So you've been watching Jeremy McGrath, Chad Reed and CS Santhosh doing their thing on YouTube and think riding in the dirt looks like a lot of fun, huh? Let me tell you this, it is. Riding on dirt is an entirely different experience and something you shouldn't discard as the kindyou will never be able to do. Believe it or not, it is quite easy and is a must if you want to improve your overall skill on a motorcycle. Here's why:
No, riding off-road will not give you 20/20 vision. What it will teach you is to look where you want to go. Target fixation while off-road will most likely lead to you getting to second base with a tree. And no matter how pretty that tree is, that is never a good thing. Most street riders tend to forget how important it is to scan ahead, take note of obstacles and chart an exit strategy. And we all know that having an exit strategy ready for any situation is imperative to getting home in one piece.
When you're out on trails and you've upped your pace a fair bit, you will realise that things are coming at you at a far higher pace than out on the streets. There are so many obstacles to worry about. There are trees, water, stones, rocks, shifty surfaces, logs, climbs, drops, jumps and wayward branches that could smack you in the face. Oh, and let's not forget that monkey that thinks it's a good time to jump right into your way. As you might have noticed, this list is a lot more than what you will encounter on most days on Indian streets. And since you're watching out for all of these while riding, the speed at which your brain converts these inputs into action becomes a lot faster. And we all know that improved reflexes and reduced reaction times are one of the best ways to ride safer on the street.
Riding off-road is a very unsettling experience. Why? You are continuously reacting to a motorcycle that has lost stability, is why. Since you're riding on a loose surface, you might lose your front end or have your rear come around. Once you're used to riding off-road, you learn to react to these situations without panicking. You learn that if you lose your front, it's only matter of putting your foot out and kicking the bike back up. Similarly, when you lose your tail, you learn that you just have to give it some gas and point the bike the right way so that you don't understeer your way into a tree. I've personally noticed that every time I've hit the streets after some off-road time, I am less scared of gravel on the road or patches of water.
When you're riding off-road, the way you use your weight on the motorcycle plays a major role in manoeuvrability. For example, when riding across low traction and soft surfaces like sand and slush, your rear wheel gets more traction if you've got your weight at the rear. It also makes sure that your front end is light enough to skip over obstacles. This is something that you learn when you ride off-road. You also learn that if you have all your weight focussed on the front end, you get more traction while going into corners on loose surfaces. A lot of techniques that you use on the dirt are completely different from what you would employ on the street. However, you do end up becoming more aware of the physics on the bike and quickly learn how to use your body weight to help you get most traction and manoeuvrability from your motorcycle.
This is my favourite part. This one is also fairly simple. Riding in dirt is much safer for one major reason - dirt is softer than tarmac. Fall off on the street and you are sure to have some major road rash at least. Of course, there is the worst case scenario of getting run over, but let's not get into that. Provided you've picked a good enough area to practise on, dirt is a good place to fall off your motorcycle and learn from your mistakes. I've always found that an isolated place with no obstacles blocking your view is a good place to get started. So, if you make your way up a hill and find a nice, big dirt patch, then that's your spot. Just make sure you're not messing up anyone's farm land. Then again, you might just be helping them till their fields.
So what are you waiting for? Get your bike and go have some fun on dirt! Just be prepared to fall off countless times and we guarantee you that you'll come out with a big smile.
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