Alex ditches the wet and slippery roads in favour of the even wetter and slipperier trails
Head for the dirt and you'll have a great laugh, become a better rider and end up with a completely new outlook on motorcycling. Now that makes winter almost worthwhile...
You don't have to spend a fortune to get off-road. A new, pukka dirtbike is the thick end of £5000, which you'd be daft to shell out before you were sure you loved riding the dirt. Unfortunately the market for used off-road machines (even ancient nails) is buoyant.
This time of year, dirtbike prices are strong because as winter draws in off-roaders become more popular. At least they don't lose a load of money in depreciation; you'll get what you paid for it.
Realistically, budget from £1500 and up but the older the bike the more you'll have to spend in the long run. Even a two-year old bike might need wheel bearings, chain and sprockets and so on.
Great bikes for starting out are (at the cheap end) Honda's two-stroke CRM250s, as well as the four-stroke XR250/400s (£2-3000) or, if you're wedged, any of the KTM four-stroke EXC series, the 400 being favourite (£3,000 up). Be warned - any four-stroke without electric start will torment you, at sometime. Usually when you're really knackered.
Trail riding's much like road riding, but off-road. Duh! You take your road-legal dirtbike and ride it on a route of pre-determined lanes with a gang of mates. You sort the route one of three ways - by going out with somebody else who knows, by having your Ordnance Survey map marked-up by somebody who knows, or by using the map and your own brain to figure out where you're going. The best source of information on what trails to use is the TRF (Trail Rider Fellowship, check out www.trf.org.uk). DO NOT ride illegally, use your brain; the government are not friends of the off-road motorcycle. Don't give 'em the ammo to give us any more aggravation.
If you want to have a go at off-roading, but don't want to chance spending a load of money on a bike and gear only to find out you don't actually like it, then try an off-road school. Nearly all of the manufacturers operate some sort of introduction into the off-road world, plus there are lots of firms that supply a bike, kit, a guide and some tuition for your first day out in the mud. Some are heavily based around beginners and tuition, others less so; it's up to you to choose wisely depending on your experience.
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