’re not going to get all the bells and whistles or the latest and greatest ADV out there.
But you know what, that’s okay. Sometimes simple is better, and these seven bikes are proof that sometimes less is more.