Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Birthday Training Days on a KTM...

Lucy had a BIG birthday yesterday, one ending in a zero... so her parents decided that it would be good for her to have a few lessons in dirt bike riding!! I got to go along as moral support & for the piccies...

Neil, the owner of Triple D at Kendal gave us a great afternoon out at Holmescales Activity Centre, which is a place he uses to run try out days & general training sessions for the D3 racing team which he sponsors who seem to compete at all levels with Ben, (Lucy's favorite mechanic) & Neil competing in the Eddy's Extreme Events that run around the UK. He's a very capable rider to say the least!!

Lucy was really nervous as we drove down, still, when we got there she seemed to settle down a bit, especially after she fell off on the wet practice track, then Neil fell off on a wet hump & I rounded it all off falling off on the first ascent of a gravel & mud slope.

Ironically this seemed to settle us all down & Lucy's nerves started to disappear!

Neil on his 2014 250 EXC-F

Neil's 2014 KTM 250 EXC-F -  A very nice bike!!
Lots of info passed around

oooh the first descent!!

After an up of course!
We moved from the practice track to our first steep gradient, then Neil talked us through a fair few bits about bike stability, the basics of body position & using the throttle more effectively, we all had a go & Neil generally played around, clearly extremely happy on his bike, none of this put the side stand, find neutral lark, just cut the engine & lay the bike on the ground, talk to us, then lift it back up & head off to show another thing to us...

Neil's obvious skill & natural enthusiasm cut through any nerves & really helped Lucy to start to gain more confidence in her bike & herself.

From the initial practice area, we moved into a trials type area on the site, this was used for paintball shootouts as well so had lots of things like tyres, horse jumps, plane wrecks & an old Land Rover shell that people could hide behind, there were also a lot of tyre tracks from the quad bike tours that run here as well, these provided a good obstacle for us & also the ruts, which were pretty deep, often trapped the bike tyres & forced you into them which is the same as when we trail ride, so more good practice for us...

Here we also learnt the value of better tyres! I had some Midas tyres which are not very good for the lakes really, I think they must be better in mud or for just the road as they are extremely slippy on the various gravel & cobbles we have here in the Lakes, plus both Lucy's & my tyres are coming to the end of their life & this really showed up on this type of terrain & whilst trying out loads of the skills. Good tyres are essential for this playing stuff really!!

From here we moved out onto the fell side near to the M6, we followed Neil around the site, rolling down slopes, crossing the quad ruts, blatting up gravel sections & generally just riding around a bit. Neil took us to a larger flat area & taught us how to do a power turn whilst standing still, this is great fun, it needs a lot of confidence to trust yourself as you dump the clutch but is very satisfying to do right... more practice needed for me once my leg is strong enough to support the weight of the bike!!

After this we moved to the steeper ground, this was the main reason for Lucy wanting some training really, she has a mental block about steep descents & sometimes will just freeze at the top of a drop off, then when she does move, she's rigid & grabbing brakes all the time which often causes her to then fall off, 'It's like I'm fighting the bike all the time' is how she puts it... The easier rolling stuff is sometimes OK, but sometimes not, so Neil started her on small stuff & built it up, with lots of uphill runs so she was used to the slope & it's lumpy bits & hidden rocks, then slowly he introduced the downhill sections, at first Lucy fell of a few times until she got the hang of things, then she was off, playing with the brakes & rolling down the hillsides until she was comfortable to release the clutch & let the engine do it's part in the job... it was great to see although a little worrying when she piled into the ground near some rocks!!

One of the great things about this was that Neil was always there on hand whenever Lucy binned it or just needed a confidence boost, lots of good positive chat some more ideas into the pot & off she went again... excellent!!

The light was starting to fade so we headed down into the woods for the last part of the day, to put some of this practice to the test, the short steep ups, the longer loose descents all threw a different slant to things & you could see where Neil & the D3 team practiced stuff in here too, with some really steep slopes into tight turns etc, Neil took me round a few where I promptly binned the bike, buried it in a tree & generally rode like a muppet... although to be fair to myself, the old DR wasn't very helpful with this type of riding either, still if I was a better rider then the bike wouldn't matter as much I guess, hey ho, much more skills to learn to get any good at this stuff!!

mud, glorious mud...
Where's the ground gone??

An average descent in an Extreme Enduro event!
Lucy was totally knackered now, needing chocolate & the light was fading fast so we headed back to the vans to close up for the day. Neil was fitting new lights to his bike so he could train in the dark & was gonna hang around for a couple more hours, we had an appointment with a shower, change of clothes & a pub meal with a few friends in Keswick, so headed off...

Key learning points for us:
1. Stay flexible on the bike, bow legged & relaxed.
2. Plan ahead
3. Use 1st gear more on technical up & down hills, there is much more control
4. Steep descents, clutch in, use the brakes 80% front, 20% rear
5. Really steep descents need clutch & brake control but same brake ratio's
6. Better tyres needed!
7. Lucy has 'long legs' as Neil kept on saying all day ;-)

A great afternoon of biking fun... meeting more people, learning more good skills & above all for me personally seeing a reason to buy a newer bike & giving my motorcycling another direction... beginners enduro events coming up next??

For Lucy, more confidence, growing skills & more contacts, all of which you just can't put a price on, she is now gagging to get out & practice some more, then we have a Coast to Coast trip planned for the coming weekend, camping & all, which will be another new experience for her too... Bring it on!!

Leggy chick on a KTM!! ;-)