Fearful of Damage to Your ADV Motorcycle When Off-Road?


Motorcycle damage when riding off-road is a common fear among riders. While falls and drops are common when riding off-road, the damage to the bike may not be as bad as you think if you prepare your bike for the ride.

The monetary and emotional costs of damage to your motorcycle can feel overwhelming. But if the fear of sustaining that damage keeps you on pavement, it is time for a paradigm shift. Prepare ahead, recognize the risks, and hit the trails.

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A fallen BMW R1200GS on rocky terrain
A fallen BMW R1200GS on rocky terrain

This blog post will discuss reducing the chances of damage to your ADV motorcycle when you take it off-road. We will also provide tips for protecting your bike from potential harm. So don’t be afraid to explore the tremendous off-road riding available.

If you are actually more concerned about personal injury when riding your motorcycle off-road, then you may prefer this article we wrote.


Paradigm shift is “an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way”

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Developing an off-road ADV motorcycle mindset

Off-road motorcycle riding is not for everyone, and that’s okay! Read the comments section of any off-road ADV motorcycle social site to see proof of that. Statements such as “get the right bike!” or “what idiot takes that big bike off-road?” are commonly slung.

As off-road big bike riders, we are often misunderstood in the community. Our road-riding friends and dirt bike enthusiasts all love motorcycles. But, the thought of bringing a 600lb machine out onto sand dunes, rivers, and boulders generates a lot of fear for the bike’s safety.

BMW R1200GS motorcycle and rider stuck in sand
Big ADV Motorcycle fun

We love our bikes just as much as the commenters and nay-sayers do. When off-road, a unique bond is formed between a rider and a big bike. You will create an adventure together and, in doing so, experience motorcycling and the great outdoors differently than other riders.

Will there be tip-overs? Yes.

Will there be falls? Quite likely.

Do we let fears of damaging the bike stop us from enjoying this incredible experience? Never. We prepare, we recognize the risks, and we hit the trails!

Motorcycle and rider sitting on top of sand dune in desert
Rider – Motorcycle – Nature

Reduce the risk of motorcycle damage with good preparation

Prepare your bike for off-road riding by fitting it with protective gear. Just like you need a helmet and padding to protect you from personal injury, the bike also needs proper safeguarding.

Many bike manufacturers prepare their motorcycles for sale with a minimum amount of proper off-road protection installed to keep costs down. The good news is that many aftermarket manufacturers have seen the need to provide riders with the equipment to protect their bikes for off-road riding.  

Depending on your make, model, and year of design, pay special attention to protecting those areas that are most vulnerable to damage.

Some examples include:

  • Radiators
  • Cylinder heads
  • Kickstand kill switch
  • Shaft-drive
  • Clutch & brake levers
  • Underside of gas tanks
  • Exhaust system
picture of motorcycle showing potential add on protection
Bike Protection

Prepare your motorcycle for off-road conditions with:

  • Engine protection bars (also known as Crash bars) – This strong metal/steel tubing is attached to your bike to protect the engine and frame. When the bike tips off-road, these bars will hit the ground first to absorb the majority of the impact.
  • Skid Plate (also known as Bash plate) – Some adventure motorcycles include a skid plate stock on the bike. This may be fine if your off-road riding is limited to hard-pack gravel or dirt roads. But if you plan to experience rocky or technical terrain, consider upgrading to a higher-quality bash plate. Rocks will bounce, and tree roots can be hidden under mud. A high-quality skid plate will protect the underside of your engine.
  • Aluminum Handguards – Strong aluminum bars attached to the left and right handlebars protect the levers and controls during a bike tip.
  • Gas Tank Pads – Off-road riding utilizes a lot of knees-on-bike squeezing. Use tank pads to protect the paint from friction rubs. The fabric of riding trousers can wear down paint or cause scratches over time without proper protection.
  • Protective Film – Many manufacturers and aftermarket companies make a clear vinyl protective film that can be attached to body works and plastics. This film protects from scratches and scuffs.

Having proper protective gear installed on your bike may be an additional expense; however, the peace of mind gained by having it is priceless. I can not count the number of times I have been grateful for the protection on my bike. It saves the bike from damage, saves me money in repairs, and ensures I make it home after every adventure.

See all the protective gear that I use here.

Further prepare your bike by dialing in the fitment of controls and levers to your specifications. You are less likely to drop a bike that custom fits your needs. Fewer drops equal less damage. Check out our full post on bike fitment tips here to take your preparation to the next level.


Accepting the risk of bike damage when riding off-road

Riding a heavy motorcycle on uneven and unpredictable surfaces comes with a chance of tip-overs and drops. If this is not tolerable to you, then off-road ADV riding may not be the best choice. There are many excellent ways to enjoy motorcycling that do not carry the same scratch and dent potential.

Going off-road with a deep feeling of hesitancy or fear keeps you in a negative mindset during the ride. If you focus on your preparation tactics and view the idea of tipping the bike as a natural part of the experience, you can begin to release those fears.

Here is a look at some of the bruises my bike has sustained over the years:

a selection of damage to BMW 1200GS motorcycle
Miscellaneous scratches, dents & boo-boo’s

Ride with confidence when you hit the trails

Building confidence in your riding abilities will quickly reduce your fears of damaging your bike. Taking the time to prepare your bike and yourself for each ride reduces risk and increases enjoyment. Practicing skills and learning new techniques feeds confidence while reducing drops.

ADV motorcycle and rider off-road
Ride with confidence

When you hit the trails with a positive attitude and peace of mind, there are no limits on what you can achieve on the bike.


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