Review: Dave Thorpe Honda Off-Road Centre

Check out this onboard lap with instructor and MX champ Stephen Sword

Dave Thorpe won the World Motocross Championship three times in the eighties so there isn’t much he doesn’t know about riding bikes off road. In 2012 he teamed up with Honda to run the Honda Off Road Centre based near Cardiff in South Wales. Dave put his name to the centre and so the Dave Thorpe Honda Off Road Centre was born.

If you book in to attend any of the three off-road experience days on offer you will find that Dave runs every day hands-on. You’ll meet him, chat with him and fall off in front of him all day long. But Dave’s not the only MX champion at the centre. Stephen Sword quit his MX2 championship-winning career last year to become head coach at the Honda Off Road Centre alongside Dave.

I’m there on a misty Friday morning to see what the Motocross day is all about. As I stare at the huge slanting track on a steep Welsh mountainside, Stephen and Dave look relaxed but focused as they talk the group through the order of the day.

We are split into two groups, experienced inexperienced. Dave takes the inexperienced group and spends the day bringing them up to speed. Some have never sat on a bike before but, after cutting their teeth on the learner track, by the end of the day they are cruising round the full motocross circuit.

I'm with Stephen in the experienced group, again with riders of mixed abilities. After a 10-minute riding assessment at the practice oval, Stephen is happy to let us loose on the full circuit.

The Honda CFR 250X enduro bikes are perfect for this, less aggressive and a touch softer than full-on motocross bikes.

The circuit that Dave and Stephen use is one of the best I’ve ridden. It’s a long and wide motocross track with a surface that's mostly firm but loose in places. It’s big enough for 13 of us to have room to spread out. The elevation changes are huge and you really get the sense that you are riding a closed-circuit enduro event. As you ride, there is time to think about the next corner and plenty of room to pick a line that suits you. As the day goes by, Stephen gives coaching and demonstrations to the group on how to tackle the jumps and banks. By then end of the day most of us are using the banks to turn and getting at least a foot of air off the jumps.

As people become more confident, suddenly everyone seems to produce an action camera. There are cameras mounted on helmets, handlebars, mudguard and chests, as different groups of mates film their pals skidding round the track. I choose to mount my Drift Ghost HD action camera to Stephen Sword. Don't tell my other half - she thinks it was me riding.  

The day cost £150 per person and for that you get the bike, fuel, kit, lunch and a certificate at the end.

Find out more about the Dave Thorpe Honda Off Road Centre here and read about how tough MX was in Dave's day here. You can find out more about the Drift Ghost HD action camera here