ADV Skill Rating System


© 2017 Bret Tkacs
All rights reserved

Time spent on a motorcycle can work in favor of skill development,
but time spent on a motorcycle does not define your skill level.

As a professional motorcycle trainer and adventure tour guide, Bret is regularly challenged to help adventure motorcycle riders rate their riding skills on various trails.  He has seen riders who have traveled the world but retain very basic off-road skills.  On the other hand, some riders brand new to the ADV world end up being very skilled with their motorcycle and move quickly to being an advanced rider.

There are two parts to this complex rating system.  The first section discusses how to use this system and some of the assumptions that are made in taking into account the complexities of rating a person’s skill to the type of terrain they’re riding.  The second section is a visual reference that explains what each terrain feature looks like.  Within each terrain feature, a rider can be at the beginner level (rookie), intermediate (transitioning into that level), or proficient with their off road motorcycle skills.

This system is intended to assist ADV riders in identifying their ability to ride certain terrain features and rate their ability to ride different terrain features.  Please use this guide with introspection and note that this guide is not intended to rate a particular trail, but intended to rate YOUR ability to ride a LOADED ADVENTURE BIKE through various classes of terrain features.

This rating system defines your riding skill as an adventure rider and not as a dirt bike or dual-sport rider.  Therefore, the following assumptions are made:

Assumptions that must be true in order to use this system:


You are riding a mid-size to large displacement (650cc - 1290cc) adventure-style motorcycle.


Your ADV bike is in near-stock configuration with only minor modifications for protection, comfort and luggage. Minor upgrades to suspension (to account for heavier loads) or improvements to braking or tires also fall into the “near stock” category.


You are traveling or camping, and therefore will have a luggage system with at least an intermediate load.

1. Baseline

Determine your baseline by relating it to how you feel after finishing an average street ride.  Identify your fatigue and stress levels, your ability to multitask if needed, and how many rest breaks you typically take.

2. Terrain

Choose the class of terrain features that most closely resembles the type of trails you you ride.  Click on a symbol to read a list of terrain features in each class.

3. Skill

Consider the baseline you established in Step 1, then use this Skill Assessment Chart to determine your skill level in the terrain you chose.

For example, if you ride in moderate terrain and you are exhausted (as compared to your baseline) and crash often, then you are a rookie at the moderate terrain level.


You are a rookie if two or more of the following are true:


You are transitioning towards proficiency if:


Consider yourself proficient if:

4. Additional Considerations

Adventure Skill Rating System

Class 1: Novice

The novice level begins for most riders before they ever  consider adventure riding. Gravel driveways, road construction with hardpacked gravel or dirt and well-maintained dirt/gravel roads is where this level starts. These types of terrain features are easily managed on a street motorcycle with street tires and do not require any specific off-road riding skills.


To start riding off-road, consider taking the ADV Training Camp in Oregon, Georgia, or Virginia to develop proficiency on novice terrain.

Class 2: BASIC

Basic terrain is the most common terrain for ADV riders of all levels. This terrain could easily be driven in a standard car. Basic ADV terrain typically consists of simple, predictable  features with occasional challenges for traction, or obstacles that would require a rider to slow down before crossing.


To develop proficiency, consider taking the ADV Training Camp in Oregon, Georgia, or Virginia to attain competency on basic terrain.  In addition, the ADV Basics and/or Precision Riding class at the Touratech Rally will help you gain proficiency.


Moderate terrain is where proper training and off-road riding skills become important.  Moderate terrain is often the most sought-out terrain by ADV riders when traveling. Seeking to become proficient at moderate terrain and reach the level of intermediate rider is a worthy goal. Moderate terrain is also where techniques such as standing and precise clutch control are required to reach a proficient status.


To develop proficiency on moderate terrain, consider taking the ADV Training Camp or the BDR Tour.  In addition, the Precision Riding class at the Touratech Rally will help with skill refinement.


Now it’s time to really start having fun. Most routes only have short sections that are rated as difficult. This may not be an issue for a rider that is proficient in intermediate terrain, however if a route is consistently rated as difficult, that can contribute to significant fatigue causing errors in technique and/or judgment. Difficult terrain can be very dangerous for riders lacking proper riding gear (including motocross boots), riding skills or motorcycle setup. Difficult terrain may also be signed for high clearance or 4×4 vehicles.


To develop proficiency on difficult terrain, you must be very skilled with smooth controls.  Consider refining your skills at the ADV Training Camp or the BDR Tour.  In addition, the Precision Riding class at the Touratech Rally will help with skill refinement.

Class 5: SEVERE

Because this ADV rider skill rating system assumes you will be riding a loaded ADV bike, it is unlikely for most riders to encounter severe terrain accidently. Many riders might encounter severe terrain during long trips but few riders will ever reach the level of proficient. An expert ADV rider is capable of riding comfortably, relaxed and unfazed on severe terrain that is impassable by unmodified, un-winched Jeep or trails intended for dirt bikes. 


To develop proficiency on expert terrain, you must be very skilled with smooth controls.  Contact Bret for specific training.