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Top 10 Best Middleweight Adventure Bikes (2021)

Freelance motorcycle journalist, former editor of Bike & What Bike?, ex-Road Test Editor MCN, author of six books and now in need of a holiday.



2021 Benelli TRK 502 Adventure bike Blue


The continuing huge popularity of adventure bikes, which in turn has lead to the inevitable growth not just in their capacity but of their proportions, features and price as manufacturers bid to out-do their rivals, has lead in turn to the emergence of another type of bike – the ‘middleweight adventure’.

So, while ‘flagship’ adventure bikes like BMW’s GS has grown from 1200 to 1250cc, which in turn followed KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure, they have left a gap in the market behind them for smaller, lighter, cheaper versions which is now being filled.

As a result, in recent years we’ve seen the arrival of not only Ducati’s Multistrada 950S and BMW’s F850GSA but also even lighter, more affordable offerings such as Yamaha’s MT-07-derived Ténéré 700 – and there are plenty of others, too.

But what does this ‘middleweight adventure’ breed truly offer? What are the differences between them? And which are the best? To help you find out we’ve taken a closer look at this class and picked out our 10 of the best, in price ascending order…


2021 Benelli TRK 502 Adventure bike Blue


Benelli TRK502, £5299

On face value, legendary Italian marque Benelli, the brand right up there with Ducati and Laverda for not just its 250cc GP world championship in 1969 with Kel Carruthers but also its famous six-cylinder Sei in the mid-1970s, may have been a shadow of its former self since an abortive early-2000s revival culminated in it being taken over by the Chinese Qianjiang group in 2005. But there are increasing signs of another promising re-birth – as its TRK502 middleweight adventure bike, as launched in 2017, proves. It’s worth taking seriously, too. It comes in two forms, the stock 502 and the more rugged, off-road 502 X with longer suspension, off-road wire wheels and added protection bars but both are surprisingly decent bikes and fabulous value for money. The twin-cylinder motor produces a decent 47bhp and is both A2 licence compliant and willing and effective. Proportions-wise it’s very much a full-sized adventure, so great for taller riders, roomy for two yet still unintimidating and novice-friendly. Beefy, 50mm inverted forks and twin discs up front help it handle and stop more than adequately and, although the clocks and trimmings are a little ‘last generation’ and there’s no getting away from the fact that Chinese quality isn’t the best and the TRK is a little budget in places, you do get an awful lot for your money – especially in X trim. It might not have quite the gloss or solid reassurance of, say, Honda’s lighter, cuter, more novice-orientated and up-to-date CB500X, but the Benelli is a genuine, credible all-rounder that looks every inch the pukka adventure bike, has a classic name on its tank and comes at an almost irresistible price. 



Honda CB500X, £6119

When first launched in 2013 alongside its roadster CB500F and sports CBR500R siblings, the 471cc, 47bhp, parallel twin X was pretty much the only credible A2-compliant adventure-styled bike. That’s now changed with the arrival of bikes such as Benelli’s TRK and more junior-still bikes such as BMW’s G310GS, but the X, thanks to repeated updates, the latest to comply with Euro5, remains the ‘go-to’ novice-friendly, affordable, middleweight adventure. The last major update in 2019 made the CB500X better than ever. Although output remained 47bhp, new valve timing, a bigger airbox and other tweaks helped make its delivery more immediate and gruntier, yet still a doddle to use. And although the tubular diamond frame was also unchanged, a larger 19-inch front wheel and revised suspension made it taller and somehow more serious without losing its novice appeal. On top of that there was revised bodywork, a new taller screen and slick new LCD clocks. The end result has ‘proper’ adventure stature and looks without losing any of its easy manageability; is an absolute piece of cake to ride yet substantial enough to be all-day capable and, though still a little basic, it has more class and polished reassurance than any of its rivals. OK, it might not be a true off-roader – but that’s true of many other adventure bikes as well – but as an introduction to adventure bikes they don’t get much better – as proven by the X’s Europe-wide sales success.



Kawasaki Versys 650, £7549

Bikes simply don’t get much more versatile – especially for the money – than Kawasaki’s brilliant 650 Versys – which is quite appropriate, really, as that’s what its oddball name is derived from. Larger and more substantial than A2-compliant adventures such as Honda’s CB500X, the middleweight Versys (there’s also a 1000cc, four-cylinder version) is an adventure-styled spin-off of Kawasaki’s ER6 roadster/sportster. As such, it uses the same, willing, 68bhp parallel twin motor and slightly budget tubular steel diamond frame, but with slightly longer suspension, a more upright riding position and unique bodywork including sizable fairing, adjustable touring screen and roomy, pillion-friendly saddle. The result is a middleweight that’s unintimidating yet also substantial enough for two-up touring; has performance that’s real-world usable, is surprisingly frugal yet still exciting enough for most plus handling that’s neutral, sweet steering and comfortable.

Best of all, though, is how the Versys has improved over the years. First launched as something of an ‘ugly duckling’ in 2006 its looks and long-leggedness was improved in 2010 before a complete refresh in 2015 added much-improved styling, eight extra bhp, improved suspension for a plusher ride a taller and now adjustable screen, bigger tank (giving a range now well-over 200miles) and improved quality and refinement all round. Yes, it’s still no off-roader – it was never meant to be – but now it wants for nothing else, little of the budget feel remains and it can do almost everything, yet still at a bargain price. 



Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT, £8299

Suzuki’s adventure-styled V-Strom 650, along with its SV650 roadster sibling, is one of the success stories of modern motorcycling – and rightly so. Like Kawasaki’s ER6/Versys family which followed, it’s a 650cc twin in a fairly budget chassis that brilliantly manages to be pretty much all things to all people – and remains so to this day. Although the original 645cc, V-twin SV650 first came out in 1999, the adventure-styled V-Strom didn’t surface until the second-generation, fuel-injected SV of 2004. It was uprated significantly in 2011 with a new look and 68bhp then got a complete makeover again in 2017 before being tweaked for Euro5 for 2021. With a flexible 71bhp, decent suspension, 12V socket, traction control, ABS and adjustable screen it’s every bit as versatile as Kawasaki’s latest Versys while the additional XT version (at £300 more) with off-road style wire wheels, hand guards and bash plate, delivers more rugged looks and a smidgeon of off-road ability (something the Versys can’t match). Sure it’s still a little basic and budget and lacks the electronic gizmos and luxury of more expensive bikes, but the latest V-Strom has everything you need, is adept and able for first timers and experienced types alike, is decently engaging and enjoyable and remains good value. 



Yamaha Ténéré 700, £9499

Yamaha’s middleweight Ténéré (the name dates back to Yamaha’s first desert rally-inspired, big-tanked, XT600 Ténéré of 1983) was one of the most eagerly-awaited bikes of 2019. It essentially uses the universally-applauded MT-07 twin cylinder powertrain, retunes it slightly, and marries it to a chassis and all-round package inspired, not so much by middle-of-the-road adventure bikes but by full-on, Dakar Rally off-roaders. The result produces a grunty 72bhp held in a tall, slim, pukka off-road chassis complete with long-travel, multi-adjustable suspension, powerful Brembo brakes, off-road-sized wire wheels and more. As such, it’s a far more off-road-targeted adventure bike than most, in a similar way to KTM’s Adventure 790 and new 890 (see below), yet remains a decent road bike at a tempting price – although that has risen significantly since its launch. Off-road it all works brilliantly: it’s grunty, nimble, slim and agile, at least compared to most other so-called adventure bikes. On road it’s adequate with a decent screen, comfort and a flexible delivery. Yes, it lacks the slick electronics of the posher, more expensive KTM but it’s close to matching Kawasaki’s road-only Versys on the street, blows it away on the dirt and undercuts all-other genuine road/off-road adventures in terms of value. If you’re not interested in going off-road, though, you’d be much better off with Yamaha’s similarly powered Tracer 700.



BMW F 850 GSA, £11,105

Adventure bike experts BMW – the German firm arguably invented the breed with its first R80G/S way back in 1980 – would be expected to be pioneers when it comes to middleweight adventure bikes and its first F800GS was exactly that when it debuted in 2008. Based on the Bavarian firm’s mid-range, 800cc parallel twin, until then only available in F800R roadster and F800ST sports-tourer forms, the GS married the perky, 85bhp twin with longer-travel, off-road suspension and wire wheels and added some adventure style bodywork all resulting in a bike that was actually a far better off-roader than its then R1200GS bigger brother thanks to its reduced weight and girth, yet was still comfortable and long-legged enough to be a decent tourer. In 2019 its adventure credentials were improved further with the introduction of this F850GS Adventure version. Based on the 94bhp, 853cc F850GS which replaced the F800GS in 2018, it shares that bike’s switchable electronic modes, impressive compromise of road and dirt ability and BMW’s usual massive list of optional extras including ESA electronically adjustable suspension, cruise control, heated grips, luggage and more, but adds a bigger, 23-litre adventure fuel tank, extended, more protective bodywork and revised ergonomics. As such, especially considering the tempting base price (which is nearly £4K cheaper than BMW’s R1250GSA) it’s arguably the ideal middleweight adventure bike. But as with many BMWs you do need to remember the cost of all those desirable extras. Add too many and you’ll be in big bike R1250GS adventure prices before you know it, which somehow defeats the idea…



Moto Guzzi V85 TT, £11,200

Here’s a slightly ‘left-field’ option for you. Moto Guzzi, also known as the ‘Grand Dame’ of Italian motorcycling both for a history dating back to 1921 and a product line based on idiosyncratic, shaft drive, transversely mounted V-twins, has rarely been comfortable with adventure bikes. Its Quota in the 1990s was a heavyweight embarrassment while its more recent Stelvio still left much to be desired. But its new V85 TT more than makes up for those two with charm and a retro style all its own. By giving the TT a blend of retro scrambler style mixed with touring comfort and Guzzi’s traditional heritage appeal, Guzzi’s middleweight adventure bike offering sidesteps performance comparisons with the likes of BMW’s F850 or Triumph’s Tiger and instead concentrates on delivering acceptable versatility along with lots of quirky, character. Its signature 853cc shaft-drive V-twin is derived from that of the V9 Bobber, is flexible and charismatic and has been updated to meet Euro5 producing 80bhp for 2021. It’s upright ergonomics are all-day comfortable. It’s far less of a handful than Guzzi’s old 1200cc Stelvio and its scrambler/retro style is bang on ‘trend’ And all of that for just over £11K (the two-tone liveried version costs £200 more) makes it very tempting indeed. A fashionable, classy yet versatile and accessible all-rounder for around £11K? Guzzi might finally have got it right. Just don’t expect a lightweight off-roader, a true world-navigating adventure in the GS mould or a modern, electronics bedecked sportster such as the Tiger or Ténéré …



KTM 890 Adventure, £10,999

When Yamaha introduced its new middleweight adventure bike, the 700 Ténéré, in 2019, KTM did the same with its new 790 Duke-derived 790 Adventure. Now, for 2021, the Austrian off-road specialists have gone further still, by replacing the 95bhp, high spec 790 with the larger, even more potent 103bhp 890. Power apart, the KTM differs mostly over the Yam by virtue of its more premium, lavishly equipped nature (it is £1500 more expensive, after all) and in the fact that now three versions are offered – the slightly more basic and road orientated Adventure, the higher spec and more off-roady R (for £11,999) and the limited edition, ultra exclusive ‘R Rally’ (for £18,699). All are classy and confidence-inspiring, complete with colour TFT dash, quality suspension, clever ‘saddlebag’ fuel tank which helps keep the weight low and top notch electronics including riding modes, cornering ABS and more which, in itself, lifts it a level above the Yamaha. The two R models, meanwhile,  come with top spec, fully-adjustable, 100mm longer WP suspension, taller, non-adjustable single seat (the stock version has an adjustable two-piece saddle) higher mudguard, lower, non-adjustable screen and extra ‘Rally’ rider mode. As such, in true KTM style, the Rs are significantly more serious off-roaders. KTMs being KTMs, however, even the stocker is a far more able off-roader than most rivals yet is also a more comfortable and versatile road bike as well. Unless you live most of your life in the mud, the stocker’s more than enough. If you do, the R takes middleweight adventures to another level.



Triumph Tiger 900, £11,400

Leading British manufacturer Triumph has a credible recent history with middleweight adventure bikes with the Tiger 800 proving to be not just one of the best of the breed since the original was launched way back in 2010 – it’s one of the best all-round bikes, period. In 2020 these were updated again to be the Tiger 900 of which two variants are available, the road-orientated 900 GT and the more off-road 900 Rally – and both are better than ever. The key to their success is its distinctive, versatile and characterful three-cylinder engine: a longer stroke version of the Hinckley firm’s 675cc triple as used in the Daytona and Street Triple. The 94bhp unit delivers a brilliant compromise of speed and character yet having a decent dose of meaty torque as well. This unit, bolted into an upright, mid-size adventure-style chassis, has resulted in a great, comfortable, flexible, characterful all-rounder at a decent price – no wonder it’s proved so successful. The latest 900s are also fully Euro5 compliant, come in a variety of specifications including a low seat model, have all the latest riding modes and come with a slick TFT dash. The result, today, is that you can pretty much have your Tiger 900 any way you want – from budget street machine to fully-loaded off-roader which, in terms of spec, gives BMW’s GS a run for its money. Whichever way you go for, the Tiger 900’s characterful triple, classy handling and real-world practicality is almost irresistible…



Ducati Multistrada 950 S, £13,795

Ducati re-wrote the adventure bike rule book when it came out with the revolutionary Multistrada 1200, complete with pioneering riding modes and connected electronic suspension in 2010 and its latest version, the Multistrada V4 S, looks to have raised the bar in the big-bore adventure bike class yet again. But with an almost excessive 170bhp and a price tag now over £18K it also leaves a middle-ground which Ducati has attempted to fill with its ‘middleweight’ V-twin Multistrada 950, as introduced in 2017. That bike, with its more basic spec, almost succeeded by being affordable yet, thanks to its Hypermotard 937cc engine producing 113bhp, still had enough performance for most. This ‘S’ version, however, as introduced in 2019, is better yet coming as it does with semi-active suspension, traction control, quickshifter, riding modes and more – yet still at a price under £14K. In fact it’s such a good ‘middleweight’ it makes you wonder why you’d ever need the bigger bike. Road performance is more than enough to match the middleweight rivals here yet still carry two in touring comfort; handling, despite its larger 19in front wheel is excellent and no longer does the 950 conspicuously lack the sophisticated goodies and gizmos which made the original Multistrada 1200 so memorable. A Multistrada for the masses with all of the trinkets and toys you expect from the Ducati badge? We think so…