Dual sport motorcycles are a strange breed, a compromise of sorts. I would not want to be in the shoes of the engineers and designers when the order is laid down to create the next model that can be used on the street, yet handle the rigors of off-road riding. It gets even more complicated when you consider the multitude of different offshoots from the dual sport tree. There are multi-cylinder adventure bikes that are meant to take you to the furthest reaches of the globe, all the way down to small bore day trippers. But somewhere in the middle lies one of our favorite classes of dual sport – the large bore enduro-derived machines.
With temps still hovering near triple digits, we loaded up the van with two european dual-sports in our aforementioned favorite class, the Beta 520 RS and Husqvarna TE511, and headed for the desert around Palm Springs. Both machines are basically enduro off-road bikes with the required running gear to make them street legal. Turn signals, headlight, taillight and license plate hangers along with DOT approved tires get you on the road to your favorite trails. In our case, that would be the dusty sand washes and whooped out single track running across the Cochella Valley down to El Centro.
Looking almost identical of to the TXC511 off-road model, the Husqvarna TE511 is the largest street-legal dual sport enduro bike offering from the BMW-owned company. Based on the 449 powerplant, a 3mm large bore bring the cubes up to 477.5 – your guess is as good as our’s why it’s called a 511. A slew of updates were thrown at the TE for 2012 including a revised chromoly frame, shorter rear shock and narrower rear tail section.
Just like the Husky, the Beta 520 RS is based off its off-road sibling, the 520 RR. With a 100mm bore and 63.4mm stoke, the RS has 497.4cc’s; once again we don’t understand the pumped up 520 moniker.The 520 gets an all new double cradle frame for 2012. Designed just for the U.S. market, Beta sees the dual-sport category continuing to grow and is making it an important part of its new line up.
Our testing route began with a stretch of road to get out of Palm Springs until we got to Ocotillo Wells Off-Road Riding Area. From there we continued west to the sand hills and rock of Superstition Mountain, battling whoops and washes all the way. After Superstition came more whoops and rocky single track as we skirted a naval bombing range while keeping an eye out for unexploded ordinance. Once we got to Plaster City, we broke south toward the farming mecca of Brawley. After a refuel we decided to make a run for the Sand Dunes of Glamis for some camping with friends.
We put the 2012 Husqvarna TE511 and the 2012 Beta 520 RS to the test in the unforgiving heat and terrain of the California desert.
The next day it was back across the access roads of the farming fields and back to the highway for a 70-mph blast to get back to Ocotillo – the sun setting just as we returned to the van. In all 300 miles were put under the knobs of the Husky and Beta. It was a three-way battle between us, the bikes and the terrain trying to beat the other two into submission. In the end, we buckled first. Read on to see how the the two bikes fared against the So-Cal desert and which would be our pick if we had our choice.