There are street riders, and there are dirt riders. And then, there are those who do both at the same time on dual sports. As I've been learning about how to enter the wonderful world of dirt, I've realized that these bikes that aren't great at anything but can do everything are a little bit different than what I originally thought they were. This video from eveRide dispells several of these misconceptions.
1. Dual sports are death machines and will kill you.
My experience of riding on dirt consists mainly of crashing. I've only ever ridden street motorcycles, so I don't have the right equipment or techniques for it. Not only are my tires smooth instead of knobby, but I also didn't know to not use much front brake until after I'd already broken a few turn signals. Dual sports, however, are made for these conditions. Sure, you still need the techniques, but even if you don't have more than basic riding skills, they'll take good care of you. Ricky Carmichael's biggest piece of advice to me was don't go faster than my abilities. Follow that advice, and the bike will be your willing partner, not your assassin.
2. All dual sport crashes result in injury, death, or a totaled bike.
The great thing about riding on dirt is that cars are typically not a factor, eliminating one of the biggest threats to riders. Your speed is generally much lower as well, reducing the consequences of a crash. Yes, crashes are possible, and even likely if you don't know what you're doing yet. With proper riding gear, though, you'll be able to walk away from most crashes. As for the bike, this type of abuse is literally what they're made for. You may scratch the paint or break some turn signals, but they can take a few hits.
3. Riding dual sports doesn't count as physical exercise.
Riding my Honda PC800 certainly does not count as physical exercise. The bike carries me down the road, and since I'm not hanging off it in the turns, all I have to do is work the controls. Off-road riding is completely different. You'll be doing a lot more work, standing up and using your arms and legs as auxiliary shock absorbers. You'll also be shifting your weight around a bit, putting your low-speed riding skills to use in ways that you rarely need on the street.
4. Dual sports are expensive.
At a recent bike night, I nearly had to wipe my drool off a Honda Africa Twin. Starting at $13,599, that's a lot of money to be throwing down the trail, particularly if you're just starting out. Similarly to how you don't start riding on a Kawasaki Ninja H2, though, you don't start dirt riding on an Africa Twin. You start on some used, affordable beater. I've been finding solid options like the Kawasaki KLR 650, Suzuki DR 650, and others in the $2,500 to $4,000 range. Occasionally they pop up for less, though you have to be quick to snag them, and/or handy with a wrench if it needs some work. Either way, there's no need to spend as much as you would for a car on a dual sport.
5. Dual sport riders hate the environment.
On the contrary, people who leave paved roads far behind do so because they enjoy nature, and a dual sport motorcycle is the best way to get them farther into it. It has less impact on the environment than even the most conscientious "tread lightly" Jeep driver, simply because it weighs so much less and has two fewer wheels. So many off-road trails have been closed because of littering and other shenanigans that dual sport riders tend to be on their best behavior to avoid losing more of them.
6. Dual sport and off-road motorcycling is a competition.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good dirt race. Most dual sport riders, however, are more interested in improving their own performance and abilities, which isn't necessarily linked to speed. Sure, you can enjoy a bit of speed and the occasional jump in the dirt, but like a track day, you can ride aggressively without having to beat your fellow riders. There's no checkered flag or cheap plastic trophy waiting for you out in the middle of nowhere.
7. You must be (insert qualifier here) to ride a dual sport.
The only requirement for riding a dual sport motorcycle is to hop on one and ride. That's it. I'm well past my prime for peak performance, but I'm still working on trying it for the first time. I'm not in shape, filthy rich, a hooligan, or any of the other common qualifiers people think you have to be in order to hit the dirt. Like Zaphod Beeblebrox, I'm just this guy, you know? All it takes to ride a dual sport motorcycle is to actually ride one.