“Relax… and enjoy the ride.”
If Matt Reed could only give one piece of advice to rookie off-road riders, that simple but priceless nugget would be it.
He’s seen enough people walk through the door of Triumph’s Adventure Riding Experience paralysed by nervous tension to know putting them at ease is the secret to successful riding.
So what other tips can the former British and World Enduro, British Rally and Cross Country Championship veteran pass on to those of us looking for a little extra oomph from our ride?
Here’s his top 13 tips for beginners…
Relax “I always tell people who’ve never ridden off-road to chill out a little before they get on the bike. You can only become skilled at off-road riding if you’ve got the foundations right. Once you’ve got that, then it’s a case of tweaking and finessing to get slowly better.”
Experience counts “Try to ride with people who have a few years’ experience of off-road riding under their belt. You’ll pick up good habits and learn more from them in a day than months of just ‘giving it a go’ on your own. Practice is also crucial.”
Never take it for granted “Is your tyre pressure right, have you got the right clothing, do you need mousses (a ring of flexible foam placed inside a tyre before it’s fitted) so you can stay operational even if you have a puncture? Get the basics right and you’ll be free to focus on enjoying the adventure.”
Don’t run before you can walk “If you want to be competitive early on I’d say learn the basics but if you won’t be told, make sure you start at a lower level because if you’re any good you’ll progress anyway.”
Look after yourself “It’s no good preparing your bike if your body isn’t ready to ride. You can have a perfectly prepped bike but if you’re not fed, hydrated, alert and awake you might just get away with it… but you won’t enjoy it.”
Keep calm to carry on “Never be aggressive on an off-road bike or it will bite you. I’ve seen plenty of people starting out who try to give it some welly and they end up hurt or damaging their bike. The new Triumph Scrambler 1200 and Tiger family have a lot of grunt at low revs, so they’re built for all terrains.”
Stay super smooth “Less is definitely more when it comes to off-road riding. That’s one of my best secrets revealed.”
Hone your skills EVERYWHERE “Off-road riding is all about technique and the ability to adapt to whatever terrain you’re on. We’re lucky because the Adventure Riding Experience has a lot of different surfaces, such as grass, mud and rocks. I have to travel a few miles to get sand, but it’s definitely worth it for the buzz.”
Know your area “It’s always a good idea to know what kind of terrain you’re likely to experience because mental preparation and awareness is as important as physical and mechanical.”
Don’t be a sheep “If there are riders in front, hang back to see what happens. You don’t want to end up in a ditch or covered in mud with them. What they do will give you clues about what you need to do, so watch them and the route.”
Get the set-up right “Around 75% of off-road riding is done standing up, so make sure the set-up in terms of saddle position, levers, bars and suspension works for you or you’ll find it hard work. And practise doing it too.”
Another handy hint “Look after your hands. Talcum powder will prevent blisters and a blister can ruin everything. Change gloves or wire your grips on. The last thing you need is the grips twisting and slipping off the bars when they’re wet and muddy.”
Getting there is as important as how you get there.
Bonus advice: some quick pointers for riders looking to improve even further.
- Join an Enduro training school.
- Enter a few long-distance trails.
- Time yourself or get your friends to come to the track and clock you. You’ll push yourself harder than normal and benchmark your improvements over time.
- Pace yourself. Learn to ride fast but safe and steady.
- Don’t make do with worn parts. You’ll spend money on entries and travel to be let down by a worn brake pad, sprocket or chain.
- Keep yourself comfortable and dry for as long as you can.