7 forgotten adventure bikes

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With all the buzz over the new Africa Twin, you may have forgotten about these...

Honda XL1000V Varadero 2001-2010

With all the hoopla over Honda’s new Africa Twin it’s easy to forget its predecessor. The Firestorm-engined V-twin was, in theory, a credible adventure bike with impressive grunt, plenty of comfort and bags of luggage capacity. In reality, it slightly disappointed due to excessive thirst, top-heavyhandlinganduninspired looks. The second gen (2003-on) version with fuel-injection and updated looks was much improved.

What you’ll pay today: From £2K for the older, £3-5K for the newer.

But should you? A little over £3K for a fully-kitted Vara’ is a tempting prospect. 

Buell XB12XT Ulysses 2005-2009

Harley 1200-Sportster-engined oddball takes a leap of faith to be considered a credible adventure bike and was cruelly nicknamed the ‘Uselessly’ by the bike press. Yet in truth it nearly pulled it off. Basically its little brother, is more roomy and practical and has bags of lumpy character. It’s no off-roader though, build is clunky and, with Buell closed in 2009, there’s little back up.

What you’ll pay today: £3000-4500.

But should you? Only the brave buy Buell, braver still a Ulysses, but it’s better than many think. 

Cagiva Navigator 2000-2005

With Suzuki’s stonking TL1000S V-twin motor, decent cycle parts and Italian style, the short-lived Navigator should have had a lot going for it as a sort of adventure-styled sportsbike with added comfort and range. Unfortunately, production delays, iffy quality control and a limited dealer network restricted UK sales, meaning today it’s rare and misunderstood. Durability isn’t the best, either, not that there are many out there to choose from.

What you’ll pay today: As little as £1800 – if you can find one – but more typically £2600-3000.

But should you? If fastidiously looked after, maybe. Better than its dubious reputation suggests. 

Aprilia ETV1000 Caponard 2001-2004

Not to be confused with the current 1200, the Italian firm’s original attempt at adventure bikes blended a detuned version of its excellent, RSV-derived V-twin with a cutting edge aluminium chassis. The ETV suffered from oversoft forks and poor build, both usually fixed.

What you’ll pay today: £2200-4000.

But should you? Oh yes. Decent performance and spec, bargain prices. 

Moto-Morini Granpasso 1200 2008-2016

The Italian legend’s rebirth in the mid- Noughties produced some great, punchy V-twins. The Granpasso, launched in 2008, was one of the last and, arguably, the best, with comfort and practicality not compromising its perky performance.

What you’ll pay today: £7000-8000 (Can be made to order new for about £14K).

But should you? Ultra rare, with all the headaches that brings, but tempting. 

Benelli Tre-K1130 Amazonas 2007-2015

A revived Italian legend with a range of bikes built around a common engine (in this case a transverse triple). Launched as a more rugged 1130cc Tre-K, it’s Benelli’s take on Triumph’s Tiger Sport.

What you’ll pay today: £4500-6000 for a Tre-K, a little more for an Amazonas (and you can still get NOS ones for just £6999!)

But should you? Very tempting. They’re effective, different, rare and cheap. 

Kawasaki KLV1000 2004-2006

The KLV1000 was a short-lived, rebadged version of Suzuki’s DL1000 VStrom, produced during a brief collaboration between the Japanese giants. Punchy, decent handling and cheap, it comes with an adjustable screen, better clocks, more stylish mirrors and, er, orange paint.

What you’ll pay today: £2700-4000.

But should you? All the practicality of the VStrom, but with extra exclusivity. 

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Phil West

By Phil West

MCN Contributor and bike tester.