Adventure touring is on the extreme end of dirt biking, on the polar opposite of trials. It takes from straight street touring and adds the off-road, go-anywhere element, thereby becoming adventure touring. Likewise the bikes available for this segment, rides like BMW’s popular GS Adventure and KTM’s 990 Adventure, are specifically set up and almost ready to go right from the dealer. But like anything, riders strive to make them better and here is our starter guide.
Rule number one is: You can never have enough space for luggage and junk. Panniers are a necessity. There are many choices in brand and size, mounting options and material. Favorite among hard-core riders are Touratech’s aluminum Zega (www.touratech-usa.com) cases as they are durable and can be repaired with rocks and sticks when damaged. Stickers charting locations visited and personal quirks are mandatory.
The suspension on the BMWs is not rebuildable and is tasked with a difficult chore on the portly bike. Although it performs well, it does not withstand abuse. Getting some rebuildable shocks like these fully adjustable Elka units is a good idea. Race Tech and Öhlins also make replacement shocks. One good thing about the KTM, it has dirt-bike tough and durable suspension stock but, like any huge, heavy bike, will not work miracles when ridden too hard.
The dash of the adventure bike can never have enough room. The one pictured here has merely a GPS and a switch for auxiliary lights, while most self-respecting adventure riders would also have a backup color GPS, a Spot locator, an iPhone, MP3 player, a satellite radio, a radar and laser jammer/detector, a clock, a thermometer and a button that goes “Bing!”
The seat is more important on adventure bikes than any other kind of dirt bike since you sit on the saddle all the time. As much as foam density is important, so is shape to keep your undercarriage happy. Renazco Racing (www.renazco.com) makes some of the best custom seat covers and foam shapes in the business.
A skid plate is mandatory. Since the bike is low and drags frequently, protecting the cases, exhaust and other low-hanging parts is vital. The stock skid plates tend to be a little light-duty, but ones like this Touratech are larger, more heavy-duty and mount onto additional points to disperse the loads and stay attached whereas stockers can rip off.
Little bike-specific hard parts like this steering stop plate prevent expensive big pieces from breaking and add strength where it is needed. Though these big bikes are made to look like they can attack dirt, they must be ridden slowly and carefully. Parts like this are not going to change that, but they can help out a little if some unexpected impact sneaks up on you-and it will.
Protecting some of the other parts like the exposed fuel injection nozzles and throttle position sensor with these trick Touratech guards is very important and extremely functional. Then there is the bling factor of the guards that protect the cap on the brake fluid reservoir.
If you are going to ride on the dirt, don’t even think about doing it on round street tires. Use a knobby-based tread pattern or you will be sliding off the dirt road, and that’s before you hit mud or sand. The Continental TKC80 tread may not look fancy with its big-block knobby pattern, but its crossover performance both on- and off-road is amazing on the big adventure bikes. Tire pressure off-road is best around 22-26 psi for rim-bending protection and flat prevention, as well as getting the most traction and suspension performance out of the tires.