Making the Leap from On-to-Off-Road


If we did not ride in the rain we would never ride in BC ;-)

click the pics
I get a lot of questions from guys and gals about transitioning from a street bike to a DS.  I like this article but don’t totally agree about choosing bike size.  You can go the route of buying a used smaller, lighter cc bike at first and practice.  Or….you can sort of do what we did which was went with a 2010 BMW F650GS and just learned as we rode.  What I mean is that buying a bike is not cheap.  Most of the Bigger DS bikes are road worthy too.  You can ease your way into the back roads with any bike you choose. 
If you are not into buying used, smaller or lighter at first, go with something you will like for a while and see how it goes.  It worked for us because we both knew in our hearts we wanted to be riding where the pavement ended.  Our 650′s did us WELL.  I got 60,000KM out of mine and Cheryl rode hers for 48,000KM. 
We have bought way too many bikes before we found our passion.  I should have listened to an old colleague of mine back in 2008 when he said to me, “Leslie you are sooooo not a street bike or cruiser grrl, you need to get a BMW 650.”  If I listen to Scott back then we would have not went out and bought bikes that only liked to road and we would be only on our 4th bikes versus 13th.  ;-)

You get to ride in this with an ADV bike

Now, all those KM’s were not off-road because we commute and also there is a lot of pavement sometimes to get to the back country. We have since bought the BMW F800GS.  The bigger sibling of the 650 now 700.  I think the 800 cc class of DS is as far as we go while we are into DS riding.  Nothing more and nothing too much heavier.  After we “grow” out of this type of riding, if we do I mean, we will end up with a wicked sport touring machine in our “older” years.  

Even DS bikes get stuck in Traffic

In the end, most of the adventure bikes can handle any pavement and they are still fun if riding off-road is not for you.  Choose your bike carefully.  If you can afford the $$ and time to buy small and practice it can’t hurt.  If you don’t have the $$ or patience like us, buy what you want and learn from there.  ;-)

DS bikes love these roads too

BUT….Love these roads BETTER

This is why you want to ride DS, no cars just dirt and country

See DS riding is hardly boring

You will get views like this!

Amazing

Remember this one bit of advice, buy good gear!  We have spent too much $$ on crap….what I mean and not to insult anyone out there is that DS riding requires you to contend not only with the elements but a physical work out at times.  You need gear that will protect you from crashing…

No matter how hard you try you will dump your bike

the climate you are riding in, should be breathable and lean, not bulky.  Make sure you can layer under your jackets for either a thermal liner or heated gear.   You will know what we mean when you get into DS riding.  You might think you are a fair weather rider now….but get on one of these bikes and you will have no choice ;-) but to ride in rain, sleet, cold, hot you name it weather. Protect your bike when you get one too.  I will do another post of what we think are important accessories.

Cheryl rides no matter what

WHY??? Because once on a trip you will be LOVING the adventure you will not want to stop and hotel it like many others while out of the road. 
Now here is the article that offers good advice too!
Dec 27, 2012  by

Making the leap from on-road to off-road

So you’ve got the bug. You’ve seen the photos in RoadRUNNER. You are officially ready to discover your own long way around (or down). Only one problem, you don’t have any experience riding off-road. Perhaps two problems, you don’t have an off-road or dual sport bike.

If you had the chance to see the now iconic series Long Way Round featuring Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor, you saw that they spent a great deal of time dropping those big beautiful BMW Adventure Bikes! I suggest unless you have a movie studio financing you and a road crew riding along side you—choose a less of a leap and more of a crawl approach into the world of off-road riding.

I remember the first time I tried to transition my dad from a street rider to a dirt rider. It was not a pleasant experience for him or the Honda XR400R I arranged for him to ride. Time after time, the bike seemed to beckon him to give up and lie down next to it. After much frustration he gave up and spent the rest of our Alpine Loop experience riding an ATV. But he had the bug . . .

Today I am going to give a high level overview of some considerations when deciding if the dual sport experience is right for you.

Motorcycle Size: If you have been riding a while you may have traded up to larger bikes over the years; I know I did. What works on the street is often way too much hardware for off-road. Before getting sucked into the allure of the big adventure bikes it is good to get some practice on something smaller.

Road bikes are usually lower to the ground making it easier for you to put your feet down. A dual sport bike needs to be up higher for clearing obstacles. I am 6 feet tall but also “inseam” challenged; all torso, so I lower the seats on my bigger dual sport bikes. Finding the right balance is critical to your safety and enjoyment.

I transitioned from a Honda 250X to a KLR before making the leap to the BMW R 1200 ADV over approximately 2 years.

Gearing Considerations: A road bike needs to gets you off the line and then settle into a nice cruising speed in a higher gear. An off-road bike needs good low gearing to pull you through the terrain. Often times you will ride all day between 1-3 gears. So on a dual sport it only makes sense that you are looking for a combination of the two. The coveted 6th gear for street riding is nice but not always necessary. In the end you will need to consider size, weight, and price when determining which bike is right for you.

Making the leap from on-road to off-road3

Getting Skills: If you are fortunate enough to have access to an off-road riders class in your area, I highly recommend it. Option 2 is to access a smaller bike and practice, practice, practice.

Most classes allow or even require you to use their bikes. Dropping a bike that is expected to fall is much better than dropping the one you just dipped into your kids college fund to finance!

After my dad had his experience in Colorado he returned to Connecticut.  He rode a KLR but only on the street. He liked the idea of off-road bikes but still needed to build his confidence. He immediately began riding it around his backyard much to the dismay of my stepmom.

He practiced simple things like seat positions; sitting and standing, learning to let the bike be a shock absorber and move freely beneath him. In general, getting a sense of how it feels when you are not on pavement with asphalt gripping tires. He was steadily building trust between himself and his motorcycle.

The following year he was back out west and ready to conquer some beginner to intermediate roads and trails. I took it easy on him with a 2,000 mile Colorado/Utah Adventure. Year after year he has returned taking on bigger and bigger challenges.

There are many great resources for off-road rider training. However, access is often limited to where you live. The best way to find training is to search the Internet for “off-road motorcycle training” (and include your location).

I would love to hear about your off-road experiences. Please take a moment to comment below. Until the next trail beckons, remember, “Don’t go Anywhere … Go Somewhere!”

2 thoughts on “Making the Leap from On-to-Off-Road

  1. I’ve been transitioning from a standard motorcycle (a 1982 Honda Nighthawk) to a dual sport (a 2008 KLR), and learning to ride off-road, for two full years now. Everyone says it would be much easier if I could buy a small dirt bike and practice on that, but it’s just not in our budget. So we week out gravel roads around the Portland, Oregon area and travel up and down them whenever we’re out for a day ride. I’m improving, but still really need some expert guidance – and have yet to find it. I’ve asked at dirt bike shops, I’ve posted on various online groups, and no one seems to want to do a one-on-one workshop (for pay!) with a middle-aged woman wanting to improve her off-roading skills. The nearest off-road training seems to be Puget Sound Safety, up in Washington State. I’ll probably be schlepping up in 2013 for an all-day course. Here’s where I’m writing about my ongoing transition as a rider: http://www.coyotecommunications.com/travel/motorcycle/klrstarting.shtml

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