Written by Lukas Eddy. Posted in Bikes With more power than the smaller bikes and less weight than the bigger adventure bikes midweight 400cc dual-sport motorcycles can be exciting performers off road. Add some luggage and you’ve got the recipe for serious backcountry adventure potential on these versatile machines. There are budget-friendly used options as well as more expensive, higher performing enduros and even a midweight adventure tourer with serious heavyweight features.
Comfort on the highway won’t always be a highlight, but we feel these are good examples that range from serious dirt machines to more comfortable long distance tourers. • Suzuki DR350SE Born towards the end of the era of midweight air-cooled dual-sports of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the initial DR350S was kick start only and could be difficult to fire up when hot. While they were already good bikes, they were greatly improved in 1994 with the addition of an electric starter (and an “SE” model designation).
From there, they changed little until the end of their run. For their final two years, 1998 and 1999, the DR350SE got the cartridge forks from the dirt-only model, a welcome improvement over the simpler damping rod forks. The DR350SE was basically a street-legalized trail bike instead of the other way around, so extended highway miles won’t be as comfortable as off-roading. With a seat height of 35-inches, a typical dual-sport stretch, the DR350SE was considered somewhat heavy back in the day.
By comparison, they weighed slightly less than modern liquid-cooled 250s. Liquid cooling adds consistency to performance, but the simplicity of the single cam air-cooled motor is an attractive feature on these older dual-sports. In fact, Austin Vince and a group of riders took several of them on a ’round the world expedition they called Terra Circa, and again a few years later on Mondo Enduro (MondoEnduro.
com), proving that small displacement dirt-oriented bikes could be functional adventure motorcycles. If you’ve never seen Austin’s films about these two RTW trips, you’re in for a treat. Swapping the CV carb for a pumper carb from a DR350 dirt model will wake up the street model, and some jetting and exhaust work can help get the most out of the motor, but it’s typically best if kept close to the stock setup.
A seat swap, a larger plastic gas tank to replace the steel one, and a luggage rack on the rear will make this midweight more suited for backcountry exploration. The aftermarket isn’t as active as it is for newer or longer running bikes Also, a DR350SE in poor condition isn’t worth much, but well taken care of examples are worth the extra dough. A bike with similar options along this direction include the Yamaha XT350s.
PROS CONS ▲ Low cost ▼ Limited aftermarket ▲ Reliable SOHC air cooled motor ▼ 1997 and earlier had more basic suspension ▲ Good suspension and ground clearance for that era • Honda CB500X Released less than four years ago, the newer CB500X may not be as easy to find on the used market, but that could also be because owners don’t want to give them up. The stock version of the CB500X is somewhat street focused with cast 17-inch wheels and 6.
6 inches of ground clearance. However, compared to many modern adventure bikes, the CB500X doesn’t come as close to breaking the 500-pound mark. Instead, it’s lighter than the more dirt oriented Kawasaki KLR650 while still offering the modern features found on many adventure bikes at twice the cost. The reliable, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 471cc twin is a change from the usual single-cylinder thumpers that dominate the dual-sport class, and power output is smooth and user-friendly.
Features on the much bigger adventure bikes such as ABS, massive stator outputs for accessories, and relatively low seat heights are not lost on the CB500X. ABS is available as a dealer option and the stator puts out a whopping 500W, which can run your fog lights, GPS and more without a hiccup. The low seat height is 32-inches, but if you’re more interested in increasing ground clearance than you are in keeping the seat low, there are noteworthy aftermarket options.
Rally Raid Products came up with a solution to increase the adventure capability of the CB500X with multiple levels of available upgrades including suspension, wheels, engine guards and luggage. While not cheap, these upgrades help the CB500X fill the gap that’s left when trying to make a dual-sport more touring-friendly. It may have roots from the paved side of the field, but it hits the modern adventure mark with reliability and updated technology that, especially when coupled with the Rally Raid setup, makes it a user-friendly adventure bike.
PROS CONS ▲ Good long distance capability and comfort ▼ Rally Raid Products setup adds cost ▲ ABS available that can be turned off ▼ Limited ground clearance and suspension ▲ Smooth, fuel efficient twin-cylinder engine is easy to use • KTM 450/525 EXC (2007+) Many dual-sports appear more as dirt bikes sporting street makeup, but a closer inspection can sometimes reveal street-influenced design characteristics.
Case in point, the street legal line of KTM 450/525 dual-sports really are dedicated dirt bikes with little more than lights, license plates and some emissions compromises. Limited luggage and fuel capacity and comparably more stringent maintenance intervals ensure these bikes work best for the light travelling, soft luggage carrying adventure riders that value performance and capability over almost everything else.
The older 450/525 EXCs had kick and electric starters which means you won’t have to face the challenge of hopping over the 37-plus-inch seat height to bump start them. Long travel, fully adjustable WP suspension, high power output and later fuel-injection confirm the age-old saying “you get what you pay for.” The first street legal KTM 450 in 2007 used the legendary Racing Four Stroke (RFS) motor that established a reputation at the World Enduro Championship and holds a solid reliability record.
The 2008 switch to the XC4 motor saw possible decreases in reliability, but the issues seemed to have been ironed out by 2010. The introduction of a fuel-injection system in 2010 made for less maintenance, but those who find comfort in being able to troubleshoot a carb on the side of a trail may be more interested in the older versions. While highway speeds are not an issue for the motors and wide ratio six-speed gearboxes, rider comfort on the highway won’t be a strong suit for these light bikes.
Bigger aftermarket tanks, better seats and lightweight luggage will get these incredibly performance-oriented dual-sports through anything you can throw at them. Stay on top of maintenance and you will reap the rewards of modern enduro technology that can push your adventure riding boundaries. While less common, the similar Husqvarna TE450 and TE510 dual-sports are comparable performers in this category.
PROS CONS ▲ High engine output ▼ More frequent maintenance intervals ▲ Excellent inverted, fully adjustable WP cartridge forks and fully adjustable WP rear shock ▼ High cost ▲ Lightweight • Suzuki DRZ400S The DRZ400S is actually an evolution of the DR350SE, welcoming more displacement, liquid-cooling, and with time, upgraded suspension. Massive front forks, minimal wind protection and dirt bike ergonomics place this bike on the dirt-friendly side of the midweight dual-sport world, but when the going gets rough you’ll be happy for those characteristics.
Early 2000 and 2001 models had the simpler damping rod forks, but then the DRZ400S quickly received the better cartridge forks from the dirt-only “E” model. In stock form it’s got reliable, functional horsepower, and for those who want to push the limits there are plenty of aftermarket resources to increase horsepower by leaps and bounds. Some find the five-speed gearbox ratios limiting for doing both technical low speed work and highway riding without changing sprocket ratios, but it can cruise at 65 mph with relative ease.
You may notice the weight is almost exactly halfway between the liquid-cooled 250cc dual-sports and the lightest 650cc dual-sports, which is indicative of the middle-of-the-road nature of these bikes. Less than half an inch shorter than the big Honda XR650L, this is still a tall bike that can be a challenge when in low speed technical terrain and loaded with gear. But nowadays the DRZ platform still weighs considerably less than any of the bigger adventure bikes.
People have been modifying the DRZ400 platform for a long time, so aftermarket resources are everywhere to get it ready for everything. Peter Foulkes and Jon Brookbanks showed us that with upgrades like a bigger tank, a skid plate, and wind protection can help take this capable dual-sport literally around the world. Another option in this direction is the nearly identical Kawasaki KLX400, which is dirt-only like the “E” model but can be found with street legal conversions.
PROS CONS ▲ Reliable, proven engine ▼ Five-speed only ▲ Big aftermarket options ▼ Small gas tank ▲ Good, adjustable, dirt friendly Kayaba suspension * * * This isn’t intended to be a fully comprehensive list of the best used midweight dual-sport adventure bikes money can buy, however, we feel they offer excellent value in the world of dual-sport adventure riding. The merits and drawbacks discussed in this list should prompt further exploration into finding the right bike for you, so please let us know your suggestions in the comments! Click to enlarge image Honda-CB500X.
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An oil modify is a thing that each auto owner must offer with at just one time or a further. It might be a program celebration, but you could possibly advantage from being aware of some information and background behind motor oil as well as interior combustion motor for which it was designed.
Today, dual-sport bikes are spectacular. They’re on par with dedicated dirt bikes in performance, weight and technology. But man, are they expensive! It’s tough to get out the door with a new Beta, KTM or Husky for under $10,000. That sends most of us to the used-bike market looking for deals.This list is dedicated to bikes that are at least five years old. They are rated in terms of value and and dirt-riding capability.
The bikes chosen represent the middle of the bell curve in terms of size. We haven’t included big adventure bikes or small RV bumper bikes. 1 KTM 450, 530 (2008 & LATER)We are forced to put these bikes at the top of the list because they’re so stinkin good. But they aren’t cheap. Finding a 5-year-old EXC for sale is tough, as people tend to hold on to them until death. So expect to pay a premium of around $6000.
The reason that the KTM sits so high on a list of bargains is because you can expect to recoup your investment when you sell the bike. If you sell the bike. 2KTM 450, 525 (2007)KTM first made the EXC line street legal in 2007 after Husqvarna proved it could be done. In 2007, KTM still was making the older RFS motor, but don’t let that slow you down. This motorcycle is excellent by any standards, in both 450 and 525 (510cc) configurations.
The only problem is that most of the ‘07s have been ridden into the ground by now, and they still bring in about $4500. 3SUZUKI DR-Z400SE, (2000 & LATER)The Suzuki was and still is an excellent bike, just rather old-school compared to the KTMs that sit higher on the list. It’s simply not as light, powerful or well-suspended as more modern dual-sport bikes. But the price is right. A Suzuki DR-Z in good condition can be had for around $3200.
Age and condition play a big role because the Suzuki has gone virtually unchanged through its long production run. 4BETA RS450, RS525 (2008 – 2010)This bike makes the list because we love it. But you’ll probably never find one. In 2008, KTM had a new motor for its own dual-sport bike, but continued producing the older RFS motor for Beta. The RS line was 100 percent street legal and the motor was spectacular.
Unfortunately, there were probably less than 100 imported in ‘08. Numbers got only slightly better as time went on. Beta would produce its own motor in later years. This photo is of the dirt-only RR model from ‘08. 5HONDA XR650L (1992 & LATER)This bike was the virtual definition of dual-sport for decades. It’s gone unchanged since it was introduced in 1992. That’s quite a run. Today, it feels very old fashioned, but if you get around the rider ergos, you’ll find that it still works very well.
In fact, the suspension is excellent. If left unmodified, the air-cooled motor is unbreakable. Price can be anywhere, but keep in mind that a brand new one has an MSRP of $6690. For a 650 shootout including the Honda XR650L, click here. 6HONDA XR CONVERSIONS (1996 & LATER)These are somewhat high-risk buys in some states. In California and Nevada, it’s possible for the DMV to change its mind and revoke a license plate, even if it’s been on the bike for years.
In states that don’t care, like Arizona, Vermont and Florida, you can usually get a license plate for a toaster. The bottom line is that if you live in a strict state and your XR400R, XR600R or XR650R has a license plate in good legal standing, it can add $1000 to the worth of the motorcycle. But it can be gone tomorrow. 7HUSQVARNA TE510, 450 (2006 & LATER)In 2006 Husqvarna was the first company to make its regular dirt bike street-legal with minimal DOT equipment.
It was a great motorcycle, but exceedingly rare. BMW didn’t buy Husqvarna until 2007, and quantity and quality didn’t improve until years later. But any 2006 Husky you find will have the bugs worked out by now and is worth around $3600. Parts availability for Italian Huskys is OK–for now. 8HUSQVARNA TE250, TE310 (2006 – 2009)Good luck on finding a street-legal Husky TE250 from 2006. They only imported a handful.
It was a fine bike, and there were more made as time went on. In 2010 it was replaced with an all-new fuel-injected motorcycle, but it was slower that first year. The TE310s and 250 that came later were fantastic, but newer and more expensive than the bikes we’re dealing with here. Expect to pay about $2800 for a TE in good shape. There were very few 310s based on the carbureted motor, but they’re worth around $3500.
9HONDA XR250L (1991 -1996)It’s hard to believe that the classic XR250L has been out of production for almost 20 years. Honda made a bunch of them between ‘91 and ‘96 and all of them are still out there, running well. The 250 wasn’t very fast, but it was reasonably light and well-suspended for the time. There was no electric start, so deal with it. You can find a good XR for around $1700.
10 SUZUKI DR350SE (1991 – 1999)The DR seems somewhat forgotten these days, but it was a beloved bike in its day. The DR was the object of massive hop-up attempts back then, but it resisted them all. It was at its best in stock form. It was an electric-start, air-cooled bike with decent power and suspension. Weight was its downfall, as was typical of dual-sport bikes back then. They’re out there in wildly different condition.
A good one is worth $2000. A bad one is worth nothing. For a complete buyer’s guide of 2015 dual-sport bikes, click here. For a complete buyer’s guide of 2016 dual-sport bikes, click here.