So you’re stuck at home dreaming about your next two-wheeled adventure once this Coronavirus lockdown is a thing of the past, but which of these mini adventure bikes should you take along? Time for a shootout!
Adventure riding has really and truly kicked off in India over the last few years, with some of the biggest and best adventure touring motorcycles now available. However, pickings have been slim for those of us who can’t afford to spend upwards of seven figures on a fun, dual-purpose motorcycle, and the four mini adventure bikes we have featured here attempt to put go-anywhere motorcycling fun within the reach of the masses. Pricing of the bikes featured here range from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3.50 lakh (ex-showroom), and offer different levels of on-road and off-road ability; it is up to you to decide which of these fits your budget and requirements, and ultimately which one you can get the most out of.
We start off looking at the BMW G 310 GS, arguably the best looker here, and also the costliest, its Rs 3.49 lakh (ex-showroom) price tag putting it out of reach for many. It inherits many design cues from the larger machines in BMW Motorrad’s legendary GS range of adventure bikes, and is powered by the 312.2-cc reverse-inclined liquid-cooled single that is shared with the TVS Apache RR 310. The motor pumps out 34 horses and 28 Nm of peak torque, which is enough to get the baby GS to 100 km/h in under eight seconds, with a top speed of around 150 km/h. On the move the 310 GS feels punchy and responsive, its 180-mm of suspension travel at either end easily dispatching bumps and bad patches of road, while its reasonable 835-mm seat height should be comfortable for all but the most vertically challenged.
The primary chink in the GS’s armour, aside from the price, is that the motor starts to feel rather stressed over 120 km/h, with vibrations making their way through to the rider through the handlebars and tank. Consequently maintain these high speeds when out on the open highway can get tiresome, and I found this bike’s cruising sweet spot to be between 80 and 120 km/h.
Heading off-road, the G 310 GS is more capable than those 19- and 17-inch alloy wheels and the plastic bash plate would have you believe, and the bike lends itself perfectly to standing up on the pegs and bouncing over the rough stuff. The excellent weight distribution makes this GS extremely easy to ride in the dirt, and it can confidently blast along rocky tails at over 60 km/h with no problem at all. The BMW G 310 GS is definitely a capable all-round motorcycle, and while it is a premium offering, it is still by far the most accessible manner in which to realise the dream of owning a BMW adventure bike.
But what if your dreams aren’t German and you want more bang for your buck? What if the GS’s 34 hp isn’t enough for you? Well that’s where the KTM 390 Adventure comes in. The tall, rangy orange Austrian can be yours for Rs 50,000 less than the BMW and, powered by the familiar 373.3-cc liquid-cooled single that puts out a healthy 43.5 hp and 37 Nm of twist, this is the quickest motorcycle in this comparison. It also the best-equipped, with a colour TFT dash, 12V socket and switchable traction control in addition to the ABS which, like on the GS, can be turned off to the rear wheel.
The 390 Adventure feels like the perfect package here for covering long distances on the highway in absolute comfort. The wide seat is comfortable, riding position is extremely spacious and the eager motor will see you cruising along at triple digit-speeds all day without breaking a sweat. What might be a deal-breaker for some is the 855-mm saddle height, which can be intimidating for new riders; this lofty seat height is at odds with the ground clearance which, at 200 mm, is 20 mm less than the other three bikes here.
Like the GS, the 390 Adventure gets 19- and 17-inch alloy wheels, and is suspended with a USD fork and a pre-load adjustable monoshock. With 170 mm up front and 177 mm at the rear, suspension travel is slightly less than on the GS, although the firmer set up is less prone to bottoming out than the more softly-sprung BMW. Riding off road, the 390 Adventure absorbs hard hits extremely well when at speed, but it is on slow, technical sections where the inconsistent fuelling and lack of low-down torque from the rev-happy motor hamper progress at small throttle openings. The KTM would be my pick to traverse the length and breadth of the country without having to worry about questionable road conditions, and with enough power to keep me from getting bored. However, if considering serious off-road riding on a regular basis, I might look elsewhere.