There are lots of misconceptions about the riding skills needed to embark on motorcycle adventure tours. It is true that you don’t need to be a Dakar veteran to get out and enjoy exploring, but out on the open road everything about your bike has to be second nature, as you’ll need to be focusing on what’s around you.
The more confident you are handling your bike, the more you’ll be able to pick up on your surrounding environment and potential hazards, and the more you’ll be able to enjoy the experience. We are out on the road for months at a time, covering many different countries and in all sorts of conditions and here’s the key skills we consider you have to master to give yourself the most enjoyable experience:
Find your bike’s balance point
Waiting until the moment you set off to find out that you can’t manhandle your fully-loaded adventure bike is at best embarrassing and at worst can end in a broken lever, footpeg peg, or worse an ankle. Find your bike’s balance point (where the bike becomes “weightless”) and it makes manoeuvring in tight spaces a doddle. Practice walking around your bike holding it upright with only one hand to really get a good feel for the balance point.
Master slow control
How would you ride through a narrow hostel entrance, through heavy city traffic or doing a U-turn in a narrow, cobbled street? If as you slow, your feet are off the pegs and ready for paddling or ‘just in case’ then you’re not up to scratch. Master the delicate balance of throttle, clutch and back brake or you’ll quickly come unstuck.
If you don’t understand the concept of counter steering, and the vanishing point means nothing to you, chances are you can’t read or ride a corner properly and that dream road will quickly become a nightmare. But also recognise that in many developing countries, many vehicles cut corners and drift on bends, so factor that into your road position.
Make no mistake, overtake
Our mantra is the best road is a clear road. But, we’ve watched too many riders pull out on slow trucks in the mountains, and just scrape back in as another comes careering round a bend. Learn to be assertive and positive enough to effect a brisk overtake but most important, know when and how to do it safely. In China, we always look under a slow truck to see if we can spot something coming round a bend when it shouldn’t.
Stop, before you go
Most riders will never practice an emergency stop after they have passed their test. When you’re on strange roads in countries where the weird and wonderful often uses the road as a home, it’s vital. When a vicuna leaps out on you in the middle of the Bolivian altiplano, you want to give yourself the best chance of stopping safely.
Take the rough and the smooth
Be able to deal with loose surfaces. It may only be a gravel track to scenic viewpoints, heading over grass to the camp-site or a stretch of road works, but it’s definitely worth getting some off-road training, so you understand how the bike will feel.
Put in the miles
You never know when you might have to knock out a big mileage day: the border is closed or there’s a ferry to catch, or there’s been an incident and you have to go the extra miles to get help. If a 500-mile day presents itself make sure you’re up to it.
Regardless of your motorcycle adventure, be safe out there!
Kevin & Julia Sanders