Man on trail bike driving through a muddy forest trail

International rally racer trains in qathet’s cold & mud for hot & dry events

Originally published on qathet Living

By Gareth Jones

My true passion is riding the trails on my dirt bike. With three young children, I only manage to squeeze in an hour or two here and there, but even that can be enough time to work up a sweat making my way to a favorite peak. While catching my breath, my reward is looking out at Georgia Strait or Haslam Lake. I always remember to be considerate and respectful while using the trails, so everyone can enjoy them safely. 

The bike I ride here is a KTM 300cc 2 Stroke motorcycle. It is an enduro bike, made for tight tricky trail riding and racing in hard enduro races where you’re racing on very technical tracks and over obstacles like trees, rocks, riverbeds and up and down extreme climbs. This type of riding is extremely physical and heart rates are up in the 160-max area for several hours per race. It is excellent preparation for any type of riding/racing outside the discipline. 

Riding the trails here in winter is certainly nicer for temperature, as you can ride longer due to less exhaustion. However, the trails get very slick with extremely slippery wet roots. Hit them at the wrong angle and your front wheel can tuck and you connect with the ground hard, without any warning. Also, the rear traction becomes a concern so you have to look further ahead and plan your approach to everything much earlier. 

There is no relaxing if you want to keep up a good pace. Wet riding here in qathet also gives you deep puddles, the rain run-off washes away the dirt on top and loosens the ground by freeing up all the gravel and pebbles in the ground, so again traction is always changing. 

Gareth Jones in an INternational competition – photo courtesy qathet Living

You cannot go to your favourite summer trail and ride it the way you did a few months before, as you will find something completely different. In this way, there is no end to the training you do in qathet as nothing stays the same; the forest is alive and has been for thousands of years and whilst you are here you had better respect it, because it will bite you if you aren’t careful. 

Other racers, in hotter climates, get to ride in the heat and the wide open plains and deserts that you can find in Mexico, Namibia, Morocco, or the Middle East. They are practicing in the environments in which most of the races are set. I’m sure that gives them an advantage. At the same time, you can either ride a bike and navigate or you can’t, and it is my strengths in this and riding in unpredictable environments (like those here in qathet) means I have as good a shot as anyone.

Having this wonderful opportunity to practice on the trails here has helped me build my skills. I recently began to compete in both national and international races and specifically cross-country rally events. 

So far this year I have been in Greece and recently Morocco. The Morocco race was a  World Championship called the “Rallye Du Maroc.” It’s a completely different type of riding – the bikes are much bigger and heavier than a typical trail motorcycle. Rally racing is all about riding thousands of kilometres over several days or weeks, navigating at speed through high temperatures and often desert, where the sand dunes stretch for mile after mile. 

Gareth Jones at the Rallye Du Maroc in Sept 2022 – Photo courtesy qathet Living

Rally racing is growing as a sport, but of course there is nothing like it in qathet. You can still work on all aspects of your riding from the tight technical terrain where balance and machine control are essential to keep traction, to cornering techniques at different speeds on all the surfaces you can think of. 

Riding off-road is very physically demanding. Single track trails like we have here with trees and rocks you slalom in and around is fantastic work for the core and body positioning on the motorcycle. When you add in the views that you get here on the coast, after several hours of work it gives me something to aim for and a reward for my efforts. 

Top image credit: Gareth Jones practising on qathet’s wet and often muddy trails – photo courtesy qathet Living

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