Camp bikes, wife bikes, beginner bikes... Whatever you want to call them, the small-bore dual-sports from Honda and Yamaha are fairly competent machines for a wide variety of riders and terrain.
"Dude, you look like a dork on that thing."
That's not exactly what you hope to hear when showing off your new ride for the first time, but it's the greeting I received from my brutally honest friend once we started testing the Yamaha XT250 and Honda CRF230L. Ultimately, he's right.
Dual-sporting generally isn't glamorous, and it's really
hard to look cool riding these overweight, underpowered versions of the multi-purpose genre. But, what my callow, superficial best bud failed to realize was the absolute practicality of these bikes, both of which simply ooze simplicity, utility and mindless fun - if not stunning good looks. Sometimes it's hip to be square, and these bikes are consummate proof.
Engineers and designers for both manufacturers were concerned more with function than form, and the amount of potential these bikes offer is amazing. Trying to figure out who these machines were designed for had us debating in circles. It's a wife's bike. No, it's a beginner's bike. How about a camp bike? Trailer bike. Commuter. I still think it's a wife's bike. You're a sexist pig... And so on.
Regardless of who rides these motorcycles and where they leave tread marks, there's one constant which can be appreciated by all. ABC News used the findings of a 2005 TNS poll to determine that the average American spends 26 minutes commuting over a one-way distance of 16 miles. That means the typical American drives 32 miles per day, 160 per week simply to get to and from work. We polled the office for comparison and found a 28-mile average, so it would seem that we're pretty standard Americans on the whole. However, one area where we aren't so "normal" compared to the American majority is in our choice of transport. Though none of us use motorcycles exclusively, we all use them to supplement our gas-sucking cagers, and the CRF and XT were immediately sourced as fuel savers.
Obviously those among us who live 40 minutes away via freeway weren't likely to reap any benefits of these babies. We took the XT and CRF across town, briefly onto the Interstate, down gravel roads and along winding, technical trails, but after sampling what they offer, we eventually found ourselves spending most of our time using them as short-distance scoots.
Surely not everyone is in the same boat, but the fact is that we all travel a lot, even if our destinations are only across town. If you haven't already, do some simple arithmetic and figure out what the fuel economy is for your current vehicle. Then consider that we observed the XT to get 57 mpg and the Honda was right in the mix at 52, and that's hardly being gentle with the throttle. Yamaha claims 73 mpg for the 250, but we wouldn't be surprised to see numbers at least in the mid-60s for either bike with a careful right hand.
The average retail price of gasoline in America was $4.16 on July 7 according to the Energy Information Administration. Regardless of your current mileage, it would take years to recoup the cost of purchasing one of these bikes in fuel and insurance savings alone, but intangibles like increased mobility, simple parking and fewer emissions create a lot of value as well - not to mention fun.