I have ridden dirt bikes or dual sport motorcycles all my life. I really don’t have an explanation why but every trip on one I find fun and exciting even if it is just across the yard! I have never been enthused about riding big street machines like a Harley, fully dressed Hondas or similar.
I find the bikes around 600cc or less to be the most fun and practical. My favorite is 250cc. Small, light but still enough power to take you in the hills and on trails and I can still ride to town or work and keep up with traffic.
I will say right now there is not and has never been one machine that can do everything so if you are looking into getting a motorcycle you need to plan ahead a little bit. You will need to consider your abilities, weight, and the average type of riding you plan to do. There are other factors to consider but the above are the most important.
For example if you are new to riding then something small and mild would be best to start with. A heavier bike can ware you out quickly, especially off road. A bike with a lot of power can also be a problem since the power could catch you when you are of balance and not prepared. As you gain skills you will most likely move to a more advanced machine. I might ad than in this process you will discover additional things or needs that you want from your motorcycle.
Having some friends to ride with is a good idea. If they are experienced riders their coaching and looking after you will speed up your acquiring ridding skills. This can also offer you a broader view of various motorcycle styles and help you decide what fits you best quickly.
I use the term dual sport motorcycle loosely. Although there is an actual category of motorcycles called by this term other machines can be modified to be used as such. The factory built dual sport motorcycle is a motorcycle that can be ridden off road but is also legal to ride on the street. These are sort of dirt bikes that have been tamed down a bit and usually weigh a little more because of the added necessary equipment necessary to be in traffic, such as lighting, heavier frames, battery and the like.
A factory built dual sport usually fits the widest types of riding being comfortable on both roads and trails. However remember this will mean that it will not be perfect for either. Most dual sports favor roads but some more aggressive ones favor the dirt side of things. In this category I favor the latter. This allows me to ride my bike to the trail head and still have a “dirty” machine for the hills instead of having to “trailer” an off road machine, not legal on the hi-way, to the trail head.
A second choice is to get a straight dirt bike and make it street legal yourself. This is really my favorite approach but this is not easy and can be almost impossible in some states like California, where I live. By doing this you can have a very powerful and light machine for some serious trails. It is a matter of meeting the road requirements of the dmv in the state you live, adding things like a dual beam headlight, brake lamp, turn signals, mirrors and a plate. You need to do this without adding to much extra weight to maintain “dirty-ness”. A street legal dirt bike is a hot commodity so don’t let your friends talk you out of it once you have one!
The third type of cross over bike is the Adventure Bike. Although these can be rode on gravel roads and fire trails they are designed for long trips on mostly back roads or gravel hi-ways like you would find in Alaska or other wild areas. These bikes are built very rugged, include luggage boxes and racks and are a comfortable ride to boot. They start at 650cc and can go up to 1200cc. If I had the time to travel I would have one of these!