Southern Maryland ADV Riders doing the Shane Watts 2 Day Dirtwise Class

Discussion in 'Southeast, The Lair of the Dragon - The Blue Ridge' started by blaster11, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. adforsyth

    adforsyth Adventurer

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    The Wicomico Motorsports Park in Southern Maryland hosted its inaugural Shane Watts’ Dirtwise Riding School on April 2nd and 3rd, offering intensive instruction, practice, and feedback to 15 – 16 riders on many of the fundamental enduro techniques covered in Watts’ advance rider series videos. The class attracted a mix of riders, skill levels, and bikes and provided a structured series of exercises over two days that in combination can help trail riders with speed, control, safety, and confidence. I was fortunate to have a chance to take the course at a park I ride a lot and with SMIB and other riders whom I'd met previously.

    Content

    Anyone familiar with the Shane Watts’ advanced rider series videos – not to mention the trailer for his riding school – will know precisely what he or she is in for when signing up for the class. Day 1 covers slow speed riding, proper braking, front wheel locking, flat turns, ruts, flat out acceleration, and stoppies. Day 2 builds on these techniques by adding low speed wheelies, grinding, log crossing, ascents and descents, and even ravines. The final day also included trailside instruction at key locations where these and other techniques could be applied successfully to challenging sections.

    Instructional style

    In terms of Watts himself, what you see is what you get. He’s a former world champion enduro racer still in love with the sport, despite having turned it into a job instructing talented, mediocre, or, like me, knuckleheaded riders every weekend. His riding abilities are incredible and speak for themselves. As an instructor, he’s genuinely great to be around – he’s intelligent, charismatic, good humored, patient, and modest. He uses standard teaching techniques very effectively by first describing the skills, demonstrating them, and providing practice opportunities with clear feedback, tips, and encouragement. He constantly has an eye out for the safety of the group and will admonish missteps in a simple direct manner that achieves results. For Watts, a high priority for teaching the fundamentals is to promote safe, controlled, efficient, and fast riding. Frankly, he offers a rare combination of extraordinary riding and instructional skill that allows students the opportunity to push their own limits with adult supervision and in a manner that achieves results.

    In-class experience

    But don’t be fooled: The class is challenging, even for more experienced riders. Prospective students would do well to familiarize themselves with Watt’s videos – or even the trailer for the school – in order to have an accurate expectation of what to expect when they sign up for this enduro riding class targeted to moderate- to advanced-riders. Anyone who shows up expecting otherwise is fooling him or herself. The days are long, formal breaks are few, and the instruction takes place rain or shine. Bring hydration packs, cliff bars, and catch your breath at any of the many, at times long, sections when Watts is teaching a new skill. Dismount if resting on your bike doesn’t work for you.

    Some may still complain that there aren’t enough bathroom or rest breaks. The fact is, students can always step out to relieve themselves, grab a snack or a drink, or pull their helmets to help cool down during instruction. Likewise, some may feel that they were pushed to try things that were well beyond them. In fact, Watts encouraged riders to self-select into different riding groups while on the warm-up trails, by selecting different sizes of logs for grinding practice, or choosing different areas to attempt during the log clearing exercises. And there’s nothing stopping students from finding their own lines, attempting more proximal challenges, or sitting out sections. In fact, only about a third of the riders in our class attempted the ravine at the end of Day 2. Being in the class doesn’t excuse students from thinking for themselves and making the class work for them. I saw no evidence that Watts thought any differently.

    If you are thinking about taking the class, following are some Dos and Don’ts to consider:

    Don’t

    • …think this is a beginner’s trails, motocross, or dual sport class. It is an enduro riding class taught by a former world champion enduro racer. While the skills may apply broadly, the aim here is to teach fundamentals for riding trails.

    • …expect 1:1 instruction. The ratio for our class was at best 1:16, and in other cases might be as low as 2:25. If you need specific help, seek it out. But don’t expect to get individualized feedback at every turn. The numbers simply don’t permit it.

    • …ride a bike that’s new to you. Whether you’re considering bringing a friend’s bike or something you picked up the day before, don’t do it. You need to know the bike you bring to class and to be confident on it in order to make the most of the training opportunities the class presents. Worse, you may even injure yourself. And for those tempted to lend a bike to a friend for a class like this, be sure to collect a deposit first. The trails and courses were littered in plastic and parts by the end of the weekend.

    • …overestimate your skill. If you are truly a beginner or a cautious intermediate rider, don’t like the idea of picking up your bike 10 – 20 times a day, are unable to assist others, or otherwise think you are all that and a bag of chips, consider skipping the class this round. Get a training video and start building up from there. If you’ve never pulled a wheelie, aren’t comfortable with riding beginner level trails like those at Wicomico, or have a bike that’s more road-oriented than dirt, it may be best to find another class. Injuries and trailside mechanicals resulting from such overestimates are terrible for those directly involved, certainly, but they also affect everyone in the class.

    Do

    • …start by previewing the Dirtwise riding class trailers and videos. Doing so will help to manage expectations about the contents of the class, what kinds of bikers will likely attend, and what sort of gear to bring.

    • …push your limits, but not so far as to put yourself or others at risk. Showing up with a lighter, dirt-oriented bike that you know will enable you to push into the next skill level on many of the exercises. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, drop your bike, or swim in the mud like that rider in the trailer. It’s all about learning.

    • …help others. Between Watts and the various riders, there were decades of riding experience in our class. It was good to see students sharing tips, helping each other when they’d fallen. Go, push yourself, but help others, too.

    In the end, Watts provides a great overall experience in his enduro classes. He combines effective teaching, skill demonstration, practice sessions, and feedback in a manner that helps riders acquire new skills that will inevitably require hours of additional practice to master. And that’s the point. By starting with the fundamentals and building up from there, Watts shows riders how to ride more quickly, safely, efficiently, and with more confidence. Personally, I can’t wait to complete my repairs (lots of lost plastic), get past the soreness, and get back out where I can practice and then run trails. And of course, I can’t wait to show my usual riding pals what I learned. They’ll be just as shocked as I was. I just hope Wicomico will keep the logs around for us to practice on during our future visits to the park.
  2. JaxObsessed

    JaxObsessed Endeavor to persevere.

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    Thank goodness you are OK!... Necks and crunching sounds.... That's one sound you don't normally "walk" away from.
  3. EOD3MC

    EOD3MC What will break next

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    Nicely put Andrew...

    (guessed based on the "loss of lots of plastic" comment :D )
  4. blaster11

    blaster11 Challenge X-cepted

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    Sorry, but I have to ask if these are your words or cut from somewhere else? If these are your words I will be happy to post in the critique section but if these are cut from somewhere else and you added the last few sentences I will have to pass on moving it.
  5. adforsyth

    adforsyth Adventurer

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    I hereby attest to having written the entire piece and that it represents my personal views as a participant in the weekend's Shane Watts Dirtwise course.
  6. blaster11

    blaster11 Challenge X-cepted

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    Thanks!
  7. adforsyth

    adforsyth Adventurer

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    Yup -- that's me. I tried to include mention that I, too, did a little swimming in the mud (it was quite cooling in the heat, actually and as our animal friends who often roll in mud would likely attest, if asked). Ah, but you can't include every thought.

    See you out there on the trails!
    A
  8. blaster11

    blaster11 Challenge X-cepted

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    Andrew,

    Critique moved to first page and good riding with you!
  9. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Andrew--

    Glad we got you to chime into SMIBland! I'll certainly agree that everyone learned something in the class. While not implicitly stated, the perception you have is his pedigree of "former world champion enduro racer" is perhaps wasted on someone entering the sport. If you never invest your time into the lower ranks of any organization/students, the organization fails continue breeding the love of the sport. It will be years or decades before today's students may prove themselves in the winner circle. You just never know when someone might find an instructor that they really click with and become the next champion. The journey to giving back to sport that gave so much to you, is where the great instructors become legends. Fortuitously for all organizations, Wattsy is not alone in this quest, and instructors from Olympic Champions, to World Champions to decorated military soldiers find instructor billets after the sun sets on their competitive career.

    We'll probably never see eye-to-eye on this, but it's interesting to assert some of us fell off a turnip truck without doing any research on him nor the class. As someone attends a wide variety of training events on bikes, horses, and for work, I've have NEVER been to a single class where the participants are 100% matched in all skills and facets of the training. It's just not statistically possible.

    I've tried to show how we may have both arrived a different (yet both correct?) pre-class assessment:

    Wattsy website:
    Wattsy website:
    I don't disagree with you that everyone is affected by course holds. However, by my estimation there were at least 5 holds on course (4 bike related and 1 rider) which is accounts for 1/3 of the riders. This is where an assistant instructor could definitely lend a hand.

    Wattsy website:
  10. H14

    H14 Live, Laugh, Love.

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    Bruce, I'm glad you're OK. I hope you SMIBs are done with your riding schools for now and heal those bumps and bruises over the next two weeks.
  11. JaxObsessed

    JaxObsessed Endeavor to persevere.

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    +1
  12. adforsyth

    adforsyth Adventurer

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    Likewise. See you next time.
  13. blaster11

    blaster11 Challenge X-cepted

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    Bumps and bruises will be fine I just need to get my stuff ready and buy a new helmet. :D
  14. Scotty P

    Scotty P Funny Like a Clown

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    did you x-ray the helmet?
  15. blaster11

    blaster11 Challenge X-cepted

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    No but apparently Shoei has a policy that you can send them the helmet and they will check it and let you know if its serviceable for no charge other than me shipping it to them. The problem is I need a helmet soon for a upcoming ride.
  16. Blur

    Blur Peddlin' motorcycles!

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    Major kudos to you guys (and gal!)
    Taking all these courses, expanding your motorcycling 'horizons'.
    Good stuff!

    I realize that the bang-ups and bruises are uncomfortable but I'm glad no one was injured more severely.

    Hope our paths cross again! :clap
  17. joints4sale

    joints4sale No. Not "That Kind".

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    I have several extras if you are in dire need and would like to borrow one. Caberg, or Nolan N102. Then again you might not want a helmet worn by "Crash Jordan"
  18. joints4sale

    joints4sale No. Not "That Kind".

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    I do plan on doing one of the "Trailside Training" days that were mentioned. Maybe in the Fall or next Spring.

    I'll look for you when I come down for the "M" class. Maybe we can chat over a "cookie".:lol3
  19. BMWf800gs

    BMWf800gs Been here awhile

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    Thank you all for the pictures and info.
    It was great meeting and riding with you all!

    I think the class is as good as each individual wants it/makes it.
    I showed up on my first ever dirtbike that I bought brand new 3 weeks before the class.
    I had ridden my dirtbike a total of 2 times before the class.
    I was the guy on the new KTM 300XC with the faulty spark plug and Shane was kind enough to let me ride his KTM most of the first day.
    I apologize to all fellow members for slowing the class down. John thank you for bringing me and selling me the spark plug!
    I used to be one of the better mountain bikers in my region back in the late 1990s but have gotten lazy the past few years and did not ride my MTB at all last year.
    I also just healed a broken rib before the class so I was in Very poor condition.

    I thought I did pretty well in the class and had a GREAT time!
    I learned A LOT!

    Shane was very personable as a instructor and I felt did a good job.
    I did feel the first day he was a little, maybe tired or not his usual sharp self.
    This could be do to all the travel and hard work he has put into teaching ignorant and green people like me. I am happy for him that he is maybe taking a break and going back to or in Australia now. Shane has earned a break in my opinion.
    My assessment of the class is: When a new rider on a new barely ridden dirtbike like me can get through the class with nothing but increased knowledge and riding level I would like to think any with the right attitude and prep could do the same.
    I do agree that slowing the class down with mechanicals like I did due to my spark plug is not the greatest for all in the class. It is a break though and as far as I was concerned due to my lack of experience and physical conditioning a LOT of information and physical exertion seemed to be used in both days. I needed and took a extra break in the middle of the class on the second day to go to the bathroom, eat and take a mental and physical break. I feel this benefited me and I was more efficient in my learning as a result of my self chosen break.
    Would I recommend this class to others? YES YES YES
    I would recommend a positive attitude, a need to push yourself and PREPARATION for the class both mentally and physically, also motorcycle maintenance wise.
    Should a newbe with no motor skills/coordination in physical sports/activities and zero motorcycle or mountain biking experience take the class? NOT in my opinion. Also having the proper mindset to push yourself will be beneficial.
    Injury is a possibility in life and taking this class increases this chance of injury during the learning period. I feel the class also shortens or positively affects this greater chance of injuries window in a good way.
    What I am trying to say is sure you could get injured participating in Shane Watts class but I also think in the long run it may decrease your injury level.
    I also noticed that all of us improved a lot by the end of class. For example I remember seeing one person in our class being way too conservative coming down a hill the first day of class and the second day I noticed they were descending much better, with more confidence and a better mental attitude.

    VERY IMPORTANT for all to know and practice is being self responsible and being as safe as possible when around others in the class!
    I know one time in class I was being FAR too exuberant and had way too much speed too close to my fellow students. I was flying down along the woods in the field and another person decided to turn right in front of me and maybe should have checked their right better before turning. Too be fair it may have been totally my fault. It instantly made me take notice of my actions and the horrible outcome that could have resulted from both our actions!!!
    If we as individuals do not take responsibility for ourselves and others; great opportunities like this class will be harder if not impossible to come by!

    All the above is my opinion and experience I am sure others feel different.
    Hello and best wishes to all fellow Wicomico class members.
  20. EOD3MC

    EOD3MC What will break next

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    Everyone certainly got something different from this class, that's for sure.
    I think if I was a more agressive rider, I might have gotten more out of the class...
    But riding my KLR to work this morning, I didn't even think about but noticed I had "Two Fingers" on the controls...
    Crossing the Nice Bridge this afternoon...The wind sucked...I was having a really hard time. Then I noticed how tight I was holding the bars and that I was looking down...Relax and look ahead..Looking up (just like the Rut drill) really smoothed things out.

    Could the class have been better? always
    Did I get my "money's worth"? I think so
    Would I do it again? Nope...But I would consider the advanced class after I come closer to mastering the basics taught here.