I recently completed an adventure bike trip with my father during which we rode the Continental Divide from south to north. The purpose of the trip was to document the ride as a father-son duo and to show what the Great Divide Ride is all about.
Check out the video to see how our ride went.
I’ve ridden motorcycles for many years, and my father has been riding right beside me the whole time. My passion for motorcycles took hold when I got my first bike – a 1976 Yamaha DT250. Since then, I’ve gravitated toward more dual-sport riding. I’ve had lots of good times at the track on my Supermoto, and countless other rides with friends.
Until recently, I’ve never considered myself an adventure bike rider. Prior to riding the Divide, I had never taken a bike trip of more than a couple days.
Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you’re yearning to leave your familiar territory and take a long adventure bike trip yourself. Before you embark, check out this list of things (in no particular order), I wish I had known before my trip. I am by no means a professional, so take it all with a grain of salt. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to riding.
1) Do your research
Educate yourself. Your level of research may change based on skill level, familiarity with your motorcycle and your planned route. But it’s imperative you don’t overlook this step. When preparing to ride the Continental Divide, I cannot count the hours I spent researching.
Understand everything you can about your motorcycle.
- What are the known problems with the bike, if any?
- How much money do you need to spend to prepare the bike?
- Are you capable of fixing things if (when) something goes wrong?
Know your route, too:
- What have other riders experienced on the route?
- Where can you find maps and route notes?
- How difficult will the riding be?
It’s crucial that you learn as much as you can before diving in headfirst. But, if you’re the type to just dive in, skip ahead to number 3.
2) Prepare yourself and your bike
Admittedly, I underestimated the importance of preparation.
For some people, this might be the easy part, but I am not the most mechanically inclined person. I tend to worry about causing some catastrophic failure if I make even simple changes to my bike.
Because of my lack of mechanical knowledge and my tendency toward perfectionism, prepping my motorcycle for this trip took longer than I anticipated.
With the help of my father and a local motorcycle mechanic (Roger, you’re a heck of a guy and a wealth of knowledge), we managed to address all of the known issues with both of the bikes. This helped us immensely when forced to make repairs along the trip since I knew the bike like the back of my hand.
Preparation also includes packing. I neglected to pack and repack my bike before the trip to ensure everything had its place. Pack it, unpack it, repack it and then take half of it away because you don’t need it.
And don’t forget to check the fluids and change them as needed before embarking. On a long trip, change the motor oil before you go. Use a good synthetic to protect your expensive engine no matter the conditions you encounter. Check the brake and clutch reservoirs, too. Make sure the coolant is in good condition and topped-off as needed.
3) Get some seat time on your adventure bike
I always forget this tip. Just get out and ride – seat time is king. If you want to improve your riding and feel at home on your bike, spend time on it.
Also, anytime you change something on your motorcycle during preparation, test it out to ensure it was for the best. You don’t want to get 100 miles into your journey and notice a problem that a little seat time beforehand would have revealed. What would have been a simple fix back home then becomes a daunting task to fix on the trail. I have experienced this and don’t wish it upon anyone.
While planning this ride, I let time get away from me and we didn’t have the bikes fully assembled and ready to ride until two days before departure. Needless to say, I lacked adequate seat time to feel comfortable on the fully loaded bike when we finally did leave.
4) Convince a friend to join you
This can be the most difficult task to complete. While there is something to be said for the solace of riding solo, an epic journey is best with a friend (or friends).
Some of the best times on a trip aren’t those spent riding, but gathered around a campfire at the end of the day, sharing a couple cold ones and recounting the day’s events.
If your buddy is a city person, start with a one-day glamping trip, not a full-on, live-off-the-bike, no-showers, month-long expedition.
You’ll know which of your friends is best suited to each journey. Your friends may resist, but when they return from the trip, they won’t have any regrets.
I’m grateful that I was able to take this trip with my father. He’s no spring chicken and I know trips like this will be more difficult for him as time passes. This was a once-in-a-lifetime ride for us and I don’t take that lightly.
5) Don’t hold back – just go
In the end, know that all the work and preparation will be worth it and just get up and go. Pack up your bike and embark on your journey.
I’ve brushed off making the time for this kind of adventure countless times, and I’ve always kicked myself for it. There are millions of beautiful and unique places to go on your adventure bike. I bet you already have a few places on your riding bucket list.
Whether it’s a ride around town with friends or a ride around the globe, do whatever is required to put your kickstand up and roll down the road. Any effort it takes is worthwhile and the memories you make will last a lifetime.