Riding over loose rocks, covered by slippery wet leaves, I stand on the pegs, weight over the front wheel and try to keep my throttle smooth and steady, feeding in just enough to keep me climbing without overwhelming the available grip. The back end of the bike swings and bounces as the rear knobby grabs for traction, picking its way through the rocks and pushing me up the hill.
You are never sure that you have mastered the material until you have taken the final exam. For a new dual sport rider like me, Adventure Rider’s International Teach and Tour is the perfect final exam.
The 120-mile tour caps ARI’s drills based, dual-sport training school with an all-day, all-surfaces romp around central Vermont. The tour -- scouted and led by Vermont-based motorcycle rental and touring company Moto Vermont -- provides the ideal route for Adventure Riders International’s instructor Lorne Banks to reinforce techniques presented in class and practiced on the range.
Rider crosses stream on class-4 road
“Aren’t you glad we covered how to ride the camels hump,” Lorne said after finishing several miles of uphill water bars (“camel humps”) cut by a logging operation up a 12% grade on Braintree Mountain Road. The obstacles are deep enough on the backside to consume my 21 inch front wheel – and, “yes” I was glad I practiced them on the range before heading out on the tour.
The tour includes everything an adventure rider seeks: colorful fall scenery, dirt roads, challenging muddy climbs, rocky descents, and water crossings. Wet and slippery leaves make trails tough to navigate, covering obstacles, making for guesswork traction.
The route is designed for bigger bikes and riders with a variety of skills. Approximately 30% of the mileage is technical class-4 roads and double-track trails. The technical sections are linked together by class-3 dirt roads and minimal runs on pavement. Our group of eight is on a mix of larger dual-sport bikes, ranging from a DR-250 to BMW GS-800. Half the group rides Kawasaki KLR-650’s.
At the beginning of each technical section, we stop and Lorne briefs us on the impending section, giving us tips for better control and smoother riding. When we rest after a difficult section, he fields questions from the group.
While the skills portion of day is confidence building, an adventure ride isn’t all about challenging terrain. The real world can be cruel and harsh, which is why it is good to go with friends who will help you along the way.
The camaraderie of the tour contributes to the experience in ways that cannot be underestimated. Helping your friend haul his bike out of a mud hole can be as rewarding as riding through it.
“I’d really like to thank all of you who have helped me pick up my bike today,” said Scout after a particularly challenging section where several of us had pushed his bike through mud or helped pick it up.
Helping a rider who has lost traction
His comment touches off a series of stories from other riders. Every dual-sport rider has fallen, gotten stuck or done something he wished he hadn’t. When the ride continues after these stories, I notice Scout riding with more confidence, knowing that he is climbing the same bumpy skills curve climbed by every dual-sport rider before him.
There is no substitute for experience. Reading, watching video – even listening to experts – cannot substitute for trying it yourself.
But practice only makes perfect when you’re practicing the right technique. The Adventure Riders International Teach and Tour provides a platform to get experience in a learning environment with an expert instructor close at hand on a scouted route, mapped by knowledgeable guides. It combines the perfect opportunity to practice and improve, taking your skills to the next level – whatever level that may be.
Adventure Riders International offers dual-sport training classes at the Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced levels, specifically targeting riders of larger dual-sport motorcycles. MotoVermont is running Teach and Tours in June and September this year.
Riders relaxing in the sun after a challenging section
Riding a class-4 road in Vermont