Adventure Motorcycling sounds like a lot of fun…and it is. With this guide, we’ll be taking you through the journey on how to get started.
Adventure Motorcycling is taking a motorcycle on anything from a weekend-long adventure in your area, to a global expedition taking several years. Adventure riders bring their camping supplies along in saddle bags paired with extra fuel, a GPS, spare clothing and the love of the open road. For many in the adventure motorcycling world, the journey becomes more fun than the destination.
Think of remote tracks and getting off the beaten path but with all your gear for a great night away from all the problems of the world. This is true adventure riding, with a blend of a dirt bike and cruiser rolled into one.
While this represents just a small percentage of motorcycle riders globally, it’s these riders who are known for being opened minded and friendly. Certainly if you were to ask questions to any of these riders, they’ll be more than willing to help out.
Getting Started with Adventure Motorcycling
Adventure motorcycling is becoming ever popular, especially with the release of the famous motorcycling documentaries Long Way Round and Long Way Down by Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor. Since then, multiple YouTube channels have sprung up and the most popular ones seem to be the female riders.
With that comes brands like KTM, Yamaha, Klim and Krieger to serve adventure motorcyclists (commonly known as ADV riders) at the heart. Frontaer is continuing to rise higher and stronger to also serve this market in the coming years, with our customer base being built through excellent content.
To get started with Adventure Motorcycling, there are some things that you’ll need.
Buying the Right Adventure Motorcycle
It’s important that you choose the right bike for your needs. Walking into a dealership without prior research is a recipe for disaster. To choose the right bike, you should ask yourself what type of riding you’ll be doing.
If it’s single-lane dirt tracks, then you’ll want a dirt orientated motorcycle that has some creature comforts. If it’s bitumen roads, then you’ll definitely want a road-based motorcycle with dual-sport features. In other words, it can handle dirt roads but will struggle on tight single-tracks.
The bigger the motorcycle, the more motorcycle you’ll have to pick up when you crash. And yes – you will crash at some stage. It’s how you respond and your ability to get moving again that does determine the type of motorcycle you should buy.
For many – something as simple as the Honda CRF250L Rally is enough to handle most riding conditions, though it won’t be the most highway-friendly motorcycle.
Then you’ll have to think of a new motorcycle is within your budget, or whether you’ll have to settle for a used ADV motorcycle. A new bike is only new until the day that it crashes on some gnarly rocks, then those scratches may start to break your heart.
Investing in Gear
We use the term ‘investing’ because the right protective gear is certainly necessary if you are to survive in the offroad motorcycling world. As we’ve mentioned, crashing is an eventual and somewhat routine part of ADV motorcycling. A key difference between those who keep going and those who need to be airlifted to safety is the gear that they’re wearing.
There is a developing range of adventure motorcycling gear around the world. While you can get away with some offerings from the dirt bike world, adventure riding gear is actually different. Adventure motorcycling boots, for example, are built stronger and with less flexibility than the dirt bike and motocross equivalents.
When it comes to protective gear, you’ll easily be able to spend more than $2,000 on the following:
- An excellent quality riding jacket from Klim or Dririder ($500)
- Matching ADV trousers which have ventilation panels ($300)
- A very high-quality helmet that is designed for offroad use ($500)
- Adventure motorcycling boots by an ADV brand like Sidi & Alpinestars ($400)
- 4L Hydration Pack, although these are sometimes built into jackets ($150)
- Two sets of riding gloves; One for winter and one for summer ($150 total)
- Emergency SPOT Beacon to track your location similar to an EPIRB ($150)
So when you’re shopping for your adventure motorcycle, keep this in mind as your protective gear from other motorcycles can’t exactly transfer over. Most riders sell their old gear and then upgrade to some ADV-spec gear when they can see the intrinsic benefits.
Now, let’s not forget the extras you’ll be needing:
- Two saddlebags to store clothing, cooking equipment, food and tents ($500)
- A tank bag to store documents, extra clothing and camera equipment ($300)
- A small tool roll with tools to store tools, two spare tubes and extra oils ($300)
- One tent from a quality manufacturer such as the Redverze Expedition ($500)
In addition, you’ll need some cash set aside for insurance and registration, plus any modifications you may wish to make such as an adventure fairing.
Learning to Ride ADV Style
While you’ve probably got a motorcycle licence already, the skills learned in these classes generally pertain towards road rules and hazard awareness. These are crucial skills that any motorcycle rider regardless of their style needs to learn.
When it comes to adventure motorcycle riding, you’ll need to upskill your knowledge by both experience and knowledge acquisition. While you can learn plenty for free from the numerous YouTube channels now in existence, it’s best to enrol into an adventure motorcycling school in your local area.
One of the most popular adventure riding schools in North America is RawHyde Adventures. That said – many of their students ride the bigger BMWs and as a beginner, you’re often better with a smaller motorcycle.
Likewise, there are numerous ADV riding clubs that welcome beginners with open arms. It’s these clubs that often hold information days and riding experiences where beginners can improve their skills is an open and non-judgemental area.
While many adventure motorcyclists prefer to be on their own, having friends who share the same passion is an integral part of what makes you more successful. By having this shared interest, you’ll both be able to find new places to go riding. Perhaps that connection is your significant other.
Such connections can also be made through group rides. You can spend most of your time on your own and join the occasional group ride to share some common interests. Plus you’ll have someone there for backup to help you during tricky scenarios, such as changing the rear tire.
This isn’t just a local connection either. All across the world there are ADV riders who share a common bond – the thrill of the open road. When you’re crossing large deserts, don’t be surprised when you find an adventure riding coming the other way who can share information about border crossings and track conditions.
Planning Motorcycle Routes
There is an art and science involved with planning effective motorcycle routes. Planning is obviously an effective way of stopping yourself from getting lost, but also a way to ensure you really see all the good things there is to experience out there. You’ll also be able to plan around weather, seasonal track closures, public events and gradients.
Fortunately, many GPS systems these days become loaded with maps for offroad enthusiasts with regular updates. Riders can even upload their own waypoints and share maps with others. As you become more involved with adventure motorcycling, you’ll love the planning element as much as the journey itself.
Domestic planning is easy, at least compared to international route selection. Traversing countries can be a little tricky especially as you’ll be dealing with Carnets (a passport for your motorcycle), customs, borders and other nuances. Border crossings can take between 10 minutes and 7 hours, depending on the countries and their bureaucracy.
While we may think of ‘staying alive’ is not being attacked in your tent, it’s actually quite rare. Sure – there is the occasional bear or questionable camper nearby, but that doesn’t compare much to the very real risk: Traffic.
You’ll need to stay alive out there on the road and this brings us back to the importance of effective motorcycle knowledge. You may wish to start watching channels on YouTube such as EveRide who shares plenty about the reality of adventure motorcycling with a solid focus on safety out there on the trails.
In addition to staying alive, you’ll want to ensure you’ve packed a good first-aid kit and tracking system. Choose the best routes and stay out of harms way when riding in foreign countries. Many ADV riders choose to do stealth camping to lessen their risk of an attack or theft at 3am. That said – such stories are rare and the world is much safer than the media organisations claim.
It’s time to address some frequently asked questions on here. These include:
How much is an adventure motorcycle?
Adventure motorcycles can vary greatly in pricing, but generally speaking, you can buy an adventure motorcycle used for around $2,700 while a new motorcycle that’s relatively capable will cost between $5,600 and $6,800.
Where can I go riding?
You can ride an adventure motorcycle on any track or trail that you can drive a car. Additionally, you can take your bike along dirt bike tracks although steep hills are to be avoided.
What is the most reliable adventure bike?
The most reliable adventure motorcycles are the Suzuki DRZ-400, the Kawasaki KLR 650, the KTM 690R, Honda’s CR250L Adventure and the Yamaha Super Tenere. These motorcycles and their respective brands are proven as expedition-ready for global travel.
Do people ride alone or in groups?
Most adventure riders choose to ride alone, though may rendezvous with others on their journey, either planned or improptu. The very nature of being on a motorcycle shows that these individuals prefer to be by themselves as opposed to being in groups.
Can I go adventure riding with my dirt bike?
Absolutely! There is no issue with using a 4-stroke dirt bike for adventure touring. Their lightweight means they are able to access trails that most other riders can’t. Some upgrades we can suggest include a bigger fuel tank and adventure fairing for highway riding, and perhaps a better rear sprocket.
Do I have to bring my camping gear?
No. Adventure riders don’t need to bring camping gear if they plan on staying at hotels each night. This can become an expensive process, and so many riders choose to do a combination of hotels and free or low-cost camping in national parks, depending on the weather and region in which they are traveling.
Is it dangerous to ride adventure motorcycles?
It can be dangerous depending on where you’re travelling and the motorcycle you have. As time progresses, riders become more aware of their surroundings and can spot trouble much more easily. In fact, there have been dozens of adventure riders who have travelled the world without a single incident, including many 3rd world countries.
Adventure motorcycling is a pathway for freedom for many ladies and gentlemen. Yes – ladies are ever-increasing in their numbers here year on year. After all, many humans crave freedom and the sense of adventure.
This all begins by investing in the right bike and the right gear. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time though, as it often takes 2 to 3 motorcycles before you finally find ‘the one’.
Start spending some time around the ADV community either through online forums or Facebook groups, or even stay connected with many of the rising YouTubers. As you do, you’ll become even more in love with this sport and the true sense of freedom that it brings to the soul.
Catch you out there!
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