The Dual Sport Gap

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - EPS



The Dual Sport Gap

I can remember in my younger days taking off on my Honda XL 100 into the Los Angeles National Forest near my home, which was then Pasadena, California. At any given point I could take off on a side dirt road, off-roading at my leisure.

The hankering has come around again (22 years later!) and I'm in the market for a dual sport (we used to call them Enduros in my younger days). I get these fantasies going in my mind... how I'll take off from my Eastlake location and head down the interstate out to a legit area such as down in Puyallup, or out by Enumclaw... and get on the trails and back roads we have here in Washington, quick, before Clinton shuts 'em down.

I started my window shopping seriously the other day. I need another bike like a hole in the head! "Sure, sure, I'll get one when I've got the others paid off," I always say. The Washington State Credit Union loves me. And of course, I need a truck like a hole in the head, so my plan was to get a big enough dual sport to get me down the freeway and into the dirt, eliminating the need to haul a bike around in the back of a truck, which I have no intention of buying. All motorcycle enthusiasts know a truck would suck up three bike parking spots in the garage, not conducive to adding more bikes to your collection. No more cars, just gonna keep on buying bikes. So, anyway... I'm out and about talking with dealers and sitting on bikes...

...Well, sort of, I'm sitting on bikes. See, I'm 5' 8", just a tad below the average for a male. In most cases, I'm not even getting both feet on the ground when I straddle most of the new dual sports that are 400cc or higher. Somewhere along the way the engineering genius' convened over the last 20 years and figured out a way to eliminate half the buying public by jacking the seat height up to the point where some of us can't put both feet on the ground. And with that in mind, I gotta ask, where does that leave the center of gravity? Somewhere on top of Queen Anne Hill, I believe. 

The best thing I could come up with was sitting on a used Suzuki DR 650 where I actually had the bike straight up and both toes on the ground. The new Honda XR 650 L is an excellent machine, but I can't even get it straighter than 15 degrees holding it up with my left leg. The Yamaha/KTM dealer looked at my build and just sighed.   

Over the years the major manufacturers have captured a market of women with bikes like Honda's Rebel, Suzuki's 250 Intruder and others. I gotta believe many of these same women are thinking about going off road, but hence, there is no bike there for them that they can straddle.  And what about us guys who want to get back on the trails and roads?   

I'm a city boy, but lots of dealers in the suburbs tell me that dirt bikes and dual sports are their bread and butter. If that's so, then send a message to your manufacturers and tell them to come up with a lower profile dual sport so you can gain a little more market share!

Patrick Thomas/Winter 2000

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