Off-road riding is an entirely different beast than cruising down the smooth stuff. Not only does it require a completely different approach and a handful of new techniques, but a full day of trail carving can also wring you ragged, too. The trick is to make sure you and your bike are fit and prepared to handle the rigors of off-road riding. For you, it’ll take practice and some training. For your bike, it’s a little easier.
From the factory, motorcycles are built to fit a wide range of riders, making the chances that the new bike you just bought will fit you perfectly quite slim. It might sound petty to complain that handlebars are half of an inch too low or foot pegs are a touch too forward-set. After a few hundred miles, a sore back and never-ending arm pump, however, you’ll realize smallest changes can make the biggest difference when you’re wrestling a 400-plus pound motorcycle up a mountain. There are a few easy ways to upgrade your bike to both protect it from inevitable falls, crashes and close encounters of the tree kind, and to tailor it directly to you.
Along with protecting your vulnerable digits, hand guards safeguard against trees and branches catching the clutch or brake lever – and help prevent them snapping off in the dirt or on a rock too. The stronger and more sturdy, the better.
Good: Moose Racing Aluminum Handguards $40+
Better: Barkbusters Storm Handguard Kit $112
Best: SW-Motech Kobra Handguard Kit $124+
Foot pegs from the factory tend to be one-size-fits-all. For some, stock pegs don’t have enough grip, are too narrow, don’t provide enough support for longer rides and aren’t in the right place. Having the right footpegs in the right place can mean the difference between enjoying 500 miles of riding and considering the first 50 to be pure torture.
Good: Moose Racing Hybrid Footpegs $104+
Better: SW-Motech On-Road / Off-Road Footpegs $121+
Best: SW-Motech EVO Adjustable Footpegs $192
For taller riders, stock placement of the handlebars can be too low. You’ll know that’s the case when you have sore lower back from hunching mile after mile, bump after bump. Being able to stand up straight gives you an incredible and neccessary advantage in bike control.
Good: Zeta Handlebar Risers $46
Better: Rizoma Handlebar Risers $105
Best: Rox Anti-Vibration Elite Pivot Risers $147
Ruts, logs, gravel flying off the front tire – really, anything that may make an appearance under your bike on a trail – are what the skid plate is there to protect against. More and more off-road bikes are coming with a skid plate from the factory, but often they aren’t robust enough.
Side Stand Plate
Widening the surface area of your kickstand is a fairly simple but helpful upgrade. You won’t always find a hard surface on which to drop the kickstand. A larger surface area helps distribute the weight of the bike and keeps the sidestand from sinking into the ground. It’s a good way to prevent that embarrisng slow-motion tip over.
Good: R&G Racing Kickstand Foot $48+
Better: Givi Sidestand Foot $49+
Best: SW-Motech Sidestand Foot Enlarger $59+
Falls happen when you go off-roading — it’s a fact of life. You never know if it’ll happen on soft sand or mud – or if there’s a rock waiting to crack your crank case. Crash bars are to limit damage, but they can also make a great tow point or grab handle if you bury your front wheel in that mud you didn’t see coming.
Good: SW-Motech Crash Bars $132+
Better: R&G Racing Adventure Bars $138+
Best: AltRider Crash Bar And Skid Plate System $596+
Like a lightweight extension of the skid plate, the radiator guard protects your vulnerable and vital cooling system while still letting through good air flow.
Good: R&G Racing Radiator Guard $58+
Better: Cox Racing Radiator Guard $72+
Best: AltRider Radiator Guard $86+
A broken headlight isn’t soemthing you want when you’re stuck out on a trail much longer than anticipated and sunlight starts to fade.