In the UK off road opportunities are limited, but they do exist in the form of 'Green lanes' or BOATs (byways open to all traffic). Many of these are left overs from ancient routes that have existed for millennia, such as ridgeways or ancient trackways. These unsurfaced roads are often only passible on foot, horseback, or with an off road vehicle.
The good news is that it's legal to ride on them, and while the normal rules of road apply (in theory), their varied surfaces and conditions mean that you can use them to test out your off road riding capabilities.
If you've never ridden off-road before you might want to brush up on a few techniques to get you started.
1. Stand up
Standing on the pegs lowers your bike's centre of gravity by shifting the bulk of your weight from the top of the seat to the base of the bike. It makes the bike easier to maneuvre and balance on rough uneven ground.
The correct way to do it is to stand with the balls of your feet on the pegs and thights ever-so-slightly gripping the tank. Use your knees to soak up the bumps, and get your elbows pointing outwards.
2. Look ahead
It's easy to underestimate the importance of head placement, but generally you'll end up going in the direction you're looking. When riding off road you want to foucs on your route ahead. If you spend too much time looking at that obstical to your left, or that puddle to your right, chances are you're going to end up in one of them. Keep your head up and look straight ahead.
3. Push The Bike Down to turn
Tackle turns off road is almost the exact opposite of taking them on road. Instead of getting low and transfering your weight to the inside of the bike, you want to transfer all of your weight to the outside peg, and push the bike down into the turn. If you're doing it right you'll have next to no weight on the inside peg. In fact you can even lift that leg and rest it across the seat. While this might seem counter intuitive if works because your weight pushed the tyre down into the ground rather than pushing it outwards asit does when leaning inside with your knee down.
When riding on gravel, dirt or other off road surfaces, your bike will naturally slip and slide and find it's own way through the bumps in the road. The worst thing you can do here is to tense up and start wrestling the bike around. The bars will naturally correct themselves, but if you're too tense ad gripping them too hard you'll stop them from doing this and more and likely end up that ditch you were trying to avoid. Be calm, loose, and relaxed.
5. Speed up
While it's important to ride within your capabilities, certain conditions require more speed than others. Soft sand, mud, or inclines, require you to keep your momentup up to avoid to getting bogged down and eventutally stuck. This is especially true on larger dual sport or adventure motorcycles that tend ot be much heavier than your average dirt bike. Higher speeds will also help keep the bike more stable, as the gyroscopic effects of the wheels and brake discs come into play.
Want more off road riding tips? Check out this excellent guide by 2Wheelsadventure.com
The 1 hour 40 minute video below is a clip from the Rampart Rider DVD - RawHyde Adventure's Off-Road Riding Clinic, Colorado. It covers the basic elements of off road riding. Enjoy!
There is only so much you can learn around riding off road from a video or PDF. Sooner or later you'll need to get out there and practice. That's the fun part. Make sure you take it easy at first, and ride well within your capabilities. Do be prapared to drop your motorcycle, and learn how to pick it up. If one thing is for sure, sooner or later you will drop your bike when riding off road, you've been warned.