HUSQVARNA 701 ENDURO
Husqvarna took the motor from the KTM Duke 690, which might be the most powerful single-cylinder motor there is, and dropped it into a dual-sport trellis frame with WP suspension. The fuel tank is under a long seat that extends all the way to the handlebar. The 701 has switchable engine maps, ABS (that can be turned off) and a slipper clutch. Husky has an accessory fuel tank that brings the capacity up to 5.2 gallons. To read more on this model, click here.
KTM 690 ENDURO
Once upon a time, KTM entered the Baja 1000 with a bike based on the 690 Enduro. It was too fast! Even the best riders in the world didn’t want to go 120 mph in the dirt. The 690 has found its own calling since then as a heavy dual-sport or lightweight adventure bike. At the EICMA show in Milan, KTM announced that the Enduro’s street-going brother, the Duke, has a more powerful motor, and speculation is that it will soon appear in the Enduro as well.
HONDA XR650L: $6690
There is a timeless perfection to the Honda 650L. Unchanged since the early ‘90s, the XR has come to define the 650 dual-sport bike with a torquey (but not especially fast) air-cooled motor. The suspension is still surprisingly good on the trail. The ergonomics feel dated, but the bike works well and has electric start. It reminds us of the Scott Summers years in off-road racing every time we see it. We still love it. To read a comparison of the Japanese 650 dual-sport bikes, click here.
KAWASAKI KLR650: $6599
Before 2008, the KLR was already a hit as an adventure bike. We just didn’t call it that. Then it got a new frame-mount fairing without much increase in price, and it earned an official identity as the world’s best budget adventurer. The tank holds 6.1 gallons, it has a huge luggage rack, and this year there’s a new camo model (shown) for $6899. To read a comparison of the Japanese 650 dual-sport bikes, click here.
SUZUKI DR650S: $6499
In the overall 650 dual-sport picture, the Suzuki stands in Middle Earth between the slightly more dirt-oriented Honda XR650L and the pavement-oriented Kawasaki KLR650. It has a little more motor than the Honda, but not the suspension. Likewise, it will out-pull the Kawasaki slightly in roll-on acceleration, but is stripped without the fairing and comfort factor. Like the Honda XR650L, the Suzuki hasn’t changed in a very long time. To read a comparison of the Japanese 650 dual-sport bikes, click here.
HUSQVARNA FE501S: $10,599
This is probably the most desired motorcycle in the dual-sport world right now. Everyone wants a Husky. It has the same motor as the KTM 500EXC, but in a different chassis with linkage rear suspension. It also has the unified airbox/subframe. The 501S didn’t change much, but it got a smaller front axle and new tripleclamps with four handlebar positions.
BETA 500RS : $9799
You won’t see a Beta in supercross, but the company continues to quietly make world-class motorcycles in Italy. The Beta is as dirt-worthy as any dual-sport bike in the world. This year the six-speed 500RS got fuel injection, a new head and other changes. The EFI system is made by Synerject and it complies with all the EPA requirements without much compromise, making it a legitimate alternative to Austrian hardware.
KTM 500EXC-F: $10,399
The single-overhead cam motor in the KTM 500EXC is very similar to the one in the 500XC-W off-road bike. It passes a more stringent emission test, but still runs well, particularly if left stock. This remains the most dirt-worthy big dual-sport bike in the world. The rear suspension uses a WP PDS shock without linkage, and the fork is a 4CS.
BETA 430RS: $9699
Beta downsized its big dual-sport motor with a 5mm decrease in bore to create the 430. It still features 42mm Synerject EFI, which is new for this year. The bike is loaded with high-end standard features, like the Trail Tech Voyager GPS, folding mirrors and handguards. More parts are available in the Build Your Own Beta program, where you go on line and choose the accessories you want to come delivered on your bike..
HUSQVARNA FE350S: 10,399
If there’s no long stretch of pavement in your dual-sport plans, a 350 is the perfect size. the six-speed Husky FE350S is light, fast and revs to about a zillion rpm. Husqvarna, as many people love to point out, is owned by KTM these days, but the Husky 350 has several of its own features, like the composite airbox, linkage suspension and distinctive Husky bodywork.
KTM 350EXC-F: $10,199
This machine is a real dirt bike that only has the bare legal necessities to be street legal. The motor isn’t that different from the one Kailub Russell used to win the National Enduro and GNCC championships, but the street-legal version comes in a chassis like the XC-W dirt bike, meaning it has rear suspension without linkage.
SUZUKI DR-Z400S: $6599
Suzuki released this bike about 16 years ago and it has stood up quite well over the years. It has electric start and a smooth, reliable DOHC liquid-cooled motor with a CV carburetor. It works well in the dirt, but struggles in comparison with newer, more expensive 350s from Europe. There’s a supermoto version called the DRZ400SM for $7199.
HONDA CRF250L: $4999
The price of the Honda CRF250L is still amazing. No other dual-sport bike gives you such modern technology, including fuel-injection, for so little. The motor is liquid-cooled with double overhead cams, four valves and a six-speed gearbox. Compared to real dirt bikes, the Honda is very mild and somewhat heavy, but remains a great value.
YAMAHA WR250R: $6690
Yamaha’s array of 250cc off-road bikes is kinda confusing. This model has no relationship to the WR250F which is a pure dirt bike, or the XT250, which is more street oriented. The WR250R is somewhere in the middle. It does have a modern DOHC, fuel-injected motor in an aluminum frame, and is more dirt-worthy than the Honda CRF250L, but comes at a higher price.
YAMAHA XT250: $5190
Yamaha offers this bike as a low-priced alternative to the WR250R. The motor is a mix of old and new technology. It has a very basic single overhead cam, two-valve, air-cooled motor, but it also offers fuel injection and electric start. A low seat height is a high priority, and suspension travel is around 9” in front and 7” in the rear.
SSR XF250: $2999
SSR is an Asian company that is making the effort to get a toehold in the U.S by offering a legitimate, street-legal dual-sport bike. The XF250 is a fat-tired machine in the same style as the Yamaha TW200. It has a basic electric start, air-cooled motor, but the seat height and the price are both very low. SSR offers a 12-month warranty on this model.
SUZUKI DR200S: $4499
Suzuki offers low price and high reliability in the the DR200S. It’s been around for a very, very long time and has electric start. The DR200 isn’t especially fast, but can keep up with freeway traffic if it has to. The rear brake is a drum and the front is a disc. Carburetion is via an old-fashion Mikuni carb, and with a 3.3-gallon tank, it can go forever.
YAMAHA TW200: $4590
Yamaha more or less invented the small-diameter, fat tire formula a long time ago, and it proved to be a big hit among beginners. The low seat height on the TW200 is its biggest trump card. It also fits on the bumper of a motorhome without trouble, making it a great camping bike, but it’s a little too small for the highway.
Click here for a feature on the 10 best used dual-sport bikes.
Click here for a buyer’s guide of 2016 off-road bikes.