Dirt bikes are great fun and do what they were made to do in the dust and mud. Street bikes are good at what they are intended for, which is street legal riding. Sometimes, the need arises for a dual-purpose motorcycle that will allow you to use one motorcycle in different riding disciplines.
This is where the dual-sport motorcycle fits in. But will such a dual-sport motorcycle be good for a long road trip, or does this not bear consideration?
Lightweight to mid-weight dual-sport bikes are not good for long trips. These dual-sport bikes have longer travel suspension and tires that are more suited to off-road riding. Heavyweight dual-sport bikes, called adventure bikes, are suitable for long trips and are designed for this type of riding.
Long road trips on a motorcycle can be huge amounts of fun and make for a memorable trip of a lifetime! Since a dual-sport is designed as a crossover motorcycle that is compatible with street riding and off-road riding, would you be able to make road trip dreams on a dual-sport bike, or would it be rather a nightmare?
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What Are Dual-Sport Bikes Made For?
Dual-sport motorcycles are the street-legal versions of dirt bikes. Due to the popularity of the dirt-bike, manufacturers decided to produce street-legal versions of these bikes that have a crossover function. They can operate off-road and still have all the necessary bells and whistles to make them legal for use on urban roads.
There are three main categories of dual-sport bikes, and they are differentiated mainly by their weight class.
- Lightweight dual-sport motorcycles. These bikes weigh in the range of 250-pounds to 300-pounds (between 11kg and 140kg). These bikes are closest to true dirt bikes and have long-travel suspensions, high ground clearance, and high mudguards or fenders. They usually come fitted with more aggressive off-road tires. The intended use for these bikes is mostly off-road riding with occasional urban road riding.
- Mid-weight dual-sport motorcycles. The mid-weight bikes weigh from 300-pounds to 350-pounds (between 140kg and 160 kg). The suspension and ground clearance of these motorcycles is more modest than the lightweight versions. The tires fitted to these bikes are generally a dual-purpose on and off-road tire. These compromises make the bike suitable for smooth dirt roads, or trails and they also do well on paved roads. Rough off-road riding and jumps are not in the design scope for this motorcycle.
- The heavyweight dual-sport motorcycle. This motorcycle is sometimes called an adventure bike or an adventure touring bike. They weigh in excess of 350-pounds or 160kg and generally have larger engines than their lightweight and mid-weight counterparts. These motorcycles are designed for more on-road riding with the occasional off-road riding. The kind of off-road riding intended for this bike is smooth dirt road riding or smooth sandy tracks. Rough off-road riding with tight turns and nimbly negotiating boulders and bushes is not this bike’s forte.
Can You use A Dual-Sport Bike For Long Trips?
Yes, you can use a dual-sport bike for long trips, but not all dual-sport bikes are good for this type of riding. There are significant differences between the three classes of dual-sport bikes that determine their suitability for long trips.
|Lightweight Dual-Sport Bike
|Mid-weight Dual-Sport Bike
|Heavyweight Dual-sport Bike
|Long travel suspension that is good for off-road but uncomfortable for long trips
|Suspension travel is not as long as the lightweight bikes, but still long relative to a road bike. Good for dual-purpose use, but not long trips
|These dual-sport bikes are made for a higher on-road to an off-road ratio of riding. The suspension is thus more comfortable for long trips.
|Small fuel tanks for weight reduction result in a limited mileage
|Larger fuel tank, but still limited in light of long trips.
|Large capacity fuel tanks give the bike a good long-distance range.
|Normally fitted with off-road knobbies that are not suitable for regular use on paved roads.
|Dual-purpose tires are fitted, but long trips will result in arm and back fatigue from tire vibration.
|Tires are more for on-road than off-road but can handle dirt roads and tracks too—less tire vibration on paved roads.
|The riding position is further forward, close to the fuel tanks to improve the center of gravity for rough terrain.
|The riding position is also further forward towards the tank, making long hours on the road uncomfortable.
|The riding position is further back, similar to a traditional road bike making long hours of riding more comfortable.
|No luggage carrying capability
|No luggage carrying capacity
|Has luggage carrying capacity.
|Low top speed for touring.
|Better top speed but uncomfortable at higher speeds and less control.
|Good top speed and handles like a road bike on long open highways.
|Long Trip Suitability
|Not suitable for long trips
|Not suitable for long trips, but medium distance trips are achievable.
|This bike is suitable for long trips and is often used in this application.
Lightweight dual-sport bikes are the least suitable for a long trip. Their hard suspension, low fuel capacity, and unsuitable road tires make this bike an unwise choice for a long trip. Any luggage that you want to take with you for your trip would have to be carried in a backpack on your back. This and the uncomfortable forward riding position eliminate this bike as a road trip candidate.
Mid-weight dual-sport bikes are a more comfortable ride for extended hours on the bike, but their riding position is similar to the lightweight bikes and will tire you out on a long trip. Their fuel carrying capacity is greater but will still not get you very far before you need to track down a gas station.
The heavyweight dual-sport, or adventure bikes, are designed specifically for long trips where there is a mixture of dirt roads and paved roads. Their more comfortable riding position, fuel carrying capacity, and ability to carry luggage have made them popular for this type of recreational riding. Their luggage carrying capacity will not allow you to travel with suitcases and the kitchen sink, but it definitely provides enough capacity for a limited supply two-week trip.
The heavyweight dual-sport bikes have long been used in the famed Paris To Dakar rally, which covers thousands of miles over mixed types of terrain. This type of riding showcases these bikes’ duality and the fact that they are suitable for long trips, whether on paved roads or off-road conditions.
Dual-Sport Bike Accessories
Because dual-sport motorcycles are built for rugged terrain, they are customizable to the rider and the type of terrain the rider will traverse most often.
There are many types of aftermarket parts that can be installed on these bikes to enhance their capabilities. Handlebars can be replaced, footpegs can be altered, as can the seat. These can all enhance the comfort of the ride over different terrain and distance.
In fact, there are many more accessories available for these types of motorcycles that I can mention. You can really set-up your motorcycle for the type of riding you expect to do.
Generally, only the mid-weight dual-sport bikes would be modified to extend their travel range by adding large-capacity fuel tanks, luggage racks, and even windscreens that can be added to enhance the bike’s long-distance trip capabilities.
Few modifications need to be made to the adventure bikes for long trips because this is the type of riding these bikes were designed for. However, once again, there are many accessories made for these bikes either from the manufacturers or third-party companies, which allow you to enhance and upgrade certain features of the bike to your own liking.
The dual-sport bikes are designed around their off-road on-road ratio of usage. The lighter bikes are designed to cater to a predominantly off-road experience with the occasional on-road ride.
The mid-weight bikes are for a more 50/50 split of terrain traversing, but their design still leans more toward the off-road characteristics.
The heavy dual-sport bikes are intended for a higher ratio of on-road use than off-road, and the off-road conditions that they can handle are not as rough as what can be traversed by a light dual-sport bike.
The only dual-sport motorcycle that is really suitable for a long trip, especially a long road trip, is the heavyweight class of dual-sport bikes or the adventure touring bikes.
The other dual-sport bikes are not suitable for long trips, and your dream bike trip could quickly become a nightmare should you take on an extended trip on one of these bikes.
This all being said, I still am a firm believer that the best bike for long trips is the one you have!