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Although it may seem premature to get on a 650cc bike at the start of your off-roading life, the big DR has attributes which would make it an excellent first adventure bike. It has a very modest power output for its size, but enough grunt to make it worth the weight penalty compared to something like Ralph’s WR250R. There’s no big power rush anywhere in the rev range, just a strong and steady building of speed. This makes the Suzuki DR-650 an amazing climber, perfect for the steep rocky ascents we encountered on both sides of Mount Terrible. Going back down can be just as tricky in this sort of wet terrain, but the DR has enough back torque stored in its hefty crankshaft to ensure a controlled descent without having to cook the brakes. In fact, the DR650 will tractor its way up, over and down pretty much anything you point it at. Jam it into first or second gear, and let the engine chug along while you methodically pick a line through the rubble.

Mount Terrible wasn’t named as such due its convivial nature and easy access. It’s tall, steep, rocky, and slippery. So if those aren’t the kind of kicks you are seeking, it is terrible. But, grunt and grimace-inducing gnarl was exactly what I was looking to expose my teammate to, hopefully without killing him. The steepness of the terrain challenged Ralph’s neglected off-road skills a couple of times, but every stall and stumble was accompanied by a sweaty smile and Ralphy’s irrepressible enthusiasm.

Thankfully, all the tracks I’d blindly selected when setting the route were passable. As we approached the summit the unseasonably sunny day went dark, and Mount Terrible was enveloped in thick cloud, then it started to snow. A hasty souvenir snapshot was taken next to the rickety summit sign as the snow turned to sleet, and I wondered to myself how easy it would be to make a miniature windscreen wiper for my GPS impersonating iPhone.

The eastern side of the mountain tumbled precipitously down toward our destination, and in parts the narrow track doubled as a waterfall. After slithering down using all the trials skills we could muster, we eventually spilled out onto the Mansfield-Woods Point Road for the short tarmac ride to Kevington, and beer.

On the return journey, Paul from Team Gravel Dash swapped bikes with Ralph and I guided him back on the same route, his enthusiasm and confidence buoyed by the previous day’s gravel road ride. But, the ride wasn’t without its mishaps. Mr McCann – or McCannonball as I now refer to him – took me out as I waited for him on the side of the trail. (Lesson 1: Yes, you do need to use the front brake to stop in the shortest possible distance, even on gravel!)

Lacing life’s rich tapestry with a thread of the unknown is what adventure riding is all about.


Why do this?

I have long appreciated the difference that off-road leisure riding brings to my love of motorcycles. As a life-long racer, people always assume I want to go as fast as possible all of the time, and preferably faster than everyone else. That’s not true, at least not always.

Trail and adventure riding, whether you’re doing it with a big group of people or just one mate, is all about breaking free from the everyday doldrums, sharing an amazing journey and laughing in the face of adversity. And I couldn’t care less how long it takes or how fast the pace. Regrouping to let the stragglers catch up and catch their breath, helping each other get through terrain that some never imagined they could conquer, it’s all part of
the experience.

Adventure riding is a team sport, and anyone who participates goes home a winner.


Why this bike?

SIMPLICITY IS AN asset when choosing an adventure mount, and the DR650 is about as uncomplicated as bikes come. Its carburetted, air cooled, single-cylinder engine may seem antiquated when surrounded by the latest tech in the showroom, but get it beyond the reaches of a modern mechanical workshop and it’s ideal. Roadside repairs can be carried out with a basic tool kit, and the model’s popularity and long production run means parts are cheaply and easily sourced.

I knew all this before taking to the trail on a DR650 for the first time. What I didn’t know was just how much fun it would be to ride. I have dreamt about joining the DR faithful and planning a life-changing adventure, and this short sample ride has only stoked the fire.