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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Dual Sports and Singles – Why So Little Development?: MD Readers’ Responses

On May 10, 2001, I wrote an article titled Dual Sports and Singles – Why So Little Development? Basically, the article bemoaned the lack of R&D money spent on dual sport development, except by the European brands. Here is an interesting mix of our readers’ responses. As usual, these are unedited and not necessarily the opinion of MD.

  • Good question. I’ve got a KLR650 and there’s quite an active e-mail list on the bike ( Guys are starting to ask if the new Kawasaki 650 V-Twin from the big Prairie ATV will make it in to the KLR.

    Another question with no logical answer (at least to me) is why Honda won’t bring three of the best street-biased dual sports to the states (TransAlp, African Twin and the Varadero) when you look at what people are paying for BMW 1150GS’s. No one but BMW is pushing the Adventure Tourer concept in the States, yet there’s about a million square miles of public lands crisscrossed by gravel, dirt and fire roads.

  • Interesting observation. I think it comes down to the fact that there’s only so much one can do to a single w/o compromising reliability, etc. and the dirt singles were pretty much the test bed for development (4 valve heads, suspension linkages, etc.) that later wound up in the street bikes. IE: the singles had the hell developed out of them 20 years ago, and in the off-road venue, they’ve pretty much hit the wall.

    Because the Big 4 lost their collective shirts on the street singles they built in the 80’s, they’re unlikely to go that route, altho’ I’d love to see what could be done for an entry-level single a la’ the Blast with
    *real* power due to such things as variable valve timing and EXUP exhaust.

    But let’s face it: a single-cyl. streetbike has a hard time of it in America due to our wide open spaces. What makes sense from an urban perspective doesn’t move too well in the suburban and rural U.S.
    And I’m actually kinda glad of that. I’d rather have a twin or four out in the sticks than a zippy street single in Manhattan.

  • Great article on dualsports! The motorcycle manufacturers are missing the boat in the U.S.. I purchased the KTM 520 EXC for a bike that I could race and a bike that was simple to convert to a dualsport. I owned the DRZ400S last year and hated it! I also had the YZ426F and rode it more than the DRZ. Now I have the best of both worlds. I know so many people that do not buy dualsports because they don’t compare to the performance of the latest motocrossers. The manufactures can create a dualsport market (just like the 4-stroke motocross market) if they produce a top of the line competitive dual sport.

    Try to order a dualsport kit from Baja Designs (2 – 4 week back orders). They can’t keep up with the demand for dualsport conversion kits. Everyone wants the top of the line motocross that is street legal.

  • North Americans don’t buy small bikes. They are too often considered
    ‘beginner’ bikes and as such don’t sell for a lot of money. For cheap
    buyers, unfortunately you get cheap bikes. As gas, insurance & other costs
    rise I’m sure people on this continent will understand why small bikes
    (singles & under 500cc) are popular elsewhere. Until then, most people won’t
    know what they are missing. Most of my bikes a small & I enjoy all of them.

  • Just wanted to say that if any of the big 5 made a four stroke mx’er street legal I would buy one. I live in the bay area and am victim to the red sticker absurdity that is going on here. I ended up buying a 97 KTM 360 to be able to ride all year. I will not buy a new mxer until California repeals this ridiculous system(ya right) or more realistically until the manufacturers make their bikes fit into the mold that would make eco’s squirm(I’m smiling just thinking about it). Here’s what I want, and I think what most mx’ers need. An easy starting, lightweight, COMPETITIVE(unlike the DR) street legal dirt bike. And most important: Quiet! I want to be able to take my bike to the store if I want, or ride to my favorite spot if need be. I don’t want to have to call baja designs to make my bike this way. By making the bike street legal the manufacturers could get around the red sticker insanity. Don’t people realize that one airliner take-off probably makes more bad emissions than all the mx’ers in CA in one day? But I digress. Thanks for an awesome site.

  • Boy, you have a hit a home run here, I have been converting bikes for years
    and currently own a DR400E with a Baja Kit. I love what the euro’s do. Hey
    Japan did you forget about a sixth gear.
    I would love a new dual sport modeled after the new husky 400. Nothing new
    from Honda, maybe Yamaha or the sleeping Kaw.

  • My opinion on your comments about dual sports is just two words “Baja
    Designs”. I feel that most people in the US would rather have a converted
    dirt bike than try to take off all the stuff that Japan puts on their bikes
    just to be legal to sell in the states. In my years of reading dirt bike
    magazines it has always been and I am sure always will be that the
    manufacturers feel that the dual sport bikes will mainly be used “on road”
    so they don’t put good suspension and tires on them. I feel that as long as
    the government allows dirt bike conversions the dual sport bikes won’t
    improve because they don’t sell.

  • Here, here. I couldn’t agree more – I am selling my sport bike and will buy
    a Yamaha WR, add a Baja Designs kit and ride that. The market is there, but
    nobody is taking it seriously enough. Even Suzuki came out with a
    half-assed effort witht eh DRZ-S. Some of it was federally mandated, but
    not all of it. They didn’t need to put a heavy steel tank on it (Aprillia
    has non steel tanks), they didn’t have to screw up the suspension. I wish
    they could get away without messing with the cams and putting a CV carb on


    I want a maximum performance dirt bike with minimal street mods. That is
    why I am not buying a DRZ-S. Suzuki: are you listening? Honda: how hard
    would it be to make the XR650R street legal? What about the new CRF? How
    about making a Baja Designs-like kit that can be a dealer-installed option?
    hell, just hook your dealers up with Baja Designs and there you have it.
    Each dealer can handle, with BD’s help, the individual state registration
    issues. I’d buy tomorrow.

  • I’d love to see Buell make a dual sport/supermotard style bike. The current
    500cc single cylinder Blast motor is too small, but that’d be an easy fix.
    Half a Sportster 1200 motor punched out to around 650 sounds ’bout right.
    Actually, I could see Buell building a single cylinder hooligan bike,
    similar to the KTM Duke. What do you think?

  • I too am greatly concerned with the lack of development in the D-P
    /single arena, at least for the U.S. market.

    In Europe Honda has seen fit to offer an updated Transalp featuring
    the 650cc motor of the extinct here Hawk-GT, which has been morphed into a
    rather slick Sport-tourer: Deauville!

    Honda Europe also offers a SuperHawk engined trailie – Veradero,
    Liquid-cooled 650R version Dual-sport, the street oriented SLR650 with
    air-cooled 644cc and even the Africa twin, DAKAR derived hardware.
    Honda South America has the XR400 engined FALCON with slick –
    streetbike details!

    I myself have wondered why couldn’t one of the Big-4 combine the
    traits of my own bikes (VFR, KLR) into one Super Dual Sport…

    The answer can be found in sales of cruisers and sportbikes.

    Honda has shown that development of cruisers and sportbikes is
    enough to gain the top spot in sales so why waste the time and money on the
    non-ego-massaging singles?

  • First off, you’ve got a great site here at Motorcycle Daily. I like the
    mix of articles and straightforward homey approach. Good job!

    I’m a believer in the dual-sport concept and am underwhelmed by
    the dual-sport model choices we’ve got here in the U.S. I owned a
    KTM RXC 620 for four years, a well-made machine with excellent
    running gear, but just too heavy for the type of riding I enjoy most.
    So I sold the KTM, bought an XR400, then went through the hassle
    of making it street-legal. I’m very happy with the XR400 as a dual-
    sport, but it irked me to have to go through all that trouble to get
    what I wanted, especially considering that the parts required for the
    conversion only cost me a few hundred dollars. I’d have gladly paid
    Honda an extra $500 (or more) to get it in dual-sport trim and avoid
    dealing with CA’s DMV.

    BTW, I’d considered Suzuki’s DRZ400S before choosing the
    XR400, but it has the same problem as my old KTM – the DRZ is
    just too heavy. My XR is down on power compared with the DRZ,
    but it’s 40 pounds lighter, runs superbly (after some minor carb
    tweaking), and makes adequate user-friendly power for dirt riding.

    I don’t understand why Americans aren’t clamoring for more and
    better dual-sports. Dual-sports just make so much sense. I have
    a standing order with my local KTM dealer to get me the LC8
    Adventurer as soon as it becomes available here in the States.
    When (or if) it ever gets here, I’ll retire my everyday street bike
    (presently a Bandit 1200) and replace it with the LC8.

    You’ve covered the dearth of street singles and small-bore
    sportbikes before, and I’m in agreement with you there, too. Once
    again I’m considering taking matters into my own hands to get
    what I want. I’m now looking at the feasibility of melding a liquid-
    cooled 250 single (or possibly an EX250 powerplant) with a RS125
    rolling chassis. It just sounds like too much fun, a 30 hp / 200
    pound sportbike for the street.

    Thanks for bringing us Motorcycle Daily. I start my “web day” with
    your site.

  • Thanks for the article! I think there are several reasons for lack of
    development of dual sport equipment in this country.

    Manufacturers build what they can sell. Dual sport sales in this country
    have been very modest, accounting for less than 5% or so of all motorcycle
    sales – numbers and percentages are decreasing. Furthermore, places
    available to ride them are becoming more scarce – for instance the Roadless
    Initiative. Finally, I think just about every dual sport motorcyclist has a
    different definition of what the ideal bike is (thank goodness for the

    In addition to development of sport bikes, motocross and enduro bike
    development has been significant. However, as an aging baby boomer, I can’t
    see myself trying the triple jumps at the local track. Locally, many long
    time riders have “discovered” dual sporting, and really appreciate how
    relaxed it can be, while still being challenging and an adventure. The
    people in marketing need to figure this out.

    As you say, not all bikes are candidates for dual sport conversion. For
    instance, KTM sent out a letter cautioning against that for their new 400cc
    and 520cc enduro bikes because of their small oil capacities and lack of a
    rubber shock in the rear sprocket drive hub.

    In England, these bikes are called “trailies”. Though mostly paved,
    backroads in Europe are frequently narrow, bumpy, with gravel and sometimes
    potholes. In cities, roads are choked with traffic, and motorcyclists may
    split lanes, ride on the sidewalk; basically, it’s a free for all. A bike
    with larger diameter tires, upright seating position, high off the ground,
    with wide handlebars, etc. are more ideally suited to these conditions.

    Also, it is a bit of a styling issue (can you say poseur?)

    I have always felt if the machines were produced, people would buy them –
    chicken and egg thing, you know. Suzuki has done wonders to stimulate
    interest in dual sporting with their manufacturer sponsored rallys. There
    have been plenty of magazine articles about dual sport adventure riding to
    stimulate interest. I think it is a shame that zillions of miles of
    wonderful roads are avoided by 95% of motorcyclists in this country just
    because they are not paved. Your article can only help!

  • Would you design a bike to go against the KLR 650? Honda has the XR650L
    and Suzuki has the DRZ400S- only Yamaha is not represented here and they
    have dual-sports they sell in Europe. You have double overhead cams and
    liquid cooling already-how much more development do you need? I guess
    my point is-there is a selection of dual sports out there with a lot of
    technology- and they aren’t selling all that well so why spend money
    improving them?

  • YOU have hit the nail right on the head! I have heard many riders say
    the same thing! I am one of them ready to spend but don’t have
    anything to buy except the very expensive KTM, save the DRZ400S that you
    mentioned (the only machine in tune with this century).I , and many other
    riders are awaiting the arrival of something new and worth-while….enough
    incentive to lay down $6,000 from the local loan dept. Perhaps the Honda
    450 will be the best dual-purpose bike ever built! Will Husky make a dual
    -purpose? How about a 426 Yamaha in a YZ250 frame?There is too much mush out
    there and people are not going to fall for it.We have to contend with 70
    m.p.h. traffic and want to boogie on the trails. HELLO? Anybody home?I’m
    at the point where a KX500 engine could be made to fit in a KLR 250 frame,
    via cutting tools and welding , and contend with all of the above.Better yet,
    a DRZ400E with signal lights and a horn,….DUH!! In any event,…You Are In
    Tune With The Frustrated ” Show Me SOMETHING ” riders who will spend if
    there is something offered other than YADA YADA YADA run of the mill, high
    tech scooters. Thanks for understanding the buying public.

  • The big problem for manufacturers bringing new bikes into the USA
    is the cost of EPA certification. Unless a bike can sell enough units
    to pay for this certification process quickly, there is little way for a
    manufacturer to justify this expense.

    But it’s not just dual sports. Check out the Suzuki GS500E, the
    Kawasaki Concours and EX500, the Honda ST1100 and Rebel 250,
    etc. None of these bikes have changed in over a decade. Same engine,
    same carburetors, no change in EPA certification. If they changed the
    carbs or valve train or engine compression (the list goes on and on),
    they’d have to recertify the engine/bike.

  • Dirck, I’m with you! I can’t believe Yam and Honda don’t offer dual
    sport versions of the 426F, how about a XRF450L? 😉
    Anytime I whine about the lack of dual sports in online forums, everyone
    tells me to just get a dirt bike and put a Baja Designs kit on it to get
    it licensed. Well, that all depends on what state you live in. Almost
    impossible to do here in Nebraska. Seems like Texas and other states
    must be more lenient. I just rode with a guy from TX that had an XR400R
    licensed. I would think enforcement of the rules on licensing off-hwy
    vehicles will just get more stringent though, so maybe the market for
    out-of-the-box street legal dual sports will increase. Right now, the
    DRZ400S is the only alternative, as you stated. For now though, I’m
    stuck kick starting my old ’87 XL600R 😉
    As a former GB500 owner, I’m hoping that some street singles will take
    off too.

  • With regards to the euro duals- Huskies are too heavy, why can’t they make
    a 260 pound 410E?…And what about Yamaha?….not even a XT426 ? Maybe
    Suzuki will up the standards again… DRZ500S MIGHT WORK! Oh well, just
    dreaming out loud…will Honda surprise us all with a CRF450L ULTRALIGHT. As
    it stands now, a DRZ400E with a signal light kit could do the trick.As you
    have stated…little to No development.

  • I agree with you on Dual Sport development being overlooked. It all stems from a narrow view regarding motorcycle styling that has developed in the US in the last 20 years. Everything has to be either (1) a Harley or Harley copy cruiser or (2) a fully faired full-on sportbike, or it is not understood by US buyers. I’m glad that naked bikes are starting to break this juggernaught.

    I owned a Zepher 1100 in the early 90’s. People would always ask me what kind of bike it was. I would say it was a standard, and that many bikes used to look like it. I would get blank stares…. They would just think it was some sort of funny looking cruiser or stupid looking sportbike. I had an XT550 in the mid 80’s. Everyone asked me why I rode a huge dirtbike on the street. Even most other motorcyclist did not understand the concept of dual purpose. Obviously I don’t give a **** what people think, or I wouldn’t have ridden and enjoyed those bikes in the first place. But, it’s easy to see why these styles of bikes don’t sell very well in the US. In Japan & Europe, people are much more open-minded about what is a proper motorcycle and don’t force everything to fit rigid cruiser or sportbike molds.

    I personally would like to see one of the Japanese big 4 offer a big supermotard like the KTM Duke, for a couple thousand $ less than the Duke. For urban riding, it’s hard to beat a supermotard. And wheelies……..

    That’s my 2 cents

  • Certainly manufacturers look at sales numbers from specialty bikes like the
    Honda GB500 and Kawi W650, and then consider the continuing success of
    “ancient” designs like the KLR650. Let’s face it: while there is an
    enthusiastic following in the US for big singles and vert-twins, it’s not a
    big enough following to design and build a bike for the 1-out-of-50 in that
    small crowd that might buy one. The profit margin in a bike like that would
    be very small- remember the GB500 when it came out? $4000!! And there they
    sat. I think the Japanese makers have (rightfully) decided that the effort
    is just not worth it in the USA. We love big, powerful, tech-laden bikes,
    and the whole concept of a retro-think high-performance single or vert-twin
    just isn’t going to fly. If anything, a road-going, high-tech single/twin is
    going to be a provincial “statement” bike like the Bonneville, and the
    Japanese just don’t have that pedigree- it’s multi’s all the way. They’re
    going to go with what they know. It’s worked pretty well for them so far.
    We’d be fools to think that these companies create bikes according to some
    artistic vision. They make bikes to make money, and all they see in a single
    or twin is a deep, dark money hole. Guess I’ll just keep putting around on my SR500.

  • First of all I would like to thank you for your fine on-line magazine which I enjoy reading every morning after returning home from work.

    I have several comments in regards to your articles on the “clean two stroke” and your latest article on “dual sports and singles”.

    I live on one of the “outer islands” in the state of Hawaii, where dual sport motorcycle riding has spread here like a fever lately. We have perfect 75 -80 degree weather year round and luckily we do not have any emissions checks and the safety inspection policies are reasonable in that your machine is simply required to have the headlight and tail/brake light, turn signals, horn and the other standard equipment (DOT tires etc..).

    It is so nice to just put your gear on, fire up your bike and head out with your friends (legally), onto the highway and then head to your favorite motocross track, trail or favorite riding spot without having to load everything up in a truck and haul it around like a horse.

    A brief history: I started off with a 1999 XR650L which I purchased brand new in 1988. I thought that this bike would be the perfect dual sport machine for my needs but after spending more than 1500.00 dollars on it (trying to lighten it and power it up a bit), I decided that this was definitely not the way to go… So, I traded it in and started all over again to accomplish what I had started out to do in the first place.

    I may be crazy, but I am now the proud owner of a fully licensed and street legal 2000 model Honda CR250R which has a Baja Designs dual sport kit and E-line coil, a fully licensed and street legal 2001 model Honda CR500R which also has a Baja Designs dual sport kit and E-line coil… and last but not least, a fully licensed and street legal 2000 model XR650R which has the Baja kit only (E-Line coil not needed).

    The E-line coil and Baja kit which is required to “legalize” the bike is not cheap (about 800 dollars total cost per bike), but it is money well spent, without any doubt! They are both of very good quality and I have not had any trouble with them other than replacing the battery and voltage regulator on one of my machines after a crash which caused a short in the system (which I ignored until it finally caused a failure).

    Insurance (from Progressive) on these bikes costs me a mere 200.00 a year (each), for full coverage including theft and collision.

    I might also mention that I added an “AutoCal digital speedo/odo” (from Baja Designs) to them so that I can avoid excessive speeding tickets and rising insurance costs. I am very impressed with the quality, durability and weight of this unit and the magnetic pickup eliminates the need for a speedo cable (just two small wires to the sensor and magnet).

    I use these bikes everyday of the year for my transportation needs, my adrenaline fix, off-roading and simply “just for fun”. I just walk outside and decide which one of them I want to ride to work (or the track) on any given day.

    I work at two hotels here on the Kohala Coast and I am always talking to dual sport admirers from all around the country (and the world for that matter) whenever they see me pull into the parking lot on one of my “true dual sport” machines. Needless to say, are all very impressed with the dual sport capabilities of these bikes and I am always being offered money for them.

    My neighbors (and fellow riding partners) also have street legal CR250s and one of them just purchased a 2001 CR500 which is fully licensed and street legal. With the new synthetic 2 stroke oils available today and the proper jetting, these bike don’t even have any visible smoke while running.

    You are not hard pressed to find many street legal XR600s, XR650Ls and other “street legal dual sport machines” on this island and my point being…. if they would simply produce a street legal version of a real off-road machine, it would sell like mad here and I am sure that it would also sell well wherever else you find mountains, deserts and other good off-roading areas. I have several friends who are buying the new CRF450R and are converting them into a dual sport machines…and what a machine it will be!

    With the increase in popularity of Supermotard (or Supermoto) Racing taking hold here in the USA, it is just a matter of time before someone from Honda, Yamaha (or any of the other fine manufacturers of dirt bikes) sees the potential market explosion here in the USA. I realize that these manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to produce a street legal version (from the factory) of a real dual sport machine which satisfies the US emission and noise standards (which are becoming absurd), as well as the serious off-road enthusiast, but someone has to take charge and see the light. IT IS POSSIBLE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS TASK!

    We now have full DOT street legal knobbies from several respected motorcycle tire manufacturers and with the addition of a set of supermotard wheels and race slicks, the possibilities are now simply endless.

    I might add that I was very disappointed to hear that Honda was not going to produce a street version of the XR650R (or the CRF450R) for import into the USA (Australia and Europe both have the XR650R), but I am probably better off since the manufacturers seem to forget about weight when they add the mandatory street accessories. I only added 6 -8 lbs. to each of my bikes.

    My personal dream of street legal two strokes is still alive but I would still like to add a new street legal Aprillia RS250, or a street legal RS250 Honda race bike (or even a NSR500) with all the accessories…. but sadly, I will never see a street version for sale (from the factory) in this country again…

    I really like the new four strokes from Honda but I am still totally “hooked on two strokes”.

    I might be interested in a licensed/titled mid 80’s RZ500 if I can find one with the aluminum racing frame!!!

    Let me know if you would be interested in some photos of any or all of my machines…….

    Thanks for letting me share my opinion on this most important issue and rest assured that I am not alone!

  • Hello again friends….

    I forgot to add that the police here don’t bother us as long as we don’t pull any five gear wheelies (in front of them anyway).

    In fact… they often admire our bikes when we pull into the local 7-11 store for a drink after a long ride saying things such as …

    “Nice Bike!”

    “Is that yours?”
    “Is that a new model?”

    “How much did that thing cost you?”
    “Wanna sell it?”
    “Where’d you find the lights and stuff for that thing?”
    “Wow, how did you get that thing legal?”
    “How much to insure something like that?”
    “Why would you want to ride a dirt bike on the road anyways?”
    “At least you are one of the few dirt bikers who obeys the laws!”
    “Nice to see someone who goes the extra mile to get his bike legal so he CAN ride it on the road without having us chase after him.”

    After all, they were the ones that suggested the idea that I get my two stroke dirt bike street legal in the first place (after being pulled over on the highway on a YZ250).

    The officer that stopped me let me go with a warning but said, “why don’t you just get the damn thing legal so you can ride it on the road without worrying about us stopping you all the time.”

    So I did.

    Thanks again…….

  • A good question. I have often wondered why D/S bikes are so popular in Europe
    when there are so few places to actually ride them (compared to the USA).
    Perhaps it is the popularity of dedicated off-road machines in the USA that
    makes dual sports less desirable here. Off road riding areas are more
    plentiful here, and it is more affordable to own and operate a pickup truck in
    the USA than in most European countries. Thus, I believe, that a lot of
    off-road riding enthusiasts decide they’d rather have a dedicated off-road
    machine and simply haul it to their favorite riding area. They see D/S
    machines as too much of a compromise because they are heavier and have less
    dirt/mud worthy tires.

  • Duel sports and singles don’t have the pure spec sheet attraction of other
    modern sport bikes. They don’t weigh the least, go the fastest, have the
    most cylinders, or look the coolest. Most riders never even consider
    purchasing a new single after looking at all the glossy brochures for the
    latest machines. New singles @+$7000 for one piston and no chrome, never!
    Too bad they will miss the great sound, sweet handling, reliable performance
    of these great bikes.

    Purchased my 4th single after considering VFR, TL1000, TDM and many other
    more specialized bikes. Found out I couldn’t beat the Grin per dollar ratio
    and didn’t need +100 mph bragging rights. Very satisfied with one cylinder
    riding on either wheel.

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