It should be first noted that I am not the kind of guy to seek out un-necessary training. I have the kind of personality of someone who might say, “It’s no problem, I can wing it”, or learn on the fly. But in this particular situation, with an intense 60 day – 20,000km – journey ahead of us, both Colin and I decided to pony-up and get some Off-Road rider training.
The location we picked was Hechlingen, Germany. The course we selected was the BMW Enduro Beginners class… A “beginners” class that almost killed me.
When planning a massive motorcycle journey in a far away place a lot of things go through your mind, the first being: “Can I actually do this?” Confidence is a key factory, and my brother Colin and I both decided we needed Enduro Training as the confidence equivalent of a “booster shot”.
We have both been riding for years; Colin on a BMW R1200R in Toronto and myself on a BMW F800GS in Shanghai. But “put-putting” around town is a bit different then traversing through some of the world’s worst roads, and not to mention the worlds most deadly.
Colin and I agreed, early on, that Enduro training was an important part of our preparation for our Middle Kingdom Ride (www.mkride.com) around China. The only time we figured we would be on the same continent together prior to our 60-day endurance ride around China would be in late July, in Munich, Germany.
Munich is home to BMW, but the real jewel of Bavaria is not Munich itself – it’s the BMW Enduro Park in Hechlingen, Germany. A former stone quarry turned Enduro Park and purchased by BMW in the mid-1990s is home to some of the greatest off-road training around, a must for any serious adventure motorcyclists.
We had booked months in advance and signed up for the beginner’s class. Remembering that this is Germany, and that Germans take their riding seriously, we thought it best to be conservative in the estimations of our skills. Lucky we did.
The beginners class involved just about everything you could ever imagine, from low-speed maneuvers, to camel backs, to water, to sand, to narrow stone filled trails, and intensely steep accents and descents. It is safe to say that we were on the pegs for two straight riding days and it was like nothing I had ever experienced.
After street riding for years, off-road riding has a certain mystic to it. Thinking it would be much like street riding but with an unstable surface I arrived in Hechlingen beaming with confidence. My brother and I were about to conquer China; I could handle an Enduro Park, couldn’t I?
By the lunch break on the first day I had fallen three times, lost all feeling in the left (clutch hand) wrist and had a bruise on my shin (just between the boot and the knee pad) the size of a grapefruit. I had broken both my clutch lever and my front break lever and bent my gear shifter (left-foot) into a bizarre boomerang shape.
Yes, the Germans take their motorcycling seriously.
Yes, this was the hardest thing I have ever done on two wheels.
Yes, this was the beginners course.
Yes, there was some reevaluation.
Laying in bed after day one, I starred at the ceiling and reflected on how my first day had gone, and I thought to myself, “If our journey around China is anything as tough as this course, we won’t make it through the first week”. Confidence was at an all-time low.
Mounting our bikes on our final seconds day, my back screamed as I swung my leg over the high BMW F800GS seat. When I took the clutch with my left index and middle fingers a pain shot up my left forearm. I openly questioned how I was going to get through the day. And as we headed up in to the hills above the gravel pit for our first group ride of the day, something miraculous happened: my movements smoothed, my jitters escaped me and my balance returned. I started riding and stopped bitching.
I was back!
Day one shattered my confidence, but on day two I was as giddy as a school-girl. My smile came back; I stopped noticing my aches and pains and just enjoyed the riding and world-class instruction. The knowledge that these instructors were passing along was genius; the braking and turning techniques, the balance and body positioning for different surfaces; all of a sudden I was thriving! Bring on China!
Colin and I completed our Enduro Training at the Hechlingen Park at the end of July and that’s important. As much as half of our Middle Kingdom journey around China, some 10,000km, could be considered off-road – with surfaces ranging from hard-packed gravel to deep sand, and if the weather worsens – even thick mud.
And that brings us to the present. We’re set to start our journey in 24 very short hours, I now have the confidence to say that both Colin and I can handle whatever challenges lie ahead of us, with regards to off-road riding at least. Obviously that doesn’t count for much while I am sitting on my couch in Shanghai writing this blog; so we’ll be sure to keep everybody updated as we proceed with our expedition.
Lastly, if you’re enjoying our updates please do reach out to us and stay in touch. Take the time to introduce our journey to your friends and family and we’ll be sure to send regular posts.
**Charitable Partner** – The Middle Kingdom Ride is riding to raise funds for SEVA, a charitable foundation that has, for more than 30 years, served people around the world who are struggling for health, cultural survival and sustainable communities. Learn more about SEVA at http://www.seva.org, and make a donation today.
**Corporate Sponsors** – The Middle Kingdom Ride could not have happened without our wonderful corporate sponsors: BMW, Touratech, The Tomson Group, Airhawk, Pelican, Kodak, Oakley, Cardo Systems, Lowe Pro & Mandarin House.