How to Adventure Prep Your Bike: Before You Go

A Guide to Being Smart About Your Upcoming Trip

By Karel Kramer, Photography by BMW, Karel Kramer

Practice Work
Once you have your tools, perform common maintenance on your bike with the kit at home. Remove the wheels, change a tire and take off the fuel tank. Use your tool pack to get to the fuse box, and since fuses are small and light, carry a lot of extras. If you are running tubeless, before you buy new tires, puncture the old ones with an awl or nail, then practice plugging the hole. Your first attempt at a tire repair should not be while you are alone in the middle of nowhere. On an adventure ride in Baja we discovered that it is all but impossible for one person to change a front tire on a KTM 990 Adventure. It took one person to balance the bike on the centerstand. Plus, a second (heavy) bike’s sidestand was needed to break the bead to install a new tube. You are far better off knowing these things in advance.

Pick your Surface
If you are a rider with mostly pavement experience, plan your initial rides carefully. Most big adventure bikes work amazingly well for what they are. What they are not is true dirt bikes, and riding one off-pavement is always interesting. Plan your rides in areas where the dirt surface is firm with a hard base. Avoid sand and mud if at all possible. Riding a large adventure bike in soft sand is a thrill few riders ever forget—you can eventually get a handle on it, but it takes skill and experience to truly master. Spare yourself the “fun” until you have a lot of time on the bike. Stay with hard-packed and well-traveled dirt roads. An adventure-riding school is a great investment. If you choose to learn as you go, find a place to practice safely on dirt and do some braking and tight turns to get a feel for what’s possible. Going fast on dirt is much easier than stopping quickly.

Buddy System
Heading out alone on the highway to a favorite gathering spot is no big deal. If you have a problem, another rider or a motorist can help. For riding off pavement, a small group is a much better idea. Picking up, turning around or “unstucking” a big bike goes better with friends. If you coordinate as a group you can share out the tools and equipment you need, and each rider can have a lighter load. Remember a first aid kit, spare tubes, water and other essentials. Make arrangements beforehand to stop and wait at all turns, so that following riders don’t feel the need to ride too closely, especially in the dust. Poor group coordination once led former MC staffer Tim Carrithers onto a narrow, not-a-Beemer trail. Turning around was a 10-minute ordeal.

Bike Prep
Your bike’s air flter is most likely designed for the “rigors” of a daily street commute, and it is unlikely that it can protect the engine in dusty conditions. If your machine has a paper air filter element, swap it for an oiled-foam type like Uni Filter or an oiled-gauze type like K&N. Either choice offers improved engine protection, and the element can be cleaned and reused many times. If your bike has expensive and delicate body parts, adding crash protection accessories can save vast amounts of money. Don’t wait to learn the hard way. Sturdy, wrap-around hand guards, in addition to helping keep your hands warm and protected from brush, usually protect the levers and throttle in a fall. A low-speed lowside once wiped out a saddlebag and ruined Andrew Cherney’s ride, but the wrap-around handguards and engine guard kept the incident from being even more expensive.

Spot Messenger
Some riders choose adventure riding for the joy of exploring alone. If you are the hardy individualist type, choose an emergency notification system like a SPOT GPS locator. Hopefully you will never need it, but if you do, it will be the best money you ever spent.

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I agree with most everything above except the choice of a "K&N type" air filter. The K&N "type" is advertised to breathe more freely. That it may do but from personal experience it also allows more dirt to pass. After using a K&N I find the airbox, throttle body or carburetor throats on the engine side of the filter covered with a fine dust. Yes everything was installed properly. I have used nothing but OEM filters since 2003, when I installed my last K&N on an 02 Suzuki DL-1000. Just maybe K&N has made changes eliminating the aforementioned issue. You may want to check out this site:
  • Motorcyclist Online