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Which bike?

  • KTM 390 Adventure

    Votes: 2 33.3%
  • BMW G 310 GS

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Something else

    Votes: 4 66.7%
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Picked up my TW under a month ago and needless to say am obsessed. Super fun on chunky or muddy dirt roads, but I live in the mountains of NC and am considering getting an N+1 that can be more of a daily driver but still hit gravel roads. I’ve been that pesky sub-50 mph person holding up folks on the highway more than a few times, which doesn‘t feel comfortable, safe, or fun.

I’m also hoping to keep open the possibility of some light touring — trying to stay off interstates as much as possible and mainly hitting paved scenic highways and back gravel roads where possible. Examples would include the Seneca Trail in WV and some of the dirt roads that shoot off that and connect to other highways.

I’m a 5’2” beginner rider though (rode some dirt bikes as a kid so the TW has had an easy learning curve), and want to keep weight, fit, and safety top of mind.

Would love to hear thoughts from folks with experience with these bikes or who have also looked into them. Here are some of my thoughts for now:

KTM 390 Adventure
Pros:
  • Safety: Traction control etc. seem nice to have
  • Clearance: Decent clearance for some of the ruttier dirt roads
  • Room for growth: I think this has more room to grow in terms of my off-road capabilities and could see this being my main go-to bike for anything where I’m riding from home, with the TW being the bike I throw in the truck and bring somewhere even rowdier
Cons:
  • Seat height: I could barely get a tiptoe down on one side while sitting on the bike at a dealership. Was also pretty wide and angular feeling, so not the easiest to even shift weight on. Not sure how I feel about buying a brand new bike and doing custom lowering right off the bat, both as far as cost and in terms of changing the geometry, handling, etc.
  • Cost: Higher price + would probably want to do the lowering
BMW G 310 GS
Pros:
  • Price: Lower!
  • Fit: Seems that I could get an OEM low seat of 32.3” which may be good enough to not do lowering. Haven’t been able to see one in person yet but sounds like it may even feel better than the KTM without the lower seat.
  • Handling: From what I’ve read, it sounds like its weight feels less top-heavy than the KTM
Cons:
  • Big enough jump?: Not sure this would be as touring-capable as the KTM or how it would feel on those long mountain uphills trying to maintain speed — thoughts?
  • Less off-road room to run?: Longer wheelbase, lower clearance — perhaps less room to grow in off-road skills? But maybe doesn’t matter since I’ve got the TW to use for that?

Outstanding Questions
  • Lowering: Would this really be necessary on the KTM or would it be worthwhile to try to get used to the height and throwing a leg over the seat when stopped? Feels like it could be a drop hazard for me being a beginner and having a lot of spots around town here where a stop sign or light is uphill and off camber. Also, am I overthinking the change in geometry/handling that lowering would cause?
  • Seat customization: Or perhaps just know I’d want to go for a custom, narrower seat for the KTM and perhaps that could be enough?
  • Engines: Really not sure how I would feel between these two as I have not ridden anything other than my TW — does one suit my anticipated riding style better? Would one be better as I grow as a rider? Will I want to get something even bigger in the future?
  • Use expectations: Definitely subject to change, but I want to make sure I have something that gives me room to grow in whatever direction I head in, or at least informs me enough of what I’d prefer instead
Current Thoughts
If the KTM fit better right out of the factory, I think I’d have bought it when I looked at it this week. Seems like a good entry level ADV bike that leans more toward the off-road capabilities than the BMW. But I am wondering if fit and comfort is the more important concern for a beginner right now.
 

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I think that likely there are better bikes for your purpose from the Japanese makers for less money. Better yet, find a lightly used model this winter and save even more.
If I had to pick one of the two, I would pick the KTM.
 

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No experience with those, nor the Honda CB500X, but maybe include it into another to research. Have read nothing but positive reviews, and they are popular among the ADV crowd.
 
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How about the CRF Honda? Bugs are pretty well worked out and they have good aftermarket support.
I'd think that be a bit too tall. Nice bikes though.

Which CRF L were to referring too?
 

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There are a number of shoot outs documented between the Kawasaki Versys 300 and the KTM 390 and the Versys did OK.
 

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I'm not anti KTM or BMW and if you have a good local dealership then go for it. Be nice if you could get a test ride. The thing is if you decide to travel and need parts there are a lot more Honda,Kawasaki dealers out there.
 

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Ride for a bit longer and you will feel less the need to flat foot. Also can step up Abit to a bigger bike. Honda CB 500x and BMW F (or G) 650 GS have lower seat heights than both of the other bikes you mention.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the replies! The CRF is out as it’s too high and the more I think about it, the more strongly I’d prefer not to have to lower a bike.

The Versys-X 300 is definitely in the mix now though, and I actually saw a used CB500X the other day and it felt pretty good to sit on, though the dealership doesn’t let you test ride (even in the parking lot).

I’m considering picking up a G 650 GS and have potential dibs on a 2014 I’m hoping to see sometime soon.

I also ran into a buddy who knows someone about my height who got a custom seat upholstered for the KTM 390 Adv she just picked up, so I’m going to see if I could take a look at hers at some point.

I think for now I’m going to try to be more patient and look for opportunities to actually ride some of these bikes and get a better feel for what I can handle well enough as a beginner now but can grow into in time too. I’m becoming a bit less concerned about nailing it as far as what types of riding I’ll be doing — only time will tell, and any of the bikes I’m looking at will be able to handle moderate amounts of whatever I can throw at it for now, especially considering I’ll be keeping the TW for the rougher trails or dirt roads.

Thanks so much, all!
 

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I think that likely there are better bikes for your purpose from the Japanese makers for less money.
+1

In spite of the way they may be advertised, neither of those bikes is going to be very good in off road terrain. I mean sure they CAN go off road, but they just aren't that well suited for it. Also, I wouldn't trust that KTM in terms of reliability and long term durability; I don't think it is particularly well designed or quality controlled. The BMW might be a little better in that regard, but still doesn't hold up to some other choices, IMO. Anyway, I don't mean to crap all over your selections here LOL; this is just my honest two cents. But hey, at the end of the day, if you like those two bikes, go for it! That being said, in my opinion, there are better options out there.

It sounds like you essentially want a budget-oriented, lightweight, highway-capable commuter/tourer with a low seat height that's also capable of some ADV or light off road riding.

A lot of the consideration for anything that you might want to do both highway and off road on really comes down to how fast you want/need to cruise the highway at (e.g. is 60 to 65 mph fine with you, or do you want to be out there doing 80+ regularly). I think that is definitely one of the biggest factors to consider when narrowing down choices among various models for some kind of dual-purpose/multi-purpose use. A lot of bikes will do the 60 or 65 thing all day with absolutely no trouble, without breaking a sweat; finding something capable of "multi-purpose" use that will comfortably do 85 all day long, however, is a bit trickier.

Anyway, as far as bikes in the same category as those two, I would say the Versys -X 300 or the CSC RX4 are decent choices. The RX4 is heavy but is reliable and has enough power to cruise at 80+. The Versys can do 80 okay, but you will find it sometimes struggling to maintain those speeds, and the motor will be revved a bit high. Also, these bikes may be a bit more prone to damage from hard drops off road compared to some other options -- albeit nothing that can't be repaired as long as you invest in a good skid plate.

The CB500X is a fantastic motorcycle overall, but I personally would not want to ever take it off road.

The Suzuki DR650 could be an excellent choice for you, IMO. It is one of the most versatile motorcycles and best base platforms money can buy -- one that can do just about anything (just depending on how you set it up) from serious off road to high speed highway cruising or ADV riding to supermoto hooligan silliness. At 366 pounds wet, it's fairly competitive in terms of weight compared to the other models under discussion here. With a factory lowering option plus factory gel seat option, you can have a seat height of just over 32 inches; if you decide you don't like either of those mods at any point, it would be easy to change it back to stock. It will be more forgiving in terms of being dropped off road (much less worry over damaging plastics or radiators...). It's also extremely durable and reliable (just make sure you do a couple of mandatory little preventative fixes). It will do 80+ all day. With a durable set of 90/10 or perhaps 70/30 street/dirt tires, it could work really well for your stated uses.




P.S. Congrats on your TW, and welcome to the forum!
 

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The OPs requirements are:

the possibility of some light touring — trying to stay off interstates as much as possible and mainly hitting paved scenic highways and back gravel roads where possible.

A DR650 might be overkill for that. Decent bike, but more dual sport than ADV.

I rode a few thousand kms with a guy on a Versys X300 on the way back from the Yukon, and he had to wring it's neck the whole way home. 8-9000 rpm all day long, and I walked away from him on every truck pass or long uphill. He got exactly the same fuel economy as my F650GS twin spark. ~60mpg (USG) at 65-70mph, loaded, as we stopped for gas and compared litres each time.
Wheel Tire Vehicle Plant Automotive tire


The F650GS can be purchased factory lowered and with 3 different seat heights. Perhaps the G650GS can as well.

Just remember that the 650 BMWs are thumpers. It is the least vibration thumper I've ridden, but you still has the tractor like sound and feel as the DR650 does.
 
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The Versys-X 300 is definitely in the mix now though, and I actually saw a used CB500X the other day and it felt pretty good to sit on, though the dealership doesn’t let you test ride (even in the parking lot).
I'm a nearly new rider myself, with just over a year and 2500 miles on my TW. This fall I bought a 2021 CB500x, and it's been a blast. If the TW is 80/20% off/on-road, the stock Honda is maybe 90% road.

A larger front wheel was added in 2019. The seat height before that is 31.9", and is 32.7" from 2019 on. I have a 31.5" inseam, and can put one foot flat with the other side on the ball of my foot. I'm not lightweight, however.

Good luck with your +1 search!
 
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