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Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

Is an Adventure bike the right type of motorcycle for you? Whether you’re looking for your first bike or want to upgrade, you’re in the right place!

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What an adventure motorcycle is
  • Why you may or may not want an ADV bike
  • How to choose the best adventure motorcycle based on your specific needs & budget

What is an adventure motorcycle?

The definition varies based on who you ask, but I consider an adventure (ADV) bike to be a street legal motorcycle that has the ability to safely do some mild off-road riding.

An adventure motorcycle is quite a bit heavier than a dirt bike, due to a bigger engine and chassis, but this also gives it more stability and comfort while cruising at high speed on the road.

2018 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

ADV bike vs street bike

For example, the biggest differences between a regular street motorcycle, such as a Yamaha R6 sport bike or a Suzuki SV650, and an adventure bike, such as the Honda Africa Twin, is that the ADV motorcycle has better/more suspension, tires, and ergonomics for off-road riding.

For example, the DOT off-road tires are more aggressive and sometimes come as a “knobby-tire” that has much better traction in the dirt compared to a smooth motorcycle tire that just has “rain grooves” for riding on pavement/asphalt.

Is an adventure motorcycle right for you?

What type of riding do you plan on doing, and what is your experience level when it comes to riding a motorcycle on and off-road? Those are the two most important questions you must answer to know if an ADV bike is the best choice for your needs.

For example, if you’re mostly riding on the road but want the ability to hit some short gravel roads or do an easy off-road trail, then an adventure bike is a good choice. But, if you want to do more off-road, or if you’re a beginner, then you should seriously consider getting a dual sport bike to start out on for a few reasons – see below.

2021 Yamaha Tenere 700 Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

ADV vs Dual Sport Bike – what’s the difference?

Some people interchange them, but this is a big mistake. A dual sport bike is basically a street-legal dirt bike that’s usually in the 250-650cc range for engine size, and an adventure motorcycle is a heavier street bike that’s usually in the 500-1200cc engine size range.

In other words, a dual sport is a heavier trail bike that can legally ride on the road, while an ADV bike is more similar to a street touring bike that can do some mild off-road riding.

Comparing weights

A dual sport motorcycle is generally in the 280-360 lb range, while most adventure bikes are in the 400-600 lb range. This alone should tell you that a dual-sport bike will be much easier to handle if you’re a beginner or shorter rider because it’s easier to handle at low speeds and in tight areas or trails.

How to choose the right adventure bike based on your needs

If you’re still convinced that an adventure motorcycle is right for you, or want to consider your options, there are quite a few sizes and options to choose from. BMW used to be one of the leaders in the ADV motorcycle category for many years, but now there are quite a few brands with great bikes.
The cheapest ADV motorcycle is around $5,700 for the base price (without fees and options), and the most expensive model is about $32,000 with all of the added options – yes, this is just for one motorcycle!

2019 BMW 310 GS Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]
BMW 310 GS – One of the cheapest ADV bikes (when it comes to base MSRP)

These are all of the base models – the price and weight might be higher with an option with more accessories, such as luggage/cases, bigger fuel tanks, frame protection, etc.

Adventure Motorcycle Specs & Size Chart:

BikeWeightSeat HeightPowerMPGFuel Cap.Price
Yamaha Tenere 700452 lbs*34.4”50 TQ / 72 HP53 MPG4.2 Gal$10,499
Yamaha Super Tenere584 lbs*33.3 or 34.3”86 TQ / 110 HP43 MPG6.1 Gal$16,299
Honda CB500X439 lbs*32.8”32 TQ / 47 HP65 MPG4.7 Gal$7,299
Honda NC750X493 lbs*31.6”51 TQ / 58 HP64 MPG3.8 Gal$9,399
Honda Africa Twin529 lbs*33.5 or 34.3”77 TQ / 101 HP45 MPG6.5 Gal$14,499
Kawasaki Versys 300382 lbs*32.1”18.5 TQ / 39 HP55 MPG4.5 Gal$5,899
Versys 650483 lbs*33.3”45 TQ / 66 HP50 MPG5.5 Gal$8,899
Versys 1000567 lbs*33.1”75 TQ / 120 HP42 MPG5.5 Gal$18,899
Suzuki VStrom 650470 lbs*32.9”46 TQ / 70 HP50 MPG5.3 Gal$9,104
VStrom 800507 lbs*33.7”56 TQ / 83 HP45 MPG5.3 Gal$11,349
VStrom 1050534 lbs*33.7”74 TQ / 106 HP45 MPG5.3 Gal$15,199
BMW G310 GS386 lbs*32.3 or 33.4”20 TQ / 34 HP65 MPG3.0 Gal$5,695
BMW F 750 GS493 lbs*32.1”61 TQ / 77 HP57 MPG4.0 Gal$9,995
BMW F 850 GS504 lbs*32.1-35.0”63 TQ / 90 HP55 MPG4.0 Gal$12,595
BMW R 1250 GS549 lbs*31.5-34.3”105 TQ / 136 HP47 MPG5.2 Gal$17,995
KTM 390 Adventure379 lbs*32.7-33.6”43 HP63 MPG3.8 Gal$7,399
KTM 890 Adventure474 lbs*32.7-33.6”105 HP52 MPG5.3 Gal$13,949
KTM1290 Super Adventure598 lbs*33.4-34.2”102 TQ / 160 HP42 MPG6.0 Gal$20,299
Norden 901474 lbs*33.6-33.4”73 TQ / 105 HP52 MPG5.0 Gal$15,799
Ducati DesertX492 lbs*33.3-35.0”68 TQ / 110 HP45 MPG5.5 Gal$18,295
Multistrada V2496 lbs*31.1-33.5”71 TQ / 113 HP44 MPG5.3 Gal$18,895
Multistrada V4536 lbs31.1- 34.4”92 TQ / 170 HP36 MPG5.8 Gal$27,195

* = Wet weight/curb weight (with all fluids and a full tank of gas)

If this confuses you, don’t worry – I’ll break down the most important specs and how to easily narrow down your decision for the best adventure motorcycle based on your specific needs!

Specs to consider when choosing the best ADV Bike for YOU

While specs don’t tell the whole story, it’s an easy way to narrow down by excluding what you DON’T want in a motorcycle or dirt bike. For example, if you want an adventure bike with at least a 5-gallon fuel capacity to go on long rides without having to refuel often, then you can exclude bikes that have smaller gas tanks.

With that said, there are ways to carry extra fuel on your adventure bike rides, which is why I said that specs alone shouldn’t make the decision for you.

These are the most important specifications & dimensions to consider when choosing the right ADV motorcycle & why:

  • Weight – Lighter is easier to handle, but less stable at high speeds
  • Horsepower – More power makes highway cruising easier, especially riding 2-up
  • Seat Height – Shorter is easier to handle, but taller is more comfort & performance (generally)
  • Fuel Capacity – Determines range, but this also depends on MPG/fuel efficiency
  • Tire/Wheel Size – Larger diameter wheels typically handle better off-road
  • Type of Tires – Street vs dual-purpose (knobby) tires greatly affect traction, which will give you confidence (tires are easy to change, though)
  • Price – What’s your budget? ADV bikes can be expensive with all the “cool” features and farkles/accessories

Benefits of more power

An adventure motorcycle with more power has these main advantages:

  • Easier to cruise at high speeds on the highway/freeway because you don’t have to rev it as high and can gear it taller for better MPG
  • It’s easier to haul a passenger and/or luggage with more power
  • You still have decent power when riding at high elevations (20% loss at 5000 ft. vs sea level)
  • It’s more exciting if you can handle the extra power

Which is the fastest adventure bike in the world?

The most powerful adventure touring bike is the Ducati Multistrada V4 with an estimated 170 horsepower, although the KTM 1290 Super Adventure has more torque (103 vs 93 ft. lbs). 

2018 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

For 99.9% of us riders, that’s WAY more power than we need to ride an ADV, but it could come in handy if you’re riding at 12,000 ft. elevation or are rally riding in the desert.

Benefits of less power

With all the benefits of having more power, why would you even want to have less power on an adventure motorcycle? You might actually be surprised why people choose a “slow bike”, even if you’re an experienced rider.

Well, here are the benefits of having less power:

  • Much easier to ride as a beginner because you can focus on learning proper techniques and not worry about “taming the beastly power”
  • Better fuel economy – on average, you get better MPG and can ride just as long or longer on a smaller (lighter) tank of gas if you have a “slow ADV bike”
  • Less power generally means less weight because the engine is smaller – less weight = easier to handle and less exhausting
  • Less snappy power is also less tiring because it’s not trying to rip your arms off, especially at the end of a long ride on a gravel/dirt road
  • A lighter bike also works better off-road because it’s easier to lean and turn at low speeds and ride over obstacles.
2017 Kawasaki Versys 300X Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]
300cc isn’t big, but it’s enough for most adventures!

What size ADV bike is best for YOU?

Choosing the right size adventure motorcycle might be the hardest choice because there are so many sizes to choose from. For example, not only do you have the engine size, but the seat height is also an important factor to consider, especially if you’re short or are a beginner rider – don’t worry, we’ll go through this one step at a time!

Engine size

As a general rule, the smaller the engine, the easier it is to handle due to having less power and weight – you can focus on riding and practicing your skills, rather than trying to tame the power. Less power also makes it easier to ride off-road because the rear tire won’t break loose as easily, which causes you to slide out and fall over.

This also means that smaller ADV bikes are typically easier to ride off-road.

Here’s a practical guideline for what engine size you should choose for an ADV motorcycle:

  • Under 500cc: Best for beginners and off-road riding
  • 500-900cc: Midweight for on & off-road 
  • Over 900cc: Best for experienced riders or mostly on-road riding

Seat height

I’ll cover this more shortly (see what I did there…), but the seat height of a motorcycle is important if you’re taller or shorter than average in height. Since most dirt bikes and motorcycles for adults are best if you’re in the 5’9”-6’0” height range, you might need to pick a bike that’s not “average” or has the ability to change the seat height.

North Shore Trip On Vstrom 650 Edit Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]
Going on an adventure with my good buddy Jorge

Fortunately, most modern adventure motorcycles have that capability with a different seat or suspension upgrade. If you want a guideline for what seat height is best for you, here’s a simple chart to use as a starting point:

Rider Height (Inches/cm)Motorcycle Seat Height (In/cm)
5’0”-5’3” (152cm-160cm)28”-31” (71-79cm)
5’3”-5’6” (160cm-168cm)31”-33” (79-84cm)
5’6”-5’10” (168cm-178cm)32”-34” (81-86cm)
5’10”-6’2” (178cm-188cm)34”-36” (86-91cm)

Best lightweight adventure motorcycle 2024

While an adventure bike is heavy compared to most dirt bikes and even a dual sport bike, there are a few that are under 400 lbs, which is up to 200 lbs lighter than the heaviest ADV bike.

These are the top 3 lightest adventure bikes and their wet weights:

  • KTM 390 Adventure – 379 lbs
  • Kawasaki Versys 300 – 382 lbs
  • BMW G310 GS – 386 lbs

The next closest is the Yamaha Tenere 700, listed at 452, which I didn’t include here because that’s a fairly significant weight difference. It’s also in a different class since it’s at about double the engine displacement as these more beginner-friendly ADV bikes.

Best adventure motorcycle 2024 for beginners

There’s a reason why lightweight motorcycles are beginner friendly – they’re easy to handle, which is why this list is the same as the previous list.

These are the best ADV bikes for beginners:

  • KTM 390 Adventure
  • Kawasaki Versys 300
  • BMW G310 GS

It’s not just because they’re lightweight that they make a great motorcycle if you’re a new rider. The lower-than-average seat height and smooth engine with predictable power make it easier to learn on because it’s easier to control – especially if you’re trying to ride off-road!

2021 KTM 390 Adventure Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

For short riders

Having a shorter seat height is a good way to boost your confidence as a newer rider if you have short legs like me – when you can touch the ground at a stop then you won’t be as intimidated. However, with some simple short rider techniques or if you have improved your balance skills, the seat height won’t matter as much, even if you’re riding off-road.

These are the Adventure motorcycles with the lowest seat height:

  • Multistrada V2 – 31.1”
  • Honda NC750X – 31.6”
  • Honda CB500X – 32.8”
2015 Honda CB500X Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

Lowest seat height doesn’t mean the shortest bike

Wait, what? Just because the BMW F 750 GS has a given seat height of 32.1” and the 310 GS is at 32.3” doesn’t mean the 750 GS is easier to touch the ground.

Yes, the seat height number may be slightly lower, but you have to account for how wide the seat and chassis are. For example, the 310 is going to be narrower, making it easier to touch the ground because your legs and hips are pushed as far outward before going down to the ground. Make sense?

For tall riders

Since the width makes almost as much difference as the seat height, as we just learned, that’s what I will be considering in this list as well for the tallest ADV bikes.

These are the best Adventure motorcycle if you’re a tall rider:

  • BMW F 850 GS 35.0”
  • BMW R 1250 GS 34.3”
  • KTM 1290 Super Adventure R/S 34.2”
  • Ducati DesertX 35.0”
  • Ducati Multistrada V4 34.4”

Please note: these are the tallest seat heights each bike offers – this may require an “upgraded” factory tall seat or optional accessory to get the full height. For example, the standard seat height of the BMW F 850 GS is about 34.0”, but with the optional Rallye seat, it’s raised up to 35.0”.

A BIG common mistake that tall riders make

Since standing on the pegs is a common body position for riding an adventure motorcycle off-road, many tall riders think they need taller handlebars and/or bar risers in order to comfortably stand up while riding. What they don’t realize is that this could be hurting you more than it helps.

Why? Because if you’re standing up too tall, this throws your balance off and you won’t have as much traction on both wheels, which is a common reason why your tire will want to slide out more easily. 

So what do you do instead? Well, most riders can adapt by using proper body position, even if your motorcycle is a little bit small in size.

Best middleweight adventure bike 2024

There’s a big range in weights when it comes to ADV motorcycles, but I consider a middleware adventure bike to generally be in the 450-500 lb. range. What’s the benefit of having a medium-weight and size adventure bike?

It’s a good compromise when it comes to weight, handling, and overall power and performance. Essentially, you’ll have enough power to comfortably cruise on the freeway at high speeds, and yet it will be lighter than the biggest ADV bikes, making it a little bit easier to handle off-road when needed.

These are the best middleweight ADV motorcycles:

  • Yamaha Tenere 700 – 452 lbs*
  • Honda CB500X – 439 lbs*
  • Honda NC750X – 493 lbs*
  • Versys 650 – 483 lbs*
  • Suzuki VStrom 650 – 470 lbs*
  • VStrom 800 – 507 lbs*
  • F 750 GS – 493 lbs*
  • F 850 GS – 504 lbs*
  • KTM 890 Adventure – 474 lbs*
  • Norden 901 – 474 lbs*
  • Ducati DesertX – 492 lbs*
  • Multistrada V2 – 496 lbs*
2023 Husqvarna Norden 901 Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

Best adventure bike for the money

It’s easy to spend a lot of money on a new adventure motorcycle, especially if you want to add luggage racks, cases, frame protection, and all sorts of other accessories. If you’re looking for your first bike, I recommend buying a used ADV that’s either stock or has minimal accessories that you want – the fewer modifications, the more reliable because there’s less to go wrong.

You won’t know exactly what you want in an adventure bike until you start riding, which is why it could be a mistake to buy a brand new motorcycle that’s very expensive – only to find out it’s not up to your expectations.

With that said, I consider these to be the best adventure motorcycle for your money:

  • BMW G310 GS – $5,695
  • Kawasaki Versys 300 – $5,899
  • KTM 390 Adventure – $7,399
  • Versys 650 – $8,899
  • Suzuki VStrom 650 – $9,104
  • BMW F 750 GS – $9,995
  • Yamaha Tenere 700 – $10,499
  • VStrom 800 – $11,349

I consider these to be the best bang for your buck because you get the most performance for the least money. However, these are the base MSRP numbers, so the actual cost might be higher after dealer fees and taxes.

These prices also don’t include any factory accessories, so you can add several hundred or thousand to the “out the door” cost when all is said and done. That’s why I recommend buying a used motorcycle or dirt bike for your first bike.

Adventure touring motorcycle

Want a motorcycle that can tour the country with comfort while being able to handle some dirt roads when needed? The bigger adventure bikes are made to haul all of your gear, and they have the best suspension and cockpit to make your long rides more enjoyable.

I consider these to be the best touring ADV bikes on the list:

  • Yamaha Tenere 700
  • Yamaha Super Tenere
  • Honda Africa Twin
  • Versys 1000
  • VStrom 800
  • VStrom 1050
  • F 850 GS
  • R 1250 GS
  • KTM 1290 Super Adventure R/S
  • Multistrada V4
2022 Honda Africa Twin Best Adventure Motorcycle For Your Size & Budget [2024]

They combine comfortable ergonomics, suspension, modern tech, and smooth yet strong power to give you a touring bike that will make you smile. The only catch? Most of these motorcycles are well over $10,000 and some are over $20k – not for the faint of heart or a good choice for a starter bike.

Best adventure motorcycle under 600cc

Maybe you prefer to stick to a smaller displacement ADV bike, whether you just want the economical route, or you know that you’ll be able to control it more easily because of the power and weight.

These are the best adventure motorcycles under 600 cc & why:

  • BMW G310 GS – Most suspension travel
  • Kawasaki Versys 300 – Slightly more power than the BMW
  • KTM 390 Adventure – Most power, better electronics & tech, better off-road tires from the factory

Best cheap adventure bike

It’s hard to find a “good adventure motorcycle” that’s truly cheap or affordable. That’s why I recommend starting on a dual sport bike because they’re less expensive and can still handle riding on the road.

With that said, here are the best cheap motorcycles for adventure riding:

  • BMW G310 GS $5,695
  • Kawasaki Versys 300 $5,899
  • Honda CB500X $7,299
  • Kawasaki KLR650 (Dual Sport) – $6,899
  • Suzuki DR650 (Dual Sport) – $6,999
  • KTM 390 Adventure $7,399

Best off-road motorcycle 2024

While all of these motorcycles are capable of riding off-road with a modified setup, such as off-road tires, there are a few models that are already made to safely ride in the dirt or a gravel road right off of the showroom floor.

Not only do they have DOT dual-purpose tires, but the suspension and riding position is more comfortable to ride off-road because they can handle some small obstacles while riding in the sitting or standing position.

These are the most off-road capable adventure bikes:

  • KTM 390 Adventure
  • BMW G310 GS
  • Aprilia Tuareg 660 Adventure
  • Yamaha Tenere 700
  • KTM 890 Adventure R
  • Husqvarna Norden 901
  • Honda Africa Twin
  • KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
  • Ducati DesertX

Best sport touring motorcycle 2024

Maybe you prefer the pavement and want a sporty-feeling touring motorcycle with all the comfort and features.
These are the best sport touring adventure motorcycles that you can buy:

  • Yamaha Super Tenere
  • Kawasaki Versys 1000
  • Suzuki VStrom 1050
  • BMW R 1250 GS
  • Ducati Multistrada V4
  • Triumph Tiger 1200 GT

What is the most versatile motorcycle?

A versatile motorcycle is one that can safely and easily do multiple kinds of riding well, which isn’t easy when you think about it. This is why there are so many adventure and dual sport bike options – there’s no motorcycle that does everything well (trail/gravel/city/freeway/etc.).

With that said, I consider these to be the best all-around motorcycles:

  • KTM 500 EXC-F
  • Suzuki DR650
  • Kawasaki KLR650
  • Yamaha Tenere 700
  • KTM 890 Adventure

In order, this list goes from best at riding off-road to best at riding over the road/pavement.

The Best dual sport riding gear

Now that you know what the best adventure motorcycle is for you, it’s time to buy some riding gear, but this can get expensive quickly if you don’t know what to look for. If you’re doing mostly dual sport or adventure riding, then this article shows you what dual sport gear is best based on your needs & budget.