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36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
X-Post as this forum seems more apropos to the subject.

Ideally we could hear from first-hand experiences but, with enough input, we can all get an idea of pricing, return on investment, scams/overselling, etc. - on the broadest view, just a more accurate and adjusted level of expectation from these operations:

Where to find more information?
- My initial and main research has been this site and this one. Any other sources you recommend?

Bike Focus/Bring-Your-Own or Rent?
- Based on the threads I've followed (could be they have better Social Media game) so far most of the "more professional/organized/thought-out" seem to come from/dedicated to BMW owners (particularly GS1200)
- The ones that had better presentations (in many different countries) seem to be sponsored/organized by/run by BMW. At the very least they all prominently display the BMW Motorrad name and all/most provided bikes are GS1200's. Here is the BMW site.
- I have no issue with the BMW GS focus. I believe the basic skills/adjustments to my technique I am looking for are indifferent to either model given their extremely similar weights/power/weight distributions, etc. (with the exception of the DCT models -which I have-).
- How many of you concur with the similarity or can think of issues (other than the DCT dynamics affecting things like clutch feathering) related to a brand/model focused training course?

- I've seen anything from day to week-long courses. The few longer ones I've found seem to reserve at least the last day (more often the last two days) for group rides. It's been unclear what kind of training/correction/critique/support there is during those rides.
- I've been tending towards the longer ones. At least on my case I know that I'll feel 100% confident on the first time I am taught something, just to overthink it in the next 24 hours and start adding a billion "wahat-if" scenarios. A multiple day would give me the option to annoy the instructor and feel a bit more confident in my understanding of the technique taught.

Number of people/Size of the "class"?
- I have no idea. The videos that I've seen usually are taken by one student and the editing and presentation make it look as if it is one-on-one all the time. I know that is unrealistic unless you hire a personal trainer, so the question is what do you think is a good group size in order to achieve a balance between individual/personalized instruction and being put in front of a video monitor then told to go ride?

- I cannot find this one training course I had located in Colorado and my recollection is faulty. It was a week-long (full 7 days I believe) with the last 2 days consisting of guided rides through areas that demanded the skills learned in the course. The price was a bit over U$1k/person and I do not recall what else might have been included (food -anywhere from fresh water to full meals-, lodging -either camping space or something else, mechanical/technical support, insurance. medical/first-aid support, etc.

Locations/Time of Year?
- I am in Arkansas and, based on my travels and thoughts, the best and most common places seem to be starting in Colorado all the way to California (excluding coast), with the latitude running [very] roughly between I-40 and I-80.
- The most popular dates seem to be between late spring and late fall with a slight drop mid-summer.
- I presume that these locations offer the most variety of terrain for training, both in their physical characteristics and space available for these businesses to operate. The time of the year makes sense as well as I'd rather not deal with extreme heat or risk disrupting weather events (although rain/mud riding might be a useful, albeit uncomfortable, skill to learn/improve).

- My main issues are due to the weight of the bike. I am in constant stress during slow maneuvers, specially ones that involve turning and have dropped the bike twice -once doing a slow tight turn trying to use my leg as a pivot and the other from slamming the brake at 5 mph and leaning the [loaded] bike too much when the front spring rebounded (I was trying to balance the bike with my feet on the ground instead of just "balancing the bike"). I think that I am basically trying to "control" the bike as if it was a bicycle rather than controlling and trusting its throttle, suspension and other inherent operation characteristics.
- I cannot tell/trust from watching videos if what I am actually doing afterwards matches the technique I observed and, most significantly, I am insecure as to whether they apply to me given my short stature and other "very, very, very valid and real reasons why this doesn't work for me".
- What are real expectations one should have regarding the actual practicality of the skills taught, relevant changes to your driving capabilities/confidence, and quality of the service delivered. My cynical self's worst fantasies keeps imagining a scenario where we are all put in front of a video monitor, given photocopied brochures to read, then yelled that we "are doing it wrong - read page 4 again" along with very vague instructions like "you crashed because your foot was in the wrong place".

Thanks all for any input!!

361 Posts
I did (well, started; see below) the Rawhyde class on my DCT back in December 2017. This was in Castaic in S. California. They also teach the same class progression in Colorado I believe. Rawhyde has a close partnership with BMW. They sell their class bikes, and all of the available rentals are GSs of various sizes (700/800/1200 at the time).

The Castaic facility is a ranch with a variety of dirt roads, trails, and exercises. There is a clubhouse with bar and dining room, bathrooms, and sleeping pods if you don't want to camp.

All through the course, riders are broken up into groups of about 8. Each group has a lead and a backup instructor. Depending on the size of the exercise, you may be in constant motion, or have to wait in line for a few minutes before attempting a maneuver, such as panic braking. I have no offroad experience, so I signed up for a 4-hour pre-class on Friday afternoon before the intro course weekend. In the pre-class we practiced standing, picking up a dropped bike, basic turns, and panic braking. On my second pass through the braking exercise, I went down and taco'ed the brake pedal. The house mechanic jury-rigged a replacement but I missed out on the rest of the afternoon's exercises. (Bring a spare brake pedal.)

The next morning we were served breakfast (the food was excellent at every meal) and then proceeded with a variety of exercises emphasizing balance and weight transfer. Late morning we were doing low-speed U-turns around cones on a rutted former horse corral that had a moderate grade. There was a fair amount of falling by folks, but I stayed upright until one particular right turn. I went down onto my shoulder and hurt a pop. A bunch of other students rushed over and helped me up. It was pretty painful and I passed out for a second but the backup instructor was there pretty quickly and called for another instructor who was an EMT. The EMT checked me over and said that I had a separated shoulder and went to get me a bag of ice. After that I was pretty much on my own. The office manager said to let her know what she could do but I wasn't given any guidance about what medical options were available. I had never had a joint injury so didn't have any perspective on the situation. I started googling. It was pretty clear I wouldn't be able to ride again so I called my wife in N. California and asked her to fly down to help me drive our RV w/ bike trailer back home the next day.

When the morning session ended the riders came back to the clubhouse. The other students were very solicitous and supportive, telling stories of their own healed injuries, etc. At lunch I asked the EMT for another explanation of what he though had happened (I first thought he said I had dislocated it, because I didn't know what an AC separation was). He wasn't super forthcoming. At the time I couldn't tell if it was a liability thing; I later decided he was just kind of a taciturn person. Later in the afternoon the pain was still substantial so I asked for a ride to the urgent care about 30m away. One of the assistants took me in the school van and waited with me while I had X-rays, which confirmed the separation was fairly severe (Grade 3 or 5). Once I had the films we went back to the ranch in time for dinner. After dinner folks hang out in the bar or outside by various fire pits. I spoke to the Jim Hyde, the owner, who said that their policy was to allow injured students to reschedule and apply the unused time to another course. They roll back the training to the beginning of the day you were injured, so I could do the full weekend course again at no additional cost. I had also paid for a two-day desert excursion to immediately follow the training, so I would be missing that as well and could of course also reschedule. I was most bummed about that part as I was very excited to do an adventure tour.

I definitely will do the course again. Though my shoulder has mostly healed it is still weak and sensitive to bumps or exertions in unusual directions, so I am a bit nervous about the more technical elements that foiled me previously. That said, I am more generally comfortable and in control of the big bike than I was 8 months ago, so that should help. I do believe that landing on my shoulder was a freak accident and is unlikely to happen in the same way again, even while accepting that falling is part of the training. As for the training itself, while there is a bit of classroom time, there are generally as many hours of on-bike training as you could want in a day, and instructors seemed willing to spend additional time with students after the main day of training was over. There were also a number of cases where less experienced riders were struggling; when instructors saw this they created a separate "newbie track" and one teacher worked closely with this group to develop their skills at a slower pace than the main body of students. In general you could get as much direct feedback in terms of technique, body position, etc. as you asked for. That said, the course is not 1-on-1, though Rawhyde does offer personal training on non-weekend days. I may choose to try and roll my two days of credits into a single day of 1-on-1 training to address my personal problem areas. The instructors and owners seemed fairly open to feedback and acknowledged they are always improving the courses.

As for technical knowledge, while there was one other student there with a (manual) AT and they had had students with DCTs in the past, for the most part the instructors knew the functions of the GSs only and could not speak to particular characteristics of, say, the AT traction control or ABS and how those could be best applied, beyond the general concepts (e.g., turn of rear ABS during off-road work). Since the clutch really does play a big part in slow speed maneuvering, it would be great to have an instructor who was really versed in the application of DCT offroad; unfortunately I doubt you will find this anywhere outside Honda's offroad training school in the UK.

Regarding time of year, I did the course in the first week of December and it was warm during the day and cold at night. (In fact it was warm enough that I was wearing my mesh Klim jacket with minimal padding, which may have exacerbated my injury). Apparently any time after spring or before November is likely to be blazing hot (cf temps in LA right now). On the plus side you are in scrub desert, so there is zero humidity.

Hope that helps.

47 Posts
Dirt First

Try Dirt First in Ansa, California. It's near Temecula. Gary LaPlante is the owner/instructor. Teaches beginners to Adventure bikes. Great class!
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