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Dual Sports and Singles – Why So Little Development?

With the exception of Suzuki’s DRZ400S, most of the dual sport bikes sold here in the United States were developed much more than five years ago (many of them more than ten years ago). While other categories (sportbikes, in particular) get significant changes as often as every two years and outright replacement every four years, why is so little development money spent on the dual sport category?

Somewhat in contrast to the Japanese manufacturers, European manufacturers tend to spend more money in this area. Not surprisingly, dual sports are generally more popular in Europe than in the United States.

I have been asked (and often wondered on my own) why some of the new, four-stroke motocross engines have not found their way into street legal motorcycles, dual sport or otherwise. Some of it has to do with these engines having been developed for closed course racing (with smaller oil capacities and non-complying emissions, for instance) from the outset, but it also has to do with the manufacturers perception that consumers are not demanding state-of-the-art street singles. This may be true, but it might be false, as well. Tastes always change, and the European interest in single cylinder street bikes could lead to a similar interest “across the pond”. Europeans have been mad about naked bikes for several years, and that category is now surging here in the U.S.

In any event, some of the relatively ancient designs in the dual sport category (such as Kawasaki’s KLR650) continue to be great, real-world motorcycles. It would just be nice to see something new and exciting in the category, and not just an expensive European product.