The long and winding road isn't always paved. Dirt, gravel, shrubs, a mix of trees, and the occasional stream make up the endless terrain, waiting to be explored.
At least that's what is preferred by those who tackle such domains with their Adventure bikes. For this tribe, it's about the journey. The destination, for a lucky few, isn't even determined.
Part touring, part dirt bike, with a bit of defiance, adventure bikes are not so much the latest fad but an escape on two-wheels that takes a rider anywhere a path leads, sleeping over is optional.
For someone who's not familiar with the term, Adventure bikes are just that. Mid to large displacement machines decked out with off-road components, such as the iconic BMW R1200 GS, KTM 1290 Adventure and Triumph Tiger. They're the ones crossing remote parts of Mongolia, the highlands of Peru, and other remote parts of the globe. In between these bold Journeys, they are the ones passing you on the freeway on their way to work, with the aluminum panniers and knobby tires.
Simply put, adventure biking brings the safety and comfort of a two-wheeled cruising machine to the great outdoors and quite often in a 200 mile range. The larger fuel tank allows riders to explore much further than a traditional dirt bike allows. Though Adventure bikes have been around since the 1980s, today it's a growing market.
All photos courtesy Colorado Motorcycle Adventures
Lots of riders plan a weekend or week-long routes with their buddies others save for a once-in-a-lifetime Adventure tour in Africa or some other exotic locale abroad. The scope of the adventure is only limited by your imagination. The pre-planned, show-up-and-ride motorcycle tour companies continue to expand this market and options continue to span the globe. You can even book a tour through Motoadventures with Charlie Boorman the star of the popular TV series "Long Way Round," "Race to Dakar," and "Long Way Down."
The modern day warrior Neil Peart, drummer of the legendary rock band Rush, has written several books on his riding adventures both in the United States and abroad. The book "Roadshow: Landscape with Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle" details his days on a BMW riding from one city to the next between concerts during the band's 30th anniversary tour in 2004 and you'll learn that indeed, the point of the journey, is not to arrive.
"The Adventure motorcycling segment has definitely been growing over the years," said Inna Thorn, Manager of the Backcountry Discovery Routes organization. BDR has seen approximately a 23 percent increase in community engagement, and sponsor and member support each year since they started mapping routes in 2010.
Thorn noted that with an abundance of choices on the ADV market, and new bikes and gear coming out all the time, more people are getting into the sport.
"Whether you prefer to ride a larger motorcycle like the BMW GS or a smaller, faster, cheaper bike, or both, it's now easier than ever to have a great motorcycle adventure," she said. "Be it a five to seven day backcountry trip or a four month road trip to South America. Adventure motorcycling is a very doable and affordable way to travel and explore your back yard and the world."
Thorn is an ADV convert after she and her husband quit their jobs in 2008, bought two KLRs and toured South America for six months.
Backcountry Discovery Routes is a non-profit organization with a mission to establish and preserve off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. The group has mapped out six backcountry routes with more on the way, and provides free GPS tracks and advice for adventure motorcycle travelers.
Scott Lee founded Colorado Motorcycle Adventures five years ago and it grew so quickly he turned it into a public company after two and a half years. Lee said he's seen a 250 percent growth each year since he started taking riders on tours of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
"I think the ADV segment is growing so rapidly because folks are longing for a great adventure experience which ties motorcycles, the outdoors, and epic scenery all into one," he said. "Motorcycles in themselves are an exciting mode of transportation. Combine that with an incredible outdoor adventure full of fun, risk, and thrill, and you have something people will naturally gravitate towards."
Lee said riders fly in from all over the world to experience his excursions and he makes it pretty easy, all they have to do is book the travel. He provides the bikes, accommodations, the gear and of course the route.
It seems only fitting then that Honda announced this month that their new Africa Twin will be available next year. It's been nearly 30 years since the company manufactured a new Adventure bike model. The latest version keeps the attributes that made the XRV650 Africa Twin so popular in 1988 and 1989. The new bike is reported to be less bulky than other Adventure models thanks to a new air box design.
Honda is not alone. Other Japanese brands have been releasing bikes to outfit the Adventure segment in recent years. In 2010 Yamaha introduced the XT1200Z Super Tenere to the U.S. market, and Suzuki has evolved their V-Strom 650 and 1000 in recent years. Not to be left out, Kawasaki's 2014.5 model year KLR650 New Edition offers welcomed improvements to suspension and seating.
Most of the cost for an adventure bike is upfront, and programs like BMW's 3easy Ride have been introduced to make these bikes more affordable to finance. Just as enjoyable as picking out the bike, selecting your gear and outfitting your new ride is a thrilling part of the experience.
MotoSport's Riding Gear and Helmet pages are a great place to get started or looking to replace older gear. If you're new to the scene riding gear is a must and at a minimum, you should invest in a jacket, pants, helmet, gloves, and boots. To help you get started, check out the following selections suggested from seasoned riders at MotoSport: