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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking into getting a dual sport because I want to get into riding off-road. And learning wheelies on a cheaper bike might be tempting haha.

How different are the dual sports out there? I don't really understand what to look for..
If it helps I'm about 6 ft 200 pounds.

I'll also be doing slight freeway rides to get to the mountains maybe 25 miles - 50 miles tops.

Also what gear should I be looking into? For protection of myself and the bike.. Also mods that are essential for off-road use.. (like tires)
 

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Dual sports are the part of motorcycling where compromise comes to the forefront in a big way. They're not great street bikes nor are they great off road. You can tweek them to be better, say, in the dirt, but then street performance can suffer. Either way, if you can overlook they're deficiencies, they can be fun, fun, fun!

If I was buying one my pick would be the
XR 650L

I've owned Honda XR650L, a Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, and a DR200 dual sports. The V-Strom qualified as more of an Adventure Bike tho. I've also owned XR, DRZ, YZ, CRF ETC... But those were dirt only.

The DL ruled on the super slab. I freeway commuted it regularly. The fairing cut the wind on cold commutes on the freeway. For dirt I only ever did fire roads with it. Couldn't see it as a real bushwhacker.

The XR650L was the best all around-er. Its a legit dirt bike with good long travel suspension. Bikes tall for me, I'm 5'9". Ya do feet up slides on this beast. And on the stock tires, off road, slide you will. It worked on the freeway as the motor was appropriate for that use. But your way up there in the wind and get blown around quite a bit at speed. If I were going to buy a D.S. it'd be this one.

The DR200 was a likeable bike. I put DOT knobbies on it and the worked pretty good off road with those tires for trail rides. The suspension was more street, it'd bottom in the rough stuff. And on the freeway, the combination of knobby tires, and the engine practically redlining, made those rides a little hair raising.
 

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Also what gear should I be looking into? For protection of myself and the bike.. Also mods that are essential for off-road use.. (like tires)
Use the gear your MX buddies use. Full face, goggles, gloves, chest protector, jersey and riding pants with some padding but more importantly breathable, youll be working harder off road. Leather up if your going to spend any time on the super slab. If your getting crazy in the dirt consider a Leatt neck brace. And of course a good pair of boots. Your feet take more abuse off-road than on the street.

I crashed on a steep downhill once and bent my front brake rotor. A good cover for that? (If the bike doesn't have one.)

A little trick- leave your front levers just loose enough on the bars, that they spin around the bars in stead of bending, in the event of a crash.

Tires? I put some D.O.T. Approved Knobs on the DR. I think they were Metzelers. Better off-road than the stockers, but it's a different dance riding real dirt knobbies on the pavement.
 
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My best advice on dual sports is this: get one that you can not only pick up by yourself when you drop it in the dirt, but one that you can pick up multiple times in one day. A friend had a KTM 990 and after riding the Colorado Back Country for 3 days, downsized to a 690 because he couldn't pick up the 990 out of a ditch without help and doing it several times in one day got really old really fast.
 

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Was gonna say, I'd recommend the WR250R for a first dual sport. It's a great little bike with awesome top-end maintenance intervals of 25.5k miles. The other benefit of the WR is it's relatively light for a dual sport and much lighter than the xr650L. As a beginner in off-roading, a lighter bike is much preferential to a heavier bike. Like rogue mentioned, you're going to drop the bike when you head out and it's probably going to be in a very awkward position where you may not have a good lifting foundation to work with. The WR being just under 300lbs is about as light as they come without being a 2-stroke motocross bike or a$15k european race bike. The other benefits I liked about the WR compared to the other bikes is a much better quality suspension. the WR comes with a fully adjustable suspension and decent 50/50 tires. The other thing to consider with the lighter bike and what makes it generally easier is that it generally takes a lot less effort with the smaller bike to get it through places and it's not as heavy and doesn't tend to dig in as much. It wont have as much torque of the larger bikes, but can be revved much higher than they can be and likes to be kept up higher. On the highway the WR performs just fine since it actually has a sixth gear and I've taken it on the freeway quite a few times and it does just fine. I'm not owning up the fast lane like I would be on the super bike, but it does just fine and can go faster than the average speed driver on a CA freeway. It feels very similar to the ninja 300 as far as engine performance and characteristics so it should feel fairly familiar.

Another good choice is the DRZ-400S. Lighter than the 650s and smaller but with a little more power and torque than the WR and is air/oil cooled and carbed liked the XRL compared to the WR with has FI and is liquid cooled. If I were doing the first dual-sport thing again, I'd still stick with either the WR or the DRZ-400S. I personally prefer to stay away from the much heavier 650s as to me they feel more like an underpowered adventure-touring bike and less dual-sport. I've known people who've down some fairly technical stuff on klr650s and XR650ls and all of them have said it sucked and took a lot of work and was much more difficult than if they had used a smaller and lighter bike. Don't sweat the lower power of the WR or DRZ, it's lighter weight and smaller and more manageable size makes it a better off-road dual sport for the newbie off-roader than the bigger tractors. Both the WR250R and DRZ-400s stock tires will do fine for most basic off-roading you'd probably find yourself in as a newbie, just watch out for mud really. As far as gear, you should be in road-quality gear if you're going to be on regular roads in order to reach your destination. It's a hard question as you need to weigh your needs very carefully. Road protection tends to be mostly friction/sliding protection while most off-roading gear tends to be impact protection based. Off-roading you tend to be going much slower, especially when in the woods, and sliding isn't nearly as much concern as falling down on some rocks or a stump etc. It's something you're going to have to think long and hard about. Do you care more about protecting yourself on the road to the off-roading riding or more protection for the off-road riding? The other option of course is to bring a pack of some sort and just change your gear out when you get to the trail. Most dedicated off-roaders that I've seen usually use chest, arm, leg and knee padding under jerseys. The big thing to consider though are good quality off-road boots. You may not realize it now because you haven't done any off-roading yet but you feet get hit. a lot. Everything from branches to rocks to nearly everything else you could think of out there and you'll probably have it hit your feet. This gets exacerbated a bit more on a dual sport or any other off-road bike as they don't have full-sized street bike pegs like you're used to. They tend to have much smaller and thicker pegs to lessen the likely hood of getting hung up on the pegs. This means though that your feet will often be taking the brunt of it. A good boot type that works on and off-road would be something along the adventure touring line. That way it's not too stiff for on-road use and walking like a MX or trials boot is but is still quite a bit more protection than what you'd have from a pure street boot.
 

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I'm too old now to be riding hard off-road, but I got my start in a Suzuki 185 trail bike in 1975. I was constantly replacing stuff from dropping the bike...clutch covers, levers, turn signals, even a headlight once, so it can become expensive if you ride it hard. A lot of the trails around then are gone unfortunately and there are very few trails for off-road riding in many parts of the country now. Yes, if you have knobby tires, they don't do very well on the street. I think if I were going that route now, I would get a dedicated trail bike and haul it to where I planned to ride and get a street bike for street riding. We do seem to have a lot of dual sports for sale on Craigslist in my area even if they do seem overpriced.
 

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I'm too old now to be riding hard off-road, but I got my start in a Suzuki 185 trail bike in 1975. I was constantly replacing stuff from dropping the bike...clutch covers, levers, turn signals, even a headlight once, so it can become expensive if you ride it hard. A lot of the trails around then are gone unfortunately and there are very few trails for off-road riding in many parts of the country now. Yes, if you have knobby tires, they don't do very well on the street. I think if I were going that route now, I would get a dedicated trail bike and haul it to where I planned to ride and get a street bike for street riding. We do seem to have a lot of dual sports for sale on Craigslist in my area even if they do seem overpriced.
It's not a Suzuki 185, but kind of similar..

What about Suzuki VanVan 200?

USA: http://www.suzukicycles.com/Product Lines/Cycles/Products/RV200/2017/RV200.aspx
Canada: https://www.suzuki.ca/?q=en/node/4122
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Going to look into the WR 250.

Lightweight seems like a good way to go.
 
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