Top Tips for Riding Off-Road with Dave Thorpe

Author: Oli Rushby Posted: 16 Sep 2015

John McGuinness giving it some off-road

Thinking about trying out off-road? Last week we took a trip to the Dave Thorpe Honda Off-Road Centre to try out a bit of motocross and enduro riding.

The centre is based out towards the Welsh Valleys on the edge of the stunning Brecon Beacons and boasts some of the UK’s most picturesque enduro trails.

Our group consisted of various abilities, from a complete novice like myself, to 23-times TT winner John McGuinness who says he rides enduro or MX once a week for training – and trust me, he ain’t slow off-road!

Leading the day is Dave Thorpe, four times Motocross World Champion and his head coach, Stephen Sword, a multiple British MX champion also with a strong record on the world stage. What these boys don’t know about riding off-road isn’t worth knowing.

Riding off-road for the first time can be incredibly daunting and is very different to riding on the road. In fact, one fellow journalist, who is a dab hand at riding off road, told me ‘it’s simple, it’s the opposite to everything you know from riding on the road’.

It's quite daunting at first, but your confidence builds

Thorpe and Sword monitor your ability throughout the day, after ten minutes on the motocross track in the morning they will have your level sussed for the entire day. The great thing is they’re quick to tell you where you’ve improved, and even after an hour on track your confidence is massively boosted. 

Enduro riding isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’s an incredible experience I would recommend to anyone. Due to the differing levels of experience in our group, we were split into two and went our different ways. The lesser experienced of us took the shorter, but still quite challenging, beginner trail while the others went hell for leather on the long route.

The scenery is stunning and there’s plenty of time to take it in, despite the fact you’re pretty much riding non-stop. For us beginners, the pace was kept nice and slow but when you roll back to base after the two-hour ride you almost can’t believe what you’ve done.

At one point, you’re riding across a ridge, to the left of you is a wire fence and to the right is a 50 ft drop. No looking down, just keep riding! There’s the option to ride up (and back down!) what they call ‘the mound’, which consists of a steep 100m+ incline. Thorpe told us you can see right into Cardiff Bay from the top, it was a bit much for me but McGuinness threw himself in!

McGuinness charged up the hill

You’ll ride through bogs, over gravel and incredibly bumpy surfaces, through brambles, up and down steep sections, across fields and through woodlands.

You’re almost guaranteed to fall off but that’s part and parcel of it. I was unfortunate enough to topple off on the brow of a hill and ended up rolling half way down with Bike Social’s Paul Taylor stood at the top laughing his arse off behind my stricken CRF250X. 

One of the best things about the whole day is there’s no limit, if after a two hour enduro ride you want to go out for more, they’ll take you. If you want to go back on the motocross course, they’ll let you – for as long as you like, it’s your day.

McGuinness through a pond!

I would have liked to have gone back out on another trail but with time cracking on a lot of my colleagues were ready to go, so we spent the final few hours on the motocross track where I was really able to see how my confidence and skill had increased from the rider who wobbled out in the morning, nearly falling off after unintentionally riding into a puddle.

For just over £200, a day with Dave Thorpe at the Honda Off-Road Centre is more than worth it. You’ll leave already planning your next visit, despite the inevitable aches and pains the next day!


Top Tips with Dave Thorpe

  1. Be sure that you have the correct protective clothing, including back & chest protectors, helmet, knee protectors and sturdy boots. 
  2. Check that your bike is serviced and checked over thoroughly (Check the oil, make sure the filter is in, check the petrol, basic things but a lot of people only consider them once it’s gone wrong! Check your tyre pressure, I would recommend somewhere between 15 and 20 psi if out riding an enduro trail.)
  3. If you’re going out on a ride, always go with a friend, try not to ride alone
  4. Make sure you take your phone
  5. Tell someone of your route
  6. When on a trail, if you come across water, always take time to check how deep it is with a stick. If you’re five miles out and submerge your bike you’re going to be in trouble!
  7. Try to ride where you can see others have been
  8. Take the opportunity on the trail to stop for a drink of water. Off-road can be very draining and when you are a fair way out and you have to go back you need to keep the fluids up.
  9. Be courteous to other riders and other users, mountain bikes, horses. Unfortunately people always think the worst when they see a motorcycle coming towards them and one thing that’s always nice is when they can see you’re being courteous
  10. Last point is to try and look after your bike, after a trail it’ll take ten to 15 minutes to wash the bike off while the mud is still fresh rather than the hour it might take you two or three days later. If you look after your bike your bike will look after you.

If you like two wheels, whether you've ridden before or not the Dave Thorpe Honda Off-Road Centre is a great way to get into it with some tuition, good bikes, good equipment and a great deal of fun. If you’ve done it before, you want to get involved or get back in it do it; it’s a great experience.

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