Off-Road Riding Around the World

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1. Introduction

Overall, off-road riding is a highly enjoyable activity that takes place amongst a diverse range of terrains and cultures. It is a phenomenon that has transcended the evolution of motor sport itself to now examine a particular rhythm of life characterized by the need to escape and create. This lends itself to a sense of individualism and informality, a stark contrast to the constraints of modern society. While the scope and depth of off-road riding is vast, this book provides the reader with an overview of the types of riding and racing, a glimpse into the significant history and an analysis of the rules that have structured the vast tapestry of events.

1.3 Benefits of Off-Road Riding Although it is an enjoyable pastime, off-road riding is an activity that has numerous hidden benefits. The first, and quite obvious aspect, is that it is a form of exercise. Trail riding, in particular, can provide a very strenuous workout and riding or racing on a motocross track is an excellent cardiovascular exercise. As off-road riding takes place outdoors it is also an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D through exposure to sunlight which has been shown to help prevent cancer, depression and osteoporosis. Riding and racing off-road can also provide a great source of escapism, allowing participants to take a break from day-to-day life to enjoy the freedom and peacefulness of the bush, far away from noisy streets and crowded shopping centres. Everyone can take a story or two from their experiences off-road, so it provides an opportunity to socialise and enjoy the company of others with similar interests. This holds especially true for families that share the joys and often the hardships of off-road riding together. Finally, it is an activity that allows people to push their own boundaries and challenge themselves. This can be particularly rewarding, for instance, the completion of a hard enduro event can provide a sense of accomplishment equal to that of running a marathon.

1.2 Popularity of Off-Road Riding Everyone has seen someone they know with a 4-wheel drive vehicle or even owned one at some point. This is due to the overwhelming level of popularity of off-road activities that continues to grow. 4WD vehicles have certainly advanced through recent years, but the biggest progression has been in the area of ‘soft-roading’ with a large number of people now owning compact 4WDs that spend most, if not all of their time on the road. Then there is the recreational end of the scale where 4WD enthusiasts will spend vast amounts of money modifying their vehicles and then taking them bush to test out the newest upgrade to their vehicle. Off-road bikes have also seen rapid advancements in technology and recreational riders now have an enormous choice of trail and competition bikes suited to all types of ability and terrain. Professional motor sport is one of the most rapidly growing sports today and with off-road motorcycling being the only form of motor sport that takes place wholly off hard road surfaces, it is no wonder it has become an international phenomenon.

1.1 Definition of Off-Road Riding Off-road riding is often referred to as the ‘dark side’ of motorcycling, a discipline that is different to such an extent that…

1.1. Definition of Off-Road Riding

Off-road riding can be defined as the use of motorcycles, dirt bikes, or ATVs to traverse through trails, rough terrain areas, or any piece of land that is not paved. Although this definition is very broad, off-road riding can vary from friendly trails to motocross racing to adventure touring. Friendly trails can be anything from a nice smooth dirt path that winds through the woods to technical mountain trails that can have steep inclines with rocks and tree roots. This type of riding is often where beginners will start as there is not much skill involved to ride a flat path, and it is not dangerous. Motocross racing is an off-road sport where riders race on a closed course that can be made up of various obstacles, jumps, and turns on a mix of dirt and mud. This is considered one of the most dangerous types of off-road riding due to the high speeds and the obstacles in the way, which can lead to many accidents. Adventure touring can be done on a variety of different off-road bikes and is simply the exploration of new areas and traveling from place to place using off-road motorcycles. This is often considered the easiest on the body and the safest way to off-road ride.

1.2. Popularity of Off-Road Riding

As well, off-road riding can be done in many locations such as trails, motocross tracks, or even on the street with the appropriate motorcycle such as a dual-sport. This allows for great accessibility. People are far more likely to take part in an activity if it can be done in an area close to them. Finally, the technological boom has in itself helped off-road riding become more accessible. With the rise of the information age, people are consistently learning of new activities and interests. The internet is a vast source of off-road riding information and it’s also a great way to find areas to ride through satellite imaging. New satellite imaging software programs available for GPS units can show an accurate detailed map of trails and other areas, making it easier to find a place to ride. All of this combined has led to the sudden rise in popularity of off-road riding.

Why has off-road riding suddenly become so popular? It is in this day and age that the technological boom has taken off. Often people are overworked and under tremendous amounts of stress. They want to escape, to take a break from their lives and find an enjoyable way of doing so. Off-road riding is the perfect way to let off steam. It is a very physical activity in which the rider is constantly using their bodies to control the motorcycle. The act of riding is so intense that it causes a high level of concentration, resulting in the rider blocking out all other thoughts and worries. This in itself is a form of meditation. When a person is riding, they are riding for the moment and nothing else. All of this adds up to a fun and gratifying experience.

Off-road riding or riding on dirt bikes is an activity that many people have taken an interest in. In recent years, the popularity of off-road riding has increased. This is evidenced by the tremendous rise in sales of off-road motorcycles and off-road motorcycle accessories. In 1997, off-road motorcycle sales were significantly up from the previous year, with the trend of a 20% growth rate per year since 1995. Sales of accessories such as riding gear and aftermarket parts have also steadily increased. There are even entire events and race series based around off-road riding. All of this new interest in off-road riding has caused it to become the fastest growing motorcycle sport in North America.

1.3. Benefits of Off-Road Riding

There are a lot of benefits of off-road riding. Incorporating an off-road riding program into your life can be an excellent way to teach someone about responsibility and the consequences of their actions. Riding and racing motocross can be a family affair. Many race tracks have entire families which meet at the track to spend a day of fun together. Many motocross events are family oriented with pee-wee races for children of ages six to twelve. Off-road riding is an activity that an entire family can do together. Riding can also be a time for a parent to bond with their children. It is not uncommon to see two parents supporting their children in a motocross or off-road race. Many parents have taken up riding as a way to spend time with their children. Off-road riding can also be a great way to stay in shape. It can be very physically demanding, requiring strength, cardiovascular endurance and off-road riding can burn upwards of 600 calories per hour. And the healthier you are the less likely you are to get injured. While you should always consult a physician, off-road riding can be aerobic exercise for the body, and help to build strength and flexibility. With the newest rider in mind, off-road riding can be used as a means to develop riding skills. The AMA has developed the riding discipline of Hare Scramble and the youth version commonly known as Hare and Hound. These are off-road races through the woods on a marked course, very often using already established ATV trails. This form of racing teaches the rider many skills that do not come from riding on a motocross track. Closed course riding only teaches the rider how to ride a motorcycle fast, while off-road can teach the rider to handle many different conditions and types of terrain. This would be the best way to become a well-rounded rider. And last but not least, off-road riding can often develop into a passion. Any rider who has an undying love for the sport can verily say that their source of inspiration came from a good memory of riding through the woods, or on a trail.

2. Off-Road Riding Destinations

Europe Though Western Europe may seem heavily crowded and developed, there are still plenty of opportunities for off-road riding. France and Spain have numerous areas of open land and public trails. The Pyrenees mountains, which separate the two countries, have a multitude of trails with varying terrain and spectacular views. Eastern Europe is still relatively undeveloped compared to the rest of the continent and has vast areas of open land. Romania has become a popular destination for adventure riders with the infamous Transylvania trail. The trail is a 2000km loop around the country with many off-road sections in the Carpathian mountains. This is a true adventure ride with varied terrain, remote areas, and a unique cultural experience. The trail is quite demanding and it’s not uncommon to see horse-drawn carts in the more remote areas. There are plenty of places to camp or stay in small villages along the way, and it’s an affordable destination with a low cost of living and friendly people. Further east is the Caucasus region, a very remote and mountainous area that has become a popular destination for rally raid style rides. With its wide variety of terrain and near third-world living standards, the area has a real adventure feel. The Republic of Georgia has recently opened its borders to tourists and has great riding as well as unique history and culture.

North America North America has some of the most diverse off-road riding in the world. From the desolate desert of Baja to the lush forests of British Columbia, a rider can find nearly any type of terrain to suit his needs. The United States is home to hundreds of off-road parks and thousands of miles of public land where off-road riding is legal. Sadly, the environmental impact of off-road riding has caused many areas to be closed to off-road use, so always make sure you research an area before riding there. One of the most popular off-road destinations in the US is Moab, Utah. Moab has been a popular mountain biking destination for years, and only recently have dirt bike and ATV riders started to discover the endless miles of jeep roads and singletrack. The terrain around Moab is mostly high desert with few trees, so it’s a great destination to ride in the dead of winter. Just up the road from Moab is the town of Green River, which has direct access to the San Rafael Swell. The Swell is a huge oval-shaped uplift of land with elevation ranging from 4000 to 7500 feet. It’s unfriendly terrain for the unprepared rider, as it’s easy to get lost and there are very few services in the area, but the unique rock formations and breathtaking views make it one of the best riding destinations in the country. Utah is also home to the Paiute ATV trail, a 200-mile loop ride with hundreds of miles of additional side trails, all of it open to ATVs, motorcycles, and 4x4s. The trail is located in central Utah and is in a high elevation forested area, a great summertime ride to escape the heat of the desert. North of Utah is Idaho, which has some excellent singletrack in the Sawtooth range and the St. Anthony sand dunes are open to off-road use. The crown jewel of North American off-road riding, however, is the state of Colorado. With the highest average elevation of any state, there is trail riding at elevations from in the 5000-foot range, right up to the Continental Divide at 12,000 feet. The state is crisscrossed with old mining roads and trails and there are more acres of national forest land here than anywhere else in the Rocky Mountains. In recent years, tight off-road trail riding has come under fire, and many areas have been closed to motorcycle use, but Colorado still remains a popular and friendly state for off-roaders. The western slope of Colorado is less crowded than the Front Range and has some of the best singletrack. For the adventure-minded rider, there is no better destination than Colorado. In addition to the great riding, the climate and scenery are hard to beat, and there is no shortage of outdoor activities to do and places to see.

2.1. North America

The United States and Canada are two countries that are very diverse in their landscape. The terrain goes from tropical beaches to rocky deserts, towering mountains, and often dense forest. With this variety combined with the popularity of dirt biking, the options for off-road riding are endless. In states like California, you can ride all year and experience many different types of terrain. The Baja peninsula offers a blend of desert and tropical riding and hosts the famous Baja 1000 race. In the Pacific Northwest, you will find lush forests and perfect loamy dirt. Idaho and Montana have many trails taking you up into the Rocky Mountains. The Midwest and the South host many events from motocross to hare scrambles. The US has a huge number of off-road riding areas. A good place to get information on where to ride in the US is on the National Forest Service website. Here, there are many maps of National Forests showing where the motor vehicle use areas are. Another good resource is the AMA, who advocate for riders’ rights to access public lands. They have a large database of riding areas and tracks and also provide information on how to contribute to trail riding organizations.

2.1.1. Moab, Utah

2.1.2. Whistler, British Columbia

2.1.3. Sedona, Arizona

2.2. Europe

While there are many great bike destinations in Europe, the future of mountain biking is less defined. Infrastructures requiring uplift transportation are not as well developed as in the States and Southern Hemisphere, and tension between landowners, conservationists, and bikers has led to trail access issues in many regions. In England and Wales, there is a thriving trail center culture where purpose-built man-made trails cater to mountain bikers, and the Scottish Highlands have some of the most breathtaking natural trails in the world. However, for the budget-conscious holidaying biker, the weak Euro and great exchange rates are making the Alps increasingly attractive.

Europe has several other countries offering great riding. In Portugal, there’s a thriving downhill scene with several consecutive World Cup events having been held in the past in the region of Viseu. The island of Madeira lays claim to some of the best freeride trails in the world and is often visited by pro riders in the off-season. Germany and Poland have both held ISDE Enduro events recently and have well-established riding communities. The Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia offer riding to rival that of the Alps at half the price, albeit with shorter descents. The Basque country between Spain and France has miles of enduro tracks through dense forests and the vibrant Spanish culture.

The European Alps are to enduro riding what Whistler is to Canadian mountain biking. There is simply no better place on the planet to ride. The Alps stretch through several countries and provide endless fun on rocky trails, steep descents, and just about everything else. Every serious rider ought to do an Alps tour at some point, be it the well-known biking areas of France, Italy, and Switzerland, or one of the lesser-known areas. Visiting the battle-scarred World War I trenches on Monte Grappa near Vicenza, where locals hold races, is a sombering experience, and the Genoa region in Italy provides coastal riding to rival that of the Californian coast.

2.2.1. Transylvania, Romania

2.2.2. Scottish Highlands, Scotland

2.2.3. Pyrenees, Spain

2.3. Asia

The continent covers a vast area from Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the west to the Russian Far East and Indonesia in the east. There is little doubt that the main appeal for off-road riders is the opportunity to ride through stunning scenery, much of it relatively untouched by tourism. It is the variety and contrasts within the continent that offer the most enjoyment for an exploratory rider. The best known adventure destination in recent years has been Nepal where the Mustang region has been popular and now Annapurna is opening up. It is wild and technical riding at altitude and is not for the faint-hearted. The stunning views and chance to experience a unique culture offer ample reward. India offers vast contrasts and many riders have been drawn to the Himalaya only to discover the delights of the more tropical south. Pakistan is still a relatively unknown destination but the Karakoram and Hindu Kush regions offer some of the last real adventure available in the world today. Japan has a thriving off-road scene and the country is covered in a network of trails in amongst stunning scenery. Political tensions within other regions have meant that much of Asia has been overlooked by the adventure bike community but there are signs that more areas are becoming accessible.

2.3.1. Himalayas, Nepal

2.3.2. Bali, Indonesia

2.3.3. Hokkaido, Japan

3. Tips for Off-Road Riding

Choosing the right bike The best bike for off-road riding is a dual-purpose, enduro-style motorcycle. This type of bike has long suspension travel, high ground clearance, and a lightweight frame. These bikes were specifically designed to handle off-road conditions and are adequate for traveling between off-road destinations. By comparison, motocross bikes are not suitable for off-road adventure riding as they are designed for closed course competition. This is also true of trail bikes as they are generally not designed for long-distance travel or more strenuous off-road riding. You may also come across a few die-hard adventure riders on big BMWs and trials bikes, but this is not common. If you are in the market to purchase a new bike, there are a few brands that have a stronger following within the off-road riding community. By choosing one of these brands, you may find it easier to sell your bike when you are finished your trip and will have ample opportunity to purchase used bikes or parts while on your journey. This could save you time and money in the long run.

3.1. Choosing the Right Bike

Know what you are looking for in a bike before you start looking around. Be a little wary about the salesperson at the bike shop. Do some research before visiting any dealers and check out what is available. Salespeople have been known to convince customers to buy a bike that is not quite right for them. This usually leads to buyer’s remorse when the rider discovers the bike doesn’t suit their needs. Give particular attention to the kind of engine the bike has. For beginners, a four-stroke engine is best. Four-stroke engines are also better for recreational trail riding as the power is more usable and the engine is less tiring on the rider. This isn’t to say a two-stroke engine is a poor choice, but a more experienced rider will know this. Also, ensure you consider the weight of the bike and if you will be able to handle it. You may have your eyes set on a big 500cc enduro bike, but it may be more bike than you really need. If you’re not a big, strong guy, handling that bike on tricky terrain and picking it up every time you drop it could become a chore.

Your choice of bike will make a big difference to your enjoyment and safety while off-road riding. Ideally, you need a bike that is suited to the type of riding you have in mind. A track-only bike is not the best choice if you want to do a lot of single trail riding in remote forests. Likewise, a trail bike may not have the suspension or power to get you up that rocky hill climb you have been trying to conquer. Choose a bike that suits your riding. Be realistic about what sort of riding you will be doing most of the time. If it’s 80% single trail, don’t kid yourself that you need a motocross weapon. The latest 450 motocross weapon may be the coolest bike out, but there is a high chance it is not the best bike for the riding you’re doing.

3.2. Essential Gear and Equipment

One thing which can save you a lot of time and mechanical problems is a skid plate. Rocks often puncture the bottom of the engine and a skid plate will take the impact. These are far cheaper than a new engine case. A sump plug with a magnet is also useful for collecting metal swarf. This plug can be cleaned after every ride. Lastly, a decent set of tools is essential. Off-road riding is tough on your bike and things can come loose or break. A simple mechanical problem can ruin your day in the bush.

The next item is a hydration pack. This is a backpack which holds water and has a tube to drink from. It is an essential item for trail riding. Dehydration will cause fatigue and loss of concentration, and trails are often kilometers away from a drink.

You also have goggles and gloves. These items are fairly cheap and do a great job. Goggles will stop dirt from getting into your eyes (especially important for those who wear contact lenses) and gloves will protect your hands from blisters and keep them clean.

Then you have the body armor. This will save you from a lot of pain if you happen to fall off. Body armor is lightweight these days and has a hard plastic inner with foam padding. You could also wear this under your jersey. Knee and elbow guards are also essential and must be worn every time you ride.

Although off-road riding is tough on your bike, it’s the same for your body as well. So, it’s essential to make sure you have the right gear to keep you in one piece. The next most important investment is a good pair of boots. You can buy boots specifically made for off-road or you can get a good pair of hiking boots.

Your first priority is a good helmet. It’s a proven fact that a good helmet can save your life. Among the essential gear, make sure to invest a good amount of money on a helmet.

3.3. Off-Road Riding Techniques

In order to ride safely and efficiently off-road, you need to master the riding techniques that you can get away with on pavement. Smooth roads allow you to get by with bad habits and sloppy technique, but riding off-road follows the premise of slow takes skill. Put another way, traction equals handling and off-road traction is limited. To become skilled at off-road riding, the basic principles of smoother riding and maintaining traction are even more important. It’s best to become proficient at slow and smooth control and deliberate manoeuvring. Often you’ll need to be something of a throttle and clutch artist to master tricky hill climbs or tight turns. Learn to cover the clutch and the rear brake at the same time, and make good use of the friction zone. Stand on the foot-pegs when conditions get rough. This essentially allows the legs (your body’s natural suspension) to absorb shock and shifts your weight to help manoeuvre the bike. Always look where you want to go (as opposed to where you don’t want to go) the bike goes where you look. Eye your lines through turns and transitions well in advance. A number of riding skills can be practised on a trials type course and trials riding is an excellent technique developer. Lastly don’t get discouraged a seasoned motocrosser makes dirt riding look easy, but there are few activities more physically and mentally demanding than high level off-road riding and racing. Gradual skill development is a fulfilling process and in the end you will enjoy your riding the most while still challenging your limits.

3.4. Safety Precautions

The Australian 4WD industry has now reached an age where the activities of participants have come under an increasing level of scrutiny. Environmentalists, State Forest organisations, and National Parks Authorities have all raised concerns about the impacts of 4WD vehicles. In response to the concerns of these groups, as well as recognizing the need for the industry to encourage and promote responsible use and enjoyment by its members, the AAA introduced its Code of Ethics in 1995. It was revised in 2004. Safety should be foremost in the mind of any 4WD owner or driver. A 4WD vehicle is a tool, taking you to remote and often beautiful areas. But it is an unforgiving tool and abuses or errors in 4WD techniques can and do lead to expensive car repairs, damage to the environment, or even worse, injury or death to yourself, your passengers, or other track or area users. All recreational 4WD and associated camping and bushwalking can be considered to take place in a remote area. This means you cannot rely on the help of passing traffic or easy access to telephones in emergencies and the consequences of an error in judgment or a simple accident may be magnified. Always try to follow these simple rules: – Do not exceed your capabilities or those of your vehicle and equipment – Avoid driving alone and tell someone before you leave about your planned whereabouts and return time – Maintain your vehicle’s reliability and carry essential spares and tools – Discuss and consider different scenarios for recovery of an immobilized or bogged vehicle, including worst-case possibilities and emergency self-evacuation. This is an often overlooked and potentially life-saving subject, vital. Buoyancy aids are listed in Essential Equipment and Techniques, Spares and Repairs. A punctured and rapidly deflating tire can sometimes prevent further movement of a vehicle. Full of gear and multiple spare tires, this may be more than even a second vehicle can recover.

4. Conclusion

These photographs can include various flora and fauna, scenery, roads, local people, the lifestyle of people, and culture. Additional information on local festivals and beliefs can also be explained if this essay is published as a book, making it easier for the reader to carry the book and read. The person willing to visit someplace will definitely do research on that place. This might be one of the starting points for building up the curiosity of a person to visit a place. For readers looking for valuable information before they decide to travel, the inbound links to other travel sites can be quite useful.

Remember, the main purpose of writing this essay is to enable those who desire to visit different parts of the world either by cycling or through hiking to have a clear picture of the natural beauty of the countries. Since they will be going off-road, the natural heritage of a country will be well seen compared to going on the road or traveling from one city to another. There is a wide scope for improvement in this essay because of word restrictions. The video clippings and various other types of clippings can provide a clear picture of the different terrains that can be seen in the countries, and the videos can also show all the places discussed in the essay. Photographs are one of the most important tools that can supplement much information in this essay. Photographs can be well utilized in this essay to provide a clear picture and give a better understanding of the places that riders might encounter.