To some motorcycling is about versatile, go anywhere, do anything transportation. And that’s where dual-sports fit in. They are the two-wheeled version of an SUV capable of taking you past the concrete boundaries of civilization and into the wild like few machines can. Within this category the 250cc four-stroke class is not only the most accessible in terms of affordability, but also the most adept at treading on trails due to their reasonable dimensions and curb weight paired with high fuel efficiency. In this test we contrast the differences between three of Japan’s top brands in the 2013 Dual Sport Motorcycle Shootout.
In our last dual-sport shootout (see 2010 Dual Sport Motorcycle Shootout
) the WR250R reigned supreme, offering the ideal ingredients both on and off-road making it a capable dual-sport. The blue machine has remained unchanged,
aside from updated graphics and the yearly MSRP increase. With a price tag of $6390 it is once again the most expensive bike, and by a wide margin. For most it will be a tough pill to swallow and an element that could once again limit its popularity.
Like Yamaha, the KLX250S platform has remained the same for the last few years. Although it still relies on a carburetor to deliver fuel to the engine, for some that older technology will be a boon as it equals added mechanical simplicity and a more organic motorcycle feel. In spite of its price having crept up by a few hundred dollars at $5099, it’s still one heck of a value.
Despite offering a 250cc dual-sport in other parts of the world, up until this year Big Red didn’t produce this style of motorcycle for American consumption. That all changed with the release of the CRF250L. The 250 replaces the smaller
sized CRF230L and is designed to appeal to a wider range of motorcyclists with its full-sized chassis and larger water- cooled 250cc engine. Somehow Honda was able to keep price down and is offering the bike at $4809 making it a hard deal to pass up.
In the spirit of exploration and exploiting the authentic capabilities of these machines we set off to one of America’s most rugged landscapes: Death Valley. We camped off the grid, away from the lights and cell phone towers of the city and inhaled the same rustic air that 49ers and other pioneers did so many years ago. Along the way we rode across a variety of terrain, mostly un-paved, to get a true sense of where these bikes excel and where they don’t. Each bike was then rated via our tried and true scoring system giving us a winner.