Women ADV Riders is an overland magazine for motorcycling women across the globe.

Dual Sport Motorcycles for Women

A few times a week, on one facebook group or another, I see the question: What are the best dual sport motorcycles for women? Well, today we respond.

The question might be asked in a number of ways. Sometimes, it is a rider seeking information like, “I’d like to learn to ride off road, and I am wondering how to choose between the dual sport motorcycles available.” Sometimes, it is a partner that wants to ride together. “My girlfriend wants to ride. What are the best dual sport motorcycles for her?” or “I want to teach my wife to ride. What is the best bike for her?” No matter how the question is asked, here are some things to consider when choosing the best dual sport motorcycles for women.

What terrain do you want to ride?

Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
Kris’s Beta Xtrainer – great for trails, plated for the road, but where is she going to carry the two stroke for that little tank?
Dual Sport Motorcycles
Suze Riley GS 1200 – A big bike that can do it all

 

Sometimes when I talk to women who want a dual sport, they want to do long highway days and find a secluded campsite down a forest service road. Others want ride the gnarliest trails to the best viewpoints, and be able to ride instead of trailering their bike. But there are many options in between. Think about what draws you toward dual sport motorcycles. Is it packing your worldly belongings and traveling the world, or trail riding the local off road vehicle area?  

Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
With the right rider, Lisa Taylor shows us the GSA can do it all. Photo Credit: Kimiko La’ne Krekel

What size dual sport motorcycle are you looking for?

While related to the type of terrain, this also considers the engine size.  All of these bikes can go from the freeway to the trails, but they each have their strengths and challenges.  When considering a dual sport motorcycle or three, consider what size engine would work best for how you would use it most. Some people prefer the flickability of little bikes, while others prefer the comfort of a bigger bike.  

Little Bikes

Yamaha XT 250

dual sport motorcycles
xt250

CRF 250L or Rally

CRF250L with the Rally in the distance

WR 250

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Sara on her WR250

Honda CRF 450L

Kawasaki Versys 300x

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Kawasaki Versys 300x

 

BMW G310GS

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Voni, with her BMW 310 GS  Photo Credit: Paul Glaves

KTM500EXC

Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
Lisa Taylor and her KTM 500EXC

CSC RX3

Husqvarna FE 350 S 

Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
Rebecca on her 350

 

Medium Bikes

Suzuki DR650

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Lion Rock Lookout – worth the rocky ride!

Kawasaki KLR 650

Best Dual Sport Motorcycle
Elisa @travelbugblues on her KLR 650

Honda XR650

BMW F700GS

Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
Isa Porter F700 GS

KTM 690 Enduro

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Helen Steinhardt on her 690

CB500X

Dual Sport Motorcycles
@asthemagpieflies @blindthistle

Royal Enfield Himalayan

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Lisa Fiero reminded us about the Himalayan!

Husqvarna 701 Enduro

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Kumi, showing off her Husky 701!

Big Bikes

BMW R 1200 GS / GSA

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Gala Van’t Schip Jumping her1200 GS

Tiger 800 XC

best dual sport motorcycles
Tiger 800xc @blindthistle @asthemagpieflies

Africa Twin

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Marcey Anderson on her Africa Twin

KTM 1090 Adventure

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Rebecca on her KTM 950, Jeanie on her KTM 690, and Shelly on her KTM 1190

Yamaha Super Tenere

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Molly and her Super Tenere

 

What is your experience level?

I’m biased and believe it is easier to learn on a smaller, lighter bike. So, if you want to get into riding off road, I would recommend starting with a bike that is small and that you won’t mind dropping and picking up over and over. However, this may feel less applicable if you are sticking to maintained gravel roads.   

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Joelle Gozlan is just finishing up a cross country trip on a small bike, the XT225. They’re not just for new riders!

What have you already ridden? What did you like or dislike?

Obviously, you are the expert in your riding. What have you ridden? Did you use a TW200 in your training class? Did you hop on your friend’s F800GS?  Did you get to test ride a Triumph Tiger? What did you feel on each of these bikes? What were the pros and cons? By looking through this list, you will start to see patterns. “I want to ride a bike that can go 75-90 mph on the freeway, but is under 400 lbs so I can more easily lift it off road” vs. “I will likely never ride on the freeway and just want a bike I can ride to the trails” bring up two different images.  This is similar to the first point, but having the experience of pegging out an XT225 on highways and backroads for 400 miles shifts experience. As does being unable to touch the ground when sitting on a Tiger 800. So, I encourage you, ride any bike that someone will let you borrow that you feel comfortable enough on. The experience will be invaluable.

Seat Height

Let’s talk about seat height. As a rider in a smaller body, seat height has historically influenced my choices in dual sport motorcycles.  That said, with a 27” inseam, I can now, with a bit of creativity, ride a bike that has a seat height as tall as 38”. I wouldn’t choose that for my daily rider or for my main off road motorcycle, but it is nice to be know I have more choices than I used to think.

Dual Sport Motorcycles
When a CRF 250L was the shortest bike available to rent in Maui, I decided seat height no longer mattered

Dual sport motorcycles and dirt bikes are often taller than other motorcycles to give the rider ground clearance when riding off road. For people who started on a cruiser or smaller sport bike, this can feel very different, but the only time seat height matters is when stopping or in certain types of obstacles. When we are moving, it doesn’t matter how tall the motorcycle is!

Dual Sport Motorcycles
Photo: Aida Valenti, #lifeunloaded

When riding a dual sport motorcycle, it is important to remember that we always come to a stop with one foot down.  We may have to slide a bit to one side or the other in order to get solid footing, but when we are only aiming to get a single foot down, we are able to manage taller bikes.  

So, how do you measure? I recommend sitting on bikes without the kickstand up.  Have a friend spot you, and slide to one side, one foot down, the other foot on the peg.  If you can flat foot or nearly flat foot that one side, the bike is a good fit. The more experienced you are and the more confident you are, the easier it is to handle a taller seat. I have recently heard a suggestion that maximum seat height can be your inseam plus 5”.  I like this as a starting place, but the geometry of the bike and width of the seat can influence the ability to get a foot down, so use this as a general guideline, and then go sit on a bunch of bikes!

How will you handle maintenance and how experienced are you working on your bike?

Read up on maintenance for each of the bikes you are considering.  For a minute, I was thinking about buying a Ducati Scrambler. I looked up oil changes and air filter cleaning, two jobs I am compulsive about completing on a regular schedule. Turns out, there were some design aspects that made these jobs slightly more challenging than on some of the other bikes I was considering. This was not a make it or break it point for me, but might be for someone.  Also, consider where you will be riding — will you be able to find a maintenance shop familiar with your bike, and replacement parts? Things do break when riding off road.

Of course, the best dual sport motorcycles are the ones that make you smile. And, whatever you do, consider training as the best time and money you can spend toward a long and happy investment in your next dual sport motorcycle.

Like this? Check out another article on this topic HERE, with specific bike reviews!

Scroll below for more inspiration from Women Adventure Riders around the world, sharing photos of their favorite dual sport motorcycles!

Best Dual Sport Motorcycles, a Photographic Essay

Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
Sometimes, a Honda Shadow is the best dual sport motorcycle          @blindthistle @asthemagpieflies
Dual Sport Motorcycles
Vicky on her F700 GS
Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
Toni on her BMW 1200 GS
dual sport motorcycles
Shain on her Tiger 800xr
dual sport motorcycles
Lisa on her F700GS
Katia on her R1200GS
Jessie on her F700GS
Jake on her KTM 1190
Best Dual Sport Motorcycles
Magali on her GSA 1200 photo credit: Gaz_online
Dual Sport Motorcycles
Magali on her GS 1200 photo credit: Gaz_online
F800GS
Jessie rocking the F700GS
Dual Sport Motorcycles
https://www.motobirdadventures.com/ on her Funduro!
Dual Sport Motorcycles
Dana on her F800GS
Dual Sport Motorcycles
Cara on her F700GS
Corrina on her BMW 1200 GS
Angela, fun day on the F700GS
Dual Sport Motorcycles
Jessica on her BMW R 1200 GS Rally
Dual Sport Motorcycles
Kari on her 2011 Tiger 800

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for this article! I currently am learning to ride on a TW200, and while I love the bike (it’s my first so I’m emotionally attached!) the gearing seems a bit off to me and it doesn’t quite have the get-up and go I need for the 40 mile highway ride before we get to our off-road destination. One of the things I do love about it is the seat height, right now the confidence that I can comfortably touch the ground is important to me and I was concerned about other option that offered that height level.

    1. Such a fun little bike. One thing we’ve learned – no bike is final! Seems all those jokes about the right number of bikes being n+1 are accurate! The TW is great, but we’ve seen lots of people move onto a XT 250 or even DR 650 from there! Happy Trails!

    2. Hi Rachel

      I am learning on the TW200 as well. I think it is one of the best to learn on.
      Have you looked @ any others? Only asking because I am quite short, and love the fact that I can touch with both feet on the ground.
      I also love that I can basically go anywhere.

      Mandy

      1. The TW is so much fun! Our team rides a variety; if you take a class, one of the first things they’ll emphasize is that you don’t need both feet down, which opens up the bike options! I (Kris) ride a lowered KTM 690 and lowered KTM 350; the 690 now is down to a 32″ seat height, and the 350 will be around 34. Both totally manageable! 🙂

  2. thanks for this !! I have been panicking about the seat height …. I have an R6 and not so confident on putting my foot down on gravel so when I started hunting for a more off road bike i couldn’t find one with a low enough seat…… im looking at buying a CCM GP450…. anyone got one or heard of them ?

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