There are few experiences in life that compare to riding an adventure bike to the depths of the planet-or even down your favorite trail. Getting to see the world from the seat of a motorcycle is something many other people will never get to try.
But for all the great things one can experience on a motorcycle, there are times when things go wrong. In fact, as adventure riders, things going wrong is part of the game.
We don’t like talking about these subjects, but they are very important conversations to have. Especially if you’re newer to the ADV scene. In this article, we’ll talk about some common problems ADV riders experience and what to do in those situations.
Clearly, we can’t cover every situation that may come up during a ride-and what to do about them-but if you only get one thing from this, then remember that it’s always a good idea to be prepared. And to expect the unexpected.
Flat tire while riding
Getting a flat while riding is par for the course. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. Nails in the road, sharp objects on the trail, or even just hitting an object at an awkward angle. There are so many ways to get a flat tire.
The fix depends on whether you’re running tubes (that’s innertubes for our newer riders out there) or using tubeless tires. Depending on which, you’ll want to carry a flat kit or an extra tube (or two) with you. In fact, it’s a good idea to carry both (an extra tube takes up little space!). Even if you get lucky and don’t need them, your riding buddy might.
If you’re running tubeless tires and assuming the puncture didn’t happen on the sidewall, or worse yet, from a broken rim, the flat kit will come into play. There are a few different types out there, but the basic premise is the same. If the hole is small enough, the patch or plug will fill the hole (read the specific instructions in your kit on how to plug the hole).
Generally, the kits include a few CO2 cartridges to re-inflate the tire and get you back on your way. But you’ll have to be cautious from here on out. Especially if you have even more technical terrain planned. If you’re sticking to the pavement, patched tires can last a long time.
If you have tubes, then you’ll have to replace it. This means you’ll need some basic tools to get the wheel off the bike and spoons to pry the tire off the wheel to get you access to the tube. Then it’s a matter of pulling out the old, punctured tube and replacing it with a fresh one. You’ll need some way to put air back in the tire (the CO2 cartridges mentioned before in the flat kit is a good idea), then you’re on your way.
Getting a flat is one thing. Having a mechanical problem is a whole different problem. It’s impossible to cover every mechanical gremlin you may face, but generally speaking, you could somehow face a lack of spark or gasoline.
Carrying a simple tool kit, in addition to your flat tire kit, is a smart idea. It’s also a good idea to research some common issues other owners of your specific motorcycle have run into so you can be ready for them.
Your kit should include the necessary hardware to adjust cables, access and/or change a spark plug, and service a carburetor (if you have one). It may not be a bad idea to have an extra spark plug handy, or maybe a fuel line.
A pair of vice grips doesn’t hurt, either. If you know you’re going somewhere remote, having extra fuel on hand is also a good idea. And never leave without cable zip ties!
Modern motorcycles are pretty reliable, but every once in a while you’ll run into a mechanical issue you simply can’t fix out on the trail. Preparedness is everything, and having a plan for the worst-case scenario is important. This is why you shouldn’t ride alone. If possible, you’ll have to lean on your friends to help you push your bike to somewhere where it can be extracted and you can diagnose the issue back home.
Which leads us to...
We don’t want to think about it, but if you’re an adventure rider you’re bound to fall down eventually. It just comes with the territory. First things first – gear up. Then protect your motorcycle with crash protection.
The reality is a crash can still damage you or your bike. Obviously, you should have some general first aid handy. For minor cuts and scrapes, clean it off with a rag and water. For more serious injuries, you might have to get creative and turn a shirt into a sling or tourniquet, if needed.
Also, if you’re hurt, don’t attempt to keep riding. You can make matters worse. Again, this is why you don’t ride alone. Send someone to get help, if needed.
A very smart thing to have is a satellite tracker you can use to notify others of your condition. These devices can send notifications to loved ones back home that you’re doing just fine, or with the push of a button, you can send a distress signal to them (and sometimes direct to emergency services) with your exact GPS coordinates to send help. Hopefully you never have to use such a thing, but it’s good insurance to have.
As far as the bike is concerned, common things that break are levers, exhaust pipes, and engine cases. Let’s hope you’ve got case covers already installed, because if you bust one of those, chances are your day is done. However, having JB Weld or epoxy on hand could come in handy to repair small holes, but we’ve only seen this done with varying success.
In the case of broken levers, hopefully, you can keep going with whatever amount of lever is left. Otherwise, you might have to get creative. This is where something like a vice grip comes in handy, to act like a pseudo lever.
If you smash an exhaust or somehow bend a pipe in ways the OEM didn’t intend, things can get… interesting. Adventure bike exhausts are usually tucked up and out of the way, but if the dent is at the end, where the silencer is, you might get away with it.
Depending on the size of the dent, the closer it is to the engine, the more you might notice your engine suffering to make power. Especially if you have a two-stroke. If you can, find a rock or other blunt object to pound the dent back out. You may also need to employ some brute strength to bend pipes and things back where they’re supposed to go. Or at least close to it.
Adventure bikes are pretty tough these days, but things always can–and do–happen. Expecting the unexpected is a good way to go about ADV bikes in general, and having a base kit to repair or deal with issues is key. But also don’t forget to look out for yourself. First aid, satellite trackers and/or communicators, and riding with buddies is always a good idea.
There’s no way to predict everything that might happen on a ride, but being ready for common problems will go a long way.