When I was fifteen or so, I fell in love with a then-new Honda motorcycle: the XL250 (it is no longer made). The bike had two significant innovations: a big 23in front wheel, and engine counterbalancers to reduce vibration (this is a one-cylinder engine – a “thumper” – after all). Cycle World loved it. So did I.

I never bought that bike. (Or any other, for that matter.)

If I were looking to buy a dual sport today, I would probably skip the 250 and look at a 400 or 650cc bike. A very popular choice is the Kawasaki KLR650. Some pics:

KLR650 back

KLR650 left side

KLR650 right side

It’ll go anywhere and do almost anything. People have ridden these things across continents – including riding “the Road” – a 2200km length of road-in-process in Russia that has been known to destroy vehicles that attempt it.

Suzuki make a similar bike, but it lacks the water-cooled engine, rear rack, and large fuel tank of the KLR. Suzuki’s DR650 looks like this:

Suzuki DR650 blue

Check out the Adventure Rider discussion site. While it seems to be focussed on big twin-engined adventure bikes, there is a thumpers forum as well.

There is a KLR650 FAQ, and a KLR650 discussion site. And to add even more excitement to the world of thumpers, there is the supermoto craze. Check these out:

Suzuki DRZ400SM


A supermoto is a dirt racing bike with street tires on smaller (street-sized) wheels. Apparently hella fun: light, nimble, drive over curbs, etc. Urban assault vehicles. Of course, the KTM directly above is not street legal, lacking lights and mirrors.