What is dual sport? What’s the purpose of a dual sport bike?

What is dual sport? In the world of motorbikes, there are many classifications and purpose-built bikes that it is easy to get lost in the definitions. Manufacturers creating new categories to make their bikes unique doesn’t help new buyers figure out precisely what they want.

It can be challenging to spot a dual bike between dirt bikes, sports bikes, cruisers, and tourers. In reality, they have been around for as long as motorcycles exist, and they are an ideal choice for an all-purpose bike.

What is dual sport?

A dual-sport motorcycle is a type of street-legal motorcycle that is designed for both on and off-road use. The terms all-road, on/off road, and dual-purpose are also used for this class of motorcycles. Dual-sports are equipped with street-legal equipment such as lights, speedometer, mirrors, horn, license plate mounting, and muffler and can, therefore, be registered and licensed.

What is dual sport

History dual sport

When motorcycles first appeared on the brink of the 20th century, most roads were still unpaved. Although classifications were nonexistent at the time, the very first bikes were by application dual-sport, made to handle both dirt and paved roads. This theory is further validated by the ads from the time, which often depicted bikes kicking up dirt and dust.

Modernization of city and open roads was widespread by the beginning of the Second World War, phasing out the dual sport bikes in favor of larger, street-oriented design. However, dual sport bikes retained their popularity in rural areas, where dirt roads were still prevalent.

Released in 1968, Yamaha DT-1 is widely credited for the revival of dual-sport bikes. At the time, the motorcycle market was slow, but Yamaha’s research correctly identified a lack of off-road bikes, resulting in the quick sales of the initial 12,000 DT-1s.

The competition saw Yamaha’s success and quickly joined in with “Enduro” models, solidifying dual-sport bikes’ presence on the market.

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A general definition describes dual-sport bikes as street-legal motorcycles that can handle both on-road and off-road use. All-road and dual-purpose bikes are the most common name variants deriving from the application.

There is no strict definition for the dual-sport bike’s weight, power, or even application. Primarily used for marketing, the term is interchangeable with Enduro bikes and adventure bikes.

However, among the consumers, the widely accepted requirements are versatility and all-road capabilities. When translated into the auto industry, a dual sport bike would be a sports or crossover utility vehicle.

Types of dual sport

The lack of formal classification allows manufacturers to explore many design philosophies when creating dual-sport bikes. From lightweight bikes with small single-cylinder engines to heavy but powerful models, there is too much variation to judge a bike simply by its design.

It is recommended to check the manufacturer’s brochure and manual to see the intended use for any particular bike.

What is dual sport

The manufacturing process differs significantly, with four prevalent ways manufacturers handle the process:

  • Take an off-road motorcycle and make it compliant with road regulations by adding lights, mirrors, a horn, license plate mounting, a speedometer, and a muffler. This approach creates powerful and lightweight bikes at the expense of shorter operating life and expensive maintenance.
  • Design a new model with off-road capability and adequate performance on asphalt, characterized by enhanced durability and weight compared to dual-sport bikes based on dirt bikes.
  • Take a street bike and modify it for off-road use. This type has superior on-road handling and control but cannot handle the actual off-road conditions.
  • Customize a dirt bike to comply with regulations. Instead of getting a factory adaptation, a used dirt bike makes for an inexpensive platform equipped with the bare minimum to satisfy registration criteria.

Dual sport bikes can be classified by their weight and application. With every new model, the boundaries are shifted and blurred, but the physics and manufacturing limitations give an off-road edge to lighter bikes. In contrast, the heavier models are more comfortable on paved roads.

  • Lightweight models weigh up to 300 pounds and have a strong resemblance to dirt bikes. The most prominent characteristics are high fenders and ground clearance, long-travel suspension, and off-road tires.
  • Middleweight models weigh between 300 and 350 pounds. Ground clearance and suspension travel are decreased in favor of a more comfortable ride. They represent the most versatile option to comfortably get you to the off-road path and handle it reasonably well.
  • Heavyweight models surpass 350 pounds and are primarily suited for on-road use. They are an excellent option for long rides where you might drive over poor asphalt and dirt roads to get to more remote locations.
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Adventure bikes can be considered a subset of dual-sport bikes from the heavyweight category. Equipped with oversized gas tanks, luggage containers, they are an excellent alternative to the standard touring bike thanks to the lower weight and better control. However, despite the focus on long-trip capabilities, they are still less comfortable than the tourers.

The difference between dual sport and adventure motorcycles

Here’s a few of our observations:

Purpose and Design

Simply stated, in our estimation a dual sport motorcycle is basically a dirt bike for the street, whereas an adventure bike is basically a road bike for the dirt. The overall design and styling cues of each usually lend themselves to identifying the bike type.

Dual sports bear an uncanny resemblance to motocross machines, while adventure bikes tend to look, well, like a marriage between a sport tourer and a large, long-legged dual sport.

Displacement and Capacity

Dual sport motorcycles traditionally are smaller displacement (often 500cc or less) singles or twins, while adventures tend to be larger (650cc on up) twins, triples or 4-bangers.

Dual sports also tend to have shorter range due to small fuel tank capacity, whereas ADV bikes usually have large tanks, 4+ gallons and larger, for longer rides in the saddle. Both have long-travel suspensions, but in our experiences so far, the larger adventure machines have tended to be a bit taller than their dual sport counterparts.

What is dual sport

There are exceptions to these of course- the Suzuki DR650S is considered a large dual sport, while the Royal Enfield Himalayan is a smaller adventure bike running a 411cc single thumper mill. Someone is always bucking convention.

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Accessories and Price Tag

Adventure motorcycles can be kitted out for world travel, literally, with entire brand catalogs of OEM farkles and aftermarket goodies to fully accessorize them for all kinds of environments.

An entire industry has risen to create and produce elements for adventure touring- clothing, gear, luggage, bike parts, you name it. Dual sport bikes can be outfitted with many add-ons as well, but the segment hasn’t gone nuts with offerings like the ADV market has.

The dual sporters we know tend to keep their bikes fairly stripped of creature comforts, preferring to hit the dirt (or street) with more minimalist rigs. You’ll tend to spend under $10K for a rock-solid dual sport, but (most) adventure bikes tend to have much higher price tags than that.

Rider Types

Another observation we’ve noted is this- owners of adventure motorcycles, while kitting out their bikes like they’re riding across Asia and dressing to match, mostly ride on the street, and roll only occasional dirt/gravel. And that’s exactly what makes ADV bikes such a fantastic choice for so many. Heck, that’s our attraction to adventure bikes.

Dual sport riders tend to be very dirt-oriented in our view, spending weekends riding trails, single and dual track, hard pack, etc. astride their bikes, using pavement only as necessary.


What is the purpose of a dual sport bike?

A general definition describes dual-sport bikes as street-legal motorcycles that can handle both on-road and off-road use. All-road and dual-purpose bikes are the most common name variants deriving from the application.

Is dual sport a dirt bike?

Dual sport bikes offer the best of both worlds – at home doing both on and off-road riding. The dual sport motorcycle is basically a street legal dirt bike and is the ideal ride for those who like the idea of riding their bike out of town to the desert or woods for a bit of weekend trail riding.

Can dual sport bikes go on highway?

A street legal dual sport motorcycle can be ridden on Freeways and Interstate highways if it meets the minimum requirement of 50cc engine size (125cc or 150cc in some states). Some states may have minor variations in regulation so be sure to check your local laws if in doubt.

Above is information about What is dual sport? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of The difference between dual sport and adventure motorcycles. Thank you for reading our post.

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