Unicorn Culture, or, the Persistent Notion of the Perfect ADV Tourer

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Hamamelis, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. Hamamelis

    Hamamelis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Oddometer:
    75
    It's time to have a talk about one of the most pervasive trends in any ADV forum. A dangerous mental condition that can strike any ADV inmate, and especially one dissatisfied with some element of their current ride.

    It might be a legitimate shortcoming of a given model that money and farkles can't fix, or it might be couched in a reluctance to address shortcomings in personal skill, or a bit of both. It might just be the urge to desire something new, out of complacency with the technological wonders one already has. Some of these desires may be inherently contradictory.

    Why can't this bike be a bit lighter with nimbler handling? I also need it to be more stable on the highway!
    Why isn't this motor more powerful with more "character"? I also want it to go 15,000 miles maintenance free!
    Why is this bike so top-heavy with such a tall seat height? I still need 10 gallons of gas and 10 inches ground clearance?
    Why doesn't it have all the feature I want? It must also be under $15k USD!

    This notion seems especially strong when people want to plan some kind of globe-trotting ride and feel they need to have everything, including a pannier that doubles as a kitchen sink! Never mind that in much of the developing world, a 250 or 400 cc dual sport is a monster, let alone a 650cc single or 800cc twin/triple!

    In the past few years we've begun to see a handful of twin-cylinder ADV bikes address these perceived flaws, incrementally. And yet, for one reason or another, the unicorn chasers find a reason to shun them as imperfect. One might be too low in height, one might be low on power, the next may be so close but needs frequent intensive maintenance, another may not be available road-legal in all territories, and yet another may require expensive modification to unlock its full potential.

    I would like this thread to be less about specific models - those already have their threads - and more about the implications of Unicorn-ism on the ADV community. So instead of cross-shopping the Euro rally-esque bikes made of fairy dust with the steel-framed Japanese wonder-twins (for much ink has already been spilled on these comparisons), instead, let's ponder these questions:

    Is the persistent notion of the "platonic ideal" of an ADV bike an unintended bug or a built-in feature in ADV culture?
    Will we ever actually see the day when the market has one or more of these unicorns on it to every inmate's satisfaction?
    Is a true unicorn even a viable bike for the mass market, which at least appears happy with a mix of small dual sports alongside the MacGregor & Boorman-style heavy- and super-mid-weight tourers, or do a handful of vocal people just say they want one?
    What virtues do people who *are* satisfied with their bikes have, that those who go chasing unicorns do not?
    Which contradictions in the "Unicorn" bike ideal are easiest to address, and which ones are hardest?
    What do we actually think the ADV market will look like in 2025 or 2030?
    Will a dual-sport type bike come from the other direction through mechanical wizardry and surprise us all?
    #1
    ACR and phreakingeek like this.
  2. 9Realms

    9Realms Drawn in by the complex plot

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    5,206
    Location:
    Central Mn
  3. bikeymikey70

    bikeymikey70 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2018
    Oddometer:
    94
    Location:
    Temora, Australia
    GSXR 1000 Adventure Bike




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #3
    thechief86 likes this.
  4. Hamamelis

    Hamamelis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Oddometer:
    75
    Well, in two sentences:
    Why do ADV inmates spend so much time fantasizing about their ideal bike rather than just making the most of what is available? What can we do to accept the imperfect?
    #4
    PlainClothesHippy and baldman1 like this.
  5. AwDang

    AwDang Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2014
    Oddometer:
    823
    Location:
    121 miles from Tellico Plains
    Cabin fever is setting in early this year. Damn global warming shortening the riding season!
    #5
    WRW9751 and Ginger Beard like this.
  6. Hamamelis

    Hamamelis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Oddometer:
    75
    This season's outbreak of Unicorn-itis, and my vain attempts to control it, can be laid at the hands of EICMA! A certain bike thread I shan't name (but is visible in my posting history) drove me to make this thread
    #6
  7. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    2,946
    Bigger is better.
    #7
  8. ddavidv

    ddavidv Dark web dangerous

    Joined:
    May 10, 2009
    Oddometer:
    4,308
    Location:
    Elizabethtown, PA
    I'm assuming some sarcasm from my riding buddy above.

    I think the unicorn doesn't exist because everyone's ideas of what 'adventure' riding is are vastly different.

    Some people believe they need a 1200cc monster machine to travel RTW. Meanwhile, others are doing it on 250cc dirt bikes. When the spectrum is so vast there is no way a single machine will fit the varying visions in buyer's heads.

    We call them unicorns for a reason.
    #8
    Ginger Beard and neanderthal like this.
  9. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    2,946
    Not really.

    I agree with you that there is no one single unicorn bike that is the perfect adventure sled for all. But are there some fallacies we’ve created when it comes to what we think we need to ride to travel the world? I’d say yes to that.

    When I talk with, or watch, world travelers, they almost always ride bikes no larger than a 650. Many ride smaller. Their bikes are typically very simple and rugged. Able to run on virtually any fuel, able to be repaired by anyone with a rock and a stick.

    But what do we find for sale at dealerships, and what do we convince ourselves we need? Behemoths that call for a jack to pick them up should they fall over. Bikes with panniers that are wider than an old Honda Civic car. Fuel injection, abs, traction control, temperature management, gps, etc. All of which make the bike ever more amazing, but also more irreparable on the road. Especially if the road is remote.

    That is what I mean by my “bigger is better” fallacy.
    #9
  10. Hamamelis

    Hamamelis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Oddometer:
    75
    For a bit of context I am in Tanzania right now and the one time I saw a BMW 650 twin in Arusha, that bike absolutely dwarved any of the 150cc, 110-150kg Chinese and Indian bikes that have become universal here. But then speed limits in many regions are very low, on all but a couple of the most major highways. So no, you really don't need an enormous bike in much of the world.
    #10
  11. oughtsix

    oughtsix Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2013
    Oddometer:
    428
    I think we spend far too much time looking at screens designed in good intent, but with the consequence of being the most intrusive marketing tools in the history of civilization. Do that enough and you find that you only think about the next thing, the next better alternative rather than ever conducting the thought exercise in reverse.

    Unicornism isn't limited to the ADV world, in fact I see it in the other hobbies I've fallen prey to. It's simply a by-product of consumerism. I see it in long range shooting, fly fishing, RV stuff, and on and on.

    My own Q&A:

    Is fun proportional to initial capital cost? Usually not.
    Does the OEM have any vested interest in promoting low cost, long service life machines? Past the term of the typical installment plan, no.
    Are powerful, capable, expensive machines super cool feats of engineering? Unfortunately, yes.

    And the beat goes on.
    #11
  12. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    903
    Location:
    Corrales, New Mexico
    The bigger displacement is better is not limited to bikes. Look at cars in the late 60s and 70s, with 440, 454 cu in engines. The old adage is there is no replacement for displacement ruled until the EPA started emission controls. In the long run it drove designers to develop better internal combustion. I guess we just are in love with G force acceleration.

    Having worked with engineers from India, and never having been there is one thing was interesting. They were surprised at the speed we travel. On guy said he never went faster than 30mph. He said that was the speed limit everywhere, and there is so much traffic you cannot go faster. Riding in a car with him on the expressway was scary. He drove 30 in a 65mph zone.

    I have loved every bike I have owned (not that many) and modified every one. The mods are first bike protection since I tend to tip over a lot. Second ergonomics to fit my size and weight. I started small 250 CC and have worked all the way up to 650cc. That is enough for me for where and how I ride. Being old, fat and usually alone, I need to be able to pick my bike up all by myself.
    #12
    SmittyBlackstone and dcwn.45 like this.
  13. OrangeYZ

    OrangeYZ Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,582
    Location:
    Southern Oregon
    For you, the thread you started on the subject of the unicorn culture was the most important thread of your life. You believed it to be the best of its kind and would change the way the entire internet looked at adventure touring motorcycles.

    But for us,
    [​IMG]
    #13
    WindBlast likes this.
  14. ddavidv

    ddavidv Dark web dangerous

    Joined:
    May 10, 2009
    Oddometer:
    4,308
    Location:
    Elizabethtown, PA
    @foxtrapper ah, now I get you. I thought you were referring to Actual Size and/or displacement. I'm with you on the frills. I just picked up my new company car, a Fusion. It has at least a dozen new electronic geegaws over the one I turned in. And I don't find any of them useful; in fact, they are distracting. My interest in new cars is minimal these days which is saying something for a guy with petrol flowing through his veins.

    I am far more excited about the new Royal Enfield twins than I am the new BMW GS series.
    #14
    SmittyBlackstone likes this.
  15. Hamamelis

    Hamamelis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Oddometer:
    75
    Guess I'm just the JCVD to your Raul Julia on this one then eh
    #15
  16. William Wolfen

    William Wolfen Dirt Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,977
    Location:
    Cypress, TX
    The only thing stopping my current bike from being a unicorn is weight. If it magically lost 50-100lbs but was otherwise unchanged it would be perfect. But that'll never happen.

    I recently went on a hunt since I totaled my DR. I had sold myself on a Beta 500RRS, but the financial reality set in and I bought another DR. Is as close to a unicorn that I see on the market and am very happy with it.

    As for the tendency to hunt for unicorns, I think it's natural. Who doesn't want something better? That doesn't mean that there is anything better or that the ever will be, but I get the desire.
    #16
    SmittyBlackstone likes this.
  17. vasuvius

    vasuvius wannabe something ... don't know what

    Joined:
    May 1, 2016
    Oddometer:
    286
    Location:
    NJ
    That speed limit in India is limited to inner city limits where in many places 5mph or less is common as traffic conditions are bad.
    But on the highways, people do drive at 60 - 80mph. Just this past Feb, I took a taxi from Mumbai to Pune, about 100 miles and there were sections where the driver was getting close to 90mph.

    Even when I was riding bikes in Mumbai back in the early 90s, we would get to 60mph (100 kmph) within crowded city limits. Road conditions and speeds depend on the location. Some of the new toll roads are far better than any roads in the NY/NJ metro area :-)
    #17
  18. Caesars_ghost

    Caesars_ghost Air Cooled.

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2015
    Oddometer:
    735
    Location:
    Midwest
    Relax dude. The demands of the ADV community are mostly reasonable, and the main reason for the constant demands is because nobody is meeting them.

    The ideal of ADV is going on adventures. Which generally in most people’s minds means the ability to hit some dirt on Sunday, ride to work on Monday, and then ride to Honduras on Tuesday. Without having to spend the cost of the bike in farkles to get it done.

    Everyone wants something with Japanese KLR650, DR650, DRZ400, DR350 levels of bulletproof reliability and simplicity, but with enough oomph and enough gears, and slightly lower weight, so that livelier dirt performance and easier freeway cruising are both possible. This doesn’t seem to be rocket science or at all beyond the realms of easy physical possibility. It’s just that nobody, anywhere, offers a package that combines the Japanese affordability, reliability, and easygoing upkeep, with the European levels of performance.

    People have been asking for a less portly KLR/DR, or a DRZ with more gears, or a nice 350-450 twin (that is also svelte and suspended enough not to be a complete snooze off-road) for years. They’ve been asking for it from Japan Inc., because KTM doesn’t do reliable workhorse and BMW doesn’t do light and simple. And Japan Inc. has been completely deaf. (Nor have KTM or BMW been very eager to change their modus operandi much either.)

    Some good options are finally beginning to appear, but it’s only taken a good 15 years of clamoring. And oddly enough, it seems the Chinese are the only ones really willing to step out of their comfort zone.
    #18
  19. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    463
    Location:
    Mountain View, CA
    What we need is a moto with a little slider on the instrument display that adjusts suspension travel, ground clearance, rake, trail, tire pressure, tire tread, wheel size, wheelbase, displacement, and number of cylinders, from 'track' to 'street' to 'single-track' to 'field of suitcase-sized boulders'.
    #19
  20. vasuvius

    vasuvius wannabe something ... don't know what

    Joined:
    May 1, 2016
    Oddometer:
    286
    Location:
    NJ
    My f7gs, is quite close to being my unicorn bike. 50 lbs lighter would have been nicer but it's OK.
    Just need to upgrade the suspension and it will be perfect for the next decade.
    #20