Dual Sport Events
The concept of a versatile motorcycle equally at home on dirt and pavement is as old as motorcycling itself.
Most roads were still unpaved when motorized bicycles first appeared around 1900.
In a sense, all motorcycles at that time were dual-sports, intended to be used on dirt as well as pavement.
Advertisements well into the 1920s depict motorcycles on dirt roads, raising clouds of dust.
By 1940, most roads in developed countries were paved, and motorcycles had become heavier and more oriented to the street.
In the 1950s and 1960s, British manufacturers such as Triumph and BSA offered versions of their relatively light street motorcycles with high exhaust pipes, and called them scramblers.
Terms such as dual-sport, enduro and adventure bike are marketing descriptions, not strict definitions of weight, power, and intended usage.
There are four ways of creating dual-sports. Some manufacturers add street-legal equipment to existing off-road motorcycles.
These bikes are usually light and powerful, at the expense of shorter service life and higher maintenance.
This approach is currently taken by European manufacturers such as KTM and Husqvarna.
Other manufacturers start with a clean sheet of paper and design a new model designed for a specific combination of dirt and street use.
These motorcycles are usually heavier and more durable than the models derived from off-road motorcycles. This approach is currently taken by Aprilia, BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, Moto Guzzi, Suzuki, and Yamaha.
Several manufacturers modify street motorcycles to make them more dirt-worthy. These bikes are usually more at home on pavement.
Finally, owners add street-legal equipment to off-road bikes. In the US, some states license only motorcycles that met highway emissions requirements when first sold, while others allow off-road vehicles to be converted to on-road.
Dual-sports may be grouped by weight and intended purpose.
Lightweight dual-sports weigh about 250 to 300 lb (110 to 140 kg). They have high fenders and ground clearance plus long travel suspension, and usually come with aggressive dirt-oriented tires known as “knobbies”. Lightweights are closest to pure dirt bikes and are most at home on rough trails and two-track roads with occasional forays onto pavement.
Middleweight dual-sports weigh about 300 to 350 lb (140 to 160 kg). They usually have less suspension travel and ground clearance than lightweights, and often come with tires that offer a compromise between dirt and pavement performance. Middleweights are most at home on smooth trails, graded dirt roads and pavement.
Heavyweight dual-sports weigh over 350 lb (160 kg). They are designed primarily for riders who want to travel long distances on pavement with occasional forays onto dirt roads. They usually come with smoother tires that perform better on pavement. Motorcycles of this type are increasingly favored by a subset of touring riders who never intend to ride off-pavement, as they tend to offer comfortable riding positions, reasonable range, and the ability to carry luggage, while weighing less and performing more nimbly than a traditional touring bike. These motorcycles are also called adventure or adventure-touring bikes by some manufacturers.
These types are only approximate, and new models that split the boundaries and offer different combinations of features appear each year. However, the laws of momentum and inertia always favour lighter dual-sports for tight, rough trails.
Heavier dual-sports that emphasize rider comfort and the capacity to carry luggage are better choices for long highway trips.
Dual-sports, by definition, are compromises — giving up some dirt performance to be ridden on the street and some street performance to be ridden in the dirt.
The merits of a particular model can only be judged relative to the owner’s intended mix of dirt and street riding.
Although aficionados may argue the merits of different models, versatile dual-sports can be desirable alternatives to more specialized motorcycles that can only be ridden in one environment.