Off-Piste revolves around learning how to keep the fun going after the road is over, under the supervision of Ashish Raorane, a rival of Dakar.
Published on January 16, 2023 07:00:00 am
Nothing beats the comfort and confidence of having solid, well-paved pavement beneath you. At least that’s my thinking. I’ve never really understood how people can enjoy off-road driving, willingly putting themselves in a situation where you’re constantly vying for traction. It’s amazing how much difference just one day of well-structured instruction can make in changing the way you see off-road driving. That helps in this case, of course, as the guidance comes from one of only four Indians to have ever competed in the Dakar Rally.
Ashish’s see-through can be a bit intimidating at first, but you’ll get used to it.
Ashish Raorane entered the toughest race of them all, in the toughest of them all, in 2021 and plans to do it again in 2024. For now, however, he is coaching those people like you and me at the Rallyscape School Off Piste Race. The course is structured into two levels over two days and I was able to do the first of these. This covers the basic building blocks of off-road driving, including things like body position and braking technique.
But before starting a single engine, Ashish explained the importance of setting up the motorcycle’s controls correctly for off-road riding. Being able to quickly reach your rear brake lever in a standing position can be the difference between surviving an unexpected situation without getting hurt.
That’s why for the first half hour, my hand was not on the steering wheel, but on the ratchet, when I started to adjust the position of the hand and foot levers.
Applying stand-up techniques is the next step in the learning curve.
Since that time, the drills have been very quick. But what stands out for me (in a very good way) is the quality over quantity approach. Too many riding schools bombard you with an incredibly varied amount of practice in an impossibly short amount of time, and the irony is that you end up learning very little. This information overload is really a nightmare when you’re trying to perform some task very foreign to muscle memory (a process that can’t be tracked fast).
Happily, at Off Piste, the learning process is a beautiful one. It starts small and simple, and gives you enough sitting time to allow you to deploy and refine your learnings over and over in a ‘start, take off’ process. ‘. And little by little, a new element is introduced into each theory session, before you go out and incorporate it into your process.
For example, the braking exercises were performed for the first time in a familiar sitting position, allowing us to get comfortable with the operation of the motorcycle and familiarize ourselves with the techniques. And only then were we encouraged to stand up and try them out. The same goes for many body position exercises, first focusing on the feet, then the shins, and then the upper body; Each session has a dedicated tracking session, allowing you to put one element into practice at a time.
Ashish then joined us on the track, which was an equal amount of practice and instruction.
Many of the techniques taught during the day were completely new to me and often violently awakened inert muscles that would otherwise be unused on a daily basis. The friendly learning curve and ample sitting time at Rallyscape are the difference between rushing (and often unsuccessfully) trying these techniques for a day, only to then get back into the habit. immediately afterwards and successfully brought about a meaningful change in my driving habits and technique.
The end result is a really rewarding day of learning, really feeling empowered. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give the Rallyscape school is that it has left me hungry for more, so I’m looking forward to Level 2. And this comes from someone who always has a historical reaction to the ending. ended the off-road trip with overwhelming relief and gratitude for the resumption of the runway. I can’t say I’ve started to enjoy off-road driving, but it has equipped me with enough tools that I no longer have to be shy.
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