If you could only ride one type of motorcycle for the rest of your years what would it be? Would you choose the comfort and convenience of a touring bike? Perhaps the fuel efficiency and simplicity of a small standard street bike is what’s needed? Or maybe the off-road prowess and agility of a dirt bike would be ideal? What if I told you that there was a category of machine capable of combining many of these characteristics. Motorcycles capable of traversing any surface, from asphalt highways to rocky single track, while still achieving upwards of 60 miles-per-gallon. Bikes that are simple to operate, reliable as an axe and carry a reasonable price tag. They are called quarter-liter dual sports and we have four of them to compare against one another in this 2010 250 Dual Sport Shootout.
Up first is Suzuki’s DR200SE. This tried-and-true air-cooled dual sport machine has the distinction of being the veteran motorcycle in this quartet. It’s been around for over a decade in its current configuration, and besides the colors of the plastics it’s basically unchanged since being released in the mid-90s, something that helps to keep its price tag in check. This year Suzuki decided not to import any ’10 machines into the U.S. in order to help clear their dealers’ existing inventory, hence this is the reason we’re testing an ’09 machine.
Next up is Honda’s CRF230L. Released as a new model in 2008, the 230L is Honda’s solution for the would-be dual sport rider. It’s designed around their entry-level air-cooled off-road bike, the CRF230F, but incorporates the necessary equipment (headlight, taillight, etc.) to be legally operated on the road. Similar to Suzuki, Honda also isn’t importing any ’10 models in order to clear the 2009 stock, meaning the CRF competes at a favorable price.
Kawasaki entered this contest with its recently-upgraded KLX250S. As opposed to the Honda and Suzuki, Team Green’s motorcycling Swiss Army knife is powered by a liquid-cooled engine and comes to our shores as a 2010 model.
The final bike in this comparison is the Yamaha WR250R. Like the Honda, the WR saw its most recent update in ’08. With its liquid-cooled engine and premium components, this bike is designed for those riders seeking an upscale dual sport offering and aren’t as concerned with price. Like the Kawi, the Yamaha is also available as a ’10 model.
For the test we wedged all four bikes in the back of our van and drove to Northern California’s Mammoth Mountain for the annual Mammoth Motocross race (see sidebar). During the course of our multi-day adventure we traversed every kind of surface imaginable in order to discover the individual intricacies of each bike. Testing duties were handled by an equally diverse sizing of riders, allowing us to really hone in on the strengths and weakness of each bike. Every aspect of the motorcycle was rated based on rider opinion and scored via our hybrid Formula One points scale. We also factored in objective data, including horsepower, weight, price, etc., to help you decide which of these bikes might be the right fit for you.