Adventure bike riding questions answered by our team of experts
Q. As a solo female adventurer, would you advise taking any self-defence classes before setting off? I’d love to plan a big solo trip, but I’m put off by the thought of being so vulnerable on the road.
A. ABR and author Lois Pryce says:
I didn’t take any self-defence classes before my trips but it certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to do, especially if it will make you feel more confident on the road. The idea of setting off alone can be a scary feeling but please believe me when I tell you that once you get out on the road you will find that it is all so much easier than you could ever imagine! Travelling as a solo female, there are of course factors to consider, but on the whole you will find that everyone you meet will want to help you, and often you may even get preferential treatment as a solo woman traveler, especially in the Latin American countries where chivalry is alive and well! During my whole trip from Alaska to Argentina I never once felt my personal safety was under threat. It is right to be sensible about your safety but don’t let caution get in the way of having a great adventure!
Q. What do you need to consider when going to different parts of the world in terms of fuel?
A. ABR contributor and overlander Ted Hely says:
The fuel available around the world is one the top things that riders will worry about when setting out on an overland trip, and for good reason. In many third-world countries, the octane (the ability of the fuel to withstand pre-detonation aka ‘pinking’) can be quiet low. Whether this is detrimental to your machine depends on your bike and the compression ratio of your engine, no matter if it uses carburettor or fuel injection. The best thing to do is check what your bike can cope with and then do your very best to find that grade of fuel. If you have a high compression engine, running low octane fuel will cause pinking and loss of power. You will find that most of the popular overlanding bikes have fairy low compression and will cope well with anything that is likely to be thrown at them. Some of the more modern and higher tuned adventure bikes will have a ‘knock’ sensor in the engine and will retard the ignition timing to counter the poor fuel, too. If you do experience a pinking sound and loss of power after a dubious fill up, add some octane booster following the instructions on the bottle and/or hold back on the throttle and ride more gently until you can find a higher grade fuel.
Another consideration is what your fuel is made of. For example, in Brazil, the fuel can be up to 30 percent ethanol. This can cause fuel lines to harden and crack, especially if you’re not using the correct grade fuel line or third party parts. Some unscrupulous ‘Jerry can’ sellers will try and water down fuel, too. These are best avoided but just part and parcel of riding around the world; always try and find a proper fuel station if possible.
A fuel filter is a must. Even though most bikes have a filter built into their tank and/or fuel pump, putting an in-line filter into the fuel line is a good, cheap way of keeping out grit and sand. When I returned from Africa there was a 5mm layer of sand in the bottom of my tank. Most motor factors sell fuel filters which can be made of paper, foam or fabric, but they all work the same. Be sure to fit it before your trip, though, to make sure yours isn’t too small to restrict fuel flow.
Q. I’m new to the ABR scene and would like to know the best kit and equipment for riding green lanes on a budget.
A. The TRF’s Richard Simpson says:
I’d start off with cycle shorts and a ‘wicking’ T-shirt as a base layer. You then need to think about protection from the inevitable low-speed tumbles. I wear a motocross bodybelt, and BMX knee and elbow pads. On top of that are motocross jeans and a vented textile jacket.
Motocross boots (with ‘gripper’, not ‘slipper’ soles) are essential, as is a good pair of hiking socks. I use motocross gloves, but if you are on a budget try plastic mesh-style garden/work gloves. Take some warmer gloves with you in the winter, and add layers between your base and top layer as appropriate. The Dirt Bike Show, held at Stoneleigh in November, is a brilliant opportunity to kit out with most of the above at budget prices.
You could save buying two different helmets by choosing one of the so-called dual-sport designs with a removable visor and detachable peak, suitable for road and trail riding (with goggles in place of the visor). If you do decide to buy a dedicated motocross helmet, then my preference is for a cheap lid replaced frequently over a more expensive design. When trail riding, helmets are frequently bashed into branches and sweated into, so get one you can afford to throw away!
As for equipment, take the tools you need to remove the wheels and fix a puncture, and replace/adjust cables and levers. A spare clutch cable (if applicable), throttle cable, clutch lever and front inner tube along with some cable ties and tape should get you out of most situations.
You should also take some drinking water and energy bars.
Lastly, your first step as a budding trail rider should be to join the Trail Riders Fellowship (www.trf.org.uk), At just £40 a year you get all the support, information advice and riding companions you will need. Good luck!