Last season I won a championship, racing in the UK Dirt Track series. Shortly afterwards I got taken out by another rider, run-over by a couple more and finished the season in an ambulance, nursing several not insignificant injuries. Despite a lifetime riding off-road I lost my confidence and needed a refresher and the chance to get myself back in the groove.
Rotor Adventures offer trail riding, coaching and enduro Tours on the south coast, near Dorchester. They offer a range of adventure riding and training to suit all levels of ability and experience using either your own bike or one of their Yamaha T7 Teneres.
Rotor’s introductory Adventure Experience Day is split 70/30 off-road:road. The day starts with friendly introductions, a welcome tea or coffee, indemnity forms, licence check and a safety brief from Chief Instructor, Stan Watt. Stan, a multi Dakar Rally and Enduro race contender was also a short circuit and road racer in the early-90’s, competing at both British and World level.
Routes can be planned to be as easy or challenging as you need
An introduction to the bike is followed by some basic skills instruction. This is worthwhile if you are new to adventure bikes, but seasoned riders will benefit too. When BikeSocial visited in February, it was wet and muddy after a couple of named storms so it was good to get a feel for how the bike behaved in such conditions. I hadn’t ridden for five months following my accident so was feeling rusty - this was perfect.
We worked on body position, weighting the pegs in turns, acceleration and braking techniques. If you feel you need more time practicing these skills, the Rotor staff will happily accommodate you. The Yamaha T7 is a good middleweight choice. Heavier than a proper enduro bike but much lighter than a BMW 1250GS or Honda Africa Twin. Easy to ride and just as happy in 1st or 4th gear on the slippery surfaces. We turned the traction control off and de-activated the ABS. This lets you spin the back wheel and (counter-intuitively) have more control braking.
Most of the trails on our day were unused twin-track
Puddletown forest was a lovely introduction to the area, watching out for wild deer and a whole host of critters whilst drinking in the spectacular views. A comfort break at the Piddle River was particularly appropriate. Once off-road we encountered walkers, cyclists and horses, stopping to turn off our engines while the horses passed. The majority of the tracks and trails are easy to ride, spending most of your time either avoiding or splashing through puddles depending on your experience and confidence. Most of the trails are unused twin track, but there’s an extensive network of single track trails with more technical climbs for the advanced Enduro tours.
The adventure bikes are bigger and heavier than enduro bikes so you need to think about where you place the bike on the trail. I was caught out a couple of times brushing my arm along the hedgerow to avoid getting snagged. I wasn’t concentrating enough on where I had my front wheel on the track which pushed the front enough to wake me up.
You need to plan ahead and brake a little earlier than you would expect too. These skills are great to practice and totally transferable disciplines for the road.
As we switched to the chalk surfaced sections we saw the Cerne Abbas Giant. This famous hill figure near the village of Cerne Abbas is a 55 metre-high nude male figure who was clearly pleased to see us, despite wielding a large club in his right hand. We stopped for lunch at the picturesque Cerne Abbas New Inn, which is also the overnight stop if you book the adventure tours.
Inside the forest, the trails get trickier
As this trip has a lot of road riding, the bikes are shod with 70/30 road:off-road adventure tyres. Proper off-road tyres give much more confident handling in the dirt but are much less stable at road speeds.
There are plenty of route options to cater for all experience levels. Our group were all experienced riders so Stan challenged us a bit by throwing in a couple of slightly more technical trails. Guides will make sure the trails and routes are based around your ability and more importantly, keep you as safe as possible. All the guides are medically trained.
Each group also has a staff member following-up at the back so no one is left behind and there’s always an expert to help you pick your bike up.
Being led also saves a lot of navigational planning, but if navigation is your thing, Rotor will also offer navigation training with road book tours using the same software as the Dakar.
I left Dorset with my confidence restored, a smile on my face and a load of new friends. Job done.