If you’re looking for ADV bike training, we suggest doing your research before choosing a company or trainer. These days, people with very limited experience are presenting themselves as instructors, which has led to some riders getting hurt or giving up on the dream of adventure riding. Before you commit to training with anyone, make sure you thoroughly assess their qualifications and background. While we can recommend a few trusted individuals, ultimately it’s up to you to find the right fit for your needs. With caution and careful research, you can find a reputable company that will help you achieve your adventure riding goals safely.
Any course that encourages you to use dirt bike specific skills such as throwing a leg out in turns is a recipe for absolute disaster… and a broken leg.
Learning to ride a dirt bike on a track or trail can significantly advance your skills as an ADV rider. Much of what is taught is easy to master on a lightweight bike but can be difficult to learn initially on a large ADV bike. It is critically important to keep in mind that there are specific dirt bike skills that are dangerous if applied on an ADV bike.
Some schools and instructors teach skills labeled as adventure riding that are impractible or downright dangerous on a 600lb touring bike. Some of the most shocking examples are teaching ADV riders to ‘throw a leg out’ while cornering, telling riders to ‘add throttle and lean back’ while riding in sand, or even advising riders to put their feet down like outriggers during mud or water crossings. There are even instructors who teach balance in the same format as a trials bike and even teaching ADV riders how to ride wheelies! Sure, they’re fun but not practical, and all these teachings are not only wrong for ADV bikes but is an excellent way to get very hurt.
An adventure training course must be focused on the specific limitations and advantages of modern ADV motorcycles. This training should include the elements to include using modern electronic rider enhancements such as ABS, traction control, dynamic suspension, and the need to ergonomically adjust the motorcycle to function well on both pavement and off-pavement.
In short, I encourage you to attend dirt bike schools as long as you’re aware that some techniques may not transfer to your adventure motorcycle. But be very careful not to attend an ADV school that teaches dirt bike techniques.
Formulas are great for when you’re starting out. But as you already know, in the real world, you will encounter situations that you’ve never seen before. Your formulas will leave you stuck in the woods or worse, under your bike.
You are not maximizing your potential if you learn to ride using basic formulas – or processes – as you would during a state-endorsed beginners course such as the Basic Ridercourse (MSF) or the Basic Rider Training (BRT). It is a great place to start, but not ideal for becoming a better rider.
If you are at zero experience level, formula-based ADV courses are a great way to get started, however they are a way for the curriculum designers to produce courses that can be taught by non-professional educators. These educators can then teach a technique without truly understanding it – and to an audience with no experience to question the instruction. A perfect example of this is when educators teach that ‘standing off-road lowers your center of gravity’. This is obviously inconsistent with the basic concept of physics.
Learning from formula-based instruction isn’t a problem if you are truly at the zero experience level, it is a great way to get started but these programs require the curriculum designers to produce courses that can be taught by non-professional educators that may be able to teach a technique but not truly understand it and to an audience with no experience. A perfect example of this is ‘when going through sand, lean back’. Another example is ‘when going uphill, lean forward’. These are beginner pieces of advice that can turn into dangerous habits as experience grows; and doesn’t take into account the dynamic scenarios you will encounter as an ADV rider.
I subscribe to the belief that it is not in the best interest of an aspiring ADV rider to use formula-based learning (providing step by step directions for a specific given scenario). In the real world of unpaved roads and trails, very few scenarios line up with the given formulas, which leaves you guessing how to safely negotiate each new piece of terrain you encounter.
Look for a training program that includes the physics behind any process you’re taught and how it is adapted for a wide range of scenarios. For example, if you are told to lean forward to go up a hill and to lean back when riding in sand, what would you do if you find yourself riding up a sand hill? If you train with an instructor who truly understands the physics behind ADV riding, you already know the answer.
Starting a business is easy. Saying you can teach is also easy. Be wary of people who have very little experience or expertise, and who are using you to learn how to run an ADV class.
In recent years, motorcycle training in the US has turned into the wild west. This is most evident in the adventure motorcycle training market. As the popularity of ADV bikes has grown, so has demand for training. Being in a segment dominated by riders who are typically older, more educated, and in a stage of life where they can afford quality training has fueled this tend of self-declared ADV schools and instructors. When I taught my first off-road class to a group of ADV riders in 2006, there were no other ADV schools in the US.
As a consumer, it is critically important to vet any school you are considering attending to the best of your ability. This means looking at how long they have been in business, what training and experience the instructor(s) have, what their philosophy on education is, how they actually define ADV riding, and what precautions they incorporate into their training to keep you as safe as possible knowing this is an inherently dangerous activity.
Is the school sponsored by reputable companies? Are they training for the way YOU plan to ride and the places YOU plan to go? Are they open-minded and willing to change their beliefs, or are they strongly opinionated?
Most schools and most instructors are not trained as educators and are not certified by any outside organization. Even within large organizations such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), the popularity of adventure motorcycling has created a rush to get an instruction program on the market. In the case of MSF, they mostly rebranded their MSF Dirtbike School as an ADV training school with almost no changes to the original program. I do endorse the MSF program for first-time ADV riders, provided they continue their training with a more ADV-centric training program that can erase learned skills that are great for getting started, but downright dangerous if they are not developed and changed as your experience increases.
The sad reality is the majority of ADV schools I have look into lack actual experience traveling overland by motorcycle, lack a complex understanding of the physics of motorcycling, or don’t recognize the dangers of teaching pure dirt bike skills marketed as adventure bike skills.
I am a huge proponent of education and feel it is very important to find a good school where you can get appropriate hands-on experience. I am also a proponent of doing your homework to ensure you are paying for actual ADV-focused training that fits your age, abilities, and goals.
Some instructors rely on bravado and hoorah to get over obstacles rather than detailing what to expect. We’ve found many riders who have broken their bike or themselves with this careless instruction.
This may not solve the problem, but it will certainly end the suspense! The truth is, many issues that occur when riding off-road can be solved by committing to success and adding a little bit of throttle, however this also has an equal chance of making things worse. I have witnessed many riders on the trail (those who have not trained with me) who subscribe to the ‘just send it’ advice offered by many ADV instructors, who get injured or break their bikes; or do both.
Riding a 500 to 600lb motorcycle is no place for bravado to drive your success or failure. There are many schools out there (some are even expensive and well-known) that tap into the power of peer pressure to drive riders through their fears. Although this can undoubtedly work for some riders, it is a very dangerous way to work through the fears that cause hesitation.
Fear itself is drawn from a lack of understanding and/or the feeling of not being in control. The best way to overcome fear – in a productive way that significantly decreases your risk of injury or damage – is to eliminate the lack of understanding which also reduces or eliminates the feeling of having no control.
Look for a school that focuses on education and understanding rather than bravado, peer pressure, and the ‘just do it’ mentality.
Aside from recommending my own training courses which are found here, the following list are schools or individuals that are doing a very good job at instructing ADV motorcycling safely and effectively.
Bill is a friend of mine and is the owner of Dragoo Adventure Riding Training, or DART. Bill teaches with his son Ben, and is a very competent rider. His style of teaching is mastering challenges GS Trophy style.
Kandi rides a standard R1200GS despite being 5’2″. She is also twice a finalist for the U.S. Women’s Team GS Trophy. I have traveled to Nepal with her several times and her gregarious and outgoing personality brings a lot of fun to her classes, especially to less confident riders. Her method of teaching is GS Trophy style.
Many Places, USA
The MSF is a very safety-focused organization and while you’ll only learn formulas in this class, it is a great intro to getting comfortable on your ADV bike when you are first starting out.