2015 - 2021 Yamaha XT250
It seems like when God said “Let there be light,” Yamaha was already making the XT250. Okay, maybe not that long ago, but it has been since 1980 and I’ll bet a lot of folks reading this weren’t born yet. In 1982, Rambo rode one inFirst Blood. If it was mean enough to carry Sylvester Stallone, you know it was pretty awesome. With a wide-ratio five-speed and an air-cooled 250 cc engine, the XT250 is a proper little dual-sport machine and with a little more attention to two-up riding than you might expect in an off-road-capable bike.
2016 - 2021 Yamaha TW200
The Yamaha TW200, brought forward for 2021 with its scrappy little 196 cc engine, is a nice learning bike, fully street legal but with that distinctive motocross-style swale seat that says you’re going off-road. On the move, the bike has nice low-end torque and you’ll feel the front end trying to come up when you get even a little twisty. Dual sport, yes, but so much about this bike just begs to be in the dirt.
2015 - 2020 Suzuki DR200S
Suzuki brings dual-sport capabilities to the entry-level sector with its DR200S. A heavy emphasis on off-road performance defines the overall look; and a 199 cc engine drives it over hill and dale, as well as down the road with all the appropriate lighting for safety and legalities. The end result is a functional, if plain, bike that provides a stable ride and moderate power with a humble overall bearing. A carry-over for the last few years, it hasn’t changed much, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
2015 - 2019 Suzuki DR650S
It’s not the most attractive bike in the dual sport stable, though it’s small and scrappy with a 644 cc engine and so much fun to ride. With a glance at the DR650S from Suzuki you might just dismiss it as an enduro bike. That would be doing it an injustice. It’s really a basic adventure bike that will get you off the pavement and into the woods with perhaps more gumption than a real adventure bike. Priced affordably, it isn’t tragic to drop it as it would be otherwise and it is lightweight enough that you can pick it up and keep going.
2016 - 2020 Suzuki DR-Z400S / DR-Z400SM
Pitting the fuel-injection fans against the carburetor fans, we score a point for the latter with the DR-Z400S and DR-Z400SM from Suzuki. Fuel injection hasn’t yet made an appearance in Suzuki’s dual-sport lineup, which was a good thing or a bad thing, depending on which side of the fence you’re on. For 2020, the DR-Z siblings haven’t yet been touched by the FI update. Sharing the same engine as the 500EXC from KTM, the DR-Zs come on a different chassis with progressive-link rear suspension. The “SM” — the SuperMoto of the family — and the “S” feature a six-liter air box with quick-release fasteners trouble-free access to the air filter and special low profile mirrors that rotate hoping to avoid damage, both are pluses when you’re playing in the dirt.
2021 Honda Hunter Cub CT125
Honda teased us last year with a tantalizing glimpse of its CT125 Hunter Cub update as a concept model, and now it looks like the bike is going into production and coming to our side of the pond. Based on the legendary Super Cub that also recently saw a relaunch with an updated, modernized model, the Hunter Cub is built with a bias toward back-road/off-road work. Laced wheels and stealth knobbies join with the already handy little Super Cub platform and a specially-tuned, 8-plus horsepower plant to boost its terrain-tackling capabilities.
2015 - 2020 Yamaha WR250R
Essentially a carry-over from 2008 when the WR250R was added as a street-legal offering in the Yamaha WR lineup, the 2020 model carries-on carrying-on dual-sport fun. It’s not really a street-legal version of the WR250F, though the model designation tends to make it seem so. “WR” indicates it’s a wide-ratio gear box, and beyond that, the sky’s the limit. The wide-ratio gives an acceptable balance of highway capability and off-road responsiveness, both desirable in the dual-sport market
2015 - 2020 Honda XR650L
Honda carries its venerable XR650L line into 2020, but to be honest, it’s almost completely unchanged from the original version unleashed on the world back in 1993. Before you scoff, I would point out that sharks haven’t changed in millions of years, having evolved long ago into creatures perfectly suited to their environments, and apparently, so it is with the XR650L. The Red Riders got it right out of the gate with this one, and popular support keeps the bike on Honda’s showroom floors even after nearly a quarter-century.
2019 - 2020 Honda CRF450L
If you’re all about that trail-life, but aren’t necessarily feeling the trailer-life aspect of it, then Honda’s new CRF450L was built with you in mind. The “L” is based on the CRF450R, and was designed as a sister-bike to the 450X of the same family. It’s a street-legal machine with mirrors and lights that’ll let you connect the dots between your favorite trails via blacktop. As for the brown top, a 449 cc plant generates the power with a light-pull clutch and knobbies to keep it under control.
1988 - 1999 Suzuki DR Big
Suzuki arguably launched the adventure-bike genre all the way back in 1988 with its DR750S “Big” model. Also called the “Desert Express,” it delivered long range off-road performance and comfort superior to that which you could expect from the enduro-style bikes of the day. The factory boosted the displacement ahead of the 1990 model year to set up a decade-long reign as the grand-daddy of dual-sports.
2018 - 2019 Kawasaki KLX250
Kawasaki pulled the KLX250 out of the mothballs, updated it and released back into the domestic market in 2018. That came on the heels of a three-year break, over which the KLX250 became kind of like the Loch Ness Monster, much discussed but rarely seen. Among the improvements are updated looks, revised suspension components and electronic fuel-injection that replaces the old Keihin carb from the previous generation. So, better looks, better ride and better performance in a market that hasn’t been glutted with KLX250 models for a few years.
2019 Zero Motorcycles DS / DSR
For years now, Zero Motorcycles has pushed the EV-bike envelope in an attempt to show how viable/flexible battery-bikes can actually be, and the factory just took another important developmental step with a fresh set of updates for its DS and DSR. These dual-sport rides toe the genre line with their overall design, but of course, the real magic is under the hood with an all-electric drivetrain the factory graced with both a power boost and a range increase in an effort to expand the factory’s footprint within this rapidly burgeoning market segment. Street-electrics generally stay in relatively civilized areas, but dual-sport rides are just as happy off the beaten path and that brings its own set of variables and issues to be resolved, so today I want to take a look at this pair to see what all the factory has done to address those concerns.