I recently read an argument on the internet (An argument on the internet? Really? That NEVER happens!) debating which bike was better – the Yamaha WR250R or an older KTM RFS bike. Here is a quote from that debate:
“Furthermore, are you LEGITIMATELY going to ride your RFS or two stroke KTM for 2000 miles without an oil change? Are you legitimately going to put 400 hours on your bike without checking your valves? You’re completely missing the point here.
Currently, the only fully modernized bikes that exist in production that can legitimately do it all are the WR250R and the heavier CRF250L, and the CRF250L has quite a bit of compromise to it, gearing for the lower budget market.”
What that guy wrote is correct. However, it is also an invalid argument.
Invalid? Yes, because he is making a cross-class comparison. He is comparing a dual sport bike – the WR250R – to a dirt-bike-with-blinkers – RFS KTM – and claiming the dual sport bike is the better bike.
It’s not fair, nor particularly useful or revealing, to compare dual sport bikes to dirt-bike-with-blinkers. I suggest the difference between a dual sport bike and a dirt-bike-with-blinkers is as significant as the difference between a dual sport bike and an adventure bike. The design parameters are different enough between the three classes that trying to determine which bike is best in a cross-class comparison is impossible to determine. Sort of like trying to determine if a F150 is a better vehicle than a Subaru Outback. You can argue on the internet forever that one is better than the other but the truth is they are sufficiently different from each other that no reasonable person can truly say which one is better. A more practical and useful comparison would be the F150 versus the Silverado.
Dirt-Bike-With-Blinkers: sub 300 lb, high performance, dirt biased motorcycle with just enough stuff to make it street legal. The KTM 500, KTM 350 EXC and KTM RFS bikes are all examples of this class.
Dual Sport Bikes: 300 lb – 400 lb motorcycles, generally designed to be equally good on- and off-pavement. These bikes have lower performance levels but longer maintenance intervals. The DRZ400, XR650L, DR650, TE610/630, and KTM 690 are all examples of this class.
Adventure Bikes: 400+ lb bikes designed for better on-pavement performance. The KLR650, Husky TR650, GS800/1200, Tiger 800/1200, and Honda Africa Twin are all examples of this class.
It is no surprise that comparing the maintenance interval of a dual sport class bike to a dirt-bike with-blinkers class bike will show that the higher performance dirt-bike-with-blinkers bike requires maintenance on a more frequent basis (fewer miles or hours of operation). We all know there is a trade-off for performance in that greater performance usually requires shorter maintenance intervals. Which is better – higher performance or longer maintenance intervals? The only way to decide is personal preference. Some will prefer higher performance. Others will prefer longer maintenance intervals. Neither choice is wrong (or right). It all depends on how you, personally, plan to use the bike and your personal preferences. What works best for you may not work best for someone else.
So, how does one determine which bike is better? Is the high performance dirt biased, dirt-bike-with-blinkers bike better than the dual sport bike with lower performance but longer maintenance intervals? The answer depends on how you plan to use the bike and your personal preferences. For sake of discussion, let’s say you decide you want a dirt-bike-with-blinkers and are trying to decide between the KTM 500 and the KTM350. In trying to pick between these two bikes it wouldn’t be particularly helpful to compare either to the WR250R, because the WR250R is not in the same class as the KTM 500 and 350. The WR250R is a dual sport bike and the KTM bikes are dirt-bikes-with-blinkers.
A cross-class comparison is best when trying to decide which class of bike you want.
For example: “Should I get a dirt-bike-with-blinkers or a dual sport bike? Hmmm…do I want higher performance or longer maintenance intervals?”
An in-class comparison is much more useful when trying to select the bike in that class that will work best for you.
For example: “Now that I’ve thought about it, I think a dirt-bike-with-blinkers would work best for me. So, should I buy the Husky 501 or the KTM 500? Hmmm…well the Husky has the better rear suspension so I think that’s the right one for me.”
A cross-class debate, such as arguing that a WR250R is better than a KTM 500 (or vice versa), is the same as arguing that vanilla ice cream is quantifiably better than chocolate ice cream. It’s an argument that can never be won because it comes down to personal preference.