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Dirt Rider class at MotoVentures


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"If you're gonna play the game, you better learn to play it right."


That was our reasoning when we signed up for the Intermediate dirt rider class at MotoVentures last Saturday. Lisa's never been on a dirt bike, and the closest she's been to dirt riding is taking the Mokee Dugway on her RS. smile.gif I rode dirtbikes as a kid, but it's been 15+ years, and I was basically self-taught, so I figured any skills that I still remembered were probably wrong anyway.


MotoVentures is located on a 300 acre dirt riding ranch Southeast of Temecula, CA. It's got everything from a challenging hill climb, to boulders, to nice flats, to a lake, to a sandy wash. In short: It's a dirt rider's paradise, and a great place to learn.


They offer various levels of dirt rider training. Novice is for people who've never been on a bike before. Intermidiate is for people who already know how to ride, but maybe don't have any dirt skills, or their dirt skills are very basic. Advanced is for experieneced dirt riders.


They also offer trials training, which we fully intend to go try sometime in the future.


You can bring your own bike, or rent one of their Yamaha dirtbikes, which range in size from 230cc down to 50cc.


Naturally, we brought our own bikes: Lisa on her DR200SE and me on my DRZ400S.


We arrived and were greeted by trials guru, instructor, and the owner of MotoVentures, Gary Laplante. After getting our bikes unloaded, and gearing up, we had a quick rider's meeting where we talked about each other's skill levels, and divided up into groups for the day. Our group of 5 or so intermediate students went with Gary, while the beginners with with Gary's son and another instructor. (I can't remember either of their names now. dopeslap.gif )



We started with sit-down turns...foot down, counter-balancing the bike. We were riding on a big flat area that was mostly hard-packed dirt, with some loose sand here and there for good measure.


Then we started doing stand-up stuff....really leaning the bike into the turn and counter-balancing with body weight.


It was amazing how different it is than street. I haven't fully got my mind around the "why", but countersteering wasn't useful for much except sliding the front wheel. The way to initiate the lean, was by pressing on the inside footpeg. Body position is WAY more important than on the street, and you're constantly crawling all over the bike. I had one interesting moment turning a full-lock to the left when the damn bike died. No bogging down, no warning, just dead. Even though the bike touched the ground, I'm not counting that as a fall since I just stepped off, picked it up, and got back on. smile.gif



We did some small hill climbs, pretending the hill had no traction, so we had to use momentum to carry us up (but time it right so you don't carry so much momentum that you launch yourself halfway to Fresno). Gary said we can use this on small sandy hills, as well as low-traction areas of bigger hills, and it'll allow us to get up the hill without spinning the rear and digging big ruts.


Along those lines, Gary really emphasized the stuff we can do to minimize our impact on the terrain.


Standing beside the hill we were about to climb, it looked nearly impossible, but once we got to it, it wasn't nearly as hard as it seemed. Gary had me and two other guys move over to a bigger, steeper hill. I was just sure I was going down, but using the techniques he showed us, that was a breeze as well.



We worked on K-turns to get ourselves unstuck if we get stuck on a hill. I'm sure this will become a VERY usefull skill. grin.gif


I suck at braking in the dirt. I feel like I'm fairly decent on the binders on the street, but I was having a real struggle trying to brake at the threshold of front wheel lockup during the braking drills that we did. Several times, I thought it was locked, but it wasn't, and when it did lock, I did a terrible job modulating it, and my forks were bouncing up and down as evidence. More stuff to work on. cool.gif



We did turns on a hill...riding across the lakebed, up the bank on the far side, then carving a big arc across the face of the bank. That felt strange having the ground's slope change under you so dramatically as you're riding.


We practiced riding across a hill, leaning the bike down into the hill for traction.


And we attacked the "sandy wash of doom". The first time across, we followed Gary through the shallow stuff. The bike squirmed around a little, but no big deal. Lisa got pretty sideways under power getting out of that, which made me laugh. The next time through, we could either take the easy way, or go off to the side through the deeper stuff. I took the deeper stuff, and that was definitely a learning experience. You can't turn with the bars or you crash. You can't let off the throttle or you crash. You can't drop below a certain speed or you crash. eek.gif So basically, you twist the throttle, herd the bike along with footpeg pressure, and laugh like a hyena. What a riot.


Then we did a short trail ride, which was really fun. I was getting very tired (especially my quads) and started making lots of mistakes. But, though I woudln't have won any points for style and grace, I kept the bike upright. thumbsup.gif


Gary demonstrated the hill climb at the mid-point of the ride. Just about fell off my bike watching that. I couldn't even see the line that he was going to take...but he just blasted up there like it was no big deal. Then he turned around and came right back down like there was nothing to it. Shesh.



Finally, Gary took three of us (whoever wanted to) and worked on doing a wheelie to get the front wheel up over a log. I sucked at that, but I think mostly because my quads were so toast, that I couldn't get the suspension working for me. We were supposed to press down on the suspension, then blip the throttle as it rebounded. The idea was to loft the front wheel over the obstacle, then cut the throttle before the rear wheel hit so it doesn't just plow into the obstacle at full speed. I suck at wheelies, aparently because I just wasn't getting it. I'm going to try again sometime when my quads haven't gone on strike. smile.gif


I'll let Lisa tell her tale. From my perspective, she was doing well considering this was her first time in the dirt, and really her first time riding that bike. Plus, all of the body position stuff is 100% opposite from the track stuff that she's been working so hard to learn. She fell a few times, but each time she got up, dusted herself off, and got back on the bike. I'm sure it will not be long before she gets it...and I'll be spending my time riding along in her dust cloud wondering where I went wrong. thumbsup.gif



At lunch, Gary gave us a trials demo, and all I can say is Isaac Newton didn't know what that hell he was talking about. eek.gifcool.gif


The day was really fun, and quite educational as well. I can't wait to get out there and put some of these skills into practice, and I'm really looking forward to coming back to try the trials thing. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn how to ride in the dirt. If you've got a GS and you're affraid to take it offroad: This is the class for you. Take the class on their rental bikes, then take those skills back to your own bike. If you are a street rider considering riding dirt, this would be a great (and cheap) way to give it a try. If you're a street rider and you just want to increase your skills, this is your class. Learning to be comfortable in limited traction situations is very valuable. The body position stuff isn't good for high-speed work, but is ideal for the low-speed stuff. Anyone who ever had the chance to watch Fernando (former trials guru and dirt rider) effortlessly manuver his big RT through tight parking lots knows what those low-speed skills can do for a street rider.


Speaking of Fernando: Big thanks to FB for suggesting this class. It was money well spent, and we had a ball.

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Speaking of Fernando: Big thanks to FB for suggesting this class. It was money well spent, and we had a ball.


Yup. Oughta be getting my commission check from Gary any day now. lmao.gif


Glad you had such a ball, Russell. But I will warn you about the trials school. If you "get it" you will be hooked. Given where you live and the terrain and trials riding possibilities around you, there's a fair chance you'll have a trials bike in your garage in the future.


Isaac Newton actually did know what he was talking about. But part of the fun of trials is learning how to minimize and circumbent the effects of his truths. That, and the fun of absolutely amazing yourself at 3mph.

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But I will warn you about the trials school. If you "get it" you will be hooked. Given where you live and the terrain and trials riding possibilities around you, there's a fair chance you'll have a trials bike in your garage in the future.


What the hell...there's already six bikes in there. I'm sure I can figure out how to make 7 fit, no problem. grin.gif

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Wow, what a day! I was sore the next day (and the next), but I think that was from my falls, and not the riding. Gym membership is paying off for riding, anyway! thumbsup.gif


Well I certainly didn't take to this as fast as I thought I would. I just didn't think dirt riding was going to be this HARD!! crazy.gif Little kids do it, newbie riders do it, for sure I can do it, right? um, no. dopeslap.gif


I think I actually have a disadvantage coming from the track (street riding too, to a degree, but definitely the track body position is completely, 100%, totally wrong in the dirt. I had time to contemplate this a few times during the day when my face was in the dirt!) wink.gif


The day started out well enough. We did sit down turns, and I figured out that sliding the rear wheel around was fun, and just how agile my little bike is. I was having fun and thinking I was going to rock at this dirt thing.




Then we started the stand up drills, and immediately going into it, I had a disadvantage - my handlebars are low and swept back, making it very difficult to get balanced while standing up, and still have decent mastery of the controls. (something that Gary pointed out to me right off the bat before we even started riding). I started out slow, and not really moving around much. Gary called me over and held the bike for me, while I practiced moving my body into the correct counter-balance position, while locking the handlebars the other direction. We did this a couple times in each direction before he sent me out to practice on my own again, but to be honest, I could probably use about an hour of this, to really cement in my head what that feels like. About 4-5 turns after this practice, I over-leaned the bike (and didn't counterbalance enough) and the front end washed out on me. Splat.


I was thinking, "well, I didn't hurt myself, and at least these darn bikes are easy to pick up, so no biggie". Yeah, I had trouble with that too! I need to have "practice picking up the bike drills" in our yard, I guess, cause I wasn't getting it. Fortunately, another student helped me out. With him on the other end helping, it was a breeze! thumbsup.gif I just don't think I am taking the right approach to picking it up. It should be easier.


So anyway, we move on to harder and harder drills (even though I could probably spend the whole day on the counterbalancing drill), and I do OK. I made it up the hill, I made it across the side hill, and I even made a few decent turns on the hill (probabaly all luck, but whatever). My confidence is building again.


Then we come to the slalom of doom (everything is "of doom" there - sort of a joke since people fear these things, and they teach people how to do it so they don't need to be afraid. But they put the "of doom" on everything just to mess with people!). I thought I had it one time through the slalom of doom. It felt pretty good. But, if I had it, I must have changed something, because the next few times through it, didn't feel quite as good, and Russell (and Gary) said my body position was still Ricky Racer style. Sure enough, the next time through, I bit it. Again. Front end. Again. Another kind student helped me with the bike, and off I went. Again, not a big fall, didn't get hurt, just got frustrated that I wasn't "getting it". There's like a 9 year old boy in this class doing better than me!! eek.gif


At lunch, Russell rotated my bars higher, so I'd have a better chance with standing up. It helped, but they are still swept back, so it isn't perfect. (I bought new bars at the end of the day!) tongue.gif


After lunch, and a couple more drills, which, somehow I dont' fall off attempting, we do the sandwash of doom.


I sat down through it the first time, and it felt hickledy-pickledy, but no big deal. I got through it, and Russell says "you really need to stand up". I reply "No, I fall when I stand up". He says "you're going to fall if you keep sitting". "FINE", I reply. SO, on the way back, I stand up, and get to the otherside unscathed.


Then, we go through again. I am standing, and things are ok (I do have pretty decent throttle control, thank God, which is important in the sand), and I am doing ok until the very last part, when I hit a bump and it knocks me on my butt...I sit the rest of the way through the wash, which is OK until we get to the transition between sand and solid surface, and I nearly highside myself. I didn't highside, but I came close, Russell said.


So, I have to get back through this thing one more time, and I take off, and for some reason, things just didn't seem as easy. The bike seemed really unruly, and I got progressively more scared. I think the more scared I got, the less I twisted the throttle (I know I didn't chop the throttle), and eventually, I ate dirt - HARD! I flew over the handle bars, and landed on my stomach in the dirt eating sand as I submarined into the earth.


I stood up, spit out sand (literally), and said "I'm DONE!"

I managed to ride the bike back to home base. The whole group followed me there to take the afternoon break. Gary said that he was going to lead a trail ride, but that I probably didn't want to do that! dopeslap.gif He said I was welcome to join the beginner class (that had progressed to drills that the intermediate class had done earlier in the day) so I could practice. I said I would think about it, fully intending to just park my ass in the truck and stew about what a complete failure at this dirt thing I was.


But then, as I watched the beginner class triumphing in the distance, I began to think about how I smiled when I slid the rear wheel around, and how I had started to get the feeling of counterbalancing (when Gary held the bike), and maybe I just needed more time to get it, and, gosh darn it, I just didn't want to be a sissy quitter, so I went over to the novice class to practice.


Round about that time, the intermediate class was getting back from their trail ride, and everyone went off to practice something.


Me and another lady went with one of Gary's sons to practice counterbalancing. We started with sitting, and unfortunately, ran out of time before we graduated to standing. I didn't even do sitting right though, so it was ok to practice that some more! Say I am turning left; I would slide my butt way over to the right, but still bring my upper body down left (like Ridesmart).


SO, while I definitely didn't do very well in the class, I am proud of myself for not quitting (even though my leg hurt really bad! I hit a bar with my thigh on my way down the last time, and now I have a big ol' black and blue bruise), and I definitely have a lot of things to practice now. wink.gif

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Wow! Phone never rang here.




<In my best "valley" language> "Whatever!!!!"


Sounds like a great time. Lots of learning for sure. Need to get Jamie and I enrolled and down there for this one!





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Wow! Phone never rang here.




<In my best "valley" language> "Whatever!!!!"


Sounds like a great time. Lots of learning for sure. Need to get Jamie and I enrolled and down there for this one!






We were gonna post a Ride Planning thing about it, but it was kind of last minute, and they were full, so we decided there wasn't much point. smile.gif

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kind of last minute


Kind of last minute? It was very last minute. I think we called less than a week out from the class. We were lucky to get in. I had an unexpected break at work (yay!) so we took advantage.


However, if you read my post, you know I could stand a do-over on the class, so whenever you two come down, I might join you (have to torture Gary some more). grin.gif


It will be fun to have you and Jamie laughing at my ineptitude! dopeslap.gif (seriously, it is more fun with friends to make fun of you AND to cheer you along).



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Very cool tale!


Can you PM me the info amigo? I might be up for heading over for that class.


Kaisr thumbsup.gif


Their website is: http://www.motoventures.com/


Click on Training to get all the info you need. smile.gif


You can rent their bike, and even their gear, if you don't have appropriate dirt rider gear. $195 if you bring your bike and gear, $295 if you use theirs. Lunch and refreshments during the day are included.


If you decide to come out, you're welcome to stay with us. We're a little less than an hour from the MotoVentures ranch. It's in the middle of nowhere, so that's about as close as you're going to be able to stay, unless you want to camp onsite.

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Sounds like you guys had a lot of fun and learned something new. I never imagined how difficult dirt riding would be. It has been far more challenging than street riding.


Have you noticed that each time you attempt something new, how fatiguing it is? Then, the next time you do it, it's a breeze. Pretty cool stuff.


Sand. He he. grin.gif I used to hate it. Feared it. Now, it's one of my favorite places to play. thumbsup.gif

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