Dual sport motorcycling is all about freedom on two wheels – to go wherever you're legally allowed to go and have the time of your life doing it.
For some, dual sport means riding sweeping gravel back roads. For others, it's crossing 10,000-foot mountain passes in Colorado. A few riders might even consider gnarly, rooted single-track trail their idea of the perfect dual sport ride.
Dual sport routes can be found all over the country, and they are as varied as the terrain itself. One way to enjoy these routes is to spend hours or days planning and researching them, maybe even talking to locals, and venturing out by yourself into the great unknown. Another way – the better way for most of us – is to look up the schedule for the AMA National Dual Sport Riding Series, find an event for you and go ride it.
An event on the AMA National Dual Sport Riding Series schedule is basically an organized dual sport ride. The idea is you show up with your street-legal dirt bike, pick up a route sheet or download some GPS coordinates and point your bike toward the woods.
These rides are two-day events that cover approximately 100 miles a day of mostly off-road riding, such as single- and two-track trail and dirt and gravel roads. Limited pavement is used to connect the off-road sections and for gas stops, etc. Most rides include optional advanced or hero sections, as well as bypass routes for less-advanced (or too-tired) riders.
Types of bikes used
Dual-sport rides mostly feature street-legal lightweight off-road bikes, such as the models in Beta’s RS line, which come from the factory fully street-legal. The balance on these rides is definitely toward the smaller, lighter serious off-road mounts. Riders do show up on larger dual-sport bikes – for example, a Kawasaki KLR650 – but they are in the minority.
Gear and equipment needed
As with any off-road ride, you’ll want a full complement of gear. This includes a helmet, goggles, riding boots, gloves, a long-sleeve jersey and pants. Knee pads, elbow pads and a chest protector are also a great idea.
On rides this long, a hydration system is all but mandatory. There are several types of systems, but most riders feel comfortable with the type that you carry on your back and drink from through a tube.
It’s also a good idea to bring along the tools you’d typically carry on a long trail ride, including everything you need to fix a flat tire.
For your bike, consider all the standard protective guards that will help you get through trail obstacles, such as radiator braces, hand guards and skid plates.
One add-on you will need is a roll chart or a GPS unit, assuming the promoter for the event is providing downloadable routes. While these rides are often marked exceptionally well, particularly on the off-road sections, the transfer or road sections sometimes aren’t.
Recommendations for new riders
If you’re new to dual-sport riding, or trail riding in general, consider these basic tips:
Ride in a group, including at least one more experienced rider.
If you don’t have much off-road experience, consider skipping the advanced trail sections on your first ride. Or ride with a buddy or two and take it slow.
Knobby tires are mandatory. You may be riding what’s technically a street bike, but street rubber won’t cut it in the woods.
A dual-sport ride is not a race. Have fun, but leave the bar banging to the track.
Don’t skip the fun after the ride. Camaraderie is just one element that separates dual-sport events from a simple trail ride. Take the opportunity to make a few new friends around the night’s campfire.