The more I ride the Ducati DesertX, the more I like it. There are so many excellent choices in the middleweight adventure bike segment these days that any ADV-curious motorcyclist should be able to find themselves a compatible match. The DesertX is like that one friend you know is always down for some sort of mischief – more partner-in-crime than just a partner. It’s rowdy, loud (with the Termi pipe seen above), and raucous, and it coerces you into having a good time. Since we’ve been able to pass Ducati’s latest adventure machine around amongst the staff, it’s become a crowd favorite.
Originally sleuthed by our man DC back in April, Kawasaki has finally pulled the wraps off of its all-new… light-to-middleweight standard? Whatever you want to call it is fine, Kawi calls it the Eliminator. Specially crafted to cater to the demands of the everyday with its rider-friendly approach in mind, this machine features a new 451cc Parallel Twin engine derived from the Ninja, a lightweight chassis with an upright riding position and a 28.9-inch seat height with styling that Kawasaki says harkens back to its power cruisers of the ’80s.
The Route Napoleon is considered one of the best drives across France. It starts near the French Riviera and runs up to the southern tip of the Alps. The route earns its namesake by following the path that the one-time French emperor used to covertly make his way north after escaping his first exile. Despite wet conditions with gravelly sections enroute and frost at higher elevations, it was a most excellent place to have our first dance with Suzuki’s new naked, the 2023 GSX-8S. The second of two 776cc Parallel-Twin-powered models from Suzuki, the GSX-8S proved its mettle over just a single day’s ride in terms of being a contender in the middleweight naked category. Let’s get to it.
For miles, we rode into a dense cloud of ruddy South African dust. Those dusty roads connected rocky trails and choice stretches of pavement like the famed Franschhoek pass which, on a Saturday, was reminiscent of California’s own Angeles Crest Highway. We watched eclectic groups of open topped roadsters interspersed with an equally varied slew of two-wheelers strafe from apex to apex while we made photo passes. Husqvarna had invited the world’s press to experience the new Norden 901 Expedition amongst epic terrain at the southernmost tip of the African continent.
Flying over the second largest island in the Mediterranean gives a view of rocky coastlines, lush greenery, small villages, and surprisingly stout topography with mountains stretching more than 6,000 ft. into the sky. Idyllic yet rugged, the isle of Sardinia boasts addictively serpentine asphalt and endlessly challenging off-road terrain. This is where we would get our first test of the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE. An exciting new model for Suzuki, particularly due to its all-new powerplant, the 800DE carries on its shoulders both a legacy and an expectation of what a middleweight adventure bike should be in the modern era.
It’s a little strange to hear Nate Kern call me, and everyone else in the rider’s meeting, one of his kids. “It’s true,” says the childless Kern as he can see the weird looks on our faces this chilly December morning at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. “I’m man enough to say I care about you guys and when you’re here, at one of my trackdays, all I want is the best experience possible for you.” This might sound like lip service since every trackday provider wants you to have a good time, but Nate Kern and his eponymous DoubleRFest trackdays have the weight of BMW behind it to come as close as possible to ensuring this sentiment rings true.
Portugal is a great place to visit for a number of reasons, but it’s particularly accommodating for those who do it in the dirt. Compared to the rest of Europe, Portugal’s tolerance of off-road motorcycle riding knows nearly no bounds. It’s an excellent place for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles. Serpentine paved roads connect dozens of dirt paths just waiting to be explored – and I was fortunate enough to do just that on the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure.
It was a hard choice between winner and runner-up in the Adventure category which means we’re the real winners. There are so many great options not only in the middleweight category, but also the genre as a whole. The Ducati and Aprilia are two of the latest entrants into the segment and the Tuareg managed to eke out the win for precisely the reason we’ve seen it twice now in our MOBO selection – its exceptional value proposition.
It’s been a few years since an adventure-style moto made its way into this category – though with the popularity of the class still truckin’ along, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see another ADV rip its way into the ranks of the Best Value category. For 2022, the Aprilia Tuareg boldly displays its impressive package starting at $11,999. While $12k isn’t an insignificant sum, what you get for your money with the Tuareg transcends from being an excellent value in the ADV world to an excellent value overall.
After years of KTM owning this class with its 390 Duke and (390 Adventure), there’s a new kid in town – new in the US, anyway – in the form of the CFMoto 700 CL-X. It’s only fitting, really, since CFMoto’s Chinese manufacturer and KTM have a decade-long history together. That same Chinese OEM had a pre-existing relationship with Kawasaki also, and if CFMoto’s 700 CL-X isn’t powered by an engine eerily similar to a Versys 650 parallel Twin, I will eat my cat. In fact, the 700 CL-X is powered by a Versys twin that’s been stroked by 4mm, to 83 x 64mm dimensions – a thing Kawasaki’s never had the decency to do. That takes it to 693 cubic centimeters, and a claimed output of 74 hp at 8,500 rpm (and 48 lb-ft at 6,500 revs). Which makes this one a tad larger than our usual Lightweight winners, but for $6,399, how can you not supersize it?
I’m a big fan of scramblers that can actually Scram, ya dig? When a production scrambler has the chops and capability to do what those customized rigs did back in the good ol’ days, well, that’s the real deal. Isn’t it? Royal Enfield has based this latest machine on its highly popular Himalayan ADV bike so, in theory, the new 411 should be nearly as capable as that machine while being imbued with its own style. A tweak here, some new paint there, a smaller front wheel, viola! Welcome to the Scram 411.
Adding a motorcycle GPS to your riding repertoire can expand your horizons beyond your imagination. There are products on the market to suit every rider’s needs, whether off-road, on-road, or adventure. All the units covered here are specific motorcycle GPS products or units otherwise lend themselves very well to use on a bike. Your typical automotive GPS units aren’t built to the same standard as motorcycle GPS units and the often harsh environments we find ourselves in. While it’s important to compare features of the units themselves, two key elements to maximizing the benefit of motorcycle GPS units are the mapping products available and the computer or mobile device user interface. As you get deeper into this technology, you will find yourself spending more time on your mobile device or computer laying out your next ride, exploring with Google Earth, and ultimately, downloading and editing tracks you’ve actually recorded on the ground. Choosing a motorcycle GPS with the type of maps you want and the pre- and post-ride user environment are key considerations before purchasing a specific unit.
As we motored slaunchways across Utah, the late daylight stretched our shadows and cast golden hues against the tall canyon walls, further accentuating the contrast between the rust colored ancient seabeds peppered with lush green juniper and muted sage. The lavender sky over Bryce faded as we continued westward on Hwy 12. Refusing to pack a second visor for my Shoei Hornet X2, I lifted the dark smoke shield as I led our crew into the dark dense forest, keeping my line of sight just above the Ténéré’s windscreen in an attempt to protect my peepers from the onslaught of kamikaze insects. In a further showing of stubbornity, I refused to roll back off the throttle while the only bit of light left – aside from what the Ténéré’s quite ample quad headlight offered – was a thick crimson band at the horizon, the bottom punctured by spire-like tree tops.
When the DesertX prototype hit the scene at EICMA in 2019, it was portrayed as a Dakar-inspired Scrambler variant – that was the initial idea anyway. As you’re likely already aware, the production DesertX is anything but. Powered by the proven 937cc Testastretta 11° Desmo engine, the 2023 Ducati Desert X has been designed from the ground up as a purpose-built adventure machine.
After months of preparation, MO’s biggest Showdown of the year is taking place right now, and you can follow it. We have secured an Aprilia Tuareg 660 and a Yamaha Ténéré 700, had them transported to the Get On! ADV Fest, flew out to Sturgis, SD, and are riding the two bikes back on an epic 1,800-mile street and off-road route planned by master of the long-haul journey, Ryan Adams. Accompanying him will be EiC Evans Brasfield for riding and photo duty (bets are currently being taken over how many times he’ll crash in the dirt) and MO Video Producer, Sean Matic.