Dual Sporting Adventure: Bike Selection: The racer, KTM 500 EXC, and the easy-to-ride Honda CRF250L
As the owner of IMS Products and lifelong rider, my passion for ‘Adventure’ riding can be traced back to my days as a kid growing up in Huntington Beach, California. Adventure riding was simply the fun I had taking off on my Schwinn Stingray and riding all day, whether with my best friends, or by myself—it wasn’t always about the destination, it wassimply the love of riding, exploring and finding cool new places. That sense of adventure carried over to riding motorcycles, both on and off road, so these days I am spending my time on bikes capable of doing both. I’m sure many of you reading this share this same passion, and thankfully it is a passion that can be filled regularly. My name is Scott Wright, and I love Adventure Riding.
Attending events and races throughout the years, we are blessed to come across so many great riders and supporters of IMS. We are often questioned about ‘what do you use on your bike’ or ‘what should I use for my’, ‘is it better to put money into my motor or suspension’; questions that all riders face and ones I hope to address with this, and forthcoming, blogs. I will break down Adventure riding, needs and requirements, from my perspective as an expert-level off-road rider, Baja 1000 winner and a lifetime of racing experience as well as the perspective of Chris Hardin, IMS General Manager. Chris is an entry-level rider with the same amount of passion but vastly different needs for bike and set-up. The contrast between us (experienced and novice) will be reflected in my recommendations throughout this blog.
For this series we will be using dual sport bikes (single-cylinder) as our ‘adventure bikes’. I have broken down our take on adventure riding into a two-part series, the first part being an overview of two diametrically opposed bikes, the Honda CRF250L and the KTM500, the benefits of each model and how they best suit individually skill and type of riding each model prefers. Part two of the series will identify in detail the model build for each bike and how they can be modified to best suit rider and riding conditions.
The terms “adventure riding” and “dual sport” may seem similar, but they can be completely different concepts. Traditionally, a dual sport bike is a single-cylinder bike that is off-road/off-trail capable, but also street legal (KTM EXC) to help link off-road sections together. Modern adventure bikes are often thought of as a big twin-cylinder machine such as a GS BMW or KTM Adventure or SuperEnduro. The large adventure bikes are best suited for two-track trails, fire roads, and, if needed, long sections of tarmac. When properly outfitted, the larger bikes are often capable of carrying more supplies and camping gear. With that said, I feel true adventure riding is about the ‘Adventure’, not the bike. I want to feel that sense of discovery I had as a kid, and my ideal bike setup is going to be suited to doing so.
Entry vs Experienced:
Today more riders are taking the lighter, single-cylinder dual sport bikes and using them for long-distance Adventure riding. The lighter bikes are often easier to ride off-road and can take on tighter trails compared to full-sized twin or triple cylinder Adventure machines. Plus the cost between getting started on a single compared to a twin can be as much as $10-15K. With regard to dual sport bikes, the range is vast as well. At the entry level, several manufacturers offer machines such as the Honda CRF250L (featured in this story), yet Yamaha offers two bikes as well, the midlevel performance WR250R and the easier to ride, lower seat height XT250. At the entry level, Suzuki has the DR200SE and Kawasaki has the entry/midlevel KLX250S. Then when we are talking KTM, there is no real entry-level option, their bikes are performance driven, lighter than even the entry-level 200cc and 250cc machines. You can expect an elevated price tag well over the $9,000 mark. If you have years of experience riding, the KTM is a great option, yet if you’re just starting out, you might want to look at one of the less aggressive bikes for the first few years of riding. There are a few bikes that bridge the gap between the entry level machine and full performance so do your research to pick a bike that is best suited for your riding ability and intended Adventure.
Man and Machine
The best way to break down bike setup is to determine which motorcycle is best suited for a particular rider and their abilities. We can start with my personal favorite, the KTM 500EXC. This bike is truly amazing! Just walking by it in my garage commands my respect and appreciation, not to mention it begs me to lay down my laptop and put on my Klim gear. It is pure performance and plenty capable of taking off-road or even to a grand prix race with very few changes to the showroom stock model. For some, it’s difficult to believe the EXC is a dual sport machine because of how well it works off-road. Yet KTM worked overtime to build a machine that is street legal, meets the DOT requirements to get a license plate in all 50 states and is a beast off-road.
On the other side of the coin, Chris is a novice rider. As such, he chose the Honda CRF250L, it’s an easy-to-ride motorcycle with a lower seat height compared to the KTM and caters to the entry-to mid-level rider. It’s far from a competition machine, yet the smooth performance and stable handling make it ideal for what it was designed for.
Final Word…for now
I have tried to clearly define the distinctions between types of riding, riders and machines. The model offerings from OEMs, fortunately, is vast and there is model bound to fit your exact preferences and ability. Part two of this blog will focus on the KTM500EXC and the Honda CRF250L and how myself and Chris modified each bike, in detail, and hope our build and experiences can be used as a guide for you for your bike build and next adventure.