Compact adventure trio heading to NZ
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This year sees a trio of small capacity adventure motorcycles finally hit New Zealand roads. But why are we excited about a group of sub-400cc bikes?
The range of compact adventure bikes that has been announced is staggering. Even more so when you consider that, before the international motorcycle trade show EICMA in Italy, we had no idea anyone was even thinking about such a concept. The wide array of bikes from Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, BMW and KTM means there will be a bike to match any rider's desire. If it's exploring the lesser ridden roads and back country of Aotearoa or even the world, there is a compact adventure bike to suit.
One of the biggest problems with the pre-2017 adventure market was the sheer size of the bikes. Forgetting about the occasionally eye-watering price tag, the other great problem has been the growing size, and therefore weight, of adventure bikes. Even KTM and its rally-inspired Adventure range has been guilty of spending a little bit too much time at the buffet, weighing in at over 229kg. Can you imagine heading out on a gravel road and having to lift that? These new mini adventure models will allow a wider range of riders to explore the country in relative comfort.
Seriously, there is nothing like swinging a leg over your bike and hitting the road, and these bikes will make it easy to do.
With larger front wheels, from 18in up to 21in, great protection from the elements -- thanks to well-designed fairings and screens -- and seats that offer decent comfort, these little machines should keep us riding much longer than other bikes in the same capacity bracket.
At the beginning of the year we theorised the majority of the class would come in under the magic $10,000 mark, and we weren't wrong. You'll soon be able to grab a slice of adventure for as little as $8490 for the BMW entry.
With the bikes we're particularly interested in coming in at under 400cc, that also puts them well into the LAMS market, with much cheaper yearly registration costs. Then, of course, there's the fuel economy smaller engines bring. When it comes to value, these bikes look close to unbeatable.
The fact that you can use an adventure-styled bike for almost anything you put your mind to has to be one of its greatest strengths.
Admittedly, it does bring to mind the old saying that "a jack of all trades is master of none". However, when it is increasingly harder to get away with a shed full of bikes to cater to your every whim -- commuting, touring, exploring or just having fun on a weekend ride -- smaller capacity adventure bikes are going to offer versatility to riders who want to experience a little bit of everything, before moving on to a bigger machine.
Honda CRF250 Rally
This rally raid-inspired machine is what got us fizzing over the prospect of a small adventure bike class. By taking inspiration from Honda's CRF450 Rally, famous for tackling the Dakar Rally, the CRF250 Rally adds a host of quality bits to the already capable CRF250L it's based on. Most notable changes from the 250L are upgraded suspenders, bigger fuel tank, and the rally-inspired body work. The CRF250 Rally might be the smallest bike in terms of capacity, but if the specs are anything to go by, the little Honda has the most going for it as a go-anywhere bike in the class.
Expected price: $8690 + orc
It's the icon of the adventure segment, only much smaller. Yes, the spirit of the big BMW GS is alive and well in the new 310GS. It has the tech and the funky Motorrad styling; the only thing missing for it to be a perfect miniature of the R1200GS is a boxer engine. Instead, BMW has opted for a much more novice-friendly 34hp single cylinder. Sound familiar? That's because it's the same powerplant as the G 310 R that the GS shares its frame with. And it wouldn't be a GS without taller suspension, all-day comfort and a bit of tech, which it has.
Expected price: $8490 + orc
Kawasaki Versys-X 300
The Versys-X 300 leans more towards the touring side of the adventure equation. But we won't hold that against it, as a 19-inch front wheel matched with a 17 at the rear will enable it to handle some of our less-used gravel roads. Best of all, thanks to a high ground clearance, there shouldn't be any issues with bashing the underside of the little Versys on anything, unless you are taking it well off the beaten track. However, the best news for the Versys-X is what will be at its heart: the same 296cc parallel twin we know and love from the Ninja 300. That means it won't be lacking in the go department.
Expected price: $8995 +orc