As part of the Motorcycle Live Online #AskTheExpert series, David Thorpe, former professional motocross racer and racing team manager and winner of three FIM 500cc motocross World Championships, shares some tips for trying out off-road riding for the first time. 

Meet the expert 

With experience as a competitive off-road racer and as a team manager, Dave now owns the aptly-named Dave Thorpe Off-Road Centre and the Adventure Centre in Somerset. Running a series of courses around picturesque Exmoor National Park, he’s well versed on helping riders – both experienced and novice – have fun off the beaten track on two wheels.

Be sure to click here to find out how you can get a 15% discount off your booking! 

You can normally find him on the Honda Motorcycles UK stand at Motorcycle Live, but here he is with the answer to some of your questions:

What advice would you give to someone who wants to try riding off-road for the very first time? 

Good for you! I’d recommend that you go to an established experience centre, then you don’t need to buy all the kit or a bike. If you don’t like it then you’re not lumbered with having invested in all the gear.

If possible, learn to ride on a 250/500cc bike, they have a low seat height and have a soft power distribution so it won’t be too much to handle for beginners and it’s always better to work your way up.

What are the benefits of going to an adventure school to learn over just trying it out on my mate’s bike?

We have two main objectives at the Adventure Centre – to run through all the benefits and technical features of the Africa Twin and give riders the chance to try out the whole range. We can cater to your level of experience – whether you’re a beginner who has never been adventure riding before, you’re looking to refresh your skills or you want to learn something new. Exmoor National Park has some amazing trails for us to explore and depending on how long you stay with us, you can make it a real trip of it all. Your mate won’t be able to offer you the same experience – and if you damage his bike by dropping it, he may not want to be your mate anymore.

What’s the best advice that you could give me for when I try riding off-road? 

My top three tips would be:

  • Look ahead when riding off-road – it’s super important to be aware of what’s coming up and not focus on the inches ahead of you.
  • Be mindful of any gravel when braking – the ground doesn’t react like tarmac so be gentle and smooth with braking.
  • Relax your arms – don’t lock your arms out, relax and allow them to let the bike move and do the hard work underneath you.

The biggest challenge for most people when they’re learning to ride off-road is the way the bike moves on off-road surfaces – so that can take some getting used to.

Do you think that riding off-road would give me any advantages when riding on-road?

Without a doubt, it will give you more confidence. The skils of riding on and off-road are transferable. Reading the road ahead is an invaluable skill and used every minute of an off-road ride. It’s just fallen trees and uneven surfaces you’re looking for, instead of traffic lights and speed signs.

What makes riding off-road so much fun? 

One word: Freedom. Riding off-road allows you to see and have some amazing experiences and quite often you can feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Image credit: Honda