Mud, gravel, snow, ice, sand dunes, rocks, river crossings, hills, mountains, dirt tracks are just a few of the kinds of terrains we are to be encountering with our Round the World motorcycle trip. Despite having the most excellent on road training, the last time Sam rumbled over anything other than a smooth road was well over a couple of years ago and having only really passing my test a couple of months ago my only experience has been that of the world of tarmac. We were in need of some serious off road training!
Fortunately, Wheeldon Off-road Adventure Training Centre in Devon kindly took it upon themselves to help us both out for a day of bespoke training. Waking up to the day of training it dawned that I was about to endure a rather steep learning curve… unbeknown to me quite literally too…
Based in the rolling hills of Devon, Totnes we both had a beautiful sunny trip down, happily bumbling along stunning and curvaceous country roads to the main centre itself. When we rocked up, we were welcomed with great big smiles and waves from the whole family including the waggling pooch! Before long we had a cuppa tea in our hands and we were wondering around the indoor motocross change (right next to a rather fab indoor skate ramp!), checking out the kit area, kitchen, changing rooms, bikes and gorgeous views! The set up here is really something quite heavenly! With a nestle of nearby cottages for weekend overnighters, the school aims to cater for all the family and those of all abilities and ages.
After introductions and a grand tour we then hooked up with Jim who suitably booted and suited us and gave us a run down of the Husquarvarnas we would be riding that day!
With bikes a ready and us prepped Jim looped us around the indoor motocross track so he could establish our skills (or lack of in my case ;)). Wearing new Rally boots meant discovering the clutch pedal was proving a bit hit and miss but I wibbled and stalled away and eventually made it around the track with Sam whizzing by and rambling along with relative ease. After a few laps we pulled up and topping us up with water Jim gave us our evaluation.
Sam = a little rusty with a few standing corrections and tweaking to be made.
Me = lacking in some core skills and confidence but overall good considering it was my 13th time on a bike!
Sam’s main riding error was his seated and standing position. Due to mainly being used to sand riding Sam had a tendency to sit and lean further back on the bike than what was ideal with most riding. For me, although I had flukily managed to get my feet in the right place, my legs were too bent when standing and I was quite rigid in my movement! Jim therefore spent some time explaining and showing us how to improve our skills. With the clear and visual explanations we were all ready to get back on track and put it all into practice
Second time around the track Jim had us both imitating his riding in, as he put it, a Monkey See Monkey Do fashion. This time with Jim’s tuition in mind and the copycat in motion it was a million times easier! After 15minutes we were both whizzing round, Sam getting air and me kicking out around corners. I tell you what though, it wasn’t half fun but incredibly exhausting and required muchos concentration on my behalf. This inevitably meant lots of yabbering away in my helmet followed by cackly belly laughs and wheeeee’s!
After a good hour and half of playing on the motocross arena and training we stop for some refreshment then hop back on the bikes for a trip to a local hill. Now… when I say hill… to me it was nearing a mountain! It was a steep grassy beast with what looked like wee sticks fluffed up with green clumps waaaay at the bottom… but in fact were fully grown oaks. With reassurance, guidance and lots of laughing (nervous giggles in my case) Jim informs us we’re to have a race down… last one wins! First time down the bikes are switched off, plonked into neutral with us tickling the front brake to keep us at a steady speed! Knees a knocking I manage it and thanks to the whining of the brakes my oo’s and eee’s and aiiieee’s are muted!
Jim then gets us swiveled round and demonstrates a perfect ascent with awesome explanation behind do’s and don’ts! I stall a few times but end up bumbling up and even manage to stand! Go go me! Sam too stalls (phew, not just me!) but pulls off an awesome ride up!
With engines back on we then spent a good hour being led through riding down in gear, looping, zig zagging and how to pick up a toppled bike on a steep gradient (typically I dropped it whilst at a stand still!)! Once again the Monkey See Monkey Do teaching seemed to work wonders on me as I wiggled and wobbled my way down as much in time to Sam’s or Jim’s perfectly timed swaying buttocks!
After some lunch, reflection and banter we’re back out down to an out door track which is a nice long curvy dirt track with puddles, loose dirt, bumps, humps and a few 180’s thrown in for fun times! Jim leads the way and we ride round being shown the how-to-do and awkward sections. A couple of loops later and we are let loose to hone our learned skills of the day! With Sam flying past (literally) and Jim sweeping sideways around corners I am soon getting the idea and laughing my socks off as I sweep around! A couple of offs are made (me being a plonk and just generally tiring and Sam just checking if the ground was okay where I fell off) but there are plenty of laughs and pointers to keep us going!
Exhausted but in a great way we end up taking time out to run through the events of the day and lessons learned. Exasperated and just overwhelmed with the amount I managed to do, I rode back to the centre beaming!
We had such a fantastic day! Despite being achy and exhausted, we both were amazed at how Jim managed to tailor a day suitable for both our skills which are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum! Having learned so much we have put it in to practice a fair amount since and my road riding has even improved greatly, becoming much more fluid.
Without this training I just do not know how I would have coped when I first hit a patch of rough road riding! I am now much more confident as is Sam… we both cannot emphasize how utterly valuable this kind of course is to those who are planning to do any form of off roading! Even if you’re not planning a big trip or perhaps you just like mucking about on a bike, be a complete newbie or a pro, Wheeldon can offer you a spectacularly fantastic day, leaving you with skills you can apply to all riding!