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ADV PreppingQuinn Cody’s Off-Road Safety Tips for Adventure Riders

Quinn Cody’s Off-Road Safety Tips for Adventure Riders

 Quinn shares his decades of wisdom on what it takes to keep safe off-road.

Published on 09.08.2014
Four-time Baja 1000 Champion and Dakar Rally Top 10 finisher Quinn Cody shares off-road safety tips for Adventure Motorcycles. (Photo: Adam Booth)

There are many factors out of our control when riding off-road, so it’s important to focus on the things we can control to improve our safety. If you ride off-road long enough, eventually you are going to encounter mechanical failures, injuries and various other problems. How you prepare and deal with the issues you encounter on the trail can be the key to returning home safely.

With the recent growth in Dual Sport riding, there are a lot of new riders hitting the trails without a proper education in off-road safety. I’ve seen and dealt with so many issues over the years and I’ve learned that most problems can be avoided with a little preparation and know-how. Here are my tips to help make your off-road rides a little safer.

Pre-Ride Planning

Know Where You’re Going: Plan your route before you leave and make sure you understand the difficulty of the terrain. Include bail out points in your route just in case you get into trouble or run short on daylight.

Share Your Plans: Share your route with someone that has the ability to initiate a search. Send the information by text or email to ensure they have all of your plan details in writing.

Check the Weather: Check the weather conditions shortly before you depart. If bad weather is expected, it may be smart to reschedule your trip.

Choose a Bike You Can Pick Up: I’ve come across people on the trail several times just sitting next to their bike, waiting for someone to help them pick it up. There are a range of lifting techniques you can learn to make picking up a big Adventure Bike much easier. Personally, I think if you can’t pick up your own bike, you should probably get a smaller bike… or get in the gym and start working out.

Bike Prep and Maintenance

Knobby Tires: Tires are the single most important change you can make to your bike to give it better handling in the dirt. Get rid of the street-oriented tires that typically come on most Adventure Bikes and get a good set of 50/50 dual sport tires.

Strap it Down: Make sure your luggage is strapped down properly with quality straps (no bungee cords or rope). Anything that comes loose on your bike can easily get stuck in your wheel and become a serious hazard.

Pack Light: Try to pack as light as possible. An overloaded bike is harder to control off-road and is more difficult to pick up when you drop it.

Soft Bags: If you are planning on doing any serious off-road riding, you are less likely to injure yourself with soft luggage.

Pre-Ride Checklist: Come up with a pre-ride inspection checklist (e.g., tire pressure, fluid levels, chain lube). It’s also good to grab some tee handles and give your bike a once-over checking for loose bolts.

Maintenance Plan: For longer trips, you need to keep your bike in good working order. Plan bike maintenance (e.g., tires, air filter, oil change, chain lube) stops into your route.

Daily Inspection: Inspect your bike before leaving each morning (e.g., loose bolts, frame cracks, frayed wires, damaged wheels, broken sprockets teeth). If you get the chance, wash your bike to make it easier to spot damage.

Gear and Supplies

Extra Food and Water: I have a rule that I always carry enough food and water to spend the night if necessary, even when just out for a day ride.

Spare Parts: Make sure you bring at least the basic spares (e.g., clutch levers, chain tool, chain links, spare bolts, fuses). For longer trips in remote areas, you’ll need to bring more.

First Aid Kit: Bring a well-equipped first aid kit and make sure you know how to use it.

Survival Kit: A basic survival kit (e.g., lighter, water filter, knife) can be useful in case of an accident or mechanical failure that causes you to be stranded.

Tow Strap: Bring a tie-down strap to use as a tow strap in case you or a friend’s bike needs a tow.

Spare Tubes: Bring a spare inner-tube, even if you have tubeless tires. For longer trips, you’ll need multiple tubes and a patch kit as a backup.

Quinn Cody Tube Change
Make sure you bring extra tubes and a patch kit on long rides (Photo: Paul Guillien)

Paper Maps: Always bring paper maps of the area you are traveling, even if you have a GPS. Paper maps make it easier to plan a new route when something unexpected happens and it’s good to have a backup if your GPS breaks.

Tool Kit: Make sure you have a tool kit that will allow you to fix most problems you may encounter on the trail. Practice working with your trail tool kit at home to ensure it’s adequate.

Be Self-Sufficient: Never rely on equipment others are carrying. You could become separated from the group or the group may break up due to an injured rider. Each rider should carry their own inner-tubes, tire irons, tools, food, water and GPS.

GPS Communication: Bring a GPS communication device like a GPS messenger, PLB or Satellite Phone when riding in remote areas. Personally, I like to use the SPOT GPS messenger with tracking capability. It allows others to track your progress and see your last position on a map. If you become incapacitated, rescuers will know where to look for you.

Medical ID Bracelets: There are nice ID bracelets available from My ID and Road ID that list your emergency contacts and medical info. They are targeted mainly to cyclist and triathletes but I’ve found they are perfect for motorcyclists as well.

Bring a Jacket: Never go out on a ride without bringing a jacket, no matter how hot the day is. If you get caught out at night, you will need your jacket.

Safety Gear: You should always wear protective gear to help avoid injury. Your safety gear should include a good pair of off-road boots and adequate protection on your knees, elbows and shoulders.

Rider Decisions

Ride in Your Comfort Zone: It’s up to you to ride within your comfort zone, even if others in your group are riding at a faster pace. Don’t override your abilities, stay relaxed and use good judgment.

It’s Not a Race: Never ride faster than 75% of your max speed. You need something in reserve so you can react to unexpected trail hazards.

Warning Signs: Look for the warning signs you are getting fatigued or pushing too hard. Hitting a rock you didn’t see, going wide on a turn or bottoming out your suspension are signs that it’s time to take it down a notch.

Oncoming Traffic: Always use caution when approaching a blind corner or steep rise you can’t see over. Give yourself plenty of time to slow down for oncoming traffic and get over as far as you can in your driving lane. If you can’t see around a corner, assume there is a car coming.

Read the Terrain: Look far ahead and read the terrain as you are riding. The landscape can tell you a lot about what’s coming up. Look for sloped land and canyons to anticipate water erosion on the trail. If you start to see more rocky hills appearing in the distance, chances are the road is rocky ahead.

Quinn Cody riding on the Wikenburg Trail
Looking far ahead and learning how to read the terrain will allow you to anticipate when the road may get dangerous ahead. (Photo: Paul Guillien)

Be Patient Passing: When you come up on a slower vehicle, take your time and wait for the right moment to pass. Give them a polite rev or honk to let them know you are there and only pass when the coast is clear.

Avoid Night Riding: The risk of an accident increases when you ride at night. Get an early start and plan to finish riding by sundown. If you do end up riding at night, make sure you have good lighting and ride at a slower pace.

Avoid Riding Solo: Riding alone increases the risk factor of off-road riding significantly. If you must ride solo, try to ride on well-traveled trails and carry a GPS tracker to lower your risk.

Don’t Pass Gas: Finding fuel in remote areas can be unpredictable. It’s always a good idea to fill up your tank when you see an opportunity.

Riding in Groups

Take Responsibility: When riding in a group, you are responsible for the rider behind you. Make sure to wait for the rider behind you at every junction before moving on. Hold your arm up in the air to warn them of any hazards on the trail. If you ride in large groups, it’s good to take a head count periodically to ensure no one has gotten separated from the group.

Adventure Motorcycle Riding in Groups
Never lose track of the rider behind you and make sure you warn them of any dangers you encounter in the road. (Photo: Paul Guillien)

No Tailgating: Don’t ride in another rider’s dust and allow plenty of space between you and the rider in front of you, even if there is no dust. I’ve personally seen it happen many times where the lead rider gets on the brakes hard and the rider following plows right into the back of him.

Overshooting Turns: If you overshoot a turn, stop slowly and pull to the side to gather everyone in your group. If you slam on the brakes you are likely to get hit from behind.

Getting Lost: If someone in your group gets lost, always go back to the last location you were together. Ride cautiously when backtracking to avoid a collision with an oncoming rider.

Hand Signals: When approaching an oncoming vehicle, point back towards where you came from with your left hand to signal there are more riders behind you (most people will understand what this means even if they don’t know off-road hand signals). Next, show with your fingers the number of riders coming, or put up a fist if you are the last in your group.

Collect Personal Info: If you are riding with new riders, make sure you collect each person’s name, emergency contact phone numbers and medical information before departing.

Quinn Cody Profile Picture

About the Author: As a professional off-road motorcycle racer, Quinn Cody has conquered nearly every major long distance off-road race in the Americas, including 4 overall wins in the Baja 1000 and a Top 10 Finish his first year racing the Dakar Rally. When Quinn’s not racing, he spends much of his time working with the Kurt Caselli foundation. The foundation was created after the tragic death of Kurt Caselli in the 2013 Baja 1000, with a mission of protecting and supporting the lives of off-road riders. One of the foundation’s aims is to help minimize the dangers of off-road motorcycle racing and they’ve already begun making significant improvements in safety for the AMA off-road and Baja SCORE race series. To learn more about the Kurt Caselli Foundation and how you can get involved, go to www.kurtcaselli.com.

Author: Quinn Cody

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13 thoughts on “Quinn Cody’s Off-Road Safety Tips for Adventure Riders

  1. Excellent article and a great resource! This should be bookmarked by everyone that rides off-road. It is scary how much of this is not practiced out there!

  2. I recently went riding with someone who didn’t even know about the hand signals used off-road. And don’t get me started with the amount of people who don’t even think they need to carry a first-aid kit. Thanks for posting this!

  3. A so-called friend recently told me to F Off when I told him I wouldn’t take him on a trip until he replaced his bald front tire. I wasn’t in the mood to have to deal with a tire failure on his bike while we were out in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. Of course he swears it’d be fine, etc, etc, etc. But even though it could be, it’s not something I would chance.

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  5. Pingback: Quinn Cody’s Off-Road Safety Tips for Adventure Riders » ADV Pulse | Meat And Grease

  6. Oh boy… I really should not be going anywhere… lol… but yes, a lot of valid points but some are not always possible for me.
    And no, I can’t pick up my bike, but I don’t plan to get anything lighter, ‘cos for my size I’d have to get a 125cc… and that just won’t do at all!
    I mostly ride alone and often have no idea where I’m going, I make it up as I go along! And I don’t own a GPS either… got lost a few times on my 5000km trip around South Africa.
    I do however always carry food & water/energy drink and a change of clothes, or at least jersey/jacket and other shoes as well as a small medical kit and a whole bunch of other junk which has on occasion become quite useful.
    Gee… how did I get to 50 years of age and I’m still alive and well? Probably sheer luck!

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  8. Very good advices! Here in Brazil i own a Tenere 660 and to prevent flat tires i use heavy duty enduro inner tubes front and rear plus a green jelly that imediatelly closes a small puncture if it happens, these go along with a pair of Continental TKC 80. Another safety tip is to slow down when passing by cattle, horses and other domestic animals, you never know how they will react whith the noise and sudden appearence of a big adventure bike, they can run into your path and cause a fall. Wildlife also must be protected and avoided to be hit or run over!

  9. Good advice. I prefer to ride solo or in a very small group of riders I am familiar with because to me, there are way too many ways to find trouble on the trail and it’s usually the ignorantly unprepared or show-offs that find it and spoil the trip.

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