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by Jim Jorgensen
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, May 2015

As a new rider, there are some simple yet important lessons that I have learned from which other riders just discovering this world for themselves or are transitioning from road bikes to dual sport riding may benefit. My first “real” motorcycle was a Suzuki DR350SE. I couldn’t have picked a better bike to learn on. It was small, yet could take me down the highway at a reasonable speed, and was quite manageable off-road. I was also very glad that it was not a heavy bike because of the fact that I dropped it almost every time I went off-road. With that said, my first piece of advice to new dual sport riders would be, learn on a bike that you can pick up, lay down and not shed tears because of the price you paid for it. If you are anything like me, you will do stupid things in that first bit of riding like put the kick stand down in soa dirt and hear your bike crash to the ground as you walk away. You WILL drop your bike. 

Jim at Smith Mountain Lookout (2014 IAMC Challenge Site #-23).

Here are some of the other things I have learned in the first year of riding that may be a benefit to others: 

Standing while riding — One of the things that has completely changed my riding ability and confidence has been learning to stand while riding off-road. Who knew that standing up has so many benefits? There are many great ar:cles and video’s on this subject. When I first started riding, I thought that motorcycles had a seat for a reason; so I spent most of the :me planted firmly on the seat. It was later I learned the benefits of standing. I discovered through online research and riding with others that standing actually lowers your center of gravity. It moves your 

I guess I might be categorized by some as a “late bloomer” in the world of motorcycles and adventure riding. I rode my first motorcycle just over a year ago at age 38, and I have been hooked ever since. It has opened up an en:re new world that I had no idea I was missing. There is a certain sense of freedom that comes from riding a motorcycle, the open road, clean air, and new places. I have enjoyed the fact that I can pick a spot on a map, hop on my bike, and go. Adventure riding has given me an outlet for the explorer that resides within me. 

center of gravity from the seat down to the foot pegs. It allows you to turn easier, get more traction where you need it, and gives your tail bone a rest from the long miles spent not standing. It also adds suspension in rough terrain. For me it also really helped get rid of that floating feeling on gravel roads. I used to feel like my bike was going to slide out from under me at any moment. Standing while riding definitely has taken some :me to get use to shifting, braking, and throOle – clutch control but has really helped improve my off-road riding. 

Throttle – clutch control – This is something that I s:ll struggle with but have discovered is one of the most important things for a rider to learn. When I look back on mistakes I have made, most of the :me it could have been avoided with proper throOle and clutch control. I either gave it too much gas, not enough, or didn’t use my clutch correctly. This for me is s:ll a work in progress. I think this may be one of those things that just comes with experience. 

Up-grade your bike to fit you – There are a vast amount of aftermarket parts and pieces for most dual sport motorcycles. Half the fun of adventure riding is setting your bike up the way you want it to fit you for the kind of riding that you do. One of the up-grades that every dual sport rider learns quickly is that you need a good seat. Long miles on a hard seat makes for a miserable experience. Luckily there are several aftermarket companies that specialize in making our rear end more comfortable. Another “comfort” up-grade I highly recommend is the addition of heated grips. Heated grips extend your riding season and take the edge off of those cold mornings. 

If you like to ride long distances, get a bigger tank. Last spring I rode the Back Country Byway in Owyhee County – it’s a 100 mile loop from Grandview, Idaho to Jordan Valley, Oregon. I s:ll had the stock tank on my DR350 so I played it safe and brought three fuel boOles with extra fuel. While on the ride, I really wanted to go explore the Three Forks area of the Owyhee River. I figured that a twenty mile detour wouldn’t hurt. Long story short, I rolled into Jordan valley on my last few drops of fuel. The day I got home, I ordered a larger tank. Just the lack of stress caused by wondering if I am going to make it to the next gas station, makes riding more enjoyable. It also allows me to explore without worry – to take that road just to find out where it leads. 

The op:ons are nearly endless, handlebars, windshields, pegs, luggage, etc., etc., etc. Oupit your bike to fit you and your riding style. 

Wear a helmet and good riding gear! – This has already saved me once. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy new or pick it up second hand. Get what works for you. Boots, jacket, pants, gloves and helmet – just get it and wear it! Just remember ATGATT (all the gear, all the :me)! 

Tire Pressure – A simple thing that I didn’t understand when I needed it most. Last year one of the challenge sites was Big Southern BuOe near Arco, Idaho. I had an extremely rough experience trying to make it up there. I tried and tried with no success. The terrain was steep, rough and loose. If I went slowly, I would spin out. If I went fast, I would lose control and bounce off the trail. I realize now that simply lowering my :re pressure could have made all the difference. I had been running down the highway and had my :re pressure at the factory specs recommended for my bike. With all of my efforts trying to make it up Big Southern BuOe, I didn’t stop to think about my :re pressure. Lowering your :re pressure when off-road can greatly improve your traction and might mean getting to your destination or not. I can’t wait to go back there and try again. 

It’s the Rider that makes it an adventure bike – Just like those big fancy 4×4 trucks that we see rolling down the road that we know rarely see dirt, motorcycles and riders can be the same way. A fancy, fully loaded “adventure bike” doesn’t mean it’s an adventure bike. I have seen people have extremely fun, adventure packed rides on a Honda Trail 90. You don’t need to have an expensive motorcycle to have fun. In fact, if you are learning like me, you may want to pick up a cheap one that you can lay down a few :mes before you invest in something nicer. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you have – it’s how you ride it and where you allow the bike to take you. Adventure riding is a state of mind. I have adventures that last a week or more, and I have adventures that take me down to the gas station on the corner for a soda. 

I have enjoyed this last year of adventure riding immensely. For those of you that have been riding for years, I envy you for your experience and the years I have missed. For those of you that are just learning, I say welcome and congratulations. The dual sport community and the IAMC are jam packed with great people. I have learned much from riding with them. They have picked me up when I went down and have never judged me by the bike I ride or my experience level. I am grateful for those that have helped me along the way and hope others can learn from my limited experience. Every rider is different, every bike is different. Not every piece of advice fits every situation. Learn from others, find what works for you, and apply it. 

Have fun, be safe and get out and ride! 

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