One of the things that many beginner riders look for when starting to explore the possibility of having a dirt bike as a second bike, or a dual-sport as their primary, is price. As we all know, when budgeting for a bike, maintenance, registration, insurance, dealer servicing, and more all adds up to make a bike a bit of a money sink.
Yet, we still love our two-wheeled fun machines. Exploring the off-road paths and trails only adds to that fun, and there are a lot of bikes that you can buy new or gently used that will let you get down and dirty on the muddy bits of the world.
Do keep in mind, however, that most dirt bikes, by their very nature, are not street legal. Dual sports are, yet some of them do lean more towards road use than actual off-road bombing about. With that in mind, these are the 6 best dirt bikes and dual sports you can buy right now for under $5,000.
Type: Trail Bike
Price: $4,449 (New, 2021 model)
The TT-R230 is a dedicated trail bike that Yamaha intentionally designed for beginner to intermediate riders. First released way back in 2005, the TT-R230 has evolved over time using lessons learned from motocross and long-distance enduro races.
Powered by a 223cc 2 valve, 4 stroke single that punches out 17 HP through a sequential 6 speed, the TT-R230 has enough grunt and go to climb steep hills in low gears, and cruise across packed dirt and desert sands in higher gears. With a long, wide seat, it is also comfortable when you do have your hips down, although a small hop might be needed to get onto the 34-inch high seat.
Almost 10 inches of travel on the front forks and 9 inches of travel via a coil-gas rear suspension, with 11.5 inches of ground clearance and an included bash guard bar under the engine, means this bike can even take a few decent hops and land comfortably.
Type: Dual Sport
Price: $4,899 (New, 2021 model w/ ABS)
Kawasaki’s KLX230 is quite possibly one of the best-hidden bargains in the modern dual-sport world. It looks like a dirt bike. It sounds like a dirt bike. It has a dirt bike engine. Yet it is fully street legal and is so rider-friendly that it almost feels like an adventure bike over a dual sport.
Powered by a 233cc fuel-injected, air-cooled 4 stroke that puts out about 18 HP, and can reach a very respectable 77 MPH on the road, meaning it can do some light highway duty. Kawasaki intended for the rider to be able to ride to the trail, ride the trail, shake off the mud, and ride home.
9 inches of suspension travel at either end, a 33.7-inch seat height, and 10 inches of ground clearance make it a comfortable bike on and off-road. The KLX230 is also quite a flickable bike, but won’t surprise the newer rider as it has a very progressive feel to it. On top of it all, the all digital dash is easily readable in all lighting, there are passenger footpegs, and it even comes with an included tool kit in a lockable compartment at the front of the bike.
2021 Honda CRF300L
Type: Dual Sport
Wait a minute, we hear you saying. Yes, the CRF300L is $250 above budget, but there is a very good reason we’re listing it here anyway. It is a new bike for 2021, and it replaces the superb CRF250L that came before, with a slightly bigger engine and slightly more grunt. It still has the astounding ability to devour whatever you find in your way on a dirt trail or even doing fully off-road adventure riding, and as it’s a gas sipper, you can do it all day!
But why break our budget? Because of one thing that Honda is famous for doing, and something that always makes a potential owner’s eyes gleam in excitement: sales. In all honesty, between all of us here at BestBeginnerMotorcycles, we cannot recall a time when any of us bought a Honda bike at full MSRP. Honda has trial days, spring sales, summer sales, “get out and ride” sales, year-end clearout sales, sales for no other reason than they received 10 bikes instead of 1 and need to move inventory. Honda. Loves. Sales.
And even then, unless your dealer is extremely… “uptight,” you will often be able to knock that $250 off during negotiations, or get added value options like luggage racks, a spare set of wheels and tires, or some such thrown in to make up the $250 in free stuff. As we see it, there is no better dual-sport, proper adventure off-roader than the CRF300L at the moment, and if you look at reviews around the internet, you’ll see that almost everyone agrees.
Type: Dual Sport
Price: $4,649 (2020 model)
The DR200S is the smallest of the Suzuki dual-sport lineup, but that does not make it the weakest in any sense of the word. Built out of high tensile tubular steel, the frame is lightweight but strong enough to absorb the worst of the worst. The fairings, which are intentionally designed to keep the 90’s aesthetic of Suzuki dual sports, are made of high durability plastic that is both easy to maintain and cheap to replace if need be.
The engine for the DR200S is a 199cc air-cooled single that uses a tiny Mikuni BST31SS carburetor instead of fuel injection, and puts out a grunty 20 HP. Through a 5 speed box, it is geared both for off-road and on-road use, with the 4th and 5th gears both intended as on-road cruising gears.
A lower seat height at 33 inches compared to many trail bikes makes the DR200S much more friendly to swing a leg over, however that height comes at a compromise from ground clearance and suspension travel. Both front and rear travel is only 8 inches, and ground clearance is only 10 inches. This can be considered a trade for a massive fuel tank of 3.4 US gallons with nearly 100 MPG, giving you about 300 miles of commuting or trail riding between fill-ups.
Type: Dual Sport
Price: $4,599 (New, 2021 model)
The Yamaha TW200 is one of those strange bikes that some manufacturers make that sound fairly ridiculous on paper, but turn out to be great fun in the real world. Introduced way back in 1987, the bike has remained relatively unchanged in design and implementation. In fact, the only two major modifications to the motorcycle in all its years were the introduction of an electronic starter in 2001, and an engine counterbalancer that came from the YZF-R series of supersports.
Still powered by a 196cc 2 valve carbureted engine that produces 16 HP, and still using a 5-speed transmission, it is a motorcycle that will get you across road and light trails without breaking a sweat. Not as much designed for off-road use as other bikes on this list, the TW200 is the kind of bike that Yamaha envisioned being ridden mostly on paved roads, but might need to go down gravel roads or dirt roads to get the last miles home done away with.
With a still respectable 10 inches of ground clearance and a seat height of 31 inches, the on-road aspect of the TW200 comes through with the 6.3-inch front suspension travel and the 5.9-inch rear suspension travel. You will not be conquering any mountain trails any time soon on this funky little fat tire bike, but you will be able to easily ride along dirt and gravel roads without worry, and maybe even bomb around the farm, should you live on one, no problem.
2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS
Type: Dual Sport
Honda fans have been begging, pleading, screaming, praying for this bike for nearly three years. Originally revealed as a proposal being looked into by Honda, mini-moto enthusiasts and traditionalists alike hoped that it would see the light of day. And thus, in 2021, it has emerged into the sunlight!
The truth is, this is Honda banking in on nostalgia in the best possible way. While it won’t set any speed records and only has a 125cc single shared with the Super Cub 125, the Trail 125 does decently with its 10 HP, chugging along like a little tractor. It’s a ridiculously brilliant little motorcycle.
Despite its diminutive size and engine, it has a full luggage shelf, a dual-sport matching 31.5 inches seat height, proper trail suspension, and tires, and sips gas so much that it beats 100 MPG, with a 1.4-gallon tank and 0.3-gallon emergency reserve tank. This is more than enough to get down to a campsite on a Saturday, have a night out, and make it back up the trail on Sunday, all without needing extra gas.