There’s no doubt that the road calls to every motorcyclist, but dirt can call too! Motorcycling is one of the most fun and versatile hobbies out there. Our two-wheeled machines can take us on a variety of adventures, including off-road ones.

You don’t need a dedicated “dirt bike” to do Adventure (ADV) riding. With the right amount of preparation and a few easy modifications, almost any standard road bike can be used to enjoy the beautiful scenery and incredible memories that adventure riding has to offer. 

Motorcycle Adventure Riding: Transitioning from Road to Dirt

1. Motorcycle – Modifications and Maintenance Changes 

Any motorcycle adventure typically begins with a motorcycle… and luckily for street riders everywhere, modifying your bike to begin introductory ADV riding is relatively easy. A few key areas to start with are: 

Modifications 

Maintenance 

If you begin occasionally riding dirt or ADV trails with your road bike, your maintenance type won’t change much, but your frequency will. More exposure to dust means your air filter will need more frequent changing, and your chain will need to be lubricated more often.

Increase vibrations from bumpy trails mean it’s important to monitor your bike more closely for loosening bolts or friction areas. 

2. Dirt Gear

Luckily if you’re just beginning to test dirt (ADV) riding with your road bike, most of your road gear will work too. Some other gear options to explore are: 
Dirt bike Helmet + Goggles: Most of your riding on the dirt will be at lower speeds than when your ride on the road. For this reason, a dirt bike helmet/goggle combination can help increase airflow while decreasing fogging.

Boots: If you don’t have over-the-ankle boots for riding on the road (which you really should anyway) you’ll absolutely need them for riding dirt. The additional grip that dirt or dirt/road hybrid boots also provide can be a huge help while standing on your bike’s pegs and navigating challenging terrain as well. Some boots to consider are the Alpinestars Tech T and Sidi Adventure Rain.

3. Finding Trails

So you’re all set to ride, next is up is figuring out where to! Getting started on dirt trails and plugged into the ADV community can be as easy as a few mouse clicks…

As with anything new, start off slowly and with easier trails. Keep in mind that you may need permits or trail passes for specific areas. 

4. Riding Style Modifications

From the moment your tires first cross from the pavement onto the dirt your riding style will need to change. Your riding style modifications should include at least these 3 major changes: 

More advanced riders can also use a back brake steering technique to negotiate turns while riding. When you apply the back brake in dirt, the back tire will begin to slide — you can use this slide to aim your bike where you would like to turn, or while navigating sharp corners. Be careful not to slide too sharply though as the back tire can slide out completely, causing a crash. 

Which is a great reason to bring up our next point… before you set off on your first ADV motorcycle adventure, practice the proper form of picking up your motorcycle from the ground. You will undoubtedly (and most likely at very low speeds) crash at some point while riding off-road. It’s a normal part of learning, and it’s important to know how to recover from it without causing injury.  

5. General Tips

As with any kind of riding, it’s important to plan ahead and make safe choices. Pick a trail that matches your bike. For example, if you have a Goldwing with 50/50 tires, it’s likely not a good idea to try advanced river crossings and large rocky trail areas. 

Try to never ride alone when you first begin, and if you have to, ensure that you let someone know where you will be, for how long, and activate GPS tracking on your phone or bike so they can follow your progress. If you’ll be out of cellphone range, provide a mapped route of where you will be. 

It’s important to pick easy trails when you first begin. Check the weather just before you ride to make sure you’re not caught by surprise, and most importantly, trust your instincts. If an area seems dangerous, turn back and pick a different trail. 

Most importantly, have fun while staying safe! Get great photos and video documentation of your ride and memories with friends, keep a log of your adventures, and make plans for fun future trips. Like all motorcycling, ADV riding is challenging, fun, and fulfilling. 

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