I’m sure more than once you have been in a situation where you can barely manage to deal with your mid weight motorcycle on a back road somewhere, and suddenly you see this rider over taking you as if you were parked with his/her 450+ lbs ADV machine. First thing after cleaning your googles is to think: How the hell….?
Keep reading if you wish to read and learn the tips that are behind the eyes of these skillful riders…
Wes Siler, on his article: how to ride a big, heavy motorcycle off-road, explained few things that, for some it might seem obvious, for others, a holy grial of wisdom displaying just in front of you. Wherever you are on the scale, here are some of his advices. Bare in mind, that is kinda taken for granted you know how to ride a motorcycle on comfy roads.
Optimize Ergonomics: "Before riding one off road, you'll need to make it so you can stand comfortably and securely for hours at a time, while having complete control. First, put the motorcycle on its center stand or have a friend hold it upright for you. Then, while standing upright on the pegs, examine your reach to the bars. Can you reach them and move them lock-to-lock without bending your back, slumping your shoulders or otherwise contorting your body? If not, you can try and find more height by rotating the bars forwards; if that's not enough, you'll need to start buying new bars until you find ones that fit you. You also need to be able to operate the clutch, brakes and shift lever while standing, adjust them so that you can do so.
Also consider the foot pegs. During an experimental ride close to home, try and stand on them for 15 or 20 minutes straight in your usual riding boots. How does that make your feet feel? Are there pressure points or is anything uncomfortable? Most ADV bikes have foot pegs that are too small for long term standing comfort and will need to be replaced with larger, "bear trap" items from the aftermarket.
Standing effectively lowers the motorcycle's center of gravity by putting your weight through its pegs rather than the higher seat. It also turns you into the world's least elegant cheetah tail. Yes, by awkwardly hovering over the bike as it jumps around and slides, your beer belly will actually help it stay upright and in motion. Always keep your knees somewhat bent, your legs are your shock absorbers.
Once you have a bike you can comfortably control over longer periods of time while standing, you can move on to the rest of these skills."
Drop Your Pressures And Fit Good Tires: "Typical road tire pressures are 36psi (front) and 42psi (rear). Off-road, you'll want to go much lower. 20psi is a good compromise pressure at both ends if you need to hit both tarmac and dirt in the same day, but for off-road use only, I'll go as low as 12psi. Consider what type of wheels you have before doing this. Cast aluminum wheels as found on the cheaper, more road-oriented bikes are weaker, meaning you need to protect them from impacts and keep the tires at 20psi. Spoked wheels are stronger and better resist deformation and allow you to "true" them back into shape if you do ding them, so they facilitate those lower pressures. A lower pressure tire will be less able to cushion the wheel from impacts, such as hitting a large rock."
Look closely at any ADV bike you see in an ad, magazine or video where it's jumping, sliding or doing anything ambitious on dirt. See those large tread blocks? Those are the Continental TKC80s, by far the most capable ADV tire. Similar tires offers a trade always between grip and durability, to that, add a quite differential price tag.
Stay Off The Clutch: "The advantage of carrying such large, 800 or 1,200cc motors is that these bikes have massive torque delivered low down in the rev range. Basically form idle. That means you can walk them over or around walking speed obstacles without using the clutch. Doing so gives you better control of the motorcycle and is less fatiguing. But, you'll need to practice to achieve smoothness, do that.”
Except For Wheelies: "To clear obstacles like large rocks, logs, the lips of desert washes and the climbs out of streams, you'll need to be able to hoist the front wheel on-demand. With your pink and ring finger wrapped around the bar, use your middle and pointer finger to quickly whip in the clutch lever, roll on the throttle with the other hand and quickly, with control, release the clutch. That should get your front end up on one of these beasts without a problem.”
Steer With Your Feet: "Find a long, straight, wide, empty stretch of dirt road and ride down it at moderate speed while standing. Practice putting your weight on alternate pegs, achieving the ability to steer the motorcycle while doing so. This is how you steer a dirt bike and how you should steer an ADV bike while off-road too, doing so puts less of a requirement on front wheel traction, which is fishy at the best of times.
Got a slide about to go way wrong? Stomp on the peg on the side the bike is sliding towards to bring it back into line. Stomp hard. It's the same principal as counter-steering and it works.”
Master The Front Brake: "While standing, bend at the hip like you're doing a squat, forcing your but as far rearwards and as low as possible. If it feels like you're about to sit on the luggage rack behind the passenger seat, you're doing it right. This should allow you to transfer your weight through your arms, into the bars and down to the front tire to give it its maximum possible chance at finding traction while braking hard. As on the road, squeeze softly initially to load its contact patch, before progressively moving your way up to full braking power."
Leave The Electronics On: These are some big, heavy bikes. Ready-to-ride, but before fitting luggage, that SuperTenere I rode through Canada weighs 636lbs! That's heavy for the class, but even the lightest ADV bikes typically remain 500lbs plus. That means we're talking about a ton of momentum which means things can go wrong very quickly and quite irrevocably. Fortunately, most of these bikes now come with ABS and Traction Control optimized to work off-road. Practice with yours in a safe environment, learning which settings work best in which conditions and under what circumstances you may want to turn them off.
ABS is a wonderful safety aid on an ADV bike, allowing you to get on the brakes hard if a cow suddenly jumps into the road while you're head is off in the clouds. But, it's going to work against you on steep downhills in loose sand or dirt. So learn where it works, consider the terrain you're riding through and switch it on and off as you ride accordingly.
TC is the same, reigning in slides before they require too much intervention from us humans. But, try and climb a steep hill through loose sand or dirt or mud and, well, you're not going anywhere. Again, learn its function and use it accordingly.
Don't think you're too manly to use these electronic rider aids. ADV riding often involves very long days in very bad weather through very dangerous terrain. And that spells fatigue. Take it from me, crashing five days from the nearest hospital or mechanic is a bad idea and take advantage of any help you can get in not doing that.