A2 legal adventure motorcycle showdown
For decades, the adventure motorcycle segment used to be dominated by the biggest bikes. With engine displacements well over 1000cc and seats high enough to give shorter riders a hard time the touring class didn’t leave much room for beginners. In the past few years that has slowly started to change as more manufacturers introduced smaller off-roads aimed specifically at newer riders. Not only that, but these new entry-level motorcycles are packed with features that used to be a rarity in this class. Extras such as adjustable suspension and break/clutch levers, either standard or optional ABS, LED headlights, fancy dashboards, to name a few. This is especially good news for restricted licence holders who are looking for an offroad machine. All the bikes in this list are A2 ready.
Kawasaki’s 2 cylinder 300cc block has been around for a few years new powering the smallest Ninja and the naked Z300. This year, it has found its place in Kawi’s touring line, powering the their newest, smallest motorcycle, the Versys-X 300. Some modifications has been made to power delivery to accommodate riding in challenging terrain; gear ratios and the intake system are adjusted to give more low-end power and more torque. The small displacement engine with its low fuel consumption (around 3.6 l/100 km or 64 mpg) matched with the 20,5 litre tank offers potentially 600-650 km (up to 400 miles) range. This number is right on par with the top of the class 1200cc adventure bikes. It is important to keep in mind that, according to Kawasaki, the Versys is a road bike with some off-road capabilities. The light chassis matched with a very friendly seat height (845 mm) makes it fun to ride on the gravel.
BMW’s 650cc single cylinder touring machine used to be the entry level bike in the manufacturer’s lineup. Debuted in 2011 as a successor to the F650GS, the G 650 is a considerable choice for anyone looking for a proper “big bike”. Its peak power output tops out the A2 restrictions at 47 horsepower and makes for an enjoyable ride even up to 100 mph. When designing the engine, one of the main aspects was to create an economic, long life, low compression power unit. The fuel economy is great, claimed to be 74 mpg (that’s 3.3 l/100 km) when riding at a steady 60 mph. Even though it was mean to be BMW’s entry level machine a few years back, you get all the little extras you’d come to expect from the German manufacturer: heated grips, ABS (optional) and an all around ergonomic package.
Recently, BMW has decided to extend their lineup to the entry-level categories. The 2 new motorcycles, the naked / streetfighter G310R and the G310GS are both targeting new riders. Keeping quality high enough to live up to BMW’s standards and price low enough to appeal to young riders is no easy task. Manufacturing of these 2 new rides are outsourced to Indonesia (much like KTM has gone to India with their smaller machines). That doesn’t mean quality suffers from cutting corners. The G310GS has all the extras and features that a full sized BMW has. Inverted suspension, 4-piston Bybre breaks, ABS are all standard equipment. With its 34 bhp engine this is the lowest powered bike in the list, but absolutely capable machine on and off road none the less.
The Japanese manufacturer’s 471cc engine that is also available in a naked and supersport variant powers the CB500X. At 47 hp top power it is clear that it’s been designed to suit A2 regulations while giving riders the most they can get out of their licences. Even though the styling implies this is a motorcycle with off-road capabilities, the only adventures you want to have with this are on paved roads. The 500cc parallel twin is able to handle highway speeds and the nimble chassis is ideal for high traffic city streets. With a fuel economy at 64 mpg (3.7 l/100 km) and Honda’s everlasting quality this also makes for an ideal, low-maintenance commuter machine. We can’t however talk about the 500X without mentioning Honda’s other bike in the segment, the NC 700 X.
The NC700 is a direct competitor to the CB500X offered by the same company, for the same target demographic. The engine is a 670cc parallel twin that allegedly comes from the Honda’s 1.4 litre car engine used in the Jazz. Despite having an extra 200cc in displacement compared to the CB500, the horsepower figures are the same. Only the torque has increased significantly from 43 to 60 Nm. This can be achieved by using lower compression which will result in an even longer lifespan of the engine. The NC uses some unconventional features. The tank for example is located in the back of the bike and can be accessed from under the passenger seat, giving us a large, spacious storage space where the tank would normally be. A fully automatic dual clutch transmission is an extra that makes the NC feel almost scooter-ish. With that being said, both of these bikes are great commuters, comfortable long-range tourers with the CB being more of a “proper motorcycle” and the NC as a viable, rational alternative.
Yamaha’s middleweight off-roader differs from most of the other bikes in the list, being more of a proper offroad machine than a long range adventure bike. The 660cc single cylinder matched with a 48 mpg fuel consumption and a 22 litre tank offers less potential range compared to some other bikes. Being such a large displacement single, above a certain rpm you are bound to feel enough vibration to interrupt you on long highway tours. Take it far enough from the paved road and the low-end torque of 58 Nm will come handy. The Tenere 660, although not a popular bike itself is based on the same platform and engine with some of Yamaha’s more recognized models, like the MT-03 or the 660 supermotos.