If you’ve tried your hand (or tires) at riding off road, you know this already, but going off the beaten paths and tackling the roads less traveled can be a lot of fun. Out in the open, in the middle of nowhere, where you get to make your own rules. AMERiders gives you some tips for your off road riding experience.
We might be stating the obvious here, but part of the thrill and also of the challenge is that the surface you face isn’t the same as the one you deal with on the roads. This means the way you behave and react should change as well. We’ve come up with some tips to get you ready to ride off road.
It might sound a little over-enthusiastic, but do not neglect what getting stranded in the middle of the woods or of the desert might represent. Chances are wherever you get in trouble, cellphone reception will be down to -3 bars—that won’t be the time to think of that stuff you “should have brought”. Be prepared. Bring tools, parts, an extra jerrycan, a tire patching kit, etc. Basically, it’s all the same stuff you take when you are going on a trip just a few extras and make sure they are in there and maybe a few other things. It’s best to be over prepared than not enough. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of stranded people who could use a little extra fuel you can come across on your journey.
Adjust Your Clutch Lever For Two-Finger Operation
Throttle and clutch control go hand in hand when heading off-road. To simplify clutch control especially since you will be standing in the footpegs most of the time, adjust the clutch lever to be operated using only your middle and index fingers. That allows you to operate the clutch without altering your grip on the bars, which makes your responses faster and smoother. It also facilitates a finer level of control than simply employing it as a blunt on/off switch. All that’s especially important at low speeds and while tackling challenging obstacles.
In Sand/Silt/Deep Stuff, Speed Up And Lean Back
On the road, you learn to slow down for safety. On big, heavy bikes, around bigger, heavier cars, that’s just the best approach. Off-road, on a light bike? You’re actually far more stable when you apply some speed. The gyroscopic force of the wheels will keep you upright, momentum will carry you over or through tough terrain like deep sand. Moving your weight backward has the combined effect of adding traction to the rear wheel, where the power is being applied and taking the weight off the front, allowing it to deflect and ride over the stuff that it’s hitting.
To Turn, Push The Bike Down
This will be counterintuitive if you’re coming from street riding. Off-road, lean angle is your friend; to turn you want to push the bike down as far to the side as possible, while keeping your body upright, on top of it. This makes full use of the knobs on dirt tires and allows you to easily control the slides that make off-road riding so much fun.
Stay Off The Front Brake In Turns
A dirt bike’s front brake can be used hard in a straight line, so slow down before the corner, push it down, then power out. Or, use the terrain to your advantage, employing berms or similar to catch your speed and redirect you.
Look Where You Want To Go, Not Where You Don’t
I mean, we learn that for street riding of course, but it becomes even more crucial when off-roading since you tend to want to look down at the terrain in front of you to avoid pointy rocks or pointy cliffs and choose the best lines to tackle an oncoming obstacle. Just like on the road, consciously force yourself to look up and focus on where you want the bike to go, not on the cow/cliff/boulder you don’t want to hit. Your body will follow your head and the bike will follow that. Practice this to the point where it doesn’t take deliberate effort.
Stand Up In the Foot-pegs
If you started riding off-road, this may seem overly simple, but most street riders are surprised to learn that standing up actually lowers their center of gravity; by standing up, most of your weight is now in your feet rather than on the seat. Pinch the tank with your lower legs and knees and keep your legs bent; they make great shock absorbers.
Shift Weight On The Outside Peg
Want to take a right turn? Push down on the outside (left) peg, and shift your weight to the left—this acts as a counterweight to the natural shifting of the gravity center towards the inside of the turning radius. Applying more weight to the outside peg balances things out, improves the grip, and keeps the rider perpendicular to the ground.
In Corners, Sit As Far Forward As Possible
Completely the opposite from tackling jumps, obstacles or deep sand, in corners you’re going to want to get as much of your body weight as possible over the front wheel. More weight equals more traction equals more corner speed. Shifting your weight off the rear also makes it easier to initiate a slide.
Lead The Person Behind You
When riding in a group, it’s your responsibility both to warn the person behind you of obstacles and to make sure they don’t get lost or separated from the group. If everyone follows this rule, then everyone gets warned of obstacles with enough time to react and nobody gets left behind. Even if you’re the second-to-last guy and you have to slow down to let the slowpoke catch up, this rule should mean the guy in front of you also slows and the guy in front of him too; it keeps the whole group together.
Signal Your Group Number
Come up on someone riding the opposite way on a trail? It’s incredibly important to let them know how many bikes are coming up behind you, so they know when it’s safe to get back on the throttle. Hold your left hand up and raise the number of fingers of the number of guys behind you. The final rider in your group should hold up a closed fist to signal “all clear.” This way, there’s no head-on collisions at speed.
~And as always…
~Live Free Ride Hard~
Let AMERiders give you tips for Tips for Off Road Riding.
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