This was posted on advrider the other day:
“Researched the heck out of Adventure Class motorcycling and after the research and test rides (all on the pavement), I decided on the 1200 GSA. Magnificent bike. Off road, side of the hill, greasy dirt this 520ish beast is a bitch to maneuver. I’m a big strong boy too. Is this bike really a street bike 85%ish with a 15%ish packed dry dirt road, not necessarily off road? I fully admit I’ve been out of riding for a while with my last bike in the early 2000’s with a XR650R which is an 80-85% off road machine. So did I buy the wrong bike or do I want go just give it time. I do not like pavement so do it as a necessity when needed.”
I was sorry to tell this rider that he did buy the wrong bike since he doesn’t like pavement and will only ride it as an absolute necessity.
The big adventure bikes – and I love them – are the SUVs of the motorcycling world. They have the image, they look rugged, and they look like they can do serious dirt. But, they aren’t actually a good choice for anything beyond well-maintained, dry dirt roads (I consider dirt roads to be roads; dirt roads aren’t “off-road”). They are just too big, too heavy, take too much energy to ride off-pavement, and are too fragile (all that weight does serious damage when the bike inevitably hits the ground).
For actual adventure riding – riding that includes more that well maintained, dry dirt roads – there are better options.
This is just one man’s opinion but the most versatile bikes, the ones that can do both highway, dirt roads, and off-road, the ones that meet the full spectrum of “adventure riding” are the 300-400 lb. bikes: DR650, XR650L, DRZ400s, KTM 690, Husky 701, Yamaha WR250R, Husky TE610/630. All of these bikes are 350 lbs. or less except the DR650. Every pound of additional weight makes any bike exponentially worse off-pavement and better on-pavement. Every pound less makes the bike exponentially better in the dirt and less comfortable on pavement.
At the current state of motorcycle design, bikes below 300 lbs., such as the KTM 500 and Husky 501, aren’t great on-pavement, aren’t great at carrying heavy loads, and require oil changes a bit too frequently. Perhaps one day design will progress to the point that sub-300 lb. bikes will be more versatile, have longer maintenance intervals, and handle long distance pavement better. Today, we aren’t there yet. Leaving us with the bikes in the 300-400 lb. range as the most versatile and best able to meet the requirements of actual “adventure riding”.
Unfortunately, the motorcycling world in general doesn’t consider the 300-400 lb. dual sport bikes “sexy”. They don’t fit the image of “adventure bike”. The big boys, the 500 lb. or so adventure bikes, get all the love (and make the most profit for the manufacturers).
The 1200 GSA is a fantastic paved road bike that can also do easy dirt. And looks really good doing just that. Which is just fine for most, I presume. However, if you really want to ride harder dirt than that, then you might want to consider lighter, more dirt capable options.