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Adventure motorcycles rise in popularity

A scene from the 2004 TV series, 'Long Way Round.'

July 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The BMW R 1200 GS Adventure is a motorcycle that looks like something the character Indiana Jones might ride if his adventures took place in modern times.

Its 1200 CCs of engine provides big power and the overall stature of the bike gives it a bit of an off-road look, which is good because you can actually take it off the pavement. That's what actor Ewan McGregor did in his 2004 documentary series "Long Way Round," in which he and fellow actor Charlie Boorman rode BMW GS models on a treacherous journey way off the beaten path.

This latest GS adventure is ready for trips like that, too, with its optional shipping-case inspired luggage set that can swallow lots of gear.

You could call it the ultimate two-wheeled travel companion, though it carries a pretty ultimate sticker price of well more than $20,000 fully decked out.

There is a smaller, less expensive alternative from Suzuki called the V-Strom 650. It's not quite as big, not quite as powerful and perhaps not quite as well suited for rough terrain. But it too comes as an optional luggage-adorned adventure model. That little "adventure" tag seems to be catching on.

Like a lot of four-wheel drive SUVs, these bikes look ready for adventure, like they can tackle deserts and jungles, even though most people who buy them may not be going on such far-flung adventures. But that's OK. They still do well in the concrete jungle, almost more so than off the pavement.

The upright seating position makes them not only comfortable, but a nice perch to be able to see over traffic from. They have reasonable fuel economy too. The big Beemer can easily get over 45 mpg, and the smaller Suzuki can achieve 50.

You might not be ready for the kind of adventure McGregor and Boorman embarked upon, but it could be fun to own an adventure-ready motorcycle to take on the everyday adventures of getting around.