A gravel driveway to a hotel, heading over grass to a campsite or even just a stretch of unsurfaced road: no matter what you ride and where you ride it, at some point you’re going to have to do a bit of ‘off-roading’.
It might not sound worth bothering with, but if you don’t know how to ride over loose or uneven surfaces, even just a few meters of gravel can end up in broken leavers, indicators, mirrors or worse: your ankle or wrist.
We’re not suggesting you sign up for a six-month Paris-Dakar training session here, just invest in a bit of time in grasping the basics of off-roading.
Here’s some basic techniques to grasp, to get you started:
Stay loose and relaxed:
The first thing to master is being relaxed – both mentally and physically. On a rough surface, the bike will move around much more than it does on Tarmac, loosen your grip on the bars and keep your arms, legs, body and brain relaxed and go with it.
Make steady progress:
This will of course depend on the surface you’re tackling, but as a general rule try to maintain a steady – not fast – pace. The outcome of riding toto fast is fairly obvious, but crawling along is also not good, and ca end in you getting bogged down, tipping over on obstacles like rocks or grabbing the clutch in panic.
Smoothly does it:
Stay in a low gear so you have control of the drive and be as smooth as you can with throttle, brakes, clutch and steering. Avoid any sudden charges in speed and direction and try to kepe drive to the rear at all times.
Just like riding on the road, looking and planning ahead is crucial. Don’t look at your front wheel – or two feet in front of it – keep your head and eyes up so you can see what’s coming up and have enough time to plan for it. Avoid fixating on obstacles like boulders and potholes etc. or you will hit them.
When tackling a loose or rough surface stand up on your pegs. Keep your knees and arms slightly bent and nice and loose, so they’re ready to soak up bumps and jolts. Standing up also makes you and the bike more stable, by lowering the centre of gravity.
Ride around water:
If there’s a puddle in your path, try to ride around it. You never know how deep it it, or what is lurking underneath – slippery rocks, sticky mud. If you can’t see a way around, get off and have a closer inspection before you commit.
Use your index and pointing finger only to operate the front brake and clutch, and keep the other two fingers – and thumb – on the grips. This way you cn be more delicate with the controls and you’ll be less likely to grab a panicky handful if things get a bit hairy.
Dropping your bike:
if you do lose control and get to the point of no return, don’t try and rescue it. Separate yourself from the bike, by jumping or stepping away and try not to put your arms out: a broken wrist or ankle is a lot more difficult to sort out than a cracked mirror or indicator.