Remote trails, outliers and off-the-beaten paths all beg for some type of exploration by outdoor lovers but getting there sometimes proves a bit hard.
You can hike but with limited range. You can drive but with limited access.
Ideally, you need a motorcycle. But not just any motorcycle. A hybrid of sorts that combines the ruggedness of a dirt bike with the comfort and range of a cruiser. In other words: an Adventure bike.
An Adventure bike looks much like a dirt bike, with the knobby tires and trim body, melted into a cruiser type motorcycle accompanied by a larger engine, larger fuel tank and other off-road components. Together, you get a versatile, fast moving machine that can take you from the pavement to gravel and all places in between.
Adventure bikes embarked on their first ride in the 1980s and had a slow start in terms of popularity. In recent years, the hobby of purposely traveling to the outskirts has found a loyal and growing following as now most major motorcycle manufacturers have produced an Adventure bike model. The KTM 1290, Triumph Tiger, the BMW R1200 GS and the Honda Africa Twin, among others, have taken riders to places far and wide they never would have visited if not for their Adventure motorcycle.
Like anything new, or in the case of Adventure bikes, relatively new, just how does one get into this new form of transportation that doubles as an adventurous hobby?
1. Buy a Bike
First, you need an Adventure bike. Don't think a cruiser or street bike can work because you won't get far. Adventure bikes have the suspension and handling required to traverse rocky terrain, soft sand, water, steep hills and sometimes all of the above within a short distance. Adventure bikes also generally boast a bigger engine, like 1000cc or more. They can be quick, though because of weight, not as quick or agile as a Liter bike. Regardless, if you have little experience riding a bigger displacement engine then think about starting small and working your way up to an Adventure bike.
2. Learn to Ride
Obviously if you don't ride you need to learn to ride first. However, as noted above beginner riders should get their bearings on entry level motorcycles and street bikes first before tackling the much larger, heavier and more powerful Adventure bike. You need strength and stamina to navigate an Adventure bike and keep it on two-wheels when using your feet and legs as mobile kickstands.
3. Buy Gear
As with all motorcycle riding you need riding gear. You don't necessarily need adventure specific riding gear but it helps which is why we have a dedicated page for Motorcycle Adventure Riding Gear. The helmets look a bit like dirt bike helmets but with a built in shield/lens instead of requiring the use of goggles. Adventure riding jackets have more than enough zippered compartments for carrying the essentials and Adventure boots offer a bit more usefulness that enable you to walk around comfortably when off the bike.
4. Find a Friend
Adventure riding takes you to remote places often without cell phone coverage. Don't go alone. Things happen. Get a friend to enjoy your new hobby or find an Adventure riding group to hang out with. You already have one thing in common so expect to make lifelong riding buddies when joining a group or club and enjoy the great outdoors a whole lot more than heading out by yourself.
Getting advice and tips from other adventure bike riders who have "been there and done that" helps shorten the learning curve and minimizes mistakes like forgetting a GPS device.
5. Plan Ahead
Yes, you can get on your motorcycle and head out seeing where the road might take you. However, many off-road mapped trails exist and you might miss out on some real adventures and sightseeing by just winging it. Besides you might get lost, too. Check out organizations like Backcountry Discovery Routes which has maps for eight states with more on the way.
As you'll see, Adventure biking has its rewards but it doesn't come cheap. The motorcycle can cost upwards of $20,000 plus you need the gear. However, unlike other off-road riding that typically requires transport of the dirt bike in a truck bed or trailer, an Adventure bike functions like a motorcycle requiring a license to ride and registration for travel on public roads allowing you to get from Point A to all points in between Point B when embarking on your adventure. But you still need a valid OHV sticker when heading to the trails.