Many riders nowadays want to go for off-road adventures with their motorcycles during the weekends as a way to challenge themselves and test the limits of their bikes. While it sounds fun and interesting, off-road bike riding is difficult compared to street riding. With it comes challenges and many risky situations. Even the most experienced riders find it hard and tiresome to complete a successful off-road trip. It requires a new skill set that takes some time to hone and perfect. There are no rules off the tarmac, no speed limit, no pre-set path, and other dangers compared to street riding. You have to improvise new rules, which means learning the off-road way of things.
To stay safe, you need to grasp a few off-road fundamentals that will set the foundation for the rest of your off-road motorcycle riding career. Whether you are a pro or novice, you must learn motorcycle safety tips before hitting the loose ground with your adventure bike. Learning these tips will keep you safe and make you a better off-road rider. Below is a detailed breakdown of 10 tips for off-road motorcycle riding.
10 Pick The Right Off-Road Bike
Bikes serve different purposes, and it’s in your best interest to consider your safety and the bike’s conditions – you don’t want to push it beyond its capabilities. A full-size adventure bike or dual-sport bikes are best suited for off-roading. The extra torque kicks in when you need to get out of tricky situations or maneuver a steep hill.
However, dropping the bike will have you sweating to pick it up. Additionally, damaging such a bike will incur expensive costs repairing them. You are better off with lightweight, affordable ADV beginner motorcycles such as the BMW G 310 GS or KTM 390 Adventure.
9 Wear Appropriate Bike Gear
When riding on two wheels, wearing the right gear is so obvious that it’s often overlooked. It’s essential to have proper and fitting gear such as helmets, gloves, pants, jackets, and boots.
Ensure that your gear is comfortable regardless of whether you ride standing or sitting. Unfit gear such as a helmet will result in discomfort, which leads to loss of focus. It wouldn’t end well for you or your adventure bike. Also, carry emergency tools such as a tire patching kit in case you get a puncture.
8 Adjust Your Bike’s Levers For Off-road Conditions
Comfort extends to your bike’s controls. Most adventure motorbikes come with adjustable clutch and brake levers. If yours lacks such adjustable levers, the chances are that there is an aftermarket modification for your off-road bike. When adjusting your levers, put them within reach of your fingers
Since most off-road riding is done while standing on the footpegs, the clutch lever should be adjusted to be operated with the middle and index finger. This ensures you can control the clutch without altering your grip on the bike’s handlebars, guaranteeing quick and smooth reaction time.
7 Counter Lean When Turning
You are probably used to leaning into a corner when street riding. Carrying this technique off the tarmac would result in tears due to losing traction in loose gravel. Instead, you should counter-weight the bike by shifting your weight on the outside peg while pushing your bike down towards the corner.
Counter leaning ensures the bike regains traction. Additionally, sit as far forward as possible when cornering. This is meant to lift the weight off the rear wheel and shift it to the front for extra traction and speed. Lastly, avoid using the front brakes when negotiating corners.
6 Focus On Where You’re Heading
This is probably the only tip that transfers directly from street riding. Due to the unfriendly terrain, such as rocks, cliffs, and other obstacles, it becomes more crucial off the road. Looking ahead helps you spot hazards ahead and locks your eye on a proper riding path.
One thing you shouldn’t do is target fixate. Locking your eyes on something makes it almost impossible to break away from the distraction. Focusing ahead ensures that you have time to react when necessary. Ignore looking at the rear wheel, even when you feel it spinning or skidding.
5 Learn To Stand Up When Riding
Street riders often disagree that standing lowers your center of gravity and increases stability, but it’s true, standing transfers weight to your feet rather than to the bike’s saddle. However, perfecting this standing stance takes a leap of faith for new off-road riders.
Standing also saves your spine from absorbing hits as the bike’s suspension neutralizes them. To perfect the standing position, you need to relax and loosen your upper body. Be sure to bend your legs slightly to soak up any jolts, since your feet are secondary suspension.
4 Tag-Along A Riding Partner And Take The Lead
It goes without saying that two are better than one. If possible, take a riding buddy while going off-road in case something happens, and you need a hand. Trying to sort a situation alone can be hectic, and any emergency services are far from your reach.
While riding in a group, you should lead others to tackle all hurdles by showing directions to the riders trailing you. It may sound obvious, but it’s a tip that helps avoid common motorcycle accidents in the long run. If you encounter oncoming riders, signal by raising fingers to notify them of the riders behind you.
3 Brake Appropriately
Road riding relies more on the front brakes than the rear. Off-road riding relies on both, but the rear brake is far more effective than the front brakes. In other words, the front brakes are for slowing down while the rear is used to steer the bike.
Some situations require you to avoid front brakes at all costs, such as cornering. Traction is low in such a situation, and grabbing them is disastrous. You can also switch off ABS to help you stop – many modern adventure bikes feature off-road ABS that comes in handy on slippery surfaces.
2 Lean Back When Riding In The Sand
On-road riding requires you to lean forward and slow down. It’s the complete opposite when you are off-roading in the sand or silt, where you need to lean back and pick up speed. This is done to avoid getting stuck or swerving in dense sand.
When riding in sand, rear-wheel traction is more important as compared to tarmacked surfaces, whereby front-wheel traction is prioritized. Leaning back transfers more weight to the rear wheel, and the front wheel barely touches the sandy surface. Speeding stabilizes the bike on such loose or slippery surfaces.
1 Tackling Water Crossings
Tackling water surfaces is one hell of a challenge, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the given water crossing. The challenge is encountering deep waters, mud, logs, and big rocks. Stalling your bike or falling is the last thing you want if you are on a solo ride.
The best take is to evaluate factors like water depth and the traction underwater. You can wade in the water before crossing to pick the best crossing path. Alternatively, have another experienced rider cross first, then follow their track.