Riding large motorcycles off into the boonies is a fairly recent phenomenon for most of us city kids, a thing the MO crew did last week that you’ll be reading about soon. It really does open up a whole new world of, ah, adventure, but it can also come as quite the surprise when something goes wrong, you get stuck, and it suddenly occurs to you that no good samaritan is going to come along in a pickup truck to help you out; in fact nobody is likely to come by for days except small woodland creatures and maybe even big dangerous ones. And the sun really is beating down, isn’t it? The Boy Scouts are right, it’s best to be prepared.
Hopefully you’ll always be able to get your bike back to where a tow truck can get to it, but it’s a drag when you call the 800 number only to learn that your motorcycle and RV aren’t covered when it comes to towing (why they lump RVs and motorcycles in together, we know not). What? Yessir, towing comes with the Premium package, not the Plebeian one you’ve got. The Auto Club will be happy to add that coverage for a small fee, but it won’t be in effect for seven days. Which helps you not at all right now.
This applies equally well to pavement travel, of course. Paying a few extra bucks a year beats having to pay the tow truck man considerably more out of your own pocket. We can’t wait to have our new RV (the one in the lead photo) towed once our new coverage takes effect in seven days.
For a lot of us our phone is our lifeline, providing navigation, communication and even a flashlight. It’s a drag if it runs out of juice right before you get back into cell range with your last drop of gasoline. If your bike doesn’t have a 12v outlet, something like the Goal Zero solar recharger Evans tested last year is just the ticket.
Your onboard GPS isn’t always the hot ticket when you come to a fork in the dirt road, it’s late in the day, and you really really want to take the easier, more-travelled way on your 647-pound Ducati Enduro. Planning is hard, but a quick trip to the U.S. Forest Service website uncovers all sorts of paper maps, including Motor Vehicle Use Maps for parks in every state, which can be very handy to have when your GPS is confused. Speaking of GPS, there are quite a few apps for your phone now, including Navmii, which don’t require a cell signal. And when you’re really confused (a thing that seems to happen to my “guide” every time I leave the pavement), a $10 compass like the one Aerostich sells can tell you if you’re headed in the right direction at least…
Hey, a lot of us like to ride alone, but if you’re just getting started on your new adventure bike, it’s an excellent idea to ride with a companion, preferably a big one with a strong back, and if he’s an experienced rider, even better. (Avoid large companions who ride worse than you and haven’t exercised in years, or you might wind up bailing them out.) Other worthy companions include a decent roll of tools and a tow strap.
If you insist on going it alone, good luck and don’t leave pavement without a SPOT tracker or similar device.
Personally I feel reasonably safe zotting about town in jeans and my high-top Nikes, but I wouldn’t set wheel off pavement without serious boots and some kind of moto-clothing with good padding in at least the knees and elbows – preferably also in the hips and shoulders, and a good back protector isn’t a bad thing. You can get all that without breaking the bank – or you can go ahead and break the bank, since it’s mostly wealthy boomers buying these ADV bikes, and get yourself a nice Aerostich Roadcrafter suit or a KLIM one. Both provide great protection from balance failures and weather, and both make good sleeping bags should it come to that. If you’re riding in hot weather, of course, flow-through motocross gear gets it done.
Helmet-wise, you want something that lets in plenty of air even when you’re only rolling along at 5 mph, because off-road is a far more strenuous activity than on-road. I love my Shoei Neotec modular, but that’s just me. (No, JB, it’s not just you… —Ed.)
My most infamous foul-up off-road had a couple of contributing factors, the biggest of which was as a California rider, I was not expecting a mid-afternoon deluge in July on a trip to Colorado. In California, it never rains in July. In Colorado, it happens all the time. Dirt turned to snot had me depositing a large BMW into a lovely trout stream, upside down, which required men on horseback and a helicopter to extract.
Another contributing factor was I didn’t know where I was going. When the dirt road you think you’re on turns into a single-track trail, it’s very probably only going to get gnarlier before it gets better. So, unless you’re Helge Pedersen, turn around while you still can… especially if your wife is on back.
Road-biased dual-sport tires like the Dunlop Trailsmart work amazingly well offroad, but if you really want to get off the beaten path, you need something with a more aggressive tread pattern. That’s particularly true if you plan to encounter sand or mud, which are the real test of your adventure-biking skills. Dropping pressures to around 25 psi will help you get through them, and your big knobs will impress the ladies. We don’t need to tell you to take plugs to fix your tubeless tires and whatever you need to patch your tubes. And reinflate them.
The Continental TKC80s ruled the roost there for a while; Michelin’s new Anakee Wild (pictured on a V-Strom 1000) seems to be just as good, and claims to provide much more mileage in the bargain. The Pirelli Scorpion Trail IIs also strike a nice compromise of pavement and dirt capabilities. Oh yeah, the bike has a lot to do with it too. Get one you can pick up when it falls over. Tune in next week for a nice comparison test of six of our favorite adventure bikes.
Those couple bottles of Perrier you thought would be plenty for a two-hour ride go surprisingly quick when your adventure turns into an ADVENTURE! and you find out your friends only brought one bottle. I like to fill my Kriega 3-liter Hydro pack with ice at the convenience store when I fill up with gas in the morning, and still be enjoying cold sips of water in the afternoon.
Staying hydrated makes a tremendous difference in maintaining your endurance. Food is good too, like trail mix or whatever, but water is essential. A first-aid kit should be in your bags too.
In a perfect world we’re all spending a week at BMW’s Enduro Park Hechlingen, riding all day and drinking Bitburger all evening before heading into the sauna and massage room with chief instructor Helga. Actually you might be able to afford a nice RawHyde adventure in SoCal, but if even that is undoable, another beauty of the modern age is Youtube videos.
Here’s 1.5 hours of a couple of RawHyde instructors laying out the basics. Here’s Jimmy Lewis showing how easy it is to dig yourself out of deep sand. Here’s a fun one (of many) from the aforementioned BMW school in Germany… I wish I had watched a few of these before last week, really. Adventure riding does require new skills and more preparation, but the rewards of really getting away from the world are more than worth it.