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Building You’re Riding Skills and Staying Within Your Limits OR Riding with Faster People Without Killing Yourself

By Phil Sauter
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, December 2010

I’ve been involved with off road riding now for only 4 seasons… first year or so on a Suzuki VStrom 650 and the last couple of years on a DRZ 400. During that skill building time, I’ve been very fortunate to ride with a partner who is much better than I will ever be. Why he wanted to train such a complete NooB as me, is the subject for another article. However, I was faced with the task of keeping up and building my skills without employing the most common advice I heard which was “Twist The Throttle you BABY!!” After a number of get offs including one high side, twisted saddle bags, two fires and a bike that looks like I should just throw it away, I have some hard earned advice that will transform your skills.

1) Relax!!

Yes,
you
are
slow.

It’s
O.K!!!

I
was
 so
worried
about
slowing
everybody
down,
 I
was
riding
beyond
my
capability.

The
 combination
of
fear
and
worry
zapped
all
 the
fun
out
of
it.

Hey,
they
all
know
you
are
 not
as
experienced.

They
knew
that
when
 you
signed
up
for
the
ride.

So
what
if
they
 are
taking
a
break
waiting
and
talking
bikes.

 That’s
half
the
fun
of
the
ride.

Enjoy
your
 learning
curve,
and
remember
everybody
 was
new
at
some
point.

2) The
comfort
zone.

If
you
ride
ONLY
on
the
 terrain
you
are
most
comfortable,
how
will
 you
improve?

Then
again
jumping
directly
 into
a
level
4
ride
that
feels
like
a
“Trail
of
 Death”
is
not
the
answer
either.

Believe
me!

 I’ve
found
that
riding
just
a
tad
past
your
 comfort
zone
helps
a
lot.

That
way
slowing
 down
a
bit,
if
things
get
a
bit
dicey,
puts
you
 back
in
your
safety
zone.

Riding
at
speeds
 or
conditions
that
are
right
at
the
top
of
 your
limits
gives
you
the
gain
without
a
lot
 of
pain.
I
once
saw
a
YouTube
interview
 with
Indy
car
driver
Danica
Patrick
where
she
described
that
same
method
when
she
first
started
to
race.

It
works.

3) Relax
your
grip
on
the
handlebars.
Most
of
 these
bikes
are
much
more
steerable
with
a
 very
light
grip
on
the
handlebars,
and
they
 steer
best
by
shifting
your
weight…
meaning
 steer
with
your
butt.
Weight
shifts
and
very
 light
steering
inputs
are
much
easier
on
you
 and
your
bike.


4) Look
up
ahead.

No,
further…
a
little
more!!

 Most
people
starting
out
look
at
the
trail
 about
10‐20
feet
ahead
of
their
bike.

Got
to
 look
for
those
rocks,
right??

Then
 everything
that
happens
is
a
big
surprise,
 and
you
feel
out
of
control
quickly.

Look
 up!!

Look
all
the
way
to
the
next
curve.

 When
you
are
looking
100
feet
ahead,
you have
much
more
time
to
judge
the
line
and
 obstacles.

Your
peripheral
vision
will
take
 care
of
things
closer.

Besides
that
rock
100
 feet
ahead
you
see
and
steer
around,
while
 its
way
up
there,
is
no
longer
an
obstacle
 when
you
get
20
feet
away
from
it.

Those
 curves
don’t
jump
out
at
you
either.

 Suddenly,
you
will
find
those
turns
are
not
 so
tight
because
you
picked
the
line
and
saw
 the
end
of
the
turn
before
you
ever
got
 there.

This
adds
a
ton
of
comfort,
and
you
 will
notice
your
pace
getting
quicker.

Which
 brings
me
to
SPEED


5) As
a
fan
of
watching
road
racing
on
TV,
 there
is
a
common
phrase
that
applies
to
 any
type
of
riding.

“More
haste…Less
 Speed,”
meaning
the
faster
you
TRY
to
go,
 the
more
tense
you
are,
the
harder
the
grip
 on
the
bike.

You
pay
less
attention
to
body
 position,
your
line
and
looking
up
ahead.

As
 a
result,
you
feel
more
out
of
control,
and
 you
go
SLOWER,
or
you
crash.

Wow,
not
a
 lot
of
fun
huh??

That’s
when
you
have
to
 forget
the
speed
with
trying
to
keep
up
with
 the
group
and
concentrate
on
the
skills,
 making
sure
you
are
doing
all
the
right
 things
with
grip,
body
position
and
looking
 ahead.

Then
presto,
in
about
10
min
you
 will
look
down
and
notice
you
are
doing
 10mph
faster
than
normal
with
a
ton
more
 comfort.


6) Standing
up!!!

Yep,
standing
up
lowers
the
 bike’s
center
of
gravity
and
gives
you
more
 balance
and
better
traction.

The
problem
is,
 when
you
suddenly
need
to
stand,
you
 realize
you’ve
never
done
it.
A
steep
rocky
 climb
with
the
bike
sliding
to
and
fro
is
not
 the
time
for
training.

Start
by
standing
up
 and
steering
of
level
ground.

Then
increase
 the
difficulty.

In
the
mean
time,
if
you
need to
weight
the
pegs
in
rough
terrain,
raise
 your
butt
an
inch
off
the
seat.

This
will
 weight
the
pegs
and
put
your
weight
a
bit
 forward,
helping
with
control.


7) Pace
yourself.

Be
Patient!!

Building
skills
 takes
time.

Enjoy
the
ride.

If
you
are
an
 avid
day
rider
but
have
not
done
many
 overnighters,
don’t
sign
up
for
that
8‐day
 230
miles
a
day
death
march.

Stamina
 needs
to
be
built
up
over
time.

Start
with
a
 two‐nighter
doing
100
miles
each
day.

Then
 work
up.

Before
you
know
it,
you
will
have
 discovered
a
ton
of
new
trails
to
ride
and
be
 ready
for
the
ICT
(Idaho
Centennial
Trail).

 Keep
yourself
hydrated
and
your
energy
 level
up.

Every
time
you
stop,
you
should
be
 drinking
water
or
Gatorade
and
eating
 something.

If
you
wait
till
your
energy
is
 gone,
you
may
find
yourself
80
miles
from
 nowhere
and
zapped.

Keep
your
energy
up,
 stay
patient
and
take
the
ride
as
it
comes.


8) Train!!!

Learn
and
Train!!

Every
time
I
ride,
 I’m
practicing
skills.

I
always
know
what
I
 need
to
work
on,
and
I
practice
those
skills.

 But
even
more
important,
I
will
plan
a
day
 ride
to
work
on
a
specific
skill.

Two
DVD’s
 that
should
be
in
everybody’s
collection
are
 “Dual
Sport
Riding
Techniques”
and
 “Advanced
Dual
Sport
Riding
Techniques.”
 Both
explain
how
and
why
bikes
handle
in
 dirt
the
way
they
do,
and
they
have
drills
 you
can
use
to
build
your
skills.

Learn
from
 the
experts,
I
say,
and
add
in
your
own
 experiences.
I
have
found
it’s
much
better
to
 spend
some
money
on
proper
technique
 than
new
bike
parts
after
the
crash.

See
 http://www.dualsportriding.com
for
more
 information
on
these
videos.


9) Be
prepared!

Know
how
to
change
your
 tubes
in
a
flat,
and
have
the
proper
 equipment.

Have
some
tools
and
 knowledge
how
to
get
your
bike
running
 again.

Everybody
will
be
glad
to
lend
a
hand
 as
well.

10) Don’t
compare
yourself!

Don’t
worry
about
 your
skill
level
compared
to
other
riders.

 Everybody’s
physical
condition,
age
and
 learning
rates
are
different.

If
you
are
like
 me,
and
decided
to
START
riding
off‐road
at
 age
51,
when
most
people
have
given
it
up,
 give
yourself
a
break.

Don’t
compare
your
 riding
level
with
that
new
28
year‐old
riding
 at
light
speed.

Remember
when
YOU
were
 28??

Ride
within
your
own
level,
and
train
 to
the
level
you
at
which
you
want
to
be.

 You
may
never
ride
as
hard
or
as
fast
as
that
 kid,
but
who
cares.

Build
your
skills,
and
 you
can
share
the
ride
with
him
with
 confidence.

Let
them
have
all
that
youthful
 exuberance
and
get
their
own
battle
scars.

Dual Sport riding is a lot of fun in Idaho. We are blessed with the best riding terrain around. But folks just are not comfortable posting a ride or signing up for one. Do a little practice and learning, and then jump on those rides. It’s a great sport that everybody loves to share.

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