Best Adventure Motorcycle of 2018

Best Adventure Motorcycle: KTM 1290 Super Adventure R

Hot on the heels of our 2018 Big-Bore Adventure Touring Shootout, where the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R took the top spot in our dirt portion and third in our street test, we’ve chosen the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R as our Best Adventure Motorcycle of 2018.

The big KTM is a great all-around package when considering what the Adventure class of motorcycles is meant to do. The 1290 SA-R has all sorts of creature comforts for long distance touring capability coupled with off-road chops that mean you don’t have to slow down when the pavement ends.

KTM’s Ready to Race mantra is evident when considering the 1290 R’s capabilities. The 1301cc V-Twin delivers smooth flat torque across the rev-range and continues spreading on the ponies up to 9,500 rpm. Rider aids are tunable and can also be switched off, which keeps the ride fun for all levels of pilots. The WP suspension found on the 1290 is also easily some of the most performance oriented in the class in the dirt or on the street. The dedication to the adventure crowd is serious with KTM delivering the bike from the factory with TKC80s, and although it hurt the bike’s score on our street test, we commend KTM for going all in with its flagship adventure tourer.

There are plenty of adventure bikes on the market that tick the right boxes of this and that to give customers just the right amount of street or off-road prowess they’re looking for in their ADV machines, but to us, the 2018 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R stands out as the most well-rounded capable adventure bike regardless of the terrain you’re ripping across. Congrats, KTM. You’ve earned it.

Best Adventure Motorcycle of 2018 Runner-Up: Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports

When the new Africa Twin hit the market in 2016 it made a splash, not only thanks to its Dakar-laden history, but also because the new version is a fantastic adventure bike. The problem began to arise when pubs like us started chomping at the bit to do comparison tests to see how Honda’s new flagship would compare with the stacked adventure category of the current day. The Honda seemed a bit much to throw against middleweight 800s. So, most comparison tests pit the Africa Twin against other flagship adventure bikes of the time, R1200GSs, 1190 Adventure Rs, etc. Not really a fair comparison, but that’s what happens when you lean on legacy and hype up your off-road pedigree.

We were told at our press junket this past May, the Africa Twin Adventure Sports is meant to more closely compete with the big ADV bikes on the market. To aid with long-distance touring, the AT AS adds a larger gas tank, a larger fairing and windscreen, a 12-volt accessory outlet, heated grips, and a steel rear rack. The Adventure Sports also received a few upgrades to elevate its off-road performance including a flatter more dirtbike-esque seat, a higher handlebar position that feels spot on while standing, almost an inch more suspension travel (.9-inches up front and .8-inches in the rear) which equates to nearly an inch more ground clearance, a larger bash plate (though it could be a bit larger still), and light bars.

After having fun around Prescott during the press launch of the motorcycle, I couldn’t wait to get one back home and do some testing of our own. Editor Brasstacks put together the idea and most of the groundwork for our 2018 Big-Bore Adventure Touring Shootout which, if you’ve read it, you know that I managed to point out how much the AT AS could benefit from an even larger skid plate to better protect the stator cover from low lying roots. With Honda’s help we managed to salvage that comparison and later put together a more even dirt comparison in which all the participants were fitted with Continental TKC80s to level the playing field.

The Honda is a fantastic all-around motorcycle and one that any adventure enthusiast would be proud to have in their garage, but when it came down to tallying the score on our adventure shootout, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R bested the Africa Twin Adventure Sports in our street portion taking third over the AT’s fourth and barely eked out the Honda for the win in our off-road portion. Those scores and careful deliberation between the usual suspects here at MO relegated the Africa Twin Adventure Sports to our Best Adventure Motorcycle of 2018 Runner Up. That being said, you’d be hard pressed to say going for the Africa Twin Adventure Sports was a mistake, unless you have a problem with sky-high seat heights and want cruise control, then maybe the AT AS isn’t for you. Thanks, Honda, for building a kickass adventure bike!