A Dual Sport Motorcycle Information and Community Site
DATA IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. Updated 9/24/19(2020 Africa Twin Data.) Sourced corrections welcome. This information is often weedy and deliberately hidden. Top speeds should be considered estimates and do not effect the other calculations. Top speeds are often sourced from youtube and could be effected by electronic limiters. Data is intended to be from newest year model. Weight is intended to be the full wet weight of the motorcycle. Horse Power is intended to be rear wheel horsepower though often the only data available is provided from the manufacturer. Reliability of the data is continually improved thanks to the ongoing scrutiny of the dual sport community. For additional information such as seat height, fuel size and ground clearance, check the MotoSpecs section. This Data is intended to be cross referenced and continually verified and intended to serve as only a starting point in your own research. Data is free use and the entire chart may be copied and pasted anywhere you like without needing to request permission. Thank you.
Blog #3 The CR500
One bike above all the rest jumps out of the full series Data chart: The CR 500. As seen below, the CR500 landed in the top 5 for combined power to weight ratio, and had the best torque to weight ratio of any bike in the series. This is particularly impressive when you realize the only other bikes (besides the similarly purpose built Husaberg,) anywhere near its power to weight ratios are 1000ccs+ and weigh over twice as much at 500lbs+ compared to the unbelievable 247 lbs of the CR500.
How can a bike this lightweight, this small of CC's and over 25 old years have an edge on modern super bikes?
The answer is simple: 2 stroke. 2 stroke motors require fewer moving parts in the engine and therefore the engine is lighter. 2 strokes also fire once every 2 revolutions of the piston instead of every 4 like most "4-stroke" engines. In theory this should result in twice the power for a same size engine. Though physics doesn't allow that perfect of a conversion, the point is there is a lot more power on tap in a 2 stroke than a 4. The CR500 was the king of 2 strokes, and was essentially emission regulated out of existence(until modern 2 strokes like the Te300i from Husqvarna which also punches way above it's cc's on the chart.)
As a lasting testament to the 1994 CR500, Here is one out-launching Johnny Walker's fully kitted 2018 ktm 450 Dakar race bike: (though eventually the 450's 6th gear gives it a higher 105mph top speed than the 5 speed CR500's 96mph.)
Comparison Group 2:
Mini Blog #2 Comparison Group 2
As I've gone over the impact of these categories in the previous article, I'll just dive into the interesting technical bits revealed about this chart.
First, lets talk about the Carducci 1200. This is a custom made motorcycle built around a Harley V-Twin with a price tag in the neighborhood of 100k. In spite of this, the bike did not do particularly well on the charts, showing some of the limitations of the big power plant it holds. And yet it still had the best torque to lb ratio of any of the group. The explanation for this outlier of torque is simple: a Harley twin fires both of pistons at the same time, which of course provides more torque than firing in series or a single smaller piston. This unique engineering found a way to remind us even on a dual sport chart what it is that has kept the company alive.
Now for some nominations:
- Best in Group Fast Trails Bike: Husaberg 650e
With a remarkable low weight of 271 lbs and class leading power the Husaberg shows why owners don't often let go of them. 20 lbs less than Honda's legendary xr650R, it manages to put out just as much power.
- Best in Group ADV Bike : KTM 790 ADV R
135 top speeds assure you won't be searching for an extra gear on the highway, while its off road suspension is fit for all but the gnarliest of trails. KTM's newest offering is set to be a powerhouse in the ADV world.
- Best in Group Hard Enduro bike: Husqvarna TE 300i
TE 300i is the answer to what happens if you build a modern 2 stroke engine and keep the advantages of low weight and extra power the engine provides. Better power ratios than most bikes twice its CC's and the being lightest weight bike on the list make the TE 300i a cut above everything else in the gnarliest of terrain.
Next week comparison group 3 to be added to main series and includes: Betas, Vstrom 1k, a few more KTMS, t700, Super tenere, Multistrada and more... stay tuned!
Comparison Group 1
Blog 1, Comparison Group 1
Data and motorcycles. While there is so much that charts like these will miss; such as how well a bike feels on the road, whats it like to flick around a corner, how high does the weight sit and is the throttle predictable... It is still better to see actual specifications of these incredibly versatile machines than simply guess at what seems right from shilled reviews and tradition. Data is less susceptible to bias. If you haven't looked at the 6 charts and comparison group above, take a few moments to go check them out up there and meet me back down here at the next paragraph.
How did I pick whats in the comparison group? Aside from the KTMs and Africa Twin which were way out of my budget, I considered each of the bikes on this list at the time I purchased my Dual Sport bike. I wanted every confirmation I was buying the "right" bike. What I learned is there is no right bike, every bike has its own merits- very few people are in the business of making a bad motorcycle.
What data did I use? I tended to go with whichever year was lightest or whichever year had the best hp/lb ratio. For example the WR450F data is a 2004 as it was its best hp/lb year, while I used the data on the XR650L and CRF250L from the most recent year because it was their best year.
Chart 1- Total HP
Now lets talk horsepower. Simplified, horsepower is the amount of torque an engine can maintain while accelerating the speed it spins. As such a low torque bike can have high HP if it has an extraordinarily high redline with even power- the Versys 300 is a good example of that. Similarly a bike with huge torque can have low horsepower if it has a low redline or lack of power in parts of its rev range(XR650L.)
Not surprisingly the $14,000 performance bike KTM 950 Super Enduro joins its equally expensive Africa Twin 1000 debutante at the top of the chart. The big surprise is the WR450F that surpasses 4 of the 650cc motorcycles for horsepower. It stands to reason then it should be an extremely speedy ride off road where the light motorcycle would rarely have a need for torque and just keep clawing through the dirt as it gains speed. The Versys 300 is a stand out as well as a 300cc bike with 33% more hp than an XR650L, this reflects the level of technology that Kawasaki has put into this motorcycle which didn't even exist in 2016 and can be found now for $4,000 new. The rest are pretty linear and about where you'd expect them based on engine size and price.
Chart 2- HP/LB
The leaders in this chart should be well suited to long, steep hill climbs with good traction. Having to shift mid hill climb is a tragedy, and running out of speed and torque could have dangerous results. As such you'd want a machine that's as light as possible with high torque over a long span of the rev range. Again the KTM hyper bike with a hyper price sits on top of the list, with the WR450F looking like the safest bet for tackling large good traction hills.
I find it interesting that all 3 Suzuki's had the same hp/lb ratio which landed dead center of the pack. The Versys 650 shows quite a a step up form the other mid-range dual sports, an effect of its re-purposed Ninja engine. The KTMs own the top of the chart showing that the money is well spent on hp delivering tech. The XR650R is a legendary bike from a past era that you had to kick start, and yet shines well even in a hp/lb chart.
Chart 3- Total Torque
Torque is how much twisting force an engine applies at a given moment. If a motorcycle has high torque when at low RPMs, it's known as tractor-factor. All else being equal, the more torque a motorcycle has, the better it should do in terrain uneven enough to force slow speed. Think an inclined path with basketball size rocks to navigate over. Monstrous torque will let even heavier bikes walk over uneven terrain without having to even twist the gas.
In a familiar trend, our 2 nearly 1000cc jumbo dual sports top the chart again. Punching way above its weight is the XR650R out pacing all but the most modern KTM690E(which seemed to put the extra cc's just to outdo the old XR,) compared with the middle weight bikes and the 690E along with the mighty 650R nearly doubles the total torque of the 400cc bikes. The DR650 finally starts to show why its so popular with its low price/low tech combo that out paces all but the most advanced bikes in terms of total torque. As with all these categories, the weight should always be considered as a lighter setup might be able to bounce across larger obstacles which makes it easier to clear the obstacle by avoiding the situation of needing high torque at low speed.
Chart 4- Torque/LB
What if the uneven incline your trying to climb has slippy traction? What if its sand or ultra muddy? Suddenly what you need is the lightest bike possible with ability to keep the tire turning at slow speed. Low weight helps in so many ways that cannot be quantified: Will it break if it falls over? Can you stop it from falling if it starts to? Can you lift it out of a dug in hole? How deep will it sink in the soft stuff?
And so again if we ignore the 2 most expensive bikes we see what made the XR650R truly special. It outpaces even the most modern bikes in torque per lb, some how even surpassing the KTM 690e while spotting it 40 CCs. Still, Honda no longer makes the 650R, so the 690E or 500EXC foreign bikes are worthy successors. Another stand-out of the group is the Yamaha WR450F, which comes in with similar torque/lb to the much pricier and bigger KTM 500EXC. I'd be willing to bet however that the Super Sherpa 250 will get you through anything any other bike on this list could as it is hyper light with respectable power to weight ratios.
Chart 5- Top Speed
If dual sport means that a bike is sporty both on and off road, then top speed has to be considered and is certainly worth knowing in a practical sense. Unsurprisingly, the liter displacement of the Africa Twin and big KTM Super put them ahead of the rest of the group. If you wanna go fast, going big is a safe bet.
The bright spot here is the Versys 650 that manages to only give up 1mph to the super bike while spotting it 300cc. What makes this possible? An ultra performance engine refined and refined again borrowed from pure bred track racing bikes. This engine's trick is happily handling its 13k redline while still providing rocket like power all the way down to 2k rpms. As discussed earlier, torque over a large range provide tons of useable horsepower, which allows the Versys 650 to have very tall gears as you climb into the final 3 gears of its ascending 6 speed transmission with good power everywhere and can reach 100mph before leaving third gear(50 out of 1st!) The result is a bike that can accelerate through every inch of an absurdly long corner and make your buddy on a super sport bike feel bad on a track day. It is no coincidence that its little brother (the Versys 300) stands out as well, out pacing bikes with more than twice its engine capacity using the same principle of strong power across a long rev range.
Chart 6- Dry Weight
If the terrain is soft, nothing will help you more than being low weight. A big bike will sink where a little bike won't and its that simple. There's a thousand more ways being low weight helps you out: less resistance on a climb, less stress on the bike from hard landings, and simply being able to manhandle a bike when the situation gets rough.
Here our 2 liter bikes switch from the good side of the graph to the bad side. For a normal human, anything over 300lbs is a bit much to handle in soft terrain. Cornering at speed is limited heavily by the weight of your bike both on road and extremely so off road. Here the KTM 500EXC reminds us what it was built for: cutting edge power to weight ratios and only 6 lbs heavier than the lightest bike on the list(Super Sherpa,) make it the most popular trials dirt bike among pros. If you're guaranteed ugly, uneven and/or soft terrain you're gonna want low weight and power at low speeds and the half-liter ktm is currently the king of that hill.
If you consider on road, it is actually quite shocking that a KTM950 Super Enduro weighs less than a KLR650 and only 8 lbs more than a Versys 650 and nearly 100 lbs less than a Honda Africa Twin. The 2 small Yamahas as well show why they are such a popular choice among the more off-road oriented dual sport rider.
Some Opinion Awards:
Best Value - Versys 300-X
Found brand new at $4,000, this bike is a true steal. 106+mph top speed, built in rack, supreme on road comfort, 6 speed, abs, off road capable clearance and suspension- its truly amazing how much they were able to cram into this bike at such a cost.
SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY - KTM 950 Super Enduro
This bike is legendary even among the hyper performance offroad bikes of KTM. They've made bigger from 990 to 1290 and they've never quite got it as right as this 407lb Unicorn of a machine. Cost and soft terrain aside, this bike would clearly stand out as the best on the list, closely followed by the Africa Twin.
Best Terrain Crusher - KTM 500EXC (Hon. Mention Yamaha WR450F)
As mentioned in the weight discussion, this bike's specifications show exactly what it was designed to do: Maneuver through difficult terrain. Nice low end torque and absurdly low weight make this an easy call. KTMs aside, the Super Sherpa and WR450f both make a strong claim.
Best Asphault Hooligan - Kawasaki Versys 650
Though the Super KTM with minor modification would be just as dynamite, the Versys wins this category. With more tracks days on youtube than some sport bikes, the Versys 650 lets shine its racing soul anytime you decide to crack past halfway on tachometer just below 6k rpm. It then unleashes a sudden surge of power for the final 7.5k of remaining rev range which doesn't even exist on a lot of other dual sports. It's humble 130-ish top speed is aided by the fact it can take hair pin track turns without reducing much below that as it comes in at a nimble 399lbs which makes an Africa Twin seem lethargic. Off road it is surprisingly capable. Though difficult to manage the weight in terrain, there is always plenty of power for you to tap into when you need it.
Good Bike, Bad Charts - Honda CRF250L
This bike doesn't seem to stand up well on the charts but everyone knows these are great value, great looking, bullet proof, sufficient highway speeds at 86mph, even power, comfortable on road and very capable off road. So many intangibles that makes this bike great aren't on the charts like reliability, feel, style and wheel size. I want to make perfectly clear that the CRF250L is one of the most versatile and reliable machines ever made. The same could also be said for the KLR650 which is more comfortable on the road but much more of a handful in terrain.
MotoCouch - Honda Africa Twin 1000
Big Fairings, big weight, comfy seat and engine that is never gonna feel like its under load make the Africa Twin the runaway winner for comfort- followed by the Suzuki V-Strom 650. In my humble opinion, the big Twin is also the best looking bike of the comparison group.
Dream 4 Dual Sport Bike Garage:
KTM 950 Super Enduro, Honda Africa Twin 1000, KTM 500 EXC, Kawsaki Versys 650. These 4 bikes are especially good in ways different from each other and would make the perfect ADV/Dual Sport motorcycle garage.
After all the research, price and fun considerations I ended up buying a used Versys 650 for a very fair $3,500 with less than 8000 miles on it and never regretted my choice. I took a great deal when it was available and knew what I was getting which is the point of all this research. Still though, it is a bit like ice cream flavors: Rocky Road is great but sometimes you're in the mood for Cookie Dough. One day you feel like a Ninja ZX14, others you want a motorcross 2 stroke. There is no best bike, you just need to figure out what you want your bike to do and shop for the one in your budget. All motorcycles are great and dual sports doubly so.
A New comparison group is already being put together(BMW's, More 250's, Husqvarnas, and another not-street-legal honda!,) and these charts will be updated and additional models added in the "Moto Specs" section. Thanks for the support and thanks for reading!