Let’s face it, we’ve all made plenty of ADV rookie mistakes on the first bigger rides. Experience is the best teacher, but can some of these pitfalls be avoided if you do your research?
I’ve already shared some of the dumbest mistakes I’ve made while traveling, and adventure rider Pedro Mota has shared his tips. But paring it all down to the very basics, it seems to me these are the most common ADV rookie mistakes:
Shiny New Bikes
Budget issues aside, is a brand new motorcycle the best choice for your first long-distance journey? If it’s a Yamaha T7, perhaps. But for most new riders, it takes a little while to get comfortable on a new bike, learn the basics of maintenance, and get to know the bike well enough to be able to solve issues as they inevitably crop up. Granted, in this day and age, finding capable mechanics and getting spare parts isn’t difficult, even in more remote places. Still, riding a bike that you have owned for a while, know well, and feel comfortable riding for long periods of time may be a better policy in the long run.
A simple thing I learned the hard way while crossing the Andes seven years ago: 400 miles on flat terrain and good roads isn’t the same as 400 miles across the mountains on pothole-riddled backroads. When planning your routes, always factor in terrain (and often, weather, or at the very least, seasons which are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere). If you’re going to be riding through countries or regions known to experience extreme floods, landslides, or earthquakes, that’s also something to think about and plan a few alternative routes just in case – again, another hard lesson in Peru last year when the rainy season started early and a large bridge on one of the main highways got washed away, almost costing me a 800-mile detour to Chile.
If it’s your first long trip, it’s natural to want to see and ride as much as you can… But keep the daily mileage under 350 anyway. It’s not just the miles and the riding: it’s the weather, the unexpected delays, the border crossings and police checkpoints, contact with locals, finding places to stay, and much more when you’re constantly on the road. Reaching your destination completely exhausted and in the dark is no fun, so plan shorter day rides and enjoy the journey.
The Wrong Riding Buddies
Traveling with friends and partners is great…until it isn’t. If you’re planning your first big ADV trip, go alone – or, if you’re bringing a riding buddy or a spouse, at least do a pre-run and discuss what are you both expecting out of the ride, how many miles you’re going to be doing, and what’s you conflict policy (when you get into an argument, do you just stop talking for a while, take a day off, ride separately for a bit, or try to solve it then and there?). Having an honest and open discussion before the trip and doing a shorter ride together to figure out whether you’re compatible can save you a lot of headaches during the journey.
It’s important to prep and plan for your trip, but allow for detours, delays, and changes in the itinerary. If your plan is to ride for, say, three months, factor in at least two weeks for unexpected things to happen – because they will. From bike breakdowns and bad weather to paperwork mix-ups, longer border crossings, and the need to just stop and rest, these things will inevitably happen and cause a lot of stress if your schedule is Excel-sheet tight and you need to make distance or time. Being flexible is the #1 skill and asset on a long motorcycle journey, so prepare to be zen and take things as they come.
Probably the most common ADV rookie mistake is trying to get everything just perfect before the trip. The best farkles and bike mods, the best gear, the best camping equipment, route planning apps, GPS units… Granted, being well prepared is half of the job – but often, we get so carried away with the details we never actually leave. Yeah, your route will probably need adjusting, your brake pads might wear out faster than you think, you’ll forget to pack charging cables, and, yeah, that bash plate has probably seen better days, but guess what: you can change, fix, and adjust a lot of things along the way. Go with the bike, gear, and luggage you currently own, and you’ll iron out the wrinkles on the road, because it’s not just your routes that might change – the very way you travel might, too.
And that’s a good thing.
What ADV rookie mistakes have you made when you set out on your first big adventure ride?
Images: Darius Daraska