"Taking you off the beaten path... to a beaten path."
Call it dual-sport, or dual-purpose, or multi-surface or whatever-- it matters not. The idea is that with your motorcycle, you can pull out of your garage, head to the nearest on-ramp, jump onto the interstate for awhile, exit onto a winding highway running alongside a river in the mountains, then turn onto a graded road up past the waterfall, and finally onto a two track that's so rough and rocky that were you not on a dual sport bike, it would otherwise take a Jeep and some time and patience. Not a tach winding sportbike, nor a moto-cross racer, but rather a blend of the two philosophies. Sort of the "yin-yang" of motorcycling. You might not win a supercross or a supermoto, but you won't need a trailer, Johnny Law won't cite you for riding on public roads, and you damn sure aint gonna ride your GoldWing on that trail! For it's purpose, it has no equal.
And touring of course, means you'll be carrying on your bike whatever gear you require with you , for however long you're gone. Now, there's nothing wrong with street touring on a comfy big bike with a big comfy seat, and I know there are some great websites out there devoted to that, but this is not one of them. We're talking about the kind of touring where the majority of the hairpin corners are on dirt and gravel roads, there are no striped lines defining your chunk of road from anybody else's, and every curve is unmarked. And you wouldn't have it any other way.
When dirt turns to asphalt again, you don't have to feel guilty or even think twice before twisting that grip and heading down the road. As big as your tank is, you've gotta hit a gas station eventually, no?
A dual sport touring machine usually has a rack or some other system for mounting the required gear to the bike. This varies widely by man and machine, but runs the gamut from a bag bungeed over the seat, tail rack or tank... to home-brewed one-of-a-kind carry-all racks... to slick looking, elaborate (and spendy) luggage and matching rack systems that are available commercially. The tougher and more resistant to weather and abuse, the better.
Although there's no substitute for a good map and compass, many riders are finding GPS to be an even superior navigational tool in many ways. Mounted to the handlebars or the cockpit, it provides the dual sport tourist with a host of convenient information, such as: exact location, how far to the next turn, direction of turn, distance to final destination or from departure point, nearest gas stations, stores and hotels, and so much more.
One of the greatest uses is being able to download routes into it, either that you've made or that are commercially available (like our own GPS Tours). With a route plugged in, all you've gotta do is glance at the display once in a while and follow it's directions. Oh yeah... and ride!
Another method of dual-sport navigation is by rollchart. These are point to point directions delivered via print on a roll of paper that is wound between two spools as you progress. Measured distances and topography are the keys to navigating by rollchart. It's advantage is it's ability to be utilized with only a working odometer-- and it requires no electrical wizardry or unobstructed view of the sky to work. Also, the detail and length of the route is limited only by the length of the roll of paper that can be utilized.