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MIDDLEWEIGHT ADVENTURES – BRING BACK THE 600 SINGLE?

Has the golden age of the adventure middleweight already been and gone? Did it happen before we’d even created the ‘adventure’ bike category? And if so, RUST asks do we need them back?

Many older adventure riders yearn for bikes from the past. We’ll name a few: BMW R80G/S, Yamaha Ténéré XT600, Honda XL600LM, Honda Dominator, Kawasaki KLR600, Suzuki DR650, BMW Funduro/650GS, Aprilia Pegaso, KTM 625/640 Adventure. Great bikes.

Those of the 1980s were very simple, being air-cooled, 40-50hp carbureted motors (singles of course, the BMW aside), combined with long distance tanks in many cases. Not at all powerful but big on off-road capability and super-easy to maintain and repair. They inspired a generation to set sail for far horizons.

In the 90s, bikes like the BMW 650s (Funduro, GS) brought liquid-cooling, typically a sixth gear and plusher seats for more comfortable cruising (plus a bit more weight). And around the millennium came the odd fantastic beast, like Honda’s fantastic stripped-for-action XR650, and KTM’s rally-inspired 640 Adventure.

It would seem, however, that the advent of the super-adventure bike, precipitated by the likes of the BMW R 1100 GS, then the 1150 and 1200 – plus the Ewan & Charley effect – has seen the manufacturers focus on increasingly bigger and more sophisticated models, while the middleweights were almost all but forgotten.

An Original – the Yamaha Tenere 600
Dakar calling – the Honda XL600LM
Proper rally – KTM 640 Adventure
The ultimate 600c trailie/ADV? Should we have stopped here?
Not 600cc, not a single, but BMW's R 80 G/S was minimalist and light

So now it’s 2020. And we’re all hoping to get riding again in a post-COVID-19 world. Many of us may well be of reduced means so big-ticket big-ADVs might well be off the menu. So the simple, modestly priced middleweight could see a boom period.

Only, we have to be realistic; we can’t build the bikes of the past anymore, however much we loved them. Stringent emissions regulations means today’s middleweight ADV has to be more complex. It has to be fuel-injected, it has to carry often multiple catalytic converters, has to be liquid-cooled and super-muffled, has to be equipped with ABS, increasingly traction control as well. No Euro5 certificate, no bike.

Here’s an odd thing, though. The whole emissions restrictions were started by the US, in the 1970s, when they got tough on the two-strokes. Europe came to embrace these, but maybe a little over zealously. You see in the US and in Australasia they still have simple 600cc singles ‘trailies’ that us Europeans loved and would love again. The Honda XR650L and the Suzuki DR650 are still both current models, and priced at US$6999 and $6699 are a perfect first adventure bike (or extreme adventure bike for that matter). Okay you might want to add the price of a long-range tank, a little extra protection and maybe panniers to the spend, but near as dammit you’re getting that 80s/90s trailie-adv experience for a comparatively affordable price.

Honda XR650L – a 2020 model outside of Europe
Suzuki DR650 – another 2020 model. If only...

You know, if you were a Chinese bike manufacturer today you might just grab a fair slice of the ADV market if you brought a suitable 600cc trailie-ADV to market (with Euro5 compliance). The reaction to Royal Enfield’s Himalayan has shown a good portion of the market is ready to return to smaller, simpler ADVs. Only for some, 410cc and 25hp isn’t enough. 600cc and 40hp – now we’re getting there. And seeing bikes like the Mash X-ride come to the market with something of a knock off of the old XR600 (radial valve) motor – with Euro5 compliance – gives us hope they could do this.

MIDDLEWEIGHT ‘SINGLES’ ON OFFER TODAY…

All said and done, when you look around the market today there is actually more choice in this category than we may think. So if you’re looking for that middleweight, what’s on offer?

 

KTM 690 Enduro R

Refreshed in 2019, essentially to meet Euro5, the KTM is the modern essence of the 1980s big trailie. It’s a punchy 70hp beast, yet surprisingly smooth, with top shelf off-road capability and is very engaging to ride. Downside is the 13.5-litre fuel tank that calls for a fairly expensive aftermarket solution – although you could throw Rotopax canisters on a rear pack frame.

Also £9799 is a premium price.

Husqvarna FE701 (LR)

Husky has its own version of the 690. It says something about this sector that the 690 is termed a ‘travel’ bike, while the 701 is an ‘enduro’ with sub-category ‘dual sport’. Even within the same factory there’s liberal use of nomenclature! Anyway the addition of a 12-litre forward tank to the 13-litre rear tank has made the 701 LR both 500km capable and arguably a little ugly! But it’s the closest thing yet to the KTM 640 Adventure of the late 90s.

At £10,699 it steps over that £10k barrier; is £900 for that big tank value for money?

2019 CB500X
Honda CRF450L / CB500X

Honda missed the ADV market with their CRF450L – it’s more of a Californian desert play bike than a proper ADV. Great bike, but not quite on target. Equally the CB500X is one of what are increasingly being called ‘soft-roaders’. Size, motor, ergos, design – it’s not something you’re going to tackle the (said) desert with. Yep, the XR650L is the one, only not for us Europeans…

Split pricing policy here. The CB500X at £6119 embraces the price-conscious market, while the CRF450L at £9469 is an executive’s plaything.

Suzuki V-Strom 650XT

A cracking bike this; as a travel bike where 80% is on road it’ll be king. But it’s no trailie, just on account of the weight and the limited ground clearance (and suspension). Great range with the 20-litre fuel tank, though. Again, if only Suzuki could homologate the DR650 for Europe?

At £7999 the V-Strom XT is a super-capable nearly-big ADV for a modest spend.

Yamaha Ténéré 700

Yamaha replaced their ultimate trailie single, the Ténéré 660, with this MT-07 twin-cylinder engine powered 700. It’s kind of moved up a league from where the old bike was. But it is very good, not quite a smoking hot KTM 790 Adventure R, but given a small suspension upgrade it would get close. And actually it probably fits better the journeys that today’s ADV riders would make – where they have to sprint to the location, enjoy a few days or week’s ride, then sprint home again.

The T7 started at a very reasonable £8300, but either exchange rates or rising build costs have seen the Yamaha become more expensive, rising to £8600 and now £9147.

BMW F 750 GS

BMW has stopped making 600cc category singles – a shame as their 650 GS motor was a good one. The nearest they can offer is an F 750 GS, which is a kind of lowered, softer F 850 GS. Not a big trailie by any stretch. Not a bike that seems to be grabbing the imagination either.

Priced at £8520 – cheaper than the Yamaha?! Hey, what’s happening here?

AJP PR7

It looks like a Dakar racer. It kind of is, but that’s an SWM 650 (actual 610cc) single in there. More for the hardcore fan who’s probably thinking 80% off-road, or yes, wants to compete in the odd rally. Very trick and with a 17-litre tank its fuel range will probably long outlast the comfort of the rally-spec saddle!

Some £8500 is good value for the high spec.

SWM Superdual X

This really is a 600cc big trailie for the 2020s. That’s a 54hp (formerly) Husky 610cc motor and while the wheels are spot on (21”/18”) there’s a sense the design has been nicely tilted toward adventure over trail, with an 18-litre tank, a screen and stepped seat. Hey, there’s even a centrestand.

At £6399 it’s bang on budget. Even better is the GT version, which at £6799 adds panniers and a bigger screen for full pack-and-go readiness.

Fantic Caballero Rally

Not quite a 600, really a 450, although the badge says 500. Nonetheless a beautiful looking bike with wonderful retro styling cues and while it might not suit a full-on belt through mid-winter British green lanes (proper mudfest) it would suit something like the Portugues ACT – in fact any big bike ADV route. And it’s a little hottie, hard to resist.

At £6999 it’s good value and it looks so pretty you’d not be worried any which way, it’s a piece of art.

 

DO WE WANT 600cc SINGLE-CYLINDER ADVs?

This is a topic of some debate. Have your say – leave a reply at the bottom of the page!

 

WHAT WE’D RIDE TODAY – GIVEN THE CHOICE

To start the debate, RUST has asked a few well-known adventure riders what adventure bike they’d most like to own/ride today given the choice. 

 

Sam Manicom, UK, world traveller, author
Choice: 2004 BMW F650GS Dakar

If I was told that I couldn’t keep my brilliant fun 278,000 mile R80GS and that I had to pick a mid-range bike that would do most things I like to do, then…

I’d go not for a new bike but an older one. In part that’s an affordability thing. My choice would be a BMW F650GS Dakar, but from 2004 onwards. The updates to the bikes at that stage means that glitches were sorted out. A lot of things about this bike get the thumbs up from me. I do very few motorway miles. Backroads and dirt roads are where I’d rather be and the Dakar deals with both very well.  However, this bike will happily mile munch and be frugal with fuel consumption – 65mpg at 75mph. They are relatively simple mechanically and the service intervals are good. Minor – 6,000 miles and Major – 12,000 miles.

The standard F650 has quite a low saddle height but the Dakar is 870mm which suits my 6’1” nicely. The spoked 17” and 21” wheels are easy to obtain a wide range of tyres for. I also like the point that as they have been around for a while, aftermarket parts and accessories are plentiful and not expensive. The 400w stator means that they will cope with multiple electrical accessories. The switchable ABS is a bonus and the 17.3lt fuel tank is useful. You can find them very reasonably priced second hand; low mileage around £3,000.

Sam Manicom’s four books take people through the six continents of his eight year ride around the world.
Signed copies direct http://www.sam-manicom.com/
Audiobooks https://www.audible.co.uk/search?searchAuthor=Sam+Manicom
Kindle https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindle-Store-Sam-Manicom/s?rh=n%3A341677031%2Cp_27%3ASam+Manicom

Lawrence Hacking, Canada, former Dakar racer, now regular desert / rally racer and adventure enthusiast 
Choice: 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700

Here in Ontario, Canada, it snowed a few days ago so our riding season is still a few weeks away. After being cooped up for the winter and due to pandemic restrictions we are all itching to get out and ride. Around here we have a wide variety of terrain and conditions. The new (to us) Yamaha Ténéré 700 would be my choice after spending a few days on one last August (check out the embedded video Yamaha Canada made with Lawrence). After that ride I put my name on one right away, and hopefully, I get one of the first 700s into the country. I like riding a bike that is new and different… a bike that may not have been seen in the wild. I think the Ténéré has a cool factor in spades. At this juncture, in my mind, the Yamaha does everything I want in a bike, it is versatile, lively and widens the parameters that adventure bikes are capable of. I like the fact that it rips up our back roads where much of my time is spent, is dirt friendly and compact (read light) enough to handle some pretty aggressive off road conditions. Plus it fits me well, is easy to maintain and dead nuts reliable in case I decide to ride across Asia some day in the near future. 

Amy Harburg, Australia, competitor GS Trophy 2016, rode a BMW 310 GS (Rally Raid Products modified) Australia-UK
Choice: 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700

This was a tough choice as there are so many good bikes out there, both new and old. However, after a bit of consideration I eventually landed on Yamaha’s new T7. This bike seriously impressed me when I recently had the opportunity to ride one for a weekend off road rally. I haven’t had as much fun riding a bike as I did on the T7 for a long time! The bike is just so planted, and its steering is almost intuitive.  It feels lightweight yet isn’t flighty, and its delivery of power is just so linear. However, ultimately for me the reason I would have one tomorrow, if I could, is for its versatility and simplicity. I feel it’s the right size for a cross continent adventure and its lack of electronic gadgetry means less that could fail while you’re in a remote location. If I’m going to own a bike it has to be something I can get the most out of and enjoy, not a showroom piece that is intimidating to ride.  Even in motorbikes, sometimes less is more.

July Behl, UK, ex. UPoA Madagascar, rode the Americas on a BMW R nineT Scrambler ‘PanAmScram’ as featured in RUST
Choice: BMW R 1200 GS Rallye

I’m going to be dull on this one and call out the BMW R 1200 GS Rallye. I traversed the length of the Americas on a BMW R nineT Scrambler and while I absolutely love that bike and would do the same trip on it again – in a heartbeat – I’m after change. I’ve been a bit of an ADV bike tart and having done the rounds with most manufacturers, the GS wins hands down. My lockdown luck is running out – my wife’s discovered my lack of personality, intellect, humour, sexual prowess – the looks were never there anyways. Which means once the dust has settled on Covid-19 she’d want me as far away and for as long as possible. And to do that in comfort, my GS Rallye is perfect. Unlike me, the bike is reliable, good looking, performs well under pressure, lasts long, has the muscle to get out of hairy situations, has a beautiful exhaust note (mine’s getting worse with age), and just about does everything. Despite my lack of skills, I love getting dirty and the GS is the perfect tool for that. Used to be the Mrs. But not anymore. So in a nutshell, the GS does it for me and will continue to for a while. Are you listening Mrs.B?

July Behl
Chris Scott, UK, author of the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook (and others) been riding in the Sahara since the 1980s now leads tours there
Choice: Royal Enfield Interceptor

What value do you place in your road bike’s off-highway utility? For me that’s been central to my travels from the start, more for wilderness exploration than honing any sporty or technical skills which come anyway. Comfort becomes more important with age but clearly a quarter-ton of £15k adv flagship holds the average rider back so I’m all for these lighter, cheaper alternatives. Sadly, the 701LR or PR7 only tick one of those boxes. Yamaha’s XT700 showed the way, eschewing inessential ‘because-we-can’ electronics. But I’d prefer that Goldilocks motor in a Sled-like scrambler midway between the lofty T7 and fat-wheeled XSR700 [picture]. A CP2 motor is tall, so Enfield’s 650s are another contender. I bet something’s in the pipeline at RE. Having tried a CB500X, another bike that interests me is the forthcoming ‘CRF800L’ using a bigger motor from of the innovative NC750. I ran one last year; the tractor-like grunt proves that if tuned and geared right, 50-odd hp is adequate out in the world. As always, the issue will be weight: my ballpark is 200 kilos wet with a 400-km range. I can’t see a ‘CRF800L’ managing that but I bet the upcoming 500 KTM twin will. So, push come to shove, I’d probably go for a smashed up Enfield as that’s all I can realistically afford. Then forks + shocks + front rim + bash. Job’s a good ‘un!

Chris Scott has a catalogue of books in print, you can of course find them via Amazon, or you can do it the old fashioned way, through your local book shop (keep your local businesses alive is what we’re saying there).
His number one book, Adventure Motorcycling Handbook is in its eighth edition, to be published shortly,  by Trailblazer Guides (www.trailblazer-guides.com)
Chris maintains an AMH website on which he posts news and reviews and invites others to contribute trip reports. There’s plenty of good stuff on there. www.adventure-motorcycling.com
Robert Hughes, UK, rallies competitor, head honcho at Rally Moto who organise top UK adventure rides
Choice: KTM 990 Adventure R
At the moment I ride a 2004 KTM 950 Adventure, one of the original adventure bikes, fashioned on the winning bike in the Pharaohs Rally in 2001 and 2002 Dakar, ridden by Fabrizio Meoni. This bike changed the style of adventure bikes and even now it is a joy to ride. My next bike would be a KTM 990R, I had one of these before and it was also a superb bike. Don’t get me wrong, I love the 950 with its carburetors, no ‘modes” approach – and it took 15 years for the competition to catch up – but it does need a bit of looking after. So I would like a 990R as well, same no-nonsense adventure riding with taller suspension to use as a bit more of a workhorse so I can preserve my “Fabrizio Meoni” replica.
Rally Moto is busy developing adventure rides for when we come out of lockdown. Check out the latest, inluding the new Tour of Wales Roadbook Challenge (scheduled for Aug 20) at www.rallymoto.co.uk
Editor’s choice: ‘Donkey’ the Husqvarna TR650

I get to ride an awful lot of bikes so I don’t need my own big ADV right now, although in two years time my plan is to have a 2012 BMW R 1200 GS TU Triple Black in the garage for my tours with the missus/son and random soft adventure rides. For now though, and as a keeper, I’d have ‘Donkey’ the exact bike I rode in Australia in 2016. It’s a 2013/14 Husky TR650, complete with Safari long distance tanks, Touratech panniers and all the other mods Robin Box applied to it. It needs its handling sorted – something wasn’t quite right – but it was comfortable, packed character and just felt so right for long range serious adventuring. Plus every morning I looked forward to riding it, I loved that wee bike. Perfect for slow and technical solo missions.  

YOUR CHOICE, YOUR COMMENTS

Please, enter the debate, what do you think, should we have more 600cc singles in adventure? And what’s your ADV of desire right now? Comment below…

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26 Responses

  1. I’ve had my fair share of 600 class bikes – KTM 640 enduro, CCM604, X-Challenge, XR650R. The 604 I rode off the ferry, through France to Spain with some serious trail riding at the other end, and the X-Challenge did that trip twice. For a while I used the XR to complete a weekly commute between Cornwall and London and in the dirt at the weekend. It also got thrashed 1000 miles each way, from Cyprus through Turkey to Greece, to complete Serres Rally in 2016. I’m not sure whether that proves how versatile the bike is or that I have a high threshold when it comes to pain and discomfort. The only one that didn’t complete a long journey was the 640 because it vibrated like a paint shaker and wasn’t particularly reliable. Those bikes always seemed to be hit or miss; either you got a good one or you didn’t – I’ll say no more.

    Since a serious accident put a stop to my racing, for the time being at least, I picked up an R80g/s while I was recuperating – bike maintenance was a form of therapy while I couldn’t ride. I was planning a trail tour through Turkey over Easter but Covid19 put a stop to that – maybe later in the year.

    What all of the above bikes have in common for me is that they are simple to work on, capable in the dirt (less so the g/s but it copes) and are reasonably comfortable on longer journeys (apart from the 640 vibes). I also enjoy the process of fettling and modifying a bike to get it to fit my particular needs.

    The 700T looks like an excellent bike although for my use the PR7 would probably be better. The price of both of these bikes is too high for me though, which also rules out the CRF450L. If the Caballero came with slightly longer suspension and 18/21″ wheels I would be sorely tempted.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, I own an 2017 XR650L and a 1983 Yamaha Tenere 600 (in addition to a Yam T7). A modern version of a big single would tick all the boxes of a true adventure bike, simple, effective, long range, bulletproof, relatively light and easy to fix! The big XR has been in production virtually unchanged since 1993 and is still available new in the USA, speaks volumes for the concept! (I imported my XR two years ago after compiling a list of must haves for a true ADV bike, only the XR and DR650 met all criteria)

  3. Oh the irony! Back in the early 90s when adventure riding wasn’t even a term, all the great bikes (Africa twins, Suzuki Bigs, Yamaha teneres and others) were only available overseas (I’m in California). So I built an Africa Twin out of a 90 Transalp (most big bits are interchangeable).

    Now you guys are lusting after the old-school 600 singles that we can still buy here.

    The irony comes in because those bike, while being remarkably good and made very good with some suspension work, are really not that popular over here.

    The 650s are (unfortunately) considered too small for the longer distance we must ride to get “off piste”. And neither Honda or Suzuki have seen fit to give these bikes even a modest improvement with windscreens and panniers preferring to leave that to The aftermarket. An understandable approach but leaving the uninitiated floundering which drives them to other models.

    Maybe I should invest in a container load of big singles and find a UK importer.

  4. I’m a big fan of the big single. I still have a 2004 640 Adv in my fleet, which is used very often. Maybe I was lucky to get a good one, but after 16 active years including a return trip to Mongolia it’s still very reliable ! Besides, the vibrations, if certainly high by today’s standards, are perfectly acceptable, even for the odd motorway job.
    However, I have to say that I’m becoming more and more a disciple of the « light is right » moto : I’m now seriously considering using my enduro WR250F for longer trips ! If you stay mostly off roads, it’s actually more capable and less tiring to handle than any of the big ones.
    So next subject : Bring back the small single!

  5. Hi Al,
    Hope you can help. I’m in the UK and would also like to import a new XR650L from the USA. Would love to seek any help and advice on how to do this and the pro’s and con’s about what to avoid/do? Are you able to help at all? Cheers, David

    1. Now let’s see what people might say on this. To my (JB) understanding, we can’t import new machines that don’t comply with Euro5 (true or false?). But you can import second hand machines that don’t. Thee could be a dodge there, sale of a demonstrator with say 50 miles on it?

      1. Go to the DVLA website and it will explain what the process is for importing 2nd hand bikes. Essentially, it has to be suitable for left hand driving (headlight etc) and be able to pass an emissions test.

  6. I have been adventure travelling, mainly on big singles, for the best part of forty years now, starting with the XT550 (9kg lighter than the XT500, more power and better suspension). Other bikes included the R80G/S, DR650S, F650GS Dakar (2004 model – Hi, Sam), RD400S, DR350S and a couple of XR400Rs. In 2008 my girlfriend and I bought a couple of KTM 690s to ride around the World and we have been riding 690s and 701s ever since. To me these two bikes are the spiritual successor to the XT500 and are about as light as you can make a modern big single trail bike that is fully road legal.

    One bike that should have been mentioned above is the CCM GP450 – it’s a shame they did not make the 600cc version that they promised.

  7. Hi Dave, good to hear from you, and what a selection of top bikes. Funnily enough, my brain hovered for a long time on the 690s – a significant part of the consideration process was as a result of the comments you two have made over the years about yours. Tried and well tested!

  8. Having read the article and the comments (so far) i can’t help thinking that everyone is ignoring the elephant in the room. That is of course the fact that most peoples choice of bike has little to do with logic or rationale. In fact what I’ve observed over time is that people pick whichever machine gets their juices flowing and then construct a rationale to defend their choice. Even when they ask for advice, what they’re usually doing is seeking affirmation not help.
    It was almost always the case that guys coming from road riding to offroad would want and would often buy the largest capacity dirt bike even though all the advice was to go for a smaller more manageable machine. Similarly the bulk of riders buying super traily or adventure bikes will often select the biggest piece of kit out there because, dare i say it, it massages their ego. Its only the serious adventure rider with off/rough road experience who recognises the validity of the big singles as a logical tool for the job. The irony being of course that it is these same hardcore riders who have the skills to manage one of the uber adventure bikes.
    Personally i love a big single and always have whether they were fashionable or not and my choice would be whichever bike i felt i would have the most fun with and that i would form the most favourable relationship with and i’ll work around its short comings. Adventure biking isn’t about the bike, its about you.

    1. A lot of truth in what’s being said here. I certainly ditch bikes that don’t get my juices flowing, but also ditch ones that do – then regret it slightly later. I love trying different bikes and sometimes adapting them – always have. I’ve had or ridden loads of big singles but finally tired of the lumpiness at the lower rpms I prefer to ride at. About 450cc seems an optimal lump/power/mass balance with a single. I enjoyed my few months on a Himalayan.
      Lately, as I also tire of tall saddles and lose my ability to bounce back off the landscape with a shrug, I find less light but smoother twins suit what I do these days. Especially anything with a 270-° crank like a Yam CP2, AT, RE 650 and so on. That sort of motor does unleash the juices.
      One bike I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned or pictured here is the XT660Z. According to my AMH researches, it’s still one of the most used big travel singles out there and a pretty good machine out of the crate.

      1. Crikey, you’re right Chris. Not even a passing comment. Top bike and a big favourite at RUST, could very much be one to slide into the fantasy garage (as money doesn’t allow the reality). But quite possibly the ultimate single cylinder ADV given the big tank, screen and just about everything. A trifle tall maybe if you’re shorter in the leg, but great bike. Damn, should re-write the article… Hey ho, full SP on the 660 here: https://rustsports.com/ten-years-ten-high-points-with-the-tenere/

  9. Hi
    Totally agree with Iain R, and Dave King – i have owned the 640 ADV x 3, 650 X, 650 Dakar, 690, 650 R
    My great adventures have been in the last few years on an XR 650 R Honda (kickstart only), and last year a modded DR 650 Suzuki,
    I still enjoy adventures on GS 12’s, but they cannot be ridden alone & don’t fit in some UK ruts / lanes (nor does my r80g/s)
    I am nervous of the 690 / 701 having been let down by my & friends 690s on big trips – electrical and mechanical (clutch actuation & top ends)
    I am looking at the AJP PR7 (concerned about support & development & re-sale) and the CRF 450 L (cost)
    In the garage is the R80, GS 12, and a Rolling Hobo / RTW Paul EXC 500 – but as Swampy said we often buy bikes for our heart, not our head…..

  10. I still rate my old pre LC 1200GSA for many trips having ridden this now venerable beast about half way around the world. But the Tiger range has proved to be an outstanding revelation on some of the big trips I’ve done in both Africa and Latin America, particularly the 800. But then, in the Himalayas, I rediscovered the joys of classic biking on an RE Bullet on some of the worlds most murderous ‘roads’ – robust, reliable, great off road and the only bike I’ve ever ridden confidently in deep sand. I put it entirely down to the low center of gravity and the basic ‘fix anywhere’ design and construction. But then again, I look at my XT500 and reckon that in many ways this also is the perfect ADV from a generation where sailing off into the wilderness without some sort of technical back up in case of mechanical disaster really was an easy thing to so. In summary, as someone said above, we are all influenced and have an element of bias about the bikes we’ve ridden, owned and done hard miles on. But the perfect adventure bike? I’m not sure such a thing exists – though as the article contends, there does seem to be a growing call for simpler, lighter, smaller and less complex middleweights.

    1. Hi Richard – have you tried buying one lately?! They’ve been discontinued for a while now, which is probably why no one is commenting on them. And if I can comment on a personal note, I never felt a competition 450cc engine was going to be right for this sector, although I’ll happily defer to those who bought them and loved them. If CCM had made the same bike with the SWM/Husky 610 motor (for instance – as AJP has) then it could have possibly been best of breed. But for now CCM are working on their Spitfires, assuming they’re not totally in lockdown like the rest of us.

    2. I believe I did a review of the GP 450 5 years ago here in this magazine. I had number 7 off the production line and promptly rode it on my own across South America. It was a great introduction to a new lightweight adventure bike category and was quite innovative. However, JB is correct the motor which was the only one available to them at the time was not really suitable. Also, road side maintenance was not very easy. They did have a GP650 in the pipe line but the Spitfire range has taken over as their main production efforts now.

  11. Lots of sensible comments here. I’m pleased I’ve still got my low-mileage 1998 Honda Dominator, but it’s high time I flogged my HP2 Enduro and my 2003 KTM 450 rally bike (any takers?!). I have a real soft spot for the Suzuki DR650 though, and the Transalp, both rekindled when I rode them around Peru in 2008 with Elspeth (Beard). I loved the original Africa Twin RD02 750, and the new Africa Twin really appeals, but it is a bit porky, especially in this company. Having done the Land’s End Trial on a Himalayan last year, and really enjoyed it, I’ve already told Enfield they should make an adventure version of the new 650 twin – Chris Scott is bang on there. The KTM 690/Husky 701 should be everyone’s choice, and I’m interested to see Dave King has plumped for them, but Michael Messervy’s friends’ experience of them is precisely what makes me reluctant to buy one, especially second hand. Talking of Huskies, you should have mentioned the original Husky 650 single of the late ’90s JB – loved that bike too. You didn’t mention that the XR650L has – or had – a stupidly high seat, in contrast to the DR650ES. And yes, the CCM GP450 was a brilliant concept – if you got a reliable one – which deserved a softer, bigger motor with the same light weight. Sadly, for the likes of us, CCM have realised that they can make far more money making a Spitfire bling-thing which no-one is ever going to ride more than a hundred miles on a sunny Sunday, than a ‘do anything, go anywhere’ machine on which to cross continents. And yes, my KTM 640 Adventure was brilliant on the dirt and back roads and a filling-remover on fast tarmac. And the XT500 vibrates even worse. I’m very keen to try one of these Yam 700 twins though… PNB

  12. Having owned a tiger 800 road since 2012 I have to say I love it, for the road. Perfect power, great handling etc, however I did buy it with half a dream of fire roads and similar.
    The reality is that at 5’7 the tank is just under my nose (or so it feels on anything other than tarmac), and it would be hard to pick up and expensive after an off-road tumble (going to happen if on longer off road trip).
    So I cast my eyes recently to the market for something more 50:50 and the KTM 390 looks just about perfect. Saw it at the NEC at the end of 2019, and it’s lovely, but crazy tall.
    And herein lies my issue with bike development and the challenges of selection for rtw or even just uk 50:50 style fun. They’re all too tall.
    Why can’t we have all the features covered in the thread so far, but 800mm seat height?
    No doubt KTM / powerparts will have lowering parts that can be bought, but that could add best part of £1k to the bike if a new rear shock is part of it. Suddenly the KTM is not such a good price.
    Am I the only shorty?!

  13. I’ve been riding motorcycle since 14 years of age and have owned approx 8 British, 6 Italian, 2 German 1 Russian and have lost count of Japanese motorcycles. I rode the CCM GP 450 around South America on my own 5 years ago and it was a great bike. It did have some issues with complexity and difficulties around road side maintenance and repairs and was a little under powered but otherwise a great light weight adventure bike. However, not many made and has shown reliability issues since.
    I am a frequent solo adventure rider and being over 65 YOA, require a bike I can pick up on my own when travelling well of the beaten track. esp in desert or jungle type terrain.
    Having recently (Feb 2020) returned from a 6600 mile trip through Sought America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina riding an AJP PR7 I can confidently say the AJP is everything and more than the CCM. At 150 KG dry and 17 litres of fuel under the seat it’s more than capable of long fuel stops. Really comfortable even after 12 hours not much of the cowboy leg feeling. Most importantly the engine is tried and tested and in wide diverse use, so spares availability is good. It is so easy to change a plug, fuel filter, air filter, fuel injector all by the road side if needed.
    I have completed a review and some videos of the trip which may help demonstrate. It’s actually not hard core at all, the traction and torque is well placed at the bottom end of the throttle so great off road but at higher speeds 75- 80 mph very little vibe. It can handle fast twisty mountains roads like a full road bike, just point and turn but equally, turn left through a gate and of down some serious off road and it just takes it.
    see the Youtube Fit Bones https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=fit+bones

  14. I think you overlooked the changes Honda made in 2019 for the CB500X. They improved the engine, increased the front tire to 19″ size, added a slipper clutch, improved the dash display, beefed up suspension, and more. This is now a bike with decent handling on the pavement, 300km fuel range, and 49HP that can also take on trails with confidence. You might need to get better off-road tires and a skid plate, but even adding these results in lower cost than most any of the other bikes you mentioned.

    1. Fair point, Steve. I rode the previous version with a full Rally Raid conversion. There’s a test report on that in RUST issue #4. Very effective bike but not being a trail bike as such and with an engine that just felt too linear it simply didn’t light my fire – I should retest the model once lockdown is eased, for sure. I compare that experience with testing Rally Raid’s up-cycle on the BMW G 310 GS which made a big impression on me, plucky little motor, a chassis that felt very much at home in the dirt and a surprisingly grown-up GS feel to it with the screen etc – I fell in love with that one.

  15. The TTR600 Belgarda is noticeably absent from the list. This was a great machine. With a 20 litre tank upgrade it had a good range. The suspension was great on this model and it was bomber reliable, only let down by the lack of a “magic button” (kickstart only). The seat wasn’t made for long distance but like the PR7, this was weighted toward off road and mine landed me some great UK rally results.
    I love my singles so I’m hanging on to my 660 Ten for now

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