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Old 05-28-2012, 03:57 PM
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Default Shane Watts Dirtwise Academy of off road riding

So I know I haven't been around much, but earlier this month I was finally able to attend one of his courses.

Since I had first heard of this riding school a few years ago, I have wanted to attend this riding school, well this would be the year. This is a two day riding school with one of the off road greats as your instructor. The school is kinda steep at $360, but after taking the class, it was money well spent. Prior to the school, I had checked out all the dirtwise videos on YouTube that Mr Watts has produced and frankly I was pumped for this.

Day 1

Woke up for the first day of the school to make the hour and 45 min drive to the Rock Hill MX outside of Lebanon, Oregon. Have never been there before, quite the hole in the wall. A couple different tracks surrounded by the owners farm. Check in and ready to ride at 08:30hrs. We head out to an open field and line up. First thing we all line up and find out that we are going to follow Shane to set up the warm up track in the grass field. After about 4 laps he pulled off to watch while everyone kept going. We all were then called over to once again line up and it's time to start practicing the basics. Shane would demonstrate it first, then we would practice it. This went on all day, practicing acceleration, stoppies, break control, skid turning (already forgot what he called it), berm cornering and then would put it all together putting more laps in on the warm up track that we were wearing into the grass field.

Prior to the class I saw a video on YouTube about changing your control positions, I thought I would give it a try and this was my first chance at trying them out. Between that and learning the proper body positioning, I found myself missing my up shifts. During lunch break I went back and made some adjustments to correct this. After lunch we hit the warm up track again and put down about 8 fast laps and when we came to a stop I could hear air coming from my rear tire, pulled the valve stem right out of the tube. Instead of heading back to my truck to fix it, Shane had me ride his borrowed bike for the class. I tell you what, I don't have a lot of seat time on 2 strokes, but the KTM 250 was sure fun to ride. We practiced more basics and finished the day out with a trail ride practicing what we had learned.

Day 2

After staying up late to fix my bike I was able to get 4 hours sleep before having to get up and leave on the hour and 45 min drive back down. Everyone had. Suited up and was ready to rock. Started out with several laps on the warm up track. Obviously I was taking it easy not wanting to have a repeat of the day before. Day 2 was practicing the 4 types of wheelies (dead stop, moving, standing and the 180 degree). A few fenders were broken during this. Next was "grinding" this and the 180 degree wheelie were the two things I wanted to get some good practice at. Grinding simulates when your rear tire slides out from under you while on the trail or on a side hill trail. For this exercise we had about 20 - 30' poles on the ground, which you approach at an angle and get you front tire on the far side and then turn it parallel to the log/pole and slightly lean back and pour on the throttle and the rear slides along the log until you are clear. This was so much fun. After lunch we went out and started hill climbing. Started out on some decent climbs and then downhill all thee hole working on body position and break control. Then we moved on to a hill, that I would normally not even think about trying. Well up Shane went and said to follow his line. Well I started up it and down shifted into neutral and lost momentum and ended up having to side hill and sure enough ended up "grinding" up the rest of the hill to the top and then back down the steep trail. In the previous day while working on braking Shane was talking about the chain slap noise when braking. I have always thought that this was a bad thing.................wrong. He considers this a really good thing, this noise is made at optimum braking, just before the rear wheel locks up. While making my way down the steep trail to the bottom I was hearing this noise the entire way down. I was proceeding down hill at a pretty good clip. We played on this hill for awhile before moving onto another trail ride after several laps of the marked course it was onto log jumping, one of my favorite things to do. There were two logs, one was about 16" in diameter and the other was about 30 - 36" in diameter. We were shown the proper technique and then practiced it. We were taught the slingshot method (get the front tire over the log, sit as far forward as possible and push back on the log and pulling the front tire up on the top third of the log, then pop the clutch and shift your weight forward and slide you bike over the log and then throttle over the rest of it to clear it. The majority of the class went for the smaller log and there was about 4 of us trying to tackle the big log. I tried and tried and could not get the coordination down. If I was slightly rolling I could clear it no problem but from a dead stop I could not get it down. Next was the 90 degree wheelie to slingshot to get over the log. This I had issues with due to going for the big log and then having to start with you foot on the log. After finally getting the technique down I was able to finally get one down before we called it a day.

This class literally put the fun back into riding for me. I have always enjoyed riding, but it wasn't much fun for me. Working on the basics I found myself getting faster and faster. I can't wait to set up a practice area at my inlaws to get this down. I wish I would have taken this class a long time ago, it was money well spent. If you are on the fence on taking this class, do it.........I would consider my self a good intermediate/ B class rider and I know this class has improved my riding ability and skills. The course is taught all over North America as well as down under.

The video on youtube I mentioned about changing my controls. It talked about slightly rotating the bars forward, they said that this helps with your hand position when standing. So I slightly rotated the bars forward, and right off the bat sitting/standing on the bike on the stand it felt much better. What I didn't realize was how the front felt so light to turn. Even just pushing the bike into the garage, has me excited for the next time I can ride the bike. I mentioned this to a buddy and he made the change and he said the same thing.

For some of Shane Watts free YouTube videos search "dirtwiseridingschool"

For some other good off road riding tips search "theoffroadfanatic" on YouTube.

Here is a video I put together of what I shot during the course. I was advised prior to the class that helmet cams were ok, but to not film the actual instruction that was given. So needless to say I had the camera on my helmet, but didn't do alot of filming of the practicing.

My Dirtwise experience 2012 - YouTube
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