How to Perfect Balance on an Adventure Motorcycle
By Ron Lieback
The majority of ADV motorcycles are large, heavy, and sometimes difficult to manage in technical sections of the trail because their balance points lay on a fine line. And let’s not forget that more often than not those same bikes are loaded up with extra tools, spares, and camping equipment, which can throw them off that much more.
The effort of mastering your balancing technique is seriously worth it. Good practice will enable you to ride in control of the bike in all sections and situations, rather than it taking control of you and treating you as a mere passenger.
Here, we get into what it takes to perfect your balance aboard an ADV bike. Say goodbye to fighting the awkward balance point once and for all.
Pack Your Motorcycle Properly!
Regardless of how much time you’ve spent practicing your balance, a poorly loaded motorcycle can seriously throw things off.
When setting out for a ride, be conscious of ensuring an equal weight distribution, especially if you have side-hanging panniers such as the Touratech Zega Pro series.
Having more weight loaded to one side will cause the motorcycle to easily tip over should your balance be upset from an obstacle, pulling the motorcycle down by the side that’s loaded heaviest.
Likewise, refrain from packing too far on top of your bike, which will raise the motorcycle’s center of gravity and hindering it’s handling in slow-speed tech sections of trail.
Assume Proper Footing Position
The first step to mastering your balance on any motorcycle begins with body position, plain and simple.
Start by placing your feet on the foot pegs in an athletic position, using the balls of your feet. This will give you an advantage as you’ll be able to manipulate your body’s weight distribution very quickly and precisely by putting pressure through your feet to the foot pegs.
This position—rather than standing on your arches or heels—positions you to ride with the forward momentum of the motorcycle, anticipating the trail and required body position changes.
Now that your feet are positioned correctly, lock your knees into the fuel tank for added balance and leverage when manipulating the motorcycle’s balance underneath you.
Anticipate the Trail Ahead
Imagine for a moment that you’re approaching a nasty section of trail, but you don’t adjust your balance and body position for it until you’re in the thick of it. Chances are, your motorcycle is going to get all sorts of wild.
Instead, keep your eyes up and be constantly adjusting your balance for the obstacles are coming. A steep downhill is approaching? Shift your weight to the rear of the motorcycle in order to improve its balance, taking as much weight off the front tiresas possible.
This will reduce the risk of locking up the front tire or cartwheeling over the front end if you apply too much throttle. A similar plan can be used for up hills (but with the body shifting slightly forward) and off camber sections.
Use At-Home Drills to Practice
Riding doesn’t always have to be done on the trails! Using simple, at-home practice drills can do wonders to improve the balance needed to tackle difficult obstacles and tight sections of trail.
Grab a two hazard cones and lay them out about 20 feet apart. Now, start with practicing basic figure eight exercises at slow speed. Conquer them at 20 feet? Begin to move the cones closer and closer together until you’re comfortable maneuvering through them at very slow speeds. Simple exercises like this will hone in on the imperfections in your balance, and quickly improving them.
Another drill to practice is a straight-line slalom with cones. Be sure you’re standing, and use only input from your feet to weave your bike through the line of cones. Push into the right foot peg to go right and vice versa.
For the best results practice the above on both street and dirt, and watch your balance improve drastically for any riding situation.