“I have a bike problem,” said Candace. Huddled together in a small group, steaming coffees in our hands, we nodded our heads in acknowledgment. Some of us chuckled. We understood her problem. We were all here to face this same dilemma, and to hopefully do something about it. We were all motorcycle addicts. At that moment, in my heart of hearts, I suspected I was a training addict as well.
It was Sunday morning, the third and last day of Puget Sound Safety’s Off Road (PSSOR) Adventure Camp. Eighteen of us had ridden in from near and far away to work on low speed control of our motorbikes, practice our off-road skills, and learn about all aspects of adventure motorcycling. It was to be an action-packed weekend, with every non-riding moment filled with travel tidbits and informative clinics.
As with any twelve-step program, we were all at different levels of understanding and acceptance of our addictions. The common thread between us all was that we wanted to improve our riding skills and comfort levels in a variety of riding conditions. My motorcycle addiction compels me to try to be the very best rider I can possibly be, in spite of my inherent clumsiness and inclination towards large adventure motorcycles.
Most of us arrived in time to dine together Friday night. We had a get-to-know-you session around the bonfire at base camp after dinner, then each of us took off to our tents early in anticipation of Saturday’s sessions on our bikes. On-range instruction is from 8–5 Saturday and Sunday. As in any good adventure, we pitched our tents on the training grounds and slept next to our motorcycles.
Eager to get started on our fix, we met bright and early on the range. After a brief warm-up we got down to business and started working on technique. Balance, counter-balance, grey zone. We broke into smaller groups to practice individual lessons, and to receive some one-on-one coaching. We worked on our core position, felt the balance of the motorcycle, and worked on our confidence.
I was particularly impressed by how well the PSSOR instructors worked together. Seamlessly, like a well-tuned machine, instructors Bret, Gary and RJ guided us through their curriculum. I thought they worked extremely well together, and did a brilliant job of bringing the group together as a whole. They created an environment of camaraderie and togetherness that I’ve not experienced in any other training.
On the range, each new skill was thoroughly explained, demonstrated, and then practiced, each instructor adding to the toolbox of other skills they’d already taught us. Soon, the PSSOR instructors had each of us beaming in our helmets, eager for the next challenge, and marveling at what we could do on an adventure bike when we applied the right technique.
Every minute of every day was packed with information. The lunchtime break included healthy food and a discussion about protective gear while we ate. Bret, Gary and RJ each wore different gear and had different protective apparel theories, and it was enlightening to listen to each of them and understand their personal gear choices. For many of us it was great to be able to see and touch and try on a neck brace or a knee brace, and to get tips on where to purchase such items.
After the mid-day session of range work and riding the challenge course over logs, through obstacles and around cones, we had a breakout session on packing. Dave Sweze, über experienced moto traveler and General Manager of Ride West BMW in Seattle, took us on a tour of his panniers and taught us how to pack a lot of travel essentials in a very small space. Again we got tips on where to find gear, and what to look for in highly-packable, lightweight travel accessories.
Rain moved in late in the day, and our “Famous Dave’s” catered barbecue was held inside the barn. There was a rowdy trivia contest for a variety of donated items, followed by a slide show presentation on riding in Alaska. We then entertained ourselves with the Mondo Enduro riding film and trials videos, until the day’s exercise caught up with us all and we wandered off to our tents exhausted and happy. Does anyone but a motorcycle addict spend all day riding, and all evening watching motorcycle movies?
Sunday dawned cold and wet, punctuated by excited instructors that were overjoyed at being able to provide us training in truly slippery conditions. The morning’s exercises included braking and swerving, generally challenging gravity and Mother Nature, as well as several more runs through the challenge course. Instructor Bret cackled with glee when he had us practicing riding through a narrow, muddy trench almost a foot deep.
It was perfect weather to practice water crossings, and PSSOR devised the ultimate challenge to teach us about them. The stones in the rock box were slippery and treacherous, simulating a real-life-on-the-trail water crossing. Circling around, we’d come back through the dreaded sandbox, then over the wooden loose-plank bridge. It wasn’t my favorite exercise, but it was necessary to master it because real-world adventure riding demands it.
PSSOR had some smaller bikes on hand for us to try, and at times they were a welcome relief. In the extreme slippery conditions my KTM 950 Adventure was a handful, and PSSOR suggested I master the basics of the sandbox on the smaller bike, then move back up to the big bike. Indeed, I was grateful for the smaller weight bike, and thus mastered the exercise and left the range with a feeling of accomplishment.
Two and a half days of non-stop information, range exercises, hill work, and recovery demonstrations, and I felt my addiction satiated. Every aspect of adventure riding had been covered—riding, gear selection, bike selection, accessories and packing. Training with PSSOR was quite a rush, and it felt good. My riding improved, my technical skills ratcheted up a notch. And for the moment, I felt that perhaps I wouldn’t need another training fix for a while.
PSSOR Adventure Camp:
2½ day camp
$405.00 riding your own motorcycle (bike rentals available)
Must wear full protective gear
Must provide your own camping gear (tent rentals available)
Puget Sound Safety’s Other Courses
Basic Rider Course
Intermediate Rider Training
Experienced Rider Course
Advanced Experienced Rider Course
Total Control Training
Motorcycle Care and Maintenance
Suspension Theory and Tuning
Basic Dirtbike Training
Intermediate Dirtbike Training
Experienced Dirtbike Training