What Is The Best Dual Sport Bike?
"The best bang for your buck," is a phrase that can be applied to compare just about anything. If you were to apply it to motorcycles you might use it to consider which bike you could get the most use and fun out of. The world of motorcycles is a diverse one with many segments and categories, but if you're looking for diversity with an all-terrain motorcycle then you'd definitely want to consider a dual sport bike. While these motorcycles aren't the fastest, sportiest, and don't often offer the latest and greatest advancements in technology, what they do offer is the ability to be used as everything from a daily commuter, grocery getter, or back roads wanderer to off road world traveler. Totally utilitarian, these bikes outfitted with their all terrain motorcycle tires can deliver you just about anywhere you want to go on or off road at an extremely affordable price -hence, best bang for your buck.
Below are our choices for the top five budget-friendly dual sport motorcycles.
Top 5 Dual Sport Motorcycles
1. Kawasaki KLR650
One of the most popular dual sport motorcycles has to be the Kawasaki KLR650. Well suited for the highways, deserts, mountains or the big city, the KLR650 is a smart and reliable choice for riders seeking the versatility of a tour-ready dual-sport motorcycle. The KLR650 has the look and feel of a middleweight adventure motorcycle, and in this role the versatile Kawasaki is finding its real niche.
The KLR was introduced in 1987 and was pretty much left alone by Kawi for some 20 years. For the 2008 the model year the bike got some much needed updating. Kawasaki improved the throttle response with revised ignition mapping. Revised cam timing contributed to improved high RPM highway travel, while a redesigned cylinder head with new intake porting resulted in greater low-end torque and quicker throttle response in heavier city traffic. The most significant change for 2008 however was the new bodywork; a new streamlined, frame-mounted fairing gave the dual sport bike a much sportier, big adventure bike type look.
Most recently Kawasaki made some further refinements with the 2014.5 model receiving improved suspension characteristics with 40 percent stiffer fork springs and the fork oil level raised 5mm to reduce bottoming. The new springs also improved rebound damping by 28%. The rear suspension was also made 63 percent stiffer with damping increased by 80%. In addition, a redesigned seat with improved padding made for better long distance comfort. Running at 432 pounds, the KLR isn't exactly light, it's the heaviest in this grouping by more than 80 pounds (the XR650L comes in at a curb weight of 349 pounds), nor is it the nimblest, but Kawasaki has hit a sweet spot with the KLR, recognizing that many are looking for a scaled down adventure bike with an emphasis on street cruising and the ability of traveling country dirt roads, fire breaks, and simple trails when the journey calls for it. The KLR can easily handle this type of travel and is great for the long distance moto-camping excursions. The KLR650 has a 6.1 gallon fuel tank and fantastic gas mileage, around 50 mpg, so it's possible to travel upwards of 300 miles before needing to refuel.
The KLR650 is ideally suited for 80 percent on road 20 percent off-road travel as it favors street riding. The fairing works extremely well in blocking wind and is a must have for long distance cool weather travel and the large luggage rack allows plenty of room to strap on bags, tents, and other adventure necessities. The KLR650 is the largest dual sport motorcycle on the list, however, despite the heavier feel the KLR650 is super smooth and handles surprisingly well for its stature. In fact its size and weight makes it a much more sturdy machine when reaching top speed of about 93 mph. This bike is quite a motorcycle for an economical price. MSRP for the 2018 model: $6,699.
Word on the street was that Kawasaki was going to discontinue the KLR however, the bike 2018 model is still listed on the their website, so you may have a hard time finding a showroom floor new model and if you do it will most likely be from 2018.
2. Honda XR650L
Bulletproof reliability is what the Honda XR series of dual sport motorcycles have always been about. The Honda XR650L has remained relatively unchanged since 1992 except for some different colors and graphics. Solid design and engineering has given the popular Honda a lifespan that requires little change.
The XR650L is for those who refuse to stop where the pavement ends and prefer to add lots of dirt roads, trails, and forgotten byways into their motorcycle adventure. With a heavy emphasis on off road capabilities and the ability to run the streets legally the XR650L is the perfect platform for riders who are in the opposite 80/20 crowd than those of the KLR650. The XR650L is 80% off road and 20% on road in its configuration.
The XR650L features convenient electric starting, excellent power, and torque that is ideally suited for both on and off road riding. The ergonomics of the XR favor an off road stance as the bike is taller with greater travel than most dual-sport motorcycles. The seat height is 37" making the XR650L quite tall in the saddle and a chore for anyone smaller in stature to balance while waiting at a red light. The Honda's height and 11" of suspension suspension travel make the XR650L quite capable in the dirt, yet still handles unexpectedly well on the street for a 349 pound machine. With the second largest fuel tank on this list at 2.8 gallons, the XR650L falls in the middle when it comes to fuel consumption with about 47 mpg. It also falls in the middle when it comes to service intervals as well with 2,000-mile oil changes and 4,000-mile valve checks.
For extended high speed road travel the Honda does not compete with the creature comforts offered by the KLR650's windscreen and better asphalt orientation, so pushing the 644cc air-cooled dry-sump single-cylinder four-stroke engine to its max speed of nearly 100 mph isn't quite as smooth as the KLR. However, the XR's rugged reliability, excellent off road characteristics, and competent road handling make it a serious dual-sport contender. MSRP for the 2020 model: $6,999.
3. Suzuki DR-Z400S
The Suzuki DR-Z400S looks like a dirt bike because it is. Like the Honda XR650L, Suzuki has built a dual-sport motorcycle that is very much at home on the trail. The Suzuki is based around off road riding but is legal, capable and very competent on the street. A very sharp looking dual sport, the DR-Z400S is an excellent blend and compromise making it an excellent dual-sport mount.
The DR-Z400S has very quick throttle response, strong torque across the power band and is more than adequate for zipping around town, in and out of city traffic and then heading straight out to the hills. If serious off road riding with a little street action is what you crave the Suzuki DR-Z400S fits the bill quite nicely. Suzuki uses regular telescopic, oil-damped, long travel (11.3 in), 49mm cartridge-style forks with protective rubber boots, and features adjustable compression/rebound damping along with adjustable spring preload for smooth performance on all types of on/off-road terrain. For the rear suspension Suzuki employs a lightweight aluminum swingarm tied to a mono-shock, rear shock absorber that features 11.6 " of travel, compression damping/preload adjustments. The shock connects to the swingarm through a progressive linkage system.
The DR-Z400 is powered by a four-stroke, 398cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled, dry-sump engine that produces strong low-RPM power which comes in handy in off road riding. The 5-speed trans is smooth and easily clickable through all gears with easy to find neutral. Lightweight riders or those who keep on-bike storage/luggage to a minimum will find the power output adequate. However, adding heavy loads really cuts into the bike's off road fun factor and running at higher highway speeds for long distances, ringing out the 398cc mill gets to be pretty buzzy. Keep the bike in its element and respect its limitations and the Suzuki DR-Z400S is a tough to beat dual-sport motorcycle whether on the trail or commuting across town. MSRP for the 2020 model: $6,799.
4. KTM 500 EXC F
You get a lot of bang for your bike with the KTM 500 EXC F but it also costs a lot of bucks to get that bang! As the most expensive dual sport bike on our list with an MSRP of $11,399 the EXC is also the lightest, most performance-oriented, most recently updated, and is probably the closest to a true dirt bike out of all the bikes in this list. Coming in at around 264 pounds the 500 is extremely light and when you combine that lightweight with the 41 hp the 510cc single-cylinder, four-stroke puts out you get an awesome power to weight ratio compared to the rest of the bunch. The lightweight is due in part to the advanced chromoly steel frame which has been designed to offer stiffness in key areas for better feedback to the rider. It also makes for agile and nimble handling which is accentuated by premium suspension components. Up front is a WP XPLOR USD fork setup that has been revised for better damping and new adjusters on the fork caps to fine tune the ride. Out back is an updated and adjustable WP XPLOR rear shock with PDS technology that offers better bottoming resistance.
For 2020 the KTM got new bodywork which provides more room and better ergonomics for overall improved handling and rider comfort. The seat has also be updated again to improve comfort and rideability. The 6-speed wide ratio transmission is geared perfectly for tackling offroad situations while still offering plenty of power in all gears for city commuting and highway travels. In fact, the KTM can break the century mark on the speedometer, however, it may be a bit nerve wracking to do so on such a lightweight machine.
The KTM is the only bike on the list that comes with a hydraulic clutch which can be handy for those times when you are constantly working the clutch in technical sections. The new gas tank design holds a 2.25 gallons and combined with the fuel injection is third on the list when it comes to mpg range with about 49 mpg or 110 miles per tank.
While the KTM is a great bike the delivers in spades when it comes to dual sport riding that performance does come with some sacrifices and that's in the amount of attention the bike needs to keep it in top shape. Where the majority of these bikes can for thousands of miles or before needing much attention in the way of even a minor oil change, the KTM 500 EXC F is a bit of a high maintenance piece of machinery. According to the service specs this bike should get an oil change every 250 miles or 15 hours and the valves need to be inspected for possible adjustment every 40 hours--or yeah you might need to replace the piston every 40 hours too. That's not to say that you can't stretch out an oil change or valve adjustment but just know going in that you'll be spending a lot more time wrenching on the KTM than you will with these other bikes.
5. Honda CRF450L
We know what you are probably thinking, "two Hondas on this list?!" Well yeah, Honda makes some great motorcycles that are extremely well built and reliable. Honda also has some great choices when it comes to dual sport motorcycles so yeah we are giving them a second slot on this list--actually three if you watch the video below.
Where the Honda XR650L big, heavy, and affordable OG dual sport bike, the CRF450L is the slim and trim sporty model that falls more in line with the KTM 500 EXC F. Just like the KTM the CRF450L gets it's DNA from a dirt bike and in this case it's Honda's extremely popular CRF450R. Introduced as a 2019 model the CRF 450L is backed by a single cylinder 449cc Unicam engine that puts out 39 hp. Not exactly the most powerful bike, however, the 2.0-gallon titanium fuel tank and aluminum twin-spar frame help keep the weight down making the 450L the second lightest on this list at 289 pounds. So when you figure the bike only makes 4 hp less than the extremely light KTM, which has a slightly larger engine, then the power to weight really shines.
Suspension on the CRF450L comes by way of a fully adjustable inverted 49mm Showa fork and an adjustable Showa rear shock and Pro Link system based on the 450R but optimally tuned for trail riding. To ensure smooth highway riding the bike features a wide-ratio six-speed transmission that can help the bike traverse through steep climbs or rocky situations with ease. Modern LED lighting front and back keeps things bright, lightweight, and durable.
Although it's not quite as finicky when it comes to maintenance as the KTM, the CRF450L is by far no KLR or even its big brother the XR650 with their lengthy service intervals. Oil changes are recommended every 800 miles and you'll have to dip into the engine to check the valves about every 1,800 miles. The CRF450L is not the fastest either, clocking a top speed of around 90 mph but it sure does know how to make efficient use of its 2.01 gallon fuel tank by delivering a whopping 55 mpg. With its dirt bike characteristics and the fact that it's a new machine, the CRF450L does come with a bit of a steep price tag. The CRF450L is $1,000 less than the KTM 500 EXC F and is the second highest on the list with an MSRP of $10,399 for the 2020 model.
To help break these top dual sport motorcycle down even further and make it easier for you to get an idea how they compare we've broken them down by key elements.
Lowest to highest
|KTM 500 EXC F||$11,399|
Lightest to heaviest
|KTM 500 EXC F||264 lb|
|Honda CRF450L||289 lb|
|Suzuk DR-Z400S||321 lb|
|Honda XR650L||349 lb|
|Kawasaki KLR650||432 lb|
Most to least
|Kawasaki KLR650||44 hp|
|Honda XR650L||43 hp|
|KTM 500 EXC F||41 hp|
|Honda CRF450L||39 hp|
|Suzuki DR-Z400S||39 hp|
Power to weight ratio
Best to worst
|Bike||Power to Weight Ratio|
|KTM 500 EXC F||.155 hp / per lb|
|Honda CRF450L||.134 hp / per lb|
|Honda XR650L||.123 hp / per lb|
|Suzuki DR-Z400S||.121 hp / per lb|
|Kawsaki KLR650||.101 hp / per lb|
Longest to Shortest Oil Change / Valve Inspection/Adjustment Service Intervals
|Bike||Oil Change Interval||Valve Inspection/Adjustment Service|
|Kawasaki KLR650||6,000 miles||24,000 miles|
|Suzuki DR-Z400||3,000 miles||15,000 miles|
|Honda XR650L||2,000 miles||4,000 miles|
|Honda CRF450L||600 miles||1,800 miles|
|KTM 500 EXC F||15 hours or 250 miles||40 hours (requires piston change)|
Gas Tank Size
Largest to smallest
|Bike||Gas Tank Size|
|Kawasaki KLR650||6.1 gallons|
|Honda XR650L||2.8 gallons|
|Suzuki DR-Z400S||2.6 gallons|
|KTM 500 EXC F||2.25 gallons|
|Honda CRF450L||2.01 gallons|
Best to worst
|Honda CRF450L||55 mpg|
|Kawasaki KLR650||50 mpg|
|KTM 500 EXC F||49 mpg|
|Honda XR650L||47 mpg|
|Suzuki DR-Z400S||44 mpg|
Fastest to slowest
|Suzuki DR-Z400S||114 mph|
|KTM 500 EXC F||101 mph|
|Honda XR650L||96 mph|
|Kawasaki KLR650||93 mph|
|Honda CRF450L||90 mph|
Hopefully you now have a better idea of how some of the best dual sport motorcycles compare. For even more info and some first hand impressions on some of these bikes check out the video below. We understand that not everyone wants the biggest or baddest dual sport motorcycle so by watching our video you'll get some bonus content covering two of our favorite 250cc dual sport motorcycles.