What do you do if you haven’t clue…
For months now I’ve masterfully avoided the very real prospect of having some sort of mechanical or other catastrophic bike failure on the road. I’ve watched a lot of youtube videos on changing tyres and doing an oil change, but I seemed to procrastinate heavily on getting my hands dirty and getting on with it.
I finally decided to do an Adventure Maintenance course with Off Road Skills in Wales. Absolutely brilliant! It was a full day of changing brake pads, breaking beads, plugging and changing tyres, adjusting chains, dealing with an unsuccessful river crossing and much more. The course was run by Simon Pavey, Off Road Skills owner and Dakar legend and Evan Davies, Chief Engineer and a true mechanical sorcerer. It gave me the nudge and confidence I needed to go home and practice on my own bike.
A couple of months later I went back for their Level One Off Road course on the G650GS. Wow, am I glad I did that!
I arrived on the Saturday, the night before the two day event and checked myself into the local B&B/Pub, which also doubles as the local night club, I discovered. Pretty worn out from a night of thumping basslines, I went to the off road school and nervously got ready for the day ahead. All the instructors met us with warmth, humour and were very approachable and encouraging.
Linley, Simon’s wife and co owner, took myself and another lady aside for a serious pep talk and gave us some good pointers for staying the course and for kicking arse in general. Awesome!
I’m guessing we were twenty – something participants split into Level One, Two and Three. We rode for about 10 minutes up the road to the stunning Walter’s Arena site and began with all the very basics like picking up the bike, walking along side it, mounting from both sides and so on. Quickly we progressed into slow manoeuvring, carrying out a slalom course and some tight turns, learning how to distribute our bodyweight, with some spectacular mud-eating fails as a result of course.
The day was very cleverly arranged in such a way that, before we knew it, we were negotiating terrain that I never would have attempted if shown before hand. Gradually we would get the necessary experience for the next step and so on and soon we were going down steep muddy hills without as much as blinking. We spent the afternoon riding around on the fire roads and dirt tracks in the beautiful arena, dealing with various surfaces and terrain.
Dealing with a stalled bike on a steep hill – we had to turn the bike around and ride back down.
Day 2 was strangely a small step backwards as I felt “new” again, despite having accumulated a ton of confidence from the previous day. But it was a matter of moments before we got back in the swing of things. Later in the afternoon we were encouraged to try out the other bike models and I climbed on the R1200GS expecting the handling characteristics of something far too big and heavy. As soon as I let the clutch out and set off, I was totally sold! It was light, easy and smooth to maneovre, I felt very stable, safe and in control on the dirt. It took some negotiating and bribery before they managed to wrestle me off the 1200 and back on the 650. Very impressed!
I went away with new practical skills and a great experience and returned from Wales with 100% more confidence in myself and in the bike. Well worth the investment and couldn’t recommend it enough.
Lucky 13 and I definitely ate mud that day
See you out there!