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#317 Dualsport : What ever happened to…?

Attention all manufacturers. Your dualsports have gone missing. Please return them immediately.

Sometimes you look around and realize that something is missing. Did anyone else notice? The ADV segment is getting a lot of attention these days, as is the electric class—what there is of it. With the exception of Kawasaki’s Vulcan S the metric cruiser segment has been a little quiet but the three-wheel arena is certainly more than covered of late. None of these are part of the segment I was mulling over. What’s missing is the modern middleweight dualsport, the pick-up-able machines. There are smaller possibilities like the 250s and a 400 but in this case bigger is often a little better, and more versatile.
If you really look, the only cutting edge “big middleweight” is the KTM 690 Enduro R. The ADV segment has BMW, Triumph and KTM with larger middleweight models to complement the likes of the R1200GS, 1290 Adventure and 1200 but even they fall firmly into the ADV category, which has most definitely separated as a class apart from “dualsport.” KTM classifies the 1290 Adventure as a “Travel” model.
The rise of the ADV has left the basic dualsport behind, it could be argued. ADVs have features that riders now expect—ABS, traction control and, even torque control—and they command higher prices. The Kawasaki KLR650 has true dualsport heritage but even it became more road and touring oriented during its recent revision.
What of those bikes that bounce over the ruts, get very dirty, fall down in the bush without breaking significant parts and are relatively comfortable to ride out of the woods again?
During the GS Trophy Challenge, CB road tester Bertrand Gahel proved that the BMW R1200GS is more than capable of having the stuffing beat out of it, but there were at least three riders on a team during the Challenge, which made manhandling the big bike a lot easier.
I once rode the old Triumph Tiger into the woods following a logging road, then a two-track and finally a single track with the objective of discovering what was around the next corner. I came to an impassable point, facing downhill, and it occurred to me then that perhaps it was going to be a little difficult to get this big ADV out. But that’s what the dualsport did.
As far as dualsports go, Honda and Suzuki have soldiered on with the XR650L and the DR650 but they are old—maybe even really old. They have the bulletproof simplicity that basics allow: no radiator with fluids and no fancy electronics that sometimes get in the way. But surely there is a market for an improved version. After all, KTM must sell its Enduro 690R and 500 EXC. Way back when, Honda did have a more complex version of the XR650L in its XR650R—liquid cooled with an aluminum frame but no electric start or street legality. At some point Honda understood that the idea is a good one but had the 650R been a big seller it would still be around.
So perhaps this missing segment represents a wish list that includes the “Africa One” to go along with the new Africa Twin. A liquid-cooled, lightweight, somewhat unbreakable 650 single with a modern suspension and engine and a price that isn’t out of reach. Honda left a lot of dirt in their big new ADV bike, so much so that it could be the only model that clearly straddles the ADV/dualsport divide. Africa Single, Africa Solo, Africa One. Or just the CRF650L: whatever the name it sounds like a good option.

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