A young friend and fellow motorcycle rider left earlier this week from Lansdale, heading to Alaska to raise awareness and money for autism. Check out Jimmy’s story and follow the ride HERE. You can track the SPOT GPS route live HERE. Follow, comment and contribute as you see fit. Great cause and great person doing the ride!
What a great weekend! Got the 1200 GSA off the road onto the sand and gravel with the guidance of the team of instructors from the Pine Barrens Adventure Camp. A nice mixture of sand gravel and off-road riding to inaugurate the beginner to the true intention of “adventure riding.” Combine patient, competent instruction with the beauty of the Pine Barrens, diversity of habitat/species, and challenging riding with the “big bikes” and you have the Pine Barrens Adventure Camp. Truly a 1st class, well orchestrated event, well worth any rider’s time and energy.
I always start with the best intentions of taking copious notes and photos, documenting the details and providing a blow-by-blow account of this type of training. Once I arrive and get involved, I am way too absorbed in the activities – and keeping the bike upright -to worry much about anything else. So, my account is short and from memory while relying on pictures of Jack O’Connor (Camp’s Director) to document the happenings of the week-end.
I arrived early on Saturday, as I usually do to such things, and found the team setting things up. I won’t go into the details of the credentials of the instructors, you can see that on the Pine Barrens Adventure Camp’s web page. All I will say is that the instructors were great and well qualified – couldn’t have asked for better. After removing everything on the bike that could break off, Saturday was spent with about 4-6 hours of drills to get everyone comfortable in the dirt. Slow turns weighting the outside foot peg, controlled slides while stopping, turning a stalled bike on a steep hill and a bunch of other skills. The day wrapped up with a 20 or so mile in the woods to put the skills to test. Sand, gravel and a little mud – enough to find me on the ground looking at the 600 lb GSA on its side a few times. All the spills I took were slow speed and in sand – soft landings…
The 2nd day involved a ride through the Pine Barrens with plenty of time to stop, chat and enjoy the beauty of the area. Mike Bradway led a nice discussion about the biological diversity of the Pine Barrens, conservation and minimizing the impact of motorized travel through the delicate ecosystem. Quite unexpected and brought back fond memories of the talks I used to give as a kayak instructor in the area. Good stuff. Just goes to show that everyone on 2 wheels is not out there to tear up the woods and leave a trail of trash in their wake…
To sum up, if you have a dual sport bike and are looking for a chance to test it out off-road, this is the course to take. Skill and confidence building for all skill levels – most transferable to riding on the tarmac. What started as a primer for the Pine Barrens 300 now has progressed to a stand-alone course for fledgling off-road riders. Frankly, I don’t care what your skill level, taking a big bike through the sand is a humbling experience. Give Jack’s team a try – you won’t regret it! See you at the Pine Barrens 300 in November!
With the recent medical issues behind me, I am gearing up for the Pine Barrens Adventure Camp in about 2 weeks. Although a bit out of shape from the recovery from the melanoma surgery, I am looking forward to the camp and getting the GSA off the road. My last real training on the big bike (1200 GS) was over 3 years ago when I took the Rawhyde course in Pittsburgh. I have done very little off road riding, except for about 600 miles of gravel enroute to Prudhoe Bay last summer. Currently back to a couple of miles a day and some light weight training, so should be good to go in about 10 days.
Promises to be fun and certainly will push the skills envelope and this tired, nearly 60-yr old body. Hope to get the bike prepared this week-end by removing the accessory lights, removing the mud guard (always falls off anyway), adding the TKC 80 tires and a couple of more items. Have to dig out the BMW Rallye riding gear. A summary of the course can be found in my previous post of February 2. Stay tuned for the gory details!
After putting nearly 75,000 combined miles on my current 1200 GSA and previous GS, I still always feel a little insecure when I see the “pavement ends” sign warning of a change in road conditions. This is in spite of taking a Rawhyde Adventures course a few years ago, about 1500 miles on dirt/gravel in South America and 2-3,000 solo miles off-road in AK. The big BMW 1200 GS Adventure is made for off-road excursions and became famous in Charley and Ewan’s round the world motorcycle ride documented in the Long Way Round series a few years ago.
With a little over 45,000 miles on the GSA, I decided it was time to throw on the knobbies, get it a little dirty and to brush up on my off-road skills through the Pine Barrens Adventure Camp – a 2-day course in south New Jersey offered this April. The Pine Barrens is a great area to experience due to the unique environment and landscape; boasting more than 1,000 miles of trails to develop and test riding skills. The course promises to “prepare you to safely navigate your way through this amazing but sometimes challenging landscape, and help improve your off-road adventure riding abilities.” Well, I guess this remains to be seen, but the instructors sure seem to be up to the task. I just hope they are around to help me pick-up the 650 pound motorcycle when it falls, as it is sure to do.
I will provide a blow-by-blow account of the adventure as the course gets started here on the blog. For more information, check out the Pine Barrens Adventure Camp here. I’ll provide the details and plenty of photos, maybe a video spot. The course is scheduled for April 27 & 28, 2013 and looks like a pretty full agenda. Stay tuned!
I to admit that I am a bit of a junkie for any book describing international adventures on motorcycle. Ever since 1st stumbling onto “A Long Way Round” with Ewan and Charley a few years ago, I can’t seem to get enough of this stuff.
However, The University of Gravel Roads goes beyond many of the typical stories of adventure motorcycle travel. As Rene writes about his 4-yr, 95,000 mile trip and its challenges of the road (or lack thereof), I was pulled into the trip, sharing the rider’s worries and fears; feeling great relief when the border guards or locals didn’t take him hostage or throw him in jail.
This is a great tale of courage and resourcefulness, by a guy who was essentially solo around the world on a limited budget and undefined challenges of weather, governmental roadblocks (real and administrative), mechanical issues, and just about anything else you could think of on such a trip. I couldn’t help but empathize with the feelings of regret about initially inviting a companion, then realizing that much of the romance of the trip began to ebb with the burden of dealing with someone else’s needs in such a rugged and uncertain undertaking.
I found myself absorbed in the sometimes clunky, journalistic portrayal of the adventure and the personal challenges; but all with a sense of adventure from a guy who seems to be an adventurer 1st and a writer second. Great photos and overall great read. If you have any inclination to this type of journey, get a copy if you can find one and settle in for an armchair adventure that I am sure you will enjoy. Think it is about $35-$40 on Amazon or directly from the book’s web site (above).