THE LONESOME TRAIL
GETTING OUT ON THE TRAILS ON TWO WHEELS; HOW TO DO IT SAFELY AND HAVE FUN!
For many the sheer escapist joy of riding a motorcycle along a trail over hill and down dale, through the mud and past the fields is something really special and not to be missed. Trail riding is a favourite pastime of many motorcyclists, testing man or woman and machine against tarmac-free terrain.
So what exactly is trail riding?
Well in a nutshell it's riding a motorcycle (or car) along an unsealed public highway, in other words a road without tarmac. It is completely legal, just like riding along any public road is, the difference is simply that the road is unmade so probably rutty and muddy. It's a good idea to take it slowly!
Way to go
You will need to check that it is a legal route before you set off. It really pays to plan a route using an OS map, local council website or an app showing the lanes. There are also forums where you can chat to other trail riders and get all the low down – try contacting the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) for more info.
Does the bike need to be road legal?
The trail or lane you are riding is still a public highway, albeit usually a small muddy one, so you are only allowed to ride a road legal vehicle which is fully taxed, MOT'd and insured on it, just the same as riding on any public road.
"Get off my land!"
Riding trails or green lanes is becoming more and more controversial in the UK now though and the number of lanes where it is legal to ride a motorcycle seems to be decreasing daily due to concerns about wildlife, walkers and trespassers on farmland. If you're out riding and you decide to head off the lane across country over the fields or hills or into the woods, you will likely be breaking the law and will come a cropper, as pretty much everywhere in England belongs to someone. In order to keep the trails open it is important to always ride legally and considerately. The more damage to land and law breaking that's done, the more likely it is that even more draconian laws will come in about riding motorbikes out of town, on trails and more will be shut to motorcyclists.
Although it might feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere, as you can see in our previous article there are new police initiatives afoot to catch you if you do feel tempted to stray, and they are employing drones now to cover areas of countryside which they didn't used to be able to reach.
Trail riding is not the same as off-roading, oh no, not the same thing at all which is why you can't head out free range across the fields. Off-roading needs to be properly planned and organised, with all the appropriate permissions granted and not attempted on private land. Mainly it can only take place on private land as an organised event with a charge and sometimes a licence required and it may well be marshalled.
There are some things which are really important to remember, in order to ensure the future of trail riding for all.
- Always be legal, don't stray off the beaten path onto the road less travelled or heaven forbid, the field less travelled!
- Plan your route and keep to it so that you are sure that you don't stray into private land
- Take a picnic, a first aid kit, wet weathers, layers in case the weather changes and a tool kit in case of breakdowns
- Bring a friend, share the fun and also there's someone there to help in case of a mishap
- Be mindful of other lane users and be polite and slow down when passing people. If it's horses and riders then it's best to stop and switch your engine off so as not to scare the horse
- Get an Ordnance Survey map to plan and mark your route in advance – the lanes marked Byways Open To All Traffic (BOATs), Unclassified Country Roads (UCRs) and Unsealed, Unclassified Country Roads (UUCRs) are what you are looking for. Ramblers may disagree but as long as the trail you are on is one of the aforementioned designations, without a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) on it, then you have as much right to use it as anyone
- Always obey the countryside code, and remember to close gates properly behind you in case of livestock. Never stray into fields especially with crops in them, and keep carefully to the lane, respecting any closures and turning round if you come to one, there will be a reason it's closed
- Be extra careful of wildlife, keep your speed down so you can stop quickly if necessary
There's a lot of fun to be had out there on the trails, honing your riding skills and getting away from it all. There's nothing more absorbing than concentrating on a great ride in unusual terrain making it easy to lay down all your everyday worries.
Have you tried trail riding or tackled green lanes? Is it for you, or are you planning to give it a go? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a message on Facebook.
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