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ADV Bike Choices (Percentage of Use)

Posted by on October 3, 2012
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Bob Ward

Fiction author with a zest for adventure travel. Blogs, tweets, videos, and pins for research and fun. He also hosts Ward's Adventure Travel Research & Trip Journal, a weekly podcast available on EFN, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and more.

You cannot do everything on one bike. You must have at least four (4). This will make your spouse cringe, but breaking the reasons down to percentage of use will surely help your cause. It will also help you decide–when cash is tight–the most logical bike to have first, second, third, and fourth. Then, when the garage is full, you should build an attachment or quit buying bikes.

I can never sell or trade my r1150r for sentimental reasons, but that bike is not ADV class anyway, so it doesn’t count toward the 4 others I need.

Here are my own percentages based on my personal riding needs, habits, and desires.

70% of my riding requires the BMW R1200GS. Here’s why:

Most of my riding is solo riding to work, so if I want to ride an ADV bike to work it’s only for posing purposes. Posing is fine. But on the vast majority of bike trips, I’m hauling ass at 80 mph on the highway, trying to keep up with buddies on faster bikes. Friends are rarely equipped with anything but road bikes, so gravel is usually out of the question.

For most adventure trips, the reality is they are highway based, or some variety of hard-packed dirt or rock road, and the goal is a destination of 100 plus miles to reach a checkpoint. You need all your gear and clothing with you because you’re not coming back the way you came. You’re usually making some kind of loop. Also, your riding cohorts will limit you. This is a very important reality. You’ll say to the group, “Hey let’s ride over this b-grade road and cross to the highway on the other side.” They’ll say, “We’re not getting dust on our street bikes.” It’s actually never even discussed. It’s just a given that if there’s a street bike in the group, the group stays on the street.

Also, I typically have a passenger on long rides, which requires the 1200’s load carrying capacity. With my son, the idea is to pack light for overnight camping, find a site slightly off the beaten path, pitch the tent next to the bike, and roast a few s’mores.

Here’s the main idea:

On a side note, the BMW dealer network is limited. If I want my bike serviced, I realistically only have one choice within a four hour drive. Given that, I’m quite pleased with the Yamaha Super Ténéré as a competitive option.

25% of my riding requires the DR-Z 400S or CRF250L

When I want to go gravel road touring locally, the DR-Z.

When I want to ride the trails with my family, the CRF.

For me, because I have access to many trails within a 10 mile circle of my home, even my trail bike needs to be street legal. The reality is I’m not loading the bike on a trailer to ride 10 minutes of highway between trails. I grew up riding these trails and know how often I emerge onto the highway for short jaunts between the good stuff.

On trails, the lighter the bike the better. Many steep inclines, ravines, muddy creek crossings, game trails require light bikes. I have found a 175 to be the easiest to handle on the type of trails I ride, but I’m also less and less motivated to go through a quagmire just to say I did it. A 250 is the right choice for me on the trails.

The DR-Z400 handles gravel road tours better, but since it’s a smaller percentage of my riding time, I find the 250 a more practical 2nd choice.

5% of my riding requires the XR650L

Moto Touring Beast for the following types of trips:

  • Alaskan Escape
  • Colorado Jeep Trails
  • Death Valley
  • Etc.

When support vehicle follows, this class of bike is best. Realistically requires trailer to haul to the destination, because it’s just not comfortable to ride this for long highway miles. Plus, why waste your knobby tires on pavement. So hauling is practical. The downside to owning this bike is that you don’t need it until you go to death valley, Colorado, Alaska, etc. There is no point trailering to these destinations because since you go there so infrequently your better off hiring an outfitter anyway. The outfitters have the KLR 650’s on hand as the basic bike.

Bottom line, this bike is the least practical for me because of where I’m located. It’s a 12 hour drive to the Jeep Trails of Colorado. Living closer would make this bike my # 2 choice, but where I live there’s much more muddy trails than hard-packed old mining roads.

My final order based on percentage of use…

#1 BMW 1200 GS

#2 CRF250 L

#3 DR-Z400

#4 XR650 L

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