Nobody walks out to the garage and pulls on a helmet and riding gear thinking, “I really want to be bored. I think I’ll go ride my motorcycle.”
Boring is what SUVs are for. We want a little excitement, and adventure riding has all the thrills we embrace about two wheelers, plus the added element of exploring the unknown. And you can start out easy. We may admire intrepid around-the-world-on-two-wheels types, but for most of us those epic dream rides will remain dreams. Still, there is no good reason adventure riding has to remain un-checked on your bucket list.
Getting started is relatively easy and fun whether you are on a Kawasaki KLR budget or are piloting the technological equivalent of a dirt-going das Boot. But you do need to be much more prepared and self-sufficient than you might be accustomed to, especially if you intend to explore beyond the end of the pavement. The very nature of adventure riding is to get away from the normal grind and strike out on your own. Yes, given the growing popularity of adventure bikes, it is possible you will run across a herd of fellow riders. But that’s unlikely. By definition, if you have a problem on an adventure ride, help will probably not be a cell call away.
Fortunately, you can be largely self-reliant without going to a lot of trouble or expense. The key is to think things through and get prepared well before you head out. Here are some tips that will help any adventure rider, but especially those who may be new to the off-road part of the exercise.
If you have the option, start with a smaller bike for your first adventures off the pavement. This Husqvarna 450 (right) is fully road legal, but it is completely at home off road. It is not a great choice for long commutes or touring on the highway, but it excels in the dirt and doesn’t have the weight of a bigger bike, making it easier to enjoy and more appropriate for honing your off-road chops.
Adventure bikes have an enormous range of available tire options. Some skins are sticky at crazy lean angles on pavement and others get a bulldog bite in the dirt. Most fall somewhere in the middle, meaning they are capable enough but not truly optimal for either surface. Still, a tire that is a bit more aggressive for the dirt and tough enough for off-road punishment will add more to your enjoyment of an adventure ride’s dirt portion than anything else you can buy. Look for a tough carcass and blocky, aggressive tread. If your bike uses tubes, opt for thick, heavy-duty ones.
In many cases you must be able to deal with minor mechanical issues and flat tires on your own. There is no auto-club option. The alternatives? Riding out as a passenger behind a buddy is as good as it gets. Worst-case scenarios start at walking and go down from there. Motion Pro, Cruz Tools, and others make specialized tools and sets. Whether you assemble your own kit or buy one, you must have everything your motorcycle requires for basic repair and maintenance. In addition to the necessary hand tools, you will need a way to inflate tires (CO2 cartridges or a pump), putty epoxy for repairs, and some spares like control levers. If the bike runs tubeless, a kit to plug tires is a must-have.