Life on bikes

Have Kawasaki Ninja, will travel

Kicking off our series on ‘you don’t need an adventure bike to go on adventures,’ Kev says taking even an improbable sled like an old 600cc sports bike makes plenty of sense. Of course it does…

‘Compromise’ –noun: long distance touring on a sports motorbike. That is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘compromise’, or at least it would be if I had a say in these matters.

I have ridden my 15-year-old 636cc Kawasaki far and wide, and there have been many times when it has proved to be a wholly inappropriate machine for the circumstances: Bouncing along rock-strewn paths between St. Petersburg and Moscow, scrabbling through flooded roads in Sweden, a chain full of muck and the suspension bottoming out with ever wince-inducing pothole.


But hours or even days later, when the back-ache has subsided, and the road cleared, the dirt and pebbles replaced by smooth, grippy black-top and the sun shining down somewhere among the Fjords of Norway, the idea of being on anything other than the Ninja seems almost nonsensical; at odds with the very notion of a motorcycle adventure.

For all the miles of pain and suffering one endures to get there, the joy that comes from hurling a sports bike along the Route Napoleon, down through the Pyrenees, deep into the Norwegian mountains, or through Latvian back roads flanked by deep forests, is unique to that kind of machine.

bike to go on adventures
© Kevin Turner. The E262? That would be Lithuania then.

That said, there is also an element of stubbornness in taking a bike like mine on a big adventure to Moscow, of proving the point that it is the experience, not the motorcycle, which defines an adventure. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the benefits of a big adventure bike: better visibility, off-road capability, better storage, larger tank, and the ability to slot right in among every other BMW and KTM at service stops.


In truth, if I were heading down to Africa or deep into the Mongolian outback I wouldn’t take the Kawasaki; I’m no masochist and there are limitations to the madness. I admire people like Bruce Smart – the images of his sand-blasted Gixxer guarding his tent in the Sahara like some tame beast from another world are undeniably impressive. My adventures have not taken me as far as those of Bruce, or Nick Sanders, or any of those other loons who packed a sandwich under their pillion seat and shot off around the world like it was just another lap of Brands Hatch.

But I have gone far enough, for me anyway, and the Kawasaki has never let me down. It has managed all that a big GS could have, albeit with a few more groans from both bike and rider, and it has put a smile on my face as wide as the English Channel when fate and circumstance have combined favourably to create my own personal race track deep in the Polish wilderness. That’s when it all makes sense – when anything else might as well be a car.

Read more about Kev’s trip to Russia on his Ninja:

Get yourself sorted:

Plenty of people tour South East Asia on Honda Cubs and so can you. Look out for more stories in our series, ‘You don’t need an adventure bike to go on an adventure.’

Keven and his Ninja have been on a fair few adventures, which you can read about in his books. Click on the covers below to buy from Amazon.

From Crystal Palace to Red Square: - A Hapless Biker's Road to Russia , purchase on Amazon
From Crystal Palace to Red Square: – A Hapless Biker’s Road to Russia
Purchase Bonjour! Is this Italy? - A Hapless Biker's Guide to Europe on Amazon
Bonjour! Is this Italy? – A Hapless Biker’s Guide to Europe















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The Author

Kevin Turner

Kevin Turner

Kevin is a freelance writer, columnist for Motorcycle Explorer Magazine, and author of two travel books, Bonjour! Is This Italy? A Hapless Biker’s Guide to Europe and From Crystal Palace to Red Square: A Hapless Biker’s Road to Russia.

Despite his love of travel, Kevin stoically insists on riding an ’02 Ninja. He has cherished the bike - worth less than a good set of leathers - for over a decade; it's getting to be embarrassing.