I’ve been a gearhead since I was a little kid, and I’m majoring in mechanical engineering right now. If it has an engine, I’m into it, so naturally I have a motorcycle. It’s not a big cruiser, it’s a smaller 250 cc adventure bike. I love riding it, and I love people who ride. Of course, that got me in a pickle. Some friends of mine invited me offroad riding for spring break, and I said yes. The thing is I’ve never been offroad riding, though I can’t wait to learn. What should I do to prepare my bike? What should I know before I go?
First, you want to make sure your friends know that you haven’t ridden off-road before. They should have some great pointers, tips, and tricks to get you started on the trail. Since they will be the ones riding with you, you can also make contingency plans with them. You will want to know the route, know the weather, and have a buddy system picked out before you go. You also want to bring along extra food and water, a first aid kit, maps, and a tow strap.
The more you plan in advance, the less you risk an unforeseen calamity. If you are so far out that getting to a hospital isn’t convenient, you need to make plans with that in mind. There are many guides for motorcycle first aid kits, which everyone in your group should have. Also remember that you have a large, heavy vehicle with you. In the event that it breaks down (and even you, the gearhead, can’t fix it), you may have to haul it several miles. These problems become much easier when you travel in a pack.
One bike modification that’s super-important for riding in the dirt: having the right tires. Your tires are the single most important factor in determining how you ride over dirt. Get the right tires, and you will have exceptional control. Get the wrong tires, and it’s skid city. Most adventure bikes come with street tires, which you need to ditch. If you look into new motorcycle tires, you will see a few different options for dual sport tires. Dual sport tires work on the road, but they don’t lose performance on the trail. Drop the money to get them, and your steering will thank you.
For more advanced tips on riding off-road, keep in mind how different it is to ride on the trail versus on the street. Since you won’t be driving as fast as you would on tarmac, your clutch operation needs more finesse. It’s recommended that you adjust your clutch lever for two-finger operation. Unlike on the street, you will want to shift forward when you’re taking corners, in order to give the front wheel greater traction. When you’re confronted with sand or silt, you want to speed up. This is the opposite of what you are used to, but speeding up actually gives you the momentum you need to overcome deep landscape obstacles. By leaning back when going through sand or silt, you also add traction to the rear wheel, and allow your front wheel to deflect the material that it might be hitting.
Finally, we’ll leave you with a great tip: embrace failure. Everything mentioned here takes time to learn. You might not make it up every steep hill or rocky climb. That’s okay. Your friends will probably understand, and you will have a lot of fun. More important than impressing the squad is staying safe, keeping an open mind, and doing something that you love.