Adventure riders know that dirt and gravel roads are less traveled; not to mention a great way to make a journey more interesting. The larger adventure touring bikes with greater range, bigger engines and wind protection have proven to be more than a fad and have become a prominent segment of the industry. With these vehicles, it’s important to keep a close eye on vehicle maintenance to prevent a breakdown far from resources and phone service.
The wheels, tires and final drive are subject to much more abuse in off pavement environments. Gravel roads will chew through motorcycle tires. Power sliding around on a forest road is a blast but be prepared for your customer to have accelerated tire wear with this type of activity. This is especially true for the bikes with street-biased tires.
A tire that appears to have some good street miles left on it may be destroyed in an afternoon of gravel grinding. The chain and sprockets will experience fatigue not only from operating in mud, dirt and flying rocks, but the additional stress of turning the tire on loose or bumpy surfaces.
Clean, lubricate and adjust the chain slack regularly to prevent dropping a chain far from home.
Inspect what type of tool kit your motorcycle came with and what is possible with these tools. Some bikes come with nothing more than an empty pouch or a few near-useless tools and some are better equipped. For those who want to be more prepared, there are many tool kit options with motorcycle riders specifically in mind, or you can put together your own tool kit to handle jobs like chain adjustment. If you have the tools together to handle the chain adjustment, don’t forget to throw in some chain lube; hearing noises can be distracting while riding and a dry chain can produce some abnormal sounds that can be mistaken for something worse.
Shaft drive bikes aren’t immune to accelerated wear. These systems should be inspected for seal leaks and should have their final drive oil changed according to the maintenance chart.
The wheels can take a beating, too. Inspect the rims and spokes for damage and be prepared to replace the wheel bearings more often than with street only use.
Engines get hot when they are strained at low speed because of the reduced air flow to the radiator or engine cooling fins. Also, cooling efficiency can be reduced by clogged or bent cooling fins. Inspect the cooling system for leaks and function. Check the coolant level on a regular basis.
The air filter will need additional attention for use in dusty and muddy environments. For extended adventures, a spare fresh air filter might be a good thing to bring along. Also, if the bike tips over it may drain some engine oil into the airbox via the crankcase breather system. If this happens, use the airbox drain to remove the oil and check and fill the engine oil as necessary.
The adventure bikes seem to attract accessories such as luggage, crash guards, additional lights, GPS, heated grips and adjustable windshields. When installing these items, it is important to do so correctly. Don’t just throw these parts on; make sure wheel and handlebar travel will not be compromised.
Test ride the vehicle as it will be ridden for the adventure and set the suspension sag and tire pressure for the load. Make sure the electrical accessories don’t draw current when the key is in the off position so the charging system isn’t overly taxed.
Off-road miles are hard on equipment. Fasteners are more likely to come loose with the increased vibrations. Parts will wear out faster. There is a reason off-road-only motorcycles have short maintenance intervals, but well-maintained adventure bikes help make sure the riders get the adventure they want.
Nobody wants to be stranded in the wilderness with a broken-down motorcycle. Advise customers to walk around the machine when taking a break from riding to check for any items that need attention so the bike is ready when they resume the journey.