You live in England, it’s winter, an hour after waking up at the weekend it’s already getting dark. Every now and again you crack the garage door open slightly just to check that the pride and joy is still there, waiting… wondering…
You look out of the window, frost on the rooftops, wet tarmac on the ground and black clouds in the distance. You let out a blood curdling scream of swear words blaming the weather for everything that’s wrong with your life and head to the kitchen for another cup of tea and maybe a few rich tea’s.
Another Sunday of eBay, porn and facebook stalking it is then. No need to visit the downstairs toilet on the way, there’s still half a roll of loo paper next to the laptop from last weekend’s snowfall.
There has to be more to winter than this…
Go Get Muddy !
Dr Emmett Brown said it best. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”. And he was right of course because you don’t need roads at all. Particularly if you just want to have fun riding during the miserable winter months. What could be better on a cold, wet January day than ragging a KTM EXC around an enduro circuit or taking a Suzuki DRZ on your own countryside adventure, exploring the local byway and green lane network.
In talking to fellow riders, the biggest issue with riding off-road is knowing where to start. So, here you go, to start our off-road series, here is a handy guide to getting some off-road riding in for the first time.
The simplest way to start riding off-road. Although initially it can be quite expensive as you need to go out and buy yourself a road legal off-road motorcycle and some basic off-road equipment such as rigid boots and light weight waterproof clothing. After that though, the countryside is your lobster Rodney. All you really need next is to view the ‘definitive map’ for your county, this is usually available online and amongst all of the various forms of paths shown on the map, you are looking for ‘byways open to all traffic’ or simply ‘byways’ as these are the routes that you can ride on.
Here, as an example, is a link to the definitive map for Wiltshire County: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/communityandliving/rightsofway/publicrightsofwaymapping.htm
If you don’t fancy navigating yourself then other options are available to you. You can join the TRF (Trail Riders Fellowship) and pay a £45 annual membership fee then join various group rides for your county http://www.trf.org.uk If that’s not your thing then just search facebook for local trail riding groups, there are lots of them out there with plenty of riders happy to take you out on the tour of the local byways for absolutely nothing!
A very popular way to start off-roading by motorcycle is to attend one of the many training school days around the country. These are a great way to start as they supply all of the gear plus the bike. There is a training school for pretty much all of the off-road motorcycle manufacturers which is great as you can either pick a school based upon their location or which brand of motorcycle you would like to ride.
Many of the schools are run by Dakar Rally veterans, so you are in good hands and after you have done a day or two training with them they can also help you on your way to whatever it is you want to do next. Whether it’s just to get your own bike, start racing enduros or maybe even one day enter an international rally race.
We have no affiliation with any of the following off-road schools, we’ve just heard good stuff about them so are more than happy to recommend.
If after reading the title the first thing that came into your head was Cliff Richard and you are humming ‘that’ tune now, please leave this website and never ever return. If however you thought about riding gravel tracks through mountain passes or racing muddy tracks alongside olive groves before stopping for lunch at a cantina then please read on.
Off-road holidays in the form of a long weekend break can be a great way to sample off-road riding for the first time, as with the schools all the necessary gear and bikes are provided within the price and due to the open countryside access in countries such as France, Portugal and Spain you will get in more off-road time in two days than you would in two weeks on the UK byways.
Generally these holidays cost around £500 per rider total so long as you book cheap flights and the costs generally include three night’s accommodation, two days riding, breakfast and sometimes lunch. They are absolutely perfect for novice groups (a discount is usually available for groups of eight or more) and are a perfect platform to experience off-road riding for the first time.
As with the schools, here is a list of a few off-road holiday companies that we have heard great things about, again no affiliation but picked particularly for their ability to give novice riders some very memorable weekends away.
So… you’ve done all of the above or some of the above, what can you do next? Well there are loads to choose from to keep the miserable winter months busy.
In forthcoming posts we will explain more about taking part in off-road racing in the form of Enduro, Extreme Enduro, Rally and Trials together with some links to how you can get involved. Also coming up some bike reviews and long-term tests.
Either way, it’s got to be better than ebay and porn right? Oh… wait… 😉