Cold Play - Hit the trail

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...

Money
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.

Where?
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.

Try it out!
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. Check out the list below.

HAVE A GO...

KTM Adventure Tours
Where: Cornwall
The bikes: Electric start four-stroke KTM 250EXCs, three with low seat heights.
The experience: The two-and-a-half day course is aimed purely at road riders wanting to learn about green laning - a great introduction to off-roading.
The cost: £299
Contact: (01752) 840831

The Yamaha Off Road Experience
Where: Llanidloes, Wales
The bikes: Yamaha TT-R90s, 125s, WR250/450Fs.
The experience: These one-day schools cater for road riders and beginners, and take place on private ground, so a licence is not required.
The cost: £145/weekdays, £155/weekends
Contact: (01686) 413324

The BMW Off-Road Skills Course
Where:
South Wales
The bikes: BMW F650GS,R1150GS.
The experience: This two-day course is designed for beginners and anybody who fancies a dabble off-road.
The cost: £325 for World of BMW members, £355 for non-membersContact: (0800) 0131282

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...

Money

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.

Where?

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.

Try it out!

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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