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RIDE Adventures Blog

13 Common Mistakes ADV Riders Make

Posted by Kurt Spurlock on June 2, 2023
Kurt Spurlock
Kurt Spurlock is a writer for the motorcycle and outdoor industries with 15 years of experience in the saddle. When it comes to adventure bikes, he’s all about keeping it fast and light, and has taken his “street legal” DR650 just about everywhere from Big Sur to the Smokey Mountains.

13-adv-rider-mistakesADV riders have a lot to master between dirt, pavement, international travel, and everything else that comes with proper adventure.

Here are the most common errors we see ADV riders pick up along the journey. 

Look, we get it: Aside from golf and interpretive dance, few active pursuits have as much nuance as ADV riding.

One minute you're dragging pegs around paved corners, the next you're sliding your bike through gnarly downhill gravel turns. 

adventure motorcycle overlooking a cliff on our Utah tour.

"ADV riding is complex, which creates ample opportunity to pick up bad habits." 

Add in the fact that most ADV riders are piloting 500+ pound machines through this ever-changing landscape, and it should be no surprise that a few bad habits are bound to develop. 

To that end, we decided to compile 13 of the most common mistakes we've watched ADV riders make on our tours over the last decade or so. The list that follows is by no means comprehensive, but we'll wager anyone reading this has been guilty of at least one of these two-wheeled faux-pas. 

1. Parking Too Close to the Road

First thing's first: Stop parking so close to the road! This is one we see all the time on our adventure tours from new and experienced riders alike, which is a shame because it's such an easy fix.

Eric getting off the bike the wrong way into oncoming traffic.."Don't be this guy. Park as far off the road as you have room for, and make sure to leave room for kickstand lean as well." 

Anytime you park parallel to the road, you need to leave yourself plenty of space both to step off the bike and to allow the bike to lean over on its kickstand.

The simple fix here is to pull as far off the road as possible, and if you can, park at a 90 degree angle to oncoming traffic to make for safer mounting/dismounting as well. 

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2. Crushing Your Foot With the Side Stand

There's nothing quite like a centerstand for impromptu roadside repairs, but just because your bike has two stands doesn't mean you should use them at the same time.

If the center stand is down, the side stand should be up, plain and simple.

Eric showing how not to crush your toes while taking your motorcycle off the centerstand."Remember, do not have your kickstand down while taking your motorcycle off the centerstand otherwise, you'll be walking with a limp" 

That's because when you go to push the bike off the center stand, 99% of the time your foot is laying in wait in the exact position when the side stand wants to drop down.

Save yourself a toenail or two and practice taking your bike off the centerstand without relying on the side stand to keep it upright. Covering your brake and knowing how to balance the bike is all the insurance ADV riders should ever need. 

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3. Turning Around the Wrong Direction on Slopes

Unplanned turnarounds are commonplace for ADV riders out exploring new areas.

Sometimes there's a gate at the top of a hill climb, sometimes a route just gets too gnarly, muddy, or steep to attempt: Whatever it is, learning to turn around properly on a hill can save you a lot of pain and embarrassment.


"If you have to turn around on an incline, use gravity to your advantage." 

The simple rule of thumb here is to turn your bike around with the nose facing up the hill. This allows you to use the engine to pull forward, and gravity to roll backward, both of which are crucial on heavy ADV machines.

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4. Favor Your Lean Uphill on Turnarounds

Piggybacking on our last point, the second common mistake we see ADV riders making on steep turnarounds is forgetting to bias their weight up the hill.

This is a total no-brainer if you stop and think about it, but we've seen more than our fair share of bikes (and riders) go down trying to put a foot out downhill. 

weight-the-uphill-leg-adv-rider-mistakes"If you're turning on an incline, you should always have the bike leaned up the hill, not down." 

The fix is simple: Lean your bike up the hill when turning around. This guarantees the ground will be in your reach where you need it, which keeps your bike from somersaulting down the hill with or without you.  

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5. Hurrying to Incorrectly Pick Up Your Bike

Dropping your bike is never fun, but the simple truth is that even the most experienced ADV riders do it all the time. There's no reason to be in a hurry to pick it up "before anyone sees you" so take your time and do it right. 

ADV rider in Colombia dropping his bike.

"Dropping your bike is part of getting better. Take your time and pick it up with pride."

Being in a hurry to get your bike off the ground is a great way to throw out your back, twist some crucial joint, or just end up with your bike back on the ground where you started.

Eric showing how to lift with your legs when picking up a motorcycle."Grab the hand grip and rack frame while using your legs to heave that bike upright as shown by Eric above"

Everybody who's trying to get better drops their bike occasionally: Just own it and take your time to get it back upright the first time. 

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6. Excessive Concern About Bike Settings

Another common issue we constantly see ADV riders making on our tours is getting way too worked up about having their bike perfectly dialed for any given condition.

Is my tire pressure right for the dirt? Is my preload right for my weight? Does my ass look big in these pants?

Eric and mechanic Eric making adjustments in Patagonia to a customers bike.

"Stop worrying about your settings and just focus on riding. Basic skills will trump tire pressure and preload every time."

You get the picture, but the message here is simple: Having confidence on the bike is more about mastering basic skills than having the perfect settings.

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Focus on how you're riding and what your bike is doing and stop obsessing about all the small things. 

7. Be Patient and Respect Authority

Adventure riding often means crossing borders, and crossing borders means dealing with the local authorities. Border crossings take time, and tapping your foot or asking to speak to a manager is a great way to get nowhere fast.

Getting stopped by authorities at a border crossing.

"Border crossings take time. Patience and a smile will almost always get you where you want to go."

This is something we tell every ADV rider that joins us on an international tour. Be patient, be respectful, and do everything you can to make dealings with local officials as smooth as possible. 

8. Pick the Right Size Bike for You

Somewhere deep in our subconscious, we're all wired to want to the biggest, baddest horse in the stable. In the real world, however, the meanest fire-breathing adventure bike is rarely the best bike for the job

ADV rider blazing through a water crossing on a bike KTM 1090 Adventure motorcycle.

"150+ horsepower sounds great on paper, but 99% of us are much better suited with much less."

Having a bike that's some combination of too big or too powerful is a sure-fire recipe to have zero confidence and even less fun out on a tour.

Find a bike that fits both your body and your skill level, and you'll have a hell of a lot more fun regardless of where or how you're riding. 

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9. Give Yourself (and Others) Some Space!

This is another one we're constantly preaching on our guided tours. Leave the Rossi antics at the racetrack and give the rider in front of you some space!

Tyler giving Garrett some space while riding in the desert.

"Give yourself and the riders around you room to react. Things can change quickly in the middle of nowhere."

We understand that chasing your buddies down a twisty road is good fun, but out here it's just not worth it. You need space to react to changing conditions, and even if you're riding at a pro level, the rider in front of you may not be.  

10. Visually Scan and Take In Everything

Chances are you've heard the term "look where you want to go." This typically refers to looking as far through a corner as possible, but we apply it to pretty much everything on two wheels. 

Adv rider riding through a canyon while visually taking it all in.

"The terrain in front of you is important, but hazards also come from the side of the road on a regular basis."

Don't get stuck looking a set distance ahead, even on a straight and clear gravel road.

ADV riders should constantly be scanning both as far ahead as possible and to both sides of the road as wildlife and other distractions often come from your periphery. 

11. Avoid Target Fixation

Piggybacking onto the importance of scanning, we'd be remiss if we didn't address one of the most common mistakes we see ADV riders make out on the road: Target fixation. 

Adv rider taking a break on the side of the road.

"Rocks, wildlife, handsome tour guides: Whatever it is, don't stare at it unless you want to. hit it."

This is a well-documented issue: Whether you want to avoid that rock, rut, or squirrel, you're all but guaranteed to hit it if you keep staring at it.

Adv rider showing how to avoid obstacles."If you are more of a visual learner click here for a section about target fixation on our youtube channel"

Take note of obstacles in front of you, choose a line that avoids them, and then get back to "looking where you want to go" as soon as possible

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12. Too Many Distractions

You've got enough to pay attention to on the road ahead. Add in a cell phone, a GPS, the menus on your bike, and the music on your Bluetooth headset, and it's no wonder distracted riding accidents have become the new norm. 

Cockpit view with too many gadgets on the handlebars.

"Modern dashes are loaded with distractions. Think twice before taking your hands off the bars while the bike is in motion."

Our recommendation? Take the time to pull over if you need to adjust something. Riding a motorcycle is a dynamic activity, and dividing your attention could cost you your life. 

13. Front Brake Shyness

Last but not least: Don't neglect your front brake. We ride with plenty of ADV riders who think that just because you're on the dirt, the front brake is taboo. 

Adv rider tearing up the desert in Patagonia.

"Regardless of the terrain you're on, shedding speed as quickly as possible pretty much always means using both brakes."

This is simply not true. Learning to ride safely and effectively, both on road and off, means learning to maximize your braking on any terrain.

Even on loose downhills, you'll slow down much quicker using both brakes, so practice working that front lever until you've got a good feel for when it wants to start locking up. 

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Final Thoughts on ADV Rider Mistakes

Whether you're a brand new ADV rider an old dog with a few bad habits, we all make mistakes and we all have room to improve. Truth be told it's the regularity of common mistakes like these that led us to start our adventure riding training programs in the first place. 

Eric giving instruction at one of our ADV Riding Training Courses.

We've found damn near everyone can learn a  valuable lesson from a "back to basics" approach.

Whether that's something as complex as traction or as simple as getting turned around in a tough spot, correcting common mistakes goes a long way to building confidence. 

→Read More: 6 Parking a Motorcycle: 6 Rookie Mistakes and Street & ADV Motorcycle Training.

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