ADV Motorcycle Trim Levels are Wrong

I just saw the news that Yamaha is adding two additional trim levels to the Ténéré 700. Needless to say, I’m in the tank for the T7 so I’m happy to see the availability of more factory performance bits. The middleweight Ténéré is now being offered with a touring package and a more aggressive off-road package depending on your leanings. Triumph has been offering a swath of packaged tiers for their fleet of Tigers for years, in many cases, I’m a bit perplexed by the package components and especially the pricing strategy.

When triumph launched the new series of tiger 800s back in 2016, you had to minor in linguistics to understand all the alphabet soup involved with each trim level. While they’ve cleaned it up a bit with the new 900, there’s still a mess of jargon to decode. At any rate, suffice it to say, that brands’ base-level adventure bike offerings start as bare bones, but progress in price and features as they go up. Per my previous assertion, manufacturers are getting wise to the fact that many of these bikes never go off-road and are thus tailoring to customers with optional touring-focused trim levels, and as in Yamaha’s case, offering premium performance bits and fewer frills for the bravest of adventurers.

While I appreciate this effort, pricing your most advanced off-road model higher than the premium touring bike in some cases seems especially odd. If we were debating premium models among dirt bikes, those gold suspension bits and fat price tags make perfect sense. In the world of 500-pound adventure machines, there’s a point where the price tag starts to make the thought of off-road rowdiness a little ridiculous, and premium dirt features superfluous.

In recent months it’s become overly obvious I tend to swim against the current. Considering I race a decade-old street legal nostalgia machine, perhaps I’m a little disconnected from what the average adventure consumer wants. That aside, here on the deep end of the ADV pool, I’d like suggest a slightly alternative strategy.

Defining premium

I feel like I keep saying that. In the world of adventure bikes, performance accessories, premium suspension, and creature comforts are items I see potential buyers considering when looking to roll everything into a packaged sale. Hard luggage, skid plates, electronics packages, touring screens, and the like are items I don’t question when we’re talking about top trim-level adventure touring bikes. Furthermore, regarding grand touring options, I think it’s wise for manufacturers to offer tubeless wheel options as stock, if not a dealer-fitted add-on. Various suspension trims also make sense. Again using triumph as an example, a base model with nonadjustable springy bits is the industry standard. More aggressive street riders will also appreciate the bump to upscale suspension or even electronic suspension along with a appropriate price increase.

Pricing strategy

To me, premium and value are not the same things. Something may cost more, but it may also be redundant, thus not adding value. As an off-road ADV gumby, tubeless wheels are lost on me. Tubeless wheels (potentially) put me in a situation where lower pressure is necessary to traverse an obstacle, followed by getting a flat, and then trying to reseat the bead by my lonesome with an anemic tire inflator. That just sounds like a spoiled afternoon. Moreover, endless electronics and hard luggage are liabilities in the woods, to say the least. I get it, these are “rider aids” for folks that want to take their two-wheeled SUVs down fire roads. I understand, and I think premium packages for those folks make sense. Inversely, in a world where Pol Tarres and Toni Bou are testing the capabilities of these behemoths, “off-road pro” trims including heated seats and creature comforts seem off-target, if not just an excuse to rack up the price.

Yamaha seems to have taken the bait with their new Ténéré 700 Extreme. More suspension travel, skid plate, radiator guard, and larger foot pegs; all things most offroad hooligans can appreciate. I’m eager to see Triumph, Aprilia, and Honda follow suit in this category.

I don’t speak for the gnarliest of off-road adventurers, but I assume they want to see robust tube-type rims, so we can potentially install rims locks, possibly bib mousses, or at least fix them easily in the field. A serious skid plate, not just an aesthetic paper-thin aluminum cover. Crash protection, or, if I may suggest, sacrificial plastics, akin to something like what dirt bikes offer. Fully adjustable, suspension, on par with 9 to 10 inches of travel, high fenders, and if rider aids are included, when disabled, settings should be “sticky” and maintain position after power cycling the bike.

Inverting the paradigm

Taking it a step forward, I think the base model ADV bikes should be off-road focused. Adventure bikes are far from dirt bikes; no one questions this. At the same time, they’re far from cheap and they tend to cost more to fix when you crash. While I respect premium pricing for premium suspension, most of the “value-added” electronics and creature comforts are a waste for the most dirt-oriented riders. I would suggest that Yamaha, et al, should stick with cheap LCD dashes, ABS only, no rider modes, and no frills. Essentially how the Tenere 700 was launched. I’m also prepared to concede ABS to save a few bucks (I realize Europe won’t permit such dangerous thoughts). If buyers want tubeless wheels, up-spec suspension, heated grips, rider modes, fancy dash screens, and electronic doodads, absolutely, upcharge for all of that stuff. However, for goons that are going to toss their bikes down the trail on the regular, we just need a bare-bones machine. Fear not manufacturers, what you lose from the initial sale margin, you’ll recover in replacement parts; and I can provide references to prove it.

I obviously don’t speak for everyone, so what do you think? Are manufacturers selling you the trim levels of bikes you want?

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10 Responses to ADV Motorcycle Trim Levels are Wrong

  1. rider marc says:

    Good topic and points you make. Back in ’14 when I first started looking at the Triump Tiger 800, they had one that was more suited to off pavement–thinking “XC” was used. I could not get over the fact that crash bars were bolted to engine cases.

    Universal case-use definition would be useful. Two at a minimum and most likely three is enough. If these trims were simply labeled as “off-road, dual-sport, or touring” it would seem that buyers would have an idea of where their riding intentions would fit. Then, let’s see what the manufacturers would offer. Maybe even add a “build-your-own” as a forth level. This is where high-end components and exotic metals could be added.

    If I were to place my ’17 Africa Twin into one of those trim levels above, I’d put it into the “dual-sport” trim.

    A sub-450 pounds might be a requirement to get a bike placed into the “off-road” trim level. Generally these bikes can be easily repaired.

    The “touring” trim level would include 17/17 or 17/19 inch wheels, shorter suspension travel, panniers with sporty styling, heated this and that, electronics, etc as these bikes are seldom off pavement. This trim level differentiates from traditional touring bikes by being rugged and suitable for crumbling pavement. This is where a Multistrada or ATAS would fit. Sure there are maybe a 1 percenters that would run a BDR. Similar to what you mention, there is a price point where buyers value their bike more than the experience of running a Jeep trail. These bikes are repairable; but generally totalled beyond a tip-over.

    I don’t know…. Going to be a lot for buyers to consider for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MotoADVR says:

      You also make good points, and mostly what I’m trying to establish. Off-road centric Bikes can get so featured out that the price makes no sense. I agree most bikes will never go off-road and they should offer those creature comforts. Unfortunately I feel like brands are dropping expensive features on off-road intended models (like heated seats) and it’s silly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Simon says:

    Your comments are valid as well as intelligent. You ride a bike. However many marketing folks do not. Hence these contrasts I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kevin says:

    I tend to agree. As an abusive Tiger owner, I wish that dirtbike plastics and simplified wiring was available. I currently don’t have a functioning horn or brake light from off road abuse. and my brittle factory plastics have more than their share of zip ties and safety wire stitching them back together.

    The T7 is high on my list of potential bikes due to the simplicity and cost of upgraded off road bits.

    But I’m all for a manufacturer to give me the keys to prove their bike will put up with a full race season in KXCR and a few other events. Get back to grassroots racers doing things they sell in the advertisements!!! They might be surprised at what breaks and what survives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MotoADVR says:

      At the moment I think Yamaha has it right. The base mode is a bare bones bike prepared to do whatever, and trim levels go up from there. The Triumph mish mash of onroad and offroad features makes no sense at the highest price


  4. Simon says:

    I have been mates for many years with Martin Cole, he runs the Premier Yamaha dealership Alf England in the UK Midlands. They have recently struggled with supply like every dealer, they now have stock of T7 a both standard and World Rally. Stunning bikes both, for me the standard bike at 10k is fantastic value and the best starting point. For me that would be great except perhaps the rear suspension.


  5. Pingback: Motorcycle Economics: Future Interests | Moto Adventurer

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