When I landed in Dallas to pick up a BMW F 850 GS my thoughts were consumed with taking BMW's middleweight adventure bike through Colorado's back roads and trail system. Cutting through the mountains on a narrow dirt path, crossing creeks, camping in the woods and waking up to a cool mountain morning dominated my thoughts. But the elephant in my own head was that in order to fulfill my dream off-road scenario I was going to have to cross roughly 700 miles of concrete slab in the form of Texas highways to get to my visions of mountain bliss. And just in case you're not familiar with the area, north Texas highways are about as scenic as a Nebraska highway. I had mostly chosen not to think about those miles and decided my course of action was just going to be putting my head down and getting all 700 mind-numbing miles out of the way in one day so I could get to my off-road adventure as quickly as possible. I had spent zero time on the F 850 GS and hardly any time on an ADV bike, much less put down big miles loaded down. Even with having no time on the bike I was confident in its off-road abilities due to BMW's reputation of building kick-ass adventure bikes.

We had little doubt the GS would be solid in the dirt, but its merits as a touring motorcycle was a pleasant surprise. 

I was completely in the dark however on what it's touring capabilities were. To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised. It really got me thinking about the "touring" side of adventure-touring bikes in general and I came to the conclusion that I believe adventure bikes are better touring bikes than conventional "baggers." Here's my reasons why.


The first thing most think of when it comes to a touring bike is generally comfort and the thoughts of a big American-made cruiser commonly jumps to mind, a cushy Indian Chieftain or H-D Ultra Classic. A kicked-back, comfy seat and some highway pegs. The adventure bike had none of that and was perfectly comfortable. They naturally have a fairly neutral seating position which keeps your feet underneath you and also allows you to control the bike. The bars are likewise fairly neutral. They come up and back enough for an easy, natural reach but also are still small enough to control the bike in aggressive riding situations. I didn't use any seat pads or weird pieces of fur to keep me comfortable and had no issues with fatigue or soreness. In fact, I think cruiser riders in general make a critical error in the comfort of their motorcycles when using floorboards and forward controls. Moving your feet out in front of you doesn't allow you to put as much pressure on the footpegs and gives you less control of the bike. More importantly, when it comes to comfort, it puts all of your body weight on your ass. Without your legs under you your tailbone and lower back (not to mention your butt cheeks) have to handle all the weight of your body. This results in lower back and butt pain which most riders try to cure by changing seats and adding butt pads. This isn't the case with an ADV bike. Advantage, adventure bike.

Wind protection can be key to a comfy touring bike, hence the giant fairings and windshield bolted to Street Glides, Road Glides and the like. Again I had no issues with wind buffeting but we did have the stock windshield replaced with a larger Madstad unit that worked wonderfully. It not only gave me great wind protection but I was able to adjust the amount of airflow. Crosswinds could be felt a bit though and the middleweight ADV bike isn't particularly heavy, which is a positive 9 times out of 10, but the occasional crosswind buffeted me a bit. Overall though, slight advantage to an adventure bike.


Most late model touring bikes are laid out with all kinds of bells and whistles and today's adventure bikes have more than their fair share of useful gadgets also. The bike I was on had the best cruise control I've ever used on a motorcycle to-date, heated grips that adjusted to three different levels of toasty warm, ride modes that electronically adjusted power delivery and suspension settings, a full array of diagnostics on the dash and I was getting nearly 50 mpg, so range wasn't an issue. The only thing a traditional bagger has that an adventure bike doesn't is a stereo system.  But, the Beemer did have integration through the dash to sync up your communication system and your phone which worked great for me because I usually don't use stereo systems, especially on the highway where they are difficult to hear. I normally default to headphones or a comm system, so the BMW integration was right up my alley. No advantage to an adventure bike or traditional bagger, it's a push.

At the push of a button the BMW F 850 GS switches to a mode tailored to riding in the dirt. Today's adventure bikes are equipped with some of the most sophisticated electronic packages on the market.

Storage/Packing Ability

Over the years I feel this is where touring baggers have started to fall off. The capacity of the saddlebags has basically remained the same but the OEM's have started adding filler panels, smoothing edges and stretching bags and panels. While this makes the bike look a bit more custom, it eliminates points to attach things like straps and bungees, significantly reducing what you can or can't carry. And this is one of the places an adventure bike shines. Since they are built almost solely around functionality the bag or "pannier" systems really shine. In our case it was a combination of GIVI Outback cases and Kriega Dry Bags. But the outstanding thing about most adventure luggage is that it all releases and attaches to the motorcycle extremely quick and has tons of places to attach straps, cargo nets and other bags. That, combined with the large capacity and durability of adventure luggage, makes it a much better option than traditional bagger bags. Advantage, adventure bike.

When it comes down to brass tacks, adventure bikes just out bagger the baggers, especially when you throw in all of the other standard stats. Horsepower-to-weight, rake and trail numbers, they all add up to a quicker, faster, and better handling machine. Combine that with all the advantages in comfort, storage and amenities of an adventure bike it becomes pretty clear that an adventure bike is a better touring bike, period.