Top 10 Middleweight Adventure Bikes (2019)

Phil West
By Phil West
PhilWestNew Former Editor of Bike, ex-Road Test Editor of MCN, ridden more bikes than he can remember. Likes: GTS, Paso, Mantra. Dislikes: own rust bucket LC and 900 T-Bird daily driver.

 

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 in 2019 – the ‘middleweight adventure’.

So, while ‘flagship’ adventure bikes like BMW’s GS has grown from 1200 to 1250cc for 2019, which in turn followed KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure and Ducati’s now 1260cc Multistrada, they have left a gap in the market behind them for smaller, lighter, cheaper versions which is now being filled.

As a result, this year has seen the arrival of not only Ducati’s Multistrada 950S and BMW’s F850GSA but also all-new even lighter, more affordable offerings such as KTM’s 790 Adventure and Yamaha’s eagerly-awaited, MT-07-derived Ténéré 700 – and there are plenty of others, too.

But what does this new ‘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 of 2019 and picked out our 10 of the best, in price ascending order…

 

No.

Make and Model

Price

1.

Benelli TRK502

£5199

2.

Honda CB500X

£6069

3.

Kawasaki Versys 650

£7249

4.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

£7999

5.

Yamaha Ténéré 700

£8399

6.

BMW F850GSA

£10,600

7.

Moto Guzzi V85 TT

£10,899

8.

KTM 790 Adventure

£11,099

9.

Triumph Tiger 800XCa

£11,400

10.

Ducati Multistrada 950 S

£13,355

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Benelli TRK502, £5199

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 and the like in the mid-1970s, is a shadow of its former self since its early-2000s revival culminated in it being taken over by the Chinese Qianjiang group in 2005. But there are no increasing signs of another promising re-birth – as the TRK502, launched in 2017, proves. A couple of average 125s apart, Benelli’s current range centres around a liquid-cooled, 500cc, parallel twin powerplant in a variety of guises. Designed and styled in Italy but manufactured in China these comprise the Ducati Diavel lookalike 502c, Ducati Scrambler reminiscent Leoncino and this Ducati Multistrada-esque adventure bike, the TRK 502. 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 for £300 more – but both are surprisingly decent bikes and fabulous value for money. The twin-cylinder motor, by producing 47bhp, 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, especially in X trim you do get an awful lot for your money. It might not have quite the gloss or solid reassurance of, say, Honda’s lighter, cuter, more novice-orientated 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. 

>> Full review

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Honda CB500X, £6069

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 Kawasaki’s Versys-X 300 and BMW’s G310GS, but the X, thanks to two updates since, remains the ‘go-to’ novice-friendly, affordable, middleweight adventure. The latest update for 2019 makes it better than ever. Although output remains 47bhp, new valve timing, a bigger airbox and more means it’s somehow more immediate and gruntier, yet still a doddle to use. And although the tubular diamond frame is also unchanged, a larger 19-inch front wheel and revised suspension means it’s taller and somehow more serious without losing its novice appeal. On top of that there’s revised bodywork, a new taller screen and slick new LCD clocks, too. 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 as well 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 than, 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. 

>> Full review

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Kawasaki Versys 650, £7249

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, as well as smaller variant based on the old Ninja 300 twin) 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; performance that’s real-world usable, surprisingly frugal yet still exciting enough for most (the Kawasaki twin remains the go-to engine for TT Supertwin racers); 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. 

>> Full review

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT, £7999

Suzuki’s adventure-styled V-Strom 650, along with its SV650 roadster/sportster siblings, is one of the success stories of modern motorcycling – and rightly so. Like Kawasaki’s ER6/Versys family which followed (some might suggest copied) it, it’s a 650cc twin (this time a Vee rather than Kawasaki’s parallel arrangement) in a fairly budget chassis that brilliantly manages to be pretty much all things to all people – and remains so in its latest incarnation. While Suzuki’s 645cc, 60bhp V-twin SV650 first came out in 1999, the adventure styled V-Strom didn’t come out until the second, fuel-inject SV debuted in 2004. That version, with its aluminium frame, upright proportions and pleasing manners was a great, affordable all-rounder. It was uprated significantly in 2011 with a new look and 68bhp by being based on Suzuki’s new Gladius version of the SV then got a complete makeover again in 2017. Now with a flexible 71bhp, revised suspension and styling, 12V socket, traction control, ABS and adjustable screen it’s every bit as versatile as Kawasaki’s latest Versys while the new XT version (at £400 more than the stocker) 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 fabulous value. 

>> Full review

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Yamaha Ténéré 700, £8399

Now we’re starting to enter a world of serious off-roader middleweight adventure bikes. Yamaha’s new 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 new bikes of 2019 and 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, the new Ténéré is a far more off-road-targeted adventure bike than most, in a similar way to KTM’s new Adventure 790 (see below), yet remains a decent road bike and all at a tempting price. Off-road it all works brilliantly: it’s grunty, nimble, slim and agile, at least compared to most adventure bikes. On road it’s adequate with a decent screen, comfort and a flexible delivery. Yes, it lacks the slick electronics of the4 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.

>> Full review:

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

BMW F850GSA, £10,600

Adventure bike experts BMW – the German firm arguably invented the breed with its first R80G/S way back in 1980 – might be expected to be pioneers when it comes to middleweight adventure bike and their 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, added some adventure style bodywork and trimmings 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 also still comfortable and long-legged enough to be a decent road tourer. For 2019 its adventure credentials have been improved further still with the introduction of this F850GS Adventure version. Based on the now 94bhp, 853cc F850GS which replaced the F800GS in 2018, it shares that bikes switchable electronic modes, impressive compromise of road and dirt ability and BMW’s usual massive list of optional extras 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 latest 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…

>> Full review (GS only):

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Moto Guzzi V85 TT, £10,899

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 for the last 40 years based on idiosyncratic, shaft drive, transversely mounted V-twins, have never been a comfortable ‘fit’ when it comes to 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 it with charm. By giving it a blend of retro scrambler style mixed in with some touring comfort and Guzzi’s traditional heritage appeal, the V85TT 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, charming character. Its signature 853cc shaft-drive V-twin is derived from that of the V9 Bobber and is flexible and charismatic; 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 under £11K (the two-tone liveried version pictured costs £200 more) makes it very tempting indeed. A fashionable, classy yet versatile and accessible all-rounder for under £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

>> Full review of a 1,000-mile trip in 20 hours

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

KTM 790 Adventure, £11,099

Along with Yamaha’s new 700 Ténéré, KTM’s 790 Adventure, also introduced in 2019, is spearheading a new breed of off-road-centric, twin cylinder middleweight adventure bikes that are inspired more by the Dakar Rally than conventional adventure touring. Also like the Yamaha, the 790 Adventure is based on a pre-existing, parallel twin powered roadster. But where the Yam’s DNA is based on that of the MT-07, KTM’s newcomer is derived from the 790 Duke. As such it produces a lively 95bhp, which, considering its light weight, is more than enough to show most rivals a clean pair of heels (or muddy rear knobbly in this case). Instead, where the KTM differs mostly over the Yam is in its more premium, lavishly equipped nature (it is nearly three grand more expensive, after all) and in the fact that two versions are offered – the slightly more basic and road orientated Adventure and the even higher spec and more off-roady R, which costs £11,999. Either way, you get what you pay for. Both 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 three riding modes, cornering ABS and more which, in itself, lifts it a level above the Yamaha. While the R, comes 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 R is a significantly more serious off-roader. 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.

>> Seven Adventures in seven days on the 790 Adventure:

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Triumph Tiger 800XCa, £11,400

Triumph’s brilliant Tiger 800 has been not just one of the best middleweight adventure bikes around since the original was launched way back in 2010 – it’s one of the best all-round bikes, period. The key to that is its engine: a longer stroke version of the Hinckley firm’s 675cc triple as used in the Daytona and Street Triple, the 94bhp unit delivered that rare feat of retaining its donor’s speed and character but adding an extra dose of meaty torque as well. That, bolted into an upright, mid-size adventure-style chassis resulted in a great, comfortable, flexible, characterful all-rounder at a decent price. No wonder it’s proved so successful. Triumph added to that appeal by initially offering two versions: a more affordable, alloy-wheeled, street-orientated XR variant, plus the slightly more expensive, more off-road ‘XC’ with wire wheels including a 21in front hoop, longer travel suspension, ‘beak’ mudguard and so on. Both were updated in 2015 with new riding modes and further refinements while the options were expanded, too. While for 2018 they were updated again with new TFT dash, revised ergonomics, improved spec… the list goes on. The result, today, is you can pretty much have your Tiger 800 any way you want – from budget, street XR costing from a tempting £9200 to the range-topping, fully-loaded XCx off-roader which, in terms of spec, gives a fully-loaded BMW GS a run for its money and arguably has more handling and charisma, but costs nearly £13K. Whichever you go for, the characterful triple, classy handling and real-world practicality is almost irresistible…

>> Full review

 

Smaller, lighter, cheaper versions of their bigger flagship models are becoming even more popular, here we look at the best middleweight adventure bikes for 2019

 

Ducati Multistrada 950 S, £13,355

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 phenomenal, semi-active suspension-equipped, Multistrada 1260 S remains the adventure bike to beat in terms of superbike-rivalling performance. But with an almost excessive 160bhp and a price tag now over £17K it also left a void in the middle ground which Ducati first attempted to fill with its ‘middleweight’ Multistrada 950 in 2017. That bike, with its more basic spec, almost succeeded by being affordable (at just £10,995) yet, thanks to its Hypermotard 937cc engine producing 113bhp, still had enough performance for most. Now, for 2019 with this new S version of the 950, complete with its bigger brother’s semi-active suspension, traction control, quickshifter, riding modes and more, yet still at a price well under £14K, it’s an even better middle ground which 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 the larger 19in front wheel (the 1260 has an 18) is arguably even better than its big brother and no longer does it 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…

>> Full review

 

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