Bucket list biking

The Dirty Dozen: 12 More Inconvenient Truths of Off-Road Riding

In Motorcycle Gear, Motorcycle Riding Techniques by Julian12 Comments

After the runaway popularity of our initial twelve inconvenient truths of off – road riding, we thought we’d revisit the subject. It’s all very well telling our readers all the shiny and great bits about riding bikes, but what about the dark side? What about the things we all kind of know but put to the back of our minds in the hope that they are really not true?


Riding in the sun in Vietnam
Exploring the world on a bike – perfect.

Because no matter what we might tell ourselves, there are inevitable and inescapable aspects of our beloved hobby that we need to face up to. No more ducking the issues, it’s time to be brave and say them out loud. Trust us. It will help.


You are Weakest link

OK so lets assume that you are not Graham Jarvis. Your birth certificate does not say Jonny Walker and your family name is not Coma.


The master in action. Image Future7 Media / Husqvarna
The master in action. Image Future7 Media / Husqvarna

This means that sadly, once you sit on your brank spanking new 2017 enduro bike, you are the weakest link in the partnership. Your box fresh EXC300 can conquer Erzberg, ride over The Roof of Africa and knock the Romaniacs into a copped hat without missing a beat straight from the crate. You however, cannot.
Like it or not, your bike is better than you. You can blame any number of components or incorrect factory set-ups you like for why you did not get up that snotty hill without clattering to the ground seven times, but the real reason is you.

The problem is the lump on the seat, not the bulge in the power curve.

hopping a KTM 1290 super adventure

And don’t think Adventure riders are any different. Chris Birch may be able to hop a KTM 1290 Super Adventure out of a river and then over a waist-high tree stump, but most guys who buy one have difficulty pulling a convincing wheelie, let alone any timber based acrobatics.

Embrace your inadequacy, join the rest of us and move on, you’ll feel so much better

No off-road bike needs over 100 BHP

The boom in Adventure bikes has meant every manufacturer and his dog now have a suitable model in the range to tempt eager buyers. But if any of those bikes boast power figures in excess of the magic 100, you can be fairly sure that it’s main habitat is not necessarily the dirty stuff. Once you get up towards the insane figures of the big KTMs that top out at nearly 160 bhp, you kind of know that the world has gone mad. In fairness, even KTM know this because once you flip the bike into off-road mode, 60 of those are put out of reach as the ECU reigns itself down to 100 horses.  That kind of illustrates our point …


Honda Africa Twin ripping up the dirt
The Africa Twin has usable power. Image Honda

It also highlights how bikes like the Honda Africa Twin that have a fully usable 94 bhp on tap all the time maybe make a bit more sense. Do the AT owners really miss out on that additional 60 bhp when all our roads have speed limits and going 150 mph on an upright adventure bike that weighs over 230 kg is a truly bowel-loosening experience? We’re not convinced.


Super-unleaded or high octane petrol will not make your bike faster 

You know the feeling. You pull up to the pumps to brim your scoot and reach for the regular unleaded as usual. And then you eye strays to the nozzle in the next holster. It’s Super Unleaded. Super and unleaded – that’s like unleaded only better right? It must be because it’s more expensive and it’s got a far better and sexier logo on the adverts. And it’s called SUPER for heaven’s sake. My bike will be like a GP machine straight away surely …


Does the type of fuel matter

OK so let’s back up here. Is your bike a competition machine running a high-compression head? Are you riding a factory tuned Moto GP Yamaha R1? Is your motor bristling with aftermarket trickery and performance parts and puts out twice the power of stock?  Does your handbook specifically instruct you to use high-octane fuel? No, none of the above.


Highly tuned race engine
This engine needs good fuel! Image Yamaha MotoGP

In which case using fuel with higher octane levels will not improve your bike one iota, not one solitary mph. The higher the octane number of fuel, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonation – so unless your motor is highly tuned and already running those high compression ratios, having more octane it will have zero effect. Yes some is needed to prevent pre-ignition, but there’s enough in regular 95 fuel to do the job – adding more is largely pointless unless you are just trying to get rid of money.

If that’s your intention, buy regular and put the difference in the charity jar – your bike won’t notice and you’ll have done some good in your day


Most riders cannot feel the difference between linkage and non-linkage suspension

Linkage suspension close up
A linkage is better right? Image H Mitterbauer / Husqvarna

If you ride in a trail riding or enduro club, have you noticed that all the new bikes that are appearing are no longer orange? After years of dominance, KTM are losing sales to their sister brand, which in reality seems to been the plan! With the Husqvarna higher spec at only a slightly higher price, the choice to buy white rather than orange is not difficult.
Chat to that guy and he’ll probably state that his new bike also boasts linkage suspension, knocking that old school PDS system into a copped hat. But let’s be clear here, he’s taken the bait offered by the marketing team, hook line and sinker. He’s extolling the virtues of something he cannot feel or identify while riding!

Non linkage rear motocross suspension

It’s a massive and very inconvenient truth that all amateur riders cannot feel the difference between the two systems, and hence there is no advantage to having a linkage whatsoever. In fact PDS systems have only two attachment points; different and longer lasting bearings are far less vulnerable to damage and offer as good suspension as linkage systems. If that were not the case, would KTM still be sending their top riders out on them? Of course not!

Riding will be easier if you are fitter and lighter

OK so this may come across as ground breaking news to some, but if you are puffing and panting every time you come to a tricky incline, this is not due to the bike. Your machine will skip up those rocks like a goat on Red Bull – see point 1, so maybe, just maybe it would be easier of you were to shed a few kilos and maybe increase your general fitness?


Get fit - ride better

This doesn’t need to be regular working out at the gym or painful spin sessions with some chiselled perma-bronzed trainer shouting instructions at you. No – no need. Just taking an hours brisk walk a day and trying to cut your food intake to sensible calorie limits will have the weight shifting and you feeling fresher in a really short time.

Try it for a month and see how much easier that incline is then …


Waterproof does not mean waterproof

OK so this is a constant issue within motorcycling. You might thing that that to include the word ‘waterproof’ in an articles description would mean that it would keep out water. Apparently not.


BMW riding on a rainy trail
Why does the water always get in? Image Motoros family

Across the world there are millions of motorcyclists with items of clothing from boots to gloves, jackets to trousers that they bought on the not unreasonable assumption that they would keep out water, only to be let down in the first substantial downpour. It seems that even if you spend loads on supposedly rain dodging clothing, the only difference is that it takes marginally longer to get wet! AAAAAGH.


is KLIM the way forward
Is Klim the way forward? Image www.pikipi.co.za

Of course if somebody like Klim or Rukka would like to send us some of their wonderful kit to convince us otherwise, we’d be happy to test it and be proved wrong. Until then, we’ll keep supplementing our underperforming kit with bin bags, latex gloves and carrier bag socks that we’ve been using since we were on a Yamaha FS1E.



All you have to do is ride and have fun

We run the best motorcycle adventures across Asia – from trail riding through the Cambodia jungle on Yamaha WRF450s to crossing the highest passes in the Himalayas on Royal Enfields.

It’s what we do, and we are very good at it.

Products that are designed to do two things equally well, rarely do

Kawasaki KLM 250
All bases covered? Image Kawasaki

Sad but true. If you buy a dual sport bike and hope it will excel on both tarmac and dirt, you are likely to be disappointed. Sure it will cope with both and do it reasonably well, but the very fact that it’s trying to cover two different sets of requirements will frequently mean that it won’t do either as well as a bike trying to do just one. So if you really want to have a good bike for long distances on the road, a road bike is going to be the best. You can follow the logic to the dirt…

Now this doesn’t mean it’s a bad bike, just don’t buy a CRF250L and expect it to be as agile as a Beta XTrainer on the dirt and then turn into a motorway munching cruiser once you hit the black stuff.

And this compromise is true for the tyres on that bike too – a tyre cannot excel on both surfaces, just be OK at both. Full-on knobbies are going to be the best on the muck, far excelling anything with a rubber blocks sculpted into a road-friendly profile.

Similarly riders that go onto forums and type – “ I’m looking for a tyre that has good grip on and off-road but will last 10,000 kms. Any suggestions?” are likely to receive lots of advice, but very little of it useful, or indeed complimentary …


Titanium and carbon cannot compete against the Full English

Flick through the aftermarket catalogues and the manufacturers across the world will offer us all kinds of trinkets and goodies to spend our disposable income on. From carbon fibre chain guards to alloy brake clevis blocks, titanium bolt sets to anodised triple clamps, those guys know the bits we want and what will get us clicking on the BUY NOW box.


pre riding breakfast of champions
The breakfast of champions? Image Patreon

But a reality check here – buying these because we like them is fine. But buying a carbon fibre sub-frame online just prior to heading to the local dealership where they offer a Belly –Buster Full English breakfast for just £4.99 is, perhaps, counter productive. Shaving grams from the bike will make little difference if it took three cows to make your race leathers.


It’s OK to buy adventure bikes just because you like them

The GS is hugely popular thanks to TV. Image BMW

From the moment that McGregor and Boorman hit our screens with the Long Way Round, sections of the off-road world have been somewhat sniffy about the whole adventure bike thing. But even now that that the ‘thing’ has become a worldwide phenomenon that has changed the motorcycling market, the naysayers are still there.

So maybe it’s time to say the unsayable? OK lets try – most riders who buy adventure bikes will not ever take them on adventures, just as most riders that buy sports bikes never take them on a track. Or indeed the thousands of Land Rover drivers that never venture off tarmac …


But that’s not a crime. And far from affecting those that want to have off-piste adventures in a negative way, it’s the complete opposite. Massive sales in this sector have produced rafts of extremely capable machines that really can travel across the world if that’s your thing, so the choice is now far wider than without the purchasing habits of the adventure-averse.  And with millions of these bikes selling new, then there are plenty of clean unmolested available second-hand. So everybody is a winner, right?


Your dirt bike has a truly terrible headlight, but riding trails in the dark it still fun.

OK so this is a bit like the waterproof thing. Your shiny new WRF450 has a headlight and so it would not seem unreasonable to assume that light would be some use in the dark. But the options available for dirt bike lighting seem to be restricted to either bathing the front mudguard in light so much it dazzles you or, on high beam, illuminating the trees with such enthusiasm it looks like you are trying to bring planes in to land.


Enduro in the dark
Enduro in the dark – we like! Image Future7 Media / Husqvarna

But despite this inadequate light, running through those last trails at the end of an evening run is still bob-on fun. Being unable to really make out the ground in any detail yet still blasting up the lanes is a constant joy.  If you want to extend this onto the next level, LED lights via eBay for both your bike and your crash helmet are the way forward, enabling a whole new world of after-dark trail riding. And when you finish, the pubs are open. Genius.

It’s dark now – lager time!
Riding dirt bikes in the dark

Gravity is selective

You would think that as a defining physical force, gravity would apply to all objects equally at all times. Yet this is far from the truth. You may clear the  tricky water crossing each and every time, but as soon as there’s an audience of newbies, you and your bike will be drawn down to the mud like it were magnetic – guaranteed.


Bike sunken in a muddy river
That could have gone better!

The same gravity will also be unduly drawn to a new bike over an old one, so that the first time you take that shiny bit of loveliness out on the dirty stuff, the deepest and snottiest bog will prove impossible to resist.


Bad landing on a KTM
Damn you gravity. Image Pinterest

Want more proof? A cheap helmet will cling onto your bike like an amorous limpet, never once shifting even in balanced precariously on the mirrors, bars or just casually abandoned on the saddle. You box fresh custom painted helmet £600 however, will jump to its destruction on the tarmac as soon as left unattended for a millisecond …

Days to paint, seconds to ruin.  Image Troy Lee Designs
Troy Lee Designs MX helmet

Bucket lists only work if you do stuff on the list 

Royal Enfields through the Himalayas with Ride Expeditions
Enfields in the Himalayas with Ride Expeditions –  a Bucket list trip

So for the final inconvenient truth for today, it’s about those Bucket lists. It’s become a cover-all phrase, but rather than meaning you actually intend to do something, “That’s on my bucket list” tends to translate into “That looks quite exciting but the chance of me doing anything about it is as likely as me swimming the Pacific”.


Riding in Laos with Ride Expeditions

As a company that runs exceptional and epic motorcycle adventures, Ride Expeditions is in a position to make those biking bucket list items into a reality.  We can take them off that list and into the diary.

That way when your annoying know-all mates says ‘ Trail riding across Cambodia– Oh yes, that’s on my bucket list”  – you can say, “ Yes – it’s epic. I did it last year with a bunch of mates and it was the best week of my entire life!”


Cambodian motorcycle tours
The trip of a lifetime – done and dusted!

So what are you waiting for – riding bikes is so much better than writing lists!

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So did we miss anything? Did we hit the nails on the head? If you have anything to say, leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you! 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017 Toby Jacobs
Acknowledgements: KTM Images, H Mitterbauer, Future7Med more...


  1. Good fun to read, perceptive and amusing at the same time​. My battle to keep going will not include adventures abroad however, as nearing 83 is enough to contend with, good luck with your business.

    1. Author

      We’re not bothered how old you are Ron, if you can ride you are welcome with Ride Expeditions!


  2. Take into account the higher the horsepower the higher the temperature on the legs. Somehow this is a stat that should be recorded. When i test drove bikes I never rode long enough to get the oil over 200 degrees but thats about the point where you start cooking yourself for your canbabilistic buddies if u get stranded. Great article though. I loved the truth and humor all the way thru.

  3. Aye, very funny but witty wae it.
    Guid stuff cheers – biker philosophers eh !?
    Who’d o thought it possible.
    A travellin mind is a wide mind.

    1. Author

      That’s us Disnae – never more philosophical than after a long day in the saddle and sat behind a pint!



  4. thanks for the link to those Ride Expeditions Asia.. its on my bucket lost now :-)

  5. I live in the Philippines. We are blessed with muddy jungle trails and badly maintained roads which is heaven for dirt riders. Exploring these trails with my mates is what I do during weekends. I also do solo touring around the northern island and going down south to Davao during long vacation leaves. Very nice life I have………..

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