Who doesn’t like getting filthy dirty and rolling around in the mud, and laughing so often that your face aches and your ribs remind you that you haven’t done this for a while? You don’t like to do those things? Then keep riding the black top and roll on by.
For those of us that love the dirt, Brian Bartlow’s Feel Like a Pro Dirt school is money very well spent indeed. Why? You will leave the school and get on a road/track bike and be instantly relaxed almost to the point of being bored because the bike is so stable. Furthermore, if the bike does move around and in poor weather the tires lose grip, you loosen your grip on the bars simultaneously so the bike can do what it is best at – regaining stability. That could save a crash because you don’t tighten up!
Want to sign up? The website is easy to navigate and gives you all you need to know before you get there in all aspects:
If you are going to the school, do it with a group of friends as the family/brethren/buddy atmosphere really adds to the day. If you go alone, be prepared to be gregarious! The more variety of skills, ages and gender mix, the better the event!
All images courtesy of Joe of 4 The riders: www.4theriders.com
Don’t have any gear for the dirt? No problem. Brian has some gear in terms of helmets, boots, gloves and clothing, but you need to organize that in advance. Do so “en masse” to ensure there are no disappointments on the day of with someone having to swap clothes all the time.
NOTE: take a pair of old road race or street boots and you’ll thank us for it. Big motocross boots weigh a proverbial ton and your legs will be exhausted by hour two as you hold your foot up a lot…… Marcus and Lyndia Zarra organized our group of AFM 450 class riders and family for the day at Brian’s. A warm welcome and greeting from Brian for sporadic arrivals and his enthusiasm in fielding initial questions brought the arriving throng into some semblance of organization quietly. No pressure and no rigid timelines also made for a very relaxed early start at 8.15am. That for me was the most critical part as it set the tone for the entire day.
When Brian starts the meeting to explain the day, LISTEN CAREFULLY. He’s very enigmatic and there are nuggets of wisdom pinged out all over the place, some at very rapid fire intervals. All of what he says will come to you during or after each session when you debrief with friends and you have all those ‘aha’ moments. Don’t forget to sign the table (very important) after the meeting concludes and then stretch, stretch some more and then stretch again. Spending 10 minutes or more of this first thing before the first drills begin is absolutely critical. In fact I found it immeasurably beneficial to stretch after EVERY session for 5 minutes while enjoying and joining in the banter between us (I had more soreness from crashing than exercise the next day).
The drills require you to focus in the 10-12 minute sessions you ride in. They are built in sequence to help you evaluate your skills and make you comfortable on the Kawasaki 140 bikes you will use. LISTEN to what you have to do, then zone out everyone and get to grips with the drill. It may seem to be very simple, but to execute it well you have to be very, very precise with your skills and inputs into the bikes given the task at hand. Get cocky or lazy and you’ll be ridiculed for the rest of the day by your peers (and rightly so) as you’ll fall down in front of everyone repeatedly.
I hadn’t been on the dirt in 5 years, and rode all black diamond single track trails exclusively for many years. The school and teachings were completely outside my experience, so I had to learn fast. To add to the difficulty – as a road racer, you don’t shove the racing bike into the ground underneath you as though you are digging a hole. It just isn’t right and on a road race track body positioning like that will of course send you very quickly to a hospital ward of the EMT’s choice who treats you.
You have to start with a clean slate and dump all you know into another section of your brain and close the door on it. Make strenuous efforts if needed to make that happen. Each drill really does build your base skills up, so take your time initially then bring a little bit of speed until you fail. Stay there until you master the drill, then bring a little more pace and fail again. In the 10-12 minute drill sessions you do an enormous amount of work if you focus, and you’ll get an enormous amount out.
New to the dirt and don’t want to push it? Have fun and put some energy into the drills at a pace you are comfortable with. Remember that speed is your friend and going slow will put you down on the ground more than you need to be. Once you start riding in the first drill, your speed will come to you naturally. I’m old school in the dirt with feet on the pegs ala Dave Aldana while sideways and I’m really comfortable with that style. That style helped me with the riding drills to a point, then the inside foot had to come off for other drills.
Given my competitive self and thirst for learning in each drill, I pushed until I crashed and stayed at that pace until I could master the drill at that pace.
Oh yes – you will go Nascar (lefts) then non Nascar (rights) to develop skills for turns in separate drills. Honor your weak side.
Still wearing motocross boots? Not for much longer.
When you leave the circle track for the Oak tree course and drills, don’t speed up until you can put yourself, the bike and your elbows into the right position every time AT THE RIGHT TIME.
Like great comedy, it is all about timing.
Go at a pace for your skills as they are and it all makes sense. Trust me – you’ll have a ball. Push it and little and focus, and you’ll feel the grin when you get it right. Push it a little more and crash – and you’ll want to sit for a minute and listen to/figure out why you crashed. Reflect on what you did and see if you can match coaching comments to skilled out put. You can’t? Slow down just a tiny amount and get back on the course. When you crash again, it will be apparent why. If not, listen to the coach’s advice and stay at a pace where you can implement it. One step back for two steps forward later………
Go too fast too soon and as a road racer you’ll be accessing what you know as a default and start eating dirt sandwiches in big quantities from losing the front ALL the time. You’ll drop your shoulders and head to the inside of the corner and presto – another dirt sandwich……. Those are preferable to the big highsides by the way. Just saying…….
You are not racing around the Oak tree course. Clarification. You might be racing to a lot of bruises is all if you do. Why?
You need to be 100% ready for the afternoon.
Once you’ve had your fill of morning practice time, enjoy lunch – really – enjoy the pasta lunch and talk – a lot. What you say may light someone up for the afternoon and they improve 1000%. This is such a valuable time (all humor aside) as it can truly throw a circuit breaker not a light switch for a participant. We had 2 riders (one male, one female) who owned the afternoon with their improvements as they listened at lunch then implemented their understanding and jumped light years in skills.
In the afternoon, you will get to the big track. If you really applied yourself all the way up to lunch, the afternoon will heap rewards on you. If you are beaten and bruised from stupidity or goofing off, the best part of the day is now torture.
Do as you will but bear in mind that speeds will be elevated and loss of control and collisions will be equally elevated. You will spend lots of time running multiple configurations of this track and based on dirt conditions you may have some or not much grip.
Enjoy these experiences as your learning and skills begin to exceed your expectations from the morning drills.
What happens to close the day out on the big track? Go to the school and find out!!!!
Tell Brian Dave Moss sent you 🙂