If you're used to a cruiser, then the adjustment to a dual sport motorcycle can be intimidating. They ride much differently and don't have the comforts you are used to with cruisers. However, they can be really fun and they allow you to ride offroad and go places you would never have been able to go with your old bike.
It's important to make sure you get the necessary equipment. You shouldn't simply switch bikes.
The first thing you need to switch is your helmet. A regular motorcycle helmet is fine for a cruiser or sport bike, but won't work well with a dual sport. If you are going to do offroading, then the helmet needs to be specially designed. The front needs to have a larger opening to accommodate goggles. The brim is larger, and there are larger ventilation holes.
The main reason for the different helmet is because you are going to need goggles. When you were riding your cruiser, you didn't have to deal with lots of mud and dust. You were riding on paved streets. A dual sport is designed to do offroading. This means dirt, dust, and mud. All of this stuff can splash up under a regular helmet. It can get over your face and eyes.
Make sure to get goggles that have fog protection. If you buy goggles that have not been treated with anti-fogging chemicals, then the lenses can steam up on the inside and you will lose visibility. This is incredibly dangerous.
You can always spray an anti-fogging chemical on regular goggles, but it is a better idea to get goggles that have been designed to be fog resistant.
An Aftermarket Seat Pad
Just because you are looking to do offroading doesn't mean you have to be uncomfortable. Dual sports are not noted for comfort. The stock seats leave a lot to be desired when it comes to padding. So, make sure to choose a seat pad that you can use.
You should pick out a seat that pad that is air filled and has a bleeding device. The bleeding device will let you adjust the amount of cushion. Avoid gel pads because you can't adjust the amount of padding.
It's nice to be able to adjust the padding according to the type of riding you will be doing. If you're ridding on a smooth surface, you won't need as much air as when you are riding over rough terrain. Remember, part of the advantage of a dual sport is that you can ride offroad as well as paved streets.
Many people make the mistake and think they can use their regular boots on a dual sport. This is a dangerous mistake to make. On a cruising bike, or even a sport bike, you can get away with wearing regular boots or even sneakers, but on a dual sport you will not have proper traction.
When you are offroad, the bike will be bumping around. This can cause you to lose your footing unless you have proper traction. The solution is to get a pair of dual sport boots from an outlet, such as Bob's Cycle & Snowmobile Supply. They are flexible, and have amazing grip. They will also protect your feet in the event that you get thrown from the bike during an accident.