What is a Dual-Sport Bike?

Someone new to motorcycle riding might get confused on the differences between similar-looking rides like a dual sport and a dirt bike. 

Kawasaki dual sport motorcycle

With so many motorcycle types available on the market, including hybrids and spin-offs, it’s easy for a beginner to get the varieties mixed up. Dual-sport bikes are perhaps the most confusing motorcycle classification to the untrained eye, as they’re basically a cross between a dirt bike and a cruiser bike. Here’s a guide to dual sport bikes, including their pros and cons and why you should get one.

 

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Dual-Sport Bikes Overview

Dual-sport motorcycles were designed for people who wanted a machine that could handle on-road and off-road riding. They’re street legal, and can go long distances on road trips. 

Suzuki DRZ400 dual sport motorcycle

Dual sport bikes come factory-fitted with wheels and tires capable of handling both pavement and dirt. They’re a happy medium of sorts for riders who like to go cruising but also want to venture out on the trails. Riders can enjoy the highway, the wilderness and everything in between on a dual sport bike.

Evolution from Enduro Bikes

Dual sport motorcycles are essentially spin-offs of enduro bikes, which are high-intensity motocross bikes designed for aggressive competition riding. 

Dual sport bike enduro

Enduro bikes (as the name implies) are made to test a rider’s endurance. They can be can be made street legal by upgrading them with brake lights, turn signals, horns, rearview mirrors, license plates, etc. The dual-sport bike was created as an evolution of the enduro that’s street legal straight out of the factory. However, the trade-off from enduro to dual sport is most notably increased weight and less off-road agility.

Pros

  • Designed with both street and off-road capabilities, can be ridden just about anywhere 
  • Lightweight and agile, and easy to pick up after falling over or crashing
  • Affordable in both sticker price and maintenance and repair costs
  • Street legal, no need to transport on a truck or trailer
  • Easy to master, which is great for beginners

 

Cons

  • Tall front fender can get floppy at high speeds
  • Limited acceleration can disappoint racers
  • Engine can be shaky and noisy at high speeds
  • Narrow seat may be too uncomfortable for road trips
  • Smaller fuel tank means more refueling
  • Little to no space for luggage or passengers
  • Knobby tires wear out relatively quickly

Dual sport bikes pros and cons

Dual Sport Bikes vs Dirt Bikes

Dual sport bikes are often mistaken for dirt bikes due to their similar appearance. However, dirt bikes are lighter, faster and more powerful than dual sports. They’re also a lot more expensive to buy, maintain and repair.

Dual sport vs dirt bike differences

Dirt bikes are made strictly for offroad riding and aren’t street legal, whereas dual-sport bikes are built for both street and offroad riding. Dual-sport bikes are lightweight and fast, but they’re no match for dirt bikes when it comes to racing. However, they’re much more affordable than dirt bikes in every way. And you don’t have to spend extra gas money to transport them like a dirt bike, since you can ride them anywhere. If you’re on a budget and aren’t too serious about racing, the dual sport is the better option. They’re also easier to master, which makes them great starter bikes for those who may want to dabble in and/or “graduate” to more extreme offroad riding later.

Dual Sport vs Adventure Bike

Another common mix-up between motorcycles is dual sport bikes and what are known as adventure bikes. Like the dual sport is a spin-off of the enduro, the adventure bike is a spin-off of the dual sport that addresses drawbacks like lack of comfort and space.

Dual sport bike vs adventure bike differences

Adventure bikes are essentially dual-sport bikes with better road capabilities. They have larger twin cylinder engines for faster highway speeds, and provide more room for passengers and cargo. Comfort sets them apart from dual sports, aided by features like larger seats and a built-in windscreen. And while the adventure bike can also go offroad, it fulfills a demand for people who want a dual sport but with better long-distance road riding capabilities. However, the adventure bike is heavier than the dual sport, making it a little less ideal for offroad riding.

Why Get a Dual Sport Bike

As already mentioned, dual sport bikes are a happy medium for riders who want to experience both offroad and on-road riding without breaking the bank. They’re street legal, durable, affordable and lightweight, which makes them easy to lift up after a crash or fall.

Suzuki dual-sport bike

If you’re a speed and adrenaline junkie looking to become a serious offroad racer, you’re better off with a dirt bike. However, if you want a fun, versatile “best of both worlds” bike that’s easy to ride and cheap to maintain, the dual sport bike is the perfect choice.

 
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