COVID times have brought back a love for off-road recreation vehicles like we haven’t seen since the ‘80s. Dirt bikes, ATVs, and SXSs have seen record sales in 2020. Along with the increased sales of off-road vehicles, the smaller and mid-sized adventure and dual-sport bikes have seen a huge spike in popularity mounting over the last few years.
Versatility, affordability, and sheer fun-ability (don’t worry, it’s a word) make dual-sport bikes the coolest thing on the block. Let’s check out the best dual-sport options that check off the most important things for adventure machines; toughness, excitement, and affordable.
Picking the best dual-sport bike all comes down to what sort of riding you intend to do. Honestly, all three of these bikes are probably equally good, but the KLR 650 comes to mind first.
Kawasaki KLR 650 (1987-2018)
When Kawasaki originally released this bike, they called it a “triple-sport” for its ability to tackle dirt, street, and touring. The beauty (and maybe frustration) of these bikes are that they really haven’t changed that much over the years. The KLR did see the most change of these three bikes. It got a much bigger fairing and some fancier odds and ends, but still overall, a simple bike.
The KLR sits tall and commands the roads and trails with simple and reliable power. KLRs are tough. It is common to see a 20-year-old model with well over 50,000 miles still ripping the trail. The KLR is not a special design or pretty in any conceivable way, but the is the dirty appeal of the dual-sport world. They are direct and simple, making them beautiful in their own kind of way.
Suzuki DR 650 (1990-2020)
Ah, the Suzuki. DR-650s have earned a vast and devout following since its inception in 1990. Simplicity is a theme by which these bikes remain steadfast in. The DR 650, like the KLR 650, has gone largely unchanged over its long life. The cool part is the old ones with the vintage flair, and the new ones aren’t far apart in price, so you really get to choose your style without worrying much about the price difference. The uncool part is, the new ones aren’t really much more sophisticated than the old dogs.
The Dr 650, like the other bikes on this list, has a single-cylinder engine making around 50 hp, according to CycleChaos. These are typically middling in power but still very reliable and tough. These bikes have built their empire on a simple bike that will take you far out in it and bring you home without much fuss.
Honda XR 650
While the DR 650 and KLR 650 remained similar to their original models, they both saw various changes over the years. The Honda XR 650 has almost not changed at all, and why would it? Honda made the ultimate dual-sport bike. Bikes of the XR series have won countless endurance off-road races over the last 30 years, like Baja, on many occasions.
The Honda XR 650L (legal) is simply a detuned version of the hopped-up race version, Honda XR 650 R (race) but with lights and blinkers from the factory. XR 650Ls still have power and torque to spare for any rider to have a blast off-road.
Dirt Bike Magazine talks about the XR 650L as being a little rough around the edges compared to some newer bikes in the category, but they point out the bike’s timelessness and strength for such an old and un-updated bike.
Dual-sport is still a place for the everyman (or woman)
Dual-sport bikes are one of the few corners of the automotive world where the barrier for entry is still low. You don’t have to have tons of money to have the absolute best versions. Sure, there are fancier bike makers that cost more like KTM, but there isn’t much of a case to be made for them being superior in any real way you need for adventure riding.
Dual-sport bikes favor simplicity and toughness. It’s a refreshing place to rest for those of us motorists made weary by the modern automotive marketplace.