Whatever bikes are to you (or me) - transportation, recreation, sport, exercise, travel - they almost always have some capacity for inspiring adventure. I have been enjoying bicycle adventures since my earliest memories of riding a bike, and to this day my favorite type of riding is semi-aimlessly exploring the roads, trails, and alleys of wherever I happen to be. It isn't usually death-defying, or even vaguely risky, but it is fun, and I think of it as adventure. I suppose that's why I have always been drawn to bicycles that have a rugged, go-anywhere personality.
About five years ago, a friend was describing a custom bike he ordered as an "adventure bike", which was the first time I heard the term. I understood it as a cross between a mountain bike and a touring bike - a dirt bike with racks. I was instantly and permanently captivated by the concept, and my bike collection has been evolving in that direction, with a dwindling number of boring "road bikes" and a magically increasing number of inspiring, exciting fat-tire bikes, from this:
Apparently, I'm not the only one who is into the adventure bike concept. Salsa has the new-ish Fargo, which, by classic, conventional standards, is ugly as hell, but if you already bought one for me as a Christmas gift, don't run out and return it - I'll take it and be grateful!
The king of the uber-adventure bikes is arguably the Surly Pugsley. As of Saturday, QBP had a seemingly safe inventory of last year's Pug frames in stock (I had my eye on one...), but by Tuesday, they were all gone. This afternoon, the Pugsley-specific Large Marge rims came into stock, and sold out in two hours! The Pug has been around for several years, and it was always sort of a novelty product, but now it seems to be semi-mainstream, and demand is suddenly way up. We had two Pugs in for service just today, and another in last weekend. (it's also worth a mention that there are several fat-tire competitors for the Pugsley now)
Besides all the bikes, a number of adventure-bike events have cropped up, including numerous winter endurance events and self-supported races along the Great Divide. And you can hardly swing a dead 29er tube without hitting somebody who is riding in one of the Gravel Grinders. We have loosely organized several gravel-road/back-road rides at HC, and had great turn-out and much enthusiasm.
Of course, one doesn't need a special "adventure bike" to have a bike adventure. Any bicycle that rolls is a potential adventure vehicle (if you own and ride a bicycle, you already know this). To advance this concept a bit: I am planning a modest bike tour in the not-too-distant future, and my tentative plan (cash-permitting) is to use a bicycle that would not ordinarily be considered appropriate for such an endeavor. Of course, I own about six bikes that would make good-to-fantastic touring bikes, but what fun would that be?