Adventure Bikes: Are There Cheaper Alternatives?

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Cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes has been on my mind just recently.

As a staunch Northerner, I’m a bit funny about getting (or not getting) what I pay for!

That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m tight.

It just means I have a price in my mind about what I think something is worth. And if somebody sells it to me for that price, then I’ll buy it.

If they don’t, then I walk away.

I’m at the point now where I walk into motorbike showrooms and I’m always dumbstruck by the prices.

ktm 1290 adventure off-road - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes
Prices are driving people to look for cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes (Image: KTM)

A Trip Out To The Shiny Showroom

I took my dad into a local dealership at the start of the year. Off course, I wandered over to the adventure bikes. There sat a lovely, shiny, brand new adventure bike that was in the region of £20,000.

Next to it was a used model of the same bike – a year or two old with very few miles on the clock. But the price of it was £18,000.

Now first off, I don’t think £20,000 is a fair price for a bike – new or otherwise.

If I wanted to buy a new bike and the salesman told me I’d have to remortgage my girlfriend’s nephew in order to buy it, then I’d consider buying one of the many used adventure bikes instead.

But if the used bikes still meant I had to remortgage my girlfriends’ nephew in order to buy one, then I’m afraid I’d walk away in a fit of laughter.

I’m sorry, but I don’t see £18,000 for a used bike as any kind of bargain.

motorcycle dealership
Prices of used bikes are almost as much as new ones

Cheaper Alternatives To Adventure Bikes: Weighing It Up

I can live without 48 riding modes.

I’m pretty certain I don’t need a bike to light up like a Christmas tree.

My bike doesn’t need to sing me a song, make my tea, make me look good or wipe my arse. I just want to have fun.

Now unless you’re prepared to remortgage a child (or at the very least, spend their university tuition fees) on a bike, chances are you’re going to have to finance it.

And technically, that means it isn’t yours. So you’ll wrap it up in cotton wool and instead of you being the master of the bike, it will be the master of you.

Of course, the dealerships want this. Because then they can charge top-whack prices (again) for your pristine bike after you’ve traded it in.

ktm 1290 adv off-road - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes
New bike prices can scare you into not enjoying them (Image: KTM)

Bike Versus Experience

In 20 years’ time, you might have gone through 10 bikes and 10 tours.

And you’ll clearly remember both the amazing and shitty bits of those tours.

If I ask you about them 20 years down the line, you’ll still be able to tell me stories from those tours – despite them being two decades in the past.

But what you probably won’t remember is the bike you rode. Because in the grand scheme of things, the bike just doesn’t matter.

So what should we do instead?

triumph tiger 900 on gravel
Stop focusing on the bike and enjoy the experience instead! (Image: Tracerclub)

We Should Buy Memories, Not Bikes

Spend less money on bikes and more money on creating memories.

Prioritise the enrichment of your life with travel over the next new machine that you think you ought to buy.

Because when the time comes for you to draw your final breath, you’ll remember those experiences and you’ll smile as happy memories flood your mind.

What you won’t remember is your 20 grand bike with all of its damn riding modes!

motorcycle on mountain dirt road - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes
Buying cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes means we have more money to spend on the experience (Image: Silk Road Adventures)

Cheaper Alternatives To Adventure Bikes = More Fun!

With the cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes listed below, you’ll spend less time babying them and more time enjoying them.

You won’t mind that you drop it occasionally. And nobody will care that it’s full of mud and all shitted up.

If a bit falls off, so what?

And you won’t mind that you stuck that bit back on using nothing but duct tape and a bit of someone else’s chewing gum.

It has one job – and that job is to aid you in having the time of your life.

suzuki dl650 off-road
Cheaper alternatives: finally some adventure bikes you aren’t afraid to get dirty!

Cheaper Alternatives To Adventure Bikes On AutoTrader

For the purpose of this post, I looked on AutoTrader for used adventure bikes (or bikes that could be easily adapted) and documented my findings below.

And I felt this simple process was important because it’s something that can be easily replicated by you – right now – from the comfort of your sofa.

The problem for me writing this post is that I don’t know what your particular adventure will be.

And the type of bike you buy will usually depend on the type of adventure you’re planning.

So I included a range of cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes that should hopefully cover all the bases.

ktm 1290 adv - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes in the used market
There are plenty of cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes on AutoTrader (Image: R. Vida)

Yamaha XT660

The Yamaha XT660 is one of the world’s most legendary adventure bikes for a reason. And because of this, its pedigree often means it will cost more than you thought.

The prices may drop a touch in the coming months thanks to the recent release of the exceptional Tenere 700.

Keep an eye out for fully-loaded bargains with low(ish) miles, service history and full luggage.

Based on my search of AutoTrader, you can find the more rugged 660Z models from 2009/2010 with less than 25,000 miles on the clock.

Models with full luggage are selling for around £4,000/£4,500.

yamaha xt660
I’ve always been a fan of the rugged and characterful XT660. And it’s a cheaper alternative to the 20 grand adventure bikes (Image: Cars & Wheels)

Yamaha TDM 900

Okay, so the TDM 900 was never designed to go off-road. But it’s not uncommon for people to chuck a set of knobblies at a TDM and use it on the gravelly stuff instead.

The TDM 900 has earned its long-standing reputation for being able to carry yours and everybody else’s shit for miles and miles and miles.

They’re becoming rarer and rarer now. And the ones you can find often have high mileage (which is actually a testament to the ‘tankness’ of this bike.)

I found a few in the 2003-2005 range with around 15,000-17,000 miles on the clock for about 3 grand.

You can knock a grand off if you’re okay having one that’s a touch older or has more miles on the clock.

yamaha trm 900 - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes
Known for it’s do-it-all capabilities and no-nonsense approach, the TDM 900 had to be on the list! (Image: patryk)

Suzuki DL 650 V-Strom

Personally, I think the DL 650 is one of the most underrated bikes out there if you’re on a budget.

Originally born out of the dual-purpose box, they’re more often seen as trusty commuter bikes. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be taken off-road!

They’re readily available, and more often than not come with full luggage.

We found a 2010 version with 15,000 miles on the clock for £2,800, but there are loads for around the £2,000-£2,500 mark.

If you can cope with slightly higher miles (or a slightly older year) you can find them for around £1,800.

suzuki dl650 v-strom
We love the simplicity of the DL650. And they make for excellent cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes (Image: 2Bike)

Suzuki DRZ 400

The DRZ 400 is built around its reputation to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it. And it’s a go-to dual-purpose bike if you want something that can take a beating.

It’s a favourite for trail riding but it also has enough balls to tour if you want it to.

They’re often used and abused though. So don’t buy one off some chav in your local park because it’ll more than likely be a death trap.

The DRZ 400 has acquired a cult-like status. And because of this, the prices tend to be on the high side.

The cheapest I saw today was about £3,800 for a 2008 model.

suzuki drz400 - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes
DRZ 400’s are one of the toughest adventure bikes ever made! They’re not cheap though. (Image: Team Moto Canberra)

Honda CB500X

Okay, so they’re not the world’s best off-road adventure bikes, but for the average rider who just wants to do a bit of messing around in the mucky stuff whilst on tour, it’s surprisingly good.

The Honda CB500X is light, economical, and (from the side, at least) rather pretty to look at.

The newer ones will do about 300 miles to the tank and pootle along at 80mph quite happily. And, you’ll get around 70 mpg.

A 2015 model with around 12,000 miles on the clock will set you back about 3 grand.

You can get slightly older ones with 30,000 miles for just over £2,000. Or you can get a brand new one for around £6,000.

honda cb500x off-road
If you’re looking for cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes but want to nuy new, a CB500X is a great option (Image: Bike-Urious)

Kawasaki Versys X 300 Adventure

As a do-it-all mini adventure bike, we’re quite taken with the little Versys. Despite its small capacity engine, it can commute, tour, and even manage some light off-roading.

And, it comes in at an extremely welcome 175 kg – which is why it’s the round-the-world choice for Maurizio Pistore!

They are an excellent choice for people who are looking for lightweight, cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes.

There were only a few on AutoTrader when I checked. But the cheapest was around £3,800 for a 2018 model with 3,000 miles on the clock.

kawasaki versys x300 - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes
These little Kawasaki’s are flexible, cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes

BMW G 310 GS

Last but not least, if you can’t resist the lull of the BMW showroom, we have the baby sibling of the most popular adventure bike in the business.

Ergonomic, reasonably priced, and with loads of kit as standard, the baby GS’s pack a big punch. And they are great alternatives if you’re looking for cheaper adventure bikes.

I found quite a few ex-demo models with very few miles on the clock (and with the full 3-year warranty) for not much more than 4 grand.

The cheapest I found was a 2020 model with 700 miles on the clock for £4,000 – including the 3-year warranty.

bmw 310 gs blurred foreground
Well-priced and with lots of goodies as standard, the baby GS makes for a great alternative (Image: BMW)

Jack Of All Trades; Master Of None

I don’t mind admitting that the cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes listed above fit into one of two categories:

  1. Road bikes that can do a bit of off-roading
  2. Off-road bikes that are capable on tarmac

None of these bikes are exceptional at both.

But then again, neither are the £20,000 offerings from BMW, KTM or Ducati if the rider isn’t as good as the bike they’re riding.

yamaha xt660r - cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes
Jack-of-all-trade bikes offer cheaper alternatives for your adventure (Image: Utiama)

Cheaper Alternatives To Adventure Bikes: The New Middleweights

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the new middleweight contenders from the likes of Yamaha, KTM, BMW and Triumph.

At Motorcycle Tourer, we’re big fans of the new Yamaha Tenere 700. It’s one of the best all-round adventure bikes we’ve seen in a very long time.

The new KTM 890 Adventure R is also an excellent shout as is the BMW F 900 XR and the Triumph Tiger 900.

The only issue with these adventure bikes is (once again) the price.

Coming in at anywhere between £9,100 (Yamaha) and £10,400 (KTM), these adventure bikes aren’t the most expensive on the market, but they’re slightly cheaper alternatives.

yamaha tenere 700 river crossing
The new Tenere 700 is an excellent middleweight contender (Image: medyaloji.net)

Cheaper Alternatives To Adventure Bikes: Conclusion

I genuinely feel that our happiness and experiences are the most important parts of motorcycle travel.

So henceforth, I intend to make memories for myself rather than make money for the dealerships.

When I’m due a new bike, I’ll let you know what I end up with – and the memories I intend to make with it!

But what my afternoon of research has taught me is that there are a tonne of cheaper alternatives to adventure bikes if you’re prepared to look for them.

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