There’s a draw to adventure motorcycle riding. Even if you’ve never owned a bike or ridden one before, you’ve undoubtedly seen the pictures or heard the stories – the ones packed-full of spectacular views, incredible people, and pushed comfort zones. It’s freedom, speed, connection, and scenery that leave you feeling more connected and grounded than ever before.

RMATVMC Red Rocks to Mountain Tops Ride

The why of adventure riding doesn’t make the how any less daunting, though. There are so many questions to be answered, so many plans and budgets to be balanced that a lot of us are afraid to even start. If you fall under that category, then this article is for you. Five incredible riders with five different perspectives and five different backgrounds have come together to answer those questions and give you the advice you need to get started.

Continue reading below or use the buttons above to navigate to the questions you need answered. No frills, no puff, just the facts from some of the most experienced, respected, and downright cool ADV guys out there.

The Riders

Jesse Kimball: There’s a lot to be said about taking the road less traveled. Or, if you’re Jesse Kimball, there’s an awful lot to see. From weekly “Hump Day” rides in southern California to the Flying Monkey ADV Rally in rural Utah, Kimball takes every opportunity to get out there and experience everything this world has to offer.

Tyler Theobald (eveRide): eveRide’s home base is Utah, a sort of dual-sport mecca for any respecting ADV rider. When he’s not exploring red rocks and mountain trails, he’s hosting riding groups and posting helpful YouTube videos. Either way, Tyler is always learning something new or seeing something cool, and that makes him an invaluable resource to every level of rider.

Tim Collins (FTA Adventures): If you’ve ever wondered if you can make a life out of riding motorcycles, Tim Collins is proof that you can. He’s always had a passion for adventure, it just evolved into a passion for motorcycles after he started riding at 19 and got an education in motorcycle mechanics after that. While his life may look perfect on paper, though, Tim has had his fair share of struggles and hardship. But through riding, he’s been able to expand, grow, and overcome. He knows what it’s like to fall down, and he knows how adventure riding can pick you up and put you back together.

“Round the World” (RTW) Paul: If you’re looking for Paul, he’s outside. Where? That’s the better question. He didn’t earn his moniker for nothing, and he proves that with each ride he takes. He’s out there day after day, gaining experiences that he’s ready to share with every rider, everywhere.

Justin Deschamps: Justin Deschamps is our very own Brands Manager here at RMATVMC, and he keeps us at the top of our game. From product development and testing to how-to videos and insane motorcycle challenges, Justin has a part to play in just about everything we do. He’s also awesome at wheelies (at least most of the time, anyway), so that more than qualifies him for this task.

For Beginners

Q: Why did you start riding?

In almost every aspect, adventure riding is an involved hobby. Your time will be spent researching, planning, packing, repairing, and riding. Resources will be dedicated to a bike, its parts, and your gear. The point is, the hobby is an investment and to make it a worthwhile one, you need to understand why you’re riding. What are you looking for? What are you hoping ADV riding can give you?

A: Jesse: As a kid in the 80’s I grew up camping with my family and mountain biking and in the mid nineties I began riding motorcycles and adventure racing. I loved the freedom that a motorcycle gave me and I loved the multi day adventures in the wilderness that came along with adventure racing. As my enthusiasm dulled with adventure racing my obsession with motorcycles grew. I rode 2000 DRZ 250 and then a 2005 CRF450X. My rides went from a couple hours in the morning to all day adventures that needed to be planned around gas stations. Then one day near the end of 2009 I walked into the Kawasaki dealership in St. George, Utah. They had an odd looking bike sitting on the floor that caught my attention, a bike that I never really noticed in all the times I had been in the shop. I asked the owner what it was and he told me it was an 2009 KLR650 Adventure Bike. It was a big heavy dual sport bike that I just decided I had to buy. So I did. I rode my new KLR650 home and dove right into the Adventure Bike rabbit hole on the internet, joining ADVRIDER, watching “Long Way Round” and trying to find Adventure Bike Events nearby. I immediately started planning KLR650 rides from my house in Hurricane Utah and traveled to my first organized event out in Death Valley. The group of riders that I met in Death Valley in early 2010 have become some of my best lifelong friends. Many of my most memorable moments in my life have taken place while adventure riding.

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Above the clouds tonight!

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A: Tyler: I’ve always loved riding motorcycles but was almost killed on my cruiser while commuting, so riding on back roads/off-road was a way to continue my passion for motorcycling without dealing with distracted or generally bad drivers. Long Way Around and many awesome videos on YouTube (Half Throttle and Secret Garden Project) were incredibly influential.

Q: How did you choose your ADV bike?

The “what” you ride is just as important as the “where.” If riding leads to some of the most memorable moments of your life, what bike do you trust to take you there?

A: Tim: I think the most important feature is looking for the bike that gets you most excited to ride. I plan my campsite to offer the best view when I peek out my tent first thing in the morning. Opening my tent to the sun making its way through the trees, the fresh mountain air and the birds chirping away, my bike right there waiting for me in perfect view. Finding the bike that you love waking up to is the most important feature in my opinion. I travel solo most of the time, and the one companion that is always with me is my bike. Any flaw or strength of a bike can change the flow and ease of the adventure, but finding a bike you love makes it all worthwhile.

A: Jesse: The first feature that comes to mind is that an ADV bike should have a comfortable seat and seating position. I have on more than one occasion bought a new adventure bike, loaded it up with everything that I need for a long weekend of travel, hit the road and within the first couple of hours couldn’t stop squirming and shifting weight off my rear end and precious man bits. Having a comfortable seat and having the handlebars and controls adjusted properly will allow you to focus on the road ahead and not on the pain in your butt. Another feature that I have grown to really appreciate is proper wind protection. For shorter day rides or at slower speeds it may not be as important, however if you plan on riding all day at freeway speeds the wind buffeting and noise can drain you and become a distraction. Proper wind protection will help prevent fatigue and just make for a more pleasurable riding experience for the long haul.

Q: What’s one thing every beginner rider should know?

In the end, it’s about starting from the beginning. The little things that are hard to pick up at first add up to the big things that make it harder to ride. That said, what are some things every beginner should keep in mind to keep them from getting discouraged?

A: Jesse: One of the most important things that I tell all of the beginners when they show up to one of my groups is to RIDE THEIR OWN RIDE. Don’t try to keep up with the experienced rider in front of you and stay within your comfort zone while you are getting used to riding your new adventure bike. I have seen it time and time again where a new rider shows up with a 100+ horse power, 500-600 lb. adventure bike and dumps the bike trying to ride over their head. Secondly, I try to encourage all riders to wear All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT). Proper boots and having padding and protection in all the right places increases your chances of returning home in one piece and without the aches and pains associated with hitting the ground or worse. If you own an adventure bike it is not “IF” you are going to hit the ground, it’s “WHEN”. I would consider myself a very experienced rider and I drop my bike or fall over on a regular basis along with all the other experienced riders that I ride with. Falling over is no big deal when you have the proper gear on, but a simple stop on an off-camber road and a topple over can destroy elbows, knees and hips. Trust me I have seen it.

A: Justin: When buying luggage, sleeping bags, tents, apparel, etc., consider good stuff from the get-go. I dabbled with a cheap tent and sleeping bag only to find out it wasn’t good enough and had to buy better later. Now I am stuck with the old stuff I will never use again. I would have been money ahead to start off with the good stuff.

Justin on the RR2MT Ride

Gearing Up

Q: How do you plan your routes?

The “where” of adventure riding, for many, is the big draw. It’s what everyone, whether they ride or not, sees first in the pictures. Trees so dense you can almost smell the pine, mountain passes so wide you can almost feel the breeze, and highways so free and open you can almost hear the Willie Nelson. So how do you pick your “where?”

A: Jesse: I typically plan my ADV Rides around who I will be riding with and their riding abilities and experience. For example, I try to plan all of my weekly Hump Day Rides around beginner and intermediate riders. I treat the Hump Day Rides like a skills workshop/training ride. We have dozens of riders who have progressed from total noob to expert level adventure bike riders over the past few years just from riding on a regular weekly basis and learning from their more experienced riding buddies. Now, if I am planning something more difficult, like a weekend in Death Valley, I will plan my routes around a smaller group of more experienced riders. For the weekly rides, I will usually use an app like REVER or Gaia to create routes, however for my longer multi day adventure I still prefer pulling out an Atlas and paper maps. I am a little old school that way. I grew up with a map and compass and enjoyed the occasional orienteering event. A Garmin GPS is always carried for back up.

A: Tyler: If I start with a plan, I’m always disappointed because the nature of adventure is that problems will inevitably happen and the plan won’t work out. I ride for the flow of it. For me, riding turns into an exercise in mile-crunching if it’s scheduled on a spreadsheet. Sometimes it’s nice to sleep in. Or meditate by a lake. Or sit and talk with some random stranger at the gas station. Sometimes it’s nice to cut off and explore an unmapped trail. Get too rigid and you’ll miss the best stuff.

Q: What do you look for in your riding gear? How do you choose your riding gear?

There’s one thing that comes between you and the elements, the pavement, and everything else, and that’s your gear. What do you look for in gear, and how do you know when you’ve found it?

A: Tim: This has been an ongoing evolution for me, and it takes some trial and error. I am a bit of a gear head so I start my decision with a lot of research. Over time I found the type of gear that works best for me, but those needs are always changing as I progress as an ADV rider. I find quality often justifies paying a little more because adventure motorcycling can present a particularly grueling set of challenges and you want to make sure your gear is up to the task.

Tim Collins: Riding Gear
Photo Credit: Tim Collins

A: Paul: [Good gear is] durable, breathable and waterproof on the top, solid protection underneath, and not looking like a billboard.

A: Justin: [You need] good venting and waterproofing. You experience huge swings in climate when adventure riding. It can be crazy hot across a valley, and then you climb in elevation and hit a hail storm and can freeze your butt off. Good, versatile gear is a must!

Q: How do you get your bike ready for an adventure ride?

Your bike is your most trusted companion on your ride. It goes where you go, passes through what you pass through, and that means it should be as prepared as you are. What’s the best way to do that?

A: Paul: I like to leave with all new consumables, tubes, tires, brake pads, fluids, fuel, air and oil filters. I attach a clutch and throttle cable to the existing ones, just in case they fail along the way. I carry a puncture repair kit and, unless its brand-new, make sure I have some spare glue as it can dry out over time. [It’s worth it to] double check your sag, to make sure its correct if you don’t normally carry luggage. And go for a short test ride to make sure your ergonomics are still the same with the bike loaded and your luggage is fixed firmly in place, equally balanced side to side, and can’t move or interfere with your wheels, chain, exhaust, suspension or turning radius.

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The tracks I ride are kind of remote at times. The way life is right now with the pandemic, not such a bad thing to reduce interactions. In the last 2500 miles 4000km I’ve only see two other riders on dirt bikes. . . . . Huge thanks to: @moskomoto @klimmotorcycle @motoztires @motozhq @bigagnes_ @motominded @dirttricks @ridetrailtech @tacomoto.co @senabluetooth @warp9_racing @cacycleworks @bulletproofdesigns @rmatvmc @garminoutdoor , ***************** , #ktmrtw #motorcycle #motorbike #ktmusa #ktm_official #makeeveryridecount #makelifearide #instamoto #instamotogallery #500exc #6days #adv #advrider #advriderofficial #dualsport #enduro #moskomoto #overland #solorider #ReadyToRace #upshift_online #adventurebikerider #advmoto #bulletproofdesigns #klimlife #dirtbike #rmatvmc #zumoXT

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Q: How do you pack your gear?

If you take the time to carefully select your riding gear, you should put the same care into how you pack it. Everyone has their own considerations, methods, and fool-proof tips – what are yours?

A: Tim: My kit stays the same for a long trip or a short trip. I pack the least amount of clothes possible and it seems that a two- to three-day supply works best even for long trips. This cuts down on the amount of dirty clothes I am carrying, and I can always find a water source to wash my clothes. As far as gear, even though I am on a heavy ADV bike, I like to pack as light as I can while still having what I need to be comfortable. I spend a lot of time and effort searching for the best gear for my needs. Anything with double use is an instant win in my book. There is something so gratifying about getting it all right, finding the perfect setup for your needs, and being able to venture off into the wild knowing you have everything you need to survive whatever the adventure throws at you!

Tim Collins: Packing Gear
Photo Credit: Tim Collins

A: Paul: I like to lay all my gear out weeks before I leave so I can look at it and reduce it where and when I can. Laundry detergent is smaller than clothes, so I carry a small amount of it to reduce my overall pack size. I purposely don’t have my luggage close by otherwise if there is space, I’ll naturally use it. Also, consider the absolute hottest day you might ride on, this is when you will have the most in your luggage, make sure it will all fit. Always pack what YOU want and what makes YOU feel comfortable but also consider your pack weight/ size might determine where you ride. Remember to leave some space for carrying food on the road if you plan to camp in remote areas.

Staying Prepared

Q: What tools do you pack for your adventure ride?

Even the most methodical of plans can crumble in the face of one flat tire – that is, if you’re not prepared for it. At that point, though, how do you know what to prepare for? Which tools are must-haves and which are safe to leave behind?

A: Paul:The Motion Pro Trail Tool Kit and Motion Pro axle wrenches/ tire irons cover most situations that trail type situations might throw at you. After that, it’s more specifics to your bike, any unique fasteners, or aftermarket parts that you might have added that a standard tool kit can’t handle. If you already have a garage full of tools, just put your bike on a stand, grab a bucket, and put a tool on everything be it an allen, socket, wrench, torx etc. on each fastener then throw it in the bucket. Go from top to bottom, front to back, side to side, when you are done see how many duplicates you have in the bucket and then try to figure out ways to reduce what’s left. Do you need both sockets and wrenches, or could you get by with just one…for example. Do a little research and see if anyone has done the work for you and has compiled the “ultimate toolkit” for your bike. There is no one tool kit out there that will do everything, you will always need to change the odd thing, but this is a good article for a starting point. It’s an article I wrote about the process for Cake.co (which is a website owned by Chris MacAskill, the founder of ADVrider).

A: Justin: Just know your bike – make sure you have tools to do most things on your bike. Spend time at home working on your bike. Take things apart, grease bearings, inspect wear items, etc. Not only will this prevent some repairs on your trip, but it makes you familiar with process and tools needed to get repairs done when something does come up. Also, when riding with others, share the load of packing tools. In other words, don’t all be packing the same thing. While some redundancy is not a bad idea, some bulky or rarely used tools are just unnecessary weight. Spread that stuff out. Lastly, always be prepared for flat tires. It is by far the most common mechanical issue ADV riders will have. Expect it!

Justin Changing a Flat Tire

A: Tyler: Standard stuff… 8,10,12 mm sockets, allen keys. A multitool knife with a philips, flat head, and needle nose pliers is good. Knipex pliers are outstanding! A good tire change kit is a must-have. Tire spoons, bead buddy, stem puller, a bit of Gold Bond does wonders for a tube change and monkey butt prevention.

Q: What’s one piece of gear you can’t live without?

Sometimes, the best preparation is being informed. It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you know, and that’s something you can’t quite pack. Those are golden nuggets of information. In this case, it’s a tried-and-true piece of gear an expert ADV rider won’t ride without. What’s yours?

A: Tyler: When you ride a lot, especially when you push yourself, you’re bound to run into trouble. I’ve had several brushes with death, and I will always ride with twice as much water as I think I need, a small water filter, and won’t leave home without a GPS beacon (Garmin inReach).

A: Justin: Outside of the obvious necessary riding gear, I would say extra warm clothing. I have never regretted packing an extra base or mid layer. Most of the time I don’t need it, but when I do, I am so glad I have it! Also, make sure someone in the group is packing a good, well-thought-out first aid kit. Sorry, that is more than one!

Expert Tips

Extended Adventure Riding

The adventure rides that most people dream of – long, winding days on the trail and cool, starry campsites at night – are often the ones that seem the most implausible. For many, the idea of an extended, multi-day ride is daunting. So, how did you overcome that? What is your advice for riders experiencing this same uncertainty?

Q: What do you pack for long adventure rides?

A: Justin: Here are a couple tips for packing once you dial in what you need and like to pack: 1. Keep it all together after the ride so you are ready for the next ride. 2. I keep a Google Sheet with the list of items I keep in each bag (left pannier, right pannier, tank bag, tail bag, etc.). When I go on another ride, I can quickly confirm each bag has everything without putting a lot of thought into it. I can be ready in a matter of minutes and there are never any accidental forgotten items. During the ride, I can pull out my phone and add or remove items from the list for the next trip based on the experience of the ride I am on. My list is always being refined.

Riding through a Puddle

Adventure Riding Internationally

It’s the Holy Grail for adventure riding enthusiasts – taking you and your bike across borders, sometimes even overseas. Not many have experience in it, but those that do have the stories, pictures, dents, and scars to prove it. “Round the World” Paul gave us his take.

Q: What’s the cost of riding internationally?

A: Paul: Outside of the US/ Canada hotels/ motels/ hostels are cheap so that possible big expensive is drastically reduced. ATM machines are everywhere, know your exchange rates. Actual day to day costs are a lot cheaper than most expect. Over the last 400,000km I have averaged approximately $50 a day, that number is covering fuel, food, accommodation, consumables and shipping if/ when required. Some countries will be less, some will be more but it gives a good base, and BTW I don’t live on Ramon pot noodle, I eat very well on the road. I spend more time in cheaper countries and less time in more expensive ones, and try and head to the cheaper ones first so my budget goes further. Expect US/ Canada, Western Europe and Australia to be the most expensive areas, and of course big cities anywhere.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about riding internationally?

A: Paul: It’s probably communication and being able to get exactly what you want. A good thing to have with you is a picture dictionary, and if that fails, be prepared to do charades or draw what you need. If you expect things to be different, you’ll adjust quicker than trying to compare to what you are used to, go with the flow, expect things to take a lot longer than you are used to. On days when you aren’t riding but need to get ‘other stuff’ done – It is very common for RTW riders to tell you that getting ONE THING accomplished in a day is a good day, two or more things is almost miraculous.

It’s Your Turn

The only question left to answer is what’s holding you back? It’s time to find your why, and these riders have given you the road map to do it. It’s your turn to get out there and ride.