Ambassadorial Exercise in Dirt Riding

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Contemplating a workout? How about a KTM 990 Adventure and some sand?

My legs are rubbery, my arms exhausted, and my hands barely working today thanks to about 50kms of challenging adventure riding yesterday. So it’s convenient that this morning the Globe and Mail Health and Fitness featured an article on the health benefits of offroad motorcycling.

For those who have ridden offroad, the article offers few surprises, but makes dirt riding sound like a 250cc fad-diet. You stand up to take impact and balance the bike (core workout anyone?), you drop a foot in corners, on technical trails you’re levering the bars, you lean back to weight the rear wheel downhill or in loose sand and gravel, uphill you stand forward over the bars, you stand, squat, stand, brace… we all know it’s calisthenics at 50kph, but now York University is investigating how much so.

The implications, beyond rider health, could legitimize the sport as a physical endeavor especially as more and more trails move to exclude motorized access. We wouldn’t expect the sour looks from hikers and mountain bikers to go away as they discount the fuel used in getting their SUV full of powerbars and defecating dogs to the trails, rather than riding a small displacement bike with fuel efficiency that nocks a Prius smug-mobile on it’s ass. But, studies like the one covered in the Globe and Mail article at least erode the moral high-ground held by those who don’t wish to share.

And there are a lot of self-propelled trail users who don’t want to share.  The comments section of the article degraded from discussing the health benefits of riding into a debate on trail usage almost instantly. Sadly, this unreasonable and unbalanced response to motorcycle usage of vehicle accessible trails isn’t just an internet phenomena.

The prejudice you encounter on the part of many mountain bikers and hikers is disheartening, even as you slow to crawl by them responsibly or even stop to let them pass. On several occasions while riding we’ve made a point of removing our helmets, helping with directions and route guidance even offering water to cyclists in an attempt to diffuse the misconception that dirt-bike equals irresponsible yahoo. It is after all too easy to be an anonymous “them” in goggles and a helmet.

Why take the pains? Because, as with any physical workout, the benefits increase with frequency – four times a week for best results.  While we’re advocating that you get out there and get healthy with a responsible and legal ride on local trails, it wouldn’t hurt to take a breather now and then and act as ambassador to ensure our sport still has the option of frequent and convenient rides. Perhaps if we’re respectful enough to hikers, runners and mountain bikers, maybe they will return the favour.

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