AndrewLuckie loves everything on two wheels (as long as it's not pedal-powered), and has a soft spot for sports bikes. A regular road rider for the past eight years, he currently rides a 2017 Ninja ZX-6R 636, and writes about various motorcycle topics in his spare time. More track days and bike trips abroad are constantly on his "to do" list.
With the influx of adventure style bikes being launched over the last decade, the adventure riding scene has become increasingly popular in Britain. In 2018 alone, we saw the launch of the new BMW F850 GS Adventure and R1250 GS and GS Adventure, Kawasaki Versys 1000, Triumph Scrambler 1200, KTM 790 Adventure and Yamaha Ténéré 700 to name but a few. But where do you go to learn what the bikes can do, and how to ride them properly?
Off road adventure schools are available for all riding abilities and offer more than just a fun day out. They provide off road training from expert instructors, national and world championship riders to help improve and hone your all-round riding skills, and in some cases, you don’t even need a bike licence to take part.
As the popularity of adventure bikes soar, so has the popularity of adventure riding schools. Expert instructor at the Yamaha Off Road Experience and enduro racer, Dylan Jones, told BikeSocial that 2018 was the school’s busiest year since opening in 1994, with around 40% increase in bookings compared to average annual booking numbers.
To help you choose the right one for you, here’s BikeSocial’s 2019 guide to Britain’s best off road adventure schools:
Held at one of the best off-road riding locations in the UK, Walters Arena Motorsport Complex in South Wales, BMW Off Road Skills is run by renowned Dakar racer Simon Pavey and has been running since 2000. The school is backed by BMW Motorrad UK, meaning students are supplied with a bike from the GS range, BMW’s flagship adventure bikes, and have the choice of eight off road courses. They range from mastering the basics to advanced skills and maintaining your bike when adventure riding. Two, three and four-day one-to-one training packages are also available if requested.
As well as off road courses, BMW Off Road Skills offers off road adventures with qualified instructors in top locations around the world, including Portugal, Spain, Wales, Iceland and Australia. And if you want to scratch your competitive itch, enter the GS Trophy on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend for a mixture of off road and on road challenges. The riders with the most points will make it through to the final afternoon where they’ll compete for a place on Team UK at the international final.
Prices: From £199
Dave Thorpe bases his Honda Off Road Centre to utilise the Exmoor National Park in Somerset. Dave is the Centre’s General Manager and an outright motocross legend with four world titles and six British titles to his name. He’s also run motocross teams at UK and Grand Prix level.
Dave and his team run enduro and motocross days for all abilities, as well as enduro competition training for serious riders who want to be more competitive racers. The enduro day is set in Exmoor National Park in Somerset, and doesn’t require budding riders to have a bike licence to take part. Riders are provided the latest Honda CRF250, protective clothing, expert tuition and even some lunch.
If you want to improve your motocross skills, you can make the most of the Centre’s motocross day on a bike from Honda’s CRF range, with expert instructors picking up your strengths and weaknesses and showing you how to improve. The team still instruct during the winter too by using a state of the art indoor motocross arena in South Devon!
Prices: From £225 including bike and kit hire
Dave also runs the Honda Adventure Center offering four different courses using the Honda Africa Twin and CRF 250 Rally. Each course focuses on mastering trails which get tougher as you work your way up from Level 1 to Level 3. Levels 1, 2 and 3 cost £499 each, or you can choose the One Day Tour which covers a 133 mile route including coastal roads and scenic trails through the Exmoor National Park for £299.
New to KTM's Experience Partner line-up for 2019, the Sweet Lamb KTM Adventure Bike Experience will open in April this year, featuring the highly anticipated KTM 790 Adventure R as well as KTM's chief off-roader, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. Located just off the A44 in mid-Wales, the two day Experience will offer ACU licensed tuition that will ensure all levels of riders develop fundamental skills that will enhance their riding ability and enable them to explore all 6,600 acres of the Sweet Lamb complex.
There are four courses available to riders, Bronze, Silver, Orange and Orange Pro. Once riders have the Bronze course under their belts, they can graduate onto the Silver and Orange courses – with the Orange Pro days using some of KTM’s Pro Riders to pass on invaluable tips. Two day trail riding events are also available, with the option for riders to use their own machines, or hire a KTM 790 Adventure R or 1290 Super Adventure R. Tuition will be in small groups, ensuring that each rider gets the most out of their days at the Experience.
Prices: From £530 including bike hire
Bookings for the Triumph Adventure Experience have flown in since opening last year. Located in South Wales at the foot of the Brecon Beacons, riders have access to expert instructors in multi-terrain environments including rocks, hills, gravel, and woodland, and the choice of four Triumph models to ride – the Tiger 800 XC and 1200 XC, Bonneville Street Scrambler, and the all-new Scrambler 1200
The Adventure Experience offers a variety of courses catering for complete novices, to seasoned off roaders. From introductory adventure training using the Triumph Tigers covering everything from the bike’s controls, body positioning and a slow speed control, through to the two-day Level 3 training for experienced off road riders focusing on honing riders’ existing skills and teaches specialist riding techniques. Gravel Tours are also available for riders who have completed Level 2 training or have good previous off road experience.
For customers who want the thrill of riding some of the best trails in the world, Triumph also offer experience days on the Street Scrambler, new Scrambler 1200, or the Tiger 800 XC and 1200 XC. The experience includes the choice of bike, clothing, equipment, fuel, lunch, and refreshments. Triumph also offer a Ladies’ Day, providing female riders a one day training female-only course with expert guidance.
Prices: From £299
The Yamaha Off Road Experience is run by enduro legend and former multiple British Enduro Champion Geraint Jones who started running enduro training schools back in the 1980s. Based near the Welsh town of Llanidloes, the Yamaha Off Road Experience offers something for everyone, from an off road ‘try out’ experience for novices who want to experience what off road riding is like, to training for top level enduro riders who want to get the competitive edge.
There are two one-day off road courses, one for novice off road riders and a ‘Plus’ course for more experienced riders. Tuition is focused on the basic principles of riding, including body positioning, braking, cornering, and uphill and downhill riding. A variety of bikes from Yamaha’s range are used, including the WR 250F and 450F, WR 250R, and the TT-R 125 and 230.
For riders wanting to ride trails around thousands of acres of Welsh countryside, the Ténéré Experience gives you the opportunity to cover a variety of rugged terrains and test the Yamaha Ténéré’s off road abilities, as well as improving your own skills on a one or two day tour.
The team at Yamaha Off Road Experience also offer enduro training for regular riders through to national level competitors which covers all aspects of enduro riding, from bike maintenance and preparation, to riding ruts, up hills, down hills, special tests, and extreme man made sections. One-to-one and tailor made courses are also available on request.
Prices: From £205 including bike and kit hire
Ady Smith is one of the country’s most experienced enduro riders and has won multiple enduro and supermoto championships since starting racing in 1983. Ady runs the official KTM UK Enduro School with seven locations across the country, offering six types of schools.
The KTM Enduro Experience Days are aimed at road riders and inexperienced off roaders focusing on the basics, the Enduro Race School is aimed at racers who want to improve their skills, and Ady also provides one-to-one training for riders who want bespoke tuition. The Special Training Events offer expert enduro training, Trail Riding Days allow customers to ride some of the best trails in North Wales, and Owner Set Up Days offer KTM EXC, XC and Freeride owners to have their bikes professionally set up by Ady himself.
For each school, riders have access to a fleet of brand new KTM machines, including the 125 and 150 XC-W, the 250 and 300 EXC TPI, the EXC-F SIX DAYS, the EXC-F range, Freeride 250 F, and the 250 and 300 XC.
Prices: From £210 including bike and kit hire
Mick Extance is a multiple enduro champion and seven times Dakar competitor, finishing the toughest race in the world five times. The Mick Extance Experience puts riders through their paces at the heart of the Berwyn Mountains in Wales on KTM’s latest enduro bikes and Bridgestone rubber.
The Ultimate Off Road experience is led by Mick and his team of expert instructors and is suitable for riders of all levels, with the morning session focused on learning the basics and getting to grips with the bikes ready for an afternoon of riding a range of trails. More experienced riders can take advantage of one-to-one training, with a full day of riding challenges and tuition from one of the Mick Extance team.
If you’re looking for something slightly more exotic, Mick also offers an eight day Morocco tour, with six days of solid riding taking in the Moroccan sights and culture, and some of the original Dakar Rally routes too.
Prices: From £240 including bike and kit hire
Photo: Billy 'Biketruck' Ward
The Gas Gas Off Road Try Out is run by Chris Hockey, a two times Team GB ISDE Trophy Rep and nine times East Anglian Enduro Champion. With locations in Suffolk, Essex and Wales, the school has courses for every rider ability, including kids’ courses, try out days which are all about riding time and learning the basics of off roading, and enduro schools and boot camps.
Group training can often be a daunting thought for some riders, so the school also provides one-to-one training for any rider who wants bespoke tuition, with instructors focusing on specific elements of riding and how to improve.
Prices: From £235 including bike and kit hire
Late Scottish motorcycle racing legend Robbie Allan set up the Robbie Allan Off Road Experience based in Strathaven, Scotland, with the vision of giving riders their first taste of off roading, and to develop their skills up to competition level. Robbie rode just about everything, from trials, scrambles, and enduros, to racing at the Isle of Man TT, and was the oldest competitor in the Dakar Rally in 2006 at the age of 65.
Now run by Robbie’s son, Robbie Allan Jnr who has also competed at the highest level of off roading in Scotland for over 40 years, Robbie Jnr provides off road and trial riding training for riders aged six upwards, on bikes from 50cc to 450cc. Every session is planned to suit the needs of each person, and packages range from one hour tasters, to four hour riding sessions.
Prices: from £50 including bike hire
If you've always dreamed about loading up your bike and riding into the wilderness, Adventure Bike Training is aimed at you. Based in rural Norfolk, there are nine courses specifically designed to teach you the skills and techniques necessary for a safe and enjoyable adventure bike holiday, taught by fully trained BMW expert off road instructor Kevin Hammond.
With one and two day courses available, each one is taught with no more than four students for more one-to-one time, and focus on mastering the riding techniques needed when on an adventure bike holiday. As well as riding techniques, finding and fixing bike problems, practical mapping and GPS navigation, and advice on what equipment to take and the stuff to leave behind are key focal points too.
A range of adventure bikes are used for the training, and prices also include fuel, all day refreshments and a cooked lunch, but riders must bring their own helmet and kit.
Prices: From £280 including bike hire