Maybe you’ve heard this from a “credible” source, but that doesn’t make it any less true: dual-sport motorcycles are awesome. Really, they are. If you don’t already know, you’ll soon discover that dual sports are not only great for finding fun off-road, they make great commuters and lightweight adventure bikes, too. But as good as they are, they can always be better, so here’s a run-down of the best dual-sport accessories to get you going on your adventure, and bring you back in one piece.
Start with engine protection. The main feature of off-roading is the distinct lack of what most people think of as a “road.” The trail can be dirt, gravel, or a narrow path through a field of rocks. Some of those rocks are big enough to ventilate your engine’s crankcase if you hit them hard enough, so you need a skid plate, also known as a bash plate or sump guard. Its job is to protect the bottom of your engine and let you slide over rocks instead of getting hung up on them. The SW-MOTECH aluminum engine guard is made from 3mm aluminum plate that’s bent and welded to match the contours of the crankcase. A skid plate is also included in the Standard Motorcycle Protection Packages, available for all popular dual-sport motorcycles.
Liquid-cooled dual-sport bikes like the Kawasaki KLR650 have exposed coolant hoses that can be torn or knocked off while riding through heavy brush, or as a result of a crash. Bikes like the Suzuki V-Strom come with low-slung oil coolers that are in similar danger of being damaged by impacts. Both the KLR and the V-Strom, and indeed all liquid-cooled dual sports, have radiators stuck right out front where stray rocks and sticks can punch a hole in them. R&G Stainless Steel Radiator Guards and Stainless Steel Oil Cooler Guards help make sure the fluids your engine needs to keep running are where they belong and not pooling in the dirt.
Whether you’re slogging through the woods, fending off brush and trees branches with your hands, or riding to work on a cold day, motorcycle handguards like those from Barkbusters make the ride safer and more comfortable. They also add a measure of protection to control levers and handlebar-mounted master cylinders in a fall; if you don’t have them, an otherwise simple spill could bend or break the levers so you can’t even operate the controls. That’s a bad day. The plastic covers come in different styles and colors to match just about any bike.
The “dual” nature of dual-sport bikes means they work pretty well on pavement and off, but some of the must-have features of off-roading are a pain––sometimes literally––when you ride a lot on the street. Serrated footpegs offer good grip in sloppy conditions, which is paramount; if you’re not on your bike, it’s pretty hard to control it. But hard-core off-road pegs can also transmit engine vibration to your feet, and chew up the soles of non-riding footwear. SW-MOTECH On-Road/Off-Road Convertible Footpegs replace your stock pegs with wider ones that can be adjusted to two heights. Made out of stainless steel, they’re larger than stock and come with removable rubber pads for quick and easy conversion from workaday commuting to weekend wandering.
Another comfort modification that has benefits both on and off road is handlebar height and setback. When you’re riding the rough stuff, it’s actually very helpful to be standing up on the pegs. (Why? Because you’ll have better control of the bike. And why is that? Because you can “decouple” yourself from the steering when traversing rough terrain, which will make the bike feel more stable. Standing also makes rough terrain easier on your back.) But standing up on the pegs, you might want the bar in a different position than if you were bombing down the freeway. You might also just be more comfortable in both situations if the bar were in a different location. Handlebar risers and bar backs fit all popular dual-sport bikes, and come in different finishes to match the stock mounts. In most cases you don’t need longer cables, hydraulic hoses, or wiring, but you might need to reroute one or all of them to make sure there’s enough slack at full lock.
While we’re at it – for those of us that do more touring than off road, a good motorcycle windscreen is always going to be a great idea to keep your head from getting tossed around at high speeds.
Whether you’re heading for the next state, or just riding to work, you usually need to carry some things with you––tools, a tire repair kit, your laptop and lunchbox. But while you could bungee your cargo to the back of the seat, you’re more likely to arrive without it than if you stow it in a tank bag, tail bag, side cases mounted securely to a rear luggage rack or side racks. In general, though, you’re looking for racks or side case mounts that bolt solidly to the bike and accommodates the luggage you choose, whether it’s hard cases or soft luggage. In addition to their convenience, locking cases give you peace of mind when you’re off the bike, and discourage casual thieves from poking around to see if there’s anything portable they can make off with.
Auxiliary lighting both makes you more visible in traffic during the day and after dark helps you find that remote campsite your direction-challenged off-road riding buddy told you about. DENALI lighting kits, headlights, and universal and model-specific auxiliary lights let you add LED technology and outstanding brightness to dual-sport bikes.
If you’re looking for more ways you increase your comfort and safety, look no further than where the rubber meets the road. Or dirt. Or whatever. Depending on which surface you spend the most time on, you can get tires that lean more one way than the other. Here’s one guide to choosing the right tires. While we’re at it, here’s another dual sport tires guide. These should help make your dual sport handle better, ride more comfortably, and tackle whatever terrain you point it at.