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ADV 101 | Adventure Motorcycling for Beginners

Updated: Apr 3

Short motorcycle adventures are BETTER than NONE! Don’t be intimidated by “epic” adventures.


The adventure motorcycle segment is experiencing a boom. More and more people are choosing to concentrate their motorcycle tours on unpaved roads, seeking solitude in the backcountry. While the sales of huge cruiser motorcycles are declining, every brand is expanding their lineup of dual-sport and scrambler models. What’s not to love? Unmatched scenery, escape form insane road traffic, and access to uncrowded campsites awaits!


But many less experienced motorcycle riders are overwhelmed with logistics and details.


There is information overload thanks to adventure motorcycling articles, videos, and numerous Facebook group posts. Unfortunately, many motorcycle touring beginners are intimidated by trip reports from “epic” round-the-world tours and year-long expeditions.


The thoughts of a massive trip, especially compounded by an unfamiliar motorized vehicle and a new style of riding, is paralyzing to many would-be adventurers. Novice ADV riders may simply put their dreams on hold. They compile an insurmountable list of "necessary" equipment. They engage in a never-ending series of cycle modifications and "farkle" purchases. They don't have the confidence to strike out on their own and may feel inadequate joining more seasoned riders.


When intimidated, the natural response is to wait - and another season rolls by while you are watching videos of others who are experiencing The Great Out There.


Adventure Motorcycling for Beginners: Start Small, Stay Comfortable!


The solution is to embrace short, overnight outings that require less preparation, less equipment and have minimal consequences for any mistakes you make. This includes ONE NIGHT outings, which been dubbed Sub 24-hour Overnights.


Grant Peterson of Rivendell Cycle Works is credited for naming this type of mini adventure. As a small business owner, he looks forward to squeezing in dozens of S24O’s. He can’t get away for weeks at a time, but he can leave after lunch and return the following morning, having enjoyed the change of scenery and the chance to unplug from the daily routine. S24O’s are now popular for many outdoor pursuits including bikepacking, canoe camping, AND motorcycle overlanding.


Grant also admits - even though he is an experienced bikepacker - to having forgotten everything from adequate food to matches, his sleeping pad and tent poles on a few Sub 24-hour Overnights. Just remember: The goal is experience, not perfection or a personal-best in speed or distance or duration. You will learn from your mistakes, and few S24O’s will put the camper in life-threatening situations.


Adventure motorcycling for beginners starts with the basics. Over time you refine and build skills. A S24O is the perfect way to fine-tune your packing list, motorcycle preparation, and campsite skills. You get to plan a few meals, water, and snacks for the outing. You practice setting up your shelter and sleep system. You gain invaluable experience in route planning and navigation. You might also learn how to handle minor mishaps or sudden weather changes without the urgency of being hundreds of miles from home.


S24O's are not just for motorcycle touring beginners! A single night recharges my batteries between "epic" adventures.


I am retired, and though I have YEARS of camping and ADV experience, I also enjoy S24O’s. I still have a full calendar that makes week-long trips difficult to schedule. Instead, I enjoy the option to drop everything and take advantage of forecasted great weather for an overnight trip. I am blessed to live close to state and national forests with plentiful campsites and unlimited backroads. Within two hours I can be 100 miles away, camped on a quiet stream or ridgetop.


Even better, I can watch the weather forecast and head out after lunch for a midweek S24O. If I'm lucky enough to have TWO unscheduled days, I can extend my ride to include two nights camping. Nothing improves your adventure motorcycling skills like being solely responsible for your route, meals, and comfort in camp. I have also found that nothing improves your fitness and riding confidence like successive days on the trail.


There is no mileage qualification for an S24O. Once you leave home, you can often experience amazing solitude within an hour or two.


But solitude isn’t a necessity if you are an ADV beginner. Practicing your camping skills from a “base camp” in a state park or county campground is a great place to start. There is no penalty for choosing a campsite with access to water and an outhouse. (Most campground have discounted "tent" campsites around the perimeter of the RV sits.) The point is that you can begin where you are comfortable – but you lose the excuse not to start!


Successive Sub 24-hour Overnights are the perfect way to test and refine your camping equipment and campsite set-up procedures. It would be a mistake to start a week-long expedition without the necessary skills and confidence. It’s much better to practice on an a few overnight trips to learn what works and what needs to be changed. Don’t like your cook kit or stove? Dissatisfied with your bug dope or sleeping pad? Change it on your next Sub-24 hour Overnight. Always wanted to try time-lapse photography or hammock camping? Here’s your low-risk opportunity.


The S24O is FUN and PRACTICE. Beginner ADV riders build experience with gear, routes, navigation, food, and more.


I would never advise leaving on a multi-day ADV trip with any piece of gear or clothing that you haven't tried before. The middle of a ride is not the time to discover that your rain jacket doesn't fit over your riding coat or that your titanium pot is worthless for anything other than boiling water. More importantly, you will learn what you DON’T need! The sure way to ruin your enjoyment of ADV riding is to drag along TOO much stuff. Make lists and refine your clothing, cooking, sleeping, and shelter requirements. Practice packing and unpacking your kit. Eliminate duplicates. Get used to cooking and sleeping in the wind and rain. Better to work through a problem on an S24O than two days into a week-long wilderness ordeal.


Two final points that favor S24O’s for adventure motorcycling beginners:


First, ADV riding that includes rural and/or remote destinations is experiencing a resurgence among those who have grown tired of crazies on the highway. In most locations, within a short time you can turn off onto side roads, then ride to little-used unpaved backroads. Many of us have tired of stressful road trips - and as ADV riders we add the bonus of a campout, possibly for free in a quiet woods or desert area.


Adventure motorcycling can get very complicated. But I prefer a minimalist mindset. Many "campers" can't imagine denying themselves running water, a water heater, or a shower. But the S24O is perfect for fine-tuning both your gear, bike, and attitude. My rig easily navigates overground forest roads where RVs and camper trailers are never seen!


Second, S24O’s are not limited to solo adventures. Short overnights are the best way to introduce friends and family members to ADV cycling. Connect with a local rider or someone online. The short-term commitment is much easier to plan. All we need is a favorable forecast for the next day - and we're gone! Sub 24-hour Overnights are ideal when you meet-up with friends who have a range of camping and riding skills. When you don't have far to go, you have a much looser schedule. When you are only planning one night at a time, you can form impromptu groups that might not be compatible or efficient on a two-week excursion.


Sub-24 Hour Overnights build your skills for multi-day adventures!

You don’t need to travel for days or weeks to rack up new sights, sounds, sunrises, and sunsets. Memories are made by the mile and the trip - even if it is a Sub-24 hour Overnight.


Whether you are new to adventure motorcycling or an experienced rider, consider all the advantages of adding a few Sub 24-hour Overnights to your calendar. Invite a friend or drop everything and enjoy a spontaneous solo getaway. More days riding and more nights camping are always a good thing! Every S24O will add to your memories. Every hour in The Great Out There will add LIFE to your days.


adventure motorcycling for beginners

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