Where do You Rate on the Scale? Novice to Expert Skill Levels Explained | Setting Motorcycle Suspension Preload

Do you know where you are on the ADV Skills Level chart? (See below) You should, because it affects your choices, outfitting and how you describe yourself when deciding if a rough section is for you. Bret Tkacs of PSSOR has come up with a rating chart for adventure riders to explain what a novice to experienced rider is.

After the Break

Ted Porter from the Beemer Shop in California gives the low-down on how to set your adventure motorcycle suspension preload. According to Ted, setting your preload is something every motorcycle rider should know and after you hear this, I doubt you will disagree.

Image: Bret Tkacs

Image: Bret Tkacs

Rider Skills: Are You Curious How You Rate?

ARR received an email from a listener asking if we could “take a stab at defining the skills one should be able to demonstrate at each ADV level - beginner, intermediate, expert”. A complex topic, we asked Bret Tkacs, ARR Rider Skills and PSSOR instructor, for his input. Bret jumped to the task and came up with a chart that explains what skills might be expected at each level, which could be applied to independent riding, riding on a tour or bike rentals. Bret discusses the difficulties of defining rider skill levels, how education and experience play a role in defining your level, and how bike, gear and set up can skew the chart. 


PSSOR Route Rating System


This rating system was created by PSSOR (Puget Sound Safety Off-Road) on behalf of TourUSA to assist with determining appropriate training and tour routes.

  • This system presumes riders are on mid-size to large displacement (650cc-1200cc) adventure-style motorcycles in near-stock configurations carrying light loads.


How to use the PSSOR Route Rating System:

  1. Find the rating that corresponds with the route features you are comfortable with.
  2. Use the Skill Level Classification chart (below) to determine your ability to ride all the route features listed within the rating you chose.
  3. Step down a rating level if you assess yourself to be in the red category for more than two features listed within the rating you chose.



Additional Considerations:


    You are a Basic rider if:

  • You do not stand while riding, or prefer sitting over standing.
  • You use throttle for speed control rather than the clutch.
  • You do not use the front brake off-road, or are uncomfortable braking off-road.
  • You “paddle-walk” or put your feet down in gravel or sand.
  • You are stiff and find riding off-road to be exhausting.


PSSOR Routes:

  1. Each trail rating includes all of the terrain features of the previous rating.
  2. Each PSSOR route is rated on the most difficult section that cannot be easily bypassed.
  3. Routes will be rated based on the most typical conditions during the riding season.  For example, a Level 2 route could easily become a Level 5 route with excessive rain.
  4. Any route that requires long periods of a particular feature may be moved up in its rating.  For example, a Level 3 route with miles of ruts without relief may be rated up one level.

Image: Ted Porter

Image: Ted Porter

How to Set Your Motorcycle Suspension Preload

Ted Porter from the Beemer Shop is a suspension specialist working on all makes and models of motorcycles. On this episode he discusses how to set your suspension preload, which every rider should know. If you haven’t measured your rider sag, you need to learn how to adjust your preload.


Music by Jason Shaw at www.audionautix.com