Not ten hours ago the riders in my group were rallying around the saloon, stoked about the weekend’s agenda, a touch nervous but eager. Later, when the first rider went down trying to climb a mild, slightly rutted incline at a snail’s pace, I killed the ignition on my BMW, planted its kickstand, flipped open my helmet and watched the riding suits ahead of me twitch with anxiety. I’m at RawHyde Adventure Motorcycle Training to hone my skill on unpaved paths. Along with me is Jeffrey Ford, a Gear Patrol reader who won a spot in RayHyde’s training course earlier this summer. We’re all essentially novices, and if this were a trip across the Continental Divide I’d be seriously worried. But this is a school. We’re here to learn how to off-road.
It takes us all just over an hour to “summit” our first challenge; five riders went down in total, none hurt. But everyone is smiling, red-faced and sucking on their hydration packs, because picking up a 600-pound motorcycle is no easy feat, and having to do so on an incline just after breakfast is infinitely tougher. Everyone lends a hand, and other than one helmet sandblasted by an unintentional whiskey-throttle rooster tail, all of the equipment is still tip top.
Jim Hyde, the man behind RawHyde, always has a plan up his sleeve. He breaks down for us where things went wrong, and plants seeds to make sure it doesn’t again. Taking riders from “zero to hero” in rugged terrain is something RawHyde has taught for a dozen years. Lesson One — taking a low-speed tumble, picking up your bike (properly) and trying again — is a well-polished trial by fire.
Nobody wants to crash, but in off-road riding, as I’ve learned many times before, it’s just a part of the adventure. Teaching techniques to avoid those adventures is where RawHyde’s facilities and team members really shine. By midday, most of us could feather throttles and clutches to control our bikes at a walking pace; some could even balance at a dead stop. Each skill built on the foundations laid by the previous, until we were able to execute drills that seemed more than unlikely from the bottom of that first hill.
After the first day I felt I had mastered my throttle, brake and clutch inputs to a near telekinetic level. I could feel and anticipate the bike’s reactions to changing surfaces and situations and reposition my body to keep it (and my Rev’It suit) nice and shiny.