Monday, February 18, 2013

Spode Daddy Gets Schooled–Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School February 8 & 9.

                     Most class photos are from Scott Breauxman and Heather Lewis

After reading the Motorcycle Jazz ( Martin Hackworth)  write up  I decided I had to do the class.  
Signed up for the Series 1 Essential Skills Course .   Made the commitment in November for the February class. 

February would be a good break from the Idaho winter , low risk of a winter storm screwing up travel and a strong chance of riding in summer gear in southern Nevada. 

Key stats :


Left Thursday morning taking HWY 95 through Oregon and Nevada.

Had stiff head and cross winds all the way down from a cold front moving in.


West bound I-80 just outside Winnemucca. After Winnemucca I stopped in Fallon ~ 6pm to fill a propane bottle. Decided I would drive another 3 hrs and find a flat spot to camp. Should be easy since there were all sort of ranch access roads off the highway, however after sunset I couldn’t see them in the dark. As I approached Tonopah I could see a radio tower which should have an access road off the highway.  It worked out there was a rest stop across from the tower with a large overnight parking area.






Jimmy offered to let me park and camp at the house in Parhump  where he runs his classes.


Saturday morning registration was at  8am with instructions started at 9am.
The low temperature was near freezing , the high was  in the mid 40’s with stiff winds. So much for summer riding.

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We had 7 students. Bikes ranged from my two stroke KTM 250 XCW to a BMW GS.

Besides Jimmy , his wife Heather is very involved and helps with instructions.  Brock is another assistant who rides sweep and helps with the drills. Crazy Nate is also part of the crew, a man of many skills.



Jimmy explained the concepts and goals of the class- learning to control your bike by improving basic skills- riding position , balance , turning , braking , throttle control ( knowing your bike’s power band), lofting the front wheel …     He says these are the same drills he still uses.

Jimmy constantly stressed riding position – it should be a relaxed just like standing at a bar or standing talking to a friend. Another key point is always at least one foot on the pegs when stopped, no “ Harley Waddles”. I got spanked more than once for the waddle when stopped.

He’s a very patient , good coach and strives to see every student improve. Some of the drills I really struggled but he kept working with me until I improved then would back off and let me practice on my own. None of them I mastered but I got to a point I can practice  by myself.

Of course I didn’t master any of the skills, but I achieved a goal of carrying more speed through turns.


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Dry lake bed where most of the instructions and practice occur.

During some of the drills Jimmy would ride by my side observing and giving instructions.
One drill I really struggled was front breaking without chopping the throttle to skid the front wheel. I finally got to happen a couple of times.

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It sounds weird but some of the drills that involved rapid acceleration , skidding, sliding gave the sensation of riding a roller coaster and made me a bit motion sick. Broke out in a cold sweat , then got chilled.

We rode back to the house for lunch. Heather made a great chili with Fritos, onions, cheese and a Coke.
Lunch seemed to cure me .


After lunch we rode to a play area between the house and the lake bed. It was warmer and the washes made for some wind breaks.

Just as we were ready to start a drill one of the rented bikes got a flat. Jimmy and Nate drove the truck back to get supplies to fix the flat. While they were gone Heather demonstrated proper position / balance for slow locked turn in a sitting and standing position. We all went off and staked out some ground to practice. Scotty shared his bike with Bob while the flat was being repaired.

After the slow turns , Heather demo’d the faster “motocross” turn. Jimmy was back now and roamed from rider to rider.  He helped me with body & leg position. Got me turning tighter , quicker turns.

Finished up doing figure 8’s ( not this fast )

Jimmy’s demo of Figure 8 drill

Jimmy’s demo of Figure 8 turning drill.

After turn drills we moved back to the ravine. Above Jimmy is showing how to “desensitize” to various trail situations. Here he  is showing how to hold the bike right at the point it wants to roll off a drop. Yes its low consequence spot but you can teach yourself to 1) get use to it  and 2) pause at a drop to evaluate a line.


He had me roll off one of the more vertical spots , inch down then hold while standing on the pegs. It wasn’t scary or nervous , just unnatural like trying not to sneeze.


In this drill he is teaching the rider how to feel where the forward tipping point is on the bike.



He also worked with me on blimping up the bank from a stand still , then stopping the bike before the rear wheel can roll over the over side. Again it allows the rider to evaluate the line on the other side before he commits.  In the drill he had me start closer and closer each time.



While we were practicing Jimmy was jumping the 950 !


We spent a short amount of time in the sand. Here Jimmy demo’d how to get unstuck when the rear wheel is buried. I asked him what gear to use in the sand compared to hard pack. He said “the right one”.

After sand we worked on lofting the front wheel. The drill  is to lift the front wheel without the bike moving forward. Jimmy said before using this learning technique, trying to teach wheelies was a yard sale.

Again Jimmy worked with me standing beside the bike, he placed his hands on the controls and had me place mine on top of his. Also had me work on body position – “ Your 25% Rider and 75% Passenger. When you get to 50-50 => 75/25 you’ll be completely amazed”. I got where I could loft the wheel but I was letting the bike roll forward 3-5 feet. I wasn’t in the room when co-ordination was handed out.

You can see the drill in the second half of Jimmy’s video.

We got back to the house ~ 5 pm. Later that evening we had dinner at Ramero's, good Mexican food !

I got a ride to dinner with Heather and Scott. Heather said she and Jimmy have had some good vacations in Idaho , Burgdorf and Smiley Creek. Crazy Nate had spent many summers at Baumgartner, they would ride in from Smiley Creek.


Crazy Nate , Jimmy's right hand man. Older than dirt. Rode his DR650 250 miles from Lake Isabella on Friday, put in a 90 mile dual sport ride on Sunday while popping pills for his arthritis. My role model !

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The first drill was Panic Braking, again a co-ordination deficit made it a challenge. By the end of the braking & turning drill I was getting a thumbs up for both the braking and turns --


Jimmy demonstrating the drill – motocross start then panic break without crossing the line .


In the videos above you can see I’m a Squid , but you also get a feel of Jimmy’s patience and instructions.

   By the end of the drills I was starting to get it down.




After the drills we crossed the dry lake and took roads and cuts to some small sand dunes.
Lewis is extremely safety conscious stopping at every turn and “obstacle”. You might think to a fault ,but it’s much better than loosing the whole day because a rider gets hurt or lost. 

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In the dunes, we had about 20 minutes to play in the sand on our own. The photo on the right Lewis climbs up a sand “cliff”.

We rode a sweet little single track back into town for lunch.


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K7 Pizza  yummy ! After lunch I gassed up and topped off my camel back. Heather drove the truck with my gas can and a cooler full of water bottles.


We had a bit of road then a cool gravel wash up to the base of Spring Mnt.

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Ray re-attaching his seat on the 950 Super Enduro.

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Intersection of the single track with a road. We started to follow FS roads up over a pass on Spring Mnt.

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We got into the snow line around 6000 ft.  The snow wasn’t deep or icy and had pretty good traction.

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Had another sweet section of single track that was way too short !

Ray dug in his 950 when he tried to pop back on the road. I gave him a hand lifting it up , it weighs a ton !

Followed another cool gravel wash back toward town, it had this crack to ride through !


Rode gravel roads , state highways , streets , power lines ….. back to the house.  We were done ~ 4:15 PM. Clocked 90 miles. You can ride dirt bikes anywhere in Nye County without being plated . A true boys town !

I loaded the bike , changed to street clothes ,washed my face and hands , heated up some coffee and closed the camper. I wanted to get 2-3 hours clocked on the road Sunday night.

I thanked Jimmy , complemented him on his coaching skills.  Again he emphasized standing position and conserving energy by learning to make the bike do the work. I invited everyone to come ride the Idaho single tracks. Jimmy said he is definitely doing the TOUR OF IDAHO,  might have Crazy Nate drive his motorhome instead of staying in motels.  It would be cool to have chance to see Nate again, another excuse for a quick road trip on the 950.


Trip Home


Sunday night I drove through Vegas and caught US 93. I spent the night at some campsites along Pahranagat Lake. Took a shower, made dinner and watched THE WILD BUNCH.

Monday I got on the road around 6:30 AM, it was 20 F and didn’t get above freezing until Twin Falls.


I stopped for breakfast in Caliente. Overheard Todd talking about his kid racing, asked if there was single track in the area ? He said the was hundreds of miles and year round riding up to 8,000 ft. Some snow and ice at the higher elevations.  Scott Harden runs the Nevada 200 from Todd's RV park, Agua Caliente RV Park.

Great vistas along US 93, looks like great 950 ADV country.

I pulled into Ely for fuel, it was 8 F at 11AM and ~1 foot of fresh snow on the ground. I asked the gal at the counter if she knew the elevation ?  She thought a moment then said “ COLD !”. After I left the station there was an elevation marker that said it was ~6500 ft. Temps hovered from ~5-10 F until the road began to drop into Wells.

Barry got restless on the long way home.

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