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Author: Adam Lewis

How to prepare your Adventure Bike – Pt.2

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KTM 990 Adventure motorcycle dashboard with two Garmin Montana GPS units

In Part 1 of our adventure motorcycle preparation features, we looked at points 1 – 4. Here in Part 2 we’ll be looking at points 5 – 8. If you haven’t read Part 1 you can find it here – How to prepare your adventure bike Part 1

      1. Service & Maintenance
      2. Protection
      3. Ergonomics
      4. Gearing
      5. Tyres
      6. Luggage carrying
      7. Navigation & Electrical
      8. Suspension set-up

5. Tyres

With so many ‘adventure tyres’ to choose from, doing so can seem like a minefield.

Tyre choice depends on many factors. Your bikes’ rim sizes, the surfaces you’re likely to be riding, longevity vs grip, and – if you’re on a long journey – what’s available. Many riders have their favourites, the pro and cons for which provide page after page of online opinion. We’re not going to get into all that here. What I will say is that when you’re comparing online reviews or listening to others opinions, be mindful of the bike the tyres were fitted to and the riding conditions on which the opinion is based. The weight and rim size have an impact on how a tyre performs, and so what works/doesn’t work for one combination of bike and rider may not be applicable to you.

The example that sticks in my mind is the Continental TKC 80 that works extremely well on a BMW 1200 GS (19″ front), but that I found to be useless on a DR650 (21″ front). Comparing the tyres side-by-side, the obvious difference is the block spacing which is much closer on the 21″.

– Choosing a tyre

Manufactures have a myriad of ways to describe the intended use of their tyres from “90% road – 10% dirt” through to “20% road – 80% dirt” but we divide them into just three: Road, 50/50 and Knobby. This eliminates a lot of confusion and allows us to recommend a category of tyre for each of our tours.

Table showing classification of road, 50/50 and Knobby tyres for adventure motorcycles

Note: The above examples do not necessarily reflect the manufacturers recommendations.

This is not an exhaustive list but you get the idea of what type of tyre we allocate where. Each allocation contains a range of tyres with some better suited to certain conditions than others. For example, within the Knobby category you’d choose a ‘paddle’ shaped pattern for sand and a ‘spikey’ motocross type pattern for muddy conditions.

It’s all about the ‘bite’. How much bite do you need?

A road tyre will perform adequately on a hardpacked gravel road but will be left wanting when the going gets loose, steep, wet, muddy, sandy etc. A knobby tyre will cope with all of those conditions but will wear quicker, vibrate more, be more noisy and offer less grip on-road. For all but mud, deep sand and very loose surfaces a 50/50 tyre will strike a happy medium and even then you’ll be surprised how well they cope in the sand once you’ve lowered the pressures.

Another option (one I employed regularly on my RTW trip) was a knobby front and a 50/50 rear. This gives a good combination of braking, steering and wear. It’s a set-up I still use today on my KTM990 Adventure.

– Pressures

Tyre pressures play a very important role with regard to grip and wear on the dirt. Lowering your tyre pressures increases the tyres footprint, and therefore grip which in turn creates less wheelspin and helps wear. However, the flipside of lower pressures is to increase the chance of rim damage and rim pinches (pinching the inner tube between the tyre and the rim, causing a puncture). This is especially true of heavy adventure bikes with their wide rims.

There is no ‘correct’ pressure; only what works for you, your bike, the load you’re carrying and the terrain you’re riding. For multi-cylinder bikes it’s somewhere between the low 20’s and high 30’s (PSI). The greater the total weight, the higher the pressure you’ll need to prevent rim pinches.

Sand, mud, roots etc will require lower pressures whilst rocks and ditches (G-outs) will warrant higher.

– Tyre creep

Single-cylinder bikes with their lower mass and narrower rims can run even lower pressures. They’re often fitted with rim locks to help prevent tyre creep at very low pressures, by clamping the tyre to the rim. If you’re bike isn’t fitted with rim locks, elongating the rims’ valve holes slightly will allow the tyre to creep a little without tearing the valve.

Remember that underinflated tyres will overheat once you get up to highway speeds so carry a pump to re-inflate your tyres if/when you return to tarmac for a long stint.

– Heavy duty inner tubes & mouses

If your bike runs tubes, then fit heavy duty (HD) tubes. Our favorites are Vee Rubber, Heidenau and Motoz as these are made from natural rubber and can be patched easily.

Replacing the inner tubes with mouses is another consideration for certain journeys on bikes with narrower rims; but they’re not road legal. The pro’s & con’s of mouses are a whole other discussion.

6. Luggage Carrying

Here at Big Sky Riders we advocate the use of soft luggage for our dirt road adventures. Whether or not that soft luggage will need additional support depends upon your particular journey; how long you will be travelling for, where are you planning to travel, whether you’re packing for 2, 3 or 4 season travel? The answers to these questions will determine the carrying capacity you require and whether or not your chosen luggage will need additional support.

Until fairly recently, even throw-over panniers have required pannier frames to keep them secure on the dirt. However, innovations in design from the likes of Kriega, Moskomoto, Giantloop and X-Country have provided us with rackless Motopacking style options.

KTM 990 Adventure motorcycle with soft luggage

X-Country Enduro bags

Whether or not these can be used with no additional support depends on the model of bike and the packing of the load. For example, my X-Country bags when loaded onto my DRZ400 sit very close to the chain guard and would benefit from a tubular rail to prevent fouling when bouncing over rough terrain. However, the same bags, with the same contents but fitted to my KTM990 cause no such problems and require no additional support.

See our guide to choosing soft luggage – How-to-choose-soft-luggage-for-adventure-motorcycling

7. Navigation & Electrical

Whether you decide to navigate with a smart phone, tablet or a dedicated GPS unit, you’re going to need to mount it securely and power it; preferably so that you can view it both seated and standing.

– Powering your GPS

Hardwired is preferable to plug-in as there’s one less connection to come loose. I prefer a permanent feed over an ignition feed as it allows us to use the GPS with the ignition turned off, and you don’t need to wait for your GPS to boot-up every time you turn your ignition on.

Some bikes are pre-wired with auxiliary outputs that can be used for a GPS. Often referred to as ‘Accessory Plugs’, they can be ignition fed, battery fed, or both. Check your manual/wiring diagram and have a root around behind the headlight. If there is an OEM supply it will be fused. If you are adding your own then make sure it is fused; the closer to the power source the better.

Garmin GPS mounting bracket fitted to KTM 990 Adventure motorcycle

KTM Hardpart GPS mount – 990 Adventure

– USB charging

Just about every electronic gadget we carry these days can be charged via USB. It makes sense therefore to add one or more charging outlets, depending upon your personal needs. The obvious place to add an outlet is to the handlebars but some bikes offer other options.

USB Outlets for motorcycles

Double USB outlet for handlebar or ‘glove box’ mounting

If your chosen outlet includes a ‘power-on’ LED and you want it permanently (battery) powered, then it’s a good idea to fit an on/off switch to prevent it from flattening the battery.

Many tankbags come with cable ports allowing you to charge on the move without compromising waterproofing. For tankbag use, you may want to fit your outlet elsewhere on the bike. As per your GPS output, don’t forget to fuse your USB supply. Running a supply to a tailpack is another option, just think about where you’re going to mount the outlet so it’s well protected from trail crud.

– Heated Grips

Once you’ve experienced heated grips you will never, ever…. ever own a motorcycle without them! Personally, I don’t like riding in winter gloves and with the addition of heated grips I can wear motocross gloves year round. Heated grips aren’t just for the cold either. They do a great job of drying-out wet gloves too.

Heated grips generally require an ignition, NOT a battery feed. However, some grips (like the Oxford Products ones below) feature an ‘intelligent’ cut-out and are designed to be connected directly to the battery.

There are three ways to add heated grips to your bike.

1. Purchase the parts from the model of your bike that is supplied with heated grips and plug them all together. The bikes wiring harness should(!) contain all the necessary connections. NOTE: This is not straightforward on bikes with a CANBUS electrical system.

  • Pros: Tidy installation.
  • Cons: Potential cost of parts and the need to drill the handlebars for internal cable routing

2. Grips included type kit like this one from Oxford Products

  • Pros: Ease of fitting. Range of control.
  • Cons: Price, bulky electrical leads, increased grip diameter for small hands.

Components of a heated handlebar grip kit for motorcycles

Moulded heated grip kit

3. Grips excluded kit like this one from Symtec.

  • Pros: Price, choice of grips, slimmest possible finished product.
  • Cons: Fitting of grips. Limited to 2 heat settings.

Heated handlebar grip kit for motorcycles

Element style heated grip kit

When using types 2 or 3, before gluing the grip or heater element in place, determine the position of the cable outlet at the throttle grip to ensure the throttle can move through its full travel without fouling on anything. Finally, check you can turn your handlebars from lock-to-lock without causing and tight cables before you fully secure them.

8. Suspension set-up

Good suspension set-up will have the single biggest positive effect on your riding experience. Good set-up will unlock your bikes true potential by allowing it to perform as it was designed. Poor suspension set-up makes for a bike that will get out of shape very quickly and become tiring to ride.

Suspension set-up is an article in itself and so for this feature we’re just going to look at basic set-up – correctly setting the sag.

– What is Sag and why is it so important?

Sag is how much the bike’s suspension compresses under its own weight (static sag) and fully loaded (race sag). Sag effects your bikes geometry and so dramatically effects how it handles. Setting your race sag correctly maintains the proper geometry of the bike, enabling it to handle as it was designed.

  • Too much sag/insufficient pre-load and the bike will feel harsh over bumps, it will likely run wide (understeer), steering will be slow and possibly twitchy with less weight on the front wheel leading to a lack of grip.
  • Insufficient sag/too much pre-load and the rear will be harsh, leading to a lack of grip and possibly a twitchy front end caused by an increase in steering head angle.

If you carry a lot of luggage and/or a pillion it’s unlikely you’ll be able to achieve the perfect set-up and a compromise will have to be made. Take a set of measurements for each of your loaded set-ups to help you make the best compromise.

– Measuring sag

To measure sag you need to take three measurements:

a) Fully extended or base setting – This is is measured with the wheels off the ground. Measure vertically from a point on the swingarm close to the wheel spindle, to a point on the rear bodywork/mudguard/rack. It doesn’t matter exactly where they are so long as you use the same points for each measurement (use some sticky tape and a marker pen if necessary).

b) Race sag – You’ll need some help with this. Climb on board wearing your riding gear and any load you want to set your bike up to carry – luggage, tools, camelback (full) etc. Bounce on the suspension to overcome any stiction in the seals, then sit where you ride. With someone to steady the bike, have a third person take a second measurement. Subtract this figure from the base measurement to calculate race sag.

Measuring motorcycle rear suspension sag
The pointed edge of the indicator makes a good reference point on this KTM 990

Race sag should be approximately 30% of suspension travel (check your manual if you don’t know how much travel your bike has).

  • If your race sag is less than 30% you need to reduce the pre-load.
  • If your race sag is greater than 30% you need to increase pre-load.

Follow your user manual to do this.

c. Static sag – Once your race sag is set correctly you can measure the static sag. Take the bike off its stand, bounce up and down on the suspension a few times to overcome any stiction, then take a third measurement using the same datum points.

a minus c = static sag.

A ballpark figure here is 5-10mm but some manufacturers list more. Check your manual.

– Is the spring rate right for you?

If you have correctly set your race sag, and find that your static sag is less than required, the spring is likely too soft for you as too much pre-load has had to be used to attain the correct race sag. If your static sag is more than required, the spring is likely too heavy for you.

Remember – all bikes are built for an ‘average’ rider of approx 12 stone (76kg) + riding gear. The further away from this average you are, the less likely it will be for you to correctly adjust the sag without having to change the spring.

– Constantly changing your load?

If you find yourself constantly changing your load (and therefore you pre-load adjustment), you may want to consider investing in a sag measuring tool that affords one person operation. Review by ADV Pulse – https://www.advpulse.com/adv-products/motool-slacker-review/

Tool for measuring sag in motorcycle suspension

Suspension sag measuring tool

– Forks

The same principle for measuring sag applies to your forks. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers and models have forks with adjustable pre-load. The pre-load on forks without external pre-load adjusters can be changed internally by changing the length of the spacer that sits on top of the spring.

If you’re measurements suggest a need to change your fork springs, the best thing you can do is consult a suspension expert. Whether that’s just to check one of several online spring rate calculators, or to discuss your personal needs is up to you. If suspension set-up is new to you there’s a lot of knowledge to be gained from dealing with an expert. Ask what alterations they’re making and why.

– Damping

Once you’ve dialled in the correct sag you can begin to think about damping adjustment. That’s a subject for a dedicated suspension article but for now we suggest a few things.

Your forks will likely have Compression & Rebound damping whilst your rear shock may have high and low speed compression damping as well as rebound – consult your manual.

Remember that ‘clicker’ positions are measured as ‘turns out’ from fully in.

  • Make a note of your bikes clicker settings as they are NOW, along with the date.
  • Keep a record of any changes you make and the differences you noticed.
  • Change one thing at a time to get a feel for the difference the adjustment makes.
  • If you get ‘lost’ return to either your recorded settings or to those recommended in your manual.

Important – Check the torque setting of all suspension bolts. This is particularly important for the fork tube pinch bolts.

Conclusion

This article is far from being an exhaustive as a lot of prep work is bike specific. If for example you’re preparing an older bike you’ll want to look into fitting braided steel brake hoses, carburetted bikes will require the breather pipes routing to prevent them from being submerged in water crossings. And so the list goes on.

The most important thing is to get your bike set-up for YOU.

Who’s writing? – Adam Lewis

 

– Our other ‘How To’ posts

How to prepare your Adventure Bike – Part 1

How to choose soft luggage for Adventure Motorcycling

 

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How to prepare your Adventure Bike – Pt.1

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KTM 990 Adventure motorcycle undergoing preparation in the workshop

Good bike prep is an important part of any adventure. Knowing your bike is well prepared (and therefore reliable) not only provides peace of mind, but means your bike will perform better, be more fun to ride and ensure the longevity of your rather expensive pride-and-joy. Doing the work yourself helps familiarise yourself with your bike so that when something needs attention out on the trail you know where the fuses are, how to take the panels off, what tools you need etc.

We’re going to break bike prep down into roughly 8 stages:

  1. Service & Maintenance
  2. Protection
  3. Ergonomics
  4. Gearing
  5. Tyres
  6. Luggage carrying
  7. Navigation & Electrical
  8. Suspension set-up

This article covers the basics that are applicable to most bikes and is primarily to help our customers get the best from their bikes. Beyond the basics, bike prep becomes much more focused on the particular requirements of the rider, the journey being undertaken and of course the bike being prepared.

An advanced list would include things like the fitting of oversize and/or additional fuel tanks, suspension modifications, auxiliary lighting etc.

Here in Part 1 we’ll look at stages 1 -4 and in Part 2  we’ll look at 5 – 8.

 

1. Service & Maintenance

Prior to embarking on a long journey, your bike should be serviced and inspected by someone competent. If that’s you then great; if not then you need to find a local dealer/independent mechanic who can do this for you. Make sure the service includes wheels & brakes. Be sure to leave sufficient time to allow for any parts to be ordered and for you to test ride your bike prior to departure.

Far from being the end of your bike prep, a full service is just the beginning. You now need to do some preventative maintenance. And yes, this is relevant to new bikes.

 
– Lubrication

Correct lubrication ensures everything moves as it should, increases the longevity of components and in doing so, keeps your maintenance bill to a minimum.

Steering head bearings, suspension linkages, swingarm pivot and wheel spindles all require lubricating with waterproof grease. In the case of steering head bearings, this means packing the bearings. Other parts not to forget include the top shock mount, rear brake pivot, side and centre stand pivots.

NOTE: Some suspension units are supplied with teflon bushings that must NOT be greased. Check your manual.

How to pack steering head bearings – courtesy of Rocky Mountain ATV

Just because a bike has been fully serviced doesn’t mean that all (or any) of this has been done. Most new bikes are supplied with a minimal amount of ‘assembly’ grease, rather than sufficient to provide long term protection in the environments we all ride in.

 

Front Wheel

Before greasing and re-fitting the front wheel spindle, check its alignment. With the front wheel removed, the spindle should slide into place and be easy to rotate by hand. If it doesn’t rotate freely, first check that it is straight by rolling in on a flat surface (glass is ideal). Having confirmed it is straight, adjust one fork leg up or down in the triple clamp until you achieve perfect alignment.

With the wheel re-fitted and the spindle tightened, roll the bike off it’s stand and with the front brake held on, ‘bounce’ the forks up and down several times. This ensures the fork legs are parallel and operating freely before tightening the pinch bolts.

Tighten your wheel spindles using a torque wrench, or with the tool you will use when out on the trail. This will ensure you can loosen them with the tools you’re carrying.

Contact cleaner, Waterproof, copper and dielectric grease and a torque wrench
Contact cleaner – Waterproof grease – Copper grease – Torque Wrench – Dielectric grease

Apply anti-seize lubricant or copper grease where aluminium and steel interact. ie Fork pinch bolts, brake caliper mounting bolts, chain adjusters etc. Brake calipers need cleaning and lubricating too, but for the purposes of this article we’ll assume this has been done correctly as part of the FULL service.

Electrical

Your bikes electrics need some lovin’ too. Un-plug all your electrical connections (one at a time!). Where necessary, clean them with electrical contact cleaner and a toothbrush. Once they’re clean, apply some Dielectric grease and plug them back together. This repels water and will protect against corrosion.

Whilst looking over your electrics, check for tight cables and chafing, particularly around the headstock. This is especially important if you have fitted additional wiring.

 
– Address the Achilles Heel

Every bike has it’s ‘Achillies Heel’. Do you know what yours is? Have you taken action to either prevent or prepare for a failure? Some bikes have multiple issues that need to be addressed. The best place to find out what they are and how they are best resolved is in the bike specific threads of forums such as ADVRider and amongst the various owner groups on Facebook. You will also find information regarding common modifications specific to your model of bike that it will benefit from.

Typical common failures include fuel & water pumps, regulator/rectifiers, alternators, slave cylinders etc

For example. The KTM 990 Adventure is prone to seal failure of the clutch slave cylinder. The best solution is to replace the OEM unit with one from Oberon.

Aftermarket clutch slave cylinder fitted to KTM 990 Adventure motorcycle
Oberon clutch slave cylinder – KTM 990 Adventure

 

2. Protection

It’s a good idea to protect your bike against both the terrain, and minor accident damage. We recommend the following additions:

 
– Bashplate

Most adventure bikes come fitted with some form of bashplate, but rarely is it up to the job. What bike you ride will determine the aftermarket choices available to you but look out for 4mm thick aluminium and additional protection.  The photo below shows just how much of a beating (and therefore protection) a quality bashplate offers.

Adventure motorcycle bashplate showing lots of damage
A quality bashplate like this one from Guard-it Technology (GiT) is cheap insurance
Adventure motorcycle bashplate with waterpump protection
Wraparound design protects the waterpump on this Suzuki DRZ400
 
– Wraparound handguards

There are several types of handguard available, from the basic plastic brushguard, designed to prevent branches activating the levers and to protect the riders fingers, through to the aluminium wraparound style that have the added benefit of protecting the levers when your bike falls over. Trapping your hand in a fall is often sited as a reason for not using wraparound guards, but several manufacturers have addressed this by forming the alloy support bar with a bend at the end of the handle bar. The idea being that this allows your hands to slide off the end in the event of a fall. Handguards also help protect against wind and rain, something BMW have concentrated on with the shape of their handguards.

Handguards fitted to KTM 990 Adventure motorcycle
Wraparound handguards with curved ends
 
– Independent mirror mounts

Most manufactures use a mirror mount cast into the master cylinders or clutch lever perch. Whilst this is the tidiest way to mount mirrors, it can also be the most expensive. Breaking that casting in a fall is likely to see you with a bill upwards of £200. There are two ways to avoid this:

  1. Folding mirrors
  2. Independent mirror mounts.

Folding mirrors work well but they’re not a guaranteed fix as it is possible to impact the mirror at such an angle that it doesn’t fold. The safest solution is therefore to fit both. Folding mirrors of course have the added benefit of being able to be folded out of the way completely.

Folding motorcycle mirrors in the folded position

Fitting independent mirror mounts eliminates the possibility of breaking your master cylinders. However, as the picture below shows, they can’t be fitted in exactly the same position. Whether or not this is an issue only you can decide.

Two right-hand motorcycle mirrors fitted showing the difference between OEM and independent mounting ositions
OEM vs independent – The difference in mirror extension
 
– Crashbars

Back in the old days, crashbars were designed with the intention of preventing a rider from trapping a leg under the bike in the event of a fall. These days they’re more of a protection for the motorcycle rather than the rider. Whether they actually offer any protection is a contentious issue. Stories abound of both positive and negative experiences. Speed, terrain and the nature of the accident all play their part, as does the design and location of the mounting points of the specific crashbars.

Some swear by them – others swear at them. It’s a personal choice.

Crashbars fitted to a BMW1 R1200GS Adventure motorcycle
This rider was delighted with the protection afforded by the Wunderlich crashbars during a couple of low speed tumbles in Morocco

Lighter weight Adventure bikes like the KTM690, Husqvarna 701 etc don’t require crash bars as their design (basically a big dirt bike) and lower weight mean they crash much better than heavier bikes.

 
– Engine casing guards

Whilst lighter weight Adventure bikes don’t require crashbars, they can benefit from case guards. Many bikes are fitted with lightweight magnesium engine casings which are unfortunately susceptible to puncturing. Adding thin aluminium ‘case savers’ vastly reduces the chance of this happening.

Aluminium case saver fitted to a Suzuki DRZ400 motorcycle
Case saver – DRZ400
 
– Case saver

A case saver can prevent a broken chain from jumping off the front sprocket and cutting through the engine casing. Again, cheap insurance.

A motorcycle case saver
Example of a Case Saver

 

3. Ergonomics

Ergonomics make a huge difference to your comfort and fatigue levels, which in turn affect your concentration. When your concentration is distracted you make mistakes. Making mistakes is inherently tiring and so you set in place a downward spiral of doom that normally ends with a phrase like “WTF am I doing here?”

Getting your ergonomics right make your bike a pleasure to ride. Your weight is in the right place so it responds to your inputs and handles as it should. It is comfortable to ride for hours, allowing you to relax and enjoy your surroundings – the main reason we enjoy Adventure motorcycling.

Setting-up your riding position to suit you can include choosing the right seat, correctly adjusting (or possibly changing) your handlebars, fitting oversize footrests and even replacing the screen.

 
– Footrests

Larger footrests will provide a larger contact patch for your boots. Not only will this provide more grip, it will spread your bodyweight over a greater area and therefore be more comfortable for long periods of standing up. Longer footrests will also provide more leverage, making your bike more responsive to footrest weighting.

Size difference between STD and Rally footrest on KTM 990 Adventure motorcycle
KTM 990 Adventure STD vs Rally footrest
 
– Seat

We all want a comfortable seat, but comfort isn’t just about how it feels under your backside. It’s height determines the angle of the bend in your knees and the angle your arms reach to the handlebars. Tall riders have the luxury of choosing their seat height to ensure a comfortable transition between seated and standing positions, whereas shorter riders may need the lowest seat possible just to help get a foot on the floor. If you have short legs, this can lead to the need to run your handlebars slightly lower than the ideal position when standing in order to prevent them being too high when seated.

Lightweight adventure bikes have narrow seats which makes standing up and moving the bike around between your legs easy. The downside is that the limited support makes them uncomfortable for long journeys.  Some aftermarket seat manufacturers (notably Corbin & Seat Concepts) offer designs with a narrow front and a wider rear in a bid to overcome this.

Seats that slope heavily towards the tank often cause pressure points that can become extremely uncomfortable if not painful, over a long journey. Having your seat re-shaped by a professional, or with some DIY surgery can transform a seats comfort and is generally cheaper than replacing the whole seat.

There are numerous accessories on the market from sheepskins to Air Hawks that offer relief. If you’re considering using any of them, think about how likely they are to stay in place with you constantly alternating between sitting and standing.

 
– Handlebars & controls

Handlebar position effects your riding position and therefore weight distribution. Adventure bikes often have the handlebars rolled too far backwards in order to make for a more relaxed on-road experience. This compromises your standing position by putting your hips too close to the bars and shifting your weight too far back. The best position for your handlebars is with the grips parallel to the ground. To achieve this, slacken the pinch bolts and roll them forwards or backwards as necessary).

You’ll now need to re-position your levers. The best position for them is just below horizontal. This will give your palms maximum purchase on the bars when standing and allow you to comfortably reach the levers when sitting.

When you tighten the lever mounts, do so sufficiently that they won’t move in use, but that in the event of being knocked in a fall, they can ‘spin’ on the bars. You can help this effect by wrapping a couple of turns of electrical insulation tape around the handlebars where the clamps sit. The clamp bolts are steel and the clamps aluminium so don’t forget a dab of copper grease.

If you’re still not comfortable once your handlebars are correctly positioned then you may want to replace them a different ‘bend’. With Renthal alone having 80+ to choose from, you’ll want a good idea of what you want to achieve before making a purchase.

Renthal mtorcycle handlebar bend chart screenshot
Renthal Handlebar bend dimensions

 

Important – Once you’ve re-positioned your handlebars you’ll need to do a lock-to-lock check. With your bars fully turned in each direction, check that your levers/handguards do not foul the screen, GPS etc and that your hands cannot be trapped. Check that all cables and hoses still have some free play in them, are not pulled tight around the headstock or chafing on anything. A rise tickover when turning the handlebars from lock-to-lock is a UK MOT failure.

 
– Rear Brake Pedal

The rear brake is overlooked by many with a road orientated background but it plays an important roll in riding on the dirt. As such, it needs to be adjusted so that you can use it. A good starting point is to set the height of the pedal so that it is slightly higher than the the footrest. To do this, hold a straight edge on the top of the footrest and adjust the brake pedal accordingly.

Depending on your bike and your choice of riding boots, this may not be sufficiently high in which case you need to modify the pedal to suit you.

 
– Lock stops

Finally, if your bike is fitted with adjustable/removable lock (steering) stops, adjust them to allow the maximum rotation of the steering. Be sure to watch for for any trapping hazards whilst doing this. Screens, bodywork, radiators, GPS etc.

 
– Screen

Something else that can take a lot of experimenting with to get right is the screen. Height, width, shape and angle all contribute towards a screens performance. All screens create turbulence and noise, but that’s relative to where the riders head is positioned (determined by the riders height), and the choice of helmet. Therefore what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. It’s trial and error.

A screen that offers perfect protection for motorway cruising is likely to be too big for dirt riding and so a compromise has to be made. Too tall a screen can limit vision, prevent you from getting your weight far forward enough on steep climbs and become a chest impact hazard. Too wide and your re-positioned handlebars, especially with handguards fitted, may foul on it.

Height comparison of KTM 990 Motorcycle Brittania Composites screen
This Britannia Composites adjustable screen does a pretty good job both on and off road

If you’re adapting a dirt bike that doesn’t have a screen it’s a good idea to fit one. The difference in windchill is extraordinary. Search the web for images of your bike+screen and you’ll find plenty of ideas.

A Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle screen fitted to a Suzuki DRZ400
This Royal Enfield Himalayan screen works well, grafted onto a Suzuki DRZ400

 

4. Gearing

If you’re planning on riding slow, technical, steep, twisty terrain then you may want to consider lowering your bikes gearing. This will allow you to ride at a slower speed without constantly riding the clutch and will make controlling your speed much easier and far less tiring; not to mention better for your clutch. Remember though that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and in this case what you’ll gain at the bottom end you’ll loose at the top end. ie less top speed. This isn’t a problem for big adventure bikes with 6-gears and oodles of power, but small capacity bikes will want to strike a balance with on-road cruising speed.

If your speedometer is gearbox rather than wheel driven, changing the gearing can effect the reading. The solution would appear to be a third party re-calibrator. Do a web search.

Lowering your gearing is achieved by changing the size of the sprockets (number of teeth) that comprise your final drive. Final drive ratio is calculated by dividing the rear sprocket by the front sprocket. The higher the number, the LOWER the ratio.

Final drive gear ratios for Suzuki DRZ 400 motorcycle

In the above chart you can see a range of gearing that includes some overlap. ie 14:44 and 15:47 are effectively the same. Also note that one front tooth is approximately equivalent to three rear.

– Considerations

Front sprockets are cheaper than rears but have approximately 3x the effect.

Fitting a larger sprockets may require a longer chain, whilst fitting smaller sprockets may require shortening the chain.

As with many things, gearing comes down to personal preference. Again, the best place to start looking is in the numerous Facebook user groups for your bike and ADVRider.

 
– Be aware

Fitting different size sprockets can cause clearance issues. The red 13 & 16 in the above chart highlight sprockets that cause clearance issues and are to be avoided on a DRZ400.

  • Too small a front sprocket can cause the chain to cut into the chain slider (and and eventually the swingarm).
  • Too large a front sprocket can cut into the chain slider as it wraps around the end of the swingarm.

  • Too small a rear sprocket can cause the chain to cut into the chain slider.
  • Too large a rear sprocket can cut into the chain guide.
 
– Wear

With a final drive ratio of approximately 3:1, it should come as no surprise that front sprockets wear approximately 3x quicker than rear sprockets. By replacing the front sprocket when it starts to show wear rather than when it’s worn out, you will reduce chain wear and therefore rear sprocket wear.

Larger front sprockets wear slower than smaller ones.

There is a line of thought that suggests avoiding gear ratios of equal numbers (ie 15:45 45= 3:1) can also increase longevity. This gets rather technical so we’ll leave you to research it for yourselves.

 

In Part 2…

We hope you’ve enjoyed the read, created some food for thought and perhaps even coaxed some of you off the sofa and into the garage.

In part 2 we’ll look at stages 5 -8.

  1. Service & Maintenance
  2. Protection
  3. Ergonomics
  4. Gearing
  5. Tyres
  6. Luggage carrying
  7. Navigation & Electrical
  8. Suspension set-up

Who’s writing? – Adam Lewis

 

Our other ‘How To’ posts

How to prepare your Adventure Bike – Part 2

How to choose soft luggage for Adventure Motorcycling

 

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Covid-19 Update

By in News, Posts 2 Comments
We are open as normal for enquiries and bookings.

However, we have postponed the sold out Spring Atlas 8 tour until September. Like the rest of the world we hope that #stayathome will have a huge, positive effect on the situation and allow a return to normal living as the summer progresses.

Like most of you reading this, we should be doing something else right now… We had just concluded an excellent Raid MedLantic tour in Morocco and were busy scouting suitable trails in Portugal. Bikes had started landing from Fly and Ride ahead the imminent arrival of our guests for the Spring Atlas Eight tour; when the global shut-down hit.

Currently, our Autumn Atlas Eight tour is scheduled for October 10th and bookings are open.

Whilst the lock-down has taken our calendar and given it a good shake-up, it hasn’t diminished our workload.
We’re currently working our way through our notes, photos and GPS tracks for what will be an epic adventure tour of Portugal. We’ll have a pilot tour ready for a limited group of riders soon, and will schedule it just as soon as is feasible.

Stay safe, stay fit and keep your bikes polished.

How to choose soft luggage for Adventure Motorcycling

By in How To, Posts 5 Comments

We’ve had more questions regarding soft luggage than anything else in recent months, so we thought we’d take a look at how to choose soft luggage for adventure motorcycling. With some relatively new names like Enduristan and Moskomoto coming to the party, and new offerings from the more established manufacturers like Kriega, Wolfman and Giant Loop, it’s no surprise there’s some confusion regarding what to choose.

In this post I hope to give you an idea of what to think about when looking for luggage and take a look at what’s on the market. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If there are any glaring omissions please email us.

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