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The Most Common ADV Riding Mistakes


At some point, every motorcycle rider seriously considers going all-in on the adventure bike thing. Maybe it was watching Long Way Round back-to-back with Long Way Down. Maybe it was seeing the new Triumph Tiger 900, or maybe it was just that deep-seated need to explore. Whatever it was, it created a hole in your heart that only an ADV bike could fill. Now that it’s in your garage, it’s time to get out there and ride it! 

But with ADV bikes getting bigger and heavier, riding these marvels of mechanical engineering can be a little intimidating. Don’t fret. As they say, “Knowledge is power,” so we put together a quick list of the most common ADV riding mistakes. Once you’ve reviewed this list, you’ll know what mistakes to avoid, or at the very least the proper names for everything you've done wrong. 

Use the Right Brake for the Job

If you’re entering the adventure riding world from road bikes, you’ve probably been told by a litany of MSF instructors that you need to favor your front brake. While that’s true for pavement, that’s not the case when you take your ADV motorcycle off-road. On dirt, gravel, and soil, it’s important to utilize the rear brake more. The front brake locks up more quickly in the dirt, leading to a crash. However, you can’t ignore the front brake entirely (it’s there for a reason, after all). Most of your stopping power comes from the front brake, you just need to use the rear brake to stabilize the bike as you slow down.

Don’t Stare at the Ground

The first time you turn your bike onto a dirt trail, it’s tempting to drop your head and eyes and stare at the road just in front of your front tire. But just like road riding, it’s important to look at where you want to go. The fact is if you can’t identify a problematic section of trail when it’s 15 feet ahead of you, staring at it as it passes under your tire won’t help you either. Keeping your head up allows you to identify obstacles quickly, lets you travel faster and keeps you aware of others riding near you.

Yes, You Should Stand Up

For cruiser riders, the idea of standing up while riding a motorcycle is unthinkable, but being able to control your bike from a standing position is an essential skill for ADV riding. Standing up actually lowers the center of gravity of the bike toward the footpegs, keeping the bike more stable. When you’re seated, your center of gravity is closer to the seat. 

When you are seated, make sure it's for long, obstacle-free sections of road or trail. Sitting on the bike helps to save your energy, and is necessary for long stretches of paved road.

Don’t Deflate Your Tires

Other off-road riders let some of the air out of their tires in order to improve their off-road traction. This works for things like lightweight dirt bikes and 4x4s, but for heavy ADV bikes, it can actually hamper the performance of your machine. The weight of the bike, you, and your gear can put pressure on not just your tires, but your wheels as well, causing damage that can ruin your ride. You’ll need to keep your tires properly inflated to the manufacturer's recommended pressure. This helps prevent flats and punctures in addition to keeping you upright during those tricky off-road sections.

Yes, You’ve Over Packed

You’ve got the brand new bike, the brand new bags, and now you’ve got to fill them. The temptation for many new riders is to pack each saddle, tank, and tail bag to the brim, filling it with stuff “just in case.” If you find yourself questioning where to put that last piece of gear on an already loaded down motorcycle, chances are, you don’t need it. In reality, you don’t need much to travel and camp comfortably for long periods of time. We suggest bringing only what you really need to ride and camp safely. That includes essentials like riding gear and helmet, tool kits, sleeping pads and bags, a tent, change of clothes, cook kit, and of course, license, registration, and insurance.

Know Where You’re Going

There’s no denying the romance and appeal of simply “getting on the road and just going, you know?” But that’s not always practical, or safe. Having a clear destination in mind ensures that you can plan fuel and food stops appropriately and also dictates your packing list. For instance, if you’re taking off for the deserts of Utah, you might get away with bringing lighter weight gear, whereas if you’re traveling high into the Rocky Mountains, you might want to bring that extra warm sleeping bag. It also helps you figure out your budget. Running out of gas money half-way through your road trip is embarrassing, to say the least. 

If you really don’t want to give up that free-spirited sense of adventure while you travel, you can compromise a little bit. Figure out where you’ll camp, and then don’t have a set schedule for what you’ll do when you get there.

Don’t Ride with Crummy Gear

There’s no denying that ADV bikes can be expensive, but don’t cheap out on your motorcycle luggage and bags because of it. As they say, “buy nice or buy twice.” You’ll never feel like buying your motorcycle bags from Wolfman is a mistake. Check out our line of waterproof, durable motorcycle luggage. We offer tank, tail, and saddlebags. Order now!

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