So, you bought an adv bike – now what?
In most cases, buying your brand-new adventure motorcycle is only the beginning. Why? Because depending on what level of off-road riding you plan to explore, you will need upgrades, some more imperative than others. When I bought Lorraine, my 2021 Honda CB500X in early February, it felt surreal. Never in my life have I bought NEW, and I wholeheartedly embraced the fact that I was going to make this bike mine, while simultaneously slowly draining my bank account.
Motorcycles. It’s a sickness.
Regardless of the terrain you are adventuring on, two major necessities for any adventure motorcycle are crash bars and a skid plate. If you are new to adv riding, let me give it to you straight: you are going to drop your bike. A lot. Whether it’s the consequence of taking a bad line up a hill, hitting some unforeseen sand or mud, or (GASP) the ever-popular parking lot drop, of which I am guilty on multiple occasions.
When it comes to the skid plate, this is to keep the underbelly of your bike safe, because when you are out cruising on a forest road, the last thing you want to be worried about is damaging your engine from loose gravel or any kind of road debris you can encounter. For Lorraine, I went with Outback Motortek for my crash bars, skid plate, and additionally, my pannier rack and rear luggage rack. Why? Because they are awesome. And for more info about my kit from Outback Motortek, click here.
I then went one level further and purchased a radiator guard and headlamp guard from SRC Moto – and I am so glad I did. While we like to think the odds of truly damaging our bike in the great unknown are low, in my experience, it is always better to be prepared. Protect yourself. Protect your bike. That’s how you keep riding.
Continuing with the theme of safeguarding our adv motorcycle, Barkbuster handguards are also at the top of my essentials list. Having handguards provides important protection for your hands and controls, everything from wind to road debris to impact from those inevitable crash days we have. Nothing is worse than getting hit in the knuckle from something popping up off the road – it hurts like hell and can cause serious injury. Barkbusters, or any kind of handguard, solve that problem for you.
Now, let’s talk upgrades.
First up, tires. I went with the Motoz Tractionator GPS 50/50 Adv tires – I absolutely love these tires for so many reasons. They provide a smooth transition from paved roads to gravel or dirt, an incredible amount of traction, they have a high resistance to punctures, and they are super grippy. Not everyone is going to need a 50/50 tire, and if you are mainly doing pavement, it is perhaps excessive; however, if you are sensing a theme here, it is preparedness. I like to be ready for anything on the road, and having my Motoz 50/50’s gives me the confidence that my bike can chew through just about anything I might encounter.
Second? NEW PEGS. The stock pegs on the Honda CB500X from any year are decent but offer very little grip on your boot, which can be dangerous in settings with rain, mud, or hitting chop that might cause you to lose footing. Lorraine got a new set of MK4 Pivot Pegz, and they are absolutely awesome. The hold on your boot is unbeatable, and with the ability to hinge the peg forward and back for easy shifting and braking, it helps the rider maintain balance and have better bike control.
My third upgrade was a personal choice purely because I am tall. At 5 feet ten inches, hunching over to keep my hands on the handlebars while standing was not ideal. Therefore, I installed a set of Rox Risers on my adv bike – something the majority of taller riders have to do for maximum ease while standing. It made a world of difference for me – I struggled quite a bit when I was initially learning how to stand on a motorcycle and couldn’t figure out why. The minor adjustment of adding risers drastically improved my riding because I was more comfortable and relaxed versus being stooped over and tense.
With standing covered, now we come to the fourth upgrade, and how to make sitting less of a literal pain in the ass. Now that I am living off of my motorcycle, there are some days when I find I have to gut out hundreds of miles to get to a new place (holy South Dakota), and while I will say the 2021 Honda CB500X stock seat was actually pretty tolerable, it was a game changer to get a Sargent Cycle Moto Seat made for Lorraine. No cramping. No tension. No stiffness. Honestly, there isn’t much I love about straight shots of highway, other than blasting ACDC and rocking out. The Sargent Cycle seat at least eliminates the bodily stress we often feel enduring long rides, so you can jam to tunes with relative ease.
The final upgrade? Back to being diligent, here. Again: drops happen. Crashes happen. And what often breaks first? Mirrors. And the best mirror for your adv motorcycle is hands down the Doubletake Adjustable mirror, because they are pretty much unbreakable. These mirrors are absurdly easy to install on any bike as well as remove, they offer great visibility, and provide flexibility and give in case of force or impact. I swear by these mirrors, and I will never buy anything else, because with every drop I’ve had whether it was a crash going over 60 mph on gravel or a parking lot drop, the Doubletakes live on.
There are infinite upgrades you can make to your adventure motorcycle, so many that I currently have a list of other additions I cannot wait to have installed on Lorraine. Every bike is different: with my Honda CB500X, these all felt like necessities for me to be as prepared as possible not only for living off of my motorcycle but also in tackling unknown roads and terrain.
But if you are going bare bones, at least start with crash bars, because we are human, and we drop motorcycles.
You’ll thank me later.
Live wild. Ride free.