Basic differences between dual-sport and adventure bikes

Basic differences between dual-sport and adventure bikes

There are a couple of segments in the motorcycle world that can be confusing, but in our opinion, none raises as many questions as the difference between dual sport and adventure bikes, and there is a reason for it.

Both bikes have the same goal, a motorcycle that can perform equally well on and off-road, and to make things even more confusing, it is even possible to convert a dual sport into an adventure bike, but we might be getting ahead of ourselves.

Let's start at the beginning.

  • What is a dual sport bike?

    A dual sport is an evolution on an enduro bike, which on its own is a motocross bike that usually has lights, a wider range transmission, and potentially bigger fuel tanks amongst other little details, like a horn and mirrors that in many places make them street legal.

    This tells us that a dual sport, although capable of riding on the road, is at its core an off-road machine.

    Basic dual sport anatomy


    Amongst the characteristics that make these bikes the machines they are, we can find: 

    • tall seat heights
    • long suspension travels
    • slim profiles
    • lightweight when compared to adventure motorcycles but slightly heavier than enduros
    • enduro size pneumatics
    • single cylinder engines with carburettors or electronic injections
    • high ground clearances
    • spartan comfort features



    • What can you expect from a dual-sport bike, and to whom are they aimed?

    If you plan on tackling gnarly off-road, but still want, or need to do road miles, this may be the machine for you!

    Although on their majority they don't perform like an enduro or a motocross bike, mainly due to the extra weight and some motorcycle suspension differences, they are very close, and for a bike that is street legal, you are not going to find anything else that will get close to it.

    However, if you want or need to do more of a 50-50 split between dirt and tarmac, some mods may be in order to overcome the dual sport cons.

    If you are aiming for a lightweight adventure bike, you will need to add to your dual sport:

    • a larger tank
    • extra protections both for the bike and to shield you from the wind
    • a more comfortable seat
    • you may require some engine modifications to reduce vibration, increase highway speed and improve long term reliability

    Still, riding two up may be difficult or impossible for many models, and on-road comfort and performance will never be as high as on a full-blown adventure motorcycle.


    • So what is an adventure bike?

    Considering the shortcomings that we pointed out on the dual sport bikes, some riders wanted something different, and brands delivered, or better off, one brand delivered.

    In 1981 BMW brought out the R80G/S, a bike that although no one knew how to characterize, forced people to agree that it was agile and comfortable on the road, and impressive enough off-road for such a heavy machine.

    That performance off-road was more than proven when a prepared R80 won the Paris-Dakar by the hand of Hubert Auriol.

    BMW R80G/SReference: Image of a BMW R80G/S from Wikipedia

    The adventure motorcycle was born, a bike that lives for the trail with the heart set on the road.

    Of course, from there, other brands followed suit, and many evolution of many different concepts brought us to the world we have today, where adventure bikes are more or less equivalent in what they offer.

    Basic adventure motorcycle characteristics  

    Although being divided into two sub-segments, the middleweights with engines around the 800cc and the big adv bikes from 1000cc's above, both offer:

    • relative to high wind protection
    • suspensions and wheels that tend to be less aggressive than what we will find on the dual-sport world
    • multi-cylinder engines
    • heavy duty brakes,
    • large fuel tanks
    • a myriad of electronic aids
    • many come stock with panniers or at least gear racks
    • large maintenance intervals
    • on road comfort

    The ability to fit them with roadworthy tires, and the ability they retain to be impressive off-road made this segment of bikes a clear choice for those that live for adventure, but are also forced to do road miles, as well as for those that want to drive for miles without forcefully having to stop as soon as the road ends.

    However, they are not without their cons.

    • the low fenders most bring from the factory can be troublesome in muddy environments
    • their bigger dimensions and restricted seating positions can make their manoeuvrability complicated
    • their weight off-road forces a very different approach once the off-road goes above dirt tracks
    • their immense electronics can prove to be a difficult fix if they fail when out in the wild.

    NOTE: We are generalizing the characteristics of both segments to illustrate their differences, and are in no way or form saying there are not models that deviate themselves from what we explained.


    All in all, if you tent to spend more time on the dirt, go dual-sport, if you spend more time on the road, go adventure bike, and if you are a real 50-50 rider, consider modifying a dual-sport to suit your specific needs.

    Regardless of choice, we love them all here at the Braaaaaapp HQ, and we cannot wait to see a brand coming out with a 400 or 500cc lightweight dual-sport biased adventure bike!

    Check our Pinterest and see our infographic!

    Basic differences between dual-sport and adventure bikes

    2 comentários

    • Jose Reis

      One thing I have to agree with you, Suzuki dropped the ball big time.

      The DR350, DR650 and DRZ400 are for me the most 50-50 bikes ever to be put out there, I mean, the DRZ400 is been for sale for 19 years, sadly only on the US at this moment, but still!

      If they decided to upgrade those models in little things like the frame, maybe EFI, and suspension, they would hit yet another home run.

      The DR800, although a great bike, in my experience is not as reliable as the other ones.

      I used to run a motorcycle garage mainly focused on dual-sports and adv bikes, and being in Europe, I had a lot of clients with the DR800.

      Great bike like I said, but that big 800cc thumper was far from hassle free, it’s like having a nuclear bomb wrapped inside a hand grenade, its just too much to be safe for the material.

      If you get a chance to try the 800 and the 650, do so before you commit to buy, also, make some real research into common problems of the 800.

      If I may share my opinion, between the two, take the 650. It is as indestructible as the 350 and equally great on any off -road you trow at it.

      The gain you get from the 800 vs the drawbacks are just not worthy for me, but as I said, do some research and if you can, try them both beforehand if you haven’t yet.

      Now if the news going around that Suzuki will bring the DR800 back using the V-Strom engine are true, if they don’t screw the pooch, they will have another winner on and off-road, and that will make it a bike to pay attention to!

    • David Lord

      I have a ‘96 DR-350 trail model. Love this bike. It is damn near indestructible and a proven winner in the woods.
      Suzuki dropped the ball with not offering the DR BIG, 800cc Adventure bike to the US market. This stands above many comparable sand has been around (the rest of the world) since the late 80s. I have the DR and a Gold Wing. I would love to find a DR Big to find the middle ground in riding without having to get a second mortgage to get it.

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