So you want a bike, huh?

11 replies [Last post]
Charles Oertel's picture
Joined: 2007/04/14

Welcome to the club - the average rider here may have ridden a bike in his youth, and now that he or she can afford it, and the kids are independent, that beautiful machine becomes a reality again.

But things have changed since we were bulletproof youngsters.  The roads are more dangerous, the bike is somehow bigger, and we are somehow less strong and fit.  Whether you rode before or are riding for the first time...

How to survive your first year on the bike

  1. Hou kop - take it easy, don't rush it.  Be careful
  2. Do some training - learn to be a better rider
  3. Ride - our club has a variety of trips to suit all levels

Here is a plan of action.

Hou kop

Don't ride beyond your capability.  Those guys screaming ahead up the pass were also once 'slow and careful'.  They are still around because when they were beginners they took it easy until their skill had developed - the guys not riding with you are the ones who rode faster than their skill allowed and are now pushing up daisies or sold their bike.

In our club we pride ourselves in catering to all skill levels and not making people feel uncomfortable about their skill level.

When you are tired, stop.  A number of our members have injured themselves at the end of the day, when "doing just one more lap".

Skip a few rides.  If you insist on doing every single thing, sooner or later you will meet your moses.  If you skip the occasional thing, you allow your intuition and luck to come into play (and yes, beginners need luck).

Do some training

If you are a complete beginner, and just passing your license seems like an impossibility, 'Two Wheels Rider Academy' offers personalised rider training from complete beginners, through intermediate and advanced, that will improve your road riding skills.

Even if you have been riding a while, and you were a wizard back in the day, you will find the Country Trax 'Intro to Offroad Training' life-changing (the next one is on the 2nd April 2011).  The skills you learn on this course are useful also on the road, and will help make you a more competent and safer rider in a variety of conditions. 

Rough & Ready also offer offroad training, and their upcoming courses include the 'Introduction to offroad riding' training course (9 April). You need to decide whose offering and style you prefer.

If you are doing a fair amount of adventure riding, you will want to improve your skills and increase the number of options available to you in any given situation.  For this the 'Offroad Weekend Training' is ideal (the next one is 1st April).  Since it covers the content of the 'Intro' course on the first day, you do not need to have done the Intro course first.  But, you will find it tiring and hard work if you are not fit - and the 'Intro' course is a great way to get into it more gradually.

Specialist Courses

If you do any adventure riding in South Africa, sooner or later you will encounter sand.  With the right training and practice, sand is perfectly ridable, even on a fully-laden adventure bike with 19" front wheel.  Some time is spent riding sand during the Offroad Weekend course, but Country Trax offers an 'Advanced Sand Riding Course' every May, that will take you from being afraid of sand to enjoying it.  A side-effect of this course is that it improves all your other off-road skills, like cornering and balance.

Other options for improving your sand-riding skills, are offered by 'Rough & Ready', such as the one-day 'Introduction to Sand Riding Course'.

Country Trax offers an 'Advanced Offroad Course' (31st March) for those who have completed the offroad weekend course and have enough experience to take their riding to the next level.

Consider a dirtbike

As you take your riding to the next level, you will find that you are increasingly testing the limits on your adventure bike.  This becomes expensive.  Consider getting a cheap, second-hand dirtbike to 'play' on.  If you do this, you can do the 'Dirtbike Fundamentals' training to teach you the similarities and differences between riding a plastic bike and riding an adventure bike.

Riding a dirtbike is a great way to develop your physique and stay in shape while having a lot of fun and improving your riding skill.

Track Days

Every now and then, the club, one of the dealers, or Biketique will put on a track day.  This is not racing - it is instructor-led training, using the track as a safe learning environment.  This is also biker-life-changing - your cornering skill will improve, along with the amount of fun you have when cornering.

My recommendation

  1. Year 1: Intro to Offroad and/or the Offroad Weekend, a track day or two
  2. Year 2: Sand Course, a track day or two
  3. Year 3: Advanced Offroad Course or repeat one of the other courses, and a track day.

What About the Cost?

If a training course saves you from just one fall that requires an insurance claim, then it will pay for itself in terms of the excess you have to pay.


In your first year, after training, you need to ride.  The club has a number of rides to a variety of destinations that suit riders of all skill levels.  Choose rides that will build up your skill and confidence - start with easy rides and progress to more advanced ones.

Breakfast runs

Every two weeks the club has a breakfast run.  These are on tar, but involve back roads, scenic drives and passes, in a group.  Use these to learn from others, have a great time, learn to ride in a group, learn to ride passes and meet other potential riding buddies.

Beginners Rides

The club runs regular beginners offroad rides, such as the 'Beginners offroad day ride to Teslaarsdal/Sanford' on the 27th March.  During these the riding pace is very slow and there is a lot of coaching.  These are ideal for getting started on your Adventure bike, but as soon as your confidence grows you will find them too pedestrian.

Intermediate Rides

Most intermediate rides cater for novices - but not rank beginners.  Typically you need to be able to travel long distances at 80-100km/hr on good gravel.  If you cannot, and hold the group up, the pressure on you is not pleasant, and the group ends up at the destination after dark in some cases.

There are many options for intermediate riders:

  1. Club Annual Tour:  every year we go somewhere for a long-weekend, and several groups ride there by tar and/or dirt, in groups of various skill levels.  For example, we have ridden to Plettenberg Bay in 3 groups - a fast offroad, an intermediate offroad and a road group.
  2. BMW Bike Fest Oudtshoorn:  (22nd - 25th April) this is a wonderful event for all rider skill levels.  A description of routes is provided, and you choose your own riding buddies and route.  The social is also great.  Last year this was rated the best event ever by many attendees, and some of the rides were so spectacular they brought tears to the eyes of seasoned riders.
  3. Pillion-friendly Rides: if a ride is advertised as pillion-friendly, it is usually at intermediate level.
  4. General Club Rides and Tours: Most trips that are not advertised as 'extreme' are for intermediate-level riders.  For example: Buffelspoort Weekend, Eastern Cape Tour

Advanced Rides

  1. West Coast Trip: this 3-day trip to hondeklipbaai is renowned for the 10kms of thick sandy tweespoor you need to negotiate 3 times.  If you are uncomfortable on sand think twice before tackling this.  However, a number of novices have done this trip and learnt to ride sand (after a fashion), some with fewer plots in their name than others.
  2. Wild Coast Extreme Tour: this is a long trip with some days of wild riding in the Transkei.  Most of the extreme riding takes place on 'off' days when there is an option to rest up at the lodgings - so intermediate riders can choose how extreme they want to make it.

Regardless of the level you are at or choose to be at, sooner or later you will find a bunch of people whom you like to ride with and who like to ride with you.  Then you make your own trips and decide just how you like it.  Biking is a great way to get out there, get exercise, learn and experience new things, and meet really great people.  Enjoy.

If you commute

Have a look at our guidelines on lane-splitting and our club policy towards lane-splitting.



Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Geoff Russell's picture
Joined: 2007/09/25

Well thought out and well written Charles. A great reference for newbies and oldies coming back after a long lay off.

Thanks for the effort you made to put it together.


Committee: Ride Captain

Joined: 2007/06/25

Charles this is an excellent post, Thank you.


Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

Joined: 2011/01/08

Thank you Charles for taking the time and coming up with the idea of posting. As a beginner it is great to know I'm going about learning the right way and to realise I'm on the right path. Laughing


BobGoode's picture
Joined: 2010/10/07

Great post Charles. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. Good to know that I'm going about my first year back in the saddle the right way - you can't ride much slower than me!

Let it be.

Kenanwright's picture
Joined: 2013/04/16

Hi Everyone,

Im collecting my G650GS this weekend and this article is helping me to prepair for the jump to a 650 from a 250. Im glad there is a local forum for me to read up and learn from the expierienced guys. 


Any tips for the ride home from the dealership? It will be from the CBD to Fish Hoek +- 35km.



2012 BMW G650GS

Charles Oertel's picture
Joined: 2007/04/14

Hi Keenan

If you had never ridden a bike I would recommend asking someone to ride the bike home for you.  But since you are used to riding smaller bikes, you will be completely fine.  The 650 is easy to ride, well behaved, predictable and has nothing to watch out for.

My wife switched from a CRF 230F and found the 650 easier to handle.

I suppose the only difference is that you don't need to rev the bike to get going, the 650 has low-down torque and power.  Just ride it like you would a car (as opposed to a 2-stroke).

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Kenanwright's picture
Joined: 2013/04/16

Hi Charles,

Thank you, that makes me feel a lot more confident. 

I found my 250 terrifying, at times when I needed a little extra power, there wasnt any, especially being 1.84m tall and weighing 100kg it was just too under powered. How do the 650s handle the wind, my 250 was blown around like a leaf, rather scary at times.

Im looking to use it as a commute to work in town everyday.

2012 BMW G650GS

Piet Cronje's picture
Joined: 2013/04/11

Thanks Charles, very usefull, can't wait to be back in SA to do some of the courses you've mentioned.

I wish you all a pleasant day - be safe !


Piet Cronje      email:

"Do unto others as you would have done to you."

Joined: 2007/06/25

Jean, my wife, upgraded from a 250 Honda to a G650 and now enjoys the added weight and power. I feel that this is one of the most under-rated bikes on the market, good choice. On a recent 400km ride she managed 27,0k/l. Jean has fitted the higher BMW screen but is still looking for more protection.  The Kappa screen is higher and wider, this should afford more wind protection. Trevor at Adventure Rider has them in stock, that's where we will be on Saturday.

Think before you ink.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

I have the rest of my life to get old.

Kenanwright's picture
Joined: 2013/04/16

Thanks Rene,

It's good too see so many positive comments about this bike. It makes me feel good about my choice. I was also looking at the 650 Vstrom and the Versys but all my research showed that BMW was the superior bike and I can not find any negitive feedback on these machines. I'd like to do some training for a beginner like me, both on and off road. 

2012 BMW G650GS

Kenanwright's picture
Joined: 2013/04/16

Just an update, I collected the bike on friday in town went via houtbay and chapmans peak then through kommetjie round cape point and back to capri, just over 100km.

WOW! this bike is amazing, its so comfey I fell like I have been riding it for years.

Today we did the round trip from fish hoek to cape point then round scarborough to town via chapmans peak and camps bay, I have now done just over 300km in the 2 days I have had the bike. Im so happy with my purchase... :)

2012 BMW G650GS