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What’s The Best Honda Dual Sport Bike For You?

Trying to figure out what the best Honda dual sport bike is for you but not sure where to start? There are many different dirt bikes to choose from, but they’re not all street legal, and then you have to choose which size is right for you!

In this article, I’m going to show you what a dual sport bike is, why it may or may not be the best motorcycle for you, and then how to choose the best Honda dual sport motorcycle based on your specific needs.

What is a street legal dirt bike – major differences?

A street legal dirt bike is a dirt bike that’s either a dual sport motorcycle from the factory or an off-road motorcycle that’s been converted to legally ride on the road and off-road.
The biggest difference between a dual sport bike and an off-road dirt bike is that a dual-sport bike is heavier and has DOT tires with smaller knobbies. This makes it harder to handle off-road, but it’s much smoother to ride on the pavement or street because it’s more stable.

2019 XR650L air-cooled 650cc Honda dual sport motorcycle

What’s a street legal dirt bike called?

A street legal dirt bike is simply called a dual sport bike. It doubles as a street bike and a dirt bike because it’s plated and legal for riding on the road/street, but has knobby tires and long-travel suspension for off-road riding. 

Is a dual sport motorcycle the right bike for you?

Before you even start looking at the different dual sport bikes, you need to figure out if it’s the best type of dirt bike for you right now. Buying a dual-purpose motorcycle from the factory is not the best at any type of riding.

For example, since it’s heavier than a trail bike, it won’t handle as well off-road. However, it’s not quite as stable as a street bike, so it won’t handle as well on the street either – and they’re definitely not good at motocross.

So, what’s the point of getting one? Well, because dual sport bikes are pretty good at everything. This means that if you want just ONE dirt bike to be able to ride off-road and on-road, then a street legal dirt bike is a good choice for you.
You just have to realize that you’re making a compromise in certain areas, such as suspension, engine, or overall performance. A dual sport motorcycle is great for touring the back country roads and camping if you want a lightweight set up with a tent.

Exploring the mountains on a street legal Honda CRF230 dirt bike
Exploring the mountains on my plated Honda 230

Enduro vs dual sport bike

An enduro bike today isn’t what it used to be back in the 1960s and 70s, which was basically a street bike with dirt knobby tires for riding off-road.
For example, a Honda enduro motorcycle today is a high-performance trail bike for trail riding or cross-country racing, while a Honda dual sport motorcycle is a street legal dirt bike for on-road and off-road riding.

Does Honda make a street legal dirt bike right now?

Yes, Honda has been making street legal dirt bikes for many years, but their lineup of models has changed quite a few times. A Honda “CRF” is the name it gives to their 4-stroke dirt bikes, which means that a CRF may or may not be road legal – that’s why I’ll show you which ones are legal.

What size dual sport bike is best for you?

Are you looking to get your first dirt bike that’s street legal? Then choosing the right size is even more important.

When you’re new to riding a motorcycle or dirt bike off-road, you want to have a bike that’s easy to ride so that you can focus on learning how to properly ride and control it. When you start on a dirt bike that’s too big and too powerful, it’s much harder to handle because you’re using too much energy trying to keep it under control – especially when you’re tired.

So, the best size for you mainly depends on your height and your experience level. Being able to touch the ground with one foot helps build your confidence, and then starting on a “slower” bike is easier to handle – it’s easier to start slow and upgrade later, rather than struggle from the beginning on the “baddest and fastest” dirt bike, which is not what some guys like hearing because their ego gets in the way…

Is a 450cc dirt bike street legal?

Most 450 dirt bikes are not street legal because they are for motocross, enduro or trail riding. With that said, Honda has a 450cc CRF that is legal to ride on the street from the factory. 

What Honda dual sport bikes are street legal?

Now it’s time to figure out what Honda dual sport bikes are street legal and how to know which is best for you.

I’ll start with the discontinued Honda dual sport bikes, and then the new models:

CRF230L

The CRF230L is a very beginner friendly dirt bike that’s plated for legal street riding. The seat height is nice and low if you’re a female or just a short guy like me.

It doesn’t have much power, so don’t expect to be able to cruise on the freeway all day comfortably. The 230L was only available for 2 years and then discontinued due to not enough demand. 

2008 Honda CRF230L air-cooled 230cc dual-purpose motorcycle
Honda CRF230L – only made for 2 years

CRF230M

Another short-dual Honda dual sport model is the CRF230M, which is not like any of the others. It’s technically a supermoto dirt bike that is street legal; sometimes called a supermotard.

It’s basically the same thing as the street legal CRF 230L, but it has full street wheels and tires. This makes it handle better and corner better on the street because it gets a lot more traction than a dual-purpose knobby tire.
However, you lose most of the traction you had on the dirt because the tires are round and smooth with no real knobbies to grip the dirt.

2009 Honda CRF230M air-cooled 230cc supermoto dirt bike that's street legal
CRF230M Supermoto

XR250L

Honda’s XR250L was a very simple and reliable dual-sport motorcycle in the 90s. It was basically an XR250R that had road legal accessories to make it street legal.

It didn’t have much power, but it made a good lightweight dual sport for commuting and mild trail riding. Other than a mini bike, the XR250L was the best Honda dual sport for beginners and is still a good choice if you want a cheap street legal dirt bike.

1991 Honda XR250L 250cc air-cooled dual sport motorcycle

CRF250L

The CRF250L is a very popular dual sport and lightweight adventure bike. It’s the latest Honda 250 street legal dual sport bike, and was made from 2013-2020 until they updated it to the 300cc model version, which I’ll cover in a minute. 

The CRF 250L is definitely heavier than a typical dirt bike, so it’s not the greatest for single track trail riding, but it’s plenty capable on easy to moderate trails if you have proper riding techniques. 

2013 Honda CRF250L 250cc liquid-cooled dual sport motorcycle
Stock CRF250L

CRF250L Rally

In 2017, Honda came out with the 250L Rally edition dual sport bike, which is kind of like a lightweight adventure bike. It can be used for rally riding off-road, or adventure riding on the road and backroads for long-distance riding if you prefer a lightweight motorcycle.

The 250 Rally model has more suspension travel (taller seat height) for more off-road comfort, fairing for wind protection while cruising at highway speeds, a bigger gas tank for riding longer without needing to re-fuel, and a skid plate for protection against rocks, logs and roost/debris.

2018 CRF250L Rally Honda dual sport bike

XR650R

The XR650R was THE Baja dirt bike for racing long distance off-road at high speeds. Compared to modern dual sport bikes, it’s a little bit heavy and it lacks an electric start, but it has plenty of torque. 

Honda mini bike street legal – Trail 125

The big red manufacturer brought back the vintage Trail 125 enduro bike in 2021 as sort of a retro-style trail bike that’s street legal. The big difference is that the new model is bigger, heavier, and more powerful with a 125cc fuel-injected engine as the old Trail 90, Trail 110 and CT125 from the 60s and 70s.

The extra weight is from the larger engine, EFI, battery system, ABS-brakes, and an overall beefier/bigger chassis. This makes it a fun a stable Honda dual sport mini bike if you’re a beginner or just want a small bike for city riding and commuting. It’s just not as good for trail riding because it’s 260 lbs, which is almost 60 lbs heavier than the Trail 110 was and is also heavier than most trail dirt bikes.

2022 Honda Trail 125 What's The Best Honda Dual Sport Bike For You?

Is the CRF250F street legal?

No, the CRF250F is a trail bike for off-road use only. If you’re new to dirt biking, it’s a great bike to get started on because it’s super easy to ride, allowing you to focus on riding with proper technique, rather than taming the power. 

Honda 250-300 street legal bikes?

The only modern 250 class Honda dual sport bikes from are:

  • CRF250L
  • CRF300L
  • CRF300L Rally

I just mentioned the CRF250L, but it’s the most popular 250 dual sport Honda has made in decades. It’s comfortable, easy to ride, has decent power, thanks to its 250cc street bike engine, and is short enough for most adults to reach the ground. 

Want to make it bigger, smaller, or add lots of luggage? There’s a big aftermarket for the CRF 250L to turn it into a versatile dirt bike or lightweight adventure bike to tour the country on. It’s very reliable, so you can really rack up the miles before needing to touch the inside of the engine as long as you keep oil in it. 

The CRF250L turned into a CRF300L because consumers simply wanted more power in the same size package. The 300L Rally comes from the factory with a few nice options for adventure riding if you’re more hardcore. 

Honda 450 street legal dirt bikes?

Need more power? There are a few different 450cc and bigger Honda dual sport bikes. The best one for you depends on whether you want to do more street riding or off-road. 

  • CRF450L
  • CRF450RL
  • XR650L
  • Africa Twin CRF1000L

Honda came out with the CRF450L in 2018, but it turned into the CRF450RL, which is essentially the same bike. It’s based off of the CRF450R motocross bike, but detuned quite a bit to make it easier to ride on the street and trails. 

Make no mistake, this bike has plenty of power, though, and should not be on your list if you’re new to riding off-road. If you plan to do mostly street or fire road riding, then it’s Manageable. Single track trails is where the 450 gets tough to handle the weight and torque. 

Just want a simple dual sport that’s reliable and can ride around the country? The XR650L is far from high performance, but it has decent torque and can handle highway miles more comfortably than the 450. 

Moving to the CRF1000L, the latest Honda adventure bike is the Africa twin, is here to compete with Yamaha’s Super Tenere and BMW’s GS 1250. The Africa Twin can handle some light trail riding, but technical trails would be tough for this beast it you don’t have proper technique and skills

Best Honda street and trail bikes

For riding on the road and in the dirt, it’s a major compromise because each surface requires a vastly different bike set up to handle well and give you the confidence needed to safely ride. This is why it’s best to have multiple bikes: a street bike for riding on the road, and a dirt bike for riding off-road and on the trails.

But, since you’re here, you probably have to pick just one Honda dual sport bike because you want to be able to ride on both with the same motorcycle.
If that’s the case, then these are the best Honda street and trail bikes:

  • CRF300L
  • CRF300L Rally
  • CRF450RL

I only chose these 3 models because they will handle and perform the best on and off-road. The XR650L is just too big and heavy to enjoy riding a lot of miles off-road unless you’re a big guy. The Trail 125 could be considered, but it’s best used as a city or commuter motorcycle because it has less than 4 inches of suspension travel, which is about 1/3 the amount of the other bikes, making it less comfortable on bumps.

What Honda CRF is street legal?

The only current CRF models that are street legal are the:

  • CRF450RL
  • CRF300L
  • CRF300L Rally

Which street legal Honda dual sport is right for you?

It really comes down to what type of riding you’ll be doing most, and then your skill level and size (height and weight). 

The more hardcore off-road riding you’ll be doing, the smaller street legal dirt bike you’ll want to pick. As you move towards more road and long distance riding (as well as skill level), the bigger bike you’ll want. 

How to make your dirt bike street legal

Depending on where you live, you may be able to convert your off-road dirt bike into a street legal dirt bike and legally ride on the road. However, many states or countries don’t allow you to register your off-road motorcycle to get a license plate for road-use. Please refer to your local regulations as to whether or not you can register it.

With that said, these are the biggest steps to make your dirt bike street legal to ride on the road:

  1. Register for road use/get it plated
  2. Headlight
  3. Tail light
  4. Horn
  5. Mirror

How to safely ride off-road with confidence

Whether you’re on a small trail bike or a big street legal dual sport bike, there’s one thing that will make you a safer and more confident rider. 

Too many beginners learn how to ride on their own, but this generally leads to bad habits that cause you to ride tense, which leads to getting out of control easily. 
So, if you’re new to riding off-road, I want to help you by giving you a quick and simple guide to get started the right way. Click here to learn the proper techniques to ride with confidence.