Archives for category: SKILLS

It’s a bit ’80s, but there’s some good stuff here. The video covers pretty much everything: how to cross muddy slopes, ditches, water fording, hills, v-shaped gullies, towing, driving ruts and rocky terrain. All of the sections are done by two Defenders, one doing the right thing, the other the wrong thing.

As an added bonus, the video shows what has been selected in vehicles’ transfer case and transmission via a little Atarti-style graphic.

The other day I posted about enduro riding techniques. This post is all about adventure riding skills. One set of resources is the video viewer above. It contains an entire playlist of 26 videos on adventure motorcycle riding brought to you by Offroad Fanatic, which seems to be the YouTube face of South African driver development school, ADA.

I’ll also add a throttle control tip that I learned from former AMA national champion, Rich Oliver, who runs Mystery School, a training facility in central California. Hold the throttle like you hold a screwdriver. This will give you greater precision and enable you to roll the power on in finer increments. It will also force your elbows out and up, which will give you better control.

All the videos in the above playlist are listed (with links) after the jump. So you can either use the list as a guide and skip through videos in the viewer above or use the links to open the videos individually in new browser windows.

Btw, I spent a couple of days at Mystery School a few years ago and found it well worth it. Read the rest of this entry »


On a recent trip, my friend Greg and I figured out something interesting about driving over bumps. If you preload the suspension by briefly applying the brake right before the bump, and then get on the throttle to power over the bump, it really smooths things out and makes the bump less jarring. Motorcyclists will know this move well.

Briefly braking right before the bump compresses the suspension. This is called “preloading.” Then immediately getting on the throttle, as the front tires go over the bump, shifts the weight towards the back of the truck. This lightens the front end and the front suspension rebounds, helping to lift the front tires over the bump. Moving the weight toward the back also preloads the rear suspension. Keeping the throttle on as the rear tires go over the bump keeps the rear suspension taught. This is what you want, as an unloaded rear suspension would otherwise rebound as the rear tires clear the bump causing and uncomfortable bucking motion.

The above picture oversells it a bit. This doesn’t have to be a wheels-in-the-air maneuver. Just shifting the weight a bit is enough to make a difference.

Give it a try the next time you’re out on the trail and encounter a berm or some other relatively smooth obstacle. I bet you’ll notice a difference.

How to use a fire steel. There’s a bit of art to it…


On our recent trip up to the Snow Mountain Wilderness in the Mendocino National Forest, my friend Greg and I tried a couple of variations of a long fire. Two benefits of a long fire: a) it uses long logs, so it lasts longer, b) you can cook on it by laying the logs close together at one end to support a pan, or by just using a grill grate.

I previously posted about a basic long fire and a standing long fire. We wanted to experiment with an elevated long fire though, since we thought it would throw off more heat than the basic version and be easier to set up than the standing version (since that one requires bracing the upper log). The version above, made with three 8-inch diameter x 5-foot long longs, lasted about 2 hours before it was pretty much done but threw off a ton of heat and burned well.

The version below, made with two 10-inch x 5-foot logs, lasted about 3 hours and was about two-thirds burned through before we added more wood. It was a nice, mellow, long-lasting, low-maintenance fire.

A long fire can be started in two ways. You can start from scratch by filling the length of the gap between the logs with a variety of kindling (from thin to thick). Or you can do as we did by building a more traditional campfire, letting it die down, then spreading the coals in to a long row, then setting your long fire up over the coals. We then put wrist-thick logs into the coals to get the fire going.

One tip: if you flat-spot the ends of the logs before you stack them, you won’t have an issue with burning logs rolling off your campfire as things burn down and inevitably shift.



I found this post on the blog Wandering the Wild, which gives ideas on camping food. This post is geared toward hikers but is also helpful for overlanders interested in no-nonsense provisioning. I like the way they pack everything in space-saving Zip-loc bags as well.

I’ve found dried soups (just add water and heat), canned goods, and single-serving, shelf-stable milk very handy for simple cooking on the trail. Except for cold beers, it’s not that difficult to travel without a cooler.

Food, Wandering the Wild


If you’re into changing your own tires, and gratuitous cleavage, check out this post. It shows how to break the bead or your tire with your Hi-Lift jack and mount your new tires on your wheels.

Home Tire Swap, Jp Magazine

Happy New Year! If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to become a better off-road rider, I have something for you to watch.

This South African enduro riding skills video shows a ton of techniques: how to hill climb, how to preload the suspension to get over obstacles, even how to scale a 6 or 8-foot vertical wall and get up a double ledge. It’s amazing to see just how smoothly these insurmountable-looking obstacles can be conquered.

Sometimes the video is frustrating, however: the announcer stands between the rider and the camera, blocking the line of sight; sometimes he says body position is important but doesn’t say what exactly that position is; sometimes the background melts like a Dali painting. The slow-motion parts, however, are really helpful. In them, you can see exactly how the riders lean, finesse, and transfer their weight to use their bikes’ power and suspension to get over almost anything. Overall the video displays some truly skilled riding.

The video I’m featuring compiles clips from the Offroad Fanatic YouTube channel, which shows techniques on adventure riding and has bike reviews as well. Well worth a look.

Offroad Fanatic YouTube channel


In my (albeit limited) experience bears are more shy than aggressive. That said, if you happen to come across an aggressive bear, this Expedition Portal article argues that bear spray is a better bear deterrent than bullets.

The article cites research indicating that in 133 bear attacks in which bear spray was used for self defense, three minor injuries result. In 269 attacks in which a gun was used for self defense, 17 people died. Yikes.

ExpeditionPortal: Why Some Say Spray

Left-foot braking means applying the brake with the left foot while your right foot is on the gas and the car is moving forward. It’s one of the most important skills I’ve learned. It makes progress over rocks and obstacles much smoother by reducing suspension movement as tires come off of obstacles. Chassis impacts with said rocks and obstacles are thereby also reduced.

Imagine a tire going over a rock. Even pressure on the throttle makes for a smooth climb to the top of the rock. Even pressure on the brake makes for a smooth descent down the other side. Gas and brake at the same time covers all of your bases, as some tires may be climbing while others descend.

There’s a second benefit. In a vehicle with open front and rear differentials (most 4x4s) getting into a crossed-axle situation (in which one wheel on each axle has lost traction) will halt forward movement. Squeezing the brake while keeping your foot on the gas can reduce wheel spin in the lost-traction wheels and transfer torque to the wheels with grip. In my experience though, this doesn’t work if the truck is up against big obstacles. That said, if you happen to get cross axled on a rutted but flat road, it’s a good trick to have up your sleeve.

This video does a good job of explaining both scenarios. If you haven’t already, practice left-foot braking the next time you’re out on the trail. Your smoothness over obstacles will be like night and day. Once I learned, I wondered how I ever got by without it.