In late 2012 my riding buddy Stretch was getting ready to sell his beloved Yamaha FZ1. He and I took a ride up to Shady Valley, TN and at lunch we were discussing different bikes. He mentioned that he wanted to get a dual sport bike when he sold his FZ1. I thought that was awesome! I wanted to give dual sport riding a try, but I didn’didn't have any friends that were interested. I told Stretch that I would add a dual sport to the stable if he was sure that was the route he was going to take.
Well, once I get an idea in my head I am all over it. I had some cash in my pocket from a Ducati Monster I was parting out and I started shopping for a dual sport bike. I had no idea what to buy, but the Kawasaki KLR650 kept coming up. My plan was to buy a cheap bike that needed a little work or one I could easily get my money back if I didn't like it. As it turns out there are some great deals to be had on the KLR so I snagged a 2004 KLR650 in November of 2012. It was cheap and it needed a little TLC. I took the winter to get it ready and then in March of 2013 I got to go on my first dual sport ride!
I bought the cheapest gear I could find to keep myself protected. I figured I would fall a lot and I didn't want to get hurt too bad. I think I spent about $350 at Cycle Gear and I walked away with a dirt helmet, goggles, knee and shin guards, boots, roost deflector, jersey, gloves, and pants. I got bottom of the line for almost everything.
Stretch and I met up for our ride and we set off on what turned out to be an epic day! We had water crossings, beautiful vistas, hill climbs, mud, and gravel. It still stands to this day as one of my favorite rides. Everything was new and challenging .It was physically exhausting and I knew that I found a new way to enjoy riding.
Dual sport riding was an unexpected passion for me. I honestly figured I would put a few miles on my KLR and then sell it, but now I have farkled and upgraded that bike so much that it is far beyond the bike I originally bought. I have sorted out its weak points and built it to handle pretty much anything I am capable of riding. I love my KLR and it has had more use than my Yamaha FZ1 or my Yamaha FJR this past year. My cheapest bike is the one ridden the most. I can knock the KLR over and I don’t care. The simple fact that I don’t worry about scratching it makes riding it even more fun.
Here’s a few things I love about dual sport riding:
The Road Less Traveled
Dual sport bikes are surprisingly fun on the pavement. Even with knobbies they handle very well. You can still rip up the twisties with a dual sport bike, but the best part is riding down the road and finding the ones that barely look like roads. With a dual sport bike you can ride whatever you see. If you see a nice looking gravel road or even a grown up goat trail you can go check it out! In the Blue Ridge Mountains there are some very nice roads with matching views, but if you get off on the road less travelled you are in for a real treat. Some of the best scenery just isn’t accessible unless you are willing to venture offroad.
I know You Can Ride, How Good are You?
If I had to use one word to describe dual sport riding, I would say it is challenging. You could say this about motorcycles in general, but with dual sporting you are covering all types of terrain. In a single ride you may have smooth pavement, mud, sand, gravel, rocks, and water crossings. You will also be maneuvering at high speeds, low speeds, sitting, and standing. Dual sporting will test you in all situations.
The big nerd in me loves hobbies with lots of gear. My wife will attest to that. Dual sport riding needs gear that is loose and comfortable while riding offroad, but durable enough to protect you in a road crash. That gear is actually very hard to find. Everything about dual sporting is a compromise. Finding the right gear for your riding style and budget is a task in itself. I enjoy the process of learning about the gear and finding the right piece for me.
GPS devices were invented for people like me. I can get lost in a mall parking lot, but when we go out on our dual sport bikes we are often genuinely lost. There is very little chance that anyone will be around to ask for directions and you are so alone in the mountains that it is both peaceful and thrilling. You have to be completely self-sufficient just in case the worst happens. If your bike breaks you need to repair it right there. If you get stuck, you need a way to get yourself out. If you break yourself, you need enough first aid knowledge to keep yourself going. You will need to be up to the task in many skill sets. You will need basic first aid, basic mechanics of your bike, riding skills, and potentially survival skills if it gets bad enough.
The Alone Time
Most of us live in neighborhoods and work in offices these days. We are never truly detached from the world around us. We have smart phones and TVs going all the time. It is nice to feel like you belong to something and fun to spend time with people, but sometimes you just need time to reflect. I call this helmet time and I find it therapeutic. Helmet time on a dual sport bike is even more therapeutic. Once you get back on a trail you don’t have to worry about cars running you over or cops. It’s just you and your thoughts behind that visor sorting things out in God’s country!
Dual sport riding will certainly put you in situations where you will create some great stories. You can find a lot of them on this website. There will be stories of close calls, wrecks, spills, repairs on the trail, new friends, and on and on. There is no end to what might happen. Of course, every story is better with a good cast of friends. You will meet some awesome people through dual sporting. I can guarantee they will be adventurous and fun!
I never expected to get so hooked on dual sport riding, but it is one of the best and most complete ways to experience motorcycling. There is so much adventure just waiting in our own backyards. I had no idea there were so many unpaved roads and trails until I slowed down and started looking for trails to ride. If you have never tried dual sport riding I would encourage you to give it a shot. If you are already a dual sport rider, I want to hear what you love about dual sport riding.
Please post your comments below and let us know what you think!