Since I got my motorcycle license 13 years ago, I moved from naked bikes, to sport-touring bikes to adventure bikes. I didn’t cheap-out on gear over time, so some of the gear I got in those early years I still use now. For example, my Rev’it Everest GTX Jacket, a Rev’it leather pants, another Rev’it Jacket (perforated leather), and a pair of BMW leather waterproof touring boots. This gear has been rock solid over the years and I’m sure they will last much longer. Over time I did get more gear to adjust for weather and riding style. E.g. I recently got a new adventure helmet and some adventure boots.
Other then my bikes, a few other things changed as well. (1) I got a family (2) I moved from the cold Netherlands to a warm Mexico, (3) I got older, wiser (depends on who you ask) with less need for speed, and most recently, I had a small motorcycle accident where I broke my leg. This accident is where my curiosity into the Dual Sport gear all started.
In order to explain why the accident peaked my interest in dual sport gear I have to give you some background info. As some of you might know I got a new bike about half a year ago. The KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. A big bore adventure bike, very heavy, but also very off-road capable for such a big bike. The accident happened 2 weeks ago. I went on a camping trip with my friend Jasper. First day we arrived at the camp site, riding only pavement.
The next day we went to check out another camp site about 50km / 30mi away, all off-road. It took us over a loose gravel road going from the top of the mountain we camped on, all the way down to the valley via dozens of twists and hairpins, river crossings and a few muddy puddles. Apart from a flat tire which was easily fixed, and the screaming hot temperatures, all went well.
We arrived at the other camp site and checked it out. Once done, I got on my bike, went through the same muddy puddle I went through just 30 minutes before, when my rear wheel slid sideways and the 250kg / 550lbs bike crushed my leg breaking my tibia and fibula. 5 excruciating hours later, with help of Jasper, an improvised splint and very helpful locals with a 4×4, I made it to a good hospital with an actual x-ray machine and a good orthopedic surgeon.
Tip: Make sure your first aid kit has a blow up leg-splint in it. Mine didn't.
Even though I was wearing adventure boots (Sidi Adventure 2) this was not enough. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a criticism towards the Sidi Adventure boots. If I was wearing my BMW touring boots or my urban motorcycle sneakers, I’m almost certain that I would have bones sticking out of my skin. Luckily that was not the case.
Of course I thought a lot about the accident and talked about it with Jasper, who saw it happening. First thought was that, all in all, it wasn’t that bad. I just broke my leg. No biggie. Happens to a lot of people.
Did you know that leg injuries are amongst the most common injuries in motorcycle riding, especially off-road riding?
Second thought was wether or not I would start riding again. I decided to wait a few days with a decision, as the first day or two in the hospital I was seriously thinking to sell it all and buy a Jeep Wrangler or something like that. But… after two days, the initial scare wore off and sanity kicked in again 🙂.
Thirdly… how could I have prevented this accident? Here is what we came up with:
- Better Tires – In front I had a TKC70, but my back wheel still had the stock Pirelli Scorpion Trail: basically a road tire which does not provide any grip at all in the mud. Even a TKC70 would have a hard time in deep mud. A proper 50/50 tire might have prevented my accident.
- Improve riding skills – My road riding skills are pretty decent, but off-road I still have a lot to learn. I actually had an off-road riding course planned after the camping trip, but alas, that was too late. I believe with better skills I would have approached the muddy puddles with more care and respect (especially knowing that I had a street tire on the back). Probably I would have made it through if I had better skills.
- A smaller, more manageable motorcycle – The KTM 1290 SAR is a beast on- and offroad. I still love this bike and I won’t be selling it any time soon. I invested too much for that. But… my next bike is definitely going to be lighter and less ‘ready to race’. Perhaps a Yamaha Tenere 700 or even a Suzuki DR 650.
- Switch to a rack-less luggage system – I don’t remember the fall exactly and Jasper neither (it went so fast), but, even though I was standing on the pegs, the bike fell on top of my leg. It’s full weight transferred to one of the tubes of the rack. (I didn’t have the soft luggage on at that moment). Perhaps, if I would not have that rack on, my leg would have been fine.
- Go for full-on MX boots – When I bought the Sidi Adventure 2 boots, I had a hard time deciding between the Sidi Crossfire 2/3 and the Adventure 2. In the end I chose the Adventure boots. Now I can’t shake the feeling that my leg probably would have been fine (at least not broken) had I worn Crossfires or something similar.
- Better ventilating gear – That day it was hot, even for Mexico standards in that area. I only had my Rev’it Everest jacket with me because that’s waterproof and it was rainy season. It’s not exactly a summer jacket though. So, due to the slow off-road speeds I was overheating and getting tired fast (probably also a factor in the accident). I didn’t take off my jacket because I didn’t want to ride around unprotected.
Dual Sport vs Adventure Riding
So, with all this in mind, and time to spare since I can’t walk for the next 6 weeks, I started browsing, reading and YouTube-ing. Pretty quickly I decided that I was going to change my gear and protection, moving it towards a more dual sport oriented direction. Before I get into what the differences in gear actually are, let’s first make sure we all understand the differences between adventure and dual sport riding, and adventure and dual sport bikes. Whole articles have been written about this (here’s a good one on ADV Pulse), but basically it boils down to this:
Adventure is road riding with the occasional, not too technical, off-road stretch (think gravel, fire roads). Adventure bikes are typically powerful (>70hp), have 2 or more cylinders and are heavy (over 200kg / 440 lbs).
Dual sport riding is mostly off-road, with some road in it to get to those off-road stretches. Dual sport motorcycles are typically less powerful (50hp or less), have only one cylinder and are lighter (around 150kg or less, depending on the engine capacity).
Of course, this is a generalization, there are many exceptions to this. There are people who treat an adventure bike like a dual sport and also lots of people who use a dual sport to adventure the world. But, not everyone is Chris Birch or rtwPaul. And obviously there is a huge overlapping area between these two riding styles and types of bikes.
Dual Sport vs Adventure Gear
Now let’s get to the gear. The typical adventure gear is the gear we are all most used to. It’s like my gear mentioned above and, apart from style differences, it’s also the gear that is worn by most road riders, from tourers, cruisers, scramblers to naked riders alike. A jacket with integrated armor, good abrasion protection (should you do a slider on pavement), and preferably usable during 2 or 3 seasons, maybe even waterproof and breathable (e.g. GoreTex). Pants, same story, armor integrated, abrasion protection, usable during 2 or 3 seasons. Foot protection varies from army boots to stiff leather boots which are still comfortable to walk in. This gear is easy to put on and comfortable on the road, but can quickly get warm at lower (off-road) speeds. You won’t see a lot of dual sport riders dressed like that.
With dual sport being mostly off-road, it typically takes a lot of energy, is at lower speeds and obviously doesn’t take place on road-rash-causing pavement. Body heat and sweat, generated by the hard work, needs to be wicked away by good ventilation. Also, abrasion protection is less important in the dirt, while impact protection is more important (think rocks, roots, trees that you can fall onto and bump into). So, dual sport riders take a different approach. They split their gear into layers: an armor layer close and snug to the body preventing protectors from moving to the wrong places, and one or more top layers to protect against the elements. This gives them better protection and a lot more flexibility to adjust to temperature and weather changes during a ride. E.g. if it gets too hot they can choose to ride in the armor layer with a jersey only. Since the top layer (e.g. a jacket) doesn’t have protectors in it, they can take it off and fold it up small to carry on the bike.
Dual Sport Gear Components
In stead of me explaining the components, let me link an excellent video below. This is Eric Lange from RideADV. He makes his living by guiding motorcycle adventure tours all over the world. In this video he explains what gear he relies on and why. Notice that this is all dual sport gear, while Eric rides adventure bikes and the title of the video is ADV Moto Gear. Goes to show how interchangeable this terminology is actually used.
My New Gear Setup
As I already mentioned at the beginning of this article, I never cheaped-out on gear, and over the years I have gathered quite a decent gear collection. The good thing about switching to ‘dual sport’ gear is that a lot of my existing gear is still usable. Here’s what my new gear setup looks like!
- Top left we have the body armor vest I bought. It’s the Leatt Body Protector 3DF AirFit Hybrid. Why did I choose this one? Because it’s relatively low profile, breaths well, but still has CE Level 2 back and chest protectors.
- Below that we have the Leatt Impact Shorts 3DF 4.0
- Below that we have the Fox Racing Titan Pro knee guards. I really wanted to get knee braces, but a good pair of those is 500+ USD, while this is only 100 USD. If you’re wondering, here is a great video explaining the difference between knee guards and knee braces. In the future, if finances allow it, I’ll probably get knee braces, but for now, these will have to do.
- Top right we have our upper body top layers. These are the jackets I already own. I will simply remove the protectors from it. With that, I get a very versatile top layer I can choose from, depending on temperature and weather. Only thing still missing is a jersey, which I’m planning to get in the near future.
- Below that we have the pants. I already owned the leather riding pants and riding jeans. Like with the jackets I’ll remove the hip and knee protection from them. I also had a textile pants, but that one was cut to pieces when I arrived at the hospital. As a replacement I ordered the Klim Mojave pants. These are very well ventilating pants, that still offer a decent amount of abrasion protection for on the road.
- As for feet and lower leg protection, I already own three pair of boots/shoes. The Sidi Adventure 2 boots, the BMW touring boots and the Motorcycle sneakers. (I’ll probably never wear those sneakers again given my accident.) In the future, if finances allow it, I want to invest in a decent pair of actual motocross boots, like the Sidi Crossfires or Alpinestars Tech 10.
I also want to get an airbag vest (got my eyes on the Helite E-Turtle). But these things are also crazy expensive and impossible to get in Mexico at this moment.
So there you have it. My new gear setup resulting from my recent little accident. Motorcycling can be an expensive hobby, especially when it comes to safety. Safety is hard to argue against, but everyone has to decide for themselves how much they want to invest in protection. This will depend on what kind of riding you do and the budget you are willing to spend.
One thing I didn’t mention yet is the downside to this layered approach. It takes a lot longer to gear up for a ride. A quick dash to the supermarket or corner store won’t be quick anymore if you want to fully gear up. This is something I have yet to experience, but I think I’ll get used to it.
Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have some feedback, tips or tricks for others. I read every comment and perhaps it will help other riders too.
Thanks & Cheers,