There are a bunch of really good reasons for everyone to have a go at off-road riding, but the main reason is simple; you’ll have a jolly good time. It can be a little bit daunting though, trying something new for the first time. Particularly something that there’s a fair chance you’ll fall over whilst trying to do. But don’t let that put you off. Once you’ve got the hang of riding with your wheels out of line, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to give it a crack. So, in the interest of public service, we’ve put together this list. Here are five of the best ways the ultimate novice can try his (or her) hand at off-road riding.
KTM/Kawasaki Motocross Experience
Billed as the perfect introduction to the thrills of off-road riding, an MX Experience Day is the thing to do for anyone who fancies their first go on a proper motocross bike, round a proper motocross track. For KTM’s MX Experience you don’t even need a bike license. All you need is to be 15 or older and at least 5’ 5’’ tall. Oh and they say you need to be at least able to ride a pushbike. You’ll be taught everything from the basics upwards by Head Coach Barry Johnson, an ex-international level MX racer who’s been teaching motocross for 30 years.
The KTM MX Experience works out of venues all over England, so you’re never too far away. Unless you don’t live in England. The price for a day at the KTM MX Experience is £199 per person, but that includes everything you need.
Kawasaki also run a very similar set up, offering tuition to the newest of riders as well as seasoned off-roaders. And they’ve even got a nice young lady on their books to teach all you girls how to ride off-road. If you’ve never ridden on dirt before, but you want to experience the high-octane thrills of MX, look no further.
Inch Perfect Trials
Does MX sound a bit too manic for you? Do you fancy a go at something a little more dignified? Why not think about having a potter round on a trials bike? Inch Perfect Trials, over in Lancashire, offer experience days for all ages (well, six years old and up) and all levels. They’ve got the bikes and all the kit you need, and can supply extra tuition to complete beginners. You’ll start by learning the basics like clutch and throttle control on a bit of flat ground, then some simple figure of eights, before moving on to tackle some trickier obstacles with instructors on hand all day to help you with anything you might be struggling with.
A hot dinner is provided as well as drinks and biscuits, and you can buy bacon butties for £1.50. Bargain. Prices start from £125 on weekdays or £150 on a weekend (unless you take your own bike – then it’s £100). There’s also a fully stocked trials shop at Inch Perfect, so if you get the bug and decide you need to buy a bike and some kit, you’ll be in the right place!
Soon, we’ll all be riding hydrogen powered hover boards and the use of fossil fuels will be punishable by Umbongo; so we might as well all get used to it now (get used to going green, I mean, not Umbongo). Not many of us are ready to saunter down Electric Avenue when it comes to our every day road bikes, (or should I say the bikes aren’t ready for us), but when it comes to getting dirty on a weekend, there are a few options that bare a bit of thinking about. KTM’s Freeride E has made electric off-road bikes almost a viable option. Because of that, there have been a few spots popping up where you can go and give it a go; both indoor and outdoor.
E-Scape, in Cheshire, is one of those very places. They pride themselves on being able to ‘introduce off-road riding to those who are completely new to the sport’. That’s all on bikes that are 100% electric. And not only that, they’re powered 100% by renewable energy sources. You can’t get much greener than that – stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Greta. Adult packages start form £79.
If you live a bit further north and/or it’s a crap day, iMotoX (Glasgow) have an indoor, electric MX park. They use similar Electric KTMs, but also Oset MX-10s for the kids and Sur-Ron MXs for newer riders. Prices at iMotoX start from just £26, and that’s with all your safety gear included.
Manufacturer-Backed Adventure Centres
Over the last few years, these have been springing up left right and centre. Well, I say left, right and centre, they’re usually in Wales. Honda, Yamaha, Triumph and BMW have all got an official adventure/off-road/training centre. They might all give them a slightly name, but essentially, they offer the same thing. All of them give you an opportunity to ride a variety of their off-road bikes on a variety of trails with some top spec instructors.
It’s not the cheapest way to ride off road for the first time, but you can guarantee you’ll be riding bikes that are in tip-top condition. Most of the adventure centres require you to have a road license, since most of the routes that the instructors take you on include a bit of road riding, so unlike the aforementioned off-road experiences, it’s not something you should sign up for if you’ve never ridden a bike before
The adventure centres tend to be more focused on giving road riders the chance to hone their skills on loose surfaces, and to give them more confidence to take their own bike off-road, should they ever need to. If that sounds like you, you can check out what Honda, KTM, Triumph and BMW have got to offer here, here, here and here.
The Mick Extance Experience
Mick Extance shouldn’t need any introduction, but I’ll give him one anyway. He’s raced at international level enduro events as well as finishing The Dakar Rally no less than five times, and now, with the help of Bridgestone, has opened an off-road experience centre in the Berwyn Mountains near Llangynog, in Wales. They’ve got a range of bikes to suit all abilities from the seasoned racer to the absolute beginner, and all the kit you’ll need.
Mick and his team of instructors have got 1,500 acres of private woodland at their disposal, with loads of different trails of varying difficulty. Even if you think you’re half handy on a bike, there will be something there to challenge you. It’s £240 for the ‘Ultimate Off-Road Day’ which includes a full day of riding, all your safety kit and instruction.
For the more seasoned off-road rider, and the ones that really fancy a proper adventure, for £2,880 Mick will take you on the trip of a lifetime round Morocco. You’ll immerse yourself in the rich culture of North Africa and tackle some of the original Paris-Dakar Rally routes. Check out how Baron and Fagan got on here when they went on the adventure to end all adventures.
Great Write-up, Boothy! I’m not in the UK but these experiences sound like a great way to get into the dirt across the pond. Here in the U.S. my preferred method of muddying my moccasins is cruising on a motard until I find a vacant construction site to rip through. As long as it’s on two wheels (or less) I don’t care how dirty it gets, it’s sure to be a good time! Keep pushing out the great content, brother!!