Here are five of the newest adventure bikes you need to know about.
Ducati's claim that the Multistrada is "four bikes in one" has only been partly true. Off-roading was a stretch, but not anymore, with the new 1200 Enduro and an extra helping of tough hardware. The most obvious differences are the beefy double-sided swingarm, the spoke wheels (19-inch front), and the dual-purpose tires. But there's even more off-road kit: A skid-plate protects the 160-horsepower engine from rocks, a high-mount exhaust will better cope with falls, and a new gas tank holds nearly eight gallons.
After years of little involvement in the adventure-touring market, Honda is leaping back in and reviving the beloved Africa Twin name at the same time. This new model is the biggest Africa Twin yet, sporting a 998cc inline twin that develops more than 90 horsepower—for a motorcycle aimed at owners fully expected to ride off-road. Honda's offering the bike with a six-speed manual or its latest Dual-Clutch Transmission that does the shifting for you. ABS and traction control are standard.
Honda's middleweight, street-focused adventure bike received some useful updating for 2016 with a taller windscreen, LCD instruments, improved front brake caliper, and a better muffler. As before, the pair of lay-down 670cc cylinders makes room for a storage compartment where the fuel tank usually lives; and this year it's even bigger and has a smart set of utility rails on top to help with attaching soft luggage. It's available with a six-speed manual or the third generation of Honda's dual-clutch automatic.
While its Africa Twin is getting most of the attention, Honda's got another big adventure-tourer (new to the U.S. market) with even more displacement and cylinders. The VFR1200X is a 1237cc V-four with shaft final drive and single-sided swing arm. It's more road-oriented than the twin and one of the few four-cylinder adventure bikes on the market.
Triumph's big three-cylinder, 1215cc adventure-tourer lineup (six in all) was refreshed a great deal for 2016, and still split between the XR models aimed mostly at road use and XC bikes built to handle some dirt. Electrically adjustable windscreens, ABS, and traction control are standard on all of them. Higher-end versions with advanced electronics include semi-active suspension (to quickly adjust to road conditions and riding style), and inertial measurement units for lean-sensitive ABS operation.
Ty van Hooydonk is the vice president of communications for the motorcycle industry council. He's a former racer and a veteran motorcycle journalist.