Aug 2, 2013

What is "Dual Sport?"

The next issue of MMM is going to be focused on "dual sport" motorcycles. Turns out, I have no idea what that designation means any more. Among the bikes the editor considers "dual sport" are:
  • BMW F 800 GS/Adventure
  • BMW R 1200 GS/Adventure
  • KTM 990 SM-T Supermoto
  • KTM 990 Adventure Baja
  • KTM 1190 Adventure
  • Moto Guzzi’s Stelvio 1200 NTX
  • Suzuki DL V-Strom 650 Adventure
  • Suzuki DL V-Strom 1000 Adventure
  • Triumph Tiger 800
  • Triumph Tiger 800 XC
  • Triumph Tiger Explorer
  • Yamaha’s XTZ12 Super Tenere
I admit that I'm confused. For one, why isn't the Honda NC700X in this group? It's at least as off-road worthy as everything up there except, maybe, the KTMs. I don't think I've seen a single picture of Scott Jarrett's Honda on New Mexico pavement, so I know it is gravel-capable.  As far as I can see, this whole group of motorcycles is as off-road worthy as modern SUVs. In other words, it's possible but generally a bad idea.

I'm fine with the "adventure touring" genre. Just as SUV is another word for "station wagon," adventure touring means "standard motorcycle with tough looking bags, a plain paint job, and a buttload of farkles." But if the above list is dual purpose, what is the second purpose? Obviously, the main purpose is highway touring with some off-pavement roads. That's only one purpose. Just being able to ride the same roads everyone else can take on their family sedan is not a second purpose. I’m here to tell you that the V-Strom is not a capable single-track motorcycle and it is all but worthless in a hill climb. It is at least as capable as the rest of this list, though.

These guys discovered that four of these hippos were less than nimble off-road:

So, if these bikes are dual sport, what is a Yamaha XT250, WR250R, the Honda CRF250L or XL650L, anything Husky makes, Kawasaki's KLR and KLX bikes, KTM's 690 Enduro, or Suzuki's DRs? Seriously, I'm confused (as usual). I think we may have lost something important in the chase for marketing bullshit.


RichardM said...

So, how much hate mail has this generated?

T.W. Day said...

None, yet.

Andy said...

As an owner of a 2004 Triumph Tiger 955i, I can give you an accurate assessment of this. I take my Tiger off pavement as often as possible around Oregon. The problem I run into is the weight of the bike. Heavier is better for high speed touring, i.e. more stable at speed and wind resistant. Lighter is far superior for offroad, i.e. you are going to drop it and have to pick it up by yourself. So I think anything that weighs in at over 190kg is far to heavy to be picking it up repeatedly. Also the smaller bikes are more suitable for trail riding and far more maneuverable in the woods. They are not nearly as suited for highway riding for extended distances. The suspension is also hugely different. I mean really.. would you launch a Honda Goldwing off a Freestyle FMX ramp.. NO.. but a fully loaded R1200 GSA weighs about the same. The biggest limitation of the BIG bikes, is rider ability. Sure, people with extensive offroad riding backround will be able to push the limits further. Over time, I have learned what I can and shouldn't do on the Tiger. I am sure I could push it further with full on offroad tires, but then I wouldn't be able run twisties at double the recommended speed.. It is always a compromise, so they will never be as great as a purpose built motorcycle. They are great fun though and will soak up the worst pavement, handle some light offroad and tour all day long and ask for more. You just really need to be realistic with your expectations of both the bike and of yourself.


T.W. Day said...

Some riders appear to have no limitations. I suspect Bobby Hannah could ride anything over a motocross track or Dougie Lampkin up or down stairs or Kenny can slide anything around anything. However, the purpose of classifications is to provide some guidance for buyers with less spectacular skills. I absolutely see the Tiger as a solid "adventure touring bike," but I can't imagine it on an endure trail. Having had to haul my V-Strom out of a 2' deep tractor rut to turn the rig around after a North Dakoka "gravel road" turned into a path to an irrigated corn field, I just don't see these hippos as viable off-road motorcycles.