How To Choose The Right Dual-Sport Motorcycle

Tip #21 from the pages of The Total Motorcycling Manual

dual-sport motorcycle studio side view
Dual-sport motorcycles.Cycle World

The key to choosing the right model is to know how much off-road riding you’ll do compared to how much on-road riding, since individual models are usually biased one way or another.

SUSPENSION In general, the more suspension travel you have, the better. Six inches (15 cm) is a bare minimum, 12 inches (30 cm) is about the maximum.

OVERALL CONSTRUCTION Dual-sports take a beating in the dirt. Bodywork, windshields, and so on are all prone to damage. Follow the KISS principle here: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

CRASH PROTECTION Any off-road bike needs some sort of a skidplate to protect the engine.

APPROPRIATE GEARING Dual-sports need a first gear low enough for rock crawling and a top gear high enough for highway rides.

TIRES Good off-road tires are a compromise when on the street, especially under braking, while street tires are worthless in the dirt. When in doubt, look for DOT-approved knobbies (or the equivalent in your region).

ENGINE Almost all dual-sports use single-cylinder engines, and the best are derived from true dirt machines. A bonus: Dual-sports almost always get superior gas mileage and make great urban commuters, especially if your city government seems to think that potholes add character.

STREET-LEGAL FEATURES A dual-sport needs to have a headlight, turnsignals, mirrors, horn, taillight, and a mounting for your license plate.

EXHAUST You need a high pipe and muffler, tucked up out of the way. More important, the exhaust needs to be fitted with an approved spark arrestor if you ride off-road.