Off-road motorcycle riding is a ridiculous amount of fun. Why? You don’t have to worry about traffic, speed limits or concrete underneath your two wheels to hit. The ability to ride confidently off-road is a key skill every adventure rider should acquire. It’s a lot different than riding on the street, so we put together some fundamental tips that will help you progress as an off-road rider.
Going off-road riding means you’re leaving important things behind. You may lose cell phone service, so in case of an emergency, you want to be prepared. The terrain holds many types of hazards that can damage your bike, or even yourself. Bring along your tool kit, first aid kit and some extra gas in case you run out. You may not end up using any of these items, but you’ll feel less stressed knowing you brought them with you.
This applies to any type of riding really. Always keep your head up and eyes focused when you’re on two wheels. Look where you want your bike to be, and the rest will follow. As soon as you look down, you are unable to deal with the terrain under your front wheel. Practice makes perfect, so make sure you can manoeuvre your bike like this to the point where it doesn’t take any real effort.
Standing gives you better control of the bike. It allows your legs to act as a shock absorber on rough terrain to soak up the bumps and go faster. A lot of new riders think standing is all you have to do. You need to bend your knees slightly, tilt at your hips, keep a straight back and keep your head in line with the bars. This doesn’t mean stand at all times. You should sit down on tight corners or switchbacks so you don’t lose balance and have to put a foot down. This will make you lose momentum and you could spin out. It takes a lot of practice and balance to become a proficient standing rider on technical terrains.
Braking while riding off-road is different than stopping on a paved surface. When riding on roads, you will primarily use your front brake. About 70% of the effort goes towards the front since weight transfers there when a bike starts to slow down. The off-road terrain offers an entirely different traction standard. You’ve got to think backwards and apply most of your effort towards the rear brake. Sliding the rear is a natural way to scrub off speed when you’re off-road. Stay off the front brakes unless you know it won’t wash out.
When riding on the street, riders have a natural instinct to avoid any obstacle in their way. Street bikes don’t have enough suspension travel to absorb serious shocks, but dirt bikes are made to climb over logs, get through mud and power through any other rut in its way. It may take a while to get over the fact that you can cross that obstacle. Once the idea clicks with your brain and you try it first hand, you will love it. Dirt bikes are able to lift their front wheel easier, which is easily mastered by rolling on the throttle and tugging up at the handlebars. Always use momentum to your advantage because if you hesitate, you could wipe out.
Written by Picasso (Peter Ndung’u)
Image courtesy of Picasso