Adventure Riding 101: The Basics
So you’ve got the bike, the gear, and the enthusiasm: you’re ready for your first adventure ride!
The route has been planned, the tent has been packed, the GPS programmed, and you’re about to set off.
But what about safety if you’re going solo? What about food if you’re going off the road and, consequently, off the grid? What about camping wild, battling mud and rain, and dealing with the unexpected?
There is no such thing as ‘the right adventure’, and there certainly isn’t an adventure riding formula that fits all. But as the summer rolls on, we figured we’d put together a rough adventure riding guide to get you started!
Focus on Yourself
The most important rule of adventure riding is that there are no rules. Yes, you may encounter minimalist snobs, big-bike advocates, hard enduro maniacs, and hardcore RTW overlanders online – and they will all insist that their way of traveling is best. Or the most extreme. Or the most kosher – after all, what kind of an adventure rider you are if you don’t have that epic selfie camping wild in Patagonia and fixing a flat in the Pamirs with nothing but a toothpick and a piece of Hubba Bubba!
Well, the good news is this: adventure riding is all about you, so choose the bike you like, plan a route that you are interested in, and stay wherever you want to stay – comfy hotels, colorful backpacker places, or your own tent in the middle of nowhere.
The same goes for when you hit the road. If you feel like stopping, take a break and rest. If you feel like the track you have chosen is too difficult, turn back and pick another one. If you’re too tired to build a tent and cook your own food, opt for a bed and breakfast. The more comfortable you are, the better decisions you make – it’s fact. So pay close attention to your own needs, and enjoy every single moment!
Assume the Worst
No, we don’t mean to say that the world is a scary place: we just mean that it’s best to be prepared.
You know sometimes when it starts to rain, but you’re too lazy to put your rain gear immediately? You rationalize that the rain will probably stop soon so you don’t really need it? But the rain doesn’t stop. Before you know it, you’re soaked through, wishing that you had put the waterproofs on ten miles earlier. Well, the same goes for food, water, shelter, and daylight.
Personally, I turn into a ferocious, blood-thirsty demon from hell if I am not fed on time. I simply must have food if I’m hungry, otherwise, a catastrophe is inevitable. Even if you do not turn into a crazed monster when you’re hungry, make sure you don’t starve: pack snacks and take a break to eat if you have a long day ahead. The last thing you want is to feel famished when there’s still another 80 miles left to the nearest campsite or hotel. Not only you’ll feel moody and irritated, you might tire more quickly and as a result, start making bad decisions riding.
If you feel like it’s about lunchtime, don’t postpone it; stop and grab a snack before you’re starving! The same goes for expecting food later. ‘It’s ok, there’s probably going to be a gas station there.’ ‘My host will surely have food!’ ‘No worries, there’s going to be a diner in 50 miles.’ Maybe! But just assume the worst and buy food while you can instead of hoping to find it along the way. Not sure what to bring along? Elisa has some great tips for cooking and snacking healthy on the road!
The same goes for water. I always carry a full two-liter CamelBak and an additional three-liter dromedary bag. If I know we’re heading into a place where water is scarce, I’ll fill up my ten-liter dromedary bag too, just in case. And guess what? I have never wished I had less water! Make sure you have plenty, and fill up whenever you can. Drinking, cleaning, cooking, and showering – those dromedary bags have provided all this and more when I had to camp wild in the desert or the mountains.
Finally, don’t leave your bedtime arrangements for last. If you find a nice spot to camp at 4pm, go ahead and use it. It’s better to settle down for the night too early than too late. You don’t want to end up having to ride in the dark, frantically looking for a spot for your tent, or having to spend way more than your daily budget on a hotel because you’re just too exhausted to look for a cheaper option.
Listen to Your Gut
The ‘assume the worst’ rule applies to sketchy situations, too. If you feel that a drunk party at the campsite isn’t just a well-meaning college kids’ outing, leave and find another campsite. If you’re unsure whether you can trust your hostel roommate, request a different room or find another place altogether. If you doubt the intentions of a friendly passerby who is offering to help with your luggage a little too passionately, get out of there. Your safety is your number one priority, and your gut feeling is an excellent radar. Listen to it!
What about a gun, a pepper spray, or at least, a pocket knife? Opinions on this issue vary, but most women who ride around the world solo agree that knowledge of foreign languages, a smile and a well-developed intuition are immensely more valuable than any weapon.
The United States is the only country in the world where anyone can have a gun, and if you’re an American citizen traveling within the country, the choice to carry or not is, of course, yours. But for the rest of the world, it’s simply not an option. While some female riders might carry a small pepper spray, the majority of them rely on the gut feeling and their ability to judge a situation rather than a weapon.
What about bears, snakes, and moody bison? As a rule, animals are usually more scared of you than you are of them, and most of them won’t attack unless they are protecting their young or you provoke them. Read Elisa’s tips on how to avoid a conflict with critters on the road!
No, we don’t mean that you should set out on a long journey across South America on a small Chinese motorcycle , or that riding round the world a month after getting your motorcycle license is necessarily the best idea (although it definitely isn’t the worst!).
But do push your edge a little – after all, you are on an adventure. So ride a little further, explore a little more, and dare to challenge yourself: the reward is huge! And yes, there is a difference between a calculated risk and mindless recklessness, but don’t let the naysayers stop you from exploring the world on your own terms and on your own two wheels.
Need inspiration? Read about Franziska’s Southern Bolivian adventure!
Still not convinced? Check out our Concentrated Guide of ADV Essentials.