Dual Sport motorcycles are one of my favourite types of bikes. They allow their riders the freedom to go anywhere and tackle any terrain.
Sure, you can take your adventure built BMW GS around the world, but you can also tackle the most challenging terrain with a lighter weight dual sport and have bags of fun doing so, not wrestling with a 200kg GS in the mud.
Most dual sports will use the basis of an enduro bike, with added features that make them legal and useful on the street, such as headlights, tail-lights, small screens, licence plates etc.
Things like the engine tuning, gear ratios, suspension used, and tyres will also be different to the enduro counterpart to make the bike more usable on the road.
So if you fancy being able to pack a bag and ride until the road ends, then carry on into the dirt tracks through the forest or green lanes, a dual-sport might be for you.
We have gathered the best of the crop here. Let’s take a look.
- Kerb Weight – 153kg
- Engine – 286cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, single-cylinder
- Max Power – 26.9 horsepower
- Max Torque – 26.6 Nm
The CRF300 Rally is undoubtedly one of my favourite motorcycles; its versatility is second to none.
There are two versions of the CRF300, the first being the L and the second the Rally.
The ‘L’ is essentially a more stripped back lightweight version, whereas the Rally comes equipped with some extra features like a screen, fairing and large tank to make going that bit further more comfortable and possible.
Both are built to take on the weekday commute, with all the agility you need to tackle city traffic, but then you can switch things up for the weekend and take you on some off-road adventures.
The light chassis, long suspension, and punchy motor make for a responsive, easy handling machine, backed by Honda’s legacy of reliability and quality assurance.
KTM 500 EXC-F
- Kerb Weight – 115kg
- Engine – 510cc, single-cylinder, fuel-injected, SOHC
- Max Power – 39.4 horsepower
- Max Torque – 37.5 Nm
KTM announced an overhaul of bikes in the lineup to be released in 2023, and the latest 500 EXC-F is a part of that and is lined up to be the multi-tool of KTM’s bikes.
It looks set to be a sledgehammer of all things two wheels, hitting the streets, the dirt and everything in between as hard as it can, precisely and confidently.
KTM has built the dual sport to be powerful but light and agile. It boasts the lightest engine in the 500cc class
The bike is set up with all performance parts and will happily compete in some enduro races if that’s your thing.
Alternatively, it will blast you around town into the back roads and soak up the trails all in a day’s work.
Husqvarna 701 Enduro
- Kerb Weight – 148kg
- Engine – 692cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC,
- Max Power – 78 horsepower
- Max Torque – 73.5 Nm
The 701 Enduro from Husqvarna is one of the best dual-sport motorcycles in the world, ready to tackle the tarmac just as easily as the dirt.
Built with a lightweight chromium-molybdenum steel frame, it is rigid and instils confidence in the rider for precise handling and exceptional stability.
The self-supporting subframe with an integrated fuel tank provides the best possible weight distribution, which ensures the bike is flickable and gives the rider ultimate control.
Rider modes and ABS that can turn on and off gives the rider the ability to control everything and tune the set-up perfectly for the street or off-road.
Premium parts have been used for quality and durability, including Bosch electronics, Brembo brakes, and WP suspension.
It isn’t a bike you need to worry about throwing around, though, because it is built for that very purpose, solid, rugged and powerful.
Aprilia RX 125
- Kerb Weight – 134kg
- Engine – 124.2cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, 4 valves
- Max Power – 14.9 horsepower
- Max Torque – 10.9 Nm
It isn’t just bikes with big capacity engines that fill out the dual-sport category. There are a few smaller machines that will suit new and young riders that have the riding itch.
The Aprilia RX 125 is a well-built, Italian 125cc at home on the streets and off them.
Aprilia’s heritage in off-road racing has influenced the RX 125s design, lightweight, powerful, well-balanced performance bikes that are fun to ride.
The RX comes with ABS as standard to offer new riders that extra bit of safety and a clear instrument panel displaying everything a rider could need to know at any given time while riding.
It is a sporty looking bike, with impressive ground clearance, a light chassis, wide bars, and a high exhaust, all the signs of a good dual-sport motorcycle.
Rieju MRT 50 SM Pro/MRT 125 SM Pro
- Kerb Weight – 100kg/ 130kg
- Engine – Minarelli 50cc, two-stroke, liquid-cooled/ Yamaha, four-stroke, 125cc, liquid-cooled
Rieju also caters to the new and young rider segment, even producing a smaller 50cc geared bike for those who want to get started at 16.
The MRT SM Pro comes in both a 50cc and 125cc version. They are race-derived lightweight monsters that will have young riders itching to go on adventures all over the place, and with the Rieju, that is perfectly possible.
The 50cc uses a Mineralli two-stroke engine, whereas the 125cc uses a Yamaha four-stroke.
Both bikes use premium parts, including Marzocchi forks, Pro Alloy handlebars, Domino race grips and an Aluminium swingarm.
They are lightweight, with rally type tyres to suit a variety of conditions, perfectly agile and precise in their steering; both models will do the ride to college/work and then take you to hit the track.
Despite their small capacity, both bikes aren’t here to play. They are serious machines, ready to tackle the most demanding conditions and have serious amounts of fun.
SWM RS 500 R/SM 500 R
- Kerb Weight – 116kg/ 120kg
- Engine – Single-cylinder, four-stroke, 501cc, DOHC
- Max Power – 29 horsepower
There are two versions of the 500 R from SWM, an Enduro and Supermoto version, with the main difference being a change of tyres for off-road ones for the Enduro model.
The RS 500 R is marketed as a light off-road enduro for non-extreme off-roading, whereas the SM 500 R is aimed at more road riding and comes with ABS that can be deactivated at the rear.
Both are road legal, and the choice to be made between them is whether you are going to be doing more road riding or more dirt trails, as they both slightly lean into one more than the other.
KAYABA upside-down forks and Progressive single hydraulic rear shocks are used on both models, along with Brembo single-disc brakes front and back.
There are plenty of videos on Youtube of riders having bags of fun on both the RS and SM bikes.
- Kerb Weight – 112kg/ 131 kg
- Engine – Electric powertrain with a 46-mile range or 91-mile range
- Max Power – 27hp / 46 hp
- Max Torque – 106 Nm
Moving with the times in which we live, it wouldn’t be to ignore one of the coolest new bikes to hit the dual-sport market.
The Zero FX is an electric dual-sport.
I have to say it is a pretty futuristic, good looking motorcycle that is also incredibly practical and capable of some adventures.
There are two engine options available, with one the equivalent of a 250cc and the other a 500cc. The bigger one offers a longer range for the battery and around 46 horsepower.
However, both bikes have a max torque of 106 Nm, which is masses of torque for bikes weighing 112kg/131kg, respectively.
Suspension is long, ground clearance high, mudguards raised and bars wide for ultimate control.
With a max speed of 85mph and loads of torque, the FX is more than capable around town, on the back roads and even more so at home playing in the dirt.
Herald Brat 250X
- Kerb Weight – 147kg
- Engine – 223cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled
- Max Power – 14.7 horsepower
- Max Torque – 12 Nm
Herald are known for their funky 125cc bikes, but more recently have started to dabble in 250’s and 500cc machines.
The Brat 250X is a throwback to the first British bikes like BSA and Triumph when riders would take their lightweight machines and throw on off-road tyres making the early Scramblers.
Using this heritage, the BratX is a lightweight bike with some knobbly tyres, a raised exhaust pipe and a good amount of ground clearance for tackling some light trails.
LED lighting all-round, Renthal fat bars and grips, USD forks and Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres are standard.
Herald prices their bikes very competitively, so the BratX would be a good choice for someone who has a tighter budget or wants a lightweight dual-sport as a secondary bike to add to their garage.
Fantic XMF 125 Performance
- Kerb Weight – 127kg
- Engine – Single-cylinder, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, 125cc
- Max Power – 15 horsepower
- Max Torque – 11.8 Nm
Fantic has a lightweight dual sport to add to the mix, using a brand new Minarelli four-stroke 125cc engine that meets Euro 5 regulations.
The engine pushes Fantic into the realm of Japanese dirt bikes using electronic fuel injection and a Variable Valve Actuation system.
Just because a bike is a 125cc doesn’t mean it can’t make the most of its performance, and the VVA creates a quick response and impressive acceleration at all times.
The XMF couldn’t just have the latest engine, though. It is housed in a CrMo steel frame for lightweight durability and rigidity.
Everything has been reviewed, even down to the ergonomics to make the bike more comfortable, a new plush saddle, a variable action swingarm, and it has been lowered by 35mm to make it more accessible to riders.
Royal Enfield Himalayan
- Kerb Weight – 199kg
- Engine – Single-cylinder, four-stroke, 411cc, air/oil-cooled
- Max Power – 24.3 horsepower
- Max Torque – 32 Nm
Arguably more of an Adventure bike, the Himalayan sits in a small class with the BMW G310 GS as lightweight adventure machines.
However, the very nature of a ‘lightweight ADV bike’ to me lends itself to be more simply called a dual-sport motorcycle.
Whatever you want to class it is, as the Himalayan has proven itself (along with every other Royal Enfield) to be capable of tackling the toughest terrain in the Indian mountains and cities.
So one would think that it is more than capable of anything the UK roads and trails have to offer.
The 400cc engine has enough grunt for any UK road. It breezes around town for your commute and will cruise on the dual carriageway for as long as you need.
However, where it comes to life is on the back roads; the bike’s agility means you can throw it into the corners with ease.
Being super lightweight, rolling through some green lanes with the bike will be a breeze.
The seating position is nice and upright, comfortable and commanding, so you are in control and confident whatever your terrain.
Maybe the Himalayan is an imposter in the dual-sport world, but it is a flipping good one and a worthy contender, in my opinion.