by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
The Essential Guide to Dual Sport Motorcycling
Everything You Need to Buy, Ride and Enjoy the World's Most Versatile Motorcycles
by Carl Adams
Foreword by Malcolm Smith
Whitehorse Press 2008
List Price: $24.95
Dual Sport and Adventure Touring bikes have been one of the surprising sales successes of the last few years.
In fact, various reports show an increase in sales of these versatile machines even in the shadow of the 2008-2009 global economic mess.
In fact, the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Sales Statistics page shows dual-sport motorcycle sales increased by 22% in 2008 over the previous year.
And that's while pure off-road bike sales dropped 30% and street bike sales were down 5.6%.
Only scooter sales were higher than the previous year at a whopping 41.5%, probably due mostly to the huge increases in fuel prices in the U.S. during the first half of 2008.
My explanation for this is that dual-sport motorcycles come very close to the motorcycle raison d'être and they represent the essence of the motorcycle experience in our modern times.
This type of bike stirs those emotions that revolve around the man (or woman) against nature, sole rider, lone wolf, go-anywhere, explore anything and everything psychology.
The rise in popularity of dual-sport and adventure-touring bikes in my mind has some parallels with the rise in popularity of the SUV over the last 20 years or so in the United States.
There's basically no reason to own an SUV in an urban or suburban setting.
They're big, mostly gas hogs, ride like trucks and have less room than a van -- but their owners can imagine themselves pushing through the veldt or tundra while they're doing mundane chores in downtown Baltimore.
Remember, the popularity of SUVs really started with the original Range Rover and Jeep; vehicles that were more off- than on-road oriented.
Anyway, there's no question that with modern suspensions, tires and engine technology, many dual-sport motorcycles ride and handle better than most of the street motorcycles did only about 25 years ago or so.
I've seen riders doing things on dual-sport bikes at those local Buell Battletrax events that no streetbike could come close to doing.
But that's not what The Essential Guide to Dual Sport Motorcycling is about. The book is, in fact, as the byline states: (pretty much) "Everything You Need to Buy, Ride and Enjoy the World's Most Versatile Motorcycles".
Author Carl Adams has done a great job in pulling together a lot of information for anyone interested in getting started in dual-sport riding. But note that the street aspect of dual-sport motorcycling is mostly missing here.
They're dual-sports because they can be ridden to the end of the road while serving adequately, but then they work just as well when the road ends and the trail begins.
The book is not about motocross or pure off-road riding on dirt bikes, but how to have fun with the most versatile two-wheeled transportation machines on the planet.
There are plenty of beautiful photos to illustrate the concepts, taken in the western U.S., which really make me drool with envy at all those wide-open spaces.
Now these sorts of "everything you need to know" books can sometimes be chock full of basic information that you probably already knew anyway.
But I'm probably the perfect guy to review it, because the closest I've come to off-road riding is riding my K1100LT BMW across the lawn to get closer to the hose for a wash.
However, I've been around motorcycles since Harleys had square-shouldered tires and before Elvis was off pabulum, so I do know when I'm being taken and I do not get that feeling at all here.
The book is divided into four sections: Choosing a Dual Sport; Riding Gear and Motorcycle Setup; Riding, Maintenance and Trailside Repair; and Increasing Your Enjoyment.
Chapters include detailed information on everything from buying a dual-sport bike to buying the right riding gear to lots of physical techniques and exercises to get ready for this unique sport.
I really do feel like there is some solid information throughout and not a lot of fluff, and I definitely learned things that I wasn't aware of before I picked up the book.
I especially liked the "Riding" section, which starts out with beginner tips for off-road riding and gets into advanced techniques and even some of the technology and mental preparation needed to make the most of it while avoiding danger.
There's even a section on reading and understanding topographic maps -- something I had no idea about before this.
Now I'm sure the purists will scoff at the idea of trying to learn about dual-sport motorcycling by reading a book.
But you have to start somewhere, right? And if you're a city boy like me, at least this is a good introduction.
At least I now feel like I know enough to carry on a conversation about this topic and know what to ask and where I need to learn more.
In fact, I've now realized how much fun it would be to learn more by taking one of those adventure riding tours listed on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Touring page!
So if you have any interest at all in what happens when you're riding your GS-series and the road ends, this is the book to read.
Review Date: March 2009