Two-wheel adventures, which bike to use?

Author: Geoff Hill Posted: 17 Jul 2013

What is the perfect bike for an adventure?

This year I recreated the journey of Carl Stearns Clancy, the first biker to ride around the world 100 years ago.

And his 937cc inline four Henderson had 7bhp, one gear, no front brakes and a bicycle seat for suspension.

Since then, round the world bikers have used everything from a Honda C90 to a Harley Electra Glide.

So the answer to which bike is simple: the one in your garage will do nicely.

Having ridden from India to the UK on a Royal Enfield, Chile to Alaska on a Triumph Tiger and around the world on a BMW R1200GS Adventure, my adventure shortlist would include:

  • The Triumph Tiger Sport for its sweet triple engine, typically deft Triumph handling and sleeker looks than the more, er, purposeful Explorer. From the same stable, the Tiger 800 wins my most precise handling bike on the planet award. Those with a genetic aversion to roads should pick the Explorer or 800XC.
  • The R1200GS Adventure. A rugged, bulletproof workhorse with a huge range but surprisingly uncomfortable seat. The saddle on the new more powerful and gizmo-laden water-cooled version is much kinder. Say thank you, buns.
  • Ducati Multistrada. Faster and more comfortable in the real world than any superbike, and with useful mirrors – a Ducati first.
  • The KTM Adventure range. Dakar-proven hooligan’s choice and now with much better fuelling so they don’t proceed like a nun with hiccups on a pogo stick.
  • Moto Guzzi Stelvio. Italian style and V-twin character in an under-rated beauty. Only the Italians could make a big adventure bike look this sexy. Only downside is emerging from the pub to find it admiring itself in the mirrors.
  • Yamaha Super Tenere. Competent, but pricey and lacking that little je ne sais quoi in the toughest sector of the market. That’s French for cul de sac, by the way.
  • Kawasaki Versys 1000. Hit every branch of the ugly tree on the way down, but smooth, sure-footed and cheapest in class. Like the Tiger, faints if you suggest off-road frolics.

And my surprise choice? Drum roll, please, Cyril… the Honda Crosstourer. Its latest generation DCT auto gearbox is so slick that on a recent 300-mile blast around Scotland in a day, I barely noticed even when it changed gear in mid-corner. When I try that, I get my elbow down, followed by the rest of me.

I’ve never been so effortlessly fast on a bike before, with only the Ducati Multistrada 1200 coming close.

And if you think that makes me a wuss, two years ago I rode a collection of bikes on Germany’s fabulous B500 mountain road with Maria Costello, until recently the fastest woman at the TT.

Her favourite was the VFR1200 in auto mode – and the Crosstourer is light years better.

So watch this space. It’s where the clutch used to be.

Next time: Packing. Less is more, the two of everything rule, and 101 things you can do with shampoo. Legal things, that is.