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Dual Sports

April 1999

Finding the Ultimate Dual-Sport Bike – Part 2

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1987 Honda XL600R

It’d been a couple years since I had last ridden. My first and only motorcycle at this point had been a dual sport. It was a barely-street-legal Suzuki TS250. It was a slow, heavy, seriously outdated two-stroke. Having parted with the old TS a couple of years before, I was really itching to go riding. While I really wanted a dirt bike the only way I could justify it to my new bride was to concentrate on the economy of commuting to work on a motorcycle.

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The XL in action

Honda had just discontinued the XL series, in favor of the NX series. The XL, in my opinion, was the only remotely dirt-worthy dual sport bike made at that time. Being convinced that this could easily be modified to be an excellent dirt bike, I had to have one. I found a local dealer that had three of them left, and they were on sale. It only took about a week to decide I wanted one, to locate one, to convince my wife I needed one, and to buy one.

Other than the lack of an electric starter, this made for an excellent commute bike. I wouldn’t want to ride it from state to state, but for 40-50 miles a day, it wasn’t bad. In the dirt it was a whole different story. My first ride off-road was to Hollister ORV park. I took it out in stock form, a mistake. The dual sport tires were useless and I laid it, due to a front-end washout. One of the turn signals dented the stock metal tank. The first modification I made was to add a Clarke plastic, oversized, gas tank. After that came handguards, a SuperTrapp muffler, Progressive Suspension fork springs, a Progressive Suspension rear shock spring, and eventually lower gearing.

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Stuck Again

Aside from commuting nearly every weekday, I also did some hard core off-road riding. The lower gearing helped considerably off-road. In fact, with stock gearing, riding in the mud was nearly impossible and almost always included pushing. The stiffer Progressive Suspension springs also helped considerably, but they were no substitute for "real" off-road suspension.

I had the bike for about 10 years. Over that time, it was ridden as though it were a full-fledged dirt bike. It went on several desert trips, several trips up to the Sierra, and even down to Baja. I took it on Green, Blue, and Black forest service trails, and I have to say I was ecstatic when I finally got my new RMX250. No matter how hard I tried and how many modifications I made, a dirt bike it never really was. . .

"Dual Sports" by Ev'Mon