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ADV Prepping6 Off-Road Riding Tips You Don’t Need to Learn the Hard Way

6 Off-Road Riding Tips You Don’t Need to Learn the Hard Way

 A few quick tips to help you avoid mishaps on your first off-road adventure.

Published on 05.26.2017

Riding an adventure motorcycle off-road for the first time is a lot like learning a new sport. No matter how naturally athletic you are, the new rules and techniques take some getting used to. Powering a big ADV bike on terrain better suited for hiking boots requires a different understanding of weight and size dimensions, patience and preparedness. Here are six obviously simple yet helpful tips for those looking to get into Adventure Riding, that you don’t need to learn the hard way.

1. Watch Your Weight

off-road riding tips packing

More often than not, new adventure riders pack or install too many things on their bikes due to inexperience and a temptation to buy every gadget they come across online. Far too many carry an extra five to 15 pounds on their excursions, which while not sounding like much, does add up. Tape a 15-pound dumbbell to the edge of a broomstick and hold it out to one side for five minutes. Wag it back and forth and envision that weight at the end of your tail while you’re riding. You can start here for suggestions on what to pack, then personally determine what combination of gear, clothing, hygiene and accessories are really needed.

2. Check Your Ergos

off-road riding tips check ergos

Before the next big ride, it’s critical to have your bike properly set up. Whether you’re looking at a one-day trek or a 16-day journey, why make your trip any harder than it has to be? Off-road riding on Adventure Bikes can be a challenge, so proper ergonomics of the clutch and brake perch angle, the rise, width and pullback of the bars as well as the placement of foot controls can increase your comfort, confidence and raise your overall fun factor. There’s no exact formula that works for everyone as people have different heights, weights, lengths and preferences. But as a general rule, you’ll want to make sure the hand and foot levers are adjusted to a position that is comfortable for both sitting and standing. You’ll also want to put the handlebars in a position that makes stand-up riding comfortable over longer distances. Take the time and do a little research and experimenting to find the right ergo adjustments for your body. Ideally, start setup two weeks before a big trip, not the day of. In the end, these adjustments will keep you riding longer, farther, and faster.

3. Put in a Proper Pace

off-road riding tips proper pace

Journeys aren’t meant to be rushed, so set a pace that’s actually enjoyable. When fellow riders get together, it seems that everything from leaving the gas station to getting on the trail turns into a race. Which leads to forgetting to tighten the gas cap or close the pannier. You don’t need to waste all your energy just coming out of the gate, or expend it all after getting stuck on the first log or boulder. Slowing down and pacing prevents working up a sweat and starting early fatigue. Taking the time to assess each situation for the best course of action can significantly ease the energy needed to ride around or over obstacles you encounter.

4. Be Prepared to Improvise

off-road riding tips improvise

ADV riding is called an adventure because things will break, so pack the unthought-of. Some of the most useful in a pinch are things that are not often for sale, such as a spare inner tube that can be used as a rescue bag, as a tourniquet, or even as a sacrificial material in a high wear area. Bailing wire has untold solutions, and used oil cans can be used as tool holders, oil funnels or to transfer gas and hide cash. A small file can turn a broken bolt shaft into a slotted drive screw head. You’d be surprised how “worthless” slightly corroded fuses just need a little bit of love — emery cloth can do wonders. The proper use of JB Weld with an aluminum can or rock have closed massive holes in engine cases. Watching MacGyver episodes from 1986-1989 definitely helps. For more tips on essential tools to carry, go here.

5. Inspect and Adjust Your Bike

off-road riding tips bike inspection

Before even getting on your bike, make sure the spokes, oil, brake fluids, chassis bolts, lights, chain, and throttle are good to go. Watch for aluminum oxide paste at connections on the subframe, axles and spokes. Train your eyes to watch for that dark grey paste or powder as an early indication that something is loose and vibrating. Cleaning and doing your own maintenance forces you to get close and see what’s going on with your bike, and also ensures your side stand and kickstarter don’t fall off, among other things.

6. Tire Pressure, Tire Pressure, Tire Pressure…

off-road riding tips tire pressure

This one is something that many riders forget about when making the transition from street to the varied terrain that comes with adventure riding. Always keep in mind what type of riding you’re going to be doing, and adjust tire pressure accordingly. Few things are as powerful at reinstalling confidence than dropping your tire pressure by 10 PSI or so. You can drop it to 22, 18 or even down to 13 pounds if you are in really deep sand and mud. Just remember the lower you go the more likely you are to bend a rim or get a puncture, so watch your speed, maintain clean lines and avoid slamming into 90-degree sharp-edged ruts.

Overall adventure riding is more of an art, not a science, and you’ll continue to learn on every ride you take. But if you take the time, you can get a good start on staying in the saddle and enjoying every minute of it.

Jeremy LeBreton Author ProfileAbout the Author: An avid adventure rider who has spent most of his life on two wheels, Jeremy LeBreton is a seasoned Endurocross, Supermoto and hare scrambles racer who has ridden through the snow, sand, dirt and mud on most continents. He is an active off-road racing and ADV coach as well as a speaker at many American and European motorcycle events, and is best known as the founder and president of AltRider, a Seattle-based manufacturer of American-made ADV parts, luggage and accessories that empowers ADV enthusiasts to venture onto the roads less taken.

Photos by Jim Vota and Stephen Gregory

Author: Jeremy LeBreton

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