When I was at school there was a certain breed of parent that wanted to drop their kids off every morning in the biggest, flashiest, most expensive 4×4 their finance company could stretch to. They didn’t live on a farm, or at the end of a long, unpaved track full of deep potholes and river crossings. More often than not, they lived on pretentious new-build estates, full of middle-managers and credit card fiends, where every other drive had a Range Rover or an Audi parked on it; or both. They didn’t need 4x4s. In fact an inch of snow under tyre would be considered quite treacherous and have them battening down the hatches. It used to bother me. I used to think it was quite unnecessary to cut around in your ‘Chelsea chariots’ without dreaming of going off-road. But motorbikes have helped me change my mind. And this is why…
Thanks to the growing popularity of larger adventure bikes, in the motorcycle world, I have found myself spending more and more time thinking about them, writing about them, and of course, riding them. Growing up, I was never really interested in the adventure scene. I’ve always loved off-road bikes, but I never really saw ‘adventure bikes’ as ‘off-road’ bikes.
As it happens, I’ve been lucky enough to sample quite a few adventure bikes off-road and a lot of them are very capable. Even the big ones. I’m not saying I’d fancy entering a Dakar Rally on an Africa Twin, or a GS Adventure. And they’re too big and heavy for Supercross. But I’m often surprised just how well big adventure bikes handle themselves off-road. But anyway, that’s another story.
A million miles
The fact is, I’ve done a lot of miles on adventure bikes on tarmac too. In fact most of the miles I’ve done on adventure bikes has been on tarmac. And if you’ve got a big day of miles to get through, some luggage, and perhaps the wife on the back, an adventure bike is probably the perfect thing to be sat on. And who says you need to go off-road just because your bike looks like it might be capable of it?
As I’ve got older I’ve started to learn that enjoyment levels are often directly proportionate to how comfortable you are. You could be watching the best film ever made, but if you’ve got a red-hot poker up your arse, you’re not going to enjoy it. Nobody likes being uncomfortable.
And that brings me back to the aforementioned Chelsea chariots. It doesn’t really matter how daft people look driving around town in their 15mpg behemoths, because they’re comfortable. They’ve got all that space for their cups of extra skinny campachuchoo and their vegan sausage rolls. And their snotty, dribbling kids are a good few meters away from them, rather than breathing all their super-spreader germs down mummy and daddy’s neck.
I used to think driving round in big Chelsea chariots was a status thing. A kind of display of ‘ooh look what we can afford!’. But now I’m not so sure. Because I think riding a big adventure bike is kind of the same thing. And I love riding big adventure bikes, I really, really do.
Not only are they comfortable, fast and capable of doing 99% of what you’ll ever need a road bike to do, they make you feel like you’re the king (or queen) of the road. And somehow riding a big bike makes you feel a bit less vulnerable, as driving a tank would… I imagine.
So this is an apology to all those I’ve slagged off in the past for driving their Chelsea chariots around. Because I get it now. You haven’t bought an actual ‘off-road’ car because you’re not going to go ‘off-roading’. Just like the majority of adventure bike owners haven’t bought an off-road bike. Because adventure bikes, aren’t off-road bikes, even though some are capable of it. If you want to go green-laning you’d buy an enduro bike, wouldn’t you?
No, adventure bikes are the Chelsea chariots of the motorcycle world, but I don’t actually think that’s a bad thing. It’s also probably why they’re selling so well. So never again will I ridicule those who prefer to drive bigger, flashier or more expensive cars. Because whilst I’m not into them myself, I do like big flashy expensive motorbikes. And some might say it’s the same thing.