One of the things many beginner riders look for when exploring 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 many other factors add up to make bike ownership a bit of a money pit.
Still, we love life on two-wheels—and exploring off-road only adds to the fun. There are also a lot of bikes you can buy new or gently used that will let you reach the muddier parts of the world without breaking the bank.
Just remember, most dirt bikes aren’t street legal. Dual-sports are—but often, they’re better at one of their two intended uses than the other, so it pays to do a bit of research before buying one. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Here 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, 2022 model)
The TT-R230 is a dedicated trail bike that Yamaha intentionally designed for new-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 current TT-R230 has enough grunt and go to climb steep hills in low gears, while cruising across packed dirt and desert sands in higher gears. With a long, wide seat, it is also comfortable when you have your hips down—although, with a seat height of 34 inches, you might need a small hop to get onto it.
The suspension on this bike also lets you get a bit of air without worrying about landing uncomfortably. It has 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.
Kawasaki KLX230 S
Price: $4,799 (new, 2022 model)
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. But it’s fully street legal and so rider-friendly it almost feels like an adventure bike instead of a dual-sport.
This bike is 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. That makes it perfectly capable of pulling some light highway duty. Kawasaki clearly intended the rider to be able to ride to the trail, ride the trail, shake off the mud, and then ride back 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 it won’t surprise the newer rider as it has a very progressive feel to it. On top of that, the all-digital dash is easy to read in any lighting, there are passenger footpegs, and it even comes with an included tool kit in a lockable compartment at the front of the bike.
Price: $5,249 (new, 2021 model)
Hold up a second. Yes, the CRF300L is $250 above budget, but there is a very good reason we’re listing it here anyway.
The 2021 version is the latest iteration available, replacing the superb CRF250L that came before and adding a slightly bigger engine with slightly more grunt. It still has the astounding ability to devour whatever you find in your way on a dirt trail, and it’s even capable of fully off-road adventure riding. Plus, since it just sips gas, you can keep the fun going all day!
But why break our budget? Because of one thing Honda is famous for doing, and which always makes a potential owner’s eyes gleam in excitement: deals. 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, and sales for no other reason than that they received 10 bikes instead of 1 and need to move inventory. Honda. Loves. Sales.
Even then, unless your dealer is extremely uptight, you will often be able to knock an extra $250 off during negotiations. Failing that, you can probably get added value options like luggage racks or a spare set of wheels and tires thrown in to make up the $250 in free stuff.
As we see it, there is no better dual-sport for proper adventure off-roading than the CRF300L at the moment—and if you look at reviews around the internet, you’ll see that almost everyone agrees.
Price: $4,649 (new, 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 serious punishment. The fairings, which are intentionally designed to preserve the ’90s aesthetic of Suzuki dual-sports, are also made of high durability plastic that is both easy to maintain and cheap to replace if need be.
The engine for the 2020 DR200S (the latest version available) 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 than many trail bikes (at 33 inches) makes the DR200S much more friendly to swing a leg over—but that height comes with compromises on ground clearance and suspension travel. Both front and rear travel are only 8 inches, and ground clearance is only 10 inches.
However, the limited suspension on this bike can be considered a trade for its massive fuel tank, which holds 3.4 US gallons. Plus, this bike offers nearly 100 MPG—giving you about 300 miles of commuting or trail-riding between fill-ups. Nice.
Price: $4,799 (new, 2022 model)
The Yamaha TW200 is one of those strange bikes some manufacturers make that sounds fairly ridiculous on paper, but turns out to be great fun in the real world. Introduced way back in 1987, the bike has remained relatively unchanged in its design. 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 down roads and light trails without breaking a sweat. Not designed so much for off-road use as other bikes on this list, the TW200 is the kind of bike Yamaha obviously envisioned being ridden mostly on paved roads but with the capability to traverse gravel or dirt when required.
With a still-respectable 10 inches of ground clearance and a seat height of 31 inches, the on-road focus of the TW200 becomes apparent with its suspension: 6.3 inches in the front and 5.9 in the rear. You won’t be conquering mountain trails any time soon on this funky little fat-tire bike, but you’ll have no problem riding along rugged backcountry roads, or maybe even bombing around the farm (if you happen to live on one).
2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS
Price: $3,899 (new, 2021 model)
Honda fans begged, pleaded, screamed, and prayed for this bike for nearly three years. Originally revealed as a proposal Honda was considering, mini-moto enthusiasts and traditionalists alike crossed their gloved fingers that it would eventually see the light of day. And in 2021, Honda delivered.
This is Honda cashing 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 very well with its 10 HP, chugging along like a little tractor. All things considered, it’s a brilliant little bike.
Despite its diminutive size and engine, this bike has a full luggage shelf, a dual-sport-matching 31.5-inch-high seat, proper trail suspension and tires, and such great mileage that it beats 100 MPG (with a 1.4-gallon tank and 0.3-gallon emergency reserve tank). That’s more than enough to get down to your campsite on a Saturday, enjoy a night out, and make it back up the trail on Sunday, all without needing to bring a jerry can.