I do. I really do. I am old, but I can still learn to do that. Someone else, not me said that an old dog cannot learn new tricks. I do not think that is true. I learned something a few weeks ago when my bike would not run. I learned a password for a website the other day. I learned how to use my iphone. I am convinced that I can learn to go faster still.
Lots of people have pitched in with that effort. My teammate Scott is always willing to help, but he has his own challenges that he is focusing on. My friend Pete has been trying to help me, hold your elbows higher, push your outside knee in… Rick Anschutz has been trying to help me with that, use your front brake. Jim Freibel is always telling me body position, don’t look behind you… I am always reminding myself to look up the trail and up through the turn. Me is just not listening to all those people. I need someone to whip me into shape.
So, I decided to give a Dirtwise school by Shane Watts a try. Pete organized Shane to come out and put on a 2 day riding school on his property. Actually it is owned by a friend of his, who doesn’t mind a bunch of dirt bikes on his property. Only and hour from my house, and one of the sweetest pieces of property anywhere.
I am sitting at my kitchen counter after day one, a bit on the tired and sore side. Shane strategy is to take everyone back to square one and build on that. Tear away everyone’s bad habits and build up from there. I promise you I have lots of bad habits.
You start with a simple drill that Shane calls the slow technique. It literally is just that. Creeping across a field, standing up, going as slow as you can. You cannot sit down, you cannot put your foot down. You apply the rear brake, you use the throttle, you modulate the clutch. Go as slow as you can, stopping and balancing, putting the brake and the motor against each other, using the clutch to keep the motor running and creep along. That one really teaches you to control all of those things.
Shane’s technique is to show you a demonstration. Then you do the exercise for 10 mins, he stops you and tells you what to try to work on, then you do it 10 more mins, then he stops you and tells you what to try, then you do it for 10 more mins, and on and on.
Then we worked on drag race starts. Going smoothly through the gears, keeping your weight forward at the start and then back to get traction etc… Over and over.
Then we worked on stoppies. Teaching us how to trust the front brake.
Then we worked on going across the field with the front wheel locked. Then we had to start across the drag race course, brake at the braking point and come to a stop as fast as we could. Then we worked on going around and around in circles, both directions (a flat turn, around a square on the ground). We went round and round so much, I got dizzy. Then we worked on an oval turn track that had flat turns and a straight. Shane would stand at the turn at the point that you were allowed to sit down after braking.
Brilliant stuff. It really is amazing what a day of basics and drills over and over can do for you. We started riding at 8:30 in the morning. Stopped for 45 mins for lunch, then rode till after 5pm. Holy crap, more than 8 hours of riding.
Tomorrow is more drills and we will start to work on applying all of this to a trail. I am really looking forward to it.
Day 2 – 8am start
It rained overnight. Unbelievable. It has hardly rained at all the entire year. Somehow the gods want me to get all I can out of this class. Not really a thumping down rain, but just enough that the soil is amazing. Lots of great stuff on tap today.
We started the day back on the small 40 foot circles again. But this time since the rain, they are slick. It works out well. The goal is to go all the way around the circle in a slide. I cannot do it. I can get about halfway round in a slide, but cannot really get it go all the way around. I need to work on that.
Then we set up the cones in rows with the cones about 30 feet apart on the row, and the rows about 60 feet apart. You zig zag back and forth and slide the back end with the brake around the turn, then rocket back toward the other side. This one I can do, but not perfectly. I get it right 75% of the time, but still miss it at others.
Next up was grinding down a log laying down on the ground. Grinding, meaning one wheel on each side of the log so that you are traveling down the length of the log, but your bike is going sideways. Great trail skill for when your wheels are not following one another. Keep the gas on, stand up and balance the bike. I can do this.
Next up was a corner rut. Brake into the turn, peg the front wheel down into the bottom of the rut/berm, get your foot out and get on the gas. I have included a video of Shane doing it first then me doing it both directions.
The last thing we worked on was getting over a big big obstacle. We used a log that was down, that was at least 3 feet around. It was like getting over a culvert or something like that. Wheelie up on, unload the rear suspension to where you were just perched up on top. Then just slide off the back side. Easy as that. But the number of people laying in a heap on the other side was impressive.
All in all, it was a very worthwhile experience. Funny how everything always comes back to the fundamentals. In the case of riding a motorcycle in the woods – balance, throttle brake and clutch control, body position, confidence or commitment.
I learned that I train all wrong. I should be doing more drills and more sprints. I tend to just go out and ride at what I hope is race pace for hours. I should be doing skills drills interspersed with sprint laps. Still probably spend a bunch of time at a riding area while doing it, but just not banging out laps reinforcing the same bad habits.