A dual sport motorcycle is, by definition, a bike which can perform both on- and off-road. Typically, a dual-sport is based closely off of a dirt bike which is designed foremost for trail and off-road endurance riding, but which has been modified with the necessary headlights, turn signals, metal gas tanks, smog-reducing equipment, and other miscellaneous items needed to make the machine street-legal. This dual combination of tarmac and dirt utility is, obviously, the basis for the term “dual-sport.”
Dual-sports offer several advantages for beginners:
- Low Cost of Entry: these bikes are typically significantly more affordable than most streetbikes. You can also find pre-owned models at very low prices. Sometimes you can find these motorcycles for $1000 or less.
- Moderate Power Delivery: nearly all dual-sports come with single cylinder engines, usually air-cooled, which provide a consistent torque and power range that is comfortable for beginners.
- Broad Range of Uses: obviously, these bikes allow you to ride on a varied range of terrain, from urban commuting to fireroad exploring to off-road hare scrambles.
- Solid Reliability: these bikes are built to be dropped, bumped, and otherwise abused. They are built to be hard to break, easy to fix, and low on maintenance. The military has, for instance, used Kawasaki KL250 dual-sports for use in the field.
- Low Insurance Cost: You will not have to take out a high risk motorcycle insurance policy on a dual-sport. These machines are some of the cheapest bikes to insure.
The primary disadvantage of dual-sports for beginner riders is the seat height. Even if a novice rider is tall, he or she may be more comfortable on a bike which is easily manageable. Many dual-sports, especially the 650cc models such as…
- Honda XR650
- Kawasaki KLR650
Have seat heights of 35.0 to 37.0 inches. That is quite tall. Even the 398cc Suzuki DR-Z400S has a seat that is 36.8″ tall. Think of these heights in relation to your inseam. Pretty tall, eh? Most riders will not be able to touch both feet when sitting in the saddle. For the beginner, this is not a very manageable position in which to find yourself.
Dual-sports in the 250cc range tend to have lower seats. Not all of these are still in production, but you can find great deals on used models. Here are the top 200-250cc dual-sports:
- Honda XR250L
- Kawasaki KLR250
- Kawasaki KLX250
- Suzuki DR200SE
- Kawasaki Super Sherpa
- Pitster Pro LXT 250