I recently had the opportunity to test ride a couple of “middleweight adventure” bikes near the Colorado/Utah border. By middleweight, manufacturers seem to mean bikes somewhere along the lines of 450 and 500 pounds (or more).


Conditions varied from high-speed twisty pavement to unpaved narrow mountain roads. The unpaved roads also had rocks, sand, loose gravel, mud, and an occasional animal or two. Even with all these different road surfaces, the “adventure” bikes were up to the task.

So I started wondering about what the difference was between adventure and dual sport bikes, especially since both are designed to be ridden both on and off-road.

Merriam Webster defines “road” as:

  • an open way for vehicles, persons, and animals, especially one lying outside of an urban district

It also defines “off-road” as:

  • of, relating to, done with, or being a vehicle designed especially to operate away from public roads

Figuring Out the Difference

So if both adventure and dual sport bikes are designed to be ridden both on and off road, what’s the difference?

The “adventure” bikes I was riding were fully capable of riding both on and off road and in less than perfect conditions. They were big, multi-cylinder, somewhat heavy and quite comfortable. A person could easily envision themselves covering long distances in relative comfort on such a machine.

The average dual sport bike could also clearly travel the terrain I had been riding.  It would likely have been smaller, with a single cylinder, lighter, perhaps not as comfortable and somewhat easier to ride.

So besides the number of cylinders and weight, what really defines the difference between the two? Does potentially having more ground clearance and suspension travel make the machine a dual sport? If it is, how much is necessary for a bike to earn the moniker “dual sport?”

I’m sure there will be a lot of different opinions. What do you think?



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