ABR Masterclass

Altari Borrego Springs, California

Learn how to get it right on your next adventure.

Adventure Bike Fitness

Photo: Bryn Davies

Techniques: Riding Ridges


Ridges in the trail are a bit like ruts, if you can avoid riding on/ in them, then do. Why? Because they have the propensity, if not tackled correctly, to have you landing on your arse (or worse).

But sometimes you have no choice but to go over or on them, and sometimes you end up on them because your bike slipped or you looked at them and target fixation had you magically riding on them.

Anyway, you want to be able to control your two-wheeled wobbly toy over them, don’t you? So, first things first. Keep your head and look at the balancing point. I think we’ve mentioned that in every techniques article, at least I hope we have!

The height of the ridge is likely to vary so, to make life easier, you could look to cross the ridge at a lower point. The most important thing though is making sure you cross it at an angle. Running your front wheel directly alongside it and then turning your wheel in could cause the wheel to start slipping at an angle, as it starts trying to get grip on the uphill face of the ridge. This has the potential to cause an ‘off’, a foot down (to stop you falling) or a “whoa, that was bloody close” moment.

So, come as wide as you reasonably can, and sometimes there might be very little room to manoeuvre and turn into the ridge.

Choose an appropriate speed that will get you over the bump and keep your momentum. For sharper ridges, you might need to force the bike over with a blip of the throttle. Too fast though, and you could take off, or fall backwards, yanking on the throttle – so cover your clutch, keep your throttle controlled and make sure your body is weighted in the correct place for the crossing.

Once on the ridge (unless it is too narrow or unsuitable to ride on), you could ride along the top if it helps you continue your journey. Look up and through the ridge and keep the momentum of the bike going. If you look at the sides you’ll no doubt hit them, so only do that if you want to come off the ridge.

Crossing off the ridge, the same rule applies as crossing onto it – for the exact same reason. Approach the dismount at an angle.

The same principle applies to crossing over obstacles like branches on the trail. If you can avoid them, do. If you can’t, then try to cross them at an angle.

It can surprise some people how big a ridge/step a bike
can cross, especially if it has a decent-sized front wheel and ground clearance – two of the many desirable attributes of an optimum off-road trail or adventure bike.

As ever with these things, there is more to it than can be described with a few words and ridge situations can vary massively. Get some professional training to build competence and confidence. It gets easier as you get better.


Clive is the owner and chief instructor at Moto Scotland, the UK’s largest off-road motorbike training school. He is an A.C.U. national assessor and commercial coach in off-road riding. IAM and Police Bikesafe qualified, Clive is also a master practitioner in N.L.P. (life coaching). His passion is to help riders become even better.

Photography: When to use filters


Altari Borrego Springs, California

Photo: Simon & Lisa Thomas – www.2ridetheworld.com


Yeah, I know, less is more! Well, that’s what they say. But, some- times, when it comes to photography, more is actually more! More kit can mean more hassle, more weight, but it also means better opportunities to capture once in a lifetime shots. As riders though, and other than the cost, our biggest problem is “where the hell, do we put the stuff?”

Managing Light

One of the most difficult challenges facing any travel photographer is managing light. As riders, pushing to get from A to B, the images we capture are opportunistic. When you’re in a foreign country, low on fuel and pushing to get to a border crossing before your visa expires, you don’t have the option of waiting around for the perfect light. You simply need to be able to photographically grab what you can, when you can!


Having a graduated neutral density filter (ND Grad), tucked in your kit bag can be crucial, and the difference between getting the shot or not.

What’s an ND Grad? An ND Grad filter is simply a glass shield, with a gradient from dark to light, that you put in front of the lens. You can handhold in front or buy one that screws to the front of the lens. Although there are hundreds of coloured filters, an ND filter should be colourless and therefore add no colour change to your image.

As a travel photographer, I use ND Grads to capture otherwise impossible shots, where there is a substantial difference between the brightness of the sky and the foreground. How many times have you wanted to grab a shot of your mate with that dramatic sky, only to find out, that when you look at the camera preview the sky is blown-out and just a blur of bright white nothing?

This is where the ND Grad comes in handy. By using the dark half of the ND Grad filter over the portion of the sky, you can control the light and capture that dramatic mix of landscape and sky. The image in this piece was shot in the USA out at the Anza-Bor- rego Desert State Park. What makes the dragon really stand out is the contrast between the deep blue sky and the orange rust of the dragon itself. Without an ND Grad filter, the sky was just a washout, but with the ND Grad in place, I was able to capture the dark blue that, for me, makes the photo work.

ND Grad filters are small, easily carried, affordable (you can pick them up for around a tenner if you shop around) and a crucial bit of kit. Go online or buy from your local camera store and you’ll be amazed at the difference it will make.

Have fun. Ride far and we’ll see you on the road.


Simon and Lisa Thomas have ridden
their way into a life that most of us can
only imagine. This year is their 14th year
on the road and in that time the duo has amassed more than 420,000 miles on
their ride through 78 countries and six continents. Along the way they’ve traversed 27 deserts, survived a broken neck in the Amazon Jungle, cheated death and become professional photographers, writers and public speakers. www.2ridetheworld.com.

Fitness: Adventure bike fitness


Adventure Bike Fitness

Photo: Bryn Davies

Having already discussed four muscle groups in previous issues of ABR, the next area that we are going to focus on is found on the posterior of the lower legs – the calves. This is made up of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, which are important in any motorcycling movement that involves planting your toes (e.g. standing up on the pegs).

These muscles are sometimes neglected by people, but are very important when muscle balance is considered. Weak calves can lead to problems with walking gait and performing any strenuous activity such as jogging, jumping or running. The action of plantar flexion that the calves produces is even used in walking, so it really is important to include these exercises in your circuit.


The first exercise here is the standing calf raise. The best method here is to use a small step (if available). I have used many hotel rooms whilst adventure travelling and there is usually a step of some sort, or when in the wilds I’ve used a suitable rock. The key here is balance, as you need full range of movement (ROM) to work the whole gastrocnemius.

Stand on a step with only the balls of the feet in contact and shoulder-width apart, then let your body weight drop the heels down as to where the movement stops naturally. Only moving the ankle joint, raise your entire body up straight using the calves. Use the one second up, one second downtempo and aim for 15 reps over two sets. You may need to hold onto a wall whilst you do this exercise as it requires an element of balance.

The second exercise is to target the lower leg soleus muscle where you need to be in a sitting position. Sit on a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart, then lean forward and place your hands or elbows on top of your thighs. This is the key point: you are going to provide your own resistance for this exercise. Raise your heels up whilst keeping the balls of your feet planted on the floor whilst simultaneously pushing down your thighs. This will take a little practice for you to work out how much resistance to provide to tire your soleus across 15 reps. Again, perform two sets in your growing circuit of exercises.

The last exercise is actually a stretch, as calf tightness can lead to stress fractures whilst running. Therefore, you must keep your calf muscles in a flexible state. We haven’t dealt with any stretching so far in this circuit but is very important here. There will be more stretching articles in future issues.

The standing calf stretch is the stretch you may remember doing at school. Stand with one foot in front of the other whilst ‘pushing’ against a wall (or a tree). The rear foot should be planted and you should experiment with different distances between the feet to get the stretching feeling in the calf area. Lean into the stretch and hold for 30 seconds, then switch and repeat with the other foot.

This calf routine has been designed to be tagged on to our adventure bike fitness circuit training plan. Perform these exercises along with those that we detailed in the previous four issues of Adventure Bike Rider magazine.

The overall thing to remember here is that the growing circuit you are building can be used both indoors or out and you can utilise many natural or man-made objects to augment your workout.


MARK ANSELL has a degree in exercise science and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. He has delivered over 5,000 personal training sessions, has written a personal training degree and published a textbook on the subject. His motorcycling experience includes 30 years in the saddle, including adventure biking.

Legal: Using a trailer to transport your bike

In the mud
at the 2015 BMW Motorrad GS Trophy Female Team Qualifying Event held at Countrytrax Amersfoort, South Africa. Image by Greg Beadle

When figuring out if you’re legally able to tow a trailer, it all depends on when you passed your driving test. If you passed after 1 January 1997, you can tow a trailer up to 750kg which does not have to have its own braking system. That’s plenty for three trail bikes, but before you rush out and start loading up – there’s more you need to know.

If you passed before 31 December 1996, your maximum ‘all up’ weight for the entire vehicle train is over eight tonnes. Unless you are towing three GSs, weight is unlikely to be a concern for you.

It would be a very odd insurance policy which covered your trailer and bikes fully comprehensive whilst being towed, and you’ll find most insurers will cover it third party. With this in mind, it’s important to understand that you’re towing at your own risk.

When it comes to towing safely, your bike needs to be strapped down properly. A dangerously loose bike will get you three points and a fine of up to £2,500 per load, meaning two poorly loaded bikes could see you £5,000 and six points down. Furthermore, if this is your second unsafe load conviction in three years, you’re looking at a mandatory driving ban of three months.

If you want to attract the attention of the boys in blue, don’t bother with a working light board or registration plate. The police are attracted to these easy nicks like moths to a flame, and they would be well within their right to pull you over – they can, and they should.

So far, so obvious. But hands up who knows what nose weight is? Extra points if you know what your nose weight limit for your car is, and top-class if you can actually measure it!

Nose weight is the static downforce generated at the hitching point by a towed or otherwise affixed load onto the tow bar. It is second only to the weight ratio to the tow load to the tow vehicle (which should not exceed 85%) as a safety factor, and the heavier the load, the bigger the nose weight needs to be. If it’s not, traction in the rear wheels will be compromised and the trailers could snake, causing an accident.

Nose weight is crucial to safe trailering. Once you know the nose weight of your car (it will be in your owner’s manual), you can work out the ratio of the rate to the tow vehicle to the towed load. For example, if you have an un-braked trailer (and just about every bike trailer will be un-braked), a Ford Focus Zetec 1.6 has a range of safe towing loads, depending on the model, between 300-625kg. Going beyond the manufacturer’s limits could easily constitute a dangerous driving charge if your trailer gets bent out of shape as a result of such actions.

Unfortunately, if you want to check if you are safe to tow, you are going to have to do some homework. You’ll need to know your tow vehicle’s limit for towing an un-braked trailer, the manufacturer’s published nose weight, the gross vehicle weight of the tow vehicle, and ensure the towed load does not exceed 750kg or the manufacturer’s maximum if lower on an un-braked trailer.

Also, the lighter your trailer, the less crucial downforce/nose weight becomes. If you are towing a 750kg load behind a 1.1-tonne car, the load is about 68% of the weight of the towing vehicle. If you do not have weight pressing down through the towing hitch when the trailer bounces the static force that goes through the hitch starts to vary. Three-quarters of a tonne pulling 1.1 tonnes is clearly going to start lifting, even momentarily, the tow vehicle’s suspension, which means that your back wheels are more likely to break out, leading to snaking which can bend your vehicle out of shape and is the reason why you see cars on their roofs in the summer holidays as people are towing caravans without making these checks.

So, it is not as simple as going off and buying a trailer, sticking your bike on and hoping for the best.

Finally, a word on racks. I have seen enduro bikes on the back of family cars and MPVs, even the ubiquitous VW T5 will have a dirt bike perched on the rack on the back. I own a T5, so I happen to know the maximum nose weight for my model is 80kg. I have a rack, which I know weighs 9kg, therefore if my bike weighs more than 71kg I cannot put it on a rack on the back of the van. I’ve seen 160kg bikes on the back of a Renault Espace, with the front wheels virtually pawing the air and the rear suspension sat so low that the tyres are pretty much touching the arches. That was a crash waiting to happen, and any copper worth his salt will have that vehicle over and have the driver nicked.

Once you make the decision to transport your bike to the dirt in anything other than the back of a van, you need to do some thinking and research. Hitch and hope might work, and probably for a single dirt bike on a trailer you’re unlikely to go wrong, but a bit of homework will keep you on the right side of the law.


Andrew Dalton is an ex-despatch rider turned solicitor and barrister with over 20 years experience in the field of motorcycle law. He is a regular motorcyclist running an R1200GS and an AJP240 green laner, and is an experienced European and UK rider with well-recognised expertise in both British and European motorcycle law.

Ask Dave: ABR’s resident expert of all things two-wheeled answers your questions

In the mud
at the 2015 BMW Motorrad GS Trophy Female Team Qualifying Event held at Countrytrax Amersfoort, South Africa. Image by Greg Beadle

This question came from a pal’s wife. She’s Petite, barely five feet tall and would love an adventure bike, but they are all a bit too tall for comfortable riding. She’s previously owned a modified 225cc Yamaha Serrow, a nice bike but lacking in go for long days touring. The CCM 450 could be a contender, but, again, not relaxing enough for long days riding when chasing hubby on a 1000cc plus ADV bike. So, what she asked me was, can a full-on adventure bike be easily modified to serve her purpose?

The good news is that she’s not alone in her struggle. Many women (and men) struggle with the height and bulk of adventure bikes to the point where it almost puts them off riding them. Fortunately, action can be taken to make the ride more comfortable and less intimidating for those shorter in stature.

Handlebars can be changed for a better bend or just tipped back in the mounts, which makes it easier to reach the controls once in the saddle, and there are some bar risers that bring the bars back as well. A lot of the modern adventure bikes now have adjustable seats which can be lowered or raised on the fly, and some manufacturers offer a lower seat version of the mod- el. Aftermarket saddles are available which lower the height of the seat, but they often come at a hefty price. There is always the option of modifying the original seat, something that you can either do yourself or find a specialist for.

The real problem here, however, is suspension travel. The whole point of an ADV bike is its capability to travel across rough, adventurous terrain, so you’ll find that adventure bikes have more travel than other road-going machines along with a higher ground clearance, which inevitably raises the seat height.

Changing front fork springs to lower the suspension will lessen travel. Forks can be dropped through the yokes to lower the bike down more still. Rear shock absorbers can be changed for a shorter one, but, again this will lessen travel and ground clearance, plus the price of good shocks ain’t cheap.

So, modifications make it possible to alter a bike to suit, but, it all comes at a price.

When speaking to her, she made the point that she can go to a Land Rover dealer, for instance, and buy a Discovery which will have seats with a huge range of adjustment to suit her or her larger hubby, without any special mods needed. So why can’t bike manufacturers do the same, or at least offer a range of the same model to suit all sizes?

I don’t have the answer to that question, but I am going to spend some more time researching it. Her other rant to me was the lack of clothing for a smaller female rider. Her words to me were: “We don’t all like pink!”

When I’ve been dragged shopping with my missus into the big department stores, there are floors of women’s clothing with a much smaller corner for men. It seems that this is the opposite in motorcycle clothing stores!

I know the better clothing manufacturers offer a good size range, but at a cost. Sometimes it’s worth paying the extra for good gear that will last and do the job well.

If any of our female readers can offer an insight please let me know and I’ll pass on the info (email: [email protected]adventurebikerider.com).

Got something to ask Dave?

Send in your bike related questions to [email protected] and if we publish yours you’ll get a free subscription to ABR!