Not only are these guys some of the best dirt riders on the planet, they are super friendly and down to earth. They are donating their day to help us with our riding techniques. We'll also have on hand 30 other local experts to help A, B and C riders. A special workshop will be held for the A riders by Rodney and Steve.
Date: 96-08-14 07:45:09 EDT
Doc Wong's Dirt Riding Clinic at Hollister Hills August 4, 1996
You never forget the first time. On Sunday, a rite of passage happened for a few lucky people who brought their dual sport bikes to Hollister and got their first taste of dirt riding. It was the kind of thing that makes you glad to ride. Everybody was there: young and old, men and women, raw beginners to ISDE veterans and A riders, and the big middle class - dirt riders with some experience but wanting to do it better. Equipment ran a similar range - bikes from 80 cc two-strokes to ponderous R1100 GS's, apparel from the latest splashy off-road designs by Fox to Aerostich road suits and full black leathers. The prize for minimalism went to a guy with a sweatshirt, jeans, work boots and basketball knee pads. He also got the medal for the hardest try, by picking up his XR600 (and himself) off the ground more times than we could count.
There was a line of cars, trailers, and you-ride-it-yourself-to -the-clinic bikes lined up outside the gate to the Upper Ranch at Hollister Hills SVRA well before 9 a.m. Harry (Doc) Wong and his (riding) daughter Astara were checking off the names of everyone who'd been to the lecture by Harry and Bruce Rust on Thursday evening at Doc's chiropractic clinic, and they were collecting donations for the San Benito County Library. By 9:30 the sixty assembled riders and group leaders were getting solid advice from Harry on safety and how to sense and respect personal riding limits. Since there were thirteen experienced individuals who volunteered to coach us through the basic skills we had heard about on Thursday, we were able to have very small groups - only four riders to one instructor. We grouped ourselves roughly according to ability. The heavier dual sport bikes (mostly GS's) also had their own group. Following a brief instructors' meeting, we all left the Garner Lake camping area and headed off into the hills of the Upper Ranch, the entire expanse of which had been reserved for our use.
The two hours went by faster than I would have thought. There wasn't much waiting around, and we got to try everything a couple of times. My instructor was Bruce Rust, and he was very, very good. (You don't ride for the US ISDE team if you haven't got a talent for something. In Bruce's case, he also has a talent for teaching.) We learned to lift the front end over bumps or ditches, and to stay on the gas until the back wheel was all the way through. In fact, staying on the gas was a theme throughout the whole morning, since inexperienced riders have a natural tendency to chop the throttle as soon as something happens. We practiced weighting the downhill peg when riding on an off-camber slope, proper weight transfer when climbing and descending hills. And we spent most of our time up on the pegs. (You got the feeling riding behind Bruce that sitting down is an unnatural act.) Trail riding, including riding in a few places where there wasn't even a trail, became part of the fun as we wandered around the Upper Ranch looking for just the right place to do the next exercise. We got onto the motocross track and had a chance to ride in some real soft stuff, since they'd just dumped fresh dirt in the turns.
Then Bruce found a hill that looked like it had all the challenges needed to demonstrate all the different techniques needed to get to the top. I looked at that hill and thought to myself, "No way man! That's so far outside my personal envelope I can't even think about it." Well, Bruce eye-balled the hill and then outlined his hypothetical strategy, adding that this was a verbal exercise - he didn't expect any of us to try it. There were deep whoops right from the start to two-thirds of the way up, followed by a much steeper ascent. The whoops were loaded with soft, fine dusty dirt, just the kind to rob rpms and momentum. After explaining to us how he would do it, he thought a few minutes and said, "Well, maybe I'll try it." We watched him attack the hill on his XR400. He was steady on the pegs (of course) and the bike was jumping around underneath him. You could hear the rpms of the engine go up and down in sync with the whoops. Clouds of dust rose up and obscured much of our view. Then the rpms dropped to zero, and Bruce, who'd made it up halfway before getting sideways, turned around and came down in another cloud of dust. He described what he felt went wrong, and had another try. This time he made it up about three fourths of the way before losing momentum and having to ride back down. You didn't need a degree in rocket science to appreciate what he'd been telling us about momentum - momentum is the key. On Bruce's third try he got nearly to the top when, on that last steepest part, we held our breath and thought," oh no, he's slowing down." But, as he explained to us a few minutes later, he leaned farther forward, put his chest on the bars, his nose over the front fender and dug the balls of his feet back into the pegs, and..... made it over the top. Poetry in motion. Seeing a top rider like Bruce tackle that hill and finally beat it was one of the biggest highlights of the day. I saw two other riders try it a couple of times, including Harry, but they weren't able to make it over that last steep part. But I give them lots of credit for trying.
Correction: Harry "flew" up the hill on one wheel to show Bruce how it is done. Since the hill was so sandy and loose having the front wheel in the sand was unnecessary.(written by ;-) Harry)
Now it was noon and time for lunch back at the camp ground. This was also a chance to meet more of the riders. I got to see some friends from previous Baja rides, and some people who, up to now, were only names I'd seen on the GS e-mail list. Like Kari Prager from California BMW, for example. Phil Douglas brought his truck (license plate "DR SHOK") full of tools'n stuff and dispensed advice on suspension set up. There were younger riders on little bikes and old timers on serious machines I'd love to try riding some day. You meet the nicest people on a dirt ride.
After lunch we broke up into groups again, this time to ride trails and explore more of the Upper Ranch. Like the Lower Ranch, it's gorgeous country, and we had a beautiful day to enjoy it. There's a road to the top of the hill from which you have a spectacular view, and there are narrow trails criss-crossing wider single track trails and "main" two-track roads. The best thing to do is just ride and not worry about where you are or where you're going. It's a big enough place that you don't feel like you're on a course, and small enough that you can't stay lost for much more than half an hour. Before too long, it became impossible for Harry to keep together his group (which had grown to ten people) - it was like herding cats - and various people disappeared to ride here and there on their own. No matter, no worry, that's the beauty of riding in an motorcycle park like Hollister. There are enough sign posts that, with the map, you can get to where you want to go.
At 3:30 we all met at the gate through which we'd entered the main riding area several times this day, and rode back to the camp ground, vans, and trailers. It was a sweaty, grimy, but happy group. I didn't hear of any injuries; as far as I know, only Kari had a flat. And the San Benito County Library will get over $500.
I enjoyed the people who came together for this chance to learn how to ride better, to help others learn, and to have fun doing both. And it was super to talk with and watch those who were out on the dirt for the first time. I'll bet they're hooked, just like I was.
This was my first Doc Wong Dirt Riding Clinic. Thanks much, Doc. Please put me on your mailing list. I want to be there again next time.
Bob Stokstad August 6, 1997
This was a very exciting event and I think you'll have lots of fun doing it!
Ride street, ride dirt, ride well!
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