Exploring off-road adventures on your adventure motorcycle is a blast, but doing it right is crucial to the enjoyment. Whether on a big ADV or dual-sport bike, understanding the basics lays a solid foundation for your off-road riding journey. Here are 10 simple riding tips to boost your confidence when navigating off-road terrain.
Choose the Right Adventure Riding Gear:
It's easy to overlook, but having the correct gear is crucial. Properly fitting gears is really important. Fitting gear, like leather motorcycle gloves, helmets, and armor shirts or jackets, can improve your off-road riding experience. But if they are not fitted then they can cause discomfort, leading to a loss of focus—increasing the risk of dropping your motorcycle. Ensure your gear is comfortable both standing and sitting.
Avoid Riding Alone:
While not a riding technique, it's a vital tip for off-road adventures. Whenever possible, avoid riding alone. In remote areas, the last thing you want is to face a breakdown or mishap with no one around to help. Heavy motorcycles pose additional risks; having a riding buddy can be a lifesaver in emergencies.
To become skilled at off-road riding, you must master the technique of standing up on your adventure motorcycle. This skill offers several benefits. Firstly, it shifts your weight to your feet, allowing you to control and steer your ADV motorcycle through different terrains, something not possible while sitting. Additionally, standing provides a clearer view of what lies ahead, offering more time for planning and reacting to obstacles.
Maintain a slight bend in your legs while standing to absorb shocks that surpass your bike's suspension. Place the balls of your feet on the pegs for optimal balance, and keep your body loose, enabling your arms and legs to act as secondary suspension. Avoid a tight grip on the handlebars, leading to fatigue or arm pump. Remind yourself to stay relaxed, and if necessary, reduce your speed.
Dealing with a heavy bike can be challenging, so ease the strain on your upper body by squeezing the gas tank with your knees. Practice breathing deeply to stay calm and focused. While standing may feel awkward initially, consistent practice will help you make it a natural part of your riding technique.
Covering the levers is a straightforward but crucial technique. By keeping a finger or two over the levers, you significantly improve your reaction time in case of any sudden need to respond. This practice is widespread among two-stroke riders who want quick access to the clutch, especially when cautious about potential engine issues.
When riding off-road and predominantly in a standing position, adjust your levers for comfort in that stance, typically angling them downward. Focusing on the clutch and covering it with a finger or two is valuable for two-stroke enthusiasts and all riders.
Feathering the clutch provides greater control over how your motorcycle applies or reduces power. While this skill is helpful in road riding, it becomes especially crucial in technical terrains. Maintaining a steady throttle and using the clutch to modulate power distribution to the ground can be beneficial. Additionally, having the clutch at your fingertips is advantageous for tasks like controlled wheelies over obstacles.
Learning to turn is crucial for new or inexperienced dirt and adventure riders, especially those transitioning from road or street backgrounds. Turning a motorcycle relies on utilizing available tire traction through a combination of technique and body positioning.
When standing, you gain the flexibility to distribute your body weight where needed. For instance, leaning forward when riding uphill shifts weight to the front tire, countering the effects of gravity. Conversely, on descents, leaning backward places weight over the rear tire.
Turning in the dirt, regardless of bike type, follows similar principles. Position your weight over the front during the turn initiation to maintain traction, whether sitting or standing. Utilize the throttle to spin the rear tire and complete the turn as you finish.
For beginners, starting slowly is advisable to develop control skills. Keep the balls of your feet on the pegs for necessary weight adjustments. Unlike road riding, lean the bike while keeping yourself relatively centered or weighted over the outside peg.
Maintain a square shoulder position to the bars, even at full steering lock. Turn your upper body or move it toward the bars, adjusting your feet as needed. Distribute weight on the outside peg, eventually practicing turning with the inside foot off the peg.
Expect the occasional bike drop during practice; it's part of the learning process. Serious adventure riders will likely experience such incidents. Practice leaning in both directions, both seated and standing.
For faster turns, maintain an upright position while braking, keeping weight over the front, and tipping the bike into the turn. Ensure the bars point away from your body, and maintain weight on the outside peg. Advanced techniques involve using the rear brake to slide the rear tire into the turn and utilizing the gas for a tighter radius, but these should be approached with caution.
Using the brakes properly is essential, and contrary to some advice, you definitely want to use the front brake to slow down and stop your adventure bike (or any bike, really).
Let's keep things simple: the front brake slows the bike, and the rear brake helps steer it. This holds true even in the dirt. The key here is practice and gradually expanding your comfort zone. Start by practicing braking in the dirt, and play around with the bias you give towards the front and rear brakes (you might find it easier to start on a smaller dual sport).
With time, you'll realize that stopping quickly relies on the front tire's braking power. You are understanding this, practice threshold braking, which means braking to the point of lockup. You'll be surprised at how hard you can brake with the front, and this knowledge becomes invaluable when you need to use it in real-world situations.
Focus on the way you want to go:
Here's a fundamental piece of advice no matter what you ride: Look Where You Want To Go. It's simple but crucial. Your body, and therefore your motorcycle, will follow the direction your eyes are pointed.
If your gaze is fixed on the ground or immediately underneath you, everything seems to rush at you, even at slow speeds. Look up and towards your desired direction of travel, it allows your brain to survey the road ahead, assess the surroundings, and plan your next moves. The extent of your scanning depends on your speed – faster means looking farther ahead, while slow, technical terrain requires focus on immediate surroundings.
The key is to avoid target fixation. If your eyes are fixated on something, it's challenging to shift your focus. Since your motorcycle tends to follow your eyes, staring at something may lead you straight towards it. That's why we emphasize the importance of scanning.
Riding in the sand:
Riding in the sand can be intimidating, especially on a larger bike. But fear not; the trick to mastering sand riding lies in a few essential techniques. Shift your weight back, maintain bent knees, and firmly grip the throttle. The crucial part is to make the front tire light, allowing it to skim over the sand instead of getting stuck.
This advice is equally applicable to water crossings. Since it's often challenging to see what's beneath the water's surface, keeping the front light helps you navigate potential obstacles. If possible, follow in the tracks of someone who has safely crossed before you, making it a bit easier to navigate the terrain.
Let's talk about wheelies – the icing on the off-road cake! Wheelies aren't just cool; they're incredibly practical off-road. There are two types: the power wheelie and the clutch-up. The power wheelie involves aggressively opening the throttle, while the clutch-up requires a bit of finesse in slipping the clutch to lift the front wheel.
Mastering wheelies is more than just showing off; it's a valuable skill for overcoming obstacles like logs, rocks, and stumps. You don't need a sky-high wheelie; even a little air under the tire can help you clear hurdles effectively.
In summary, mastering off-road adventure riding requires fundamental skills and practical tips. Choosing well-fitted gear, avoiding solo rides for safety, and learning to stand on your bike is crucial. Techniques like covering levers, clutch feathering, and proper turning methods enhance control. The importance of front brake use for effective stopping is emphasized, along with the fundamental principle of looking where you want to go.
Navigating challenging terrains, such as sand, is simplified with weight distribution tips. Wheelies, both power and clutch-up, are introduced as fun and practical skills for overcoming obstacles. The key takeaway is consistent practice and understanding that occasional challenges are part of the learning process. Embrace the adventure, take it step by step, and enjoy the thrill of off-road riding on your adventure motorcycle.
We've shared much information, and we understand it might feel overwhelming. Don't worry; take one step at a time. Practice these adventure riding skills gradually, and soon they'll become second nature. It might be challenging initially, and yes, you might drop your bike a few times – that's completely fine. Keep practicing, and you'll get the hang of it and boost your riding skills and confidence significantly.