Monster Buyer’s Guide of 18 Modern Dual Sport Motorcycles Sold in America, 2023 version

Even though we here at Raging to Ride think that a big part of the future of riding motorcycles is in the Dual Sport segment of the industry, there are not that many models to choose from, so we have rounded them all up for this 2023 Dual Sport monster buyer’s guide.

All of use at Raging to Ride are lifetime motocross and dirt bike riders, and we have done enough street riding in all categories of cruisers, sport bikes, touring machines have definite opinions on what works and what doesn’t. While street riding may not not our favorite, any time you are on two wheels life is good! Dual Sport motorcycle riding is an awesome combination of street and dirt that really can’t be beat.

Why You Want to Ride Dual Sport Motorcycles

The best way to learn to ride a motorcycle is to have a friend that has an old Honda XR200 or Yamaha TTR125 and a farm with a big field, but if you don’t have that, the best way to get started is to buy either a new or used beginner focused dual sport like a Kawasaki KLX230, get your endorsement permit and start riding on paved back roads. Then, as you build your skills, you can work up to gravel and dirt to go nearly anywhere in the world.

Uncle Richard taking Aunt Karen on her first Dual Sport ride.

While we won’t be selling our dirt bikes (I have a 2023 Husqvarna TE300 and a Yamaha YZ250F) any time soon, we are finding that we spend more and more time on dual sport rides. As we get older the appeal of fighting off fearless 15 year old kids on closed course motocross wanes. Our public OHV parks are getting over run with SXS and ATVs as very few states are opening up any new territory to Off Highway Vehicles. Dual Sport motorcycles are the answer to this problem. You can connect backroads and trail systems to find places that few people will ever go. Dual sporting is an amazing adventure.

Note: This is a living document that we continually update. First published 9/21/23. Below are our thoughts on the dual sport models from the mainline manufacturers in Japan and Austria. As Chinese manufacturers gain in quality and popularity, we will include them in our buyer’s guide, but for right now, RTR does not recommend buying these bikes. It is just not worth saving a little money only to have your bike broken down due to electrical problems or not be able to get parts if it breaks.

Table of Contents

Honda XR150L, CRF300L, CRF300LS, CRF300L Rally, Honda CRF450L, Honda XR650
Kawasaki KLX230, KLX230S, KLX300, KLR650
Suzuki DR650, DRZ400
Yamaha XT250, TW200, WR250R
KTM 350exc, 500exc, 690 Enduro

Honda

Honda has made dual sport motorcycles for decades, and still makes some of the best models for both beginners and experienced riders alike. In fact, the XR650L has been on the market with little change since 1992! Now, in 2023, Honda is still making some of the best and most affordable Dual Sport motorcycles on the market.

Honda XR150L

Honda XR150L is the cheapest mainline dual sport motorcycle you can buy in 2023
History: The Honda XR150 is a member of Honda’s legendary XR series, which has a rich history of providing durable and versatile off-road motorcycles. These bikes are renowned for their robust build quality, trail-worthy performance, and reliability, and the XR150 is no exception. It’s a smaller displacement dual-sport bike that carries forward the XR lineage, offering riders a dependable and affordable option for both on and off-road adventures.

Overview: The Honda XR150 is a compact and lightweight dual-sport motorcycle designed to excel in a variety of terrains. It features a 149cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder engine that prioritizes reliability and fuel efficiency over sheer power. This engine delivers a smooth and manageable output, making it accessible to both novice and experienced riders.

The XR150’s design is minimalistic and utilitarian, with a focus on functionality. Its narrow frame and low seat height make it an approachable option for riders of varying sizes, while the upright riding position and wide handlebars enhance control and comfort. The bike’s build quality and overall simplicity make it easy to maintain, a crucial factor for riders seeking a hassle-free ownership experience.

Pavement Performance: On paved roads, the Honda XR150 is a competent performer for city commuting and light highway cruising. Its small displacement engine limits its top speed to 55mph (60mph downhill with a tailwind), but it’s more than sufficient for urban traffic and backroads. The five-speed transmission shifts smoothly, and the engine’s low-end torque ensures good acceleration from a standstill.

However, it’s important to note that the XR150 is primarily designed as a dual-sport bike, and its true potential shines when you venture off the beaten path.

Gravel and Off-Road Performance

Where the Honda XR150 truly excels is on gravel roads and off-road trails. Its lightweight and nimble nature make it highly maneuverable, allowing riders to tackle tight corners and technical sections with ease. The long-travel suspension and high ground clearance ensure the XR150 can handle rough terrain, absorbing bumps and providing a comfortable ride even on uneven surfaces.

The bike’s 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, equipped with dual-purpose tires, provide excellent traction on dirt, gravel, and mud. The engine’s low-end torque is well-suited for off-road riding, allowing you to crawl over obstacles and navigate through challenging terrain.

One notable feature of the XR150 is its durability. It’s built to withstand the rigors of off-road adventures, and its simple design means fewer components that can break or malfunction. This makes it an ideal choice for riders who want a rugged and reliable bike for exploring remote trails and wilderness areas.

Summary of the Honda XR150L

In conclusion, the Honda XR150 is a versatile and dependable dual-sport motorcycle that offers excellent performance off-road while still being a capable on-road commuter. In fact, the Honda XR150L is probably the best DS for beginner riders. It is so cheap, you can buy it and use it for a year, then sell it when ready to move up to a bigger bike. Its history as part of the renowned XR series speaks to its durability and reliability. While it may not have the power of larger dual-sport bikes, its approachability and affordability make it an excellent option for riders who prioritize exploration and adventure on a budget. Whether you’re navigating city streets or exploring the great outdoors, the Honda XR150 is a worthy companion.

It should be noted that the Honda XR150L has been sold in New Zealand and Europe for years, but just came to the USA in 2021.

2023 Honda CRF150L 282 32.8 12.5 53.5 7.1/5.9 2.8 5 spd $2,971 $300

Honda CRF300L

The CRF300L is an amazing looking and capable dual sport for beginner to intermediate riders.

Introduced in the pandemic fueled 2020 era, the CRF 300L and CRF300L Rally Edition have been such incredible hits that you can almost never find them at your local dealer.  As I write, the biggest Honda dealer in our state (OR), does not have any in stock. There are good reasons for this, but the biggest is the price, stated at $5,399 MSRP + $600 freight on the official Honda web site https://powersports.honda.com/motorcycle/dual-sport/crf300l This is an amazing price for a motorcycle in Today’s inflation powered economy. The CRF300L Rally edition is $6,199 + $600 freight.

Pavement Performance

The CRF300L is mild mannered, but has wonderful performance on paved roads that will get you to gravel and off road trails. It’s easy access power will give beginners the confidence needed to ride any paved surface from local roads to in-state two lane highways to backwoods single lane paved logging roads. The CRF300L can go freeway speeds, though barely. You would not want to buy this motorcycle if you wanted to commute to work every day with 10-15 miles of freeway in between. The CRF300L Rally edition, with its increased wind protection is a little more comfortable at 70mph (112.7kph), but would still not be a good choice for commuting on freeways.

Gravel and Off Road Performance
Honda CRF300L all set up for dual sporting and trail riding

With a curb weight of 306lbs (145.6 kilos) for the non Rally version, the CRF300L is not a lightweight compared to a full on dirt bike, but, with only 22.4 horsepower being pumped out of the 285cc engine, the bike is surprisingly agile and ride-able off road or in the gravel. With a seat height of 35.2″ (89.4cm), the CRF300L sits in the middle of our dual sport motorcycle data list, making it fairly unrideable for beginners with short legs.

If are 5′ 9″ and above or are flexible or are a more advanced rider that is capable of one leg stopping, the CRF300L is a fantastic bike for linking easier two track and even single track trails at your local OHV parks. IN fact, it is so good that many Adventure Riders are abandoning their large bikes like the Africa Twin and using the economical CRF300L for taking on Backcountry Discovery Routes.

If you check out your local state websites for Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs), there are literally thousands of miles of the nearly abandoned logging or framing roads in all of the National Forest and BLM lands. Some of these roads are gravel, but most are dirt and are incredibly fun to ride. The CRF300L is capable of linking to those abandoned roads and riding them very comfortably.

What is the Difference Between the CRF300L and the CRF300L Rally?
CRF300L Rally has a windshield, larger tank, and better wind protection than the standard version

For $800 more than a standard Honda CRF300L, the Rally edition gives the rider much better wind protection with a little fairing and a windshield. In addition, the gas tank holds 3.4 gallons vs. 2.1 gallons for the standard version. For these features, you pay a weight penalty of 25lbs. ((11.4kg) and a financial penalty of $800 more. If you plan to do a lot of freeway riding, this may be worth it to you, but as dirt oriented as we are here in the RTL Labs, we prefer lighter weight and not having windshields get in the way of seeing the trail.

Summary of the Honda CRF300L

With the incredible MSRP of $5,399 combined with proven reliability, road and trail manners, the Honda CRF300L cannot be recommended enough to beginner to intermediate riders that are tall enough to reach the rather high seat. However, there may be another even better “Unicorn” with the announcement of the Honda CRF300LS, with the S standing for “short”, lowering the seat height two inches, which would be amazing for shorter riders. So far, this bike has been “unobtanium” at all of the dealers, but when it starts to appear, we will make sure to put it through the RTL ringer with our shorter, less experienced riders and update this article.

Honda CRF300 Weight Seat Height HP Wheel base Travel Tank Size MSRP Dest. Charge
2023 Honda CRF300 Rally 331 35.2 22.7 57.2 10.2/10.2 3.4 6 spd $6,149 600
2023 Honda CRF300 L 302 35.2 22.7 57.2 10.2/10.2 2.1 6 spd $5,399 600
2023 Honda CRF300 LS 302 32.7 22.7 56.7 9.3/9.0 2.1 6 spd $5,399 600

Honda CRF450L

With a few tweaks this is one of the best dual sport motorcycles on the market for intermediate and up riders

 

Honda CRF 450 Weight Seat Height HP Wheel base Travel Tank Size MSRP
2023 Honda 450L 291 37.2 52.5 58.9 12/11.8 2 6 spd $9,999 wet wt

Honda XR650L

Still going strong since 1992!

 

The Honda XR650L is a historic motorcycle, having debuted in 1992, so it has remained on the market relatively unchanged for 31 years. But, even though it is heavy, air cooled, and only has five speeds, for larger riders, it is amazingly fun! Add that to the fact that you can buy a brand new XR650L for $6,999 + $600 in freight, it is still one of the best bargains on the market. If you can’t afford that much, you can always find an XR650L on the used market, usually with some additional farkles like a larger tank or better lights for a couple thousand dollars discount. For instance, RTL staffer Uncle Richard recently bought a new condition 2017 XR650L with some nice mods for only $5,000.

Decades old design Honda XR650L holds up strong against other Dual Sport motorcycles.

 

Pavement Performance

For a motorcycle that is heavy and air cooled, the Honda XR650L is surprisingly adept at pavement and road performance. Even with offroad oriented DOT approved knobbies like Dunlop 606’s or Rocky Mountain’s Tusk DSports, the XR will go around pavement twisties as fast as a normal person wants to go. Of course, it will not corner like a crotch rocket, but it corners surprisingly well. A surprise, since the XR650L only have five speeds, is that it can go on the freeway, and it will cruise at 70mph for as long as you want to put up with the wind and vibration. A Honda XR650L is not really bike for a freeway commuter, but for 200-300 miles a day of connecting gravel and dirt roads, it performs as well as modern dual sports like the KTM 500exc.

Gravel and Off Road Performance

If you doubt the dirt performance of the XR650L without actually trying it, just remember that people in the 1990’s still had tons of fun off roading motorcycles like this. Also, remember that Scott Summers raced its close cousin, the XR600 to multiple Baja 1000 wins. With that in mind, we can chime in and say that you will probably not want to do “hard enduro” on, but it is surprisingly good on single track trails. Its high wet weight at 346lbs (   kg) combined with its high seat height of 37.2″ (   cm), makes it a beast, but the amazing torque of the old school air cooled engine can pull it through the most difficult situations with the right rider. We would not recommend the XR650L to anything less than an intermediate rider at least 5’10” in height.

No bike is more fun than an XR650L on gravel and dirt fire roads. Backing into a corner it is easy to get the backend to break loose a little then use the high torque to keep the foot on the pegs cross up going. Great for photographs and showing off to your friends.

Summary of the Honda XR650L

If you fit the above description, it is hard to go wrong with a Honda XR650L dual sport motorcycle. The budgetary aspect alone makes it hard to pass, especially if you have a dirt bike background and just want to dip your toe in water to test dual sporting. If you are a little vertically challenged (like the author), but still like the idea of the XR650L, there are link lowering kits that can lower the seat an additional one inch, making it much easier to reach the ground.

In summary, the XR650L is an old design that still just works. The bike is so simple, you never have to worry about computers or displays going wrong, and you get to smile every time you open the throttle and feel the tractor-like torque. You just point and ride!

Honda XR650L Weight Seat Height HP Wheel base Travel Tank Size MSRP
2023 Honda XR650L 346 37.2 52.5 57.3 12/11.9 2.8 5 spd $6,999 wet wt

 

Kawasaki

Kawasaki has always been one of the “forgotten” Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. For the last decade Kawasaki has been making fantastic motorcycles, but in 1990’s and earlier, Kawasaki had some quality problems with their dirt bikes, and motorcycle riders have long memories. While myself and others in our riding group experienced those problems with their motocross bikes first hand, none of us even think about it today,  We would not hesitate to buy a Kawasaki, and we still ride them.

In the dual sport market, Kawasaki is best known for its legendary KLR650, a bike that has been on the market for decades with small changes along the way. With the KLR650 on the heavy weight top end, Kawasaki also has two of the better choices for beginning and less aggressive riders with the KLX230 and KLX300.

Kawasaki KLX230

KLX230 is the perfect beginner’s dual sport. Solid, simple performance at a budget price

 

Pavement Performance

 

Gravel and Off Road Performance

 

 

Summary of the Honda XR650L

 

Kawasaki KLX Weight Seat Height HP Wheel base Travel Tank Size MSRP Dest. Charge
2023 Kawasaki KLX230 291 34.8 17.1 54.3 6.2/6.6 2.0 6 spd $4,999 $545
2023 Kawasaki KLX230S 291 32.7 17.1 53.5 6.2/6.6 2.0 6 spd $4,999 $545

Kawasaki KLX300

 

 

Kawasaki KLR650

 

Suzuki DR650

Suzuki’s DR650 was carved out of a rock in 1996, but is still a capable and fun dual sport

 

The Suzuki DR650 is a versatile and enduring dual-sport motorcycle that has remained a favorite among riders for decades. Known for its rugged reliability and a balanced blend of on-road and off-road capabilities, the DR650 has carved a niche for itself in the adventure and dual-sport motorcycle market.

Like the Suzuki DR650’s long lived competitors, the Honda XR650L and the Kawasaki KLR650, the company’s R&D and dies for manufacturing these motorcycles were paid off long ago. As a result all of these models are brought to market at economy prices. The current (2023) MSRP for a Suzuki DR650 is $6,999 + $600 freight, compared to $11,999 + freight for a KTM 500exc. While there is no doubt that the modern EXC is a better dual sport, especially for experienced riders in the dirt, the $5,000 maybe be the difference between being able to afford to ride or not. Also, remember that Suzuki DR650s have been on the market for decades, so finding a used one is easy, and most used ones have additional mods such as a larger tank that make the bike even better. For instance, a quick view on Craigslist shows a DR650 with 4,700 miles and tons of upgrades for only $4,500. You can’t get more fun per dollar on a motorcycle than a deal like that.

Pavement Performance

On the pavement, the Suzuki DR650 is a comfortable and dependable ride. It features a simple, air-cooled 644cc single-cylinder engine that provides ample torque for city commuting and highway cruising. While it may not be the most powerful bike in its class, its smooth power delivery and manageable weight make it accessible to riders of varying experience levels. The upright riding position and wide handlebars enhance rider comfort during long journeys, and the suspension, though basic, absorbs bumps and potholes reasonably well.

One of the standout features of the DR650 is its low maintenance. The air-cooled engine is straightforward to service, and it doesn’t require the same level of care as more complex liquid-cooled counterparts. This makes it an excellent choice for riders who prioritize reliability and ease of maintenance.

Gravel Performance

When it comes to gravel roads and light off-road adventures, the Suzuki DR650 truly shines. Its long-travel suspension, high ground clearance, and lightweight design make it capable of tackling uneven terrain with confidence. The bike’s 21-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, equipped with dual-sport tires, provide good traction on gravel and dirt, ensuring stability and control even when the road gets a bit rough.

The DR650’s power delivery is well-suited for off-road riding, as it offers plenty of low-end torque to navigate through obstacles and climb steep inclines. The simplicity of its design means fewer electronics to worry about, further enhancing its reliability in off-road conditions.

Off-Road Performance
Suzuki DR650 modded and ready to travel the world. Photo by Jascha

While not a dedicated dirt bike, the DR650 holds its own when the pavement ends and the trails beckon. These Japanese manufactured motorcycles were all introduced in the 1990’s and had similar price points, so for many years, riders choice for dual sport motorcycles were the Kawasaki KLR650, the Honda XR650L, and the Suzuki DR650. While all of them could do similar jobs, popular opinion is that the KLR is the most pavement worthy, the XR is the most dirt worthy and the DR is in the middle, but leans toward dirt.

The DR650’s versatility extends to its ability to carry gear for longer adventures, making it a favorite choice for riders who love multi-day camping trips in remote areas. Its basic instrumentation and controls ensure that riders can focus on the trail ahead, not on complicated technology.

Suzuki’s DR650 is a fun dual sport motorcycle for all forms of riding
Summary

In conclusion, the Suzuki DR650 is a reliable and versatile dual-sport motorcycle that offers a well-rounded riding experience. While it may not excel in any specific category, it strikes a commendable balance between on-road and off-road capabilities. Its simplicity and ease of maintenance make it a practical choice for riders looking for a dependable adventure companion that can handle a variety of terrains. Whether you’re commuting in the city, exploring gravel roads, or venturing off the beaten path, the DR650 is a dependable and affordable option to consider.

Weight Seat Height HP Wheel base Travel Tank Size MSRP Dest. Charge
Suzuki DR650 324 33 dry wt 2.9 5 speed $6,999 $600

 

 

 

2023 Honda CRF300 LS 311 32.7 22.7
2023 Kawasaki KLX230S 298 32.7
2023 Yamaha XT250 291 32.7
2005 Kawasaki KLR 650 Gen 1 337 35 34.6
2023 Honda CRF300 Rally 335 35.2 22.7
2021 KTM 690 Enduro 350 35.8 74
all Yamaha WR250R 276 36.6 23.5
all Suzuki DRZ 400 317 36.8 32.5
2023 Honda 450L 291 37.2 52.5
2023 Honda XR650 340 37.2 52.5
2020 KTM 500 EXC 255 37.8 57

 

 

About the author

RTR site founder. Old guy racing, riding and raging it. I want to find a community of people that likes motorcycles, snowboarding, cycling, fitness, etc. Join me here and at ragingtolive.com to form a community of like minded people. Husky TE300. Yamaha WR250R. Yamaha YZ250F. Ability: Lifelong rider and race. Good for a 66 year old.