“Over the next 20 years manufacturers began producing heavier and less dirt worthy enduros based on four-stroke engines, as they searched for better combinations of weight, power, durability, performance and comfort. The heavier machines were less popular with “real” dirt riders and who began modifying them to create lighter, more competent, trail machines.
Suzuki introduced the DR350 in 1990 and promoted it as a DualSport (one word) or “dirt bike with a license plate”. DualSport is a registered trademark of Suzuki Motor Corporation. The terms dual sport or “dualie” were quickly adopted by riders and the motorcycle press.
Manufacturers use several different names for their dual sport models. Suzuki uses DualSport to describe its products. Kawasaki describes its offerings as dual purpose, Honda lists its entry under off-road, and other manufacturers describe machines as enduros, or simply list them as model numbers. A few models are described as adventure bikes. Despite these differences in terminology most enthusiasts understand that dual sports are licensed motorcycles that can be operated on highways, dirt roads and trails.
There are four ways of creating dual sports. Some manufacturers add street-legal equipment to existing off-road motorcycles. These bikes are usually light and powerful, at the expense of shorter service life and higher maintenance. This approach is currently taken by European manufacturers such as KTM and Husqvarna. Other manufacturers start with a clean sheet of paper and design a new model designed for a specific combination of dirt and street use. These motorcycles are usually heavier and more durable than the models derived from off-road motorcycles. This approach is currently taken by BMW, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki. Several manufacturers modify street motorcycles to make them more dirt worthy. These bikes are usually more at home on pavement. Finally, owners add street-legal equipment to off-road bikes. However, some states only license motorcycles that meet emissions requirements.
Dual sports may be grouped by weight and intended purpose. Lightweight dual sports weigh about 250 to three hundred pounds. They have high fenders and ground clearance plus long travel suspension and are usually shod with aggressive dirt oriented tires known as “knobbies”. Lightweights are closest to pure dirt bikes and are most at home on rough trails and two-track roads with occasional forays onto pavement.
Middleweight dual sports weigh more than 300 pounds up to about 350 pounds. They usually have less suspension travel and ground clearance than lightweights and are often shod with tires that offer a compromise between dirt and pavement performance. Middleweights are most at home on smooth trails, graded dirt roads and pavement.
Heavyweight dual sports weigh over 350 pounds. They are designed primarily for riders who want to travel long distances on pavement with occasional forays onto dirt roads. They are usually shod with smoother tires that perform better on pavement. These motorcycles are also called adventure bikes by some manufacturers.
It should be noted that these types are only approximate and new models that split the boundaries and offer different combinations of features appear each year. However, the laws of momentum and inertia always favor lighter dual sports for tight, rough trails. Heavier dual sports that emphasize rider comfort and the capacity to carry luggage are better choices for long highway trips.
Dual sports, by definition, are compromises - giving up some dirt performance to be ridden on the street and some street performance to be ridden in the dirt. The merits of a particular model can only be judged relative to the owner’s intended mix of dirt and street riding. Although aficionados may argue the merits of different models, all agree that versatile dual sports are desirable alternatives to more specialized motorcycles that can only be ridden in one environment.
A supermoto (also known as a supermotard or motard) is typically a converted motocross bike with less suspension travel, smaller front and rear wheel wheels (typically 17" at both ends), road tires and an oversized front brake designed to be primarily run on asphalt. When made street legal, these bikes may also be considered to be a type of dual sport. In this case, these motorbikes could be seen as somewhere between a sport bike and a dual-sport.