If you’re a road rider, there’s a fairly good chance that you have never considered dipping your toe into motocross. It’s a completely different world, and the benefits of mastering dirt are not instantly obvious if you ride on Tarmac. But people keep saying that riding on loose surfaces helps with your road riding, so we decided to give it a go.
To get started, we booked ourselves on a Yamaha MX Experience day. They use eight MX tracks around the country, with lots of dates over the riding season, so there’s plenty of choice. You don’t need experience or even a licence to attend, and all the kit is provided, so you can just turn up in your civvies. A full day experience costs £199. The bikes for the experience day are mostly Yamaha WR250 models, with both enduro and MX versions available. And for a bit of variety, some bigger and smaller bikes feature in the line-up too.
The day started with signing in, and a cup of coffee. There were 15 people there for the experience, all of us MX novices, and half a dozen staff to look after us. The mood in the morning was relaxed, although it was obvious that we were all rather nervous. It takes a brave person to look at the hills, corners and jumps of the MX track behind the sign-in tent and feel completely at ease.
When the action started, we were divided into three groups of five. Thankfully, we had the motocross track to ourselves, so there was only ever five of us, plus trainers, on track at any given time. Not that anyone in their right mind would want to come and join a bunch of amateurs racing around…Before we even got as far as riding on the track, Tom Weston, a top motocross rider who runs Yamaha’s MX Experience, talked us through the basics of how the day would go (barring any unforeseen incidents), what the bikes were like, how they differ from road bikes, and how to ride them.
It soon became clear in the briefing that the key point about riding MX was to always keep the clutch and front brake levers covered by a finger or two, keep your weight forward to add grip to the front wheel, and to stand when you can (the seats on these bikes are rather unforgiving!).
The first step towards being an MX god was some riding drills next to the track. We got started with going round an oval area on level grass to get used to the bikes, tyres, riding position and the rest. It sounds simple, but the throttle feel and power delivery of the 250 is nothing like a road bike, and takes some getting used to. However, after a while it started to feel less alien, and riding on the actual track seemed a realistic possibility.
Sure enough, after a while doing circles on grass, the instructors deemed us ready to take on the track. With three groups of five riders in rotation, you were riding 15 minutes, then watching the other two groups for half an hour before it was your turn again. Far from being bored while you wait, it was really useful to see the others ride, as you can see what they are doing right and wrong, whereas when you ride yourself it’s more difficult to pinpoint the problems.
It’s worth pointing out that we weren’t just released into the wild world of MX track riding and left to our own devices. Track riding was introduced in stages. The first session used one-third of the track. The next covered two-thirds. And then we had the full track to play with.
As expected, the start was very tentative. This is not something that you can just jump in and get it straight away. For a good while speeds were low, and confidence equally so. However, little by little, things improved as we gradually got used to the sitting position, experimented with the standing position, rode through the ruts, got ready for the odd jump, and generally gained more confidence. This was great fun!
One thing is for sure: this was hard work. With so much to learn, think about and put into practice — never mind the physical strain — it didn’t take long to get tired, and the rests between the sessions were always welcome.
Tiring it may have been, but it was also a hugely rewarding experience: By the end of the day, we had improved by leaps and bounds. We were no pros, but we looked less and less like complete novices by the minute, although it became painfully obvious that to do this at a higher level would take a lot of work.
If you fancy experiencing MX riding first hand, the Yamaha MX Experience is just what you need. A well-structured day, with top instructors, using both bikes and tracks precision-designed for the job. And it’s a load of fun too — we’re already planning our next visit!
For more information about the Yamaha MX Experience, visit www.yamahamxexperience.co.uk