Try as you might to avoid, when you get into the serious stuff when riding on the dirt…there will come a time when you will drop your bike. The crunch you hear as the leaning tower of your pizza pie makes contact with the ground, grass or water…is the sound of inevitability…so be prepared for it and get used to it pretty damn quick.
Now I’m not saying that it is an absolute certainty that you will come off your ride as soon as you leave the black tarmac…but the more you do it, the more challenging and technical the rides…at some point you will likely lose you balance, even for a split second and come a cropper!
Of course there are ways to ensure that you minimise the likelihood of doing so…by going really slowly, avoiding any rutted tracks, only go out in the dry…but even then you need to keep your wits about you. Any lapse in concentration or increasing fatigue can lead to a spill but most of the time there won’t be any damage to the bike or yourself…especially if you adopt a go-slow approach.
Now, personally I like to have a gentle ride whenever I’m on the back roads or on the dirt trails…primarily because I like to enjoy the ride and the environment. Sometimes a journey that might normally take half and hour can take three times longer because I’ll stop at regular intervals or merely find something interesting along the way that is worthy of exploring.
I also don’t tend to hoon around on any kind of trail because this is a recipe for disaster which could lead to serious injury too. If you’re going slower, sometimes even just crawling along and even with your feet off the pegs and scraping the dirt, then even if you lose your balance, you have your feet already near planted to save the day.
Of course this would tend to go against convention when your feet should be on the pegs…whether being seated or stood up. However, what I’m talking about is when you know there is a particular stretch of dirt that is likely to make you wobble and fall off…then the best option is to kick it into first gear, feather the clutch and get your feet on the deck to act as stabilisers. Of course you’ll have to be mindful of snagging your feet as you move along, or having your foot sink into a deep hole or rut if you come to rely upon it…but it is a useful method of helping you just get passed the tricky bit…then you can get back to the normal riding technique.
Remember, you really don’t want to drop your bike if you can help it…especially if it’s a bike you’ll be using again and again, it’s a big heavy bike…or even if it’s your pride and joy. Causing damage to the bike will seriously hurt your ego and your wallet perhaps but it will almost certainly be a bugger to pick up by yourself and the truth is that if you can avoid a drop, then you’ll be better for it. So endeth the sermon!
There is lots of advice out there about all kinds of motorcycling on the roads or adventure riding…however my approach has always been merely to go out there on whatever bike you have and just have a go! Start off really slowly and on wide, hard compacted trails or farm tracks…and then progress from there. You don’t need the big adventure bike with off road tyres, you don’t need the enduro/motocross thumper with gnarly knobblies on either…anything can be achieved on any kind of bike, anytime of year…and yes even on road tyres too. But you have to have the presence of mind to know what the restrictions are and what the limitations will be.
If you really want to avoid the spills but still want the thrills of off road riding then merely stick to the farm tracks or wide byways which are flat. If at any stage it becomes too much…then merely stop! Get off the bike and consider your options…if going forward is not to your liking, then merely turn back. Try to plan ahead as much as you can and avoid going blindly on any trail. If need be, go walk the trail first to see how it is, then come back and ride it.
Now many of you reading this might presume that I am preaching from on high and my sanctimonious clap trap is all nonsense…and I never do anything wrong or make mistakes…I wish that were the case!
The fact is, I’m always making mistakes, but I do sometimes try to learn from them too. I also fall off, drop my bike, lay it gently down on the grass…whatever expression you want to utilise to describe a man of middling years being flung off his ride and getting a mouthful of dirt and stung to buggery by nettles…rarely, but it does happen.
I suppose that’s why I like to make my POV riding videos and commentate as I go…it’s as much for my own archive as it is to portray a warts and all view of trail riding adventures that somebody might like to watch and also find useful too.
The point is that at any turn the bike can become destabilised because the terrain isn’t smooth like the road. This is part of the challenge and also the fun of off road riding. The front tyre wants to go one way, the rear tyre wants to go the other…and you end up doing a very good impression of a jelly fish as you wobble around trying to keep your balance and keep the bike rolling forward.
The more you do it, the more you address challenges, of course there will be times when you make a misjudgement…but if your approach is slow and cautious, then even if you fall off you’ll be unlikely to get yourself hurt or the bike bruised either. However the reward for getting on the dirt trails is that you get to see some truly amazing sites that are hidden behind tall hedges and trees that line the highways.
If you’re asking for my advice…then just go for it. Get out there and go find your own adventures. You don’t have to go far and you don’t need any kind of special equipment or bike either. Take it slow, respect the countryside and other people using it too and go in eyes wide open. If you have a slip, it’s not the end of the world as long as you’re prepared to fall and get back up again.