Ride your own adventure: It’s time to take your first steps off-road

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Leaving the tarmac behind on a £20k fully loaded BMW R1250GSA is the elephant in the adventure bike showroom. Every manufacturer spends millions developing bikes capable of handling the rough stuff, as do the tyre manufacturers, yet only a very small percentage of us feel confident enough to do it.

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So imagine for a minute there was a vast, off-road playground perfectly designed for endless hours of fully legal off-road riding on an adventure bike? Well there is, welcome to Sweet Lamb Adventure Rally Bike Academy.

Located in mid Wales the venue spreads over 6500 acres and boasts close to 30 miles of tracks and trails. The park itself is famous for its inclusion on the RAC Rally, which means there are miles of open, easy-going trails absolutely prime for riding an adventure bike – whatever your skill level.

Run by former British Enduro champion Mark ‘Moly’ Molineux and his team of fully qualified ACU coaches, Sweet Lamb offers a wide range of training days and events to get your adventure juices flowing.

Sweet Lamb slow speed riding skills

The courses start with their Adventure Bike Entry Level Day, which gives a comprehensive day of off-road instruction to riders wanting to ride their own bike off-road.

Their mantra is safe and stable progress where riders get an insight into the theory and basics of riding a big adventure bike off-road, while being given plenty of time to ride and put into practice what they’ve learned.

MCN spent a day at Sweet Lamb onboard the impressive Triumph Tiger Rally Pro to complete a day of one-to-one coaching.

Having ridden to Wales from Hertfordshire I was a little worried that my set-up would be a bit too ‘road’ focused, but any fears were quickly allayed as Moly explained that while often wet, the track and trails of Sweet Lamb are predominantly hard-packed gravel, meaning good, consistent grip.

Sweet Lamb see-saw

Having some experience of riding big adventure bikes off-road, this was music to my ears. Adventure bikes are surprisingly capable when you have grip, but turn into a quarter-tonne of misery when you don’t.

After a sit down over a brew to talk about the type of riding I enjoy and what I wanted to learn and practice during the day, we set off for a 30-minute trail ride.

The motivation is two-fold, firstly to get warmed up and secondly for your trainer to take a look at you and understand what style and level of rider you are. Having been training for 20 years, Moly has probably come across worse riders and definitely come across better ones!

Our relaxed trail ride ends up at a dedicated skills area where there is a plethora of obstacles to challenge you whatever your level – from a maze, see-saw, whoops – there are even a couple of cars to ride over!

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro river crossing

I’ve decided on two areas I want to work on: river/water crossings and also body positioning to aid turning. We’re in the right place to get to work on body positioning and after a demonstration Moly gets me to start riding around in progressively tighter circles before moving on to figure-of-eights.

Having learned about body positioning and footpeg pressure I begin to implement the new techniques and within minutes I’m turning tighter and more confidently than ever. Moly is keen for me to use the new techniques in the wilds, so we head off for another ride where I get plenty of opportunity to use my new skills on a gentle switchback hill climb.

After lunch we head back into the Welsh countryside to find some water so we can fulfil the second part of my day’s learning objective. Before we even think about getting our feet or tyres wet, Moly is at pains to explain the basics starting with choice of line, clues as to what hides under the surface and also speed.

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro in the water

There’s a lot to take in but it doesn’t take long for me to feel ready to ride confidently through a reasonable stretch of water with submerged rocks without stopping or drowning either myself or the Triumph’s engine.

By the end of the day I’m seriously impressed at what I’ve learned. I’ve been riding off-road for a long time and as a result it’s not often I stop and actually think about what I am doing and why I am doing it.

A day at Sweet Lamb is not only a great chance to spend time on the bike in a spectacular part of Wales, it’s a back-to-school day that’ll re-kindle your fire and desire to improve.

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Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider