We compare today’s most hard-core dual sport motorcycles: Honda’s CRF450L, Beta’s 430 RR-S, KTM’s 500 EXC-F and Husqvarna’s FE 450.
Dual sport has changed. Once ruled by relatively inexpensive and softer-performing versions of dirt bike’s elite motocross and off-road racehorses, the dual-purpose bikes of the past were a fringe of off-road premium, not the mainstream of price or the tip-of-the-spear of performance we have today.
For the way most people want to, or will, use a dual sport bike, the now aging street-legal performers of DR-Z, KLR, CRF, XR, XT and etc. acronyms of all displacements are perfectly fine. They go off-road just fine. They go on-road just fine. They are insanely dependable and durable, and you’ll tire of them before they tire out. They’re fine. Everything is fine. Like a marriage. It’s fine.
But the bikes in this comparison aren’t exactly like those bikes. These are bikes built on a different level. These are bikes with little attention paid to overall comfort. These are bikes intended to perform. Period.
Before you read further, and if you’re seriously considering the purchase of a dual-sport bike, it’s important to first look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself how you’re really going to use the bike and where you’re really going to ride it.
If you’re considering a motorcycle to shuttle you around town or go riding on logging roads while chasing your kids, you should know that going in. There are a lot of less-expensive models on the dealership floor than these four prize ponies. There are plenty of bikes to scratch the dual-sport itch without dropping ten-grand-plus.
But, if you want to ride more aggressively off-road, stand up through technical trails, are okay with breaking turn signals off and scraping mirrors, fully expect to pick your bike up off the ground on occasion, feel like entering an off-road race or two every year and enjoy wheel-lofting through sand whoops once in a while, then you’re in the right spot here.