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Old 04-04-2011, 01:36 PM   #181
adforsyth
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Another view on the Watts Dirtwise Training

The Wicomico Motorsports Park in Southern Maryland hosted its inaugural Shane Watts’ Dirtwise Riding School on April 2nd and 3rd, offering intensive instruction, practice, and feedback to 15 – 16 riders on many of the fundamental enduro techniques covered in Watts’ advance rider series videos. The class attracted a mix of riders, skill levels, and bikes and provided a structured series of exercises over two days that in combination can help trail riders with speed, control, safety, and confidence. I was fortunate to have a chance to take the course at a park I ride a lot and with SMIB and other riders whom I'd met previously.

Content

Anyone familiar with the Shane Watts’ advanced rider series videos – not to mention the trailer for his riding school – will know precisely what he or she is in for when signing up for the class. Day 1 covers slow speed riding, proper braking, front wheel locking, flat turns, ruts, flat out acceleration, and stoppies. Day 2 builds on these techniques by adding low speed wheelies, grinding, log crossing, ascents and descents, and even ravines. The final day also included trailside instruction at key locations where these and other techniques could be applied successfully to challenging sections.

Instructional style

In terms of Watts himself, what you see is what you get. He’s a former world champion enduro racer still in love with the sport, despite having turned it into a job instructing talented, mediocre, or, like me, knuckleheaded riders every weekend. His riding abilities are incredible and speak for themselves. As an instructor, he’s genuinely great to be around – he’s intelligent, charismatic, good humored, patient, and modest. He uses standard teaching techniques very effectively by first describing the skills, demonstrating them, and providing practice opportunities with clear feedback, tips, and encouragement. He constantly has an eye out for the safety of the group and will admonish missteps in a simple direct manner that achieves results. For Watts, a high priority for teaching the fundamentals is to promote safe, controlled, efficient, and fast riding. Frankly, he offers a rare combination of extraordinary riding and instructional skill that allows students the opportunity to push their own limits with adult supervision and in a manner that achieves results.

In-class experience

But don’t be fooled: The class is challenging, even for more experienced riders. Prospective students would do well to familiarize themselves with Watt’s videos – or even the trailer for the school – in order to have an accurate expectation of what to expect when they sign up for this enduro riding class targeted to moderate- to advanced-riders. Anyone who shows up expecting otherwise is fooling him or herself. The days are long, formal breaks are few, and the instruction takes place rain or shine. Bring hydration packs, cliff bars, and catch your breath at any of the many, at times long, sections when Watts is teaching a new skill. Dismount if resting on your bike doesn’t work for you.

Some may still complain that there aren’t enough bathroom or rest breaks. The fact is, students can always step out to relieve themselves, grab a snack or a drink, or pull their helmets to help cool down during instruction. Likewise, some may feel that they were pushed to try things that were well beyond them. In fact, Watts encouraged riders to self-select into different riding groups while on the warm-up trails, by selecting different sizes of logs for grinding practice, or choosing different areas to attempt during the log clearing exercises. And there’s nothing stopping students from finding their own lines, attempting more proximal challenges, or sitting out sections. In fact, only about a third of the riders in our class attempted the ravine at the end of Day 2. Being in the class doesn’t excuse students from thinking for themselves and making the class work for them. I saw no evidence that Watts thought any differently.

If you are thinking about taking the class, following are some Dos and Don’ts to consider:

Don’t
  • …think this is a beginner’s trails, motocross, or dual sport class. It is an enduro riding class taught by a former world champion enduro racer. While the skills may apply broadly, the aim here is to teach fundamentals for riding trails.
  • …expect 1:1 instruction. The ratio for our class was at best 1:16, and in other cases might be as low as 2:25. If you need specific help, seek it out. But don’t expect to get individualized feedback at every turn. The numbers simply don’t permit it.
  • …ride a bike that’s new to you. Whether you’re considering bringing a friend’s bike or something you picked up the day before, don’t do it. You need to know the bike you bring to class and to be confident on it in order to make the most of the training opportunities the class presents. Worse, you may even injure yourself. And for those tempted to lend a bike to a friend for a class like this, be sure to collect a deposit first. The trails and courses were littered in plastic and parts by the end of the weekend.
  • …overestimate your skill. If you are truly a beginner or a cautious intermediate rider, don’t like the idea of picking up your bike 10 – 20 times a day, are unable to assist others, or otherwise think you are all that and a bag of chips, consider skipping the class this round. Get a training video and start building up from there. If you’ve never pulled a wheelie, aren’t comfortable with riding beginner level trails like those at Wicomico, or have a bike that’s more road-oriented than dirt, it may be best to find another class. Injuries and trailside mechanicals resulting from such overestimates are terrible for those directly involved, certainly, but they also affect everyone in the class.

Do
  • …start by previewing the Dirtwise riding class trailers and videos. Doing so will help to manage expectations about the contents of the class, what kinds of bikers will likely attend, and what sort of gear to bring.
  • …push your limits, but not so far as to put yourself or others at risk. Showing up with a lighter, dirt-oriented bike that you know will enable you to push into the next skill level on many of the exercises. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, drop your bike, or swim in the mud like that rider in the trailer. It’s all about learning.
  • …help others. Between Watts and the various riders, there were decades of riding experience in our class. It was good to see students sharing tips, helping each other when they’d fallen. Go, push yourself, but help others, too.

In the end, Watts provides a great overall experience in his enduro classes. He combines effective teaching, skill demonstration, practice sessions, and feedback in a manner that helps riders acquire new skills that will inevitably require hours of additional practice to master. And that’s the point. By starting with the fundamentals and building up from there, Watts shows riders how to ride more quickly, safely, efficiently, and with more confidence. Personally, I can’t wait to complete my repairs (lots of lost plastic), get past the soreness, and get back out where I can practice and then run trails. And of course, I can’t wait to show my usual riding pals what I learned. They’ll be just as shocked as I was. I just hope Wicomico will keep the logs around for us to practice on during our future visits to the park.
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Old 04-04-2011, 01:41 PM   #182
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I was sure I was going to be leaving there with a neck brace, back board, and probably a helo flight after the crunching sounds I heard on impact.
Thank goodness you are OK!... Necks and crunching sounds.... That's one sound you don't normally "walk" away from.
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:10 PM   #183
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Nicely put Andrew...

(guessed based on the "loss of lots of plastic" comment )
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:18 PM   #184
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adforsyth View Post
The Wicomico Motorsports Park in Southern Maryland hosted its inaugural Shane Watts’ Dirtwise Riding School on April 2nd and 3rd, offering intensive instruction, practice, and feedback to 15 – 16 riders on many of the fundamental enduro techniques covered in Watts’ advance rider series videos. The class attracted a mix of riders, skill levels, and bikes and provided a structured series of exercises over two days that in combination can help trail riders with speed, control, safety, and confidence. I was fortunate to have a chance to take the course at a park I ride a lot and with SMIB and other riders whom I'd met previously.

Content

Anyone familiar with the Shane Watts’ advanced rider series videos – not to mention the trailer for his riding school – will know precisely what he or she is in for when signing up for the class. Day 1 covers slow speed riding, proper braking, front wheel locking, flat turns, ruts, flat out acceleration, and stoppies. Day 2 builds on these techniques by adding low speed wheelies, grinding, log crossing, ascents and descents, and even ravines. The final day also included trailside instruction at key locations where these and other techniques could be applied successfully to challenging sections.

Instructional style

In terms of Watts himself, what you see is what you get. He’s a former world champion enduro racer still in love with the sport, despite having turned it into a job instructing talented, mediocre, or, like me, knuckleheaded riders every weekend. His riding abilities are incredible and speak for themselves. As an instructor, he’s genuinely great to be around – he’s intelligent, charismatic, good humored, patient, and modest. He uses standard teaching techniques very effectively by first describing the skills, demonstrating them, and providing practice opportunities with clear feedback, tips, and encouragement. He constantly has an eye out for the safety of the group and will admonish missteps in a simple direct manner that achieves results. For Watts, a high priority for teaching the fundamentals is to promote safe, controlled, efficient, and fast riding. Frankly, he offers a rare combination of extraordinary riding and instructional skill that allows students the opportunity to push their own limits with adult supervision and in a manner that achieves results.

In-class experience

But don’t be fooled: The class is challenging, even for more experienced riders. Prospective students would do well to familiarize themselves with Watt’s videos – or even the trailer for the school – in order to have an accurate expectation of what to expect when they sign up for this enduro riding class targeted to moderate- to advanced-riders. Anyone who shows up expecting otherwise is fooling him or herself. The days are long, formal breaks are few, and the instruction takes place rain or shine. Bring hydration packs, cliff bars, and catch your breath at any of the many, at times long, sections when Watts is teaching a new skill. Dismount if resting on your bike doesn’t work for you.

Some may still complain that there aren’t enough bathroom or rest breaks. The fact is, students can always step out to relieve themselves, grab a snack or a drink, or pull their helmets to help cool down during instruction. Likewise, some may feel that they were pushed to try things that were well beyond them. In fact, Watts encouraged riders to self-select into different riding groups while on the warm-up trails, by selecting different sizes of logs for grinding practice, or choosing different areas to attempt during the log clearing exercises. And there’s nothing stopping students from finding their own lines, attempting more proximal challenges, or sitting out sections. In fact, only about a third of the riders in our class attempted the ravine at the end of Day 2. Being in the class doesn’t excuse students from thinking for themselves and making the class work for them. I saw no evidence that Watts thought any differently.

If you are thinking about taking the class, following are some Dos and Don’ts to consider:

Don’t
  • …think this is a beginner’s trails, motocross, or dual sport class. It is an enduro riding class taught by a former world champion enduro racer. While the skills may apply broadly, the aim here is to teach fundamentals for riding trails.
  • …expect 1:1 instruction. The ratio for our class was at best 1:16, and in other cases might be as low as 2:25. If you need specific help, seek it out. But don’t expect to get individualized feedback at every turn. The numbers simply don’t permit it.
  • …ride a bike that’s new to you. Whether you’re considering bringing a friend’s bike or something you picked up the day before, don’t do it. You need to know the bike you bring to class and to be confident on it in order to make the most of the training opportunities the class presents. Worse, you may even injure yourself. And for those tempted to lend a bike to a friend for a class like this, be sure to collect a deposit first. The trails and courses were littered in plastic and parts by the end of the weekend.
  • …overestimate your skill. If you are truly a beginner or a cautious intermediate rider, don’t like the idea of picking up your bike 10 – 20 times a day, are unable to assist others, or otherwise think you are all that and a bag of chips, consider skipping the class this round. Get a training video and start building up from there. If you’ve never pulled a wheelie, aren’t comfortable with riding beginner level trails like those at Wicomico, or have a bike that’s more road-oriented than dirt, it may be best to find another class. Injuries and trailside mechanicals resulting from such overestimates are terrible for those directly involved, certainly, but they also affect everyone in the class.

Do
  • …start by previewing the Dirtwise riding class trailers and videos. Doing so will help to manage expectations about the contents of the class, what kinds of bikers will likely attend, and what sort of gear to bring.
  • …push your limits, but not so far as to put yourself or others at risk. Showing up with a lighter, dirt-oriented bike that you know will enable you to push into the next skill level on many of the exercises. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, drop your bike, or swim in the mud like that rider in the trailer. It’s all about learning.
  • …help others. Between Watts and the various riders, there were decades of riding experience in our class. It was good to see students sharing tips, helping each other when they’d fallen. Go, push yourself, but help others, too.

In the end, Watts provides a great overall experience in his enduro classes. He combines effective teaching, skill demonstration, practice sessions, and feedback in a manner that helps riders acquire new skills that will inevitably require hours of additional practice to master. And that’s the point. By starting with the fundamentals and building up from there, Watts shows riders how to ride more quickly, safely, efficiently, and with more confidence. Personally, I can’t wait to complete my repairs (lots of lost plastic), get past the soreness, and get back out where I can practice and then run trails. And of course, I can’t wait to show my usual riding pals what I learned. They’ll be just as shocked as I was. I just hope Wicomico will keep the logs around for us to practice on during our future visits to the park.
Sorry, but I have to ask if these are your words or cut from somewhere else? If these are your words I will be happy to post in the critique section but if these are cut from somewhere else and you added the last few sentences I will have to pass on moving it.
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:21 PM   #185
adforsyth
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They are indeed my words

I hereby attest to having written the entire piece and that it represents my personal views as a participant in the weekend's Shane Watts Dirtwise course.

adforsyth screwed with this post 04-04-2011 at 02:36 PM
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:28 PM   #186
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Thanks!
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:34 PM   #187
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Originally Posted by EOD3MC View Post
Nicely put Andrew...

(guessed based on the "loss of lots of plastic" comment )
Yup -- that's me. I tried to include mention that I, too, did a little swimming in the mud (it was quite cooling in the heat, actually and as our animal friends who often roll in mud would likely attest, if asked). Ah, but you can't include every thought.

See you out there on the trails!
A
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:36 PM   #188
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Critique moved

Andrew,

Critique moved to first page and good riding with you!
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Old 04-04-2011, 04:15 PM   #189
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Andrew--

Glad we got you to chime into SMIBland! I'll certainly agree that everyone learned something in the class. While not implicitly stated, the perception you have is his pedigree of "former world champion enduro racer" is perhaps wasted on someone entering the sport. If you never invest your time into the lower ranks of any organization/students, the organization fails continue breeding the love of the sport. It will be years or decades before today's students may prove themselves in the winner circle. You just never know when someone might find an instructor that they really click with and become the next champion. The journey to giving back to sport that gave so much to you, is where the great instructors become legends. Fortuitously for all organizations, Wattsy is not alone in this quest, and instructors from Olympic Champions, to World Champions to decorated military soldiers find instructor billets after the sun sets on their competitive career.

We'll probably never see eye-to-eye on this, but it's interesting to assert some of us fell off a turnip truck without doing any research on him nor the class. As someone attends a wide variety of training events on bikes, horses, and for work, I've have NEVER been to a single class where the participants are 100% matched in all skills and facets of the training. It's just not statistically possible.

I've tried to show how we may have both arrived a different (yet both correct?) pre-class assessment:

Quote:
Originally Posted by adforsyth
enduro riding class
Wattsy website:
Quote:
Offroad motorcycle enthusiasts who wish to learn the “tricks of the trade”
Quote:
Originally Posted by adforsyth
"targeted to moderate- to advanced-riders"
Wattsy website:
Quote:
I have only been riding for a short time. Is this school appropriate?
The Dirt Wise Academy caters to almost all levels of skill, once the rider has basic control of the clutch.
Quote:
Originally Posted by adforsyth
Injuries and trailside mechanicals resulting from such overestimates are terrible for those directly involved, certainly, but they also affect everyone in the class.
I don't disagree with you that everyone is affected by course holds. However, by my estimation there were at least 5 holds on course (4 bike related and 1 rider) which is accounts for 1/3 of the riders. This is where an assistant instructor could definitely lend a hand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by adforsyth
promote....fast riding.
Wattsy website:
Quote:
Is your school just for people who want to race?
Our school doesn't focus on racing, instead it focuses on improving technical skill level
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Old 04-04-2011, 05:08 PM   #190
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Bruce, I'm glad you're OK. I hope you SMIBs are done with your riding schools for now and heal those bumps and bruises over the next two weeks.
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Old 04-04-2011, 05:21 PM   #191
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bruce, i'm glad you're ok. I hope you smibs are done with your riding schools for now and heal those bumps and bruises over the next two weeks.
+1
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Old 04-04-2011, 06:01 PM   #192
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Andrew,

Critique moved to first page and good riding with you!
Likewise. See you next time.
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Old 04-04-2011, 06:35 PM   #193
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Bruce, I'm glad you're OK. I hope you SMIBs are done with your riding schools for now and heal those bumps and bruises over the next two weeks.
Bumps and bruises will be fine I just need to get my stuff ready and buy a new helmet.
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Old 04-04-2011, 06:39 PM   #194
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did you x-ray the helmet?
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Old 04-04-2011, 06:50 PM   #195
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did you x-ray the helmet?
No but apparently Shoei has a policy that you can send them the helmet and they will check it and let you know if its serviceable for no charge other than me shipping it to them. The problem is I need a helmet soon for a upcoming ride.
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