These Are The Top Small Adventure Motorcycles For Sale In 2019

We run through some of the most appealing small adventure motorcycles now available.

Adventure motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes. There remains a large selection of big, high-displacement, technologically sophisticated bikes, and the options in this range continue to grow. But increasingly, there's also lighter, low- to mid-displacement motorcycles that make the adventure segment more broadly accessible. And for a lot of riders, these manageable and affordable bikes make adventuring more fun.

The truly small (think sub-500cc) adventure market is still growing, so we’ve selected a handful of entries that aren’t quite as “small” as you might think from the perspective of power. But the midsize bikes included in this list provide the benefits of compact design, opening up trail rides and single-track, for example, in ways the 1,000cc-plus bikes only do for the most capable of riders. This is a really exciting segment these days, and the bikes in this list are the best of the best so far.

2019 Kawasaki Versys-X 300

The Versys-X 300 is currently the standard-bearer of the small adventure market.
The Versys-X 300 is currently the standard-bearer of the small adventure market.Kawasaki

The Kawasaki Versys-X 300 is currently the standard-bearer of the truly small adventure market. When it was unveiled in 2016, the bike was an amalgam of Kawasaki parts, with looks and ergonomics taken from the larger Versys machines and a parallel twin taken from the popular Ninja 300. It's capable of comfortable cruising on the highway, tears up a fire road better than you'd imagine, and is light and easy to maneuver. It's capable of packing luggage without issue, has wind protection and other accessories available, and is utterly approachable for riders of all experience levels.

I rode one across Utah during the initial press launch in early 2017, and it exceeded expectations in all conditions. It was stable and had revs to spare during long straight-line stints at 70 mph. It was responsive and nimble carving through corners, and scaled neglected gravel roads with surprisingly decent suspension and bottom-end pull.

2019 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 price: $5,499, $5,799 ABS

2019 BMW G 310 GS

The G 310 GS takes cues from the massively popular adventure bikes in BMW’s line.
The G 310 GS takes cues from the massively popular adventure bikes in BMW’s line.Markus Jahn

Later in 2017, BMW invited the press to sample its entry into the burgeoning segment with a ride around Spain on the G 310 GS. BMW took the 310 single it was using in its street machine and dressed it to match the brand's larger, and widely lauded, adventure machines. Like the Versys-X, the G 310 GS has a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel setup, a host of adventure accessory add-ons, and manageable manners on and off road.

Jamie Elvidge explains the bike's off-road prowess in her first ride of the model when it was released: "The GS's leggy upside-down fork and rear spring strut were doing a great job soaking up the rocks and ruts, while the bike's light steering and compact size made short work of the countless turnarounds required for the photo passes." Its size, power delivery, and handling were similarly effective on the tight, twisting roads winding through the Pyrenees. It's another prime example of what a small adventure bike can offer to any rider willing to throw a leg over.

2019 BMW G 310 GS price: $5,795

2019 Royal Enfield Himalayan

For nostalgic looks and compact design, look no further than the Himalayan.
For nostalgic looks and compact design, look no further than the Himalayan.Nathan May

The Royal Enfield Himalayan made its way into the hands of Western press in 2017 as well, though takes a completely different tack from the two previously mentioned bikes in the looks department. This one's all nostalgia, so consistent with Enfield's M.O. Its 411cc single is smoothed out by a balancing shaft, so it is much more comfortable to ride in higher revs compared to the company's other offerings, and it is a respectable performer in mild off-road scenarios. "The weight is kept low, the non-ABS brakes have a good amount of power and feel for a loose surface, and the easy-riding character of the whole package will encourage riders to get out and start exploring," explains Loz Blain in his first ride of the machine when it debuted. The bike is also well-mannered on road, and comes with a roster of adventure accessories like a skid plate, luggage racks, crash protection, and a pronounced windscreen.

2019 Royal Enfield Himalayan price: $4,499

2019 Honda CB500X

The CB500X is more adventure-ready than ever.
The CB500X is more adventure-ready than ever.Drew Ruiz

The Honda CB500X was a much more road-oriented machine during the years after its debut in 2013, but the adventure styling prompted many riders to upgrade key components in order to make it a more capable adventure machine. Honda has since incorporated many of these upgrades into its latest version of the bike, making it a more attractive option for adventure riders in stock trim. It's now got longer-travel suspension, an improved transmission, slightly higher torque 471cc parallel-twin engine than the previous iteration, and a taller windscreen.

It remains a compact, easy-to-handle motorcycle and when outfitted with a pair of 19-inch front and 17-inch rear knobby, dual purpose tires, can tackle light off-road excursions easily. “Honda’s CB500X proved to be a reasonable adventure machine while keeping a mild personality of the small-displacement engine,” Julia LaPalme explains in her first ride review of the bike earlier this year. Plus, there are still lots of accessory upgrades available so crash protection, luggage, seating upgrades, and other adventure staples can be incorporated easily to dial the bike for just about any need.

2019 Honda CB500X price: $6,699

2019 Honda CRF250L Rally

The CRF250L Rally looks more like a dual sport but arouses an appetite for adventure.
The CRF250L Rally looks more like a dual sport but arouses an appetite for adventure.Honda

To include the CRF250L Rally among more traditionally styled adventure bikes is a bit of a stretch since it's really a dressed-up dual sport. But those elements—a larger fuel tank than its dual sport base, a windscreen, shrouds, improved instrument panel, and switchable ABS—make this bike feel much less like a tamed-for-the-road dirt bike and more like a lithe and approachable tool for exploration. "When we started to think about the bike in that perspective, as an ultra-light ADV machine, we started having a blast," Sean Klinger says in his first ride review of the Rally. "It sounds crazy, we know, but when we were riding the Rally version, we started thinking about all of the adventure bikes we've ridden and how light this bike feels and how easy it is to turn and how small it is compared to those much larger machines."

Of course, it's not going to eat up highway miles as comfortably or easily as the other choices on this list, and the 249cc single is going to require more frequent fuel stops to keep humming, even with its larger 2.7-gallon fuel tank. But for riders who prize side roads, alternate routes, and off-road-heavy adventures, the CRF250L Rally is a fantastic option.

2019 Honda CRF250L Rally price: $5,199

2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700

The Ténéré 700 is off-road focused and a lot of fun to ride.
The Ténéré 700 is off-road focused and a lot of fun to ride.Yamaha

So here we range a bit more into the middleweight adventure category, with Yamaha's Ténéré 700. We're still awaiting the release of the bike in the States, with the 689cc parallel-twin-powered adventure machine slated to hit showrooms in the middle of next year as a 2021 model, but our good friend Justin Dawes was fortunate enough to sample one ahead of release. The lightweight, easy handling, and torque-rich engine proved highly enjoyable. The overall package is currently better-suited for the street, despite long-travel suspension and 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheel configuration, but for light dirt duty the Ténéré 700 will do the trick.

It also carries a 4.2-gallon fuel tank and decent wind protection, so it will be capable of logging some longer, comfortable miles on the highway. "The Ténéré 700 is capable for nearly every situation, has the best CP2 powerplant to date, and will leave plenty of cash in your account to travel and customize your machine," Dawes says in his review. Despite some room for improvement for more off-road-focused riders, we expect the Ténéré 700 to be a formidable presence in the class.

2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 price: TBA

2019 KTM 790 Adventure

The 790 Adventure pushes the boundaries of “small” adventuring, but it would be a fantastic option for riders new to the segment nonetheless.
The 790 Adventure pushes the boundaries of “small” adventuring, but it would be a fantastic option for riders new to the segment nonetheless.KTM

Perhaps not objectively small, but small by comparison to the vanguard of adventure machines, KTM's 790 Adventure is the most sophisticated of our selection. It's got a raft of electronic options, from cornering ABS and off-road ABS, traction control and a high-tech instrument display. As for adventuring features, the tall windscreen, extremely comfortable perch, and highly responsive low-end of the 799cc twin create a motorcycle that's poised for long highway miles and superior off-road performance. Of course, if you're looking to really rip in the dirt, the 790 Adventure R is the way to go, leaving the standard model better suited for pavement-heavy rides.

Adam Waheed explains its merits in depth in his MC Commute review. But, until KTM finally comes through on the long-awaited 390 Adventure, this is a phenomenally rideable small(ish) ADV machine.

2019 KTM 790 Adventure price: $12,499

2019 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure

A long-standing favorite, Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 remains a great choice for adventure riders.
A long-standing favorite, Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 remains a great choice for adventure riders.Suzuki

Our final selection, and another technically middleweight machine, Suzuki's V-Strom 650XT Adventure delivers the rideability and approachability sought by many riders in smaller machines, with well-refined road chops. Its 645cc V-twin is dialed for road miles, with predictable and linear power delivery. There's a little extra oomph on the bottom-end compared to the SV650, which shares a nearly identical engine, so getting drive in lower rpm in mild off-road scenarios is no problem.

It's comfortable for hours in the saddle, has good wind protection, and a roster of accessories from Suzuki and aftermarket companies large enough to refine the base so as to be prepared for just about anything. This bike will take you just about anywhere you want to go. Zack Courts confirms this very fact in his review of the 2017 model.

2019 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure price: $9,299