Welcome one and all to the wonderful world of off road riding or trail riding with your super dooper adventure bike. Over the last decade or so the ‘genre’ has exploded with every man…or woman and his or her dog getting all excited about the prospect of going out on a big adventure, seeing the sights and getting some dirt on the tread too.
Along with this wave of enthusiasm for all things dirt biking and adventure riding, there has been a deluge of biking videos and self help, step by step guides on how to do a particular thing on your bike.
One of the problems that I have with any form of remote tuition is that sometimes it is very one dimensional and the explanations tend not to give the ‘what if’ scenarios either. The other problem I have is that it assumes everyone wants to be a clone of Charley & Ewan, either to dress in the same manner or feel the need to prove they are an adventure rider because they are going to far flungs places.
Now, there is nothing wrond with any of that. The equipment and clothing is sound, the destinations are splendid…but very few tend to show that you can have all of this…this adventure and see amazing sights within a few miles of where you live and rarely do you have to change your wardrobe to suit the ride.
I suppose I count myself fortunate in that I grew up on a farm, so off road riding is where I began and where I continued into my early twenties. Of course the bikes were different then, the clothing was just what I was wearing at the time and helmets were just optional, however the riding was as challenging and fun then as it is today.
I could ride up and down steep hills, cross streams and shallow rivers, jump over logs and fight my way through ruts. I could even drop the bike and pick it up again or have to carve a path through the woods to get to where I wanted to get to…and all without the use of YouTube or experts from around the world telling me how to do something.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. Usually the quality of videos is rather good and the information is sound too, but I do wonder how much belief some riders place in the video content as opposed to just figuring it out for themselves.
Of course, I make a lot of riding videos myself on the YouTube channel, but I like to show how I do things and all of the challenges that you’ll face. However, I emphasise that you can get all the adventure you’ll ever need within a hour’s ride from where you live…you just have to go out and look for it.
I often watch riding videos, mostly to see how they are filmed but also to look at the content…and whilst it is good, it is not what my style is, so I’m content in knowing that I am producing something a little different.
Some of the tuition videos, however do leave room to have holes picked in them. Whether it’s about peg weighting, steering, uphill or downhill breaking or riding through ruts I find myself thinking, well whilst the information is OK, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Of course, making videos is not an eay task and fitting all of the details in can be a tall order too, however there should be further examination and rectification going forward. The latest video I saw was for peg weighting and the comments section said it all really. Lots of naysayers and lots of cheerleaders too, however very few actually stated that it was partially correct but only in certain situations.
Herein lies the problem with many of the videos in that they don’t go far enough when trying to explain a particular point. So let’s say someone says to stand up on the pegs when riding through ruts so you get a better view of the trail ahead. That might be right or it might be wrong depending on the competency of the rider and how deep and or narrow the ruts are too…also if it is a singular rut or many parallel ruts.
If it is the latter, then trust me the best option is just slow to a crawl pace and put your feet down to act as stabilisers because you will surely get the wobbles quite quickly and fall off or your foot will disappear down a hole or deep rut if you’re trying to recover the bike from a standing position.
No matter what the lesson, you can bet your mortgage that it can only cover certain situations and will not suit every rider either, every bike and type of surface too. Take peg weighting for example, to put pressure on a foot peg to turn the bike instead of steering.
Well this works at slower speeds and on flat compacted surfaces mostly, by shifting your weight to the side you wish to turn towards. However, this doesn’t mean you should not continue to steer the bike or that your ‘weighting’ will not destabilise the bike too. If riding through sand or mud, you may consider standing on the pegs and weighting them, however the front tyre will want to search for its own path too, so there will be a need for actual light steering too.
If you consider shifting your weight as one of the best tools in your arsenal, then you are half way to becoming a competent off road rider. Whenever you get out onto the more challenging tracks and trails, you’ll find you’ll be shifting weight to cause motion but also to recover too, but in the end you must always remember that the rulebook isn’t always concrete as the surface is rarely stable.
The best self help videos are the ones that will explain a point but also try to relate it to other situations and or discuss other scenarios where it might or might not work. You as the rider will need to determine for yourself which will work for you. I’ve been riding off road for many years but I still know what my limitations are and what works for me…perhaps getting back to the basics is all anyone ever really needs anyway. Build confidence, have a go but always always keep your riding uncomplicated and go for the safest and easiest option first.