Categories: Buyer's Guides
3 years ago | Updated 3 years ago

Rider Training Buyers Guide – Adventure and Off-Road

No review of an adventure bike is complete without the observation that few of them will probably ever turn a wheel off-road, since ADV bikes are the SUVs of the motorcycle world, and SUVs rarely get taken off-road. But motorcycle people are way more adventurous than car-driving ones. And even though the new crop of adventure bikes have a lot to recommend them even if you do only ride on pavement, the best of them are packing technology that makes hitting the dusty trail easier and safer than ever. It seems a bit wasteful and sad if you never use that capability.

Ultimate Sports Adventure Touring Shootout

Combine that new technology with a little training, and the places you’ll go are suddenly exponentially expanded. Now you can really get away from it all. Here’s a not-too-partial list of North American schools which can help you get there and back with minimal pain. For international schools, of which there are a bunch more, please consult your Google.

Adventure Riders International
Eastern U.S.

Adventure Riders International’s lead instructor and chief proprietor, Lorne Banks, won two Canadian roadracing championships in 1988 and is now a freelance professional driver/rider, facilitator, and project manager for several manufacturers and Fortune 500 companies. He’s also trained Military, Federal Law Enforcement and other government agencies in how to execute specialized maneuvers and tactics at several military training facilities and bases in the U.S., Canada and abroad. When that’s not enough to keep him busy, he also provides professional riding/racing teaching and coaching services, in the following genres: off-road, enduro, motocross, flat-track, road racing, street riding, adventure riding and dual-sport riding. Most of ARI’s events – from five-hour Fundamentals courses to multi-day Teach ’n Tours – are scheduled on the east coast, but Banks is willing to travel wherever his services are needed.

Black Swan Moto

Headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming, but operating in California and wherever, Black Swan says its instructors are highly experienced riders trained in the classic, proven curriculum developed by the BMW school in Hechlingen, Germany. Its two-day BASICS course “will provide you with an essential set of skills to get you comfortable in the dirt and quickly enjoying it. It all begins with proper body positioning, posture and balance. Staying upright and balanced will influence the direction of your bike as well as your ability to transverse rough ground.”

BMW Off-Road Training At Hechlingen Enduro Park

“The sum of two days of instruction and drills will take you from little-to-no experience riding off-highway to confidently piloting your dual-sport / adventure motorcycle in the dirt. You will then have the freedom to embark on day-trips and weekend rides down dirt roads in search of that secluded fishing hole, rarely seen and spectacular vista, or to simply take that head-clearing afternoon adventure.”

Beyond that, Black Swan’s A.R.T.S. class takes your skills to the next level. The company also offers tours, including four- and 12-day Baja adventures.

BMW Performance Center
South Carolina

BMW’s official East Coast training facility in Greer, South Carolina, offers one- and two-day courses for everyone from new-to-dirt riders to skilled off-roaders. Ride your own bike or abuse a BMW rental for a few dollars more. All BMW schools utilize a “challenge by choice” training method and are taught by certified BMW Motorcycle Instructors who use a method of “explain, demonstrate, teach.” How hard could it be?

Colorado Motorcycle Adventures

In addition to one-day clinics for Beginners and Intermediates, this official partner company of BMW Motorrad offers everything from guided tours to self-guided ones, to bike rentals and custom trips for however many people you need to take through some of North America’s greatest motorcycle territory. We’re jealous.

Dual Sport School

These guys offer one-, two- and four-day classes all over Utah. According to Dual Sport School’s founder Fran Tully, there are distinctive skills needed for adventure riding, even for riders with years of know-how riding on paved roads. “The dynamics of dirt riding is often completely the opposite of pavement riding, and this can get a new rider in trouble. Most street riders never work on balance, peg riding or how to pick up a 600-pound motorcycle by themselves, but we can teach them how. Off-road adventure riding requires additional work on balance, shifting, braking, and slow speed driving. The most significant accessory that one new to adventure riding can get is proper training.”

This sounds like no fun at all: “Some of our courses will be taught on the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (UTBDR). The UTBDR is an 871-mile off-road route that runs from AZ to ID. It visits some of the most scenic and challenging terrain, including deserts, dense pine forests, and canyons.”

Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School

The author taught Jimmy Lewis everything he knows about motorcycles when JL came to work in the bike magazine business circa 1993. Okay, not entirely true: Jimmy already knew a little. Then he went on to wins in Dakar, the Baja 1000, four gold medals at the ISDE Six Days, etc. Not many people know their way around a big enduro machine better than Jimmy. Now he and spouse Heather offer training from their home base in Pahrump, Nevada, mostly during the winter months when it’s cool and beautiful out there. Also there’s the Brothel Museum.

South Carolina

Located in Burlington, North Carolina, these guys offer all sorts of motorcycle training including a two-day Overland Confidence course for dual-sport and adventure bikes that’ll take you through the beauteous NC mountains, complete with small class sizes and helmet communicators, which is a great idea.


Everyone wants to know the secret to how to ride their big dual-sport bike better, and Motoventures claims to know it: “The secret is to learn to ride in the dirt first, on a friendly little dirt bike. The simple truth is the skills you develop on a smaller dirt bike are the same skills you need to pilot a big adventure bike. Dirt bikes are small, light, and easy to operate. If you develop your riding skills in the dirt first… your abilities will probably be greater than what a big dual-sport bike can handle… so the key to riding them well in the dirt is to understand your bike’s limits and to stay within them.”

Gary LaPlante wrote the book on the topic, in fact, and has been teaching off-roading, MX, trials and all sorts of dirty secrets for more than 15 years, most recently at his 350-acre compound near Anza, California.

Puget Sound Safety Off Road Training
Northwest US

PSS Off Road is the off-road training division of Puget Sound Safety, which has been providing motorcycle training to new and avid motorcyclists since 1996. Dedicated to the interests and needs of the adventure, dual-sport and dirtbike rider, PSSOR says its training programs are skills-focused, and cater to all types of bikes and riders. Its instructors are avid dirt, dual-sport, and adventure riders and have decades of riding and travel experience, and are there to help all, from kids as young as 6 to adventure riders in their 60s. PSSOR offers single-day training events, multi-day training camps and training tours.

Pine Barrens Adventure Camp Riding School
New Jersey

With a curriculum aimed at anybody who rides a street-legal dual-purpose motorcycle, PBAC is there to teach:

  • Motorcycle adjustments for a joyful and comfortable off-road experience
  • Correct body position
  • Maintaining balance on an adventure motorcycle
  • Weight-shifting techniques
  • Throttle control techniques
  • Clutch control techniques
  • Front and rear brake application in various riding situations
  • Slow-speed maneuvering
  • Tight turning techniques and counterbalancing
  • Riding on various surfaces: dirt, gravel, sand

Their basic two-day Dirt 101 course includes a Sand School. We could use that.

RawHyde Adventures
SoCal, Colorado

Jim Hyde might’ve been here first. From many accounts, his school does it best when it comes to combining motorcycle training with gourmet noshing, and RawHyde’s official BMW Motorrad-backed school offers rider training both in Southern California and now Park County, Colorado. From RawHyde’s home page:

“Over 95% of the world’s roads are unpaved, so if you don’t like to (or can’t) ride in the dirt, you’ll find yourself confined to a mere 5% of the planet.

RawHyde Adventures has something fun and exhilarating for any adventure rider. Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned veteran; our training programs, rallies and special events truly provide the definition of adventure.”

XPLOR International Adventure Motorcycle and Dirt Bike Training Academy
Northeastern US

Xplor International is based in the Northeastern United States, offering a range of training and programs in the spectacular National Forests in western Pennsylvania and Maryland – a vast area with a variety of terrain. XPLOR says it is one of the only schools in the world with a dedicated MSF Dirt Bike RiderCoach training program designed to help its cadre grow as off road RiderCoaches so they can provide the best customer care, service and teaching environment.