Pavement and dirt
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Dual-sport motorcycles are street legal but can also ride the dirt. They’ll take you anywhere you want to go, whether you’re commuting to work, riding a single-track trail, or planning an ambitious ride to the Arctic Circle.
After years of road racing, Dave Grummet, a Parker Brothers Powersports dealer discovered that making the switch to riding a dual-sport was just the right fit. “I could still go out and have fun on the back roads,” he says. “And dual-sports can get you to places that 99% of other people will never see.”
“The hardest part about making the transition to dual-sporting is that everything’s a compromise,” says Grummet. “What works really well off-road isn’t going to work as well on-road.”
Like tires, for instance. “A lot of people come in and say they want a dual-sport tire that handles sand and mud, but is sticky on pavement and wears well. It doesn’t exist!” he tells them. “So the question is: what do you intend to do with your dual sport? Are you going to mostly ride dirt or do more street riding?”
Fortunately, the range of dual-sport bikes on the market is greater than ever. If you’re looking for a hard-core dirt bike, you can choose from nimble lightweights (under 300 lbs.) like the KTM 450 EXC, the Kawasaki KLX 250, the Yamaha WR250R, or the Honda CRF230L.
If you’re interested in street-biased bikes that are still dirt-worthy, you’ll want a middleweight dual-sport like the Kawasaki KLR650, the BMW F650GS, or the Suzuki DR650SE.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the mainly road-going Adventure Tourers that include heavier (over 400 lbs.), more expensive bikes like the BMW R1200GS Adventure, the KTM 950 Adventure, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000, or the Honda Varadaro.
Of course, there’s also the emerging class of super “motards” which are tall street bikes with lots of suspension that can handle dirt or tarmac like the Ducati Hypermotard, the Aprilia 750 Dorsoduro, and the Suzuki DR400SM.
“The safety gear market for dual-sporting is still evolving, and I think in the next three to five years we’ll see more,” Grummet adds. He says if he’s just commuting to and from work, he’ll wear a ballistic nylon jacket and pants for the street, along with a street helmet and boots. But when he knows he’ll be heading off-road riding, he outfits himself accordingly.
Typically, off-road gear can include:
- A motocross helmet that features a visor to shade against early- and late-day sun (to be used with a dust mask).
- Scratch-resistant goggles with replaceable lenses.
- A chest protector to prevent punctures and broken ribs, and elbow/forearm armour.
- Off-road gloves with moulded armour and carbon-fibre knuckle protection.
- A motocross jersey worn under a wind-resistant, waterproof nylon outer shell.
- Pants made of waterproof, breathable fabric with built-in knee armour.
- Motocross boots that offer full protection with leather, plastic, and metal construction.
For those who prefer mostly on-road or long-distance adventure riding, there is a variety of clothing that combines desired features like ballistic nylon fabric with integrated armour.
Tips for beginners
Based on his own dual-sport experience, Dave Grummet offers this sage advice:
- If you’ve never ridden off-road, take a dirt bike course to learn proper technique.
- Subscribe to online forums to get advice from experienced dual-sport riders.
- Get the most out of dual-sport riding by joining a club that organizes off-road rides.
- Find a reliable and knowledgeable dual-sport motorcycle dealer.
Safe riding tips
- Inspect your bike before every ride.
- Never ride alone; in case of emergency, you’ll have help.
- Learn to recognize riding surfaces that can be potentially hazardous.
- Watch your fuel level; it’s easy to lose track of time and find yourself kilometres from the nearest fuel stop.
“Dual sporting isn’t just about trying to find a twisty piece of road,” Grummet points out, “it’s all about getting off the beaten path and dreaming about your next big adventure!”
- Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum
- Rally Connex Adventures
- The Essential Guide to Dual Sport Motorcycling
Carl Adams (Whitehorse Press)
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