Author: Roy Swift
Please do not comment negatively on the teaching methods or lessons learned on this course.
This was my experience, my money, I am ONLY writing this as Dean asked me for a blog on anything ADV related to go on the S2S Merchandise Store.
In July 2023 I attended a 2 1/2 day training camp with moto guru Bret Tkacs who started his riding school Puget Sound Safety in 1996.
Together with Paul Solomonson he has worked with the U.S. Army Special Forces Command from 2009 to 2020 to reduce the number of motorcycle-related deaths for Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) personnel. Some of you may know Paul as the story telling ex-soldier with a rather foul mouth but oh so funny! "If any or you are easily offended then this would be a good time to f*** off" 😂😂
On a personal front I am also a Patreon subscriber to Bret as his channel gives so many tips to help improve my meagre off-road ADV skills and we get to chat with him now and then where he bounces ideas of us for some of his content.
I have taken three ADV courses before this, PRS in Cloverdale with Malcolm and RD, a day with Chris Birch in Squamish and a session at Touratech 2022 with Dirt First before I broke my foot.
The course with Bret was quite simply the best ADV training I have taken, not just for the content and teaching methods but for the absolute love and enthusiasm of the sport from Bret, Paul, Greg (his newer third instructor) and his wife Christina.
Bret rode a GS1200 like it was a dirt bike, think of our own Bill Lapp :-) (love you Bill!)
The evening before the course we all sat around a virtual campfire (read "too hot or dry for flames") where Bret and his team explained what to expect the new few days.
We all shared what we wanted to achieve, and we got to know the team better, their drivers and their teaching methods. Listening to Bret and Paul was so freaking cool, people who do this full time!
This was not a cheap event. The 2-day course came in at $1250 USD with another $350 USD for a half day ride that was a mixture of riding and observation skills how to read the trail ahead. There was no shortage of food and snacks which were outstanding, energy bars, candy, nuts, bananas and oranges, energy and electrolyte drinks, and water.
The two-day content may not be relevant to a lot of people in this group whose skills far exceed mine as there were complete beginners with brand new bikes ranging all the way to seasoned riders in their 70's on big GS's down to 20 somethings on KLR's.
After spending our first riding session dialing in our riding posture, we spent an hour or so adjusting bikes to fit including handlebar and riser positions & talking about suspension, sag and other things.
Also, how these heavy bikes are weightless when vertical and we all did the one hand touch walking around our bikes like I learned at PRS.
Once done we returned to the main flat field and practiced things including but not limited to.
- How to ride with your bodyweight over the contact patch when turning and leaning the bike underneath you. The majority of this was done seated and helped me understand how to hold my arms simply by moving my body correctly, read, straight outside arm when turning. One of Bret’s main teaching points was to save energy, ride in a way to get through the day and sit down when you don't need the extra control or extending your view.
- Picking up the bikes - at least three different ways. I liked the 'monkey' best!
- Stopping & dismounting, immediately shifting to one side of the bike and planting one foot - "one cheek no holes on the seat!!!". This has now become second nature for me hooking the bike with my right knee in towards my left standing leg, as opposed to trying to put both feet down and losing it on rough ground.
- Learning to keep the bike in control on grass when braking hard at speed with the rear ABS off and the rear wheel locked up. Practicing fully stopping, dismounting with the one legged stand and immediately getting going again with the moving mount.
- Transferring this skidded braking to gravel, using both brakes (rear abs off, front abs on for me) and learning how not to become hunched over the bars and have weight more over the back of the bike.
The second day we moved to the only hill section and had a go at:
- How to assess a new environment like a steep hill by walking the hill and planning entry and exit routes.
- Controlling downhill speed not using rear ABS, looking up at the "horizon'ish" or Paul somewhere at the bottom and not straight down at the front wheel.
- How to ride up the same hill using weight distribution to get better traction with the rear wheel.
- Walking the bike down a hill under control, doing a walking 'hip pocket trail turn' and then walking back up the hill with the bike under power.
Later that day we moved to specific exercises that really made a bunch of things come together.Learning two different static mounts onto the bike when on the side stand.
- Mounting from the high side and unweighting the side stand.
- Mounting from the low side, the 'old mans' mount, right leg hauled over the seat and immediately going onto the RHS peg and in one movement putting the bike upright to the ground kicking the side stand ("one cheek no holes on the seat!")
- Side mount to moving, like an old fashioned bicycle when you start it moving with the left foot pushing down on the pedal and you then swing your right leg over the bike and you sit on the seat. This looked so difficult when I first saw it but this is what I do when on flat ground and enough head room and no parked cars to crash into! AND NO bags to get your feet caught on 😊
- Side dismounting from moving to a stop (a classic Bret move on his YouTube channel!). Make sure you used the kill switch so that there are no surprises! This was so much fun, especially when combined with a side stand kick down and walking away not looking back no matter what you hear 😂😂 “Squambucks here I come!”
- Both feet one side then the other.
- Standing up with one foot on the peg and then the other.
- Knees on the seat.
- One hand on the bars, other hand in the air.
- No hands standing up.
After this we moved to the wooded section where we played with:
- Riding in sand - "Believing In The Force" and letting the bars and back end move fluidly underneath you.
- How to dab to keep balance and right the bike.
- Riding over logs - bringing the front end up and rolling the back end over without high-siding! I even did ok with my DCT and didn't whiskey-throttle thank God!
- Dismounting while moving to walking the bike through tricky sections and then remounting without stopping.
- Doing a hip pocket turn from moving by dismounting and with the momentum of the bike it was much easier to turn around (than from stationery) and then doing a moving mount from the side and riding off.
- Being lazy coming to a stop next to a tree and leaning the bike on the hand guard up against it!
At the end of the second day, they gave us dinner with enough food to feed a pack of hyenas!
This was NOT hotdogs and burgers but salad, pulled pork, chicken, beef, tacos and rice & sweet deserts all from Chipotle I think.
The half day ride on the last day was a combo of how to read the trail, by looking at the tree-line, using motion parallax, power lines and more to see where the road is headed so you have an idea what's happening at the vanishing point.
Remembering how to look around corners with your head not forgetting to keep over the contact patch of the tires - hmmm... maybe that might have stopped me low-siding last year with you guys at Touratech but I did get to feel how comfortable Bill's GS was on the way back to camp!
Using the hip pocket turn for real on a narrow track walking the bike around with it pulled into your right hip! The challenge was more mental than in a field, but I didn't drop or having to reverse and restart!
After about 30k to the top of the hill we had a session of freewheeling with engine off all the way to the bottom trying not to brake and taking the speed in the corners by doing that bike leaning thing! At one point Bret and I were riding no hands to really feeling the bike underneath to stay in a straight line. I did screw up big time by not reading the road with a sharp left turn and had to chicken-out as I nearly bailed into the rough like Mikey almost did at Oktoberfest!
So, what did I learn? ……. Toes in, head and eyes up, how to get on and off like a pro(!), letting the bike move underneath me staying over the contact patch and not be afraid of deep sand.