BMW Offroad Skills Course

The throttle goes both ways - but only one of them is fun!
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17th April 2001


Yesterday I managed not to fall off at all. Today I managed to redeem myself by lobbing it four times, with two of them qualifying as spectacular. Of these the best was possibly embedding the bike in the bottom of a swamp-filled ditch I was trying to cross at speed (and at slightly the wrong angle), and flying through the air to execute a perfect rolling breakfall into a graceful bow for the assembled audience who seemed to find the event amusing. I must also mention a fifth incident which involved being flattened whilst standing next to my bike when the Motorcycle Marketing Manager from BMW (UK) locked up braking on loose chippings, ploughed straight into it and dropped it on top of me...

If anybody is wondering about whether one of these BMW courses is worth the money, wonder no more. I'll leave Sue, Andy and Paul to offer their own thoughts on proceedings, but my view was that it was money and time extraordinarily well spent. Simon Pavey, who was my instructor, was a total and complete star. For myself, if I'd seen the kind of stuff I'd be riding up, down and through by the end of the course at the beginning I'd have bottled it there & then, and run away to hide. As it is, I went from never having ridden a bike on the dirt apart from one lap round Geoff's field, to blasting an F650GS up & down 45˚ shale slopes while standing on the footpegs. The structured approach to learning to ride off road means that two days has turned a complete dirt nobber into somebody who feels confident that he could climb onto a reasonably sensible dirt-bike for a day of green laning & not completely embarrass myself. In the process, I've learnt an awful lot about controlling a motorcycle in grip-free situations. Our previously eiger-esque front-drive now doesn't look challenging even in the wet, for a start! However, whilst I'd genuinely advise anybody to do this, I'd also advise them to get themselves a tad fitter than myself or Sue are first. Neither of us can walk properly at present, and every muscle in my body aches like buggery. I can see why all the racers use dirt-bikes to get fit on!

A quick note about the bikes. We rode mainly F650GS machines, among which were a smattering of short models for the diminutive of stature and a number of the 'Dakar' variant for the loftier punters. For what I'd assumed were faux trailies better suited to commuting than mud-plugging, I was amazed at their competence on the shite, given a set of good knobbly tyres. As a road bike... well, riding one any distance on the motorway would obviate the need for a vasectomy, but on the B-road twisty stuff or in the urban jungle, I reckon the F650GS would be a top commuter & fun bike. But for me, the real star was the R1150GS. Sport tourer masquerading as a faux trailie, you may say - but not after you've seen Simon Pavey hurling it around like an enduro bike, huge roosters of shite spraying behind him as he climbs impossible slopes on it with both ends fishtailing wildly. One might assume that this is purely down to Mr Pavey & his undoubted off road genius, but I saw Mr Pearce of this parish borrow the keys of said bollide and hurl it very convincingly up & then down a 45˚ shale slope, whilst remaining aboard. I contented myself borrowing it for a blast up some loose fire-roads at the close of play today, because that gave me the chance to ride it on the road back to the lock-up, but I was incredibly impressed, both with how easy it was to ride off-road (and how painful it would have been if I'd dropped it on myself or even wanted to take a dab) but how competent it was once we hit the tarmac. Those exhausts would definitely have to go if it was mine, though...

OK, prizes:

Best lob of the entire course was reportedly somebody in John Deacon'są group who got a climb slightly wrong today, started pulling a wheelie halfway up the slope, and 200 yards later, just before the top, finally flipped it, the bike performing a graceful 360˚ back flip and landing undamaged in a tree, next to the equally undamaged rider...

Biggest star of the course? Undoubtedly (although I may be biased) my beloved Sue, who started from a position of limited confidence on a motorcycle & spent two days wrestling with a bike designed for somebody with hands & feet twice the size of hers, yet ended the course tackling all the same obstacles as the rest of us with equal aplomb.

Grand prize? To BMW UK, John Deaconą & Simon Pavey for organising a truly stonking event. It wasn't cheap, but I feel I more than got my money's worth out of it!

Ken Haylock - [Triumph Sprint ST]

[25/11/2001] John Deacon was later tragically killed while competing in the Masters Rallye...



Copyright © 2003 Ken Haylock. All rights reserved.
Last Revised: June 12, 2003 .