What I learned in my first year riding off road

What I learned in my first year riding off road

It's been just over a year since I rode my own bike off-road for the first time. It was fun, intense, tiring and generally OK but there were a few small mishaps and broken bits on the bike, a more or less standard Honda Africa Twin CRF1000.

Since then, there's one thing I have changed about my bike:

  • Replaced it with a Honda CRF250L Rally. A 200kg bike is not easy to lift up when you are sliding around in mud. I can't control how often I drop the bike, but I can control how much it weighs when I have to pick it up.

And 2 things I have changed about myself:

1) Watched Brett Tkacs, MotoTrek and just about any off road skills video I can find on YouTube 🙏🤓 - especially poser skills ;)
2) 🏍 Attended Level 2 of BMW's off road riding school in Wales

What were my takeaways from the Off Road Skills course?

  1. Use 2 fingers only on the clutch and brake lever. Especially on the new GS 1250 and most modern bikes the levers are pretty light and designed for 2 finger use. This was just covered recently by Brett on Youtube.
  2. Standing position - do not bend your knees. Use your inside leg from ankle to knee to grip the bike. Bend in your hips to transfer weight forward/back as needed. Brake Magazine's video shows you how.
  3. Switch up gears relatively early to reduce torque on rocky surfaces. You can be in 6th gear at 25-30mph.
  4. Use pegs to steer by transferring your weight side to side. The Off Road Skills trainers had us combine this and the point above. Get the bike into 6th at a low speed, stand up and take your hands off the bars balancing with weighting.
  5. When doing adverse camber, weight the outer peg - i.e. the leg and peg on the steeper drop off side to keep the bike steady and balanced. This seems counter intuitive but it works (or so I am told 😏)
  6. When the bike falls on a hill, move the handles lock to lock rapidly to move the bike into a better position and angle it perpendicular to the hill to mount more easily (i.e. don't angle it down the hill).
  7. Keep practising slow speed drills such as tighter and tigter turns (be conscious of weighting on pegs and how that affects turn in), rolling dismounts etc. Also good to practice riding with no hands to make sure your balance is nailed. For some lols I recommend Shaun's video on the progression of turning ability).

Here's a short video of some of the day's antics. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. It is expensive, but if you want to accelerate your skills and get used to handling a big, heavy bike off road, this 2 day course is well worth it.

BMW Off Road Skills Level 2