A Round-Up of Dual Sport Bikes  

One of the biggest and most perplexing questions any dual sport rider faces is the ever-popular "which bike will be best suited for me?"  Let's face it, these bikes are not cheap.  So most people spend countless hours looking for information about potential bikes before dropping that coin.  Listed below is some basic (and sometimes biased) info about many of the DS bikes out there.  But keep in mind -- the "perfect" bike doesn't really exist. Some will come closer to fitting you and your specific riding intent, but don't lose a month's worth of sleep worrying about what bike to buy. Part of the fun is trying one... modifying the hell out of it and then moving on to the next one. 

          KTM       BMW       Kawasaki       Suzuki       Honda       Husqvarna       Others

KTM 640 Adventure

 

 

 

For the past 10 years, the 640 Adventure has been one of the most capable dual sport bikes out there.  This is one pretty complete package... huge fuel tank for long-range capability, mini-fairing, off-road capable suspension, vast luggage options and a great track record. This is the bike that many riders choose to take on extended trips that include rough off-road sections.  Just be ready for some noticeable vibes while on the highway.

The problem is, KTM has stopped making this bike.  The 640 line has been replaced by the new 690 series. But as of now, the 690 only comes in off-road enduro form (i.e., small tank, no fairing, etc.). But you can still finds some great deals on slightly used 640 Adventures.   

Pros:  High quality components, great suspension, complete overall package
Cons: Vibration on the highway
Dry weight: 348 lbs.
MSRP: $8,898
Suspension travel (F/R): 10.8" / 11.8"
Fuel capacity: 6.7 gallons
Horsepower: 54
Transmission: 5-speed
 

  KTM 950 / 990 Adventure

  

Take all the great things you just read about the KTM 640 Adventure, double the horsepower, greatly reduce the vibrations and you've got the 950/990 Adventure.  While this big twin has a dry-weight of 436 pounds, you'd never guess it by riding the bike. And with 98 hp at your disposal, this thing absolutely rips.  The 950 is KTM's answer to those who want a long-distance tourer that can handle it when the going gets rough.  Is the 950 as comfortable on long trips as the BMW GS?  No, but when the trail becomes less and less maintained, you'll definitely be glad you're on the big KTM.

Pros:  Outstanding power, great for distance touring
Cons: pricey, hard seat
Dry weight: 436 lbs.
MSRP: $14,398
Suspension travel (F/R): 8.3" / 8.3"
Fuel capacity: 5.8 gallons
Horsepower: 98
Transmission: 6-speed
 

  KTM 950 Super Enduro

 

 

What do you get when you take a 950 Adventure, beef up the suspension, drop nearly 40 pounds by putting it in enduro form and maintain the engine's 98 horsepower?  A bike that is so much fun to ride, it's like liquid crack. This thing is just balls-out fun. 

Sure, there are some trade-offs. A smaller tank limits the amount of miles you can tackle in one stretch, there's no wind protection and the seat sucks.  But these can all be remedied with aftermarket products.  This is the bike for the inner hooligan in all of us.   

Pros:  Raw power, so much fun it should be illegal
Cons: Not set up for distance touring (at least out of the box)
Dry weight: 408 lbs.
MSRP: $12,998
Suspension travel (F/R): 9.8" / 10"
Fuel capacity: 3.43 gallons
Horsepower: 98
Transmission: 6-speed
 

  KTM 690 Enduro

  

The 690 Enduro is KTM's answer to those wanting a powerful and capable single-cylinder dual sport.  The engine in this bike is the same one used to race the Dakar Rally and the Baja 1000. So while this is a new bike, the engine/chassis has been thoroughly tested in some of the biggest off-road races in the world. 

Because this is an enduro, it doesn't have the long range capability of bikes like the 640 Adventure. But with eight more hp and a dry weight that's 40 lbs. lighter, this bike will rip compared to the 640.   

Pros:  Great power for a single, very capable off-road
Cons: Not set up for long-distance rides
Dry weight: 305 lbs.
MSRP: $8,898
Suspension travel (F/R): 9.84" / 9.84"
Fuel capacity: 3.17 gallons
Horsepower: 62
Transmission: 6-speed
 

  KTM 530 EXC

 

 

A light trail bike with enough power to remove arm hair -- that pretty much sums up the 525. And starting in 2007, KTM made it available street-legal from the factory (all previous years require a conversion kit of some sort).  This is one bike that will keep you grinning from ear to ear the entire time you're in the saddle.  Of course, it's not up to long stretches of highway, but it will cover some pavement to get you to the trails.    

Pros:  High quality components, outstanding power-to-weight ratio, 3rd & 4th gear wheelies
Cons: For pre-07 models, it takes some work and $$$ to make it a dual sport bike
Dry weight: 251 lbs.
MSRP: $8,748
Suspension travel (F/R): 11.8" / 13.2"
Fuel capacity: 2.38 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 6-speed
 

BMW R1200GS and GS Adventure

 

 

If any bike conjures up images of blasting through the open landscapes of Africa, it's the BMW GS series. However, these are not light bikes. Couple that with street-biased suspension, and this is one bike that you don't want to spend a lot of time with in the rough stuff.  

In the hands of a skilled rider, this bike can reach places you wouldn't expect - which is testimony to the enhancements made over the years. But you really have to get time in the saddle before tackling anything rougher than a fire road. No matter where or how you ride, you'll be looking good on this beast.

The Adventure model includes beefier suspension, a gi-normous fuel tank, knobby tires and a few other add-ons to make it more capable off the highway.

Pros:  Excellent power, outstanding highway cruiser, Quality fit and finish
Cons: Comparatively heavy, pricey, suspension not up to serious off-road riding
Dry weight: 448 lbs. (491 lbs. for the Adventure model)
MSRP: $14,600 ($16,600 for Adv model)
Suspension travel (F/R): 7.5" / 7.9"   (8.3" / 8.7" for Adv model)
Fuel capacity: 5.3 gallons  (8.7 gallons for Adv model)
Horsepower: 105
Transmission: 6-speed
 

  BMW F800GS

 

 

For many dual sport enthusiasts, this is the bike they've been waiting for (quite literally).  Take all the long-distance touring capability of the 1200GS, shed 50 lbs., throw on some off-road ready suspension components, and you've got one kick-ass dual sport motorcycle.  

The 800GS is brand new from the ground up, and is destined to become one of the most popular bikes out there.  Power isn't quite as strong as KTM's 990, but with 85 horses on tap, it will get going in a hurry. 

Pros:  Outstanding mix of on-road and off-road capability
Cons: Too soon to tell
Dry weight: 392 lbs.
MSRP: $10,520
Suspension travel (F/R): 9" / 8.5"
Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons
Horsepower: 85
Transmission: 6-speed
 

  BMW F650 X-Challenge

 

 

 

The X-challenge was BMW's answer to bikes like the Honda XR650.  A very off-road capable single that is right at home on single track  But with the X-challenge, you can also do long stretches of highway to boot.

The power-to-weight ratio is a bit lower than the KTM 690, but the X-challenge is a slightly better suited for the pavement.  Overall, this is a great package for someone looking for a dirt-capable single.

Pros:  Very off-road capable, amazing gas mileage
Cons: Small tank, weak rear subframe
Dry weight: 310 lbs.
MSRP: $8,925
Suspension travel (F/R): 10.6" / 10.6"
Fuel capacity: 2.5 gallons
Horsepower: 53
Transmission: 5-speed
 

Kawasaki KLR650

 

 

The venerable KLR650 is one of the most popular dual sport bikes out there.  It's relatively inexpensive, reliable and well equipped.  While not as nimble off-road as some of the other dual sports (the stock suspension is quite soft), the KLR's mini-fairing, wide seat and low vibrations make this bike a very good choice for long rides both on and off pavement.  Because this bike has such a following, there are a ton of available aftermarket accessories.  

Pros:  Mini-fairing, large fuel tank, reliability, available accessories
Cons: Heavy (especially when topped off), soft suspension
Dry weight: 386 lbs.
MSRP: $5,349
Suspension travel (F/R): 7.9" / 7.3"
Fuel capacity: 6.1 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 5-speed
 

Suzuki DR650SE

 

 
The DR650 is a great bike for those new to dual sport riding.  With a fairly low seat height, this bike looks and feels smaller and lighter than the KLR.  The end result is a bike that is more manageable on tight trails, while still being capable on the highway.  Like the Kawasaki, the DR650 has very little noticeable vibrations.  And Suzuki even gives you two colors from which to choose.  On the downside, the stock seat on the DR becomes very uncomfortable very quickly -- making long stretches of pavement undesirable.  Additionally, the stock suspension is much too soft for aggressive off-road riding.  But with the right modifications and a little investment, this can be a great dual sport machine.  

Pros:  Good mix of dirt/street performance, reliability
Cons: Uncomfortable seat on long rides, small stock fuel tank, soft suspension
Dry weight: 324 lbs.
MSRP: $5,099
Suspension travel (F/R): 10.2" / 10.2"
Fuel capacity: 3.4 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 5-speed
 

  Suzuki DR400Z

  

The DR400Z (aka DRZ) can be described as more of an off-road dual sport bike.  Having only been on the market for a few years, the DRZ is extremely popular by riders who want a bike that's dirt oriented, but still street legal.  Because it's considerably lighter than the big 650s, the DRZ handles very well on more technical trails.  And like the DR650, the DRZ is available in a choice of colors. However, a small gas tank, lack of wind protection, off-road style seat and smaller engine add up to a bike that's not intended for long stretches of highway miles.  But for many dual sport riders, this package is just what they're looking for.     

Pros:  Very capable off-road, light weight
Cons: Limited highway use, small stock fuel tank, somewhat undersprung
Dry weight: 291 lbs.
MSRP: $5,599
Suspension travel (F/R): 11.6" / 11.6"
Fuel capacity: 2.6 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 5-speed
 

  Suzuki DL1000 and DL650 V-Strom

 
At first glance, the V-Strom (and Wee-Strom, as the 650 in known as) doesn't really look like a dual sport bike. But don't let the cast rims, short suspension and "street bike" look fool you.  There are a lot of guys out there who are taking their 'Stroms out in the rough stuff.  It's certainly more work off-road than most of the bikes listed here, but it's outstanding on the street.  And at a price under $9k, this thing is a relative steal.

Pros:  Great on-road performance
Cons: Not really built for the rough stuff
Dry weight: 458 lbs. (427 for the 650)
MSRP: $8,999  ($6,699 for the 650)
Suspension travel (F/R): 6.3" / 6.3"
Fuel capacity: 5.8 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 6-speed
 

Honda XR650R

 

The XR650R was developed by Honda to be a serious contender in the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races.  From its introduction in 2000 to it's final production year in 2005, it dominated those events.  This is a serious desert machine that reach triple digits in the dirt and tackle some serious off-road challenges.  The XR650R wasn't intended to be a dual sport bike, so it takes some work to get it to a point where you can legally ride on public roads. But a lot of riders have done this with great results.  

Pros:  Light, fast, powerful, the former "king of Baja"
Cons: No "magic button" (e-start), Not meant for long stretches of pavement
Dry weight: 280 lbs.
MSRP: $5,999
Suspension travel (F/R): 11.2" / 12.1"
Fuel capacity: 2.6 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 5-speed
 

  Honda XR650L


  

The XR650L has built a reputation for being a great dual sport bike for off-road use.  This bike was made for tight, rough trails.  Conversely, the XR is not designed for long range cruising on pavement.  Unlike the other bikes listed here, the XR is air-cooled only. If you truly plan on spending most of your time off-road, many riders prefer to take the liquid-cooled XR650R and throw on an aftermarket dual-sport kit to make it street legal. Either way, you'll be having tons of fun in the dirt.

Pros:  Very capable off road, reliable
Cons: Small fuel tank, air cooled only
Dry weight: 324 lbs.
MSRP: $5,949
Suspension travel (F/R): 11.6" / 11"
Fuel capacity: 2.8 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 5-speed
 

Husqvarna TE610

 

The .

Pros:  Very capable off road
Cons: Small fuel tank
Dry weight: 310 lbs.
MSRP: $7,398
Suspension travel (F/R): 11.8" / 12.6"
Fuel capacity: 3.3 gallons
Horsepower: -
Transmission: 6-speed
 

Aprilia RXV 550

 
The .

Pros:  Very capable off road
Cons: Small fuel tank
Dry weight: 263 lbs.
MSRP: $9,299
Suspension travel (F/R): -
Fuel capacity: 3.1 gallons
Horsepower: 65
Transmission: 5-speed
 

  Buell Uly XB12X

 
The .

Pros:  It's different.  In many ways.
Cons: It's different.  In many ways.
Dry weight: 324 lbs.
MSRP: $11,495
Suspension travel (F/R): 6.5" / 6.4"
Fuel capacity: 4.4 gallons
Horsepower: 103
Transmission: 5-speed
 

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