MSRP: Both the 2019 and 2020 ones start at $6,699
It’s hard to say that there’s a definitive king of small dual sports. What we can say for sure is that the WR250R is definitely a perennial contender for the crown. It’s narrow, it’s nimble, it’s reliable, it gets a claimed 71 mpg and untold smiles per gallon, and it weighs just 295 pounds at that curb you’re about to roll over, just because you can.
This solid, capable little offering from Team Blue won’t let you down, even if you’re out riding with bigger bikes. With fully adjustable forks and rear linkage-style shock, as well as wave brake rotors front and rear, coupled with a semi-double-cradle frame chassis that is both strong and rigid yet not excessively heavy, this bike has an awful lot to offer.
Kawasaki Versys-X 300
MSRP: 2020 from $5,499 without ABS, $5,799 with ABS
When this bike launched, Kawasaki wanted to make sure it was taken seriously as a mainly street-oriented adventure-styled bike that’s also dirt-curious. It dabbles in off-road a bit, although it’s not a mini-KLR by any stretch. It features a 296cc parallel twin engine, six-speed gearbox, assist and slipper clutch, and a curb weight of 385.9 pounds. Single disc brakes stop you front and rear, and there is zero mention of suspension adjustability in Kawasaki’s documentation.
One additional cool part about the Versys-X 300 is that you can get full factory luggage for it from Kawasaki, as an option. That’s not really a thing for smaller bikes like this, so good on Kawasaki for offering this option. Sadly, the factory panniers and top case don’t play nicely together, so you have to choose one or the other or else go aftermarket.
BMW G 310 R
MSRP: 2020 from $4,945
If you really want to save the bees, you could totally start with this extremely angry little single-cylinder, 313cc four-stroke engine that makes a claimed 34 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 21 lb-ft. of torque at 7,500rpm. BMW also says it gets 71 miles per gallon, which certainly doesn’t hurt. See, fun doesn’t have to cost you a ton in bike-form or in fuel form! It buzzes like the angriest bee, and is so much fun to ride, you guys. I will never miss an opportunity to tell you how much fun it is, either, because it’s definitely one of my favorite bikes I’ve ever ridden (but don’t own).
Could this also be the best-looking bike on this list? A question like that is always subjective, but it just might be. There’s no denying it’s an awfully good-looking bike, and the fit and finish is also pretty darn good. I’m so pleased this is a bike we’re able to buy in the U.S. in 2020, for any number of reasons.
Honda Rebel 500
MSRP: 2020 from $6,199 without ABS, $6,499 with ABS
Like a lot of other vertically challenged riders, I got plenty of quality seat time on an older Rebel in my MSF class. I did not like that bike, but it fit me, and by the end of the course, I was confidently zooming around on it with no problem. I’m here to tell you not to dismiss the Rebel 500 out of hand if your only experience was on an older Rebel, because this bike is proof they’ve come a long way.
Looks, technology, and comfort have all improved over the years. For 2020, this 471 cc parallel twin-engined mini-cruiser gets an assist/slipper clutch, a modern LED lighting package, and an all-new suspension. Disc brakes stop you front and rear, and curb weight is just 408 pounds, which is just about nothing for a cruiser.
MSRP: 2020 from $5,549
It’s true that if you’d prefer a more upright seating position and don’t fancy crouching down over the clipons all day, you’d probably want a 390 Duke instead. That’s totally cool, and by no means am I suggesting that you shouldn’t be proud to own that choice, if it’s the one you end up making. That being said, I hope you’ll get to ride an RC390 at some point, because it’s an absolute blast.
This 373cc single-cylinder beast with WP Apex 43 forks and Apex monoshock in the rear comes with disengageable Bosch two-channel ABS and disc brakes all around. More than any other bike on this list, wringing the throttle open on this one makes you feel like you’re going way faster than your speedometer will actually tell you is happening. If you’re a speeding ticket magnet on other bikes, this one might be a small bike that’s made just for you. There’s more than one way a bike can help you not break the bank, for sure.