Your riding buddy is trying to kill you!

Your riding buddy is trying to kill you!

We all have that riding buddy or even close friend that defies the laws of physics.

He doesn't ride bikes; what he does is different!  

He glides through the gnarly stuff, he effortlessly makes way over places that by foot an average human struggles to cross, and we cannot but to be amazed by his out of this world skills.

Being in awe of that friend is normal; after all, we are just human, and when comparing what we can do with what he can do, two options usually come to mind; ask him for help, or sell the bike in shame.

Well, I believe there is a different approach possible, and one that will be more beneficial to your riding skills and morale.

 

A GREAT RIDER IS NOT A GREAT TEACHER

I've written about this at length in the past, so I will not dive deep into it again; however, it is still essential to remind that a great rider is not necessarily a great teacher. 

It is said that those that can't do, teach; however, I've only heard that sentence from those that can neither do nor teach.

Teaching and doing are two distinct disciplines, and as such, although some of us can navigate both waters with ease, they are not many worldwide.

Let's take a simple example, running. 

I believe we all agree that Usain Bolt is probably the best runner that ever lived; however, we need to state that he is the best speed runner that ever lived.

The chances of Mr. Bolt being able to get anywhere near a medal at a marathon are slim, and yet, we are still talking about running, meaning the same discipline, but a different sub-genre.

Regardless of the activity, teaching and doing are different disciplines altogether, so assuming that by excelling at one, we are automatically masters at the other is pure foley.


Reference: image from ultimatemotorcycling.com

Our riding buddy that rides like the gods may be one of the ones that could've turned pro, but that doesn't make him a teacher, even when he offers classes for free or we go and convince him to give us one.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is, do we want to improve and learn using the best methods available, or any advice will do as long as it's free? 


FREE COMES AT A COST

I've been around off-road motorcycles for many years now, and I've lost track of how many times I've seen guys offering help to beginners and beginners asking help from seasoned riders, and that is just fine and healthy to the sport. The problem starts when that help is offered in the form of a free class.

I'm an instructor, but I'm also a rider that likes to ride in groups, and as such, it is common to have complete rookies joining in for a Sunday stroll. 

As a professional habit, my eyes immediately gravitate towards them. What are they doing, what kind of bike are they riding, how they are presenting themselves and tackling the track, and I'm not opposed to helping out just because I'm off the clock, quite the opposite.

However, I will help out by explaining how to go over specific difficulties, advising some classes, or just plain saying that this or that bit of the track is far from their skill level. Still, I never give "free" courses on the go, and the reason is far from me feeling I would be losing money.

When you learned math, did you start by learning multiplications, or did you first learned the numbers' names and order?

Off-road, like anything else, is the same. There is a beginning, a middle, and eventually, an end, constituting a clear path that needs to be walked to accomplish success. 

On the trail with the bike running under you, you are in the middle of the pool, and you have to learn how to swim out. There is no time to go over all the basics on account of, well, drowning.

This means that our friend's free class during the ride has merits, but also disadvantages, clear disadvantages.

I've witnessed several of these free classes taking place; I've even taught some myself, and what happens most times is that you will be taught how to cover ground sprinkled with basic theoretical principles. Still, rarely is it possible to go over all the basics you need to develop efficiently and consistently.

And why? 

There are a few reasons, but mainly because in the middle of the track, time to train precious skills is nonexistent, forcing you to try maneuvers that many times are above your skill level. 


Reference: image from advrider.com

On the other hand, there is self-induced pressure. Even if your riding buddy is the most patient person in the world, and the track is designed for you to train basic skills, you will eventually feel you are letting the group down and forcing everyone to go at your slower stumbly pace. That pressure is counterproductive for any kind of efficient learning. 

From experience, I can tell you that most groups are perfectly fine and happy riding at the slowest rider's pace; after all, off-road is a bonding experience, but that doesn't in any way reduce the pressure we put on ourselves.

This mix of improper training grounds and inappropriate training environment with too much self-pressure as the icing on the cake tends to result in a few possible outcomes: scuffed or broken parts and accessories, the odd injury or sprain, and sadly, the occasional "I'll never do this again" sentence proclaimed by someone that will be scared away from off-road for life. 

All of those outcomes are equally possible on a regular class given by a pro instructor using an established training ground, as some of them are just part of the sport, like scuffed parts, but in percentage, these outcomes can be counted as negligible in those environments.

This being, I'm not saying don't take a free class if you can find one; I'm only pointing out that your free class or tips may cost you more than you bargained for.

 

YOUR RIDING BUDDY IS IMPORTANT, VERY IMPORTANT!

As I said, different disciplines require different skill sets, and just because your riding buddy is probably not a replacement for a proper off-road instructor, his skills and enthusiasm shouldn't go to waste.

There are many sports in the world where having a skilled and eager partner is the key to success.

Fighters have sparring partners, cyclists have leading riders, golfers have trusted caddies, and the list goes on.

If you look at your skilled riding buddies as part of our team and yourself as the star of your own team, you will soon realize just how important they can be in your evolution as well as the sport's evolution.


Reference: image from tatdiaries.org

Let's imagine you did all the steps. You got yourself a bike, you got classes with a certified and reputable off-road instructor, and you have been practicing your new skillsets, but you are finding you hit a plateau.

This is somewhat normal, as we, as regular riders and humans, tend to find it hard to take giant leaps out of our comfort zone, making some plateaus more pronounced than others.

Your riding buddy, the one that kept on pushing you to come for a ride with him, the same one I disadvise as an instructor, can many times be crucial to help you conquer those plateaus.

It is usually with that friend that we find ourselves out of depth, with whom we find the need to use all the techniques we learned and potentially see the need to pick up a few more.

It is with that friend that we conquer fears, that we discover that our days of off-road training were not a waste of time and money, and that instead, they gave us a full set of tools we now know how to use.

It is with that friend that our boundaries keep being pushed, and like with the other sports analogy, those riding buddies are the ones that give us the chance to move up on the ranks, allowing us one day to be the ones helping new riders as we were once helped. 

So when your riding buddy offers you a free class, think twice, as good intentions alone don't make up for good outcomes. But if he is trying to get you out of your comfort zone and you already have some basic off-road training, go for it, as he may just be the help you need, and by far a lot cheaper than a full-time instructor. 

Keep training, keep improving, and keep sharing the good vides that make our sport what it is.

 

Your riding buddy is trying to kill you!


2 comments

  • Zé Duarte

    Thank you very much for your reply Antonio, and for sharing your experience with the Nation.

    I’m thrilled that your story ended up well and that you stuck with it and didn’t quit off-roading! It is very easy to feel this sport isn’t our cup of tea when we try it at a level that is not our own, and it boggles my mind how many people look over that very simple and avoidable fact.

  • Antonio

    Very good article and very relevant. A very excited friend took me out my 1st few times. Even with me letting him know I wanted to take it slow we didn’t, and we did gnarly stuff. I was hanging on by a thread, learned nothing and did not have a good time. Since those 1st few rides I’ve ridden by myself and taken classes. In those classes I’ve learned great techniques. I’ve ridden faster, but I was just surviving, in class going slow I better understand.

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