Off-roading for beginners with MCIA

The Bike Insurer was invited to the Motorcycle Industry Association’s (MCIA) off-road riding event, Motorcycle Off-Road Experience (MORE), this week.

Rather than send one of our team that have been riding for years, we decided to send a complete novice who wasn’t just a novice off-road, but a complete newbie to geared bikes.

So with a slap on the backside and wishes of good luck, we sent our roving reporter down to MORE at Upavon MX track in Wiltshire. Here’s how they got on.

Walking the mile

I lived in Bangkok for two years and owned a twist and go while I was there.

So I don’t mind filtering in ridiculous traffic, standing at the lights with 40 other mopeds, bikes and scooters in 40 degree heat, or riding in monsoon season; essentially I’m not a complete wimp.

As you can probably tell from my immediate display of machismo, the prospect of off-road riding on a proper bike (with proper gears and everything) had me a little panicked.

That panic was only intensified when I pulled up at the beautiful setting in Upavon to see some 50 or so riders weaving up and down hills and across the turf without any obvious issues.

After signing on and being given my special ‘non-rider’ wristband, I walked through the off-road camp past 250cc crossers, grizzled off-road riders and a row of manufacturers and their tents, including KTM, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki.

Then I got the call and was whisked off to the Yamaha AMCA MX Experience tent to get kitted up. The walk wasn’t a long one but it felt it.

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The pre-amble

“Any non-riders?”

The question hung in the air and after a brief scan of the other riders’ wrists in my group, and a deafening silence, it was clear that I was the only complete novice.

“Yep. Just me I think,” I croaked through parched lips.

“No worries, we’ll deal with you separately,” came the reply, which I’m sure was supposed to ease my obvious, quivering nerves, but only served to heighten them.

I walked into the tent and got kitted up. I managed to strap my knee and chest protection on without any issues, the off-road riding gear and the boots, all went on without a hitch, too.

While getting dressed may seem trivial, and having been doing it for 26 years I agree that it does not usually warrant praise or reflection, this time round it felt quite important to get it right.

It meant I kind of looked like I kind of knew what I was doing, kind of. It meant something to me anyway.

Then it was time for the brief – a talk through the machine, some safety and the aim of the session – as well as some information on how to get into off-roading if you enjoyed your day.

Then it was to the bikes and to the easy tracks.

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On the bike

Happily for me, my group of five had to wait while group one took to the track, which meant I was able to size up the machines from up close and delay the inevitable.

But after around 10 minutes of seamless riding from group one, it was our turn and the butterflies began to dance.

The tuition I received from the instructors was brilliant. They sat me atop my 250cc Kawasaki, gave me some key pointers, and did as much as they could to calm my nerves.

But if truth be told, the only thing that would stop me from shaking any further was a circuit of the easy track without ending up in the perimeter fence.

Thankfully I made it round the practice track, that included what I will call a challenging chicane, but was arguably a gentle left followed by a gentle right before another gentle left turn.

And I didn’t fall.

A few more circuits and only one stall later, my first taste of off-road riding was complete, the nerves had been quelled and I was itching to get on the real off-road track.

On the track

We didn’t have to wait too long to get on the full track as after a couple more ten-minute stints on the beginner loop, we were whisked off to the long track, which would allow me open the bike out to a whopping 30mph (almost) and have a go on the gears.

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As you can see from the above video, I was a bit reluctant to open the Kawasaki out.

That was arguably because I struggled to get out of second gear and didn’t want to ruin the gearbox, but more realistically because I felt that was as quick as I could go without accelerating past my newly acquired ability level and into a hedge.

So after what felt like two very short hours (about 12 laps of the full circuit, and a 30-minute session in the beginner pit) my first taste of off-road riding was complete. And I loved it.

The aftermath

After sampling off-road riding, even if it was for only two hours, it’s something I definitely want to try out again.

It’s the perfect opportunity for anyone who either wants to get into off-roading or for anyone who simply wants to get a taste of riding on two wheels.

The safe, controlled environment and expert tuition eases your nerves, and despite being the only complete novice there, I was made to feel welcome and given lots of generous praise for not dying/braking the bike.

It was brilliant and I’ve already booked in for my CBT off the back of it, which is as good a testimony of how much fun the event is than anything else I could write.

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