Is Yamaha Bringing Back Proper Adventure Bikes?

Yes, I know, everybody seems to like the big-bore bikes, and in the US the likes of the R1200GS have a cult following. On the old continent, the KTM 1190 Adventure is revving up and gathering more and more momentum, while the 1200cc Super Tenere and the new V-Strom are also trying to chew as bigger a slice from the segment’s “cake” as possible. Still, after talking to a lot of fellow riders, many who are deeper than I am into adventure rides, we kind of agreed that the industry is becoming a bit fake.
That is, while bike manufacturers are obviously set on making as big a profit as they can by selling machines that tend to be increasingly expensive, the real adventure segment is growing thinner by the year. With the bikes’ displacement getting bigger and bigger, the machines are obviously increasing their weight. And guess what: a heavy bike is a bike we DON’T want when the going gets tougher. Ignoring the cries and frowning from the fanboys of certain bikes, this is the kind of truth that simply cannot be denied. And if they don’t believe me, maybe off-roaders, MX riders, and all those who deal with the asphalt as little as they can would talk some sense into them. Heavy motorcycles suck when you’re off the road. Period.

Now, where’s this segment headed for, I sometimes ask myself and I must admit the answer is not a very pretty one: nowhere! Customers are seduced by the ton of electronics loaded into their bike and they start to value their bikes more than they do value the actual riding itself. These bikes are slowly becoming vectors of social status… and that’s one of the points where adventure starts to fade away.
Truth be told, these big-bore adventure machines start to look like some fat cows dressed in a lot of fancy, good-looking plastic and their owners are more and more interested in how pretty the wax looks on the perfect, undented, immaculate bodywork instead of thinking about ways to ride these machines farther, in more remote, scenic places. Did “fat cows” hurt? Good, I’ll keep that in mind, in case I might want to add even more weight to this piece!

I also met very skilled riders who learned how to manage these machines extremely well even on very rough terrain, and at times they looked as if riding a 450cc-class bike. But these guys are only a few. They’re bold, daring, and would often test their abilities in the toughest scenarios, admitting they might fail. They’re not afraid to drop the bike because they know adventures never look like glossy magazines describe them. And still, every now and then, they all admit that they’d be way happier with a lighter bike…

And this brings me to the title question: are we in for a new generation of proper adventure bikes? Judging by the way things are now, the true dual-sport bikes that can do both asphalt touring in decent comfort and that can also tackle tough, rocky trails are a bit absent. And I’m speaking about the twins, as the thumpers are not exactly the most comfortable machines for long hauls.

BMW has the F700GS and F800GS, Triumph’s got the “small Tigers,” and these are performing very neatly when the going gets tough. Still, a lot of riders are looking forward to being able to choose between more than a handful of bikes. I don’t want single-cylinder riders to accuse me of downplaying their machines’ capabilities, so I have to admit that, currently, the adventure bikes market has a better thumper selection than the rest. We might choose almost any brand and find a middleweight machine with at least decent performance. But once more, some are not very fond of the mono-cylinder feel…

Even though I am not exactly a Yamaha fan, Oberdan Bezzi’s Triple Tenere and Triple Worldcrosser concepts have really got me thinking about a brighter future for the adventure bikes. Honestly, I believe that Yamaha should not waste too much time: just pay the man, have him refine the designs, and build the damn bikes!

The Triple concepts are based on the new Yamaha 3-cylinder engine, the very one that equips the FZ-09 naked beast, or MT-09 as it is sold outside the US. The 847cc triple is good for some 115 hp and 85 Nm (63 lb-ft), and it can be easily re-geared with a new transmission to serve the purpose perfectly. The power can be even reduced a bit, and the torque increased for more brawn in the low-rev zone. And, therefore, better terrainability.

With the FZ-09 tipping the scales at 188 kg (415 lbs) WET, you can all imagine that loading some intelligently designed bodywork, a touring-worthy tank significantly bigger than the 14-liter (3.9 US gal) one, and tougher rims will still be way lighter than the big-bore bikes. And I daresay that even with a top-notch luggage system and crashbars, such an adventure Triple would still be under the 200 kg (441 lbs) mark.

All in all, I believe the “Tri-Venture” would be a smashing hit. It would offer plenty of power for pretty much anything, from blazing along the highway at 150 km/h (93 mph) to slowly crawling up rocky mountain roads, crossing streams and rivers, struggling and making it past muddy trails. And knowing how cool middleweight (and slightly bigger) dual-sport bikes are in the city makes my heart beat even faster.

No fancy electronic suspensions, all sorts of electrically-adjustable windscreens, and none of the similar features that are pretty much useless to the adventure riders would be present on the Tri-Venture. And guess what? The FZ-09 is up for grabs for $7,990 (€5,820), so it’s only a fair guess that the Tri-Venture could hit the dealership floors with a price tag reading less than say, $9,000-9,500 (€6,555-6,920). And, for a grand more, you could ride a real enduro-touring bike with a taller windscreen, sidecases and engine guards, heated grips and still have enough money for your first trip, a couple thousand mile-long and pretty presents for your family when you return.

Need Oberdan Bezzi’s phone number, Yamaha? Hopefully, the dead bike will come back to life...
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