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Dual-Sport Versus "Adventure-Touring" Motorcycle—Which is Better?

dirt motorcycle dirt motorcycle forum off-road motorcycle dual-sport motorcycle motorcycle forum dirt bike discussion overland motorcycling motorcycle adventure motorcycle backcountry riding

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#1 Moses Ludel

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 03:30 PM

There's a loyal following for many of the "adventure-touring" motorcycles, cycles like the KTM 990 Adventure or BMW F800GS and 1200GS.  On the other hand, many dirt bike riders are now turning to "plated" dirt bikes, bridging the gap between asphalt and a desert enduro bike. Do we need to draw a literal "line in the sand" about what makes a legitimate off-pavement motorcycle?

Attached File  XR350R Mag.jpg   113.23KB   2 downloads

I have ridden this '84 XR350R for nearly two decades and also own an '84 XR500R. Despite growing parts availability issues, these bikes are failsafe mounts for open desert riding. For the magazine's 2012 King of the Hammers coverage, I took the XR350R to Johnson Valley.  A dual-sport conversion for plating this cycle has been considered, if so, highway riding would be limited.  I would not hesitate to take this machine over the Rubicon Trail and often ride to remote desert and mountain reaches!

 

For decades, I have ridden dirt bikes (primarily Honda XRs) in single track woods and open desert.  I have ridden on asphalt for over half a century, beginning with motorcycles like a vintage BSA 650 Lightning, a Victor 441 and a Rocket III 750.  More recently, my highway cycles were an older BMW 80GS boxer, a Honda GL1500 Goldwing and a BMW Kll00LT. 

 

Despite my respect for high end adventure touring motorcycles like the KTM 990 Adventure, I have an opinion and will share it: Serious dirt bike riding requires a true dirt bike—adventure-touring bikes, even the best of them, are no match for a true enduro motorcycle off the pavement...

 

KTM, Yamaha, Honda, the Christini AWD DS and others now offer serious dirt motorcycles that meet DOT and EPA highway requirements for street legal use.  (I do not include Kawasaki's KLR among "lightweight" dirt plated bikes, as the beloved KLR650 has crept from 325 pounds to a porky 432 pounds in recent years!)  As an open desert and single track woods rider, I am drawn to these bikes.

 

Unless a lot of asphalt is in the plan, I believe a true dirt bike with D.O.T. approved knobby tires is the best mount for serious off-pavement use—and moderate distance road riding...

 

Contemporary dirt motorcycles with minimalist D.O.T. equipment weigh under 300 pounds.  An adventure touring beast can run over 500 pounds, in particular a road-ready machine like the BMW 1200GS.  While I truly appreciate the handling, safety and highway agility of a BMW motorcycle, jerking a 525-plus pound motorcycle out of a sand trap is not my idea of a good time...For those who do think of this as an "adventure", I heartily recommend Warn Industries' new line of portable winches designed for adventure touring motorcycles.

 

Admittedly, the plated dirt bikes are minimalist and intended that way: A KTM 500 EXC tips the scale around 250 pounds...These machines remain true enduro motorcycles.  Slightly higher in weight is the AWD Christini, coming in at 288 pounds with two-wheel drive traction, a worthy trade-off and ready solution for those sand traps! 

 

Before adventure touring motorcycle aficionados boycott this forum, let me add that I have owned a BMW 80GS and a BMW K1100LT.  Each was terrific—on the highway.  "In the day", I owned BSA motorcycles, including a 441cc Victor, and despite the Victor's lighter weight, it was a stodgy motorcycle off-pavement.  Today's dirt motorcycles would run circles around a Victor—or any other vintage "enduro" or "scrambler" motorcycle with vertical rear shock-coil springs!

 

So, I'm raising these questions: 1) Is there a place for adventure touring motorcycles off-pavement?  2) Can a rider on a lightweight dual-sport with DOT knobby tires survive much time on the asphalt—if so, how much?  What are your views on each motorcycle design?...Join this forum and share your off-pavement experiences and preferences!

 

Moses

 

 



#2 dabneyr

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 01:29 PM

I own a KTM 990 Adventure R and a KTM 500 EXC.  I have been riding both dual sport and adventure bikes for several years now.  I ride both off-road and the experience is very different.  I was a little initimidated when I bought my first ADV bike riding it off-road.  But once you get used to it and you know it's limitations, you can go nearly anywhere a smaller bike can go and have just as much fun.  It's just at a slower speed.  The challenge of riding a heavy bike makes it interesting on trails that would be boring on a smaller bike.

 

The mindset is different... When I'm on my adventure bike I am out looking to explore and cruise.  I want to be comfortable and enjoy the scenery.  When I"m on my small dual sport, I'm out there to haul ass and tear it up.  It is very physical and fast paced.  The point is to get a thrill out of attacking the trail on a smaller bike for me.  You can do that in spurts on the big Adventure Bikes as long as you are cautious.

 

1) Is there a place for adventure touring motorcycles off-pavement? 

Yes, but this is not a replacement for small dual sports.  The purpose of having a big Adventure Bike is for long distance multi-day touring that includes camping.  You need a big bike to carry all your gear.  You want something comfortable and fast enough to keep up with traffic on the highway.  Then riding on dirt roads that are not too rocky or technical is absolutely a blast.  But you don't want to take on the Rubicon Trail.  Use a different bike for that.

 

2) Can a rider on a lightweight dual-sport with DOT knobby tires survive much time on the asphalt—if so, how much?  What are your views on each motorcycle design?...Join this forum and share your off-pavement experiences and preferences!

I don't think you should be on pavement for more than 20-30 minutes at a time on a small dual sport.  I just feel like I'm eating up my knobbies and it's uncomfortable.  Also, you just don't have enough range on the tank for long blasts on the highway if your goal is to get to a trail.  Put the bike in the truck to get to the trails, then ride all day.  If you need to get on the pavement to link up trails for 20-30 minutes it's fine.

 

I don't think people should try to learn how to ride off-road on a full sized adventure bike.  That's a mistake a lot of people make.  Start with a small dual sport or smaller adventure bike in the 650cc range to learn off-road riding technique.

 



#3 dabneyr

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 01:37 PM

If you think you can't go off-road on a big adventure bike, check these guys out.  A group of three adventure riders "completed" the Rubicon Trail riding KTM 990 Adventures...

http://www.advpulse....dventure-bikes/



#4 Moses Ludel

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 02:54 PM

Dabneyr...Welcome to the forums and thanks for these thoughtful opening posts! 

 

Our views stack up identically on these bike types, you have the ideal situation with the KTM 990 and a KTM 500 EXC, my first pick for a new factory dual-sport, though I like the Christini AWD, too!  (Come on, Honda, where's the big thumper dual-sport?)  You made two well considered choices. 

 

My sense for the KTM 990's attributes is its road handling option.  DOT knobbies on a dual-sport like my Honda XR650R (a dual sport conversion) can be brutal, not to mention the rapid tread wear on asphalt!  Good thing I have my own tire mounting equipment...

 

It all comes down to riding venues.  Like you share, Adventures and BMWs have done amazing things. The limit for me, however, is the pounding depicted in the first Ewan McGregor/Charlie Boorman documentary, 'Long Way Round'.  (They fared a bit better in 'Long Way Down'.)  The broken frame from 800 pounds of loaded girth (weight like a GL1500 Gold Wing we owned)  is not my preference.  I can TIG weld but not without a welder.  Miles from nowhere in Mongolia, this is not a pretty picture.  What is the maximum load you've placed on the KTM 990?  Off-pavement?

 

My plans for the Honda XR650R are tentatively 80% on-dirt and 20% asphalt.  I respect your approach, and I'm assuming the KTM 500 EXC (great cycle, looking forward to hearing more about your experiences!) is primarily dirt.  In fairness, the KTM 990 would be well suited for two-track gravel roads, which dot most of rural Nevada.  The recent Icon pseudo-documentary "Raiden Files" says so much about great riders with larger adventure touring cycles.  Triumph must be dancing on the ceiling from the publicity!

 

I'm looking forward to getting the Honda XR650R in form, intended as a video filming platform for Moab, KOH/KOM and documentary work.  For DOT tires, I'm targeting Michelin.  The cycle's dry weight is 280 pounds, most concede this is a hefty dirt bike at 310-plus wet pounds in dual-sport conversion form, and I'll likely be toting another 25 pounds of gear.  (I'm actually training now, reducing a dozen pounds of my own "curb weight" to keep this riding package within reason.)  The current upper engine work and tune are aimed at ultra reliability while working hard...I do the Rubicon Trail with the Wheelers for the Wounded these days.  Have not decided whether to subject this XR650R to such punishment...

 

Your KTM 500 EXC has the edge for weight and should be a remarkably nimble and "flick-able" cycle off-pavement.  Where are your riding venues for the two cycles?  I'm very excited about your participation at this dual-sport and adventure touring forum!  Would be great to see your cycles at the Photo Gallery/Garage!

 

Enjoy the forums and thanks for your shared enthusiasm for cycles, Dabneyr!

 

Moses



#5 dabneyr

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 10:32 PM

The Long Way Around was hard to watch sometimes. The bikes were so overloaded with stuff.  I know they were filming, but it seemed like they had a lot more equipment than they needed.  I like to pack as light as possible, even on the big bike.  I try to find ways to save weight and space any opportunity I can get because it makes the bike more enjoyable to ride off-road.  Usually, I ride with just a medium sized waterproof bag on the back of the 990 and no panniers.  Off-road with panniers can be dangerous, but they are very convenient for getting to your things.

 

Raiden Files was definitely all the riders and not the bikes.  Every article review of the Triumph 800XC made a lot of criticisms of the bike's off-road capabilities.  But they were riding them like they were motocross bikes in that video. That's what a professional rider can do for you.  Most people buying these bikes are not anywhere close to that skill level.  It was a great video to watch though!

 

The XR650R has a special spot in my heart.  Sweet bike if you have it dialed in. They are scary fast when you put the power up kit on them.  And bulletproof.  I wouldn't recommend the Rubicon on the XR though. It's doable but that kickstart will get you worn out quickly.  

 

Where am I riding?  I ride all over but my main areas are around Southern and Central California.  I've been doing a lot of riding around Lake Isabella lately on the 500. We go down to Baja every year usually too.  Just got back from a trip on the Adventure Bikes in December.  It was a great trip riding 8 days from San Diego to Cabo, then we shipped the bikes back.

 

I'll try to post some pics on the Gallery.  Good talking with you!



#6 Moses Ludel

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 08:21 AM

Thanks for the details, Dabneyr...Long Way Around was a trial, Long Way Down seemed much better planned, and I fully agree about traveling lighter.  My sole motivation for the Honda XR650R choice was weight.  The cycle's performance "in the desert" or at the Baja 1000 is legendary, every dirt motorcyclist who watches "Dust to Glory" wants an XR650R!  Visions of Mouse McCoy in a slide at speed, or Johnny Campbell on the beach dueling with Andy Grider, or Steve Hengeveld launching into his legendary night segment, quickly make every dirt riders' bucket list! 

 

I still have two earlier XRs, both 1984 models, an XR350R and an XR500R, we started the youngest son with an '83 XR200R, which had respectable performance, too, I rode it at times.  Each of these cycles were respected in the day, Pro-Link rear suspension, ultra reliable but air cooled four-strokes.  So, I'm joined at the hip to thumper four-strokes and the weight.  On that note, my earliest "dirt cycle" was a BSA 441 Victor, an "On Any Sunday" era machine.  I'll share that experience if anyone is interested.

 

The XR650R tips the scale higher than the other XRs.  For lugging a smaller complement of video equipment along, the milestone liquid cooling of the XR650R gains points.  I've single tracked in basaltic rock at Nevada high desert country in the summer, and air cooling is constantly in your thoughts when lugging at a crawl pace for any time.  I plan to use the XR650R while filming the annual Easter Jeep Safari, Moab, Utah, Tierra Del Sol, moto documentaries, travel documentaries and such. That's its place. 

 

Got to note that pounding around in 4x4s, strapped up with seat belts (three-point factory belts are horrible!) is far more punishing than suspending yourself on a dirt motorcycle.  I've been doing each for nearly a half century now, and I'm opting for the motorcycle these days.  Besides, it's more engaging and five-muscle-group physical!  As my wife the yoga instructor quips, "A body in motion stays in motion!"  

 

I've been busy rebuilding the top end of the engine, which has drawn global traffic at the magazine's new "The Off-Road Motorcycle Channel"  coverage in HD video.  The XR650R has a huge following, interest way exceeds the number of cycles actually produced!  I'm very pleased with the decision to ride the Big Red Pig and use it as a reliable filming platform.  L.A. Sleeve has the sublet work on the cylinder and head, we've had several discussions about my main objective with the cycle: ultra reliability and longevity.  Especially as a dual-sport conversion, this cycle must be much more self-sufficient, there will be no trailer to get it home.

 

If I do the Rubicon Trail on two wheels, the XR350R is my mount of choice, it's more forgiving on the rocks than a heavier machine like the XR650R, and the power to the ground is stable and predictable.  I've done rock crawling (gentle on the frame, please!) with the XR350R, it's much closer to a trials bike than the XR650R, which was purpose built for desert racing and winning the Baja—again and again!

 

Agree with your comments about the Triumph and Icon's viral video.  Triumph caught a wave here.  The bikes fell plenty, even in the hands of expert riders.  And yes, this movie is all about the riders—kudos to their skill and an outstanding video filming crew!  The story is corny, the action riding incredible.  Great ROI for Icon!

 

I like your riding venues...We'll share more.  I ride High Rock Canyon in NW Nevada, it's local.  A group of XR650R folks out of Chico, California like that ride, too.  Dual-sport friends are gathering in numbers, from all over, the Pacific NW included...No end to destinations!  I have some interesting moto-based documentaries planned for northern Nevada.  Interesting that you choose the 500 EXC for cruising around Isabella. I'm familiar with that road.

 

Moses



#7 dabneyr

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 08:40 AM

There are several riding areas around Lake Isabella.  One of them is Kennedy Meadows just to the north of Isabella.  It's the best in California I think.  Amazing single track trails everywhere.  Keysville is to the east of the lake and has tons of great technical trails.  You can actually take a single track trail from the base of the mountains down in Bakersfield all the way up to Lake Isabella.  Or you can ride from Lake Isabella south to get to Jawbone Canyon down in the desert.  Any direction you go there's great trail riding around Lake Isabella.

 

Do you have any links to videos you've shot?



#8 Moses Ludel

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 09:43 AM

I'm familiar with the Kennedy Meadows access from Highway 395 at the Mojave Desert.  Sounds like a very inviting area, and for California, accessible single tracks are rare.  The terrain should be similar to northern Nevada, we're very fortunate with a great deal of public access land.

 

Curiosity question: With each of your cycles plated in California, do you still need a Green Sticker?  At Nevada, we've recently implemented an OHV permit program that requires dirt cycles and ATVs to have a permit—unless they are plated.  This is level-headed and views the plated cycle like any licensed/registered Jeep or 4x4 traveling in the back country.  My Honda XR650R, once dual-sport plated, will not require a Nevada OHV permit. 

 

The OHV permit issue helped prompt my purchase of the XR650R Honda motorcycle.  It will be plated as a dual-sport.  I've even considered plating the XR350R or XR500R, as each now requires an annually renewable OHV permit.  There are registration fees and additional insurance if I plate one or the other of these XRs, which may cool my jets on the idea.

 

Moses



#9 Moses Ludel

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 07:42 PM

I've been shooting videos for four years now, including the Rubicon Trail with WFTW and Moab EJS, from on the ground and out of 4x4s.  The Honda XR650R will be my first use of a motorcycle as a filming platform for HD video.

 

If you're curious about High Rock Canyon, I did shoot that venue is SD video, you can view that low resolution Flash video at: http://www.4wdmechan...avel-Video.html.  The magazine's videos quickly evolved into HD with shoots like the Wheelers for the Wounded, the 2011 Stampede Race and the 2011 and later Moab runs.

 

You can get a feel for High Rock from the early Flash video.  Expect HD videos, beginning this spring, summer and fall, from the dual-sport "viewpoint".  For those curious, I now shoot in four HD 1080P formats: a full-on Panasonic HD 1080P/30/24 camcorder, a Nikon D7100 DSLR system and the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, each package complete with mounting hardware, stands, necessary optics and lighting, benefitting from Audio Technica stereo sound equipment plus monitor viewing for focus pull...Four years into this medium (following three decades of professional still photography and journalism), I have a handle on it!  Actually, much of this work is the post-production phase, which I've been doing for four years, too...

 

High Rock Canyon and the Black Rock Desert are each within 100 miles of our base...Rubicon Springs via Cadillac Hill (from the east to west) is less than 100 miles from our base at Fernley, Nevada.

 

High Rock Canyon and the Black Rock are popular for adventure touring riders.  Gerlach's Shell Station and Bruno's Restaurant have become landmarks for fuel top-off and a good meal.  Lots of history at High Rock, I did a piece for OFF-ROAD Magazine that's now posted by Source Interlink on line at the Four Wheeler Network: http://www.fourwheel...gh-rock-canyon/

 

We'll talk more about northern Nevada, there are limitless riding destinations, though many are seasonal, Dabneyr.  If you like history and remote country, Nevada has much of each!

 

Moses



#10 Moses Ludel

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Posted 12 July 2014 - 02:09 PM

Update...For those interested in the magazine's Honda XR650R dual-sport, the engine is now built, the cycle is highway plated and on the road and trail.  See engine work coverage at the magazine and also the comprehensive how-to HD video, a 54-minute streaming video rental from Vimeo On Demand:  http://www.vimeo.com...and/hondaxr650r.  Performing an XR650R engine top end rebuild?  You'll want to rent this video.

 

I am very pleased with my parts and machining choices, this is a highly versatile motorcycle!

 

Moses





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