Off-road training to improve road riding

You might wonder what off-road motorbike training has to do with teaching riders road skills? In short – everything!

Off-road motorbike training (provided it’s from a professional, accredited training school that specialises in off-road skills for road riders, eg an ACU (Auto Cycle Union) or MCITA-approved centre) can teach skills that aren’t typically taught on other types of advanced rider training course.

Off-road riding courses specifically teach riding skills that, if not second nature to you, could lead to an incident or worse on public roads. The types of skills you can learn on a good off-road motorbike training course include

  • riding safely on slippery surfaces such as loose gravel, wet leaves, mud or smooth surfaces (paint, metal, etc)
  • how to achieve more grip through your tyres to avoid/minimise the loss of traction
  • how to brake safely and stop your motorbike on surfaces of all grip levels
  • low-speed manoeuvres, eg tight steering, safe touchdown and setting off, etc, to avoid dropping your bike
  • advanced balance and road/terrain reading
  • recovery of locked-up brakes and front/rear wheels
  • picking up a dropped bike without injury to self/others
  • improved use of bike controls.

All of these skills are relevant for all road riders. In fact, they’re essential if the rider is focused on taking every measure he/she can to be safe on public roads!

These types of courses can also improve a rider’s confidence, approach to riding and mindset. Knowing why you do what you do, and trusting/believing in it, can develop rider confidence in a way that balances the actual riding skills that have been learned.

Furthermore, off-road training can help the rider to control his/her emotional state so that when a potentially dangerous riding situation occurs, he/she can avoid panic or ‘body locking up’ (which can very easily happen if the rider has a fright). Panicking or locking up can lead to incidents. Off-road motorbike training can help the rider remain calm, decisive and relaxed by ‘training in’ these states of mind during the skill development.

Other benefits of off-road training can include

  • keeping fit/active – great health benefits
  • enjoyment of riding in natural environments where no other vehicles may be present
  • the ability to adapt to situations rapidly and in control
  • the immense fun and pleasure that comes from this type of riding.

There are many types of off-road training, which can be confusing if you’re trying to pick a course that will deliver the benefits listed above. Off-road training can sometimes be confused with training in motocross, enduro, trials, speedway, rallying or green-lane riding.

All these types of riding are carried out off-road, but the courses teach skills that are specific to each sporting discipline. They won’t necessarily help you to achieve the skills, confidence and competence that can come from an off-road motorbike training course for road riders.

Make sure you thoroughly check that the off-road motorbike training companies you’re considering offer off-road motorbike training for road riders. A good indication might be if the training company’s courses are approved by insurers, eg you may achieve an insurance premium discount upon completing the course. Local council road safety officers may also be able to provide advice on who you might consider.

Off-road training isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ that will make you the world’s best rider, but it will fill a critical gap in the circle of riding skills that are needed to be a safer, better rider.