This list could be much longer than only 10 reasons to start riding dual-sport, but we will stop it there. First off, let me be clear about what I mean when I say dual-sport: I am talking dirtbikes with turn signals. I am not talking about big, 1200cc adventure-touring motorcycles or scramblers with TKC80s and skidplates. I am referring to anything from the Kawasaki KLX250S end of the spectrum all the way to a KTM 500 EXC.
These motorcycles are great because you can truly ride them off-road like a dirtbike. Bigger ADV bikes can certainly be taken far off of the beaten path, but when (I say when, not if) you drop them, it’s much more difficult to pick up, and it could end up costing you a pretty penny or worse yet, leaving you stranded somewhere remote.
After a 400-mile dual-sport ride near the Sierra Nevada earlier this week, this is what comes to mind for 10 reasons to start riding dual-sport motorcycles.
Any chance a motorcyclist has to put some seat time in on the dirt will likely help their street riding confidence and ability. Whether you’re an experienced rider or just starting your foray into two wheels, time spent riding in situations with little traction will help you feel comfortable with the motorcycle moving beneath you, which will help should you have an unexpected loss of traction on the street. Not to mention if you do fall, it will usually be at lower speeds, and a dual-sport motorcycle is designed to take the crash, unlike its street-going siblings.
Of course we want to be respectful and mindful of private property and legal routes, but with a basic understanding of where you are, you can ride your motorcycle right out of your garage and up a mountain. Depending on your dual-sport of choice, you can do just as much as any non-street-legal dirtbike. KTM’s EXC line is a perfect example, and while they’re a bit spendy, there really isn’t a match in terms of off-road capable street-legal dirtbikes from the factory. If you happen to live in a location that will allow, you may be able to add street-legal or dual-sport kits to your dirtbike and register it at the your local DMV.
I started riding dirtbikes because of my insatiable urge to explore my surroundings. Off-road motorcycles allow you access to places you may not even want to hike, or at least, they will get you there and back faster. Dual-sport motorcycles can take that ability and expand it, allowing you to use roads to connect your off-road exploration.
This is true in many ways. It could be a single-track trail carved into the side of a steep mountainside or a herd of cattle roaming free. You could be tractoring your way up a rocky canyon and find remnants of lives lived long ago by settlers hoping to strike it rich during the gold rush. The feeling of not knowing is what makes it so enticing, and with a dual-sport motorcycle, you can ride into town, get a hotel for the night, and head back out for more the next morning.
There are many mines and camps across the country which have been abandoned and forgotten as technology has advanced and commodities have become more easily accessible. These large structures remain in many parts of the country as nature slowly reclaims them. Some are easily accessible and can be reached in a car or truck, but it is truly an extraordinary experience to work your way up a particularly difficult trail to find old mining equipment that will leave you curious as to how it all got there in the first place.
It’s always a treat to have ridden out of a parking lot in the morning and come across the collapsed remains of an old cabin that hasn’t been lived in for more than 100 years. A lot of those old cabins have been left to crumble. Some that were tucked away from the elements remain upright, while others that have been subjected to decades of harsh weather are left in ruins.
Riding off into the wilderness and tackling difficult trails is a great way to bond. Whether it be friends or family members, the obstacles you face together off-road can help grow strong relationships that will last a lifetime. If you have the chance to ride with someone who is more experienced than you, it can be a great chance to learn as well.
Pack your lunch and saddle up. That leftover breakfast burrito tastes great when you’re sitting atop a hundred-year-old salt tram with a view of the snow-capped Sierras.
Making your way into the remote wilderness allows you to appreciate nature’s beauty without human influence. You’ll also learn to read terrain and judge what kind of traction it will give you. I know people who would call in sick from work to go ride in the desert after it rained because the traction was up and dust was down. Take time to stop and enjoy your surroundings.
You should do some research into what kind of tool pack you might need with you when trail riding into remote areas. You’ll also need to know how to use those tools. It’s best to carry a few wrenches that match your motorcycle’s requirements, a tube (if only one, bring a front tube), zip ties, duct tape, and quick steel among plenty of other things. You may have to improvise on the trail to make a fix, but if it can get you back home or to camp successfully, it will be a badge of honor. The more you ride the more you’ll learn, but do yourself a favor and do some research before you have to figure it out on your own.
There are plenty of motorcycles out there that will work just fine for those testing the waters of dual-sport. You don’t have to buy a $7000 new motorcycle. In fact, if you’re buying a dual-sport as a second bike and won’t be entirely reliant on it as your only form of two-wheeled transportation, buy a used one. You’ll be happy to have spent less money when you’re picking it up out of the dirt or ordering parts.
If it is your first or only bike, a dual-sport bike can give you limitless horizons in terms of exploration. You can ride any public road to connect trails without fear of John Law stopping you.