I was at Laguna Seca for the launch of the first Ninja, the 1984 GPZ900R, but after a while I got tired of circulating on the track – despite the Corkscrew, which is generally enough to keep anyone entertained. Erik Buell once explained to me that the way to take it was to “turn in just before you can see it” – thanks, Erik.

In the parking lot at the track sat another bike that was brand-new: the Voyager, Kawasaki’s attempt to match the GoldWing. I borrowed that instead of doing laps, and took off down to Big Sur. On the way I couldn’t help noticing a small, odd-looking bulge on the front guard. Apparently, the engineers working on the design of the bike had had one final meeting when it was almost complete, and asked themselves – what else can we fit? A compass! But the various electrical fields of the bike made a compass in the dash spin like the rear wheel of the Ninja – so they fitted it to the front guard and put a repeater on the dash.

The Explore is a travel bike, which is what adventure bikes need to be. Pannier frames are included in the price, but panniers aren’t. Photo: The Bear

Why am I telling you this when I’m supposed to be reviewing the CFMoto 800MT Explore? Because I suspect that the engineers updating the design of the Touring model to the Explore had a similar moment when they wondered what else they could fit to the new bike. In this case, though, the answer was not something marginal like a compass. The CFMoto 800MT Explore got everything.

This just as much a city bike as an adventurer. Versatility in spades. Photo: The Bear

That is not hyperbole. You could almost make a bar game out of this: the first one to name a feature that the Explore doesn’t have, wins. It won’t be an easy contest. Features range from the unexpectedly useful like the Blind Spot Detection, to the guiltily welcome like the heated seat. The Behind Radar System does not keep an eye on your posterior but instead provides “several monitoring and warning systems”, and the 8-inch Multi-Media Display shows just what can be done with a screen. Mind you, I’m not absolutely sure about the disco lights…

CFMoto began working with KTM in April 2014, when its Hangzhou factory began assembling Indian-made 200 and 390 Dukes for sale in the People’s Republic, and the association grew steadily until Hangzhou became KTM’s third global manufacturing site alongside Mattighofen and Pune. Along with that came the option of buying the rights to KTM engineering, and CFMoto retuned KTM’s 799cc LC8c parallel-twin engine for the Explore and the other MT series bikes, reducing power and optimizing for reliability. Bikes are supported by a three-year factory warranty (up from two) if the bike is serviced by an authorised dealer.

The left switchblock is where all the action is. Take some time to learn its potential. Photo: The Bear

Among many other features, the Explore offers six different Ride Modes, each with a different combination of torque output, traction control intervention and ABS to suit varying conditions. Sport provides the sharpest throttle response and maximum torque output with a low level of TC intervention. “Perfect for experienced riders out for a spirited ride on the tarmac”, says CFMoto. Off Road provides a softer throttle response than Sport with the lowest level of TC intervention while Off Road+ also deactivates the rear wheel ABS. All Terrain provides a softer throttle response again with no TC intervention and All Terrain+ means that both the front and rear wheel ABS is deactivated. Rain, meanwhile, means the softest throttle response and the gentlest power curve with the lowest maximum output and the highest level of TC intervention, making it best suited for wet and slippery conditions.

I simply don’t have the space to go into much more detail, but here are the basics: Maximum power is 91hp (67 kW) at 9250 rpm, with maximum torque 75Nm at 8000rpm. Suspension is KYB, with a 43 mm fully adjustable upside-down fork and 160 mm travel at the front and a fully adjustable monoshock at the rear with 150mm travel. Tyres are Michelin ANAKEE tubeless, 110/80-19 front, 150/70-17 rear. Braking is by twin 320 mm discs with J.Juan four-piston radial calipers at the front and a 260 mm disc with twin piston J.Juan caliper at the rear. A one-piece Bosch 9.1 MP Cornering Antilock Brake System completes the package. The manual claims that the bike weighs 213 kg wet with a full tank of 19 liters, which is 17 kg less than the DR800 Adventure and 20 kg less than the BMW F850 GS.

Build quality is high, and both rider and pillion seats are wide and comfortable. The rideaway price in Australia is $16,490 which translates to roughly US$11,000 or CA$14,500. There is no doubt in my mind that this is good value for money.

The bike has a six speed gearbox with a quickshifter, useful in all sorts of conditions. Photo: The Bear

Which, finally, brings us to the main question. Is the CFMoto 800MT Explore an adventure bike?

Jump on and the bike feels a little top-heavy, something which disappeared once I was rolling. The seat is allegedly 825 mm high, but I would query that. It feels lower. I could put both feet flat on the ground and I’m 5’11”. Suspension and braking are very good, even on gravel. The throttle was a little tentative when riding slowly. Turn-in is rather slow with the 19” front wheel, too. The engine happily pulls up to speed and the handling is precise and predictable. It is disappointing that fuel consumption is 5.6 liters per 100 km, giving a range of less than 340 km.

CFMoto has produced a bike that is versatile enough for Australia. Photo: The Bear

What this adds up to in my opinion is an adventure bike all right, for sealed and gravel roads as well as reasonable quality dirt. Much like a Multistrada. It is really too heavy for single track work (even though I took it there and lived), but that’s the home of dirt or dual-purpose bikes. I know that some people will consider the Explore to be over-featured, but you’re not paying in dollars or weight for that, and I presume that the electronics will be reliable.

I have wondered for quite a while when we would reach equivalence in motorcycles from China against the rest of the world. I think we might be there. (Ducks head and runs.)

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