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, 2020 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, 2020 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 foot pegs, and it even comes with an included tool kit in a lockable compartment at the front of the bike.
Type: Trail Bike
Price: $4,599 (New, 2020 model)
The Honda CRF250F is one of Honda’s best selling off-road bikes, and it’s fairly easy to see why. Based on the CRF250R motocross racing bike, a very lightweight tubular steel twin-spar frame gives excellent rigidity and can take quite a beating. The seat is long and well padded for rides across flat terrain, and is grippy enough that you won’t slide about on some light bumps.
The engine is a 249cc air cooled, fuel injected 4 stroke that produces 22.8 HP, fully cradled and protected within the frame behind a steel bash plate. The bike has a 5 speed box that prioritizes gearing for low to mid range torque, but in a very controllable and linear way. No sudden, harsh jolts with this bike.
Suspension travel is 8.5 inches in the front, and, surprisingly at this price point, the rear suspension is a full Pro-Link Showa single shock that comes straight from the motocross bike, that has a full 9 inches of travel. Ground clearance is supremely generous at 11.3 inches, however, it does put the seat at 35 inches.
Type: Dual Sport
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 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, 2020 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 was 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.
SSR Motorsports SR300S
Type: Dirt Bike
Price: $4,399 (New, 2020 model)
The SSR SR300S (that’s a lot of S’s) is probably the most powerful dirt bike we would classify as a beginner bike. It is designed from the ground up to be a pure dirt bike, able to tackle the steepest hills, the hardiest of rockfalls, the most demanding of trails, and yet still be rider friendly beyond a fault. The frame is a tough perimeter frame made of full aluminum alloy for lightness and rigidity.
Powered by a 300cc 4 stroke, liquid cooled single with a carburetor, rated horsepower is 31 HP. This passes through a close ratio 6 speed transmission that is squarely aimed at maximum power in the mid range. SSR has realized that sometimes when out and about a battery might not like ambient conditions, and has a dual starter mode on the bike, with a thumb button activated electric start and a good old fashioned kick start should that fail.
Where the bike shows its off road prowess is in the suspension. Full competition grade adjustable inverted forks at the front have 10 inches of travel, and the rear has 10.5 inches of travel for landing from being airborne with a spring pre-load and rebound adjustable rear shock. The seat height is a stratospheric 37.5 inches, but that allows for a full foot of ground clearance, meaning you can ride this bike over the toughest of terrain without worry.