Are you an experienced road rider interested in going off-road but a little unsure about the best entry? Intuitively you know it’s a different driving style, but you’ll have fun and develop your skills at the same time. Want to make sure you’re driving mostly right so you can improve? If so, check out this video from MotoTrek. This video has some great tips to get you started.
In this video veteran off-road instructor Dusty Wessels shares some basic but very helpful tips to help you navigate comfortably on paved roads and experience adventures you never dreamed of to do. There are plenty of dirt roads in the world to explore, so having a skill like that will give you even more places to play with your bike if you decide to extend your skills in this area.
The first thing to realize is that a good set of dual-sport tires can make a big difference. Of course, if you only run off-road, it would be a good idea to try hard rubber for off-road. However, given that most adventure riders also do road riding, starting with something that can do both might be your best bet. Off-road performance is important, however, as modern tire technology makes a big difference in what terrain a tire is designed for. Read our reviews to get the most out of the latest tire technology.
The next thing to consider is body position. One thing you may have heard many times in passing is that standing on the steps gives you more control off-road. I can attest that it’s true, even if you’ve never experienced it yourself. Basic road riding courses, such as those offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, teach road riders to stand when overcoming obstacles such as two-by-four and railroad tracks. This is because a shorter throttle push distributes the weight of the bike better and takes full advantage of obstacles.
Off-road, standing on the pegs greatly improves bike control. It also lowers the weight on the machine, lowering the center of gravity. Since you’re standing, this might feel a little counter-intuitive, but since you’re not sitting, all of your weight is being supported by your feet on top of these pegs, not the bottom of the seat. increase. See things more clearly and plan for whatever happens.
Additionally, standing up and bending your knees slightly into the tank encourages another movement that is very important when riding off-road. It’s about loosening your grip on the handlebars so you can ride along with the bike. Traction (and lack of traction) off-road feels very different than riding on pavement. So if you’re learning how it works primarily on pavement, your first impulse might be to get a firmer grip on the handlebars. (Believe me, I went through this, and it was my biggest problem in the first Dirt Bike class I ever took.)
Loose grip allows the bike and tires to do their job. You can also steer the bike in the direction you want to go with subtle, gentle input from your hands. Think about smooth, gradual movements when driving off-road. Smooth braking (using rear brake preload instead of front brake preload as we are used to on the road), smooth throttle input, smooth cornering and so on. Gradual input makes a big difference.
This video is a great primer to get started and encourages you to start on your own and improve your off-road skills. But as I recently learned for myself, completing a homework assignment written with every YouTube in the world is not an alternative to getting out in the field and gaining experience in the saddle (or beyond). Off-road skills, like most motorcycle skills, are learned with your whole body, not just your head. Helpful videos like this are one piece of the puzzle, but the endless study of theory is meaningless without practice.
Something not included in this video, but I would like to add: If you’re a total novice off-road rider and are afraid to ditch your big, expensive adventure bike because you’re not confident in your skills, first make sure you feel safe and comfortable on your dirt bike. Dirt bikes are made for (and sometimes crashing) terrain like this.
Physical obstacles aren’t the only obstacles to improving your driving skills. Sometimes they are also spiritual. If you’re worried about damaging your expensive bike, ride a smaller bike designed to be dropped until you feel confident. If you’re worried about twisting (or breaking) your ankle, buy a boot that provides good ankle support. You’ll find that skills develop faster when you’re less stressed about peripheral issues.