Most of the country may be under General Community Quarantine already, but there are still a lot of restrictions on leisure activities. Ball and contact sports aren't universally allowed yet. Even gyms are under strict scrutiny for the time being.
With relaxed travel restrictions comes the itch to ride once again. Yet as a recent viral video has shown, riding on the road doesn't look like a safe choice at the moment.
So what can one do to relieve stress? If you have the itch to ride, why not try something that causes less damage to yourself, other riders, and your motorcycle: Enduro Riding. Best of all, it requires protective gear that prevents the spread of the virus, and that you maintain some distance when riding with your buddies.
Enduro riding is perhaps one of the more affordable yet enjoyable activities one can participate in. All you need is a dirt bike, some riding gear, and the mountains to enjoy this sport. As far as we can tell, a lot of motorcycle riders (even seasoned road racers) are beginning to enjoy the mud, dirt, trees, and more mud in the mountains.
Speaking of dirt bikes, one does not need to buy a very expensive bike. A quick browse through the classified ads online will reveal a lot of pretty decent used dirt bikes. For example, a decent, used Yamaha DT 125 can be bought for as low as PhP20,000, or maybe even less if it’s your lucky day.
Don't like second-hand bikes? New dirt bikes are offered by Japanese manufacturers as well as European motorcycle manufacturers. There are also Chinese-branded dirt bikes that perform well and are quite affordable.
Enduro riding in Mt. Tapulao, Zambales (c) Enduro Factory PH
Enduro riding is not new. This sport is as old as motorcycles because, back in the day, there weren't many roads to ride on to begin with. In “traditional” enduro riding, riders either race laps around a looped course or try to beat each other’s time from one end to another of a pre-determined route.
In leisure enduro riding, commonly called trail riding, there is no time pressure and riders ride at their own pace. It all depends on the trail and the weather.
For example, our friends from Enduro Factory PH frequent this trail in Magallanes, Cavite. Due to the challenging (technical) nature of the terrain, it could sometimes take more than 12 hours to finish this 5-kilometer mountain trail. On the other hand, there are trails which may be 80-kilometers long but can be accomplished within 6-hours or so.
There is also a lot to like about enduro riding. Besides the challenge it brings to the rider – navigating difficult terrain while balancing your bike – one cannot deny that the scenery on top of a mountain overlooking a wide area is spectacular. In addition, riding these trails takes you to places where most people don't see, like white water rivers and hidden falls, most of which are untouched by development because they're inaccessible.
How to get started?
If you are interested in trying out enduro riding, we highly suggest that you first get proper training at a school that teaches off-road motorcycle riding. Unlike riding on the road, riding off the beaten path requires additional motorcycle riding skills and bike control. After all, you’re not encountering regular roads here. Trails can be really challenging and take more than just turning the handlebar to navigate.
For example, if one has to squeeze the front brake real hard on the road, ABS might save the day. But it is a different story on gravel, mud, sand, or loose soil. Sometimes, you want those wheels to lock up to get more grip on the loose surface.
We go over some of these essential skills in the story: Trail riding tips for beginners.
Choosing the right bike
If this is your first time riding off-road, it is understandable that your off-roading skills are also likely newbie level. That being said, you don’t necessarily need to buy a very powerful production bike like a Yamaha WR 450 or a KTM 300 EXC TPI.
Start with off-road bikes that offer enough power, a seat height that’s not intimidating for you, and with a weight that you can manage. From there, you can start working your way to improving your off-road riding skills until you can handle larger and more powerful enduro bikes.
Invest in protective gear
Enduro riding requires a specific kind of riding boots.
Just like riding on the road, investing in the right gear for enduro riding is paramount to your safety. For the basic gear, get off-road riding-specific boots. For shin and ankle protection, get knee pads. A regular helmet will do, but think of getting an enduro helmet (extended chin) down the line. These are different from road riding gear. Off-road riding boots, for example, are stiffer than road riding boots especially on the ankle part, and may not be as aerodynamic.
If you have the budget, it won’t hurt to invest in knee braces and a chest/ back protector as well.
After investing on a bike, gear, and beginner lessons, don’t go riding off into the wilderness on your own. If you’re ready to ride, it would be best to tag along first with friends who frequently ride off-road. It’s always wise to ride with someone who knows the trail you're going to, and some of its risks and trouble spots.
Also, set their expectations. Let them know that you are a newbie and would love to learn the sport. Usually, these will help them set up newbie-friendly rides. Such rides involve barangay roads with compact surfaces with very minimal slippery uphill or downhill slopes. Bring at least 3 liters of water to drink while on the trail as this kind of riding can be exhausting for beginners.
As you ride off-road more, your off-road riding skill level will improve, and the roads (or lack thereof) that you will be riding on with your buddies can begin to get more challenging. That means harder obstacles like log jumps or some river crossings, or even some steeper uphills and downhill inclines.
Enduro riding can be a fun and even addictive activity. Remember, there's a chance you can get injured and damage your bike. Yet with the slower speeds, proper guidance, and right protective gear, this can be minimized.
Editor’s note: While we are still technically under quarantine, some local government units are already allowing non-contact sports like enduro riding provided that the minimum health and safety protocols are met.