The Triumph Tiger XCA, BMW R 1200 GS, Ducati Multistrada 1200S, Honda’s Africa Twin – even the Himalayan or the G310 GS. They all torment me in my dreams, singing like sirens, luring me to a possible shipwreck on a rocky shore. How does one choose between thoroughbred stallions? Took the Himalayan out with that definition I guess. The G 310 GS merely hangs in with its fingernails. The others, firmly in the fight right now, will probably lose ground to lighter, more powerful dual-sport machines as lean replaces fat.
What exactly constitutes an ADV?
The ADV motorcycle is a compromise. It can easily cross beautifully carpeted tarmac and the sands of Morocco alike, with a fair degree of competence on all surfaces. But how do you choose? Very few of us actually review, study, examine and obsess before buying. It’s always because of the ‘deal’ you got or the bike that your friend recently bought that has given you the irresistible urge to be in his TCX Pro 2.1 boots. Hardly has the scream of the departing Akrapovic died down that you have made up your mind.
You briefly look around, pretending to contemplate. You finally go down the “I’ll have what he’s having ” route and slap down your credit card. You’ve made your choice. Three months later, after the heat from the big-bore engine has burnt the insides of your thighs, you’ll put your bike up for sale. What’s good for your friend may be a disaster for you.
Is there a better way?
The few of us who do the research pore endlessly over spec sheets. “Seat height difference being 2mm lower convinced me,” said a friend. I gently pointed out that he will spend more than half his riding time, on a mix of gravel and tarmac, standing on the pegs with his knees comfortable cossetted in the curve of the tank and his chin over the handlebars, staring into a distance completely oblivious to the maniacally sliding rear wheel. Where, in this Utopian ride into the sunset, was the seat height going to play a major role?
More to the point would have been the distance between the pegs and the seat which would have decided the angling of the knees when seated. Even a few degrees can make the difference between a comfortable ride and one where you stand, even on tarmac, to straighten those creaking joints!
When we choose our steed, we need to ride the bike, for at least 200km before we can tell whether it fits or not. During a normal dealership ride, the most you’ll be able to do is slot third gear in heavy traffic. But before the novelty of the quick-shifter has worn off, the ride is done!
So what should a potential ADV-bike buyer do?
Take the bike out for a long ride. Gear up as if you’re taking it to Ladakh. Spend the day taking in both the twisties as well as the long straights, gravel and tarmac. To make the best choice, ride all options on a long trial on consecutive days. That way you’ll clearly remember yesterday’s ride.
That said, adjustment, or accessorising can fix many of the small niggles easily. Almost all ADV bikes need a handlebar riser. Once installed, they make all the difference to the riding stance, especially for taller jockeys. Remember that you will need to make the bike fit you, as it won’t fit right out the box. Narrow footpegs can give way to wider ones, mismatched gear ratios cannot!
Eventually, ignore the spec sheet, ignore the friends’ choices, but never ignore your gut feeling. Motorcycling is visceral. Choose after riding the bike. Not long,not short, not once, but many times. Your choice of an adventure bike should be based on the fit, feel, balance and joy. None of these have a yardstick, or are even mentioned on a spec sheet! But if you can’t stop grinning after your ride-that bike’s for you!