The safer you are, the more fun you will have—it’s as simple as that. Nobody likes when crash bars dig into terra firma and saddlebags get ripped off their mounts. Follow these five tips and you’ll do a much better job of keeping your bike and yourself together.
1) Know your size. Adventure machines are not dirtbikes. You won’t be comfortable racing down the street at 80 mph on a dirtbike, so don’t think for a minute that you should feel comfortable traveling dirtbike speeds off-road. It doesn’t take a physicist to understand that force equals mass times acceleration.
2) Pay attention to balance and the muscles you’re using. If you’re exerting too much energy or feel tense, you’re likely out of balance and compensating with strength or possibly speed. “Get over the back wheel and gas it!” may be a popular saying, but it’s not proper technique.
3) When you bottom the suspension, the bike is warning you. If you didn’t expect the bike to bottom, take the warning doubly serious. If the bottoming continues, sooner or later, you’ll have a broken bike, or worse, a hurt rider.
4) Standing on the footpegs is key to controlling a heavy machine in demanding conditions. Your weight becomes somewhat isolated from the motorcycle and you can use all of it, mostly through the pegs, to control the bike.
5) If you venture beyond maintained dirt roads, having DOT-approved knobby-style tires (think Kenda Big Block or Continental TKC 80) improves dirt handling and safety appreciably. Though durability often dissuades riders from switching to knobs, you’ll never wear out any tires with a cast on your leg.
Longtime CW readers undoubtedly will remember Jimmy Lewis. He served as our Off-Road Editor from 1995 to 2005 (and shop guy before that). Now he’s back to help us wring out the big adventure-touring bikes in this issue. Lewis, 44, certainly has the credentials. In 1998, teamed with Johnny Campbell on a Honda
XR600R, this four-time ISDE gold medalist won the Baja 1000; and in 2000, he took third overall in the Dakar-Cairo Rally aboard a factory-prepared BMW 900RR. Lewis, in fact, was the first finisher on a Twin, and in November of that same year he won the United Arab Emirates Desert Challenge, also aboard a 900RR. In short, the guy can ride, and he’s been teaching us mere mortals how to do it since 1999, the year he opened Jimmy Lewis Off-road Riding School, which is now based in Pahrump, Nevada. Visit www.jimmylewisoffroad.com for more information.