Confidence does not come stock with a new bike. It is something that evolves over time. We start building confidence with our first bike purchase and then sometimes find ourselves rebuilding it after a rough fall or crash. These ebbs and flows are common to all riders, but we can set ourselves up for success and make the process a bit easier.
Boost your ADV motorcycle confidence with the 3 P’s
PREPARATION – Get the right gear and learn the basics of your motorcycle.
PRACTICE – Become proficient at foundational skills and build on them over time.
POSITIVITY – A positive mental attitude can help you overcome any obstacle. Thoughts and emotions are as important as your physical actions.
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My motorcycle riding adventures began later in life. To build my confidence, I needed to draw on other life experiences and create new learning opportunities. We all feel a bit uneasy when trying a new skill or following an epic fail. But if you are ready to gain (or regain) your motorcycle riding confidence, then these action steps will help.
ALWAYS BE PREPARED
How preparation leads to ADV motorcycle confidence
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”
All The Gear All The Time
Wearing protective riding gear is one of the most important things a rider can do to help stay safe while riding a motorcycle. Protective gear provides more than just a physical safeguard, it also helps deliver peace of mind. If you are unfamiliar with ATGATT, check out our detailed blog post on the topic here.
When motorcycle riders put on their gear, they are not only protecting themselves from the elements (and the occasional fall) but also telegraphing to other drivers that they are confident and serious about their riding.
Motorcycle gear protects riders from head injuries, road rash, and more serious injuries that can occur in a tip or crash. This provides a mental advantage to the rider to know that if something goes wrong that they are protected. It is similar to driving in a car with airbags and a seatbelt on. You recognize that danger still exists but by proactively minimizing damage, you empower yourself. Check out the gear we use on every ride here.
Feel confident about your ADV bike setup & knowledge
The ever-changing body positioning required when riding off-road is more comfortable with a properly fitted motorcycle. Preparing your bike’s controls to match your body size and personal preferences will help improve your riding comfort, safety, and off-road capabilities. We have a post dedicated to bike fitment here for you to use.
The relationship between rider and bike should be in sync at all times. All of your controls must be easily accessible. Clutch lever, front brake lever, gear shifter, and rear brake are examples of components that should be fitted to you.
For example, a poorly positioned brake pedal is hard to reach. Imagine riding steep, twisty, downhill single track and needing that rear brake. You struggle to hit it on the first turn. Then struggle again on the second corner. Quickly your confidence is shaken due to your inability to properly slow down and your whole ride suffers.
Taking 15 minutes to test and adjust the pedal to your needs means you don’t have to think about it on the ride. When you trust the machine you are riding, you will feel more confident.
Get to know your bike by performing routine bike washing and light DIY maintenance. You do not need to become a mechanic. But an elementary-level understanding of how the bike functions will elevate your confidence.
Pack properly for each ADV Motorcycle adventure
ADV bikes can carry multiple pieces of luggage. This is an opportunity to prepare for each trip by packing the right gear for the right ride. A quick trip to meet friends for a meal will require a very different packing list than a weekend off-road adventure ride.
If you own a car, go out and inspect your trunk/boot and glove compartment. Here you will find those “just in case” items needed routinely or for emergencies. Pack up your motorcycle with the same care and forethought.
For commuting to and from work, perhaps a mount for your phone and a minimal tool kit are all you need. A weekend group ride off-road will definitely require a first aid kit, air pump, bigger tool bag, tire patch, and more.
Think about your ride ahead and consider everything you are certain to need and pack it. Then think about any potential emergency situations and pack the gear to use for those. Now you can head out well prepared and confident for your ride.
Perform a pre-ride ADV motorcycle checklist
Ever ride with that one friend who always has to go to the petrol station to fill their tank before the ride? They get to the station and realize they forgot their money at home. And then they start rambling about what other items on the bike they forgot to prep.
Starting a day of riding with that kind of disorganization is a kick to your confidence. And is not fun for the rest of the group either. Don’t be that rider! I can assure you, your mates will quickly become annoyed with the delays and find excuses to stop riding with you.
Instead, prepare the night before or prior to your ride with a pre-ride checklist. It takes only a few minutes to ready yourself and quickly walk around the bike to ensure it is ready.
The first check is for you and your gear. For example:
Do you have all your protective riding gear ready?
Do you have ID, license, registration, insurance card, money, etc?
Do you have enough food and water for your ride?
Have you packed appropriately for the ride? (see packing above)
The second check is for the bike. A great checklist tool for the bike comes from The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).
The MSF Checklist can be downloaded here T-CLOCS checklist.
They recommend inspecting:
Tires & Wheels
Lights & Electrics
Oil & Other Fluids
PRACTICE – PRACTICE – PRACTICE
Practicing ADV motorcycle skills builds muscle memory
“Practice makes permanent”
Be able to confidently balance your bike
One of the pillars of motorcycle riding is finding your balance. This can be tricky, especially when you’re first starting out. But once you find it, it’s important to maintain good balance while riding.
There are a few reasons why having good balance on a motorcycle is so important. First and foremost, it helps you feel more confident while riding. If you’re confident in your ability to balance, you’re more likely to enjoy your ride and expand your skills.
Second, good balance helps you control the motorcycle better. If you’re rigid and stiff, it’s going to be harder to keep the motorcycle going on your chosen line. This can be dangerous, especially on rocky off-road trails.
Finally, good balance just makes motorcycle riding more enjoyable overall. By keeping the motorcycle upright with ease, you can focus on enjoying the scenery and the wind in your face.
If you are ready to improve your bike balance skills, jump over to our post here to get tips and practice drills.
Slow is smooth – Smooth is confident
It is hard to find a skill that will build confidence faster than slow-speed riding. When you master the slow ride, you have an easier time tackling technical and off-camber trails when off-road. For ADV tourers or commuters, this is crucial for maneuvering in traffic and tight spaces. Improving your slow-speed riding will make practicing all other techniques easier.
Slow speed practice also amps up our friction zone capabilities. Motorcycle riders should have a basic understanding of how the clutch regulates power to the engine. The smoother your shifting performance is, the more pleasurable your ride will be. And, of course, the more confident you will feel.
To get to know your clutch and practice slow riding, check out our post here for tips and drills.
Focus on ADV skills and technique building
Skills building on your ADV motorcycle should be approached layer by layer. Start with foundational skills and then, only after you are proficient, add on the next level of difficulty. We all know the saying “you need to walk before you can run”. For us, we can say “you need to balance before you can jump”.
Begin your skills with balance, slow riding, and braking. During this period of learning be sure to match your ride-outs to your skill level. Set yourself up for success on the first few rides and build your confidence in these foundational areas.
As you improve your skills, expand your exposure to new trails and riding conditions. Learn how far you can push yourself and make mental notes on new techniques you need to learn next. Let your riding goals guide your training plan once you master the basics.
Layered skills building will make you a safer rider and give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re prepared for anything.
SPECIAL SHOUT OUT to all those involved with local riding clubs and certified motorcycle instructors. Learning from and riding with motorcycle professionals will improve your riding faster (and more efficiently) than any other path. Build your confidence by seeking out the best mentors and instructors you can find.
POSITIVE ATTITUDE FOR THE WIN
A positive ADV rider is a more confident ADV rider
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results”
Ride your own ride
Part of becoming a confident rider is knowing when to say “no”.
Sometimes you need to say “no” to yourself. It’s easy to be tempted by the odd jump at the end of a trail or desire to see how fast you can take a corner. But be honest with yourself and make solid choices. Making poor choices that lead to failure over and over again will never build confidence and may get you hurt.
Other times you need to say “no” to your riding partners. Peer pressure can get the most sensible rider into trouble. Only you know how you are feeling on any particular ride and only you can decide where and how to ride. It’s great to surround yourself with encouraging mates that push you to improve, but always ride your own ride!
Plan your routes ahead of time. Ensure the terrain, on-site location, distance/time that needs to be traveled, and the predicted weather are all agreeable to you.
Always listen, always learn, and laugh a lot
No matter how much you think you know, there is another rider who can teach you something new. Maybe it’s a different riding technique, a trail safety tip, or a new piece of gear that just hit the market. Riders share tips on the best routes and may be aware of trail dangers that are news to you. Listen and learn.
Learning to ride an adventure motorcycle is a life-long process. Do not stop learning new things … ever.
Laugh, smile, and have fun every time you get on the bike. Laugh at your mistakes, celebrate your milestones, and make every adventure something to remember. These are the actions of a confident adventure motorcycle rider.
About the Author
Coach Mike is a Certified Off-Road Motorcycle Instructor & founder of ADVMotoSkillZ.
Riding tips from ADVMotoSkillZ reach thousands of international riders daily through social & blogs.
Click here to learn more about Mike’s motorcycle evolution from a Harley road rider to finding his true passion for off-road riding on a BMW 1200 GS.
If you would like to send Mike a quick message or invite him to provide training at your local facility, then visit the contact page here.