Off Road Motorcycling Riding Advice
So you’ve seen them on some late night TV channel, flying over sand dunes or hauling a motorcycle laden with camping gear out of a muddy river. It probably seems a long way from your quick, easy commute on two wheels. But part of you is wondering – could I do that?
And the answer is yes, you could. You don’t have to start by riding around the world, or doing the Dakar rally. If you can ride a motorcycle on the road, you can try off-roading just for fun.
We asked an expert what to expect from your first day. “Lots of laughs”, says Graham Ross, who runs Trailblazers in Southern Spain. “Yes, it is far more physical than riding a road bike, more demanding on upper body strength.” But off road motorbikes are usually lighter, so you don’t have to be a weightlifter to pick one up.
In fact, picking up the bike is one of the things you’d expect to learn on your first day, along with techniques for cornering, braking and using the gears. The basics are the same as any other geared motorcycle, but because you’re going over rougher ground at lower speeds, you need different skills.
Riding on trails, dirt tracks or gravel is more about balance and momentum than speed. That’s why they call it the “low-speed, high adrenalin” riding experience. “It’s a fraction of the speed, and twice the exhilaration,” agrees Barry Johnson of Yamaha Off-Road Experience. “You can fall off and not hurt yourself because it’s at a slower speed”, says Graham. Which brings us on to protective gear.
Graham recommends the full list of kit – good quality off road boots, gloves, goggles and a helmet. Off road helmets are a different shape and, though you could wear a road riding helmet, you are likely to fall off a few times so it might take a knock. You should also wear padded trousers, a race shirt and body armour with built in elbow protection and a kidney belt. It sounds like a lot, but the first time you fall off and get up without a bruise, it’ll all be worth it.
There are plenty of sensible reasons to try off road riding. It will improve your riding, especially your low speed control. Potholes and gravel drives will hold no fear for you. If you have a stressful life, it’s practically therapy, according to Graham. “You have to concentrate totally – no time to be worrying about the rest of your life.” And it will make you fitter.
But the main reason is, “it’s the craic with your mates”. No cars, no traffic lights, just great countryside and places that you could never reach by road. “Total freedom to ride”, says Graham.
Graham’s top tips for beginners:
- Listen to what your tutor is saying.
- Take your time, always ride in your comfort zone.
- Wear the right protective gear.
- Practise in a field, not a track.
- When you buy your bike do not buy a competition bike, buy one you are comfortable with. One that is the right height and weight for you to manage.