We all know how much fun motorcycles are to ride on the road, but have you ever considered trying out one of the many other motorcycling disciplines out there?
There are a whole world of alternative motorbike experiences out there, and we’ve been looking at just five of the best try out days you can book into this year.
Get dirty with motocross
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of motocross. Known as scrambling back in the day, motocross is a popular form of amateur racing that isn’t too expensive (by motorsport standards) and caters to riders for all ages, from schoolboys (as well as schoolgirls) through to veterans.
With gnarly jumps and rough terrain, motocross is extremely physically demanding. If you just want a taste of what the sport has to offer, all the manufacturers of dirt bikes have some kind of experience days that you can join and learn the basics.
Road riders can often get cocky about the fact that these bikes are ‘only’ 250s. They’re proper racers and really haul. The riding style is also different to what you’re used to on a road bike too, and you’ll spend most of your time standing on the footpegs. An intro course is definitely beneficial to the road rider, if only to learn the basic techniques. Bikes, riding gear and top banter are all included.
Most of the schools are based in Wales and reports of all are very good. We can personally recommend Dave Thorpe’s school at the Honda Off Road Centre in Devon. Dave’s a four-time world champion, so it’s fair to say that he knows what he’s talking about, while instructor Stephen Sword is another top level ex-racer with an ability to demystify the art of motocross to novices
Prices from £50.
Get your skid on (with no brakes)!
Speedway was huge in the 1950s and 1950s and although its heydays are behind it, the sport still attracts a small but loyal following.
It’s also a discipline that intrigues most motorcyclists. The bikes themselves bear little resemblance to anything else out there. They are simple beasts, with specially developed methanol burning single cylinder engines, fixed gearing and no brakes. Four riders line up for each race, blasting around an anti-clockwise dirt oval sideways, making for breathtaking racing.
That said, there are not too many places to try your hand at speedway but thankfully second generation rider Aidan Collins runs a number of experience days at the speedway track in Buxton, Derbyshire.
Although he started out as a speedway rider, Aiden quickly switched to flat track and won five British championships. He’s a member of speedway’s most famous dynasty. Aiden’s uncle Peter was world champion in 1976 and dad Les, who instructs on these courses, was world number two in 1982 and held the distinction of being the leading points scorer in British league speedway history.
Called Ride It and Skid, the courses are held using proper speedway bikes fitted with 125cc Honda engines. The experience lasts four hours and costs £90.
Ride with a legend
Of course, you don’t have to go off road to get a new experience on your motorcycle.
For years, racing legend Ron Haslam has been imparting his knowledge through the Carole Nash backed Honda Ron Haslam Race School. Held at Donington Park in Leicestershire, the schools cover all sort of experience levels, from novices to experts.
For road riders, it can be a great way to develop your skills for the road or track days. The school also offers Honda CBR125R machines for riders as young as 12, making it a good way for aspiring young racers to try their hand at circuit racing before taking the plunge.
The school provides all equipment and use of bikes, including the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade superbike and if you haven’t done it yet you have to ask yourself one question, ‘why not?’
Kickstart your riding
Remember Kickstart, the 1980s TV show with the jaunty theme tune? Well, you too can fire a motorcycle over seemingly impossible obstacles while humming Be My Boogie Woogie Baby (for that’s what the tune was called) by signing up to the Trials School.
Held in Staffordshire, these taster days give you an opportunity to experience the still popular sport of trials riding. It’s all about throttle control, balance and slow speed finesse. What the top riders like Dougie Lampkin and Toni Bou can achieve on these lightweight, low geared, bikes is truly staggering and although you won’t be clearing seemingly impossible sections, you’ll leave with even more respect for their skills than you arrived with. Because of the low speeds, trials can be enjoyed by non-motorcyclists as well as experienced riders, with the trials school suggesting that it can be an ideal corporate team building day, or even one for the stag weekend.
Like most of the other experiences listed here, the course includes hire of all safety equipment and use of a suitable bike, with a full day’s riding priced at £150.
Be a champion!
Flat track is huge in the States and proved a training ground. Four of the five American Grand Prix champions – Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Nicky Hayden – cut their teeth on the dirt ovals, where the high speeds and low traction helped to develop a generation of racers with exquisite throttle control that helped tame the bucking and sliding 500cc and early MotoGP race bikes.
Here in Europe flat tracking has been relatively unknown, but there’s a small and increasingly popular following emerging, helped in no small part by the way in which current day MotoGP stars Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi eulogise about the part played by flat tracking as part of their training regime.
The main difference between American and European flat track are the tracks. American circuits were dedicated dirt ovals of between ¼ mile and a full mile, designed to tame the custom built Harley-Davidson machines.
Here in the UK, most flat tracking takes place on more technical speedway tracks, the biggest of which are smaller than a quarter mile, with the majority of machines built around 450cc motocross engines.
It’s a friendly community that has gained some notoriety in recent years thanks to the hilarious annual DirtQuake, a kinda ‘run what ya brung’ dirt track that attracts comedy entries from around the country.
If you fancy giving it a go, top British rider Pete Boast runs his Champions Flattrack School in Lincolnshire. It’s a popular winter haunt for British superbike riders looking to hone their riding skills over the winter months.
To join, you are expected to have some riding experience and, unlike the other experiences listed, you’ll have to provide your own protective clothing (leathers or motocross gear). The school will provide one of their Honda CRF125s, as well as a steel shoe required for skidding around the corners. £159.