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ADV PreppingFrom Newbie to Stud In Just Two Days of Off-Road Training?

From Newbie to Stud In Just Two Days of Off-Road Training?

 We put RawHyde Adventure's off-road training program up to the challenge.

Published on 12.15.2014
off-road training in the sandpit

In this business, finding a great photographer that can “also” ride is not easy. Our main photographer Bill Lieras is a rock star when it comes to taking photos, but he’s still fairly new to riding off-road.

A few years back, we were riding out to photograph the start of an off-road desert race. At one point we noticed Bill was no longer with us. Circling back, we found him stopped on the side of the road. We figured he had a problem with his bike but it turned out the sand had him frozen in his tracks.

For the experienced off-road riders in the group, this road was hardly a challenge. I tried reassuring Bill by saying, “You can go 60 mph on this surface no problem. Just go faster.” He wouldn’t budge. Shortly afterward, a Toyota Corolla drove right past us on the same road. I looked over at Bill with hands raised, but even that wasn’t enough to get him to go down the road.


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Bill has improved over the years and we’ve been able to take him on some decent rides, but often we’d notice him pushing too hard to keep up with the group and by midday he’d already be tired and begin making mistakes. I’ll admit, Bill had his work cut out for him trying to keep up. Myself and many of the guys we typically ride with, raced for years in the pro class of off-road racing series like Baja Score and Best in the Desert. You could count the number of times Bill rode over his head by looking at the battle scars on his bike.

On a recent ride, Bill was going too fast on a slick dirt road and nearly slid off the edge of a cliff. Luckily, he was able to stop right at the edge. That’s when we realized our “just go faster” approach to off-road training wasn’t working. We decided we needed to get Bill some professional help before he got seriously injured.

Bill before receiving off-road training
Bill had some experience riding off-road but needed professional help to boost his confidence and safety on tougher trails.

RawHyde Adventures was high on our list of off-road training schools after witnessing a friend dramatically improve his riding abilities with their training. We’d also heard they take more of a nurturing approach to training students, which we knew Bill would appreciate after his trial-by-fire experience with us.

We enrolled Bill in RawHyde’s Intro To Adventure Camp just an hour away from where we reside in Los Angeles, and off to school he went. But before receiving his first lesson, we wanted to measure his current skill level off-road to see if we could verify an improvement from the training. We wanted some hard numbers that would demonstrate the value of the training beyond him just “feeling” more confident on the trail.

Off-Road Training Challenge
We put together an off-road training challenge that would test Bill’s skill before and after the training. The challenge would include a timed off-road course and we’d also count the number of times he dabbed a foot for balance. We would take his best of two laps both before and after the training. The 120 acre RawHyde Ranch, with its abundance of obstacles and various types of terrain, was the perfect place for us to create a course for this challenge.

Bill’s nemesis has always been sand, so we started the course in one of the giant sandpits found at RawHyde Ranch. After crossing roughly 60 yards of deep sand, you enter a ribbon-lined course featuring tight slow-speed turns that test a riders throttle, brake and clutch control. The ribbon course includes off-camber and decreasing radius turns that require hanging off the bike to stay on track. There are also a pair of trees that are so close together the bars nearly touch. After getting past the trees, you exit through the sandpit once again to complete the lap.

Ribbon course entrance RawHyde Ranch
Bill completes a set of s-turns as he enters the RawHyde Ranch Ribbons Course.

But before we released Bill on the track, we would first need an experienced off-road rider to set a benchmark time. So I hopped on Bill’s KLR650 and made two passes to set the pace on the course. The first lap was 1:21 with two dabs, the second lap, 1:16 with no dabs.

Next Bill was up and he was off to a slow start sitting down through the sandpit. He dabbed several times in the sand and struggled to make the tight turns of the ribbons course. Going through the trees, he made a complete stop and put both feet down to get his bars through the gap. He nearly went down in the sandpit on his way to the finish line. His time? An uninspiring 1:52 with 12 dabs. His second run was only a moderate improvement with a time of 1:48 and 11 dabs.

Squeezing through the trees
A tight squeeze through these trees made it hard to continue without dabbing a foot.

After recording our timed runs, we left our star photographer in the qualified hands of RawHyde’s instructors for the weekend. We’d return two days later on Sunday afternoon to see if the training had any impact on his performance.

When Sunday rolled around, the first thing we noticed when we saw Bill riding up to us was that he was standing up on the pegs. So many times before we had tried to convince Bill of the benefits of standing up while riding off-road, but he always seemed to feel more comfortable sitting down. Fresh from his last lesson of the day, we took Bill over to our off-road training challenge course for another set of timed runs.

Bill began his first lap confidently plowing through the sandpit standing up on the pegs with his weight back in the attack position. He made quick work of the sand and was soon entering the tight ribbons course. He dabbed one time on the tight decreasing-radius turn but maintained composure. He then cruised through the 180 degree off-camber turn like a pro and threatened to dab but resisted the urge.

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Riding through the trees, he slowed down but didn’t come to a complete stop or dab. Next he was back in the sandpit standing with his weight back as he sped across the finish line.

It looked like an impressive run to us, but what was his time? A check of the stop watch revealed a time of 1:26 with just one dab of the foot. He’d just improved his time by 26 seconds and 11 fewer dabs than his first run two days earlier.

On his second run, Bill seemed even more confident in the sand and was quickly into the ribbons course. Heading through the decreasing radius turn, he completed it without touching down but he made a small dab on the off-camber turn. He sped through the trees with confidence and was soon powering through the sandpit to end the lap.

Blasting through the sandpit.
Bill blasts through the sandpit standing up with his weight back on his final lap.

This run looked even faster than the first and the stopwatch showed he’d achieved a time of 1:22 with just a single dab. Just one second off my first benchmark run and 6 seconds away from matching my best time. I began to wonder if he could possibly beat me.

Bill was ecstatic with the news that he had made a big improvement. I asked him if he’d been practicing the ribbons course a lot during the training weekend and he said they just went through it one time. Bill asked “Should I do it again?” Grinning I said, “No that’s good enough, you only get two runs.”

Making it up a hill climb
It’s a great feeling to overcome your fears and improve your skill as an off-road rider.

We headed in to the Dakar Bar to mingle with the students and instructors during the graduation ceremony. Everyone was proud to receive their certificate of completion and we could see many students had developed strong bonds of friendship during their short time training together. Bill’s classmates kept coming up to ask how he performed in the challenge. I explained, “I had to kick him off the course before he beat my time.”

We were pretty impressed with Bill’s performance on the course and the solid foundation he gained after just two days of training. But Bill came away with more than just enhanced riding skills, the Intro To Adventure Camp is an experience in itself. RawHyde Ranch is like a theme park for Adventure Riders with an abundance of thrilling trails and obstacles to challenge yourself. Instructors also teach you about the tools, technology and equipment of Adventure Riding; and the comfortable accommodations, chef prepared meals and open bar in the evenings make the weekend even more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, Bill wasn’t able to join his fellow classmates on RawHyde’s follow up Base Camp Alpha ride, but we made sure to get him back out in the dirt a few short weeks later to solidify his training on the LA – Barstow to Las Vegas (LAB2V) dual sport ride. The LAB2V is two days and 450 miles of some of the toughest desert terrain you can ride an Adventure Bike on. The ride really put Bill’s new skills to the test and we were thrilled to witness his remarkable improvement on the tortuous trails.

RawHyde Adventures off-road training schools are located in Southern California and Park County, Colorado. Special training weekends are also offered at the Overland Expo East (Asheville, North Carolina) and West (Flagstaff, Arizona). For more information on RawHyde’s Off-Road Training programs, go to http://www.rawhyde-offroad.com.

Photo Gallery

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For more training camp photos click the “Next Page” link below.

Instructors train ADV Pulse photographer Bill Lieras how to deal with his nemesis ‘sand’ during RawHyde’s Intro to Adventure Camp.
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Author: Rob Dabney
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12 thoughts on “From Newbie to Stud In Just Two Days of Off-Road Training?

  1. Great read! I’m somewhat new to off-road riding and have picked a lot of bad habits along the way. Can’t really say that my riding buddies are the best teachers either lol….Definitely will check out this class!

  2. For almost $1,500 less you can get excellent big adventure bike training at Jimmy Lewis’s place in Pahrump NV. Jimmy is the real deal” Dakar podium racer who coaches you personally in Death Valley.

    • Hi Martin. Jimmy Lewis Racing is another respectable off-road school and Jimmy’s racing credentials are second to none. However, the two weekend training programs have some differences that are reflected in the price. RawHyde’s pricing includes a three nights stay (Fri,Sat,Sun) with all meals and beverages included. With JLR, you need to stay at a hotel and only lunch and dinner on Saturday are included. Rawhyde Ranch is 120-acre property with purpose-built obstacles and terrain for students to train on. With JLR, most of the training occurs on nearby open desert land. That being said, the cost difference between the two is actually $795 not $1500, and once you factor in the additional cost of of 3 nights in a hotel, meals and drinks, the prices are comparable.

      • Indeed Rob, the Rawhide 2 days costs $800 more. I don’t know where I got the $1500 number from. I only needed two nights in a hotel for Jimmy’s two day course, plus one meal on the Friday; the other meals were included too. The hotel added $200 to the cost. So the Rawhide experience is about $500 to $600 more, depending on how much you decide to pay for the hotel. I think I’ll put the money towards my next weekend at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna. … or maybe a new iPhone for Christmas. Actually, I might put it towards a Rawhide course. See how my Scottish logic can make me feel good about spending gobs of cash on a terrible habit 😉

  3. Could you possibly email me the first picture on page 2? The 800 going off the jump? That’s a great picture of me and rarely get pictures like that. Thanks again. Hope Bill is enjoying his new found skills.

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