Best Dual Sport Motorcycles — Get Dirty

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Want to ride off-road? A street legal dirt bike is the best way to do it. As a bonus, they tend to rock city traffic too. Here’s a guide to the best Dual Sport motorcycles.

2013 Honda CRF250L – $4,499

The CRF250L is the cheapest bike on this list, and just an absolute steal. It’s completely capable both cruising on the freeway and playing on the trails. At 74 mpg, it’s also quite economical as well. It’s the perfect bike way to get started in this category.

2013 Kawasaki KLX250S – $5,099

The KLX is very similar to the CRF250L, just slightly taller and slightly more competent off-road due to its slightly longer front suspension and better brake feel. Unfortunately, the Kawi hasn’t received an update in far too long; leaving it the only 250cc dual sport that’s carbureted. The KLX250S is a very basic machine, offering unadulterated off-road ability.

2013 Suzuki DR650SE – $6,399

The DR650 reminds of a bike made for 3rd world markets instead of a larger displacement dual sport. Compared to its more capable DR-Z400S stablemate, it’s two inches shorter, both in height and length, and has a drum brake in the rear. It’s isn’t as prone to speed wobbles on the highway, but is inferior to its “little” brother in pretty much every other capacity.

2013 Kawasaki KLR650 – $6,499

The KLR650 is one of the most popular dual sport bikes in the world. It’s found strength in its simplicity and has people continuing to purchase it, a bike that has been unchanged in a decade, because of the robust availability of parts world-wide. Our entire planet is filled with parts and people with the knowledge to use them that, when paired with the KLR’s 6.1 gallon fuel tank, make the KLR a great option for even your longest trek. Thanks to its big fairing, the KLR sorta straddles the ADV and Dual Sport classes. It’s heavier than a proper dirt bike, but also more capable of putting in road miles.

2013 Suzuki DR-Z400S – $6,499

The Suzuki is good at pretty much everything it does, whether your riding is 100 percent off-road or 100 percent city riding. The small tank can be limiting, especially since fuel consumption increases dramatically at freeway speeds and Suzuki continues to offer it with only a reserve switch; no fuel gauge or light. The DR-Z400S is one of our favorite base platforms, but expect to do some modifying should you want to do any real trail riding.

Read More – Page 2 >>

  • Piglet2010

    How about the Husq…

    Ouch!

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      There’s some new Husky’s being announced on Friday, stay tuned, but expect re-badged Husabergs.

      • Dennis Bratland

        Hey HFL, you know there was some kind of motorcycle thing in the news today? New York? Stunters? Range rover? Any comment?

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Rideapart.com, check it out sometime.

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          what is an HFL?

          • Dan

            Love the name change. Tired of having the folks in the IT department thinking I have a fetish. Well, many of your readers do own leather onesies, but it’s totally not a fetish. i swear.

            • Piglet2010

              Funny thing is I did not check out the site right away, because “H3ll for Leather” sounded like it would be a cruiser/biker lifestyle oriented site. :)

        • grindz145

          HFL Forever! Fight the power! Soy milk!

      • Yasen Hristov

        Damn, I miss the Husas… especially the 70-degree ones and not the rebadged blue KTM’s

      • travellin

        Hey Wes, where are those new Husky’s that you promised us a few days ago?

  • Piglet2010

    Guess you guys do not like the BMW G650GS Sertao?

    I can see leaving the living fossils from Yamaha (TW200 and XT250) off the
    list, but they can be good buys if you find a new 2 or 3 year old bike
    at $1,500 to $2,000 below MSRP.

    • Afonso Mata

      i’d say any Gs (even the “little one”) is a Adv, this article is about Dualsports ;-)

      • Piglet2010

        I would argue that the Sertao is just as much (or little) of a true dual-sport as the KLR – neither would be my choice for riding in sand or mud.

  • http://www.lonewolfexpeditions.com/ Chad Berger

    Check your photo, the DR650 has a rear disc, not a drum. I have owned the XR-L, WR250R and DR650, and by far the most capable and reliable has been the DR650. 28,000 miles and not one problem. Far from perfect though, but it will get you home, every time.

    • bammerburn

      What are its imperfections, then?

      • Thomas Høj Jørgensen

        It’s simple, old school, heavy duty nature means it’s also a heavy pig with outdated suspension compared to more sophisticated steeds such as the ktm’s.

        • Rob

          Yeah, it is a matter of comparison, and to a degree, personal taste. I owned a KLR for about 7 years, but changing my streetbike meant the KLR no longer felt light and nimble. I bought a DRZ with all the dirty mods on it, but only kept it a month. Too tall, skinny, and mean for me. I traded it to a buddy for his DR650, which splits the difference about perfectly.

        • http://www.lonewolfexpeditions.com/ Chad Berger

          Simple and old school are the traits that make the DR and KLR excellent adventure bikes, they are super reliable, cheap to buy, cheap to insure, cheap to own and easy to fix, if you happen to have one of the rare problems. The KLR comes with many good traits for adventure travel, big gas tank, rear rack, good wind protection, excellent gas mileage, etc, but it is quite heavy and a little boring, which is the trade off.
          The DR on the other hand is more of a template. Bone stock it kind of sucks, it has a small tank and narrow seat like a dirt bike, but its too heavy, the suspension sucks and its geared to tall to be very good off road. The great thing is there are many modifications you can do to that template to either make it more dirt worthy, or more long distance worthy.

    • Thomas Høj Jørgensen

      DR650 – torque, simplicity, extreme reliability and durability, great commuter, great travel bike (with simple mods), decent off road (unlike klr), fun (unlike klr). I love mine. One of the advrider community’s favourite bikes (that should say something). xr650l and drz400 are both better than the DR off pavement, but the DR has a much broader range of abilities (isn’t that what dual sport is all about?). the Cessna182 of the motorcycle world, great at nothing, but decent at most things.

    • grindz145

      I had 50k on a 2003 DR650. It was not inferior to a DRZ400 if you wanted to do any speed over 60 MPH.

  • Dustin

    I like the R version of the XR650, as it’s a much more capable bike. If anyone is looking for a plated one in Los Angeles I’m selling one. :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      The R is great, it’s just hard to recommend a bike there are only 2 or 3 available of in each state

      • Dustin

        Are they that rare? I know you can’t plate the Rs anymore, but there have to be quite a few of them out there?

      • MichaelEhrgott

        I know at least 5 guys in California who have plated XR650Rs. They aren’t even remotely that rare. Lots on craigslist or ADVRider too.

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          I know 5 guys in California looking for XR650R’s, your guys wanna sell em?

          • MichaelEhrgott

            Lol. Probably not. They are pretty amazing machines.

          • MichaelEhrgott

            I’m picking up a 2000 plated XR650R on Wednesday. Sold my wr250x and stepping my game up. :) Just thought I’d make you guys jealous. They seriously are all over the place in Nor-Cal. There are 2 on BARF and 3 on the local CL’s up here. They are probably harder to find in So-Cal cause of all the desert racers.

        • lvmonkey

          i know 5 guys in california. excellent burgers

  • Christopher Richards

    Just bought a WR, and your continued reviews and praise of the WR helped me chose the right bike. I love it… Thanks!

    • http://www.lonewolfexpeditions.com/ Chad Berger

      You rarely hear a bad word spoken about the WR, great bikes! The only complaint I had was the lack of power and it felt like it didn’t have much flywheel weight, which makes it easy to stall off road.

  • Piglet2010

    What is the real world range on the Zero FX? It might be the one current electric bike that would work for me, since I live less than 10 miles from an OHV park.

  • FrVentura

    I think I would go for the Honda XR650L, love that bike. Dual-Sports are awesome!

  • Thomas Høj Jørgensen

    For true dual-sporting in my book it’s dr650 if you’re on a budget (great 2nd hand deals), Or ktm 690 if money is no factor. Both bikes will do anything you throw at them, and are actually decent on the highway if need be. The others are just street legal, low maintenance dirt-bikes. The klr is a street bike with some dirt capability. It’s also really boring.

  • Thomas Høj Jørgensen

    “The KLR650 …. because of the robust availability of parts world-wide. ”

    They are really rare outside of the Americas. The rest of the world prefers Africa Twin’s.

    • Lorand Szazi

      And Honda Transalp.

  • motoguru.

    I’d really like to find a gently used KTM EXC 350.

    • Dan.

      hahahahahahahaha
      *gently used ktm* sir I’ve been searching for the same thing… all I can say is good luck.

      • motoguru.

        Haha, good point.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    *cough* KTM 950/990 *cough*

    Better in the dirt than a KLR or DR650.

  • John

    The CRF is a lot heavier than the KLX and, really, the carburation thing, who really cares that much. What would make the CRF a more perfect bike would be Honda stroking it to be a square engine, which would actually make it 350cc and give it a ton more torque. That would make up for the porkiness without adding much, if any, weight. Though I would probably buy a new CRF over a KLX for the price difference, I’d be happy to snap up a KLX used, there are a ton out there. Surprisingly few pre 2009 models though.

    Also, 2 page articles?!? You understand that there’s no such thing as page length on the internet, right?!?

    • Apple

      You click on the second page and they get twice the page views and twice the ad revenue. Gotta make that money

      • John

        You are a learned man. I am going to boycott page 2 from now on. Just not that interested.

      • John

        Besides, I always learn more from the comment section.

        • HollywoodRider

          John, support the damn site and stop bitching, it’s free for christ’s sake. Remember when you had to BUY a magazine and flip the pages?

          • John

            Sorry but making extra pages just for the purpose of making extra pages is stupid.

            • HollywoodRider

              I can only assume you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea how websites make money– or better put, struggle to make money. You realize they’re the only moto site with responsive design and killer discovery tools like their bike pages– that architecture ain’t cheap.

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        you want us to do more cool stuff, don’t you?

  • Dan Kearney

    Guess I’ve been commuting and trail riding on the wrong, inexpensive bike these past 8 years. Where do I trade in my XT225?

    Two 250′s on your list, but no XT250?

    • fromwork789

      “best” dual sport motorcycles…

  • dustysquito .

    As someone who owns a DR650, and as someone who has looked at your picture of a DR650, they definitely have disc brakes on the rear. It also has much more torque than the DRZ400 as well as the reliability that comes from the air cooled engine. Not saying it’s necessarily a better bike, but mine has given me over 20,000 nearly trouble free miles and it’s a fantastic machine that’s much more than a “third world” machine.

  • stephen

    there is also the freeride – not sure if you yanks are getting the new 250 though?

  • atomicalex

    I have a 30″ inseam on a good day.

  • Robert Glover

    Unless you just HAVE to have the latest and greatest, the DR650 is probably the best all-around Dual Sport bike you can buy. It’s cheap and it’s simple. It’s a bare canvas waiting to be customized by each owner. Sure the stock (STOCK) suspension maybe simple, but there’s enough aftermarket stuff available to make it quite good. Remember, it’s a dual sport, not an MX bike. My ’96 DR650 will hold its own against any other dual sport out there, and it’s the ONLY bike I would ever consider taking on a RTW or South America trip. I’m not about to be stranded, trying to find a service center to work on my fancy BMW or KTM electronics when they go bad.

  • Jeremy

    More 690 Enduro reviews please!