This is my tale of riding to California for the RawHyde Adventure Class and the challenges I faced. Riding across multiple states is nothing for many of you, while for me, taking that leap to ride more than four hours away was difficult. I sometimes have a hard time leaving my comfort zone. Before I get into my trip, I will provide you with a little history.
With how much I love to ride, it may be hard to believe I was struggling with a lot of mental demons prior to leaving. In 2008, I was excited to attend my first BMW rally in Gillette, Wyo. I was living in Alamogordo, N.M., and was very proud of my F650GS. I had my bike packed and ready for a fun two weeks away. However, the day I was supposed to leave, I chickened out. The thought of riding that far scared me so bad I was shaking as I climbed onto the bike. When I got back to work after two weeks, people were asking about my trip. I lied and said the day I was supposed to leave I got very sick and could not go. I did not want to admit I had chickened out after hyping my trip up so much.
Now, fast forward to July 2012. I had been telling everyone what my plans were: ride out to California and learn how to ride my sweet R1200GSA off-road. I was determined not to chicken out this time. However, the day I left I still had the fear of leaving my comfort zone. I pushed those feelings aside and left my house for California. Two hours into my trip I was feeling pretty good. I took a break and reassessed if I should continue or not. I pushed on to my first overnight stop, Green River, Utah, and was proud of what I had just accomplished. Going through Utah I saw some amazing sights. Being on a bike, things look closer and feel more real because you are out there with them.
Day two, I left Utah and passed into Nevada. I geek out for all things alien, UFO, and so on. So I could not pass up the chance to ride on Highway 375, the Extraterrestrial Highway. Going through the desert of Nevada, there really isn’t much to see. On Highway 375 in Nevada there is the “Black Mailbox” – it’s actually white. According to conspiracy theory nuts, it is supposed to be the mailbox for Area 51 and I stopped to see it. I spent the night in Rachel, Nev. Again being a geek, seeing the Little A’Le’Inn was a thrill. I marked three items off my bucket list in one trip. At this point all fear of riding long distance was left back in Colorado. That night I sat outside under the clear desert sky, watching the moon rise above a nearby hill/mountain, grateful that I had taken the leap to ride out of my comfort zone.
The next two days were pretty uneventful. I stopped in Bishop, Calif., for an extra day. I wanted to ensure I made it to the class on time so I buffered in an extra day for potential delays. I was glad I had extra time because my butt was killing me. I can only be on the saddle for two hours at a time before needing a break. The stock seat sucks, so I’m going to find a new seat. That is the reason I did not attend the national Rally. The thought of enduring that seat for another week did not appeal to me at all.
After leaving Bishop, my next stop was the RawHyde Adventure class. As I rolled up to the entrance of Mr. Hyde’s ranch, the driveway was very intimidating: pot holes, gravel, dirt and in complete disrepair. There is a sign about 50 feet in that says, “Welcome to your first challenge, OUR DRIVEWAY.” At least for me, it was quite the challenge. As some of you know, I was terrified of dirt. It took me 10–15 minutes to get down this driveway – not because it was long but because I was riding slowly. I was happy to make it to the end and see all the other bikes.
As I rode closer to where the bikes were parked, I picked a spot that I could roll straight into because of all the gravel under my tires. I did not want to think about turning while on the gravel. As I attempted to park, the bike decided to take a nap. It had been on a long journey and was tired. I think I was so happy about arriving that I forgot to put my feet down as I stopped. That was my first encounter with Mr. Jim Hyde. He eagerly helped me pick up my sleeping steed. He jokingly said at least I got it out of the way and could now enjoy the class.
After registration, the instructors asked that we remove items from our bikes so they would not break during the class. Also, we had to adjust the handlebars to make it easier to stand on the pegs and air down the tires. I thought to myself, “What did I get myself into that I could possibly break my bike? Should I even be here?”
Before dinner there was an opportunity to meet the other students and instructors. We introduced ourselves and shared what we were hoping to get out of the class. This happened in the bar where any drink was free. Dinner that night was remarkable; well, all of the dinners were incredible. If I would have had a similar meal in a restaurant, I think I would have paid more than $50. After dinner, people were free to do what they wanted. I went to bed early because I knew I was going to be working hard the next day. I ended up working even harder than I thought I would.
Each morning began with breakfast, and again I was blown away with the meals. After eating, the hard work began. A quick verbal intro to some basic off-road techniques started our class before we began to ride. If the bike was moving, they wanted us standing on the pegs. Our first adventure was a ride back down the driveway that had just about given me a heart attack. After a few minutes of riding, the fear of the driveway went away. During that exercise we were asked to shift our weight from peg to peg and push the bike to the opposite side to learn counterbalance. That was the easiest exercise of the entire class, but it was also the foundation upon which all of the other exercises were built.
I will not get into all of the exercises because this story will be way too long, but I will highlight some of the more exciting and terrifying ones. Learning how to brake properly in dirt is really important. Prior to this class, everything I had heard was to leave the front brake alone. Not true. There is a friction point you need to find on your front brake before it locks up and dumps you.
I would have had a hard time walking on some of the hills we rode, but I learned how to conquer them. The capabilities of the R1200GSA are astounding, and I only scratched the surface of them. I think by far the most difficult exercise for me was the off camber, downhill turns. I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but I could not get my body to work the way I wanted. I needed to look through the turns, but I kept looking downhill and, of course, that is where my bike went. I still need a lot of practice to get proficient, but this class helped.
I recently read an article about the RawHyde course in OTL magazine. In the article I saw a picture of a bike flying through the air and the rider getting thrown from the bike. When we got to that portion of the training, “the whoops,” I was picturing my bike flying through the air with me not on it. Listening to the instructors and applying techniques taught earlier, I successfully managed the whoops without the bike or me leaving the ground.
At the end of both days, I lost count of how many times I had dropped my bike and was mentally and physically drained. I have not worked that hard in a very long time. My clothes were stuck to me with sweat and my riding gear reeked. The physical portion was easier to push through than the mental. This goes back to me being out of my comfort zone. My thoughts going into this class were: What happens if I hurt myself? What if break my very expensive bike? Am I a good enough rider to survive this? A couple of people dropped out because of injuries.
There was a low point at the start of day two for me. With the off camber turns not clicking for me at the end of day one, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was thinking, when I head down to San Diego to visit family I would have my bike shipped back to Colorado. Thanks to the great instructors, I stuck with it and finished the class.
I highly recommend taking any of the RawHyde classes. Because of the class, my ability as a rider has grown exponentially. This class was worth every penny. Everything from the instructors, meals, course material, riding range, facilities and support personnel was meticulously thought out by Mr. Hyde. Once my skills improve more, I will be taking the next level class offered. No matter your skill level as a rider, on- or off-road, everyone can benefit from taking the RawHyde classes.