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February 3rd, 2010 - A little dirt don’t hurt

I would like to thank all the people who had shared their sympathy with me on continuing on the road alone at this point in time. Despite the fact that Cynthia isn’t joining the expedition, she is still very much involved with this budding corporation as she is still the secretary and a director on the board. She is truly an amazing person and has a lot to bring to the table besides keeping me company and I would rather have her as a friend than losing her altogether.

When I arranged the training courses with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation two months ago the MSF was generous enough to offer us a private Dirt Bike Course for just the two of us on top of the Basic Rider Course, which we documented previously. Since Cynthia virtually had no practice on a bike since Hesperia, she was reluctant to take the dirt course but was willing to accompany me down to the Honda Training Center in Colton located in Southern California to take video and pictures while I took the course. I was eager to take the course and build up on my skills as I will be encountering many dirt and mud roads in different countries in the course of this expedition, and this training offered an invaluable opportunity to learn the ropes on how to better my riding.

We left Bakersfield in an eye-blinding morning fog at 5:30 a.m. wrapped in layers of fleece and protective gear, but the cold kept seeping in as we rode over the Tejon Pass at 4183 ft. It took us about four and a half hours to make it to Colton, CA.

The Honda Training Center is one of only four of its kind in the United States. It is an amazing facility which accommodates many kinds of motorcycle training as well as All Terrain Vehicles. They pretty much thought of everything when they built this place. They even built a dirt trail system with cactuses, trees, rocks, stairs, and a mud pit (I don’t know if the mud pit was intentional but the recent rains had made a pretty good one).

Though we arrived late, our instructor from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Jun Villegas, met us with a smile. Although Cynthia was only planning to take pictures, Jun encouraged her to at least try getting on the bike and took us to the gear room to set us up with motocross gear. The course started covering the basics just like in the Basic Rider Course, from getting to know all the controls to spider-walking the bike. I was amazed at how quickly Cynthia felt comfortable on the bike and to her disbelief, she actually remembered all the things that she learned in the Basic Rider Course.

It must be a requirement in MSF’s hiring process to only hire the nicest, most encouraging, and positive people on the planet because I have not encountered one grumpy or impatient MSF instructor to this day, and Jun was no exception. For myself, I have no problem to get yelled at or criticized as long I’m learning and I have no problem to take on harder stuff right off the bat. However, I am sure it gets frustrating for the first-timers to process so much information in such a short time but that’s where the competency and patience of the MSF instructors shines through as their positive attitudes and words make all the difference.

The day went on with riding our butts off (both seated and standing) on different exercises like counter-weighting in turns, and riding over obstacles. I loved riding closed circles as fast and as tight as I could, and Jun did not freak out as I tried going faster and lower to the ground. We had a lot of fun trying different techniques and especially riding the trails around the property at the end of the day.

Cynthia was a trouper and despite a couple of spills, she kept on getting back on the saddle with a joyful smile and riding away. The most memorable incident was at the end of the day. I was directly behind her and Jun was in the front as we approached a tight turn. Jun shifted his weight and cornered fine. When I saw Cynthia approaching that corner at that speed, I had an epiphany that this was not going to end well and before I finished my thought, she was sliding and heading for the trees to the right side of the trail. She freaked out and turned the handle-bar to the left and ended up climbing a steep hill to the left covered in boulders. She ended up going between two boulders with her legs wide open while screaming and somehow managed to not crash into anything. The amazing thing was that she kept on rolling the throttle full-blast and would not let go as she missed a tree by inches and stopped near the top of the hill without a scratch.

I can strongly say that this course was the most fun and challenging thing I have done in a long time and Cynthia agrees as well. Anyone who rides motorcycles or even has the slightest interest in riding on two wheels should take this course. I would even suggest taking this course before the Basic Rider Course as it’s a fun way to start learning how to ride as there is no pressure to pass or fail in order to obtain a waiver exempting you from taking the DMV skill test.

Thanks again to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for granting us this great opportunity and many thanks to Stacey Hall at MSF for arranging the trainings. She worked very hard to make them happen and we are eternally grateful to her and MSF.  For more information on how you can enroll to take this course in your area, click on the MSF logo on top of this site and get dirty.

There are 5 Comments

  1. Rudy
    February 7, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Thats pretty sweet! I just started riding off road last year. I can tell ya it’s a completely different experience. Pretty much forget everything you know about riding street and learn all over again.

    No doubt this training course will help you out on your travels, but there’s a fair difference in the offroading capabilities of a gs850 and a crf. One is heavy and low, the other is light with a fair bit of suspension. My buddies who ride kx and yz 250s say there’s even huge difference between my xt600 and their bikes. Will you be changing to some more aggressive tires when you get to the areas with less defined roads?

  2. CaddmannQ
    February 7, 2010 at 4:22 am

    The video was cool but I was a bit diasppointed not to see the part with Cynthia screaming between the boulders.

  3. Cynthia Q
    February 7, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Somehow I’m not sure that I’m sorry that my screaming run-away ramble up the hill of boulders is not immortalized on video but as Chris lamented, there could have been a $10,000 funniest home video!

  4. Steve
    February 8, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Chris
    Just finished reading all your posts and your website. Very cool and I will make a donation today. Are you in Mexico yet, where are you now ?

    Thanks

    Steve

  5. CaddmannQ
    February 8, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Well, just remember that practice makes perfect. I crashed plenty of times on my first bike.

    A lot of folks just aren’t made to ride bikes, and even a lot of us who are still aren’t made to circumnavigate the globe on one.

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