Are you a new rider that trembles at the thought of riding on a gravel road?
Or maybe you’re a hard core thrasher that likes to push your limits on every outing.
Maybe you are neither; maybe you just love to trail ride and occasionally go on some long trips with friends.
The question is: Do you need training?
Well….yes. Yes, you do need training.
I need training.
Hell, we all need training.
See, it doesn’t matter how good of a rider you are, if you are a newbie, or even what type of riding you do. There is always something to be learned. It could be as simple as improving your body position. Maybe it’s how to change a tire on the trail, or how to pack for a long trip on the bike. The point is, we can all learn something. Even the best instructors are always learning, so why shouldn’t you?
I could waste a lot of space with the history of motorcycle instruction and talk about how the fastest racers in the world have personal trainers, but that sounds boring and to be honest, I don’t feel like doing the research.
Instead, I’m going to take the approach that took me a long time to learn how to do.
Well, in this case, interview smarter people than me to tell you what they think.
So how about some insight from a few of our very own local instructors that you might even already know?
Everyone was asked the same question, so you know the answers are genuine and not encouraged by any means. Cool, huh?
First let’s hear from BJ Hessler, owner of DC Dirt Camp in King George, Virginia.
BJ has made quite a name for herself teaching brand new riders how to use
a clutch for the first time and by the end of
the day, getting them riding in the woods
and pushing their limits.
When asked what type of riders ‘need’ instruction, she said: ‘Open minded riders who want to improve their skills. If a rider thinks he/she knows it all, then they likely won’t get much out of a lesson with an instructor.’
I couldn’t agree more with her. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to have an open mind and be ‘teachable’. There’s no room for big egos when it comes to refining your skills.
Next I chatted with Greg ‘Frenchie’ Pamart, a 30+ year motocross instructor and veteran pro mx racer.
I asked Frenchie if he thought that every rider can benefit from an instructor.
Frenchie: ‘Any rider who wants to improve their skills and wants to be safer will benefit from instructions. Imagine yourself wanting to learn how to fly a plane. Would you try to figure it out on your own by trial and error or get proper instruction? Riding is the same imo... We just spend less time in the air!’
While we all know Frenchie might actually spend more time in the air than some airline pilots, he’s right about using instruction to become a safer rider. Injuries suck. And there’s nothing worse than an early season broken collar bone, injured knee or dislocated shoulder. It ruins your entire season and often could be avoided with riding smarter and safer.
The next instructor I reached out to was Rich Lafferty, a New Jersey native with
more enduro street cred than I can begin to explain. Rich has instructed many of the fastest local woods racers in the area.
I asked Rich what his favorite part of teaching people to ride was.
Rich: ‘When I started teaching in 2001 it was to help fund my racing and it made me a better rider. Now 20 years later I love helping riders excel and giving back to the sport of dirt bikes. I believe it's also helped me talk to people, at first in the beginning I was always nervous meeting new people and talking/ teaching but once I realized we all have the same common interest, the love of dirt bikes, it became easier and I really enjoy it. I teach Group classes on Saturdays and in 2020 I taught 33 group schools, I'm pretty darn proud of that.’
I myself have been instructing for years and while there are a lot of satisfying parts to teaching people how to ride, one of the things I love about it most are the bonds you build with people. As much as you become part of their growth as a rider, they become part of your growth as a human.
And to me, that’s pretty cool.
My final question was the following: Is there anything else you feel would be useful information for those on the fence about getting instruction?
BJ: ‘Most of us have never even comprehended what our bikes are capable of. Coaching is essential for getting the most out of your machine in the shortest amount of time. You may "figure it out" with just seat time and eventually be proficient/better but if you want results sooner and to develop good habits earlier- riding with a coach and benefitting from an instant feedback loop is your best bet.’
Frenchie: ‘The more you understand riding, the more fun it gets. Unfortunately it takes time to develop those skills.. The mighty "seat time" and it can be frustrating at times.
Getting instructions greatly cut down the leg work, the time it would take you to get to the next level of skills. Your confidence level will increase, you'll have a strategy for each situation in front of you and have way more fun!’
Rich: ‘These days there many riding coaches and guys teaching dirt bike schools, anyone can benefit from any teacher out there. If you just take one thing from it, it is way more of a benefit than not ever knowing.
When I was racing Nationally as a Pro there were many riders better than I was, but I am confident I am a way better teacher/coach then ever was a rider. I stand behind my schools and offer a money back guarantee to anyone on the fence, if by the end of the class you felt you didn’t learn anything it's free.’
Here’s one thing I found useful. If you have a friend, spouse or significant other than needs instruction...
Find someone else to do it.
I mean, unless you are really good at teaching and they're really good at not hating you for being a gigantic pain-in-the ass. Because the truth is, teaching is hard! It’s not something that everyone can do. It takes patience, confidence, planning and a sound approach.
And you know what else, just because someone is a great rider doesn’t mean they will be a great teacher.
Hell, some of the fastest riders I know would be horrible teachers! It’s true.
There is one more thing I wanted to talk about. Instruction is so much more than just learning a new technique or breaking a bad habit. It’s about the camaraderie, the friendships built, the hilarious fails and faceplants, and most of all it’s about getting better at something we are all passionate about. And when you get better at something, it only reinforces your love for it and makes it that much more enjoyable.
Whether you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, you’re a veteran motocross racer, you want to be better riding tight woods trails or you want to pack your bike up with gear and take a multi-day trip in the middle of nowhere; getting set up with the right instructor can turn your ride into a memory that will last a lifetime.
Confidence is everything when it comes to motorcycles. When you practice and reinforce good habits, you build confidence in yourself and your machine. That’s when you really start having fun.
That is exactly what you should strive for.
So next time the opportunity comes up to take a class with someone, jump on it with an open mind and allow yourself to improve in ways you may not have thought possible. If nothing else, you’ll leave with some cool friends and a great day of riding.
What’s not to like about that?
For more information on instruction and getting the most out of your ride, here’s some contact info:
DC Dirt Camp is located in King George, VA
Classes run $250 for roughly 6 hours of instruction which includes the bike rental. This is the place to go for those looking to get into riding and want to do it in a relaxing environment with fun instructors.
GPMX Racing is located in Douglassville, PA
You can get one-on-one training with Greg for $400 for a full day, or get a group of 5 or more of your friends and it’s only $180 per person for the entire day. This is a great deal especially for those intermediate and expert riders looking to refine their skills.
Rich Lafferty Racing is located in Port Elizabeth, NJ
Rich really makes it affordable for anyone to dial in their woods riding techniques at only $100 a person for 4+ hours. If you want to get fast riding in the bar-banging tight woods, this is where you want to go.
Into The Woods Moto is located in Nesquehoning, PA
This is my own personal training facility. I didn’t get much into here because frankly I wanted to talk about the other amazing trainers I think you will all benefit from. My focus is on riders looking to build skills in everything from tight, rocky singletrack to prepping for that week long trip out west on your dual sport bike. My classes are always in a live training scenario with a ton of riding in real world conditions. Classes start at $150/person per day and guided trips are custom tailored to your wants and needs.