Beginners Guide to Offroading
So, what is off-roading? In simple terms, off-roading is the activity of driving or riding a vehicle on unsurfaced roads or tracks, such as sand, gravel, mud, snow, rocks, or any other natural terrain. These can constitute of purpose-built tracks, a barren piece of land, or a trail through woods, a goat path, or even a jungle.
Riding your motorcycles off-road, off the beaten path, and tackling the routes less traveled can be a lot of fun, but you need to be careful you don’t get lost. I use a GPS tracker to back track in case I get lost.
While I am someone who believes that the best off-road motorcycle is the one you own, taking a purpose-built motorcycle helps add to the fun factor. Motorcycles in the adventure or dual-purpose category work best when it comes to tackling a trail. These motorcycles usually come with a larger front wheel, like a 19 or 21 incher, and a higher ground clearance to help with rocky surfaces. Currently, for beginners, the only purpose-built motorcycles I would recommend are the Hero XPulse and the Royal Enfield Himalayan. These have a low ownership cost and are easy on the pocket in case you crash one. In the modification category, people have been retrofitting the Hero Impulse with a Hero Honda Karizma engine to extract a hybrid for off road use.
It is best to avoid heavy low riding motorcycles as they will have a higher chance of getting stuck. To start with, you could rent or borrow a suitable motorcycle, while you decide if you like off-roading or not.
Off-roading can be unpredictable. It is best that you experiment with company for a short half-day ride and learn the ropes before going all out to embrace the sport. Take a friend along, you will want help in case of an occasional fall in the middle of nowhere.
A fall or a puncture is inevitable. Plan your time off the road. Darkness sets in quick in the bush, so keep track of time. Carry tools, parts like extra chain links, spark plugs, accelerator and clutch cables, some extra fuel, a puncture kit, and more importantly, learn how to use them. It is better to be over-prepared than not enough.
Protective riding gear like jackets, gloves, knee armor, and boots is a must, preferably something that is flexible as off-roading will make you move in ways you usually wouldn’t while touring on a motorcycle. However, make sure your gear is breathable. Wearing the wrong jacket can add to your dehydration.
Carry food and water with you. You will drain your energy and dehydrate, especially in India like weather patterns. I carry a hydration pack and some granola bars from Huda Bars, to help me with this.
Anytime is trail time, however, monsoons and winters are the best. Though you will need some skills to tackle slushy mud and rocks in rains. When doing longer trails across multiple days, it would a good idea to combine off-roading with some camping.
And if you are hooked and you would want to take it to the next level, I will suggest you do at least a level 1 course at an off-road training school. There are quite a few in India and I have listed few below from different parts of the country.
- CS Santosh’s Big Rock Dirt Park near Bangalore
- The School Of Dirt by Ouseph Chacko in Kerala
- Pro Dirt Adventure in Pune
- ORAZ in Gurugram
Feel free to add more in the comments from your part of India.