With the development of dual sport motorcycles, that began to change. These best-of-both-worlds bikes are designed with most of the important features of a dirt bike, such as a high suspension and knobby tires. But they include features that make them street legal to ride all the way to the trail or track, and some are even suitable for riding in general contexts beyond that.
Now, in 2021, dual sport motorcycles are a fast-growing market with a ton of great models to offer. Below, we’ll take a look at six of the best.
1. KTM 690 Enduro R
KTM is one of the industry’s leading names in adventure and dual sport bikes, and their flagship 690 Enduro R is a clear lesson in how they continue to innovate and push forward. At almost $12,000, the Enduro R certainly doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re looking for a dual sport with killer performance, it doesn’t get much better than this.
2. Husqvarna FE 450
The FE series are well-known and well-loved among dirt bike enthusiasts, and this year’s model of the FE 450 is the perfect balance of performance and plain old fun. It’s incredibly light and agile, with a chrome-molybdenum frame providing durable performance, an ultra-light engine that kicks out tons of power and a redesigned front fork that’s designed specifically for enduro riding. If your riding needs tend more toward the off-road, but you still need some on-road versatility, this Husqy is a great choice.
3. Suzuki DR650S
Another bike with enough truly roadworthy power to hang with regular motorcycles, the DR650S is a great example of the ultra-practical approach that’s made Suzuki one of the biggest names in dirt and dual sport bikes for several decades. This one has an old-school feel with a carburetor and air-cooled engine, making it perfect for the cranky old head who complains that they don’t build ’em like they used to.
4. Suzuki VanVan
Not every dual sport rider wants to ride something that looks like a street legal dirt bike, and that’s where the Suzuki VanVan comes in. This dual sport is modeled after the popular cafe racer style, and its retro cool has made it a favorite among younger riders. The VanVan is precision tuned to perform equally well on city streets as it does on the trail and track, and a pleated seat helps keep you comfy on long riding days. But maybe the most appealing touch is a pair of extra-wide tires that help stabilize the bike and, honestly, just look damn cool.
5. Zero FX
The rollout of fully electric cars has been long and fraught, but the electric dirt bike and dual sport industry has actually been thriving for years. Zero is a leading manufacturer in this sector, and the FX is their latest electric masterpiece. Perhaps its best feature is an accompanying app that makes it easy to switch from preprogrammed dirt to pavement modes, but the fully electric powertrain and satisfyingly gangly suspension are no slouches either. Cue up the Captain Planet theme song in your bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers and get to shredding.
6. Honda CRF300L
Honda makes nearly every other kind of motorized vehicle, so hey, why not dual sports? And, of course, the Japanese company pulls off the CF300L with the aplomb that they bring to all of their motorcycles. This model keeps things simple with a single-cylinder engine, but wrings a whole heap of torque out of the engine’s 286cc. It’s a superb entry- to mid-level model, and with starting prices for most trims under $6,000, you could probably afford to pick one up even if you don’t strictly need it.
Just starting out with dirt bikes and dual sports? Read our dirt bike guide for beginners to learn how to get started the right way. And when you’re assembling the essential dirt bike gear, make sure to also check out our guide to cool motorcycle gifts for your rider friends and family, including motorcycle Bluetooth headsets that will blow you away with their quality and reliability.