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Old 06-02-2012, 07:01 PM   #1
ranbush OP
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was this a "Beginner" GS ride?

< Disclaimer: I've been riding street and touring for 30+ years, no off-road experience (not on purpose, anyway). Over the years I've ridden airhead BMW's on various fire trails and gravel roads, but only when the paved part ran out.

A few months ago I bought a '92 R100 GS, with the intention of riding fire trails, maybe some dirt roads in Death Valley, and doing some desert camping. When I bought the GS, it had worn-out Metzeler Saharas on it, and after some research, I put Conti Trail Attacks on it. I know Conti Trail Attacks are not really a full-on off-road tire.

End disclaimer. >

Recently I attended a local BMW club rally partly because they offered a session titled "Introduction to GS Riding", followed by a "Beginner" ride that afternoon.

I did fine in the Intro class drills; the instructors took about two hours and covered balancing the bike, weighting the pegs, standing on the pegs, throttle and clutch control, washing out the back tire, light grip on the bars, let the front tire go where it's going, locking up brakes etc. We did figure-eights inside cones while standing on the pegs, riding laps on hard-packed dirt while standing on first the right and then the left peg with one leg over the bike, and a couple of times rode through a twenty-yard-length of coarse dirt maybe 24"-30" deep.

After lunch, eighteen of us met for the "Beginner" GS ride. The leaders (husband and wife) were both very experienced off-road riders. They told us to lower tire pressure, "It's not a race yadda yadda, there's some sand on the route, wait for the rider behind you at turns". Some folks had route sheets, most didn't. We set out on paved county roads for about 3 miles to get to the GS route. When we got to the GS start point, I noticed the husband, who was going to be Sweep, putting on a disposable painter's face mask. I was thinking "I should get one of those from him", but his wife took off as Leader. I figured I didn't want to be too far back if it was going to be dusty, so I took off as rider #4.

We went through a very bumpy paved washboard section, medium speed. I found out later that it was bumpy enough that it had knocked my thermos loose from the bungees on my rack. Oh well.

Then we went through a stretch of one lane farm road, soft stuff (asbestos?) with incredibly bad visibility, lots of white dust, couldn't see squat. I dropped way back behind the guy in front of me to let the dust settle. Couldn't see anyone behind me. Surface was very loose and my front tire almost washed out, several times. I stayed up, barely.

We stopped for a break and when he came up front, I asked the Sweep if that had been the sand section. The Sweep said, "No that's up ahead". I guess he saw the look on my face, and he shouted, "Practice your GS skills!"

Long story short, we then went through went through at least a half-mile of soft sand, my bike wandering everywhere, dusty, couldn't see squat, not fun. I came around a turn and the rider in front of me was off his bike, facing me, turning around back onto the track. I asked if he was okay and he said yes, so I kept going.

Then I came around a turn into an open cattle range, and the two riders in front of me are stopped. The Leader had tee-boned a cow and gone down. The other riders all caught up and we stared at the cows, and the cows stared back. Sweep caught up and we took a break. The Leader wasn't badly hurt, banged knee and scratched bike, and she continued the ride.

After another mile or so of dirt farm road, we hit the next paved section, county roads. I stopped next to a guy with a route sheet, and he said "Nobody waited, where are we supposed to go?" We looked at his route sheet and my GPS and figured it out. I said "I'm done, I've had enough fun." As I was putting in my ear plugs for the ride back, the Sweep caught up to me and I told him I was going back to camp.

My questions: #1) were there any other local Noob Inmates on that ride, and did you think it was a "Beginner" ride? #2) Nobody passed me, so I assume I did okay, but maybe it would've been easier if I had full-on knobbies on the bike? #3) Wouldn't it have been prudent for the Leaders to ride the route the day before, and warn the Beginner riders about the dust/lack of visibility, soft sand, and open range with large animals and no fences?

Just curious.
Ran Bush in Nor Cal
'68 R60/2 '83 R100RS '92 R100GS '94 K75S
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Old 06-02-2012, 07:20 PM   #2
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1.) Wasn't there, but it doesn't sound too ridiculous for a first multi-surface ride 2.)Knobbies don't equal greater skill, perhaps a little more confidence, though. 3.)These are all fairly normal "GS" conditions. Lack of visibility and slinkying are big reasons I don't ride in big groups like that.

GoGoGavin41 screwed with this post 06-02-2012 at 08:06 PM Reason: I kan't thenk so fast
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Old 06-02-2012, 08:28 PM   #3
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Sounds like a very typical beginner ride. Only way to be easier is hard pack and asphalt. With the winter we had n California there are no dirt roads that won't be dusty, it's just a fact of life.

And there is a reason I like to keep my rides with folks I know and smaller groups (2-4 maybe 5).

Don't give up, there is a lot of great stuff out there to see.

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Old 06-14-2012, 08:03 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ranbush View Post
#3) Wouldn't it have been prudent for the Leaders to ride the route the day before, and warn the Beginner riders about the dust/lack of visibility, soft sand, and open range with large animals and no fences?
How do you know they didn't pre-ride? They may have done that route many times. What's to warn, what you describe is within a normal range of conditions. It's a GS ride, why shouldn't there be soft sand?

Maybe you need to stick to the pavement.
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Old 06-20-2012, 08:05 PM   #5
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If you've never ridden off-road as a practice (dirt-bike, etc) a GS is a tough bike to start on, not that it can't be done or that you can't acquire enough skill to go where you want on your GS, it's just that the learning curve is steep when you're learning to off-road on a 600lb road bike. I've put on a lot of GS-type rides and seminars, and it doesn't sound as though what you were doing was inordinately advanced. Any time you're riding in the summer months within a group you're going to have a lot of dust, and NOBODY EVER follows the rule of "wait at the corner".

Equipment isn't as big a deal as mind-set and understanding. I've been two-up through Copper Canyon riding a ME88/33 tire combination, and now rarely run anything other than Tourances for almost any terrain. It comes down to practice and technique. If you're out riding, try to go with friends (for emergencies primarily), and when you find a downhill, uphill, creek, ditch, single-track, etc., etc., stop and practice different techniques over and over. The biggest danger on a GS is the side-hill trail, where you cannot touch ground on the downhill side. Practice counter-steering yourself into the uphill side, and try to analyze your approaches to obstacles for worst-case fails. Practice your braking to it's limits, particularly on loose downhills. You can hear/feel imminent lockup; practice braking at that point. Worst-case, get yourself a dirtbike.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:33 AM   #6
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While the ride didn't sound too hairy, it does sound like the ride leaders did a shit pre-ride briefing. Based on the fact that they had just offered a Beginner GS skills clinic, they already knew that many of the riders would be very new and therefore might not know what to expect. The leaders should have done a much better job of describing the route, including any pitfalls or trouble areas.
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Old 06-23-2012, 07:32 AM   #7
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insurance quote

Hope these leaders have a good umbrella liability policy, even with a signed "disclaimer" they are setting themselves up for one big whopper of a lawsuit.
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Old 06-23-2012, 08:01 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by bent wheel View Post
Hope these leaders have a good umbrella liability policy, even with a signed "disclaimer" they are setting themselves up for one big whopper of a lawsuit.
Say what? How is leading an offroad ride with offroad conditions setting themselves up for a whopper of a lawsuit. Good grief, there are "I'm gonna sue" pantzys everywhere!
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Old 06-25-2012, 08:26 AM   #9
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this is a beginner GS ride:

2010 F800GS + TWBASTARD TW200
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Old 06-25-2012, 05:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ranbush View Post

Just curious.
I will take a stab at your questions. My disclaimer, I am not a great off road rider or a training expert. I do try and ride off road with my GS and I have helped with GS rides. We have a GS group and we continue to argue/discuss this very topic almost everytime we plan a "GS" ride. What is a beginner? What is a beginner ride? What are beginner conditions? Now for some reality, most "new off road riders" (we encounter anyway) do not want to be labeled beginner before a ride. After a ride, they usually make it very clear we (who lead the ride) should have known better and somehow accomodated their particular needs etc. Second, conditions are always subject to change, dry, then wet, then somewhere in between without notice. Do beginners expect to be able to ride off-road on non-paved surfaces that are exactly like paved surfaces, nice, firm, hard pack?
So this is what we have kind of come to agreement on regarding a beginner GS ride. In our area, the offroad is either soft sand, really soft sand, really, really soft sand or mud. Those surfaces will be present at any given time on the same road. Rain is what makes the difference. If it rains but not enough to make mud than road can be OK. Otherwise it is one of the soft sand variaties.
Now a beginner ride. We think of that as offering to help riders understand what to expect with loose surfaces and how to deal with them on their bike. We plan to sweep behind and help them where we can. The pace, how much dust they want to ride in, is the riders call. If they want to drop back for visability, good on them. A beginner ride, means no one will push a rider or expect them to ride at any pace. We will simly go their pace. If they want to walk their bike through a section, we will help them. We have no expectations that they can handle anything nor do we try and push anyone. Will we encounter loose surfaces? Yes, otherwise we might as well ride on the street. Does that mean it can be very difficult for a new rider? Yes, no question. However, in order to learn how to handle loose sand, one must actually ride in loose sand.
From what you described, I would say they did a very good job of running a beginner ride.
All that said, we do not know what the perfect beginner ride is or what will make everyone happy. I do know our other option is to just ride off and tell everyone to join us when they feel up to it and good luck to getting up to speed. However, we really like riding off road and want others to join us and enjoy it, including beginners. Once again though, our big challenge is really with beginners, who do not know what they do not know. It becomes clear pretty quickly who can handle the conditions and who can't. We still are there to help, but somehow it is our fault if they have any difficulty at all.
Should every beginner go to an offroad school? Yes absolutely. However they do not think it is worth the money until they really get to see for themselves what offroad riding really is, then is becomes a good idea. Can someone learn without a school, yes, but it will be very difficult. If folks are willing to help, I think that is a great thing that they are trying to do. Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, so communicate with them when the situation is more than you want. In the situation you described, if I was riding along and you handled everything without falling, than you did great and the ride was just right. I would have had no clue unless you said something. It is not the road conditions that get beginners into trouble, it is their speed. They control their speed or at least they should, if they do not, the surface really doesn't matter after a certain point as they are out of control.
I am curious what your advise would be to us regarding what we should do for beginners?
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Old 06-25-2012, 05:50 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ranbush View Post
I put Conti Trail Attacks on it. I know Conti Trail Attacks are not really a full-on off-road tire.
My 0.02.-> sometimes road conditions change between when a road has been scouted and when the ride happens. It could have been a beginner ride when the route was planned but if the roads were as loose as you claim then I wouldn't generally call that a beginner ride.

My second point concerns your choice in tires. The Conti Trail Attacks are a 95% Pavement / 5% dirt tire. They aren't designed for GS riding. They are not a dirt tire. They aren't a dirt road tire. They aren't even a dirt driveway tire. They are a "no dirt at all" tire. They are probably the worst tire you could have chosen to make a ride like that because they are only one step off from a street slick. Almost any other "adventure" tire you put on the bike would have behaved better than the Trail Attacks on dirt roads. My F800 came with them stock so I know how they perform (like crap). I pulled them off in favor of a more dirt oriented tire after the first week of riding the bike and before I had taken a single wheel off the pavement. Once I put real knobs on the GS I never looked back.

If you want to do dirt you need to put a tire on your bike that performs in the dirt. Don't kid yourself and think you can handle a heavy pig of a GS on a street tire in soft dirt without a lot of practice and experience. BMW motorcycles are pigs. They are heavy weight porkers and muscling them through dirt requires lots of skill, good tires, and the willingness to drop your bike a few times and maybe even get hurt.

Put a proper set of adventure tires on your GS and the difference in bike performance and your riding fun will be like night and day.

But really, a big GS is not the best bike to learn to ride off road on. Best thing to do if you want to learn dirt is to learn on a nice light 250 at a motocross track or designated OHV area. Then when you are comfortable handling a bike in off road conditions, graduate up to a bigger bike like the GS. Riding off road requires a different skill set than riding on the tar and the heft of a GS doesn't make it easy to pick up those skills if you don't already know how to handle dirt.

Also...try not to go too slow when it gets soft. You will just bail if you do. The key to surviving the soft stuff on a heavy bike is to keep your speed up so that you don't sink or cause the front to dive taking you with it ---> ride the rear tire and let the front tire float.

Flashback screwed with this post 06-25-2012 at 06:19 PM
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Old 06-27-2012, 02:26 PM   #12
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Thanks for the positive comments. I am going to change tires and go back up there and ride that "beginner ride" again.

And I know that ranchers run their livestock on different parts of their land at different times, so even if the ride leaders had ridden the route the day before, they may not have seen any wandering free range livestock to warn us about in the pre-ride briefing.

One of these days maybe someone else that was on that ride will wander in here and add their comments about the conditions and the cow-crash.
Ran Bush in Nor Cal
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Old 06-29-2012, 03:10 PM   #13
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No, this was not a beginner ride. Most of it sounded like it but the sand certainly is not a beginner thing, Were you on an 1150 or a 1200?
Where the 1200 might be heavy, the 1150 is more like 700 lbs with fuel in it and taking that into the sand with street tires is CHALLENGING and needless to say, difficult to pick up after a drop.

I would consider myself a reasonably experienced dirt rider at this point and I can say that every time I have had the 1150 in the sand, it's been challenging.

That being said, it can still be fun!
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Old 06-29-2012, 08:21 PM   #14
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So I am a pretty skilled GS rider and also an instructor.
I have attended RawHyde's classes and done some leading/coaching on my own in my neck of the woods.
While I wouldn't call this a real "zero experience" ride I wouldn't rule it out as a "beginner" ride.
That said I would offer you a suggestion.....go into your local BMW dealer and ask if they have a "Dirty Dozen" group setup.
This is a RawHyde and BMW Motorad sponsored group of experienced riders who are organizing rides to get more people out in the dirt.
A good percentage of us have some instructor training, are RawHyde instructors or just plain know how to ride a GS and are interested in getting more people like yourself out in the dirt on their GS.
I think you would find just the right mix of fun in a ride sponsored by a "Dirty Dozen" member.

I know there are several rides going out of the LA area almost weekly led by at least one of the RawHyde instructors. I think he is working through Irv Seaver BMW if that helps.
If not just search Facebook for "GS Riders of" and you will see all the current groups. Check often they are growing all the time.
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:17 PM   #15
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Sounds like my first "noob" dirt ride on my Big Red Pig. One of the guys with us had a nice, new GS1200--and only put it down once, in very deep sand, as he was coming to the end of th sand wash...

Sand is always a bit hairy for us noobs because our bikes move in ways that would mean certain crash on asphalt--and the counter-intuitive idea of keeping the speed up is very difficult to do (and trust) when all you've ever known involves asphalt or hard pack. It gets easier (you get better) with time, but I would say that all noob rides will be this way unless the ride is strictly limited to fire trails. Yes, it's a bit terrifying (and an amazing work out--even the muscle in my fingers were fooking sore...), but it gets better. Stick with it.
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