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ADV Prepping5 Ways to Get Yourself ‘Into’ a Survival Situation Off-Road

5 Ways to Get Yourself ‘Into’ a Survival Situation Off-Road

Knowing what actions lead to trouble can help ensure you have a safer ride.

Published on 03.27.2015
A failed water crossing could lead to a survival situation.

As Adventure Motorcyclists we are always up for exciting challenges and getting off the beaten path. Sometimes that enthusiasm for exploration and discovery leads us to do things that can get us stranded in the wilderness. Even if you are the cautious type, the potential always exists for getting yourself into a survival situation when you ride in remote regions off-road.

There are many things that can go wrong in the back country and it doesn’t take much to turn a fun ride into a survival situation. When you know the common scenarios that can lead to a bad situation, you’ll be better able to identify when it’s happening to you and change your course of action.

It’s never fun spending a sleepless night on the cold ground or pushing that emergency signal button on your GPS messenger. So check out these five ways adventure riders can get themselves into a survival situation off-road so you can avoid meeting a similar fate.


1.) Ride Down Something You Can’t Ride Up
You and a riding buddy decide to take a rarely used forest road that looks interesting. The trail begins fine and you are enjoying the ride, but it progressively becomes more difficult. After a few hours, it becomes clear that the path is getting more challenging and your progress begins to slow. Darkness is coming quickly and your desire to get to the night’s destination has you riding down steep hills you aren’t sure you can ride in reverse.

Around the next bend, you come across downed trees blocking your path and steep cliffs on either side of the trail. There’s no way forward without a chainsaw, so you are forced to head back the way you came. After spending hours trying to make it back up a particularly difficult hill climb you previously rode down, darkness sets in and you are exhausted from your failed attempts. There is no two ways about it; you are spending a long cold night in the wilderness.

helicopter pilots saving riders in survival situation
Avoid an expensive ride with these guys by making smart decisions about the risks you take when traveling off-road.

2.) Take an Impromptu Solo Ride and Get Injured
You have a free day with no plans, so you decide to hop on the bike and go for a short dual sport ride. Since this is an unplanned ride and the weather is nice, you decide to grab the bare essentials and head out alone. You’re having a great time, so you continue pushing further than you initially planned. The thrill of the ride takes over and you are riding at a fast clip.

Without warning, you catch a rut with your front tire and take a hard fall. Your leg gets pinned underneath the bike during the tumble and the bike ends up on top of you. You are injured but manage to get yourself out from underneath the bike. A quick assessment shows no life threatening injuries, but you are too banged up to move, let alone get back on the bike. You are stuck far from home now and no one even knows where you are. It could be days before anyone comes down that trail and you’ve got no way of calling for help. All you can do is sit tight and wait.

3.) You’re Riding Over Your Head and Take a Big Fall
You are exploring a new remote riding area in the desert on a sunny spring day with a friend. You both packed light for a fun off-road ride with hotel stays. The ride takes you through a deep sand section that begins to wear you out. You take a few falls and you are feeling spent. Eager to maintain pace with your hardcore off-road riding friend, you push past what you thought was your limit of endurance.

Then it happens, you take a big fall and you are seriously injured. Partially conscious, you watch your friend as he tries to communicate with you and give you support. Your condition eventually stabilizes but it’s clear you are not riding anywhere now. Your friend goes for help and as nightfall sets in, the temperature in the desert drops to near freezing. In your weakened state and with lack of protection from the cold, exposure may play a factor in whether or not you can hold on long enough for medical help to arrive.

Click the “Next Page” to continue.

Getting yourself into a survival situation is easier than you think. You can Improve your chances of getting home safely by avoiding unnecessary risks off-road.
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Author: Chad Berger

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M. Alejo
M. Alejo
March 28, 2015 10:48 am

Have experience with #5 but on the other end of things. Found a poor dude in the middle of a remote trail. He was just there sitting on top of his bike with a look of frustration. Apparently I was the first soul he had seen for hours after his mishap. Lucky for him I had last minute decided to take a small detour from my planned route and ended up taking the trail where he was.

Marc Lemieux
Marc Lemieux
March 28, 2015 6:19 pm

If you get yourself into situations like these, then off road riding may not be your best recreational choice… perhaps badminton or competitive cup stacking would be more your style.

Mario P.
Mario P.
March 29, 2015 7:51 pm
Reply to  Marc Lemieux

These situations are caused by common mistakes riders make. Not paying attention to the terrain, riding over your head or not telling someone where you are riding are just a few things that I have seen go bad too many times.

March 31, 2015 2:06 pm

Strawberry Peak, Utah BDR, October 2013. Weather turned from cool and sunny to snow in 10 minutes — and five hours ahead of weather service prediction. Made a wrong GPS-indicated turn and headed up into the center of the storm, rather than away and down the mountain. Traction failing on Conti TKCs in semi-frozen mud. Cross-rutted my fully-loaded ’08 R12GS (I’d guess 600#s+). Landed in deep slushy mud hole. Pinned under final drive with ankle injury (hairline fracture, right ankle). Fortunately, I was riding with my regular “Smooth Crew” of six (got me unpinned and stabilized), was able to call for SAR to get us all off the mountain in a blizzard (recovered bikes two days later). Survived to tell the story. Smart: Carried five days of provisions, plus cold weather riding and camping gear, not riding alone. Dumb: Relying on GPS, Weather Underground and not listening to that little voice in my head saying “Don’t.” Recently completed AZBDR. Heading back to UTBDR this year for some payback.

April 2, 2015 6:36 pm

I always carry a home made first aid kit: several pressure dressings, Sam splint, tourniquet, super glue, tape, and the heaviest narcotic I can get. Just a couple of days ago I was riding with a group of 5 in the Olympic forest in Washington. I was leading on my 1200GS. I was a bit ahead of the group and feeling quite rambunctious. I was coming up on a 60deg curve going a little to fast. I power shifted, brought the rear tire around just perfect and the front tire slipped inward on some cobble. I went down on a high side landed on my right side with a massive thump. Adrenaline pumping I quickly recovered lifted my bike up backed it up bent over to put the kickstand down when I felt this crunching in my ribs. After a few minutes it became clear I was fairly injured. When the bike went down I had a good grip on the handlebars the transfer of energy from my 600lbs GS in addition to my 260lbs frame I impacted the hard gravel road with a considerable thump. I broke ribs 4,5,6 & 7, the right scapula and bruised my right lung. I had two choices, I could have saddled the bike and rode out (not the wisest choice) or call for emergency services. Due to the location most likely would have been Medivac chopper. Contemplating my decisions I opt for the least wise, I ride out. Ok I can hear all of you from here; “What a idiot.” “Stupid ass.” “Dumb decision.” Yea yea yea, I would be saying the same things actually. But that’s the Army Ranger in me, your tax dollars payed for it. I rolled my ankle in Ranger School just 4 weeks in. I had to complete the remainding 5 weeks with a jacked up ankle. It’s in my blood OK! I know what misery and suffering takes and I knew riding out would be a lesson in suffering. That heavy narcodic in my kit would come in handy right about now except there’s not any. There’s 5 miles of Forest Road before I hit the main road, luckily its all easy. From the main road i call my wife through my Schuberth Bluetooth and inform her of my predicament. Its an hour and a half ride to the house or one hour to the Military Hospital which just happens to be the best Trauma Hospital in the area. But I have my side arm in my pannier and the military don’t like that too much and I’m not sure what the military would do with my bike. So I spend an additional 30 agonizing minutes to the house. The wife was not happy. I’m crying out in pain as she helps me dismount the bike and I tell her to get me a change of cloths and take me to the hospital. She brings my expensive north face pants and my cool Touratech T shirt. I laboriously explain the hospital will cut off said clothing so she grabs some old cloths. My daughter in the background must have assumed that calling 911 for an ambulance was the right thing to do (which it was, just not for me that would be for someone else). The ambulance arrived in 2 minutes as they are just across the street and whisked me away to the Military Hospital. Several X-rays and CAT scans later, well you know the injuries. Two days in the hospital and as of this writing I’m still home recuiping. I have good riding skills and most of the time make wise decisions just that day I got a little carried away. Oh and for the record that’s my very first serious riding injury in 42 years of riding.

April 8, 2015 8:37 pm
Reply to  Gary

Well, that beats my UTBDR story (above). Yikes! Glad you’re on the mend, Gary. I always say, “As long as I’m living, I’ll keep learning.” I’m not ex-military, so regarding the Ranger thing? Respect.

April 3, 2015 5:55 am

Great article! Don’t kid yourself: It’s easy enough for any of these things to happen to anyone (who hasn’t taken a ride solo and do you *really* leave your exact route behind for someone to find and never detour from it?? B.S). Last season, I ran into a dead end. It was too narrow to turn around so I dismounted. In the process of rocking the bike in mud to turn around I slipped and ended up underneath my bike. Fortunately I wasn’t alone and my buddy eventually came back for me. I had extra clothes, water and food with me. But I was VERY stuck. Without his help I would have been pinned there for a VERY long time.

Stephen Asprey
Stephen Asprey
April 19, 2015 5:37 am

30 Years exploring outback Australia and as a member of the State Emergency Retrieval Service I have seen a number of close calls and some where fatalities occurred.
If you are going into a remote area, tell someone where and what time you plan to return.
Preferably go with another experienced person if you are new to remote area exploring.
Always carry some means of communication. Today there are cell phone clip on sets that turn it into a sat phone. Or take a hand held VHF.
If you have an accident or a brakedown, stay with your bike. Take a couple of red flares like those small boats carry.
Take at least 2lt of water for every day you are away. More if possible.
Plan your fuel needs to be 50% more than you estimate. Lots of todays bikes have compression ratios of over 10:1. These need 95RON fuel or better and this grade of fuel may not be available in outlying areas. If your bike has fuel injection, the CPU will retard the ignition to compensate. If its a carby, you will notice a significant drop in power and increased fuel consumption if low RON fuel is used. Calculate your needs accordingly. In outback Australia, distances between fuel stops may exceed 600kms. Some regular riders leave fuel staches for an emergency and that fuel must be replaced.
Buy the best first aid kit you can fit on the bike.
Buy the best riding gear and helmet you can afford.
Use mousses if you are planning on going anywhere rocky and stoney. It the Dakar guys use them, thats good enough for me. At least use inner tubes and carry a repair kit.
Carry a spare chain
Carry extra oil
Above all, do not go over your capability. Take a bike that you can lift upright. If you are small, say less than 70Kgs, picking up a BMW 1200GS laying on its side would be very difficult.
Saving the best for last. If you are in serious trouble a long way from civilization, an air search may well be underway. You can do one thing to attract the attention of lower flying aircraft. Its a big call…set your bike on fire. The gas and oil makes a good smoke plume.

Sydney, Australia.

April 23, 2015 12:46 pm

Thankfully I’ve avoided these by knowing my limits. Closest I’ve come is #5. It was just a matter of taking a breather, thinking about the situation, and how to get the bike back up on two wheels. Once I figured it out and rested a bit, it was back up and I was rolling again.

I’ve also since started carrying a small block and tackle kit designed for motorcycles, so if I end up in a ditch or something, as long as there’s a tree or something else to anchor to, I should be in pretty good shape. I also travel with a bare minimum of gear to ensure reasonably comfortable overnight stays if necessary.

Jacob Murray
Jacob Murray
February 11, 2019 9:14 am

I solo a lot our here in Oregon and carry an Earthmate satellite communicator/GPS.

So far, I’ve been lucky and ridden back home from my humble adventures every time, broken bones or otherwise.

The Earthmate gives me a lot of confidence in that I can text phone numbers via satellite as long as I can see the sky, or I can hit the emergency button to call in the Cavalry if I FUBAR myself.

I usually buy some ad hoc insurance during the summer as well for back country rescue. An Earthmate is not free, and it’s not a panacea, but it’s a damn nice insurance policy.

Rubber side down 🙂


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