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Home > Magazine > Motors > Versatile Vehicle? -- A Dual Purpose Moto!

Versatile Vehicle? -- A Dual Purpose Moto!
October 01, 2006

I prefer bike, paddle, sail, foot, ski---but there are times when a jaunt is a bit too far to be convenient for those modes.

As I posted earlier, the Traverse Bay area has several nice destination harbors all about 15 miles apart: too far for cheery sea kayaking. Something about 20 feet long with some sail is more like what you need---to supplement oars and paddles and put gunkholing spots in range up there.

Same thing for towns and roads. In Michigan desireable towns for stopping places or even rest places are often about 50 miles apart. A bit far for any kind of cycling except pure nature rides where you don't care or don't want to see a decent burg on the outing.

Up north where we have our trailer, two hours of cycling---on road or two-track---gets you just to more road and trail. Same with XC skiing. This is dandy for doing loop-outings or just going to town and back, but that's it.

BUT! If you add a bit of *motor* suddenly several sizeable up north towns are in reach for making stops during an afternoon's outing. Actually, the distances might still be a bit far for more than 3 stops but basically the idea is that your "jaunt" range is about tripled.

So what kind of motor is suitable? Well, for everything down to a 2-track you can use a small car or truck with snowtires. It's nicest to saw the top off, for fresh air. 4WD can't hurt either. But 4 wheels won't work on trails. An ATV is an option and apparently work good in moderate snow, but they're not road legal (probably a roofless car isn't either) or trail-legal in many places and they ride funny on 2-tracks (don't fit the tracks).

The most versatile rig is a moto, a motorcycle. And not an ordinary bike. Not in today's sense of specialty bikes, anyway. The cream that rises to the top is what they call a Dual Purpose Moto. It's the fastest growing moto sector. It's a bike for pavement AND dirt. (Actually, I think they're called Dual Sport more often today, but I'll stick with the milder-sounding DP.)

What's more, the chores to be accomplished don't end with up north action.

A DP moto can also be a 60mpg errand-mobile / commuter.

Lastly, I've lately been making an annual 750-mile roadtrip to a cabin in Minnesota for a Life Studies Seminar. 1500-mi RT.

A DP bike that can cruise 65mph without rattling your bones can fill the bill there, too.

So the mission is: freeway, around-town, dirt roads, 2-tracks, ORV trails with moderate whoops.

(I've seen pics of dirt motos with fat tires. Seems like an influence of ATVs. I wonder if such tires make 2-trackin' easier.)

There seems to be a handful of strong options in this category of moto.

The thing is that I'm not sure that current bikes are the ticket. As with most things, DP bikes today are faster, more powerful, more acrobatic and more expensive. All of which is useless to us and our mission.

We have no interest in air-time, or a fake motocrosser, or a 100mph pseudo crotch rocket, or both.

No, we want a good, moderate, reliable all-round bike.

(Of course there's always the snag that I'm no good at motor maintenance.)

Thankfully each of the big makers seems to have made a rugged contender for this title...before they went hog-wild. Some of these bikes were made the same year after year---which seems like a good thing to me.

We have the Kawasaki KLR 250, Honda XR400, Yamaha XT350, Suzuki DR350, and the BMW R80GS. (The KLR/XR/XT/DR breed-ranges all had models up to 600's, which people also rave about, but which may or may not be overkill for our moderate wishes. Probably better for the freeway for sure, or for loads or passengers. The R80 is definitely a classier roadbike than the others, but heavy for singletrack trail. Good for dirt roads, though.)

The KLR250 was the official Marine recon bike and was produced with few changes for 20 years. ---That's what I'm talking about.

The R80GS Beemers were winning Paris-Dakar from the start, but now I think they're only available used. Newer BMWs are much bigger and seem much more roadie, altho I think there is a 650 offered. The rare 1980's R65GS was the Danish Army bike.

It appears that there are two tiers to this scene. Or three. There are the two levels of older tried'n'true moderate reliables in lightweight and midweight ranges. Then there's the third level of hot new supercharged big bikes that seem meant to compete with both MXers or road racers: dual adrenalin instead of dual moderation. It seems like you can get the older style bikes (pre-2000) for $1K-$2K. Of course the new bikes are $4K and up.

I like the idea of a lighter bike. It seems like it would be easier on the trails. Easier to pick up if ever tipped over. Easier for Martha. Easier to load into a trailer if need be. Smaller. Less momentum. Better gas mileage! (Although I note that all moto's, from 250 to 1100 seem to get about 55mpg. Crazy!)

However, I don't want to be whined and vibrated to death at 55mph. I think the true DP bikes keep in mind the need for smooth 65mph.

My old roommate Randy had a BMW R80GS. I used to ride it some. We rode it tandem for up to an hour at a time. He took it over to Europe and did a road trip for most of a year. He now has one of the big new road-oriented models.

Right now I see a moderate old-style DP bike as being pretty sweet in terms of versatility: trail, 2-track, dirt-road, pavement, around-town, occasional highway trip. Much bigger range than a bicycle. Can use panniers and fairing. Could maybe pull a BOB-like trailer (?). Affordable. Good mileage. Seems kinda neat.

[UPDATE: Here's the link to the only magazine about these bikes! I'm also now reselling sample issues! Check it out!]

Here's an explanation of DP from a non-English-speaker:

A review of the KLR250:

Overview of the cult surrounding the KLR650:

Here's the HQ for the dirt/pave action folks:

The site for fans of this general kind of bike (4-stroke, 1-cyl):

...And the club for the air-cooled (older moderate-size) offroad Beemer buffs, the "Airheads":

Here's your Wiki references:

A gung-ho story about today's big DP's---with lots of irrelevant air---but you can see the general idea between the "100mph on the street, kickin' MXer butts in the dirt" hyperbole and see why more moderate (older) bikes might be just the ticket:

Apparently there's another recent trend to dirt bikes with street tires
called "motard," an extreme French thing. Not what I'm talking about.

But who knows, maybe I should just get a moderate old street bike, like a BMW R65 or even my old Yamaha 650 Special, and put more aggressive tires on it. They used to race the Jackpine 500 Enduro with that kind of bike, right?

Reader Comments - Add Your Own Comment
sisu - ann arbor, posted on Oct 03, 2006
I'll confess that in the heat of the summer I get lazy. I guess I prefer cold weather for physical exertion. . . But anyway, a motorcycle would be a fun way to cool off and go two-trackin'. Without exerting oneself much. And a fun way to do errands to boot.
mje - Huntington Woods, Michigan, posted on Oct 26, 2006
I've been discovering the advantages of the moto at this rather late point in life... well, this middle point. I have a 1983 50cc Yamaha RX50 with a 5-speed gearbox that you can fuel up and ride all summer- but I have my eye on the TW200... a fat tired dual-purpose bike that looks like it was made for you.
JeffOYB - Williamston, MI, posted on Oct 26, 2006
Hi Mike... Cool you're into motos these days! Someday for me, too... My moto pal laughed at my idea of a moto and a trailer but heck why not? He said it would handle bad and suggested a sidecar. WHAT? No leaning is something REALLY to get used to! I just love the idea of 70mpg and carrying camp gear, fishpole, bike...darn, how to do a canoe? I know, a FOLDER! But that's still another duffle. A moto trailer would be handy. Small, light, just enough. --JP