My favorite Google search engine revealed a gem in the east coast of the United States of America called Pine Barrens Adventure Camp Riding School in Nesco, New Jersey. Preparations for the world tour requires that I gain certain skills to handle my bike in remote places with unforgiving terrain.
On June 10, 2016, Michael Bradway, Instructor and Jack O'Connor, School Director welcomed me with open arms to guide me through the intensity of the two days of training. First order of business on day 1 was ensure that the bikes were up to par with correct air pressures, bar heights and shifter locations. The obvious choice of the other bikes were large displacements of 1200's, 800's cc's and others. It was wonderful to see another female with a smaller Honda 250cc as my little Yamaha XT250. I am usually alone amongst the men as it is a male dominated sport. No offense guys, I love you all, you are all so amazing, especially when you pose sharing silliness and fun for the sport.
Michael's soft clear strong voice captured my attention to focus on all his techniques, specifically the placement of my fingers on the throttle and brake levers. Who knew, I've traversed North America riding my Triumph Bonneville and no wonder a few times I found the bike on the ground from using my entire hand on those very important levers. Yes, now I gently control the machine with two fingers while having the other two anchored around the grips. These simple tips have already helped me ride my bike, in addition to standing on the foot pegs while gripping the bike with my legs to steer it in the right direction (of course, this is meant for the off-road riding, not street).
I was so pleased to see the instructors geared up with my favorite riding apparel, REV'IT. We practiced standing on our bikes, lots of cornering drills with correct body positioning around cones, and the most fun was braking and sliding in deep dirt with sand trenches. Of course, I was one of the many dropping my bike while the young coaches helped me lift it and send me on my way to do it again. Those boys were so nice, giving me encouraging words that I could do it. I was quite disappointed in myself as I could not lift my bike alone (perhaps having a fractured rib did not help; no excuse, I should still be able to lift my bike), a reminder to continue working on strengthening exercises at the gym.
The "dab" technique was introduced in a nearby pit with soft deep sand. The lead instructor Michael said, "this is the best technique you will gain in an off-road class, focus and learn it because afterwards, you will learn to love the sand, no matter how deep it is". At the time, I was struggling to conquer the skill but it proved to be quite beneficial on day 2 with a group ride in the surrounding forest. As soon as we arrived to the trails, I was terrified and wanted to turn around. The coaches continued to remind me, "Madeleine, if you are going to ride this motorcycle around the world, you better learn the techniques." Oh, that was all that I needed to hear, such encouraging words. After the first drop, I pushed on and focused on all the drills they taught us the day prior. Still terrified and struggling with the 96 degree temperature, I was able to enjoy the sand with a deeper appreciation and respect for it. The deep sand in the unusual dry forest was when that "dab" technique provided a sense of accomplishment that I will take with me during the world tour. Controlling the machine and its super important front wheel is the trick as one of the instructors commented. With practice I hope to be able to get better.
Pine Barrens Adventure Camp Riding School is a treasure in the east coast. I am so incredibly happy to have found them. The boys give you all the attention you need while critiquing ways for you to focus on. Sure they don't have the large expensive tents with water spraying to cool you off, and the bike rentals that some may desire; but they have what you need the most, a group of trainers that focus on the techniques of showing you how to ride that large displacement motorcycle, or in my case a smaller 250cc. They will help you lift that 800 pound bike and show you the correct ways to do it while not breaking your back. Yes, you will drop the bike, you will roll the right way when you do drop it, but as some of the boys commented, "I feel so much better dropping my bike here while learning than in the trails with no skills". It does not matter how large or small the bike is for you to have a wonderful time off road after taking this course.
At the end of the 2 day session, you receive a wonderful little gift bag from their sponsors BMW and REV'IT. By the way, they need more sponsors, help them out. This school has so much to offer, Michael's knowledge of the sport is invaluable. I was drooling over the skill level these boys have while they control their machines.
Below is a little video on steroids I made of myself. By the way, after taking this course, I realized that having a large windshield off road is not a good idea. I quickly removed it when I got home. While taking the course, I felt like that windshield was going to cut my neck off in the case I fell forward.
Here is the link for you to sign up to take the course. Even if you are not planning to ride off-road, some of the skills are transferrable. Simple things like the placement of the fingers on the levers and maintaining one foot on the peg at all times. Pine Barrens Adventure Camp Riding School is located in Nesco, New Jersey USA. Oh, by the way, they are the ones that do the famous Pine Barrens 500 Ride, very popular on the ADVRider forum.