Dirt bikes can be a great introduction to motorcycling. They’re easy to repair, and not quick enough to really get you into trouble (apart from the racing versions). But, they’re generally not street-legal, which means you’ll have to haul them to a trail or course. Some touring bikes can go off-road, but they’re really more pavement-focused. Cruisers and standards aren’t meant for dirt at all. But there is one kind of bike that can ride both in the dirt and to it: a dual sport motorcycle. And these bikes can offer some serious speed.
What is a dual sport motorcycle?
As Cycle World and ADV Pulse explain, dual sport motorcycles are essentially dirt bikes that have enough extra equipment and comfort that they can be ridden on the pavement. These add-ons include turn signals, taillights, a license plate mount, and additional gauges. But, like their dirt and enduro cousins, Cycle World reports these bikes still have off-road chops, with extra suspension travel, skid plates, and gearing wide enough to let them rock-crawl and cruise on the street. Most dual sports also have fuel-efficient single-cylinder engines.
There are quite a few other types of bikes that can seem similar to dual sport motorcycles. Scramblers, adventure bikes, and supermotos all superficially resemble dual sports, according to RideApart. However, they’re all not quite on the same level.
Scramblers, like Ducati’s eponymous bike, are really street bikes with some rock protection and extra suspension travel. Supermotos, like Ducati’s Hypermotard, are closer to true dual sports, but they’re meant more for on-road or track use. They have stiffer suspension, smaller wheels and wider tires, and different gearing. Both of these bikes can venture off-road, but they’re not really happy there.
Adventure bikes, aka ‘ADV bikes’, like the Honda Africa Twin, are more off-road focused. Like dual sports, ADV bikes have long suspension travel, skid plates, and crash protection. However, ADV bikes still aren’t quite the same thing. ADV bikes are almost like touring versions of dual sports: their engines are larger, with more cylinders; they’re also designed to carry cargo, and dual sports aren’t. ADV bikes are the Toyota 4Runner to dual sports’ Jeep Wrangler.
Dual sport motorcycles we couldn’t list
The dual sport motorcycles listed here are organized by their 0-60 times. However, as we’ve noted previously, measuring 0-60 times for motorcycles is a time-consuming and expensive process. Manufacturers often do not provide this information, and not every publication is able to measure these times. As such, there are several notable bikes that are not listed here.
One is the Honda CRF450L. The racing version of this bike lead an American win the Paris-Dakar for the first time. However, Honda has not provided a 0-60 time, and we could not obtain the time from a reliable source. The same goes for one of its competitors, the KTM 500 EXC-F, which was a 2017 Cycle World 10 Best winner.
There’s also one more bike not listed here: the Kawasaki KLR 650. This motorcycle was, in a way, the Toyota Hilux of the dual sport world: rugged, simple, go-anywhere. Unfortunately, as RevZilla explained, the KLR 650’s carbureted engine and heavy design held it back as the dual sport competition evolved. In 2018, Kawasaki ended production after 32 years. But if it was still in production, its 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds in Cycle World testing would’ve landed it on this list.
The Yamaha WR250R is an excellent, affordable introduction to the world of dual sports. Cycle World noted the previous-gen bike was “just a few mods away from being a really good budget enduro.” It has three-way adjustable suspension front and rear, and its steel-and-aluminum chassis keeps weight low. The bike only weighs 295 lb wet, which means 250cc fuel-injected single-cylinder engine is plenty powerful enough to rip down the trail. Cycle World recorded a 0-60 time of 6.7 seconds.
If the $6,699 asking price is a little steep, Yamaha also offers the $5,199 XT250. Its 249cc water-cooled engine is also fuel-injected, but its transmission has one less gear, and its suspension is simpler. And if the WR250R’s 0-60 time seems a bit much, the XT250 is a bit more sedate, hitting 60 in 10.5 seconds.
The Suzuki DR-Z400S is another example of how a larger engine doesn’t necessarily make something faster. Suzuki also makes a larger-capacity dual sport motorcycle, the DR650S, with a 648cc single-cylinder to the Z400S’ 398cc. The two even cost almost the same: the DR650S starts at $6.8k, and the DRZ-400S at $6.7k. However, the DR650S weighs 50 lbs more.
As a result, the cheaper bike is the quicker one to hit 60. Texas Adventure quotes the DR650S’ 0-60 time at 5.66 seconds. The DRZ-400S, meanwhile, can go 0-60 in as little as 4.5 seconds. The bike still uses a carburetor, but that didn’t stop Cycle World from naming it to its Best Used Bikes list. And RideApart claimed that “if the DR-Z can’t get you somewhere off-road you might just be better off parking the bike and hiking the rest of the way.”
Zero Motorcycles has continuously refined its lineup, adding more range, power, and trim options. But the FX dual sport has been there almost from the start. And its electric drivetrain makes it quicker than almost every other bike on this list.
Equipped with the larger Z7.2 battery, the FX is somewhat expensive, starting at $10,995 before tax credits. But the battery almost doubles the max range, and power jumps from 27 hp to 46. In addition, at 289 lb, the Z7.2 Zero FX is lighter than every other dual sport motorcycle here. All that adds up to a 0-60 time of 4 seconds.
Husqvarna 701 Enduro
Despite its name, the Husqvarna 701 Enduro is a proper dual sport motorcycle. True, Gear Patrol notes the 701 Enduro can carry some small saddle bags. But the bike’s 693cc single-cylinder is more than sufficient for high-speed freeway travel. Then, when you find a good dirt trail, its off-road features come into play. In addition to the fully-adjustable suspension, the Husqvarna 701 Enduro comes with traction control, selectable riding modes, and a slipper clutch to smooth downshifts. But you would expect such features in a bike that starts at $11,999.
The 701 Enduro is the heaviest bike on this list. However, despite its fairly large engine, that only translates to 344 lbs, thanks in part to a high-strength steel trellis frame. And with 74 hp, the 701 Enduro is the quickest dual sport motorcycle here, going 0-60 in 3.8 seconds in Cycle World’s testing.
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