Ride Report - DIrt Bike Class(long)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MojaveSidecar, Nov 9, 2004.

  1. MojaveSidecar

    MojaveSidecar Been here awhile

    Dec 30, 2003
    Wrightwood CA
    Hi All

    I purchased my A17 last year with the idea it would be the perfect motorcycle for touring throughout Baja, mainland Mexico and the southwest deserts. It has been a dream of mine to do this ever since I got my first motorcycle at age 15, but for some reason, I never really had the time or resources until now.

    I have been riding street bikes on a daily basis for over 35 years and have owned over 20 motorcycles during this time including a dual-sport or two (no dirt bikes however), but I never took any of them off-road in any serious capacity. My last dual-sport, a '92 R100GS was a lot of fun, but riding in the dirt was an uncomfortable, white-knuckling experience for me because of lack of training/skills in the dirt. I once got the GS buried so deep in the sand in Jawbone Canyon, that I could not get it unstuck myself. Had to have a passing jeep pull me out. This is one of the main reasons I chose my new KLR over a Beemer for my travels.

    I figured that since I might possibly encounter some sand and dirt in Baja;-) it might be a good idea to get some serious dirt learnin' under my belt before I ventured down there. I figured there were two approaches to this problem. The first would be to take my new/stock A17 with 1200 miles out to the desert and figure out how to dirt ride myself. But given my age(i'm older), utter lack of dirt riding experience, and lack of knowledge as to proper bike preparation, the prospect of going out to the desert, crashing and dying seemed like very real possibility. So I chose the other approach, take some dirt bike classes.

    A search of the web lead me to two possibilities. The first was Jimmy Lewis school, but I quickly ruled this out for several reasons:

    1. The class was to be held in Vegas, which seemed to me to be a bit far from Burbank for me to go to a first class.

    2. The class seemed to be oriented towards improving the skills of experienced dirt riders versus teaching newbies.

    3. The class required having my own dirt riding gear. I have none and wouldn't know what to buy anyhow.

    4. The class required riding my own motorcycle. My bike is completely stock and I am not sure what the best way is to set up a KLR for this kind of riding, i.e which tires, tire pressures, armour etc.

    The other choice was AdMo-Tours Riding School.


    This company seemed to have a lot to offer:

    1. It is based out of Wrightwood, CA. about an hour or two up the 'hill' from my house.

    2. I could rent a properly setup dirt bike, a Suzuki DR400S. This would give me the chance to compare a bike properly set up for dirt versus the dirt characteristics of my stock KLR, plus I would be crashing somebody else's motorcycle, instead of mine.

    3. I could rent a complete set of riding gear. This would give me a chance to tryout some gear before I had to go buy my own.

    4. The lessons were customized to our requirements. My friend Arthur took the class too we were the only students.

    5. The price for two days of training, Saturday and Sunday, all gear, gas and bikes included was $489.50 for me. Sold... Arthur had a BajaGPS class Sunday and only attended this class on Saturday.

    The first day of class was to be held at El Mirage Dry Lake. We left the house at 6:30 am saturday morning for a ride over Angeles Forest Hwy to Palmdale, and then on towards the Lazy 3 Cafe on El Mirage Rd where we planned to rendezvous with the instructor at 9 AM. The weather was crisp and clear, the bikes ran great and the sunrise over the desert was spectacular. We got to the cafe just as it opened, and ordered bacon and egg breakfasts, with plenty of welcomed hot coffee. As we were finishing, a full-sized Chevy Van pulling a large white cargo trailer pulled into the cafe parking lot and a few minutes later we were introducing ourselves to Uwe Diemer, our instructor for the classes.

    Uwe's (pronounced OO-veh) profile is posted on the AdMo-Tours web site, but in a nutshell, he has ridden dualsports all over the world, especially in Africa and South America. He lives in Wrightwood, and if you close your eyes, from his accent, you would swear that you we talking to Gov Arnold himself.

    The plan was to follow Uwe in the Van onto the dry lake, but since the primary access road to the lake was closed for construction, we decided to stage todays riding out of the Cafe's large parking lot and ride into the lake bed. (Make sure you get the cafe owner's permission first or you will get towed)

    It took us over an hour to suit up. As we put on each piece of gear, Uwe explained each part to us, its strengths and weaknesses compared to other styles on the market and tips for proper use. For instance, "..wear the knee guards under the riding pants.. falling on a rock stuck between the guard and your knee is like wearing no guard at all.." This went on for the riding pants, jersey, boots, knee and elbow guards, chest protector, helmet, goggles and backpacks. Uwe rolled out 3 of the 5 DR400s he had in the trailer, put our street stuff into the trailer, and we were ready to go.

    Since we had no training yet, the ride into the dry lake was 'interesting', especially the sandy parts, but we arrived at the lake bed without falling. Uwe first showed us how to stand and turn the motorcycle while standing, we rode all over the lake standing and turning until it became second nature. We then pulled over to the edge of the lake bed where we set up cones and were taught to to turn the bike in the dirt by counterweighting, and we practiced this for most of the morning. Uwe would watch and point out what we were doing correct and what we were doing wrong. We then moved on to a different area of the lake to practice starting and stopping on hills, then on to jumping small obstacles and then crossing loose sandy areas of the lake bed. By the time we returned to the Cafe for lunch we were feeling like we really had learned something.

    During lunch we reviewed what we had learned and after lunch we went out for more riding. This time we started more single track work, in and out of washes and whoopdedoo's. We both fell several times in the afternoon and we were finally able to appreciate the value of good protective gear. Thank god I did not have to do this on my new KLR. We could have ridden until 5 PM but by about 3:30 we were pooped and so we went back to the trailer. Uwe spent the rest of the day showing us about the gear/tools we would need to take to Baja, first aid kits, how to break/splice a chain, change a tire etc. This turned out to be one of the most valuable parts of the class.

    Arthur and I planned to stay in Victorville that night. Arthur was scheduled to go to the BajaGPS class/ride in Lucerne Vally on Sunday and I was scheduled to take a second day of classes with Uwe on Sunday, but this time in the hills around Phelan. Victorville was the half way point.

    Sunday morning, I left Victorville to meet Uwe at the Mountain Top Cafe for breakfast at 9. We staged out of the parking lot at the cafe. The plan was to ride the hills and trails between Phelan and route 15, have lunch at the diner there and then return to the Montain top cafe in the afternoon.

    Suiting up went much faster Sunday as my gear was already picked out and adjusted for me and in no time we were on our way. Uwe picked a route that lead through some whoops and in no time I crashed. It took me a while to remember/recover the skills I had learned the day before and soon I was back up to speed. We started practicing on large hills and they turned out to be no problem. We rode quickly along the base of the power lines, everything was starting to feel natural to me and I rode without incident and actually started to relax. I could see that with enough practice, riding in the dirt could actually be fun.

    Everything was going great as we neared the diner where would stop for lunch. I noticed my muscles were sore from being out of shape and being used heavily the day before and I was glad we were stopping for lunch. All that was left between the diner and us was to ride up a small curb, then down a 30 foot hill where the hill had to be traversed to the right at a 45 degree angle, then a 90 degree right turn back up a hill to the parking lot. I stopped and watched Uwe make it no problem and then it was my turn.

    My first attempt, I did not have enough speed to make it over the curb, so a backed it up and took another run at it. This time I cleared the curb, but in an instant I found myself heading straight down the hill at a fairly good clip instead of traversing it to the right at the required 45 degree handle. I hit some bushes to the left of the trail and was launched over the handlebars, coming to earth on my left shoulder and side of the head. Did I say 'thank god' for proper gear?. I'm certain I would have broken a collarbone if it weren't for the chest protector. Anyhow Uwe came and helped me to my feet, extricated the bike from the bushes and rode it up to the parking lot. I am grateful it was his Suzuki and not my new KLR. The bike sustained only a broken turn signal.

    Another tip. After a fall, take the gear off outside before lunch. I am not sure the manager of the diner appreciated me taking off the gear inside the diner, but I did not realize that I had a ton of dirt wedged in the chest protector until it was too late. Oops..

    The ride back to our starting point after lunch was relatively uneventful except for the trails on which we ere riding. The route took us high up on the ridges above the Cajon Pass with 500 foot drop offs from the edge of the trail. No margin for error here. By this time, the effects of the last crash and the fatigue of the prior day's riding were beginning to take its toll and I was glad to finally call it a day. We returned to the staging area, packed up Uwe's stuff and unpacked mine, suited up and said our thanks and goodbyes and I headed home.

    The one last surprise. On the way home, I had a chance to ride my KLR about 5 miles on a dirt road. This would be a chance to compare the Suzuki to the KLR. What a shock. The KLR with stock tires and 32 PSI felt like I was riding on greased glass. I never appreciated how important good tires and proper tire pressure where to successful riding on the dirt. If I would have realized this about 30 years ago, I probably would have spent alot more time in the dirt. Oh well, live and learn.

    I highly recommend this class to anybody that has an interest in learning how to ride in the dirt. In spite of the fatigue and crashing, it was the most fun I have on a motorcycle in a long time, I am looking forward to taking a few more classes. In fact, I am planning to take one or two, one day classes before the end of January. The next time I will have my own riding gear, so that will save some money, and by the time I take the second class, I hope to have my rat A9 setup for dirt. It saves about $100 dollars a day if you use your own bike.


    Randy from Burbank
  2. bavarian

    bavarian bavarian

    Nov 25, 2003
    Munich, Bavaria
    Interesting story! Makes me think twice to attend enduro school here. Very helpful!!
  3. Neil E.

    Neil E. Been here awhile

    Jun 1, 2004
    Gormley ON
    Great write-up Randy. This year I got back into dirt riding and I'm having a blast. You just might need a small second bike for maximum offroad fun. Take a camera with you on the KLR and enjoy documenting the experience.
  4. MotoMike

    MotoMike Washed Up Desert Racer For The 2nd Time

    Sep 21, 2004
    SW Colorado
    Randy, maybe we can get together and ride some time. I live in the west valley.

    I have plenty of dirt experience and am just re-entering riding after a long break.

    PM me if your interested.