So you’ve recently bought an adventure motorcycle, and now you want to do some exploring. What’s the first thing you do? Well obviously you should go out and buy all the best accessories like an Akrapovic exhaust system, Rallye seat, and a touring screen, right? Wrong. The first thing you should do is invest in yourself by booking an off-road motorcycle training course that will teach you how to handle your bike in any off-road situation.
I recently bought myself a little Yamaha Tenere 660Z (still 206kg). I had had no prior riding experience but was determined to get some kilometres under my belt as quickly as possible. I didn't really know anyone that was riding adventure bikes so I just started riding by myself. I quickly realized that there were certain things that I didn't know how to do or certain situations that would come up where I wasn't sure how to react on the bike and very quickly realized that I needed some help. So without really thinking twice about it, I started reaching out to communities that I knew who had been riding adventure motorcycles and were into that type of riding.
I started getting invited on rides and then longer trips and while this was a lot of fun, it wasn't necessarily the best way to go about learning to ride as a rookie, as I realized that I'd started to learn some bad habits. These bad habits were eventually going to get me in trouble in the wrong situation.
Almost by chance, I ended up coming in contact with a company called SA Adventure which specializes in organizing and administering off-road tours and training for both adventure motorcycles and 4x4s. So after a little bit of deliberation, I decided that I needed this training if I was going to have a safe and prolonged adventure biking career, and I signed myself up for one of SA Adventure’s training weekends. This weekend was in partnership with a very highly qualified and experienced BMW Motorrad instructor by the name of Mike Grimsted, who runs the Boulders Lodge and Adventure Academy in Fouriesburg very near to Clarens. Mike has over 13 years of motorcycle training experience and it just so happens that Mike's son, Brandon was part of the South African team that won the international BMW GS Trophy in New Zealand in 2020. Therefore it’s not really necessary to introduce Mike any further as his credentials speak on his behalf. He has trained champions!
We embarked for Fouriesburg on Friday morning from Johannesburg and arrived at around 3 pm to start to settle in and get the bikes prepped and ready for the weekend. This entailed taking off mirrors, screens and deflating tires.
These are all necessary to help prepare for the weekend ahead as the bikes tend to be dropped quite often and Mike didn't want any unnecessary damage to the bikes where it could be avoided. It was quite a mixed bag of motorcycles that showed up ranging from BMW GS 1200s and a KTM 1290 to smaller bikes, like the Yamaha Tenere 660, a GS 750, a Triumph Tiger 900 Rallye Pro, BMW GS 650 and a little Suzuki V-Strom 250. This training is not just for BMW GS bikes, all brands of adventure motorcycles are welcome...
Once the bikes were prepped we immediately jumped into a theory session with Mike where he explained to us different accessories, balance, body position and a very important discussion on tyre choice, it's basically just a precursor to the next two days. This gave us some context to what we were about to embark on and allowed us to manage expectations in terms of what would be expected of us and how hard we were going to be pushing ourselves.
After the theory session, we had an amazing dinner and sat in the clubhouse excitedly chatting and speculating about what the rest of the weekend would hold for us.
We didn't have to wait long for that as our call time for the following morning was 6:30 in the clubhouse for rusks and coffee with training starting at 7:00 am sharp. It wasn't long before we were right into it doing different warm-up exercises that were instantly unlike anything I had done on the bike before. This involved riding around a large field in a follow-the-leader type fashion copying everything that Mike did. Riding with your left leg on your right peg (and vice versa) as well as with your left hand in the air all while standing, and making very slow and very sharp and controlled turns were just a few of the initial exercises, remembering to look ahead at all times!
The exercises got progressively more difficult as the day went on and it was immediately evident for each of the students that their skill level was beginning to increase. We ended up taking several breaks throughout the day for a drink as it was quite an intense day of physical exertion and pushing one's body to the limits, all while exploring what this incredible piece of machinery could do. We would break for meals for about half an hour at a time and then get right back to the bike training.
While I knew very early on that I needed some kind of motorcycle training to better ride my bike off-road, I didn't realize the extent of it. That saying “You simply don’t know what you don’t know” has never been truer. I honestly didn't realize just how beneficial this training would be. As the day progressed, my confidence grew hugely as I began to understand what the bike is capable of, and more importantly, what I am capable of on my bike once I have a better understanding of how it works and reacts to my inputs. Particularly the physics of it all and how this translates into body position and therefore balance on the bike. Not to mention my increase in awareness of my surroundings and what is coming up ahead of me. We then ended the day with an out-ride on a neighbouring farm where we were able to put into practice everything that we had been learning over the previous two days. This was incredibly beneficial as it seemed to sort of wrap everything up and bring it together in a very practical way.
It was also amazing to see the improvement of everyone over the day with all the other students appearing to show massively improved skills and levels of confidence. The third day, which was Sunday, was supposed to be a longer out-ride. Typically, these weekends end with a long off-road out-ride all over the surrounding area which is great to cement in everything that has been learnt over the weekend. However, the weather simply didn't play its part as we had had torrential, relentless rain through the night, no longer making the conditions safe for riding. While the wet and muddy conditions may sound fun for some, both Mike and Tim from SA Adventure decided to make the wise decision of cancelling the out-ride, placing safety for all the students as a priority.
We then wrapped up the weekend on Sunday morning with an early breakfast and a debrief, where we were all awarded our Level 1 Training certificates. At this point, I was a little bleak about heading home as I would have been quite happy to continue learning and being trained at such a high level for a much longer period of time. However, having said that the training was hard. There were very high levels of physical exertion and a basic level of fitness is definitely required in order to fully benefit from the weekend. It was clear by the second day that fatigue was starting to kick in for the students, with not everyone being able to complete all of the exercises due to being really tired.
The weekend pushed everyone to their limits and showed everyone what they can achieve with some persistence and mental determination. I must emphasize again how much this weekend showed me how important it is to have proper motorcycle training by a qualified instructor. Mike was a sergeant major and it wasn't uncommon to hear him saying that he would remove your seat if he saw you sitting one more time!
If you are looking to hone your skills or perhaps you're a complete newbie who's only owned your brand new Adventure Motorcycle for a short time, then a weekend like this is definitely something you can benefit from. Regardless of your skill level, whether you’re a rider who's been riding for years or someone who's completely green to the whole scene, a weekend like this is for you. What's really nice as well is that there are different levels of adventure bike training, namely levels 1, 2, and 3. 3 being the most intense, requiring an incredibly high level of control and precision. Generally, one would not simply go through all three levels just once. It's highly recommended that you redo each of the levels at least twice. And certainly, if you get a new motorcycle at any point, then redo each of the levels on that motorcycle.
By the end of this, you will be confident to take your motorcycle places that you never dreamed possible before. And you will do it in a controlled and safe way, with confidence. This not only makes all of your future adventures more enjoyable but also safer because you're decreasing the chances of injury to yourself and damage to your motorcycle.
Thanks to the SA Adventure and Boulders Adventure Academy for putting this training weekend together. It was total value for my money and I learnt to ride my bike up mountains! I can't wait to get onto the level 2 course and learn even more!
I highly recommend signing up for one of these weekend training courses. All the details can be found at this link: Adventure Motorcycle Training Weekends...
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Stay Safe, Big Love, the SA Adventure Team!