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My beginner year of adventure bike riding

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

About 12 months ago, I jumped onto the adventure bike riding bandwagon; this is everything I learned in those 1st 12 months.

This is not just rider techniques; I am absolutely no expert. So I'm not gonna tell you how you should ride your bike. I will tell you about my experience and what I learned from it.



Damage is inevitable

My number one learning this year was that damage is inevitable. You will drop your bike. There is no ifs or buts about it. So if you buy a brand new bike and think it's gonna stay nice and pretty, it will not.

I am so glad I bought an older Second-hand bike because I've dropped, damaged, and broken it many times. We never intend to do these things, but it is what happens.

The whole point of an adventure is you're doing something difficult. It's meant to be challenging, and because it's tough, you're going to fail, and failing is ok, right? But that means that you're gonna drop it.

Cash bars, bark busters, elbow pads, and the right gear make a big difference, not ruining your day.

Have the Tools for adventure bike riding

This also means carrying tools. I make sure that I've got all the tools that I need to do basic repairs. When I do any maintenance on the bike, the tools that I use to do that maintenance, I put them aside to put in my carry bag.

If you need to change a tube, do you have a tube? And then, do you have the tools you need to take the wheel off, fit the new tube, and put the wheel back on again? You don't need to carry two tonnes' worth of tools. You need enough to do those absolute must-haves, like changing a tyre.

Prepare for enjoyment

Bike prep is a significant component of going out for a ride. So one of my considerable learnings was to do that prep beforehand. Ensure the bike is in tip-top condition and you don't like broken chains.


Less if more fun!

My number two learning was less is more, and what I'm talking about is packing. The less you pack, the more fun you're going to have.

I found that I need to be brutal with my packing. I always cram an infinite number of GoPros and batteries, and as much as I love taking my drone, I've got to be brutal about what I pack. And the same with camping equipment. Take the absolute minimum.

And I found the less I have on the bike, the more I enjoy riding.

Make sure you pack the Garmin GPS.

Make sure you have some device to make a call if you get into trouble.

I've never had to use this. I hope I never have to, but having it on me is necessary.

The secondary benefit to that is that you can track your GPS, and then you can share it. You can share your ride in places like motorides.com.au, for example.

But having that there for safety is an absolute must, and it gives you a lot of comfort in knowing that when you're outside a phone range, you still get help if something goes wrong.


Techniques

Again, I'm not an expert, so do your research. I did the RideADV Intro ride, and I encourage anyone getting into adventure riding to do a course and get some expert knowledge.

From that expert knowledge, My key takeaways were three techniques that opened up the riding for me. It made me feel comfortable. It made me feel like I was in control, and it also made it more sustainable.

#1 Outside peg when you're turning.

As you turn, standing up or sitting down, lean on the outside peg.


So if you're turning left, right-hand peg. Theoretically, it's giving you more traction because you're putting that weight directly down onto the tyre.

But the key benefit was that it felt like I had control. I was in the proper position as I squeezed the power on the out coming out of the corner and could feel what the bike was doing.

#2 Eyes up, eyes up.

I remind myself of this constantly while I'm riding. "Eyes up, eyes up". I keep looking down. When looking down at the ground, you can only react to what's right in front of you, which means it's often too late to make any decisions, so let the suspension deal with the tactical stuff.

You are dealing with the strategic stuff, and the only way you'll be able to make strategic decisions while riding is to have your eyes up, looking straight ahead.

So look at where you want to be.

And I do have to remind myself to do that because I keep forgetting constantly.


#3 Loose arms

Nice and loose and leaning forward. My bike came with rises because the guy I bought it from was taller than I was, but everyone seemed to fit Rises for some reason.


Reminder, this is not expert advice. It's just what I feel.


I found the Risers to be bad because you end up leaning back. And when I'm leaning a bit forward and holding the handlebars with my elbows up, ten times more control.

It then feels like all the movements are natural, and I'm not being jerked and bumped around by all the bumps. You're just letting the bike move around.


Plan Enough

That's not to say that you need to plan to an infinite degree, and I don't also like to go completely shoot from the hips and not know where I'm going.

I like enough of a plan where I know exactly where my waypoints are. I know where I'm going and even a few different routes I can take. I always design one main course, the primary route we will take, but I also do enough research to know that there are a few other options.

The number of rides we've been on, where we've been blocked, a road comes to an end, or an obstacle we can't pass, and you need to make a call, we can't follow this path. We've got to follow a different one.

If you know what those options are, it will make the day much more enjoyable.

It gets more complex if you're making shit up as you go along. It just means you're struggling with your decisions and don't know what to do.

Aside from the route, where are you gonna get fuel, and where are you gonna get food? Have a few options for food marked out based on rough time of day and a few fuel options based on kilometres.


Everything else is semantics. Everything else you can work out as you ride.

But if you have those things covered, and everyone knows where you're gonna stop for fuel and where you're gonna stop for food, everyone's happy.

The mindset for adventure bike riding

Alright, the number five and this is my number one. This is the most important. Above anything is a positive mindset.


It's about how you approach your riding, which will be the primary difference between enjoying and hating it.


Bring on the attitude. Attack it. You're doing an adventure. If it's an adventure, expect the challenges, embrace them, love them, and lean into them because that is what we're doing it for. That's the whole point.

Otherwise, we'd just be riding on the roads. And I must admit, ever since I started adventure riding, one of the downsides of doing adventure riding is I now find road riding boring.

Have the approach that the challenges are, what it's about and that you're embracing overcoming them.

That's what an adventure is.

Momentum and confidence

Momentum and confidence are a chicken and egg situation. You need the momentum to get the confidence; you need the confidence to get the momentum.

Your confidence needs to be slightly ahead of your current ability. Not too far ahead; otherwise, that's when bad things happen. But you also need your confidence to not be behind your ability.

You want it to be just in front so your ability always exceeds your confidence level.

So that'll give you the momentum and drive the bike forward, and it's so much easier when the motorcycle is moving forward.

So if you're in second gear, moving along at a reasonable pace, it is so much easier than being in first gear, wobbling around like crazy because you're doing 0.1 kilometres an hour.

So much more manageable with that momentum. But you gotta have the confidence to do it.

Adventure Bike height anxiety

My bike is very tall. And initially, I was intimidated by that height, and I had to get over that, and once I got over that, I found it ten times more enjoyable.


The height gives you the ground clearance to get that suspension travel. So the height, rather than looking at the size as bad, you need to look at it as good.

Sitting on my bike, I can only touch the ground with my tippy toes, So it is very tall. Now there are times when that then can be difficult. And there are plenty of times when I've dropped it because of that.

The rest of the time, the bike is far more enjoyable because it's tall. So I had to get over that and embrace the height of the bike and not be intimidated by it.

Have fun!

Last but not least, have fun. As soon as you're not having fun, stop. Take a breath, take a break, drink from your water bottle, grab a muesli bar from your backpack, and then get back into it.

Gotta be having fun!


Rewarding

If you're planning on adventure riding or just starting to get into adventure riding, I can tell you 100%; yes, it is difficult initially, but oh, my God, it is so rewarding. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

You've just got our approach in a way to get the most out of it.

Stay safe, have fun, and I'll see you out there.

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