Of the four basic off-road riding disciplines (motocross, trail riding, trials and dual-sport), dual-sport riding requires the most planning. Motocross and trials riders have their vehicle a stone's throw away in the parking lot, and since trail rides don't usually go longer than a day, there's no need to pack a tent, sleeping bag, or any long term heavy or bulky supplies. A cell phone, multi-tool, spare tube, magnesium flint (you never know when you might get stranded and a fire will quickly become your best friend), and a few tools usually suffice. A dual-sport journey however, requires you to carry your home away from home right on the motorcycle, and also requires a gas station somewhere on the horizon which means you need to plan an itinerary.
A dual-sport adventure is an amazing and unforgettable experience but it's not all romance, and planning a trip in the comfort of your climate-controlled, bug-free, hot water-equipped appliance-laden home is not quite the same as camping outdoors, washing up with cold water, and sleeping on the hard ground. Those who have some camping or backpacking experience will have an easier transition than those who have never pitched a tent or slept under the stars before. If you have no experience with the outdoors, see if you can beg or borrow a sleeping bag and try spending a few nights in your backyard. You can Rube Goldberg a tarp to use as a tent if you don't have one. Spending a weekend at a local campsite is another option. You'll be able to test yourself in a (sort of) real environment without being too far from home. You'll probably meet other campers and you can pepper them with questions about camping, proper gear, and how best to co-exist with Mother Nature.
Mother Nature doesn't give a crap that you really, really need to get away from the office. She's conditioned the bugs, birds, bees, and bears to wake up in the springtime and make up for the time they lost through the winter. You and your motorcycle are just in the way. And never forget - it's their home and you're just passing through.
Once you've decided on a destination, learn more about the environments you'll be travelling through. Almost every state has a Department of Environmental Conservation or a Department of Natural Resources, so visit the various websites to get an idea of the environs you'll be living in, even if only for one night. Some offer only basic campsites, but some have cabins, shower facilities, etc. Check the State's tourism website as well. A big part of any trip is meeting new (local) people and seeing new things so earmark some time to go sightseeing.
Now that you have a basic itinerary you can start to price out gear. Adventure riding is a very popular pastime so it's no surprise there is a staggering amount of choices when it comes to gear. Good quality gear is not cheap but you'll have it for a long time, and if you decide not to take another trip, quality gear is easier to sell and brings a better price than cheap gear. You'll also need a basic tool kit, both for minor repairs to the bike as well tire-changing tools. If you buy a new bike it will probably come with a decent enough tool kit and you'll only need the tire kit. Don't forget to buy some spare tubes.
There are many more pieces of the planning puzzle that need to come together, but this article should get you headed in the right direction. Research is a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process, but it will ensure a comfortable and unforgettable adventure. Don't read too much into it though - you want to be prepared but at some point you'll need to just get up and go. You'll never have all the answers, but why would you want them?
This article is excerpted from an article on the http://www.dirtbikes101.com website, and is reprinted by the author.
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