A WHOLE NEW CHALLENGE: Off-Road on Two Wheels with PSSOR

ExploringElementsPSSOR-2I’ve now got a good bit of 4-wheel off-road travel experience, on multiple continents and in a variety of different vehicles; everything from a stock Mitsubishi Pajero in Australia to a Unimog on an off-road driving course in Washington state. I also have a basic understanding of how to ride a motorcycle, as I’ve owned a street bike for about 6 months, in 2006, and spent some time on a variety of friend’s bikes over the years, everything from a Triumph Daytona 675 in Hawaii to an ‘80s era Yamaha dirt bike on a remote ranch in South Africa. None of these experiences have properly prepared me for proper dual-sport motorcycle travel, especially once the bike leaves the pavement, and I have grand aspirations of adventure on my, newly acquired, KTM 640 Adventure. For this reason, I decided to start with the basics, and try to build a foundation of riding skills on which to build. This foundation for me was built in some wet, cold and muddy conditions in Washington State at the PSSOR (Puget Sound Safety Off-Road) off-road 101 and 102 riding classes. ExploringElementsPSSOR-3The classes are offered over a weekend at Straddleline ORV Park, where you can bring your own bike, or rent a small dirt bike, one appropriate to your size, from PSSOR. You can take each of the classes as stand alone single day programs, or as a full weekend of dedicated off-road motorcycle learning, which is the choice for most students. The fundamentals of off-road motorcycle riding are presented in a very simple, progressive and actionable way that promotes a ton of fun and accelerated learning. The classes go over things like; the variety of ways to get on and off a tall motorcycle, efficient body positioning while sitting and standing, traction control on a variety of surfaces, emergency stopping on loose surfaces, avoiding obstacles at speed, slow speed balance, hill climbs and descents, trail line selection and so much more. You’ll leave these classes with more than just fundamentals, and for sure an appreciation for the skills required to be an exceptional off-road motorcycle rider. ExploringElementsPSSOR-4 ExploringElementsPSSOR-5 ExploringElementsPSSOR-6 ExploringElementsPSSOR-7 ExploringElementsPSSOR-8 ExploringElementsPSSOR-9The conditions in Washington state, especially during the winter months, can seem like a bit much to deal with. Our class was the last of the year, which ended up meaning very wet, cold and muddy conditions. With the right gear and the right mindset these conditions offered up extremely valuable learning opportunities, to work on a variety of off-road skills that you’d otherwise have to imagine or simulate. We had deep wet slippery mud, wet grass, soggy loose gravel and wet slippery hill climbs to tackle. Through PSSOR’s expert instruction we were able to learn a TON about how to handle all of these situations on a motorcycle, and work on those skills in a safe controlled environment. ExploringElementsPSSOR-10 ExploringElementsPSSOR-11 ExploringElementsPSSOR-12 ExploringElementsPSSOR-13A majority of the students in my class happened to be very competent street bike riders, both on public roads and the track. Even with that much motorcycle seat time and on road skills, they still took a lot away from these classes, as riding a motorcycle off-road is very different than on pavement. Some of the comments I overheard these riders say during the class; “a lot more forgiving and cheaper, when you fall” and “a lot more playful than street or track riding.” The bottom line is that unless you’ve already got a really solid off-road riding foundation the PSSOR off-road 101-102 classes have a lot to offer you. ExploringElementsPSSOR-14 ExploringElementsPSSOR-15 ExploringElementsPSSOR-16 ExploringElementsPSSOR-17My biggest takeaway from the class is that you should start with a smaller lighter bike and work your way up to a bigger adventure bike, if rough terrain off-road motorcycle travel is your primary objective. The merits of even needing a big adventure bike, say anything 650 cc+, I’ll relegate to another discussion all together. Confidence starts with a solid foundation of skills, and builds with time in the saddle. Confidence is required on a motorcycle, as the old adage usually holds true; “when in doubt, throttle out.” ExploringElementsPSSOR-18 ExploringElementsPSSOR-19With all that said, I’m stoked to now have some really solid fundamentals to work on every time I’m off pavement on a motorcycle, of any style. The skills learned on the small dirt bike directly translate too much better bike control on my “big” KTM 640 Adventure. Hopefully this new off-road riding foundation will allow me to keep my motorcycle upright much more often! I look forward to building on these off-road fundamentals, and learning more skills that are specific to riding a bigger heavier bike, especially when loaded with gear. Luckily PSSOR offers all sorts of adventure bike specific classes that can build upon the basics learned in the Off-road 101-102 classes. ExploringElementsPSSOR-20Check out the PSSOR website (http://pssor.com/) for full details on upcoming opportunities for you to elevate your off-road motorcycle riding skills. It will be money and time well spent!

For even more fun photos from this PSSOR motorcycle class check out the FB album HERE.
ExploringElementsPSSOR-1(A huge thanks to PSSOR for having me, my amazing instructor Greg Hilchey and to MotoStays for the accommodations.)

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