15 September 2015

RawHyde Colorado--Big Bike Training In The Mountains!

RawHydes's last class of the 2015 season! Nope, they didn't have fun AT ALL!
If you ride any kind of motorcycle, how can you not want to do that RIGHT NOW! That scenery, zero traffic. Off-road riding like this makes a rider feel as if he or she is on top of the world.

Just over three years ago, Jim Hyde brought his highly regarded off-road training company to the Colorado mountains for the summers. His hugely successful training camp located in Castaic, California is just too blasted hot to train in during the summer months, so Colorado is Rawhyde's training center during the months of May through September. Last august, Josh and I rode to the facility--about two hours from Denver--to meet the Colorado crew and Jim Hyde.

We arrived in time for lunch which, prepared by chef Julia del Real, was fabulous. Clients and coaches headed in from the morning's drills on the training grounds, and we were enveloped in a high-energy vibe of motorbike excitement. I sat between Jim Hyde and Russell Burton, one of Jim's Colorado coaches, stuffing my face and talking motorbikes, but trying not to do both at the same time.

As lunch finished up, we rode out with the coaches and clients, heading for the "hills" training area. I spent the afternoon in the hot Colorado sunshine, at the top of the big hill with Dusty Wessels. If he was any measure of the crew's skill and fun, this was something I wanted to be a part of. At the end of the day, anyone who was in the class was invited to take a gorgeous ride out on the dirt roads of South Park, led by the fabulous Shawn Thomas. Josh and I were happy to join in, and took off with the group.

Stopped to take pictures on a ride after the class was done. Aspen groves and mountains as far as one can see.

A few miles into the ride, the rear brake on the 1200GS Mark Ferguson was riding locked up. Mark, being the ultra-professional he is, calmly brought the bike to a stop without hurting himself or anyone else, and Shawn looked at it, releasing the brake in a cloud of steam. That was the end of the ride for Mark, as the brake was not fixed and could do the exact same thing again the next time it was used. He sent Mark back to camp, and asked someone to accompany him just in case something went wrong and he needed a hand. I volunteered to go with him--Mark was the whole reason I was there in the first place, speaking to me about the idea of adding a female coach to the team. Though I was sad to miss out on the ride, I was only too happy to be there for a friend should he need me. As it turns out, we made it back no problem, but as we pulled in, Mark found he had no rear brake at all. Turning back had definitely been the right call.

Spending that day at the RawHyde facility, and meeting the awesome crew--which also included Trev, badass coach, and Lauren, awesome hospitality manager who also rides--made me excited about the possibility of joining such a talented bunch.

Fast-forward to the middle of July this year. I talked to Jim and he invited me to join them for camp one weekend. I signed up just as any other client would, and rode with the class. I suppose this was my official "interview". Also, it was a chance for the coaches and other crew to spend the weekend with me as a person. This is a small company. Personality, I have learned, is very important with this group. And it makes sense. Not only is staff there to do his or her individual job, but they also work together while in camp and serve the clients' every need. Jim has built a training center that not only trains well, but offers the utmost in hospitality and service.

I rode all the skills and drills with everyone, often helping people pick up their bikes, and having a great time with everyone. There were two women in that class. Erin Hunter Sills is a 12 time national and world champion in land speed racing, and she and her husband hold two Guinness World Records in the same. I thought meeting her was pretty badass, as I had heard her name before and I found out that weekend that she is just one cool chick. The other woman, Tara, had ridden her 700GS all the way down from northern Alberta, to give herself a birthday gift of the RawHyde class and High Rockies Adventure which followed. She took a couple of good tumbles, but her chin and attitude always stayed high, and both women came away with new skills and love for off-road adventure.

Coaches Dusty and Trev talk about body position and braking. Why does Jim Hyde's butt look so much better in riding pants than mine does...?
Coach Sean Thomas talks with clients about the beautiful surroundings, the joy of motorbiking, and beer. Cuz that's how we roll.

Two moments that weekend made me smile bigger than any other (and to be honest, I don't think I stopped smiling the entire weekend). At the end of the first day of training there is a tough turns drill that puts together all the skills clients have learned that day. It's a tough one. Sometimes people can accomplish immediately, and sometimes it takes a little more work and a little more time to get it right. The class that day was divided into three groups of seven, each with its own coach. I was the first to attempt the drill, and accomplished it with no trouble. The same could not be said for the other six. Each of them struggled, but by the end, all but one were able to get it done. At one point while one person was making his second attempt at the drill, two people behind me were talking quietly about the difficulty of the drill and one of them said, "It's so hard. But the girl was awesome." The other one agreed, and I quietly smiled in my helmet.

The second moment that made me smile really big was when I walked out of the building back at camp, at the end of the day on Sunday, and heard Tara telling one of the coaches that I was her hero. She looked at me-- I'm sure I had a surprised look on my face--and repeated it for me to hear. I gave her a hug and said thank you. I was truly touched.

As it turns out, I guess I passed the test. Jim rode in on Sunday, leading a Continental Divide Tour, and we were able to sit down Monday and talk. He invited me to join the company as a coach-in-training, and we were also able to talk about women in big bike, off-road motorbiking. He has decided to add a weekend to the summers' camps that would be a "Women's" weekend. I was very excited about this idea, and his manager, Leah, and I talked about the idea of making it a kick-ass ladies' weekend.

I returned to Hartsel and the facility at the end of August to officially begin my coaches' training. There was one other coach-in-training, Matt as well as Dusty, Trev, and Mark from Colorado, and Kerry who came in from California as the fourth coach for the weekend. There were the six of us and 26 clients! What a fun weekend!

My own private campsite at RawHyde--Aspens by day, amazing sunset by night.

Before Friday night was finished, I had been approached by and spoken with each of the women who were in the class. I was excited to see three there, knowing that each year these numbers were going to get bigger and bigger.

GS Lifestyle indeed!

Saturday morning, before we headed out to start training, one of the clients said, "Hey, I recognize you! You write a blog that I found a couple of weeks ago. " I was excited to hear this. I know this blog gets a lot of hits, and I know that I get personal messages and emails from people about it, but I'm always excited to meet someone in person who has found it.

Sunday at lunch, I finally got a chance to talk to one of the clients about the t-shirt he was wearing that day. It was a RMAR Rendezvous 2013 shirt. I asked Brad if he had been to any others, and he replied he had only been to that one. I said that was the only one I had missed, and if fact the Big Bike Easy Ride at he 2012 Rendezvous was what made me fall in love with off-road motorcycling.

Brad's eyes got really big, and he said, "I know who you are!"

Uh oh.

He explained that he and a couple other guys had been on the Big Bike Easy Ride the year after I was, and partway in, stopped and told Big John, the ride leader, they thought they were in over their heads. Big John's response was to tell them about this small woman on a GS, who had come to the even all on her own and never ridden off-road before. He went on to describe how I had crushed that ride on street tires, and shamed them into continuing on. Brad said he and a couple guys eventually bailed on the ride, and by the end of the day, though he didn't know me, he HATED me--he was glad to finally find out who "Louise" was.

He said he has hated me for the last two years--without actually knowing who I was--but that experience was part of what encouraged him to go to RawHyde. At graduation that night, as he came through the line of coaches, he hugged me and said he was glad he finally got to meet me. I asked if we were good, if we could be friends, and with a big smile he said yes.

Because I am not a great writer, I find I have a hard time finding words which are adequate in expressing my true feelings. There is no way for me to say this any better--RawHyde Adventure Training Camp makes me happy in a big way. Watching people, who are completely terrified to get on a bike and ride over uneven terrain to simply get to the training grounds, turn into smiling masters of his or her big bike by the end of the weekend is magical for me. I don't stop smiling the entire weekend. The setting is beautiful, the food amazing, the people even better.

Putting all the new skills together at the end of the weekend!
RawHyde makes my heart smile!