Published: 11 February 2004Updated: 24 November 2014
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Getting your wheels dirty is a growing trend in the UK with more and more people taking to the dirt. But buying an off-roader can be quite an investment, especially if you don't even know if you're going to like it.
That's where the MCN Honda off-road experience comes in to play. Organised by top UK motocross team CAS Honda, and for the same price as a track day, you get to spend the day charging around a specially laid out trail with everything supplied. All you need to do is get yourself to the venue and enjoy the ride.
The day starts at 10am, so there's no early rising to cope with, and kicks off with an introduction to the bike and the instructors-come-fallen bike rescuers. "Because you will fall off" explains Ryan as he shows us round the Honda XR250 that most of us are seeing for the first time.
The group of 12 riders watch with intense concentration as Ryan explains how to handle the bike and the slippery conditions that are out in the fields.
"To ride this bike," he continues. "You need to forget 90 percent of what you know about riding a bike on the road."
A few faces pale a little but he goes on to explain exactly how to get the best out of the bike and make the most of the day. The last thing we're shown before we get out on the trail is how to re-start the bike when we fall off. Without an electric start, kicking the bike was something we would all become very familiar with throughout the day.
Fully kitted up we head out to the trail - a specially laid out track around 4.5km of farmland covering open field, deep mud, water splashes, more mud, wooded trails, and just a little bit more mud.
Instructors Ryan and Dan take the group round for the first lap then the rest is up to us.
Watching the pros ride on the TV it all looks so easy, but when faced with liquid mud and front and rear wheels that want to go in opposite directions it was a whole different ball game. After two laps I had to come in for a rest and a litre of water to replace all the sweat I'd lost.
"Those guys are so fit," said one first time off-roader puffing his way back for a rest." Riding a road bike is so easy compared to this. On the road there are only two variables, faster or slower. But out there there's so many things to think about and it's easy to let them take you by surprise."
Five minutes later we're all itching to get back out on track, determined to complete a lap without ending up lying in the mud.
The more laps we did and with all the help and encouragement from the instructors the more we all got to grips with the essentials of off-roading: Stand up on the straights, sit at the front of the seat in the corners, elbows up, keep the throttle under control, and attack the track with confidence. Taking it slow just gives you more chance to get stuck and fall off, usually in the sloppiest pool of mud.
After 10 laps and 45km of muddy fields it was time to head back to the truck and get jet washed down - both the bikes and the riders.
"That was quite a hard day you had out there," said Sheridan Millwood, founder of the CAS Honda team and organiser of the events. "On a scale of 100 that was definitely a 75." And just looking around the paddock it is obvious. The bikes are covered in mud, the people are covered in bruises, but most of all, the faces are covered in big grins.
"That was well worth it, I'm definitely coming again. " Said Steve Baxter from Towcester. "I ride a Suzuki GSX-R1000 on the road. It lets me escape at the weekends, but at this time of year the last thing you want is 150bhp on slippery roads, so I thought I'd give off-roading a go to give me an alternative."
"It's fantastic value for money," added Jamie King from Sulgrave. "And the emphasis is all on fun. When you go to a track day the air is always filled with testosterone and everyone is always trying to be the best. But this is just a laugh, you know your going to fall off and get dirty. All they need to make it perfect is a couple of brolly girls waiting when you get back."
By the end of the day everyone was completely knackered but we had all had the time of our lives and almost everyone vowed to get themselves an off-road bike, or at the very least book up another MCN Honda off road day as soon as they could.
If you're thinking about buying a dirt bike why not check out our Bikes For Sale section for the best selection of bikes in your area.
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