• BMW G 310 GS lightweight adventure motorcycle off road.

Top 5 Lightweight Adventure Motorcycles in 2024

In this article you’ll find a summary of the top five lightweight adventure motorcycles available in New Zealand in2024 for less than $10,000, a bonus scrambler for comparison, and a fairly comprehensive comparison spreadsheet that I’ve put together as part of my own research into buying a new motorcycle. 

I’ve hit the mid-life crisis stage of my life, so it’s time to start looking at motorcycles. Why fight it, right?

I didn’t grow up around bikes, instead having my first taste of bikes in the PC game Full Throttle, then later in the PS4 game of Days Gone. I’d stop doing the stories in the games and instead just play around on the bikes. That’s an origin story that seems to be a world away from many of New Zealand’s current motorcycle riders, with many seeming to have either grown up on farms with access to motorcycles, or having had ridden them less… legally… in their teenage years.

More recently, YouTube encouraged me to start following the adventures of Australian motorcyclist Joe Ryan during his time in New Zealand on a Royal Enfield Scram 411. His awesome videos really hammered home what I was missing out on, between sitting behind a desk in Christchurch and following local trails in North Canterbury on my mountain bike.

As a resident of New Zealand’s South Island, I’m regularly told that 80% of our roads are gravel, and there are some incredible motorcycle trails right on our back doorstep. Another motorcycle influencer on YouTube, Adam Riemann, called New Zealand “one of the planet’s ultimate offroad playgrounds.”

Joe’s videos helped me settle on the idea of either a scrambler or an adventure motorcycle, but as someone who had never sat in the business seat of a motorbike, I knew I would have a lot to learn. My position as a marketing manager in the car industry has taught me a lot about the need for research (did you know car buyers spend an average of 15 hours researching cars before they make a purchase?), so I turned to Google.

Initially starting with the Scram 411, I very soon realised just how many options there were on the market. Luckily, for every type of motorcycle, there are thousands of video reviews on YouTube.

Researching motorcycles was proving quite different to researching cars. Some realisations were:

  • The New Zealand version of the world’s motorcycle brand websites are pretty lacking, many with limited specs, some with missing pricing, and some even missing current models
  • New Zealand’s motorcycle dealer websites aren’t all that better, with most just linking back to the national website when you click ‘new models’ and hosting no information of their own
  • Unlike cars, motorcycles don’t seem to have spec sheets. The closest you might find being more of a brochure-style PDF with a short table of key highlights (I assume because there are less features to talk about)
  • Motorcycle promotions are very different to car promotions due to the smaller price tags; e.g. a “Save $15,000” offer on a new car translates to more like “Save $500” on a motorcycle, as you’d expect as a percentage of the total price, of course
  • There tends to be less stock of a particular model bike in the country versus a car model. A new car model may have a few hundred units in the country, while a specific new bike model may have in the tens.

Some big positives were:

  • Motorcycles seem to offer good resale value, with $9,000 brand-new bikes selling three or four years later for $7,000 to $8,000
  • Many people buy a learner approved motorcycle (Learned Approved Motorcycle Scheme, or LAMS) and then only use it for a few thousand kilometres, then when they get their full licence they upgrade to a new bike and put their LAMS model on the market
  • There are some great reviews on YouTube, and some even better motorcycle films that are hugely inspiring and encouraging
  • Some motorcycle experts are big fans of smaller bikes in the LAM category, often recommending them to both new and experience motorcycle riders thanks to their low cost, light weight, but high levels of manoeuvrability and fun to be had

I’ve found the research part of my motorcycle journey to be pretty exciting. With each new video I discovered a new potential motorcycle to explore, and once you start talking about motorcycles with your friends, family, and colleagues, all of the motorcycle enthusiasts come out of the woodwork, and so far they’ve been almost as enthusiastic as I am about my potential new purchase (thank you for your support to date, Shaun Grob, Lee Parkinson, and Neil C!). It’s a hugely supportive and tight community.

The negative in that has been the feeling of guilt in going down this road. In a family with two young children, investing in such a substantial purchase that only you will get enjoyment out of comes with, for me, high levels of guilt. After all, working parents get to spend so little time with their kids to start with, so to add solo motorcycle adventures into that mix only reduces that time further, let alone the expense of the bike purchase, the lessons, the gear, the registration, and the insurance. You have to balance that with the enjoyment you’ll get from the bike and the benefits to your mental health, plus the fact that the bike and the gear are assets that can be sold later on in life.

And of course, there’s a risk of injury when it comes to motorcycles, but then other hobbies I’ve had include rock climbing, mountain biking, and solo hiking, and each of those come with plenty of risks. Is the alternative to sit safely on your sofa

Criteria for the ‘top five’ list

To make this list of top five lightweight adventure motorcycles, I’ve focused on criteria of:

  • Bike must be learner approved (LAMS in New Zealand, A2 Licence elsewhere)
  • Bike must be available for under $10,000 New Zealand dollars
  • BIke must be under 600 cc (for newbies, and also keeping the price down)
  • Bike must review well
  • I need to be comfortable sitting on it, at 6ft 2in tall
  • Bike must be visually appealing

Obviously the latter is subjective, but I’ve also taken on board styling comments from professional motorcycling enthusiasts and journalists.

2024 Lightweight Motorcycle Comparison Spreadsheet

My Motorcycle Buying Comparison Spreadsheet

I over-research any significant purchase (my wife will testify to this), so I fired up a spreadsheet and started comparing specs. You can view this fairly substantial spreadsheet here, which includes a lot more models than on this top five list.

Note that at time of writing this is a working file with more details to follow, and note that – as you’ll find – I started on Scramblers and then moved to Adventure and Touring bikes, with a couple of roadsters for comparison. I’m interested in a bike that I could feel OK riding across the South Island on, including some lighter offroad riding, so there’s no serious dirt-oriented bikes in there, and I have realised since that some of the bikes included wouldn’t be suitable for my needs, especially as someone who’s 6ft 2 tall.

A big disclaimer here is that a lot of specs are missing from the brand and dealer websites, so I’ve had to piece together the specs available from the official channels with specs I’ve found on review websites and videos, with some of those being for slightly older models or for overseas spec bikes, so take some of these with a pinch of salt.

The details are also subject to change, with the information included mostly relevant to models available in New Zealand and in 2024.

Along with the spreadsheet, I’ve put together a comparison, below, of the top five lightweight adventure motorcycles on my shortlist, all LAMS approved, all with ABS, and most with LED lights all around.

One final huge disclaimer

I am far from a motorcycle expert. I’m almost the exact opposite. I’ve come into this with no knowledge of motorcycles. Everything here is based on what I’ve been able to find from manufacturer’s websites, dealership staff, reviews, videos, and social media. When I first started the spreadsheet, I didn’t even know which details were worth making note of, so I just recorded as much as I could.

I’m very open to feedback, you can contact me

With that in mind, read on!

  • A motorcycle rider on the KTM 390 Adventure as it gets airborn on a hilltop dirt track.

The KTM 390 Adventure

As an absolute beginner, the KTM name was a new one to me. First impressions were of dirt bikes flying through the air, a little extreme for what I was after, but on the advice of a friend at work (thanks, Shaun), with a nod to the impressive KTM community in New Zealand and amazing Australia and New Zealand rallye video series on YouTube, not to mention the sensational offroad coach Chris Birch, I looked further into adventure options in the KTM range and discovered the impressive KTM 390 Adventure.

KTM 390 Adventure

One of the two colour options for the 2024 KTM 390 Adventure, non-spoked-wheel.

*Disclaimer: this is the current price for the 390 Adventure at $1,800 off retail, which is a runout price on the 2023 variant, with the 2024 KTM 390 Adventure and 2024 KTM 390 Adventure SW replacing it, the former with new colour options (not sure what else?) and a price tag of $10,990 plus on-road costs, and the latter now with spoked wheels but at a higher $11,990 plus on-road costs, which would make it a little high for this list.

A tall man sitting on the KTM 390 Adventure.

I’m sitting on the 2023 runout KTM 390 Adventure model at Traktion Motorcycles in Christchurch. I’m 6ft 2.

Pros and Cons of the KTM 390 Adventure

The KTM 390 Adventure gets a lot of respect from a range of motorcycle professionals, with many noting how enjoyable it is to ride compared to its heavier siblings.

Despite its brand and its looks, it does however get less kudos for its pure off-road capabilities, with some saying it’s more road-oriented than other adventure bikes in its class.

A common complaint with the KTM 390 Adventure is that the footpegs are small and angled too aggressively forward, more akin to a sport bike. This means that when you stand on the bike for off-road use, you feel like you’re leaning too far forward. The bash plate underneath has also been noted for being a little plasticky and thin, and some dislike the cast aluminium wheels as opposed to spoked. I believe some of these have been addressed with the 390 Adventure SW, but the KTM website shows both models as being current, and doesn’t offer pricing. Dealer info suggests that the price difference is significant, especially with the regular variant on offer right now at $8,990, while the SW variant is a mighty $11,990. It’s hard to get a clear picture of the spec difference other than the spoked wheels. KTM revert you to dealers for assistance, and my local hasn’t yet responded to my query.

When I saw the KTM 390 Adventure in person, I was really impressed with how much bigger it was compared to the scramblers I’d looked at. It was very comfortable to sit on, with not too much bend in the knee with my feet on the pegs (a bonus for my given my bad knees).

  • The 2024 Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 parked in front of mountains.

The Royal Enfield Himalayan 450

Royal Enfield has a great community of fans around the world. In fact, as soon as I joined a local group on Facebook, I was recognised by a work associate who reached out straight away and was excited about the chance to meet up and discuss Royal Enfield bikes. Royal Enfield also have one of the best websites for manufacturers in this list, with much more information, pricing, brochures, and more.

As mentioned in the intro, I was introduced to Royal Enfield by Joe Ryan’s YouTube videos. He owns a Himalayan 411 which he uses to tour the outback of Australia, and was loaned a Scram 411 by Royal Enfield for his tour of New Zealand. He himself says the former is much more suited to offroad, while the Scram 411 still makes a capable on-road bike.

The new Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 for 2024 has a lot to live up to, and saw a number of changes to its predecessor which irked some of the more die-hard enthusiasts. That aside, it offers a heap of appeal, outshining others in its class in a number of areas, such as a 230 mm ground clearance, adjustable seat height, 200 mm of suspension travel, and a large 21 inch front wheel compared to others’ 19 inches. It also boasts a 17 litre fuel tank, which goes someway towards explaining its heavier ‘wet’ weight of 196 kg.

Royal Enfield Himalayan 450

The 2024 Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 motorcycle in Kaza Brown colour.

A tall man sitting on the Royal Enfield Himalayan 450.

Sitting on the 2024 Royal Enfield Himalayan 450 at First European. Thanks for taking the photo, Lee, and for the info, Andy!
I’m 6ft 2 or 187 cm tall.

Pros and Cons of the Himalayan 450

Motorcycle journalists have a lot of positive things to say about the new Royal Enfield Himalayan 450, and you only have to watch Adam Reimann’s Himalayan Hero inspirational series on YouTube to see how capable this motorbike is offroad. Riders also talk about how easy it is to drive on the road, as well as how good the adjustable suspension is compared to the previous model.

For the negatives, experts talk about the heavy weight of the 450 for its class and that it could be lacking in power, in part – again – due to its weight. But then, it sounds like it’ll sit comfortably on the highway at the speed limit and, as you can see from the videos, it looks pretty capable on the dirt and gravel trails.

  • BMW G 310 GS lightweight adventure motorcycle on a road.

The BMW G 310 GS

A role model in my life rides a BMW G 1250 GS and regularly takes it from the UK through Europe with a group of this mates, and – after (like a complete noob) watching Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in the Long Way Round and Long Way Down – the BMW range of adventure bikes looked quite appealing.

BMW G 310 GS Adventure Motorcycle

The BMW G 310 GS motorcycle in Cosmic Black 3 colour.

Pros and Cons of the BMW G 310 RS

Sporting the BMW and GS badges adds some kudos to this adventure touring bike, although some enthusiasts don’t feel it’s fit for wearing the same GS badge (meaning road and offroad) as its bigger and more capable cousins, but others have said that the G 310 GS’s lighter weight makes it more fun and, on occasion, more rideable than the much heavier models in the range. And, of course, for a first bike under a learner license and on a budget, the G 310 GS is much more accessible.

The screen does feel dated and more limited compared to its rivals at the same price bracket, like the Triumph 400 x, Himalayan 450, and the KTM 390 Adventure, but to me it does have great looks as well as BMW and GS pedigree. It also has one of the longest warranties (alongside Royal Enfield’s) at 3 years.

Some reviewers have said this isn’t a particularly easy bike to handle offroad, which could make it off-putting for any new riders, giving them the impression that riding off-road is harder than it needs to be.

Finally, I get the impression that BMW parts and servicing are a little pricier than some other brands, but I’d need to do more research into whether that’s the reality or just a perception associated with German engineering.

  • The CFMOTO 450MT Adventure Motorcycle

CFMOTO 450MT

OK… I’m going to get in trouble here as, firstly, this is the sixth lightweight adventure motorcycle I’ve added to my list of the top five, and secondly, it’s one that I probably should have included from the start.

I’d come across the CFMOTO 450MT earlier on in my research but, not being aware of or having any feelings for the brand, I’d ignored it and moved on. I think that was also helped by the fact that I was researching current bikes at the time, and the CFMOTO 450MT arrived in New Zealand in June of 2024.

I’ve since shared this list to a Facebook Group (thank you Adventure Riding New Zealand) and to my LinkedIn profile, and in both cases the CFMOTO 450MT came up in the comments as one to watch. Now that’s it’s launched, YouTube is filling up with motorcycle reviewers sharing their thoughts, and they are all incredibly positive.

I visited my local CFMOTO dealer, CMG, where the bike had just arrived, and the staff were also very impressed. One asking why I would consider others on this list when for an extra thousand I could have the CFMOTO 450MT with all its impressive features (a good question, but perhaps only for those who weren’t already stretching their budget for the others here and so another thousand is stretching it even further).

The CFMOTO 450MT Adventure Motorcycle

The CFMOTO 450MT in Tundra Grey.

Pros and Cons of the CFMOTO 450MT

Freshly launched, it’s going to be harder to determine the pros and cons of the CFMOTO 450MT from any long-term ownership perspective, but there are plenty of ‘first thoughts’ reviews out there already, and this bike is being very well received.

This bike is one of the few in its category that is twin cylinder instead of single. This means less vibrations and an engine sound that reviewers have complimented rather than disliked.

It can also be customised to suit the rider, with an easily adjustable windshield, adjustable suspension, and even the height of the bike can be adjusted by removing a bolt at the base of the suspension and putting it back in through another slot.

There may be a perceived negative in the brand of this bike, in that it’s wholly a Chinese brand, but interestingly they’ve been making parts for the likes of KTM for a while now, and one highly popular reviewer – Nathan the Postman – said in his video:

“It feels exotic. If you said this was a Chinese bike it wouldn’t match the perception – the pre-conceptions of what makes Chinese bikes. This is Italian, this is European, this is flavoursome, this has got energy and flair. It’s got the flair that we don’t expect from such places, or Japan … My conclusion is that this is a unicorn.”

  • Two riders on the Kawasaki VERSYS-X 300 adventure motorcycle riding by the ocean.

Kawasaki VERSYS-X 300

I’ll be honest, I haven’t done a huge amount of research into Kawasaki bikes, in part because Kawasaki’s New Zealand website ranks so poorly for this model and is lacking buying information like pricing and warranties (which is odd as those details appear on the overseas variants of this website), but Kawasaki is a big name in motorcycles and it would be amiss to exclude their lightweight adventure model, the VERSYS-X 300, from this shortlist.

Kawasaki VERSYS-X 300

The Kawasaki VERSYS-X 300 motorcycle in Candy Lime Green/Metallic Flat Spark Black colour (the only option in New Zealand).

Pros and Cons of the Kawasaki VERSYS-X 300

The VERSYS-X 300 is a capable, lightweight adventure bike that sells itself more on its name than fancy websites and features. Perhaps that’s understandable from a brand who relies more on a farming community ‘word-of-mouth’ style of marketing, or at least it feels that way here in New Zealand.

Some reviewers say the seat is a little firm, and that it’s one of the new bikes in its class to still have a halogen headlight instead of LED.

  • The Suzuki V-STROM 250 SX being ridden on a dirt track.

The Suzuki V-Strom 250 SX

Like Kawasaki, Suzuki has a big name in salt-of-the-earth motorcycles. If you do basic introduction to motorcycles course in New Zealand, it’s likely that you’ll do it on a small, un-intimidating, Suzuki GN125 bike.

Suzuki are known for their reliability and entry-spec bikes, which is why the Suzuki V-Strom 250 SX deserves a special mention in this list.

At a new price of $6,990, it’s the cheapest bike here by $2,000, which is a lot when you’re in this price bracket. Of course, it also hosts the smallest capacity engine, but if you do want to buy your motorcycle fresh from the dealership as its first owner, the V-Strom 250 SX holds enticing appeal, and even includes a few nice features that would compete with the more expensive bikes in this line-up.

Suzuki V-STROM 250SX

The Suzuki V-Strom 250SX in Pearl Blaze Orange colour.

A tall man sitting on the Suzuki V-Strom 250SX.

Me sitting on the Suzuki V-Strom 250SX at CMG Motorcycles in Christchurch. I’m 6ft 2.

Pros and Cons

It’s hard to say anything too negative about the Suzuki V-Strom 250 SX given its affordable price. It’s obviously not a huge bike and it has a much smaller capacity engine than others in this list, while not being a huge amount lighter, but its size makes it very easy to ride and a great beginner’s bike for learning the ropes and gaining confidence.

  • A motorcycle rider sits on the Triumph Scrambler 400 x.

Bonus: The Triumph Scrambler 400 X

Early on in my research I came across the Triumph Scrambler 400 x. Good timing, as it’s an all-new bike that has fairly recently come to market.

Unlike others in this list, it’s also not a new variant of an existing model, it’s a brand-new model in the Triumph range, and Triumph’s move into a more accessible vehicle alongside the Triumph Speed 400.

It’s obviously also not an adventure/tourer bike. The scrambler category is for more urban-oriented bikes that can handle gravel roads and dirt tracks when they need to, but they’re not necessarily intended for long distance riding with a heap of gear.

Having said that, Joe Ryan is doing a very good job of showing that you can travel New Zealand pretty well on Royal Enfield Scram 411.

The Triumph Scrambler 400 x has a fantastic, modern-classic style and I still have it on my list as a potential option should I move away from the adventure range. It’s of a style that stands the test of time, with a certain class and charm that you can’t apply to any of the other bikes in this article.

It holds a wider appeal and would look much better pulling up outside a café, but then that’s not really the primary goal here…

Triumph Scrambler 400 X

The Triumph Scrambler 400 x in Khaki Green colour. Others are black and red, but to me the red doesn’t work with the brown of the seat. Each to their own.

A tall man sitting on the Triumph Scrambler 400 X.

I’m sitting on the Triumph Scrambler 400 X at CMG Motorcycles in Christchurch, although a bit harder to see the fit in this shot.

Pros and Cons of the Triumph Scrambler 400 X

The new Triumph Scrambler 400 X has been very well received by reviewers. It’s a great looking motorcycle that will turn heads on urban adventures while also allowing riders to explore some back country roads. It also has an impressive 16,000 km service interval (or 12 months, whichever occurs first) and many reviewers appreciate its quality build and premium feel.

Negatives are that the cast aluminium wheels would be better as spokes, but that’s not super uncommon at this price, and the sister bike – the Speed 400 – offers not too much less in features but with $1,000 in savings at just $7,995.

For me, it’s a great looking bike but at 6ft 2 I can’t help but feel a little exposed, especially at highway speeds, but maybe that’s more of a psychological thing.

So which one have I bought?

At time of writing… none of them. I’m still saving and also holding out for a good finance offer. I’ve introduced myself to a couple of dealerships so that they know I’m a potential buyer.

I think I’ve narrowed it down to the KTM, the Royal Enfield, and the BMW, but with a feeling that my scrambler wildcard may still rear its head depending on what offers and availability looks like in the next few months. I intend to sit on each of my top three before I make a decision, if not fully test drive each one (catch 22: I don’t yet have a licence to be able to test drive a bike, while also not having sat on a bike enough to obtain a licence).

I’ll put together an update once I have one in my garage, and I’ll include more of a story on my full journey to that particular model.

Watch this space!

Photo credits: all images from their official brand websites, other than photos of me on bikes taking by friends and family.

4 replies
  1. Michael Verner
    Michael Verner says:

    I wouldn’t buy any of them they are all underpowered and you will soon be looking for something with a bit more performance. At 6ft2 with the exception of the 400 Trumpy as I have never sat on one so cant comment the rest must seem like sitting on a mini bike, I’m only 5ft7.. Have you looked at some of the larger 650 + lams bikes in the dual purpose range, or some of the more enduro / off-road oriented bikes? With a more road suited tyre or a set off 17 inch rims it makes for some pretty good road handling. For a first bike I would never go new, the first time you drop it will suck big time. At the end of the day it’s your money and your bike so whatever you decide its a motorbike and it gunner put a smile on you dial so you can’t go wrong.

    Disclaimer This is just my opinion and like arseholes we all have one :)

    Reply
  2. Mark Lincoln
    Mark Lincoln says:

    Thanks heaps for the input, Michael. I’m with on the size thing, but I also need to balance that with being on a learner licence and on a budget, while also preferring to buy new. Funnily enough, I asked this in a Facebook Group and a *lot* of people suggested a dual sport bike instead of the adventure/tourers that are on my shortlist, but I really have my heart set on the look of the bikes in this list. I’m going to have quite a limited amount of ‘bike time’ available to me and don’t want to be worried about maintaining an older bike or modifying a new one, I just want to get out there, with that being open, winding roads and a few flat dirt and gravel trails, nothing too serious at all. I’m more set on a bike that would suit this purpose well while I’m learning and then potentially for a few years after that. Still, food for thought. Appreciate your input, thanks again.

    Reply
  3. Wesley James
    Wesley James says:

    Hey Mark,

    Great review on the bikes. I thought I over analysed bikes, but this is on another level (in a good way!) I’m Christchurch based too, if you ever want to discuss bikes or go for a ride once you get an ADV bike, you can contact me on IG at @_wesleyjames_

    I’ve been seriously looking at the new Himalayan as a potential new bike. Don’t discard the second hand market either, you can get some great deals, as long as the owner has legitimate service history evidence etc.

    My honest opinion. It’s between 3 models, the Triumph 400x if you want style, and a bike that suits 6″2. I’m 6″2 myself and found it very comfortable. Then the Himalayan & CF Moto are very strong contenders too. I think the CF Moto is probably the winner, but I’m a visual guy, and it just doesn’t look as good as the other 2.

    Good luck with your decision!

    Wes

    Reply
  4. Mark Lincoln
    Mark Lincoln says:

    Awesome, thanks Wesley! And very handy to hear from another local who’s the same height! I get you on the visual side as well. I know there are a lot of practical reasons to get other bikes, but I also want something that looks good and matches my style. It’s the heart vs brain thing there. I’m going to drop by CMG this week and look at their new CFMOTO 450MT and sit on the BMW G 310 GS while I’m there, and will also get to First European to check out the new Himalayan 450.

    And thanks for that – I’ve subscribed and followed on YouTube and Instagram! Love the way you’ve put your videos together – I’ll add your recent Triumph 400 video to this page and my spreadsheet.

    Reply

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