During our first day at RawHyde, Nathan and I got familiar with the “Intro to Adventure” class. We appreciated getting a taste of what Level 1 was like, but we are much more excited about the more advanced Level 2 class as it’s more in line with our current abilities. Level 2 is a 2-day course, so we’re joining halfway through – hopefully the students won’t mind us crashing their party!
Photos by Nathan May
Level 2: The Next Step
The morning starts with a warm up lap around the RawHyde property as a refresher for the Level 2 guys. Problem is, a lot of the stuff is new for me and I immediately feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew in this advanced course. The first drill is tighten up your path through a corner by getting the rear end to step out. In theory, it makes perfect sense, but I’ve never been good at this on a regular dirt bike, let a lone a big ADV bike. Unsurprisingly, I’m terrible at this as well – and now I’m really wondering if I belong in this group.
I didn’t have the required amount of aggression to make it happen at first. But thanks to some coaching from Sharif…
Just like in Level 1, the Level 2 drills build on each other. So after we were feeling more comfortable with breaking the rear wheel loose, the class moves on to higher speed slides. Coach Jason Houle explains the next drill:
When it comes to drills where you’re trying to find the ragged edge, even the instructors occasionally find themselves on the wrong side. Coach Josh Jones has a highside that looked pretty bad at first, but he is able to get bandaged up and right back to instructing.
One of the several other drills Nathan and I go through is how to loft the front wheel to get over an obstacle like a log. Here’s a student named Philip showing us how to do it on a BMW F800GS. This is the kind of school that I’m excited to do homework for!
Because Nathan and I are taking photos and videos throughout the day (there’ll be a video for you to enjoy later this week), we’re not getting as much practice time as the other students. I enjoy hopping the log so much that I stay behind to try it a few more times after the group has started to head back for lunch. When I finally get back to eat, it’s more of the same – excellent food and a whole bunch of riders who can’t wait to share their joy about what they’ve learned in the last few hours.
As good as lunch might be, the priority is riding. We’re quickly back in class with a drill focusing on off-camber 180 degree turns. As you’ll see in the upcoming video, this was a prime source of student falls. As you may remember from Day 1, when a student falls, everyone else honks to minimize the stigma. As you can imagine, there are a lot of honks at the moment.
We approach the end of the day and it’s time to see how all of the lessons come together. Impressively, we are thrown into the lion’s den of a complicated course that would eventually become part of the United States qualifiers for the GS Trophy. Some highlights include The Garage, a fenced in area where you must perform a series of tight, lock-to-lock 180 turns:
We go up (and down) ramps of railroad ties, through gravel pits, and have to make a u-turn in a sand pit. Nathan is just like Jeremy Clarkson – his solution to every problem is “more power!” It’s tough for me to mock him here though, as that often is the best attitude when you’re in sand.
One of the more entertaining slow speed drills is balancing on a log. Spoiler alert – I didn’t make it all the way across this time. It’s easiest when you have a little bit of momentum as you initially get up on the log. It took me a few attempts but finally being able to ride the length of the test was very satisfying.
Coach Jason explains the entire GS Trophy course to the Level 2 class, and then everyone does a timed run. Seconds are added any time you put a foot down. The winner of the student competition was a gentleman named Chris, one of the guys behind Elephant Moto in Costa Rica – if you ever head out there for a trip and want to rent a bike, you should definitely bug him.
By far the most interesting individual challenge today is the giant teeter totter. You have to go slow and let gravity bring the other end down. If you go too fast, the wood will bounce back up off the ground before you’ve had a chance to clear the obstacle.
Want to know what it’s like when you screw up the teeter totter? Every year, a motorcycle club called the Cal Poly Penguins hosts the High-Mountain Dual Sport ride, and they’ve built a see saw that can be used for one of the river crossings. Unfortunately, the audio has been removed from this video but you’ll be able to enjoy the carnage:
With all the training exercises complete, we have finished Level 2. The evening ends with a graduation ceremony, dinner, and drinks. About half the class packs up their stuff and heads home, while the remainder enjoy a planning meeting before we head out to Base Camp Alpha the next morning. It’s supposed to be the perfect complement for a trip as it it gives you the opportunity to apply the skills you’ve learned on a real-world adventure. Tomorrow morning Nathan and I would get to verify the claim.