Starters Guide For Adventure Touring Riding

March 01, 2014


There's a good reason the adventure touring segment is one of the fastest growing genre in the sport of motorcycling. The allure of traveling off the beaten path to locations few people have ever seen is inspirational to say the least. After logging thousands of miles and meeting adventure riders from all walks of life, we feel obliged to encourage aspiring ADV riders to climb aboard and experience the adventure touring first hand. On that note we feel it would be a great idea to offer up some tips, recommendations and suggestions that will make your transition from a rider to an adventure touring rider, that much easier. So, here's an adventure touring checklist that we hope will help you be prepared for the big ride.

Rider's Gear

Helmet: If you fashion yourself as a true Adventure Rider then you should expect to spend long, long days in the saddle. No single piece of equipment is paramount to a successful journey as the helmet. It needs to fit comfortably snug, provide the protection from the elements without too much noise and offer ventilation to keep air moving on hot days and keep the cold air out on freezing rides. It's no small task and when the dust settles on your first adventure ride, you will be happy that you spared no expense and bought the best helmet you could afford.

There are quite a few options available so take some time to decide which style will fit your needs the best. Here are a few examples to help you understand the pros and cons of each style. Shop All Adventure Touring Helmets

Dual Sport Helmets: These are dirt bike style helmets with a visor, large chin vent and an eye port that is covered by a full-face style face shield. The extended visor serves the same purpose as a MX helmet, by allowing the rider to dip his head to protect your eyes from roost, debris and offer a reprieve from glaring sun. This style helmet is great for riding on or off-road thanks to the combination of visor and face shield, plus it offers better cold weather protection than a full-blown dirt bike helmet. These Dual Sport Lids

have become the defining helmet of the adventure touring segment in recent years and helmet manufacturers have made innovative designs for them in a short period of time. For ADV riding, these helmets are the hot ticket: Arai XD4, Shoei Hornet DS, Fly Trekker, Icon Variant and MSR Expedition.

Dirt Bike Helmets: Hard-core ADV riders wear dirt bike helmets because their ultimate goal is to get off the beaten path. The open eye port requires the rider to wear goggles or sunglasses and as a result there is much more airflow coming in and they are the lightest option available. This is great for riding in warm climates or under strenuous conditions associated with man-handling these massive motorcycles off-road. While not as convenient as a dual sport helmet, the Dirt Bike Helmet

will always be an appropriate adventure touring helmet.

Modular Helmets: Also known as the flip-up helmet, a modular style allows the entire front of the helmet to flip up and allow the rider's face to be exposed without taking their helmet off. Modular styles are usually a little heavy with all the extra joints and mechanisms but for many rider's the convenience of the flip-up front face is well worth the extra weight and cost. Some of the most popular Modular Helmets

include: Schuberth C3 Pro, Shoei Neotech and Bell Revolver.

Jacket: The riding jacket might be considered the touring riders best friend. It is the largest piece of gear you will have and is the difference between you and a bad case of road rash. It also protects your body core from the elements and is a convenient storage sport for personal effects. Since big crashes are not always the biggest concern it is important that a jacket be comfortable, fit well and provide plenty of ventilation while remaining waterproof and offering lots of compartments for your phone, iPod, wallet, etc. Most jackets will claim to be waterproof but the fact remains that few truly are so make sure to cover your jacket and other gear with a good coat of waterproof spray just to be on the safe side. Adventure touring jackets come in a wide variety of options too. Make sure you have comfortable armor in the elbow and shoulder area and an integrated spine protector wouldn't hurt either. Popular riding jackets include: Tourmaster, Olympia, Revit, Klim. Shop Adventure Touring Jackets

Gloves: There are many styles of gloves and we have yet to find a glove that does it all. For that reason it is recommended that you dress for the ride and the unexpected. A lightweight standard riding glove is great for logging many miles in good riding conditions but it's nice to have the option of switching your glove if the conditions dictate it. A good set of cold-weather or heated gloves is a welcome addition your find yourself facing cold weather. A light ventilated glove will allow your hands to breathe if you are in extremely hot conditions like those found in Death Valley or other warm regions. Shop our entire selection of Gloves

Boots: This is where it gets tricky. Most experienced riders dress for the destination. If you are riding primarily on the street then there is a wide variety of boots to choose from so it is up to you to find a pair that are comfortable, offer the protection you are looking for and fall into the price range you are willing to spend. Street boots like the Sidi Tour Rain and Power Trip PT100 are an example of a high end and entry level street boot. If you plan to spend any time off-road then you should consider a more traditional dirt bike style boot. The Gaerne Balance Oiled boots have become one of the most all-around popular adventure riding boots. Other great options that we see ADV riders wearing on a regular basis include the Alpinestars Toucan, as well as the Sidi Discovery. All three of these boots are high-end boot options for ADv riders who plan to spend a lot of time off-road. Shop Adventure Touring Boots

Hydration System: Often referred to as a CamelBack the hydration system back-pack is a nice why to keep water accessible while providing yet another bit of storage. Quite a few modern ADV jackets come with an area or pocket designed to hold a bladder which makes it easier than ever to bring valuable H2o along for the ride. Shop Hydration Packs

Rain Gear: Having the option to slip into a set of quality rain gear can be the difference between total misery and wet weather riding bliss. Typical rain suits pack fairly small if you take the time to roll them up tight. Rain gear has evolved over the years to real state of the art products like the Alpinestars RJ-5 2-piece suit or the River Road High & Dry 2-piece suit. Either of these are excellent choices but there are other styles that may suit your particular needs including ultra-lightweight Frogg Toggs and other styles made popular with hikers and outdoorsmen. Shop Rain Gear

Now that we have provided a nice, extensive guide to gearing up the adventure touring rider, let's take a look at how to equip your motorcycle to survive the rigors of adventure touring too.

Adventure Bike Equipment

Crash Guards: Nothing ruins a trip quicker than a damaged bike and it's not a matter of if you will smash something into your ADV bike, it's a matter of when. The most important guards are a skid plate and crash bars. These hefty motorcycles will bottom out on small obstacles so protect its soft underbelly with a skid plate. Perimeter crash bars will protect the radiators, bodywork and engine in case of a tip over. Serious ADV bikes need to be equipped with both.

“Some would say the most important guard is the crash bars. Or both the skid plate and the crash bars. From my experience in the field and watching the forums, I would say that this is argued a lot so I say both pieces are very important.” – Jeremy Lebreton, Founder Alt Rider.

Engine case savers or thicker, reinforced side cases will help prevent busted engine parts too when the going gets rough. It's critical these products are made correctly: material, assembly, and mounting designs so don't skimp here, because you get what you pay for. We recommend going with proven products from companies like Alt Rider and Touratech.Shop our selection of Adventure Touring Skid Plates & Guards

Panniers: Many true adventure riders prefer to get the smallest panniers (also referred to as saddlebags) that they feel they can live with. The smaller set-up is lighter, takes up less space when navigating through tight trails or busy streets and they will force you to be better at packing. The opposite opinion is popular too: Get as large of panniers as you can handle and use them to stuff all of your trip essentials.

Pannier Options: There are a myriad of panniers that are available today. They range from the optional OEM hard bags to the aftermarket hard cases from companies like AltRider, Touratech and Givi. OEM accessories are usually quite good but often are more expensive and have less-amenities compared to their aftermarket alternatives. For this reason it is important to research the options and equip your bike with the bags that suit your particular needs. There are other great bags from Wolfman Luggage which feature dry-bag design made popular by white water rafters and kayakers. These saddle bags are particularly good if you plan to ride in really rough terrain because they do not break, they are waterproof and can be secured tightly to your bike in a number of ways. Wolfman equipment is well suited to hard-core ADV riders, especially those who choose to ride primarily off-road or use true dual sports or dirt bikes rather than the full size ADV bikes. Soft luggage from Giant Loop, AltRider and Moto Centric are also good lightweight options for adventure bikes like the KLR650, street legal dual sports but are still very popular with hardcore ADV riders who still run the full size ADV bikes for all the reasons above.

Brackets & Hardware: Because the stock luggage racks are usually weak, small and sometimes made of plastic, grab yourself a better luggage rack solution. For example, the AltRider luggage rack provides a larger surface for you to put your soft bags on with many strategic cut-outs to give you many points of places to lash down your luggage onto. They're even pre-drilled for the rotopax fuel cells if you need to carry extra fuel with you on those long trips. Shop Pannier (aka “Saddlebag”) Brackets & Mounting Systems

Other Luggage Solutions: Panniers are not for everyone and sometimes even the most hardcore of adventurers hate to have that extra stuff hanging on the sides of their bike. The good news, is panniers are not your only option for carrying extra gear.

Tank Bags: This often overlooked storage option is an excellent way to increase your bikes storage potential while also making your life a little easier. Most tank bags have a clear map pocket on the top that makes navigation a little bit easier if you are not using a bar-mounted GPS. They allow for easy access to your personal effects like a wallet, purse, cell phone or other various sundries. Shop Tank Bags

Tail Bags: Rear-mounted tail bags or top cases offer a lot of extra storage space without increasing the width of your bike. The trade-off is that you add more weight to the top of your bike but for many riders that is worth the trade-off for not having bags on the sides of your ride. Many dual sport and ADV motorcycles are equipped with rear platforms of some type so this is an easy way to increase storage without making modifications to your bike. There are aftermarket solutions available and the same recommendations apply here as with the panniers. You get what you pay for so choosing products developed by an ADV-specific company increases the chance of the parts already being proven in the field. Shop Tail Bags or Shop our entire selection of Adventure Touring Luggage and Mounting Systems

Hand Guards/Brush Guards: First and foremost this is a great way to protect your hands from the elements while riding. It keeps elements from directly contacting your knuckles whether its wind, rain, hail or snow. They also protect your hands from debris and obstacles plus they provide a measure of protection from breaking a lever in the case of a tip-over. It's hard to argue against the merits of hand guards. Shop Hand & Brush Guards

GPS Mount: Having the ability to mount your GPS securely within the view of the rider is a nice way to keep track of the road and the route at the same time. Expert navigators may scoff at the need for GPS but the modern adventurer embraces technology and this is a great way to do it. There are many mounting options from companies like Touratech and Garmin. There are even mounts and cases for iPhones that allow you to use Siri as your guide if you are hip enough to pull it off.

Camera Mounts: Having a Go-Pro on your bike solves that age-old dream to have a video camera recording everything you do, so that it can capture that one Oh Sh!# moment that no one is ever prepared for. Or you simply may want it to capture the beauty of your ride so you can share with friends and family upon your safe return. Either way a good set of camera mounts will go a long way to helping you properly document your ride through video.

What to Pack:A Look Inside Your Gear Bag

Tools: Only bring what you know you can use. Motion-Pro makes excellent multi-tool kits that are compact and functional. JB Weld or Quick Steel is always handy (So is a few feet of duct-tape wrapped around a screwdriver as well as bailing wire and a few lengths of electric wire in case you need to jump a connection. Lightweight tow rope like the KLIM Tow Strap and/or a pair of tie downs, just in case you need to haul or tow a bike too.

Working on your bike before a trip will reveal the actual tools you need on the trail. Also, riding in muddy or very wet conditions will shorten the life of components like brake pads and drive chains so consider taking spare parts with you if you are going on hardcore or extended rides. Small items like brake pads, wheel bearings and lubricant for chains are hard to get when you are riding in far and away places. Teaming up with your riding buddy who has the same or similar bikes will allow you to split these parts and tools between both of you in an effort to reduce weight and redundancies while maximizing the stuff you can each bring. The most common break down is a flat tire. Carry a tubeless tire plug kit and a small portable compressor or canned air and if you ride a tubed tire carry at least a 21” front tube if not a spare rear as well. (21” can fit into 17 -18” rear and will get you to town). A can of engine oil carried in a sturdy metal fuel canister can get you back to civilization should you spring a leak. Shop our selection of Tool Kits & Tire Repair Tools

Medical Kit: There are a lot of options when it comes to pre-built kits so make sure your kit suits your needs. Any good kit will include surgical gloves, aspirin or pain-killers, anti-septic wipes, medical tape, scissors, adhesive bandages, surgical compress, wide roller bandages, tongue depressors, tweezers, bee-sting kit sling, the ability to treat burns and any geographic related medicines for things like malaria, etc. Shop all our Medical Kits

Diddy Bag: It is always important to have good hygiene even when you are in the middle of a world tour. Bring the essentials using small travel-size containers: Toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, personal medications, deodorant, shampoo and soap. Storing liquid-filled containers in zip lock baggies will keep things from spilling in your kit and keep the vital stuff separated. Don't forget the sunscreen and lip balm. Even though you are wearing a helmet, you are still in the weather and can get sunburnt neck and or face. Constant wind will dry out your lips and nostrils, apply and re-apply balm and sunscreen.

GPS: Any good GPS will do here. Be sure to get familiar with your unit and bring the instruction book, extra batteries and be prepared to use it. The GPS has opened a wealth off otherwise unreachable trails, roads and ADV destinations to us all so don't be afraid to get one.

Maps: Paper maps and a compass will guarantee that even if the GPS gets broken or fails, you can still manage to navigate your way back home. Study the topography and surrounding areas you plan to visit before you go. Awareness of the country will help you enjoy the trip and give you knowledge of alternatives if you are forced to re-route or get lost. Small binoculars can greatly aid in navigating big open spaces like Nevada and Wyoming and can help you identify local geographic features like summits and rivers from afar. Shop our selection of GPS & Maps

Camera Equipment: A good camera backpack will protect your valuable SLR or equivalent equipment over the course of a long journey. The many interior pockets will offer storage for extra lenses, batteries, cleaning kit and other non-essential electronics like an iPad or Laptop.

Bike Cover: The lightweight bike cover serves a number of purposes. It protects your bike from weather at camp, it makes the bike less conspicuous to would be thieves and it can be used for ground cover when working on the bike or under your tent.

Clothing: Pack light with 2-3 changes of shirts, pants, socks & underwear depending on the length of the trip. Unless you are only camping on a beach, lightweight shoes that are enclosed (sneakers) are safer than open toed sandals. Stumbling around at night is a good way to find cactus or stub a toe and since your feet are part of the ride it's important to protect them even when you're not on the bike.

Tents and Camping: The smallest one-man tent only weighs 2.5 pounds and can be a safe haven in an unexpected storm. Also, being able to camp whenever you want can take the stress out of having to make a hotel or destination. Down sleeping bags are the lightest and warmest way to sleep, you must keep it dry to be comfortable. Insulated, inflatable sleeping pads will keep you off the cold ground and once you are familiar, a very restful sleep.

Food & Cooking: Camp stoves come in many shapes and sizes. We recommend the self-contained and compact Jet Boil, which is about the size of a big gulp cup, for any situation where you need to travel as light as possible. There are smaller options though, including simple alcohol burning set ups and the trick-little Pocket Rockets but these will all require you to bring a mess-kit to cook with too. Portable, non-perishable food is always a good idea for adventuring touring expeditions so take a couple freeze dried meals or MREs for dinner, find something light and athletic (granola, oatmeal and instant tea or coffee) for breakfast. Try to count on grabbing lunch during a fuel stop during the day but if that's not an option, double up on the dehydrated food. If you have room, canned food is a nice break from the MREs. Having plenty of snacks for consumption on the trail can make a huge difference if (or when) you are lost or lose time with a mechanical problem.

We hope this information will be useful for all of you aspiring adventure touring riders out there. Remember this is not the definitive guide to ADV riding, instead we intended this to be a great starting point: From here, you just need to get a few tours under your belt and fine-tune your gear and equipment to suit your needs. We enjoy adventure touring and the pioneer experience that goes along with it. We think you will to so make sure to be safe, have a plan to share with the folks at home and then go have some fun. Oh, and make sure to take lots of pictures and send us a few.