One of the joys about riding a motorcycle is the pleasure of going to different places to ride. I have been lucky enough to ride in many different areas in the U.S. and Europe, and every experience has created memories for me that will last a lifetime. Some of them are good, and some of them…well… not so good.
Going to ride a different stretch of land on a street bike can be an exciting adventure. There are few new variables to consider, but for the most part, when you are going to be traveling on asphalt, the road takes you where you are going. When you decide to try something totally different on a dirt bike, there are surprises that you might not be expecting. There are more to consider before you leave for your rides. Once you get to your riding destination, you may also have to completely adjust your riding style and technique to accommodate the conditions. This is something that happens in all aspects of motorcycle riding, but the degree of changes that you need to make for off road riding can be dramatically different compared to the others.
When I first started riding, I did most of my learning on motocross tracks…nice, wide motocross tracks. I remember the first time we went to a new riding area that had a motocross track and also some trails for woods riding. Most of the guys I rode with were very experienced riders, so they thought nothing of riding some laps on the moto track, and then cutting into the woods for some fast paced trail riding. Being a newbie at the time, I thought I would just follow them right off the track and into the woods. Within 200 yards of entering the woods, I knew I was completely out of my element and skill set. I hit a group of uncovered, wet tree roots with my front tire, and was quickly taking a soil sample with my head. Fortunately, I was smart enough to decide I needed some practice at that type of riding, swallowed my pride, and rode back to the moto track. I eventually did get that practice in the woods, and started racing some of the off road GNCC races for fun. But there was definitely a lesson learned that day.
A few years back, I took a few of my friends to ride some of the sand dunes in Michigan. (yes…they have full-blown sand dunes there). A couple of the guys that went to ride with us were fairly new to riding, and thought the sand would be a great place to go. My guess is that they were thinking that riding on sand would not be very difficult, and if they fell-down for some reason…it wouldn’t hurt. Cause sand is soft…right?? I had been riding for some time, so I knew I had to stay on the gas and adjust my weight back to keep the front wheel from digging in. Unfortunately, my buddies were experiencing something new, and found themselves two-footing their way around the dunes for a few hours before they figured things out. We all still had a great time, and I remember sitting around the campfire laughing until I cried talking about some
of the amazing riding we experienced that day. The point I want to make is that with off road riding, you can really switch things up and get a whole new experience. You can ride in the woods in the east, or the desert in the west, tracks, trails, up-hills, or down. You can go ice riding, or dual-sport riding. All of it is a good time. Plan a different type of ride this year. Take a weekend, and try something new. You are sure to create some good memories.
(This article was originally published in Go For A Ride Magazine, May 2011)