ENDURO AS ADVENTURE RIDING SCHOOL. Balancing Explained
First of all, it’s important to know our main rule – Safety on first place. We maintain the attitude that first you have to become safer rider in order to ride faster. Some may be disappointed but that’s the true about Motorcycles. Not very popular marketing approach today when lot of people expect instant feedback from almost everything.
Lots of videos on YT on subjects like “How to wheelie on Adventure bike”, “Ride fast in the sand”, “Jumping over logs on GS” with lots of views and comments, which make me speechless. And then, I see terrible position on the bike and inappropriate riding gear.
I’ve never understood why are off road trainings on Adventure bikes held in Adventure riding gear? In a Sidi Adventure boots or similar, in adventure pants with knee “protection” built-in, in a jackets with spine “protector”…? Adventure bikes are two or three times heavier and much easier to drop or to fall from, have more power and less agility off road what make them even more risky.
For that reason, we recommend real off-road protection – from helmets to hard knee protection and MX or Enduro boots. Therefore, we start from that –pack yourself into real-deal protection.
WHERE DO WE START FROM?
No matter what rider’s level is, first hours we spend on our training ground in the woods not far from our base. That’s so called “safe environment” with wide open space, long straight and wide curvy trails as well. Surface is 100% off road but with excellent grip (traction) so no need to worry about that at least first day.
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
- Getting to know each other
- Main concepts theory
- Getting used to bike and terrain
- Different exercises: sitting position
- Different exercises: standing position
- Single trail: stage one
- Uphills and downhills
- Single trail: stage two
- Sidelong riding
- Single trail: stage three
- Riding in real context
No matter how good or bad rider’s previous experience is, we always start from same point. Some move faster, some need more time, but generally, almost everyone reaches the same level in near future.
WHAT IS THIS PLAN DEDICATED TO? OR WHAT WE CONSIDER AS A MAIN OFF ROAD CONCEPTS.
It may sound simple, but there are only few things for an answer to that question:
Practicing certain techniques allows us to understand why these concepts are most important for off road riding. For example, balancing on the bike is directly related to riding in standing position. Furthermore, moving on the bike, center of gravity, body position – all this has direct impact on how you’re balanced and what’s the traction at the moment.
BALANCING ON THE BIKE
There is no precise definition for it, but in short – all the movements rider undertakes to stay on the bike and to keep it on the aimed direction could be considered as a balancing.
It is how rider actually reacts on bike’s movements. Bumps, rocks, holes, ditches, roots, then combined with uphills or downhills – all this requires timely and appropriate movements on the bike.
Therefore, there are few things to start from and know about balancing:
Tons of words and books were written and said on this topic, from absolutely nonsense to sophisticated. Different terrains require different positions but all it comes down to physics and few common rules:
- lower down combined (rider + bike) center of gravity – makes hole “system” (rider + bike) more stable and responsive to bike’s movements
- be gentle on the handle bar (don’t hold it tight) – most of the weight should be on foot pegs which should be main fulcrum (anchor point, support) for your body, put as less as possible weight on handle bar – you’re not holding your body on the bike by squeezing handle bar but by moving it according to terrain and bike’s movements
- pick up elbows – allows easier and precise steering not by turning handle bar left and right but by pushing it down (leaning the bike)
- you should look like Russian letter “Г” (don’t look like candle or squatting) – back should be hanging down as relaxed as possible, use leg’s muscles as little as possible (no squatting)
- try not to keep your body by squeezing the bike with knees/legs – adding more support points gives false confidence, masks unbalanced position and ironically, bounds moving on the bike(there are situations when it helps but it’ll come later on)
Why standing position is so important?
- Little-known fact for off-road newcomers – standing position actually lowers down the combined center of gravity (rider + bike)
- Foot pegs are main fulcrum for your body on the bike and only support to stick your body onto while balancing
- Foot pegs lay on the axis which is actually nearly center of rotation between front and rear which makes them less moving point on the bike, hence most stable
- And of course, you see further, steering and moving are easier
MOVING ACCORDING TO ANTICIPATION HOW BIKE WILL ACT
To stay in balance, you have to understand basics of how bike works and reacts to different obstacles and situations. Even simple acceleration in standing position requires timely prepared position, in this particular case – putting your body forward. How far forward and how quickly you move is directly related to acceleration intensity and duration – harder acceleration is, further body goes. Same as with braking – the more aggressive stoppage is – the more backward body goes. Jumping logs or rocks, riding over tranches – requires unloading front before hitting actual obstacle. Riding hillside (sidelong) with constant speed requires loading outer foot peg and so forth.
All this means, that syncing with the bike to match the terrain, requires knowledge of how bike works and reacts to certain conditions and what’s rider’s proper response to that. How good and safe we ride depends on how we anticipate bike’s reactions and how trained we are to act properly.
Lot of rider’s reactions and movements are natural, though quite complicated to be thought or clearly and simply explained – for example, rider would automatically move to stay on the bike if wheels were kicked by rock. Rider would instinctively move and control handle bar on slippery downhill just to stay on the bike – most of movements couldn’t be academically explained in situations like that. By the way, I was just wondering what a crazy list of things man has invented and been through (and still does) just to challenge himself and has a good time… Sorry for digression.
We are getting used to off road bumps, slippery surfaces and steep trails by spending hours and hours on bike. It’s better to spend some time with coach, closely controlled and watched then to gain bad habits and techniques.
Watching Hard Enduro from aside, one may get impression that all this actually IS against instincts, but among other things we see and live today, maybe off-road is not as bad and dangerous…
Reaching higher levels of skill, rider will face riding techniques requiring acting against his usual perception and experience more often. Sometimes it’s faster, safer and less energy demanding just to let bike go along some unbelievable downhill. It requires good balance, excellent feeling for weight distribution and traction as well as knowledge on how bike will act. Some beginner may say – “I’ll just let it go” but that’s gambling, too risky and I saw it endless times.
Or, for example, riding hillside up when rear wheel slides all the time – first thing that comes to head automatically is to put down one of the legs. If you get off outer leg, you actually remove weight and force directed into the hill, hence, considerably less traction, and stopping is inevitable. Removing inner (closer to hill) leg in order to find support on the ground means moving weight to that side and unloading outer peg; every time we step on the hillside trying to stay on the bike on the run, we also unload outer foot peg. Solution is to move weight on outer peg as much as possible (means that you’re almost riding on one leg) look up – forward and keep momentum!
Beginners are always wondering how it comes that they’re sucked out, totally exhausted after only few hours?
Beginner is mostly doing lot of things wrong. In off-road, doing wrong means, without exceptions, spending too much energy. By the way, being too excited, which is common to beginners, also sucks energy.
Squeezing the handlebar, dragging back yourself forward every time you accelerate, pushing body back at the cost of arm’s muscles when braking, squatting and being uptight entirely – all this inevitably causes fast energy loss. Less skilled the rider is, sooner he gets tired. The more tired he is, harder holds handle bar and becomes even more uptight, which causes arm-pump and clutch control loss. It’s like a vicious circle which eventually brings to injuries. Even being totally exhausted, rider will never admit that, because friends, because pride…
The device we ride has more than 50 HP, so no matter how strong we are, we’ll never be able to control it just by raw power of our muscles. Every single moment on the bike, we’re not moving only because riding technique requires that, but because we HAVE TO. Every little ditch, hole or bump, every smallest acceleration causes lot of muscles to work. Off road riding engages more muscles to work simultaneously than any other sport, that is why we spend so much energy on bike without even realizing that. When you go to gym you work on particular muscle and you can feel how it’s getting tired, but here, all your muscles work simultaneously, some more, some less, and bit by bit your energy disappears.
The only way to have fun from riding and to reach farthest point of your intercontinental adventure is to ride technically correct. For those who want to be fast – be skilled if you want to be fast.
To conclude on Balancing – no such a specific “one and only” exercise for practicing balance but at the same time, all off road riding as well as entire course could be considered as such. More practicing brings more balance. Course takes rider through set of different riding exercises and positions, which will teach, or rather allow to understand and feel concepts of balance and stability.