Overlanding on a motorcycle: Is it possible?

There’s nothing quite like the open road, the wind through your hair, and traveling across the country in an adventure like no other.

Overlanding on a motorcycle has become a very popular way to get closer to nature, and see the world from a new perspective.

Unlike traditional camping, overlanding is all about the journey rather than the destination, and as a result, having a vehicle that is capable of taking you all the way there, is very important.

Featured Image Source: https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/adventure-motorcycles-for-hunters/

Overlanding on a Motorcycle

For years, people have been overlanding using their pickup trucks. Whereas traditional camping focuses on the actual destination, the idea of overlanding focuses on the journey itself. These trips can last days, weeks, or even months.

In recent years, many people have begun asking, “Can I overland on a motorcycle?”, simply because it has become more expensive to maintain a truck. And, the cost of gasoline can be unbearable for most. As result, a number of people have begun to overland on a motorcycle.

Not only are they able to experience the journey, but they can save a lot of money in the process.

Choosing Your Motorcycle

When it comes to overlanding, your choice of a motorcycle will play a crucial role in determining how successful your journey will be.

It is important to remember, that although cruising bikes are great for long trips on the open highway, they don’t do very well off-road. And considering that many of the best destinations are off the beaten path, it’s important to have a motorcycle that can handle whatever you throw at it.

There are a number of bikes that are currently advertised as adventure bikes. And while it may seem like the obvious choice to choose one of these, not all of them are any good for overlanding.

Ultimately, it’s important to choose something that has a simple, and easy-to-fix design. It must be something that uses readily available parts and it must be able to be repaired without any need for special tools or equipment.

Engine Size

The size of a motorcycle’s engine is important for a number of reasons.

For starters, the larger the engine, the more fuel it will consume. At the same time, smaller engines do not have a sufficient amount of power needed for many overland trips. In choosing a good motorcycle, it is important to select something that provides both economy, durability, and power.

One of the most common engine displacements found in overland motorcycles is the 650cc engine. The smallest engine displacement that you should choose would be 450cc. Anything less than 450cc will lack the sufficient power needed when off-roading. Likewise, anything over 650cc will consume more fuel than is absolutely necessary.

There is no need to purchase a motorcycle for overlanding that has an engine displacement of more than 1000cc because you will generally not spend a lot of time on the highway. Moreover, the cost of maintaining motorcycles with a higher displacement may limit your journey options.

The Suspension

Not all motorcycles are created equal. Bikes that are built for cruising, feature a different suspension setup than those that are designed for offloading. Likewise, motorcycles that are commonly used for overlanding, have a suspension that is a mixture of both on and off-road design features.

Although many adventure bikes have improved suspension capabilities, most motorcycles on the market today still require a little bit of modification before they may be taken overland.

It is a good idea, to ensure that the fork tubes are designed for off-road use, and are capable of handling the extra weight of both the driver and the gear. Likewise, the rear suspension may also need to be upgraded in order to handle the extra weight.

The Wheels

Most motorcycles today often come with alloy wheels. Although these rims are very strong, they are also brittle. An alloy rim can easily be cracked, or broken while driven off-road. As result, it is important to make sure that any motorcycle you choose has spokes.

If you are to take a look at most dirt bikes or other forms of off-road motorcycles, you will notice that they all have spoked wheels. Unlike a one-piece alloy rim, if you bend a single spoke you can simply replace it. If you bend or break an alloy rim while overland, you will find that fixing it can be an almost impossible task.

Spokes are relatively cheap, and also lightweight. As result, you can bring a lot of spare spokes with you just in case they are needed. Although you may not have the necessary tools to balance a rim while you are out in the field, when you are replacing a single spoke, it is generally not necessary to rebalance the wheel.

Tubeless or Tubed Tires?

Perhaps one of the biggest questions that any motorcycle overlander asks, is whether they should go with tubed tires or tubeless. Although this may seem like a difficult question to answer, it is actually fairly simple.

If you choose a tubeless tire, then anytime you get a puncture, you will have to unmount the tire from the rim, repair the tire, remount the tire on the rim, and then fill it up with air. If you rip the tubeless tire, then it will be virtually impossible to repair out in the wilderness.

However, when it comes to a tubed tire, you can simply remove the tire from the rim, replace the tube, and then return the tire before filling it up with air again. As a result, tires that use tubes are easier to work with when you are further away from civilization.

When dealing with tires that use tubes, just like spoked rims, all you need to do is carry several spare tubes with you when you go. This way, if you do have a flat, you can easily replace the tube even when you are miles from nowhere.


You will spend countless hours on the seat of your motorcycle at a time. As a result, it can get fairly uncomfortable if your motorcycle is not set up properly. It is important to make sure that every part of the motorcycle is set up in a way that you are most comfortable with.

You should be able to sit on your motorcycle for several hours at a time without having pain or discomfort.

Unlike with a cruising bike, you do not want to be stuck leaning forward over the gas tank for hours on end. The best option will always be a motorcycle that has taller handlebars, and a high seat with plenty of padding, so that you can sit up straight. Sitting upright reduces the chances of a back, neck, or shoulder injury.

Motorcycle Weight

Falls are commonplace when you choose to ride off-road. So when it comes to choosing an overland motorcycle, it is important to pick something that is not too heavy.

After all, if you knock your motorcycle over, you will need to stand it back upright on your own. And, since you will also be carrying gear with you, you will need something that is light enough that you can stand up on your own while it is fully packed.

The Fuel Tank

When going off-road, you need to make sure that you have enough fuel for the trip. This is why you cannot simply choose a standard dirtbike to overland with. You will need something that has a fuel capacity of at least 5 gallons. But, be careful about choosing something with too large of a fuel tank. If your fuel tank is too large, it will add unnecessary weight.


The last thing that you want to happen while overlanding, is breaking a part while on the road. It’s important to choose a motorcycle for overlanding that is popular enough that parts are readily available. While it would be nice to choose the latest and greatest model on the market today, it’s important to remember that parts for newer models are harder to find.

In the end, it is good to know that overlanding on a motorcycle can be a fun and rewarding experience. And, while you may want to know which motorcycle is best for overland, it’s important to remember that choosing the best motorcycle, comes down to what is best for your particular needs.

Don’t just rush into purchasing something simply because it looks great, and fits your budget. Instead, take your time in selecting one that is able to provide you with the most enjoyable journey imaginable.

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