Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–Day 1 (Sunday) Stuff

This is where it gets tricky – as things progressed there was more and more learning and as such the timing blurred and there is going to be stuff I forgot, and will no doubt mention in the wrong order. As far as groups are organised all of the folks from the Motorrad Central group were put together rather than streaming on experience, and we got Kevin Hammond as our instructor. As David was along from Motorrad and had already shown himself as a confident off road rider – he was to be the tail end. As far as I could see the other groups had two instructors.

As with any good training course it is progressive. What I mean by progressive is that it builds on what you have just learned, and when presented with something you have not done yet you have the tools to deal with what might happen.

The first few (or it might have just been a couple) of hours were spent on a large flat area on top of a hill. When I say flat I mean you could see for several hundred yards and it was flatter than the rest of the places we went. But it had puddles and ruts and lots of mud from the extensive rain that had fallen for the previous days and continued to fall on the day.

So with an off road motorcycling course we started with how to pick a bike up. Kevin illustrated by lowering his Adventure on to its side and showing the technique. There are a few different ways (YouTube is your friend) but as far as I can tell all rely on using your legs as the main lifting muscle. The great thing about the boxers is that they end up resting on the cylinder head – poor Ross on the F800 had further to pick his bike up but at least his was lighter. This is where I’m not 100% confident whether I am remembering correctly that I had a shot with Kevin’s bike but he claimed it had a full fuel tank and the technique using the bars as the lever was straightforward.

Then we looked at how the bike feels balanced on its wheels and keeping it upright while moving around the bike, walking (well shuffling) round it in both directions to get the confidence that it wouldn’t leap to the floor at the first opportunity.

Then we got to ride the things again – unlike my off-road riding in Yorkshire with i2i we spent all of our time standing on the pegs – no sitting down and sticking a leg out which must be a motocross or supermoto thing. Another directive which I’ve still to get the hang of was no clutch slipping – off road is all about preserving the machinery. I didn’t get the hang of this (and later on I could see others slipping their clutches) but will put this on my list of “I would like to be able to and will try until I can”.

Then there were riding exercises with the usual slaloms and circles etc. – stuff I hate but know how great it is when it works. I say that, but it has been years since I did full lock U-turns on the R1100RS without hyperventilating and my arms going to jelly. Early on in the process it was evident how much peg weighting makes a difference, but also counterbalancing. It’s an area I need to work on but made progress – steering had been harder than it needed to be. I must admit I ran through the exercises but need lots of work and practice in the area. As usual stuff was rushing through my head (stories in i2i parlance) and these were around being able to steer tightly when the surface was rough and muddy and trying to find something to balance on during the process.

Then we had some more fun stuff – deliberate skids. This was the only time we were told to turn off the traction control and abs, something you have to do every time the GS is switched on. Thankfully I’d done this before but it still takes a bit to be told to get up to a decent speed and then deliberately lock the front wheel. It was that that stuck in my mind, we may have done rear lock up too but that tends to be pretty uneventful.

Then it was off to the trails to try stuff.