Are you a self-taught adventure rider? To some degree, most riders are probably at least somewhat self-taught. You may have taken some classes along the way—and a lot of us took the MSF Basic RiderCourse at some point. While those courses have good stuff to teach, they can’t teach us everything. A lot of motorcycle riding is experiential, and we learn it simply by spending more time in the saddle.
That’s exactly why experienced adventure riding instructor Bret Tkacs makes videos like this one. Here, he breaks down two of the most common mistakes that he sees self-taught ADV riders making—and tells us in detail how to fix them.
Now, to be absolutely clear, the stuff that Tkacs talks about here pertains to off-road riding. Techniques vary based on a number of factors, and what’s acceptable or even proper for road riding may not apply to off-road riding. If you’re a rider who grew up riding dirt and transitioned to road riding, you’re probably already aware of that. However, if you’re more like me, and you primarily ride street and only started to dip a toe into riding on anything else as an adult, it’s just one more thing to wrap your head around.
Tkacs addresses is foot placement on the pegs. Often, riders tend to do what he refers to as “flipper foot,” where the toes are angled outward off the pegs, away from the bike. It’s easy and comfortable to do, but it’s a bad (and even dangerous) habit off-road.
Why? For one thing, it doesn’t offer riders the greatest control of their bikes. By keeping your feet loose on the pegs, it also means that your knees and heels aren’t tucked in tight to the bike. The second problem with this posture is that it increases the risk of serious knee and/or leg injuries if and when you do go down. A loose foot on the peg is more likely to catch on something in a crash—and probably so quickly that you don’t even fully realize it until after it’s happened.
The second mistake Tkacs highlights also has to do with control. In street riding, most of us were taught to cover the brake and clutch levers with four fingers. Thus, Tkacs says, when many self-taught ADV riders make the transition to off-road, it’s a habit that carries over.
Unfortunately, it’s one that could have serious consequences when you’re riding on terrain.
Overbraking is a problem on any surface, of course—and another thing Tkacs brings up is the fact that modern street bike braking systems don’t usually need four fingers in 2022, either. However, an added problem with covering the front brake with four fingers off road is another control issue.
If your tire deflects off of a stone, root, or other object you’re riding over, the handlebars are naturally going to go with it. Having all four fingers covering the lever makes it that much easier for those bars to get ripped completely out of your hands. Even temporarily, that’s a loss of control.
Instead, Tkacs advises anywhere between one and three fingers covering the levers, with your pinky finger acting as a hook. Building that habit into your off-road riding skill set should help you retain better control of your machine.