Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School

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Riding Tip: Good Press and the Boom of Adventure Bike Schools


Jimmy Lewis rides down a dune on the KTM 990 Baja

Jimmy Lewis rides down a dune on the KTM 990 Baja

We have been very privileged over the past few years to be sitting pretty with our well established riding school (we’ll start printing the “Since 1999” T-shirts soon) and a lot of very positive press. The boom in motorcycle popularity both mainstream and has a lot of riders jumping into adventure riding. And a lot of those riders are wisely looking for training. But like moto-centric anything there is the good and the bad.

The good is that most training is beneficial. Any time you spend on your motorcycle and thinking about what you are actually doing will usually help you become a better operator of that motorcycle. Having a knowledgeable instructor or training program is a bonus as well. But here is where the bad comes in. With any rush in popularity comes the flock of people looking to make a quick nickel off of it or trying to get popular through excessive marketing. Not that I don’t admire someone looking to make a living doing what they love. It is when that person or business doesn’t have any idea what they are doing and their program starts getting taught like gospel, that is where the problems start. I dare you to try and survive a day getting training off of YouTube from so called experts on any subject let alone motorcycle riding. In the same vein see if there is any consistency in that training?
So this month we are going to dispel the most popular myths or misconceptions that seem to have risen in our area of expertise. Most of these half-baked notions have been brought to my attention by clients doing research on our class and asking questions when inquiring. They have been told or saw someplace on the internet (watch out, anyone can become an expert behind a keyboard or in fancy gear) that this method, technique or style is the best way–or even worse the ONLY way. We love nothing better than a challenging question or to enter into a discussion about things related to proper riding. But after the tenth time of having to explain why you don’t “get over the back and gas it” we have to speak out. So without further ado, here are things you should not believe about riding off-road:

I want to be a faster rider. Can you help me?
Yes, we can help but you will become faster only after you become safer. You are not very fast laying on the ground with a broken collarbone. Nor if you crash at all. We do not subscribe to the “you aren’t learning if you aren’t crashing” attitude. We teach with drills that “take out of control situations and put them in a controlled environment.” They were not easy to develop and they work exceptionally well at showing both novice and expert riders alike what they are doing right and wrong. This way the rider can then feel what they are doing and what the bike is doing without getting into a risky or dangerous situation. That is why so many of our drills are staples at other schools and why other instructors come to learn from us. Or, they heard what we do and try and recreate it, usually improperly and making it dangerous at the same time. If you see a school with lots of crashing photos or riders looking out of control, guess what they are teaching youweb-7

I’m fine on my smaller bike, I want to learn how to ride this big adventure bike. Why don’t you have a specific Adventure bike class?
The reason you are fine on the smaller bike is because it is 200-pounds lighter and it was designed to be ridden aggressively or at least how you see yourself riding. Adding weight and the extra power off-road will get you in more trouble–just like that. But in reality, the skills and techniques needed to ride either bike are EXACTLY the same. It starts with balance, blends in bike control and grows with practice and familiarity on the bike in question. The difference between the way the bikes react and how the rider responds is the key. As a rider, you have to have the skills to control any bike you are on and then react properly with those skills depending on the situation. The different bike is just a different tool to accomplish the same task. So why not learn on a bike that allows the maximum learning while you are paying good money to learn from a quality instructor? Then practice those skills you learned on a bike you intend to do most of your riding on.


I’m ready for some advanced training, I’ve been to multiple schools already.
Our Series One class is the only class we are currently teaching because it is much more advanced than any other class out there, no matter how many different levels you have been sold. Don’t believe us? Nothing gets you more attention in our classes than making a drill look easy like you have mastered it. In fact, if you master a drill or two we will be looking to hire you. The drills and techniques we teach have the ability to be comprehended and worked on by a novice rider while still challenging the most advanced rider. To this day Jimmy still practices these very same drills and so do his instructors. We even challenge very famous and accomplished racers to give the drills a try–to point out how difficult even a simple drill can become with just a few modifications. So come and get that advanced training in our Series One class.

I’m new to riding and want to take your class.
We think that taking a class is a great idea but our class progresses too fast for new or beginner riders. Even though very basic in nature, the drills become complex and require that you are familiar and comfortable with riding a motorcycle before coming to see us. You should be comfortable riding on gravel roads at speeds up to 40 MPH, comfortable standing while riding and have no issues with using the clutch, brakes, and throttle. If you do not currently own a bike or your own riding gear, we may be a little out of your zone. For that, we recommend the MSF Dirt Bike School (Learning off-road is a much better-starting place than on road) or the MSF Basic Rider Course.


The other guy said Jimmy is just a washed-up ex-racer so how could he teach me to be safer?
Well, whoever said that was right about Jimmy being a washed-up ex-racer, Jimmy is that with a long list of racing accomplishments in many different disciplines of motorcycle racing. Where he goes wrong is that the reason Jimmy was so successful was because even in racing he was very safe and realized a few critical things. The reason he could ride faster was because he was better in balance and had higher level of bike control than most others, stuff we teach in the class. That was the reason he could go 3 or 5 or even 20 MPH faster than someone else. On top of that, he was better on his brakes, a very important, if not the most important part of being safe. We spend a lot of time teaching you how to slow down and utilize the brakes to go faster and be safer. And all of this revolves around using less energy to control the motorcycle and keep yourself focused. All techniques learned and practiced in racing now transferred into teaching. And yes, we can help your racing improve if that is what you are after.

Factory Rally Bike or...

Can you teach me to pop a wheelie?
Yes, but we will not. Look it up on the internet or just hold it wide open and drop the clutch, that works every time. What we will teach you is very high-level bike control. If that control requires that you make the front wheel come off the ground at a prescribed spot every time you want it to without fail, then we can give you a set of building blocks to learn that control and practice up to the point where you are comfortable lofting the front wheel on command. Maybe without even moving forward.

Why do I have to put knobby tires on my bike to participate in your class? Other schools don’t require it and I ride a lot on the road.
We require it for your safety and because any rider who will ride with a round tire off-road has a misconception about how dangerous it is. Even if they wear quickly, off-road tires can and will save you from wearing a cast for a few months or even worse. Knobby-type tire on off-road bikes mostly wear in the center (that is how they all wear out) the side knobbies still dig in when needed and give you an extra chance for traction when things start going wrong. And when was the last time you rode 3000 miles without the opportunity to change out the rear tire? Your safety is not worth the risk.

Want to be adventure bike, the riding position is always the same. Balanced and in control. Even in deep sand you do not "get over the back and gas it!"

Want to be adventure bike, the riding position is always the same. Balanced and in control. Even in deep sand you do not “get over the back and gas it!”

My buddy just tells me to “gas it out” or “get over the back in the soft stuff!”
Is he an instructor? And it must work if he can do it, right? Well ask him to do it one-handed, that will show how in control he is. We do a lot of teaching that bucks the norm if you have taken other classes or have ridden with higher level riders. The reason you pay to come to our class is that we are training you in a way that works. Drills and steps that you can fall back on and use to figure your way out of any situation. Even if the result is to turn around or go another way because you don’t have the skill set for said challenge. Getting over the back and gassing it is getting out of control and hoping you don’t crash! We have students numbering in the thousands that have become better riders by slowing down, getting in balance and learning what really works when riding.