Most people reach a point in life where serious self-reflection takes place. In many cases it is not a crisis; it is simply a re-evaluation of events, a time to reflect upon the past and lessons learned, and an opportunity to consider the future. Some individuals opt for a career change or a different house. Many decide to investigate the sport of motorcycling for the first time. Others may grapple with how to return to this motorized sport once enjoyed earlier in life.
If motorcycling strikes you as a way to meet the need for freedom, and if you desire the flexibility of being able to ride in the city, cruise the open highway, or wander off the beaten path, perhaps a modern dual sport motorcycle would suit your needs.
Not a dedicated street bike, nor a hard-core off-road machine, the dual purpose motorcycle offers a well-blended compromise between the street and dirt disciplines, as opposed to the relatively crude “Enduro” style bikes of thirty years ago. A dual sport motorcycle will not carve corners like a road racer, but you can go places not possible with a Ninja™.
“We’re seeing the BMW 650 GS rented pretty much every weekend”, states Darrell Pitts of All Season Motorsports. “Our typical customer is usually in the 40 to 50 year old range. Some of our customers are European tourists, who want to see more of the country than what is available from paved roads. Others rent our bikes to investigate the dual sport aspect of riding. Some people have their own gear, but we’ve even put together a cost-effective helmet, jacket, boot and glove package. We always stress using the proper gear and riding safely.”
There are many motorcycles that are suitable for this type of riding, ranging in size from 125 cc engines, all the way to over 1000 cc, with prices as variable as the machines themselves. Typically, the dual sport bike will have tires with a more aggressive tread pattern, longer suspension travel, and a more upright riding position.
If long distance riding is calling, consider a machine in the 650 cc plus range. As the engine size and power output go up, so does the weight of the machine. If much riding time will be spent off pavement, opt for a smaller displacement, lighter weight bike. This will make the off-highway adventures more enjoyable.
Keeping with a theme of cost-effectiveness and versatility, Kawasaki’s KLR 650 comes to mind as one motorcycle that would fit the order. Kawasaki first produced this motorcycle in 1987. It received upgrades and minor changes for the next 20 years, and underwent a major re-work for the 2008 model year. As the production run has progressed, the fuel tank sized has increased to give the rider generous range between fuel stops.
Given this long production history, finding a reasonable used unit should not be too tough. Kawasaki and aftermarket manufacturers produce good accessories for this bike, so outfitting it to suit specific riding requirements should also be straight-forward.
Motorcycling takes commitment of time, energy and resources. There are many excellent riding schools offering services. Haven’t ridden for awhile? It is a good idea to take a course to refresh skills. First-time rider? The road to freedom will take more time and planning. A motorcycle operator’s license endorsement is required, and the training course offers preparation for the written and road tests.
Suitable attire is very important. Spend the time and money to get a good helmet that fits properly, preferably a full-face model with a face shield. A motorcycle jacket and pants combination will keep a rider warm and dry, and will offer protection in the event of an unexpected parting with the motorcycle.
Newer-design jackets offer elbow, shoulder, and spine protection, but still allow easy movement. Gloves are a “must”, even for warm weather riding. Don’t forget boots, either. If the riding plans include substantial adventuring off the pavement, consider higher boots that protect shins from stones thrown from the front tire.
The dual purpose motorcycle gives options. City riding is fine, but it has its limitations. Breathing exhaust fumes on a congested roadway soon loses its appeal. Head out of the city and down a gravel road and the environment envelops; the rider becomes part of the surroundings. The fresh smell of springtime of plant growth, the sweet scent of a pine forest, the change in humidity and temperature beside a mountain stream, the vibrant colours of the trees combined with cloudless blue sky in the fall – this is why the dual sport rider seeks the roads less travelled.
Southern Alberta offers excellent off-highway riding opportunities. The eastern slopes of the foothills offer spectacular mountain vistas, trout-laden lakes, and some of the prettiest free-running rivers nestled in spectacular valleys encountered anywhere in the world, all just outside Calgary’s back door. Once you have answered the beckoning of dual sport, it will be tough to return to vanilla-flavoured street riding.
BMW 650 GS courtesy of All Season Motorsports
Photography – Crystal Jones Green