A Look at ADV versus Dual Sport versus Enduro Motorcycles


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When it comes to off-road motorcycling, there are three main types of bikes we tend to think of: ADV, dual-sport, and enduro. Each motorcycle type has its own unique set of features and capabilities. In this article, we will take a look at each motorcycle type to compare basic features and capabilities. This information should steer you in the direction of which motorcycle is best for you!

ADVDual SportEnduro
Engine650cc++250-650cc125-500cc
Weight350-600 lbs
160-270 kg
250-350 lbs
110-160 kg
under 250 lbs
under 110 kg
Gas Tankup to 30L/8gal+/- 18L/5gal+/- 9L/2.4gal
Wheels/TiresRoad tires stock
19″ front
Knobby
21″ front
Knobby
21″ front
ComfortPadded seat
Large windscreen
Smooth at speed
Minimalist seat
Small windscreen
Tall handlebars
Minimalist seat
No windscreen
Narrow handlebars
Street LegalYesYesSometimes
ADV vs Dual-Sport vs Enduro Motorcycles

Riding motorcycles off-road is a fun and challenging sport. Modern bikes offer a wide array of choices for those ready to hit the trails. Here we take a look at some of the basic features available on ADV, dual-sport, and enduro bikes.

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What is an ADV motorcycle?

ADV is short for “adventure” and is used when describing an adventure motorcycle as well as adventure riding (ADV riding).

An ADV motorcycle is a purpose-built bike that incorporates aspects of a touring bike and an off-road motorcycle. This combination of touring bike comfort and off-road capabilities has led to a boom in sales for manufacturers over the years.

Photo of a BMWR1200GS motorcycle riding in rocky terrain

ADV bikes typically have large fuel tanks and engine displacement. They are often equipped with features such as luggage racks, skid plates, and taller windshields which add to their comfort during adventure touring. All of this can also make their overall weight quite heavy, which can be a disadvantage for some when riding off-road.

ADV motorcycling includes riding on both asphalt and unpaved roads, such as dirt or gravel trails, snow, or sand. ADV riders commonly enjoy long-distance adventures and often camp out or stay in remote areas overnight.  Adventure riding can be a solo activity or done with a group of friends.

Photo of a BMWR1200GS motorcycle

ADV riders are supported globally with off-road riding clubs, big bike adventure training, and international competitions, such as the BMW GS Trophy, Get On! ADV events, and Adventure Ride Competitions, just to name a few.

Some popular ADV motorcycles are offered by BMW, KTM, Honda, Suzuki, and even Harley Davidson. These bikes are all great choices for those looking to get into adventure riding.

ADV motorcycle key features include:

  • Long-range capabilities: the comfort and power of an ADV bike makes long weekend camping trips or cross-country tours a pleasure
  • On/off-road capability: although biased toward on-road comfort, an ADV bike can keep up with most dual-sport bikes off-road, with more advanced rider training
  • Ground clearance: ADV bikes will provide ample ground clearance for most off-road adventures despite coming in a bit lower than either a dual-sport or enduro bike
  • Large fuel tank: perfect for adventure touring or a full day of trail riding

What is a dual sport bike?

A dual-sport motorcycle is also designed for both on and off-road use, however, they offer more stock off-road features and capabilities than their ADV counterparts reviewed above.

Photo of a dual sport motorcycle ride on asphault

Dual-sport bikes are off-road feature-rich with taller seats, higher ground clearance, and tighter gear ratios for trail riding. Dual-sport bikes offer all of these benefits while remaining street legal, making travel to and from the trails easy and convenient.

The smaller frame and engine size makes dual sport bikes lighter than ADV bikes. This allows them greater access to single-track riding versus a bigger bike that may be too wide and heavy for the average rider. A big 21-inch front wheel with knobby tires improves the bike’s ability to dig into uneven terrain and traverse obstacles with greater efficiency. On-road travel will be rougher and stiffer on dual-sport bikes as compared to ADV bikes.

Photo of a dual sport motorcycle tire digging into gravel on off-road terrain

The popularity of dual-sport bikes can be seen across the globe with a wide selection of training camps, motorcycle clubs, and international events. Dual sport bikes tend to be a favorite for round the world travelers (RTW) due to their more manageable size and less complex build design. 

You can find events sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association here or check in with your local dealership or club to learn about opportunities local to you.

Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, KTM, and Husqvarna are well respected for their quality dual-sport motorcycles.

Dual Sport key features include:

  • Large, knobby tires: these tires provide good traction on both dirt, gravel, and sand
  • High handlebars: stock set up is ready for stand-up riding
  • Suspension: dual-sport motorcycles often have suspension systems that can be adjusted to accommodate different types of riding
  • Engine size: dual-sport motorcycles typically have smaller engines than ADV motorcycles making them easier to maneuver and helping them get better gas mileage

What is an enduro bike?

Enduro motorcycles are all about off-road riding! “Enduro” is short for “endurance” and these bikes will perform brilliantly in a long-distance race, the outback, or provide incredible fun on your local trails. If you’re looking for a motorcycle that can handle anything you throw at it off-road, an enduro bike is a good choice.

Enduro bikes are not only built for function, but they also look the part. Most enduro motorcycles have a rugged and aggressive appearance that makes them stand out from other types of bikes. If you want a motorcycle that looks as tough as it is, look no further.

Photo of enduro motorcycle race

Enduro motorcycles are purpose-built for off-road riding (although street-legal options are available on the market). They typically have smaller fuel tanks and shorter-range capabilities than both ADV and dual-sport motorcycles, so this is a consideration if your journey will be remote or long distance.

Enduro bikes are lightweight and have a high ground clearance which is perfect for riding over obstacles. They also have a suspension system that can be adjusted to accommodate different types of terrain.

Traditional enduro riding includes long-distance, technical off-road trail riding. The terrain includes dirt, gravel, rocks, water crossings, and steep inclines/declines. It is not only the bike that displays endurance but also the rider as this motorsport is both physically and mentally demanding.

Photo of enduro motorcycle

Enduro motorcycle events can be found all around the world. Enduro21 provides an international events calendar here to find opportunities in your location.

Top enduro motorcycle manufacturers include KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda.

Enduro key features include:

  • Lightweight design: this improves maneuverability on rough terrain
  • High ground clearance: critical for traversing rocks, trees, or other obstacles
  • An adjustable suspension system: personalize and finetune for different types of terrain
  • Off-road capability focused: most are not street legal and those that are will not have the comforts available from the ADV market; bikes that are not street legal will also require a vehicle equipped with a trailer
  • Smaller fuel tank: shorter-range capabilities so more planning is needed for fueling

Choosing the “best” off-road motorcycle

Although this question is asked frequently, it is seemingly an impossible one to answer. Each of these bike categories offers a fun and unique riding experience that is best for different types of riders and different styles of riding.

The best motorcycle for you is the one that fits your individual riding style and needs. Consider what type of rider you are, what kind of terrain you’ll be riding on, and what features are most important to you. With so many great options available on the market, you’re sure to find the perfect motorcycle for your off-road adventures.


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