Monday, June 27, 2011
Giving it welly with Si Pavey!
Wow! Somewhat struck for words....that doesn't happen very often.
Si Pavey's offroad school is for sure, as Billy suggested, probably the best in the world! Whilst I had possibly the steepest learning curve of my life, discovered I've almost definitely 'bitten off more than I can chew' regarding the Pyrenees trip, I've gotten the bug! I undertook a Level One course for novices, I ascertained fairly early on that I'm just off 'complete beginner'. And to have been taught by Si Pavey, the man himself, what a privilege.
When I arrived, to say my nerves were in tatters would be an understatement, I knew that I'd be riding a BMW G650 GS. The group of circa 25 odd were all - whilst all ages, shapes, sizes and walks of life evidently seasoned bikers! Uh oh! I passed my test 14 years ago on an MTX 125 and didn't get on a bike again. I ride my GasGas 200 EXC and have for perhaps an hour or so ridden Mr T's KTM 400. So, a new big BMW was frankly 'frightening the pants off me'. As it turned out, when we set off, my first thought after pulling away and NOT stalling and thinking 'whoopee' was 'ooo I'd like one of these!'
We went off in convoy and needless to say, I'm not exactly a speed freak on a bike, so whilst I was still in the convoy (and still in the same country) there was some distance between me and the person in front! Oop - a pattern which was to continue.
Day one started with lots of foundation techniques, picking the bike up, braking, riding slowly and executing small manoeuvres, tight circles and of course standing up at all times. Si later commented, I don't teach anyone to sit down until they can stand up - I wasn't standing up very well - more hunching than standing. When you do stand correctly as with all the tips and techniques - what a difference!!! Gwyn, my instructor has the patience of a saint and boy did he need it, practicing what it feels like to lock up front wheel, back wheel, emergency stops et al, I was permanently one exercise behind?! Did what was required - eventually - but not when it was required!
Linley, Si Pavey's fabulous wife gave us girls an inspiring 'pep' talk at the beginning and my goodness it helped, there were several times when I thought, you've done it this time Kate, out of a comfort zone too far!
After lunch we did some descents, with engine braking (like that - don't really get that with the GasGas), with brakes, with both. This was when the cussing that was going on generally unheard within my helmet was turning to whoops and yippees when I achieved what was being taught. (Thanks Gary for buckets of patience at the clunch pit). Ha - perhaps there's hope for me yet!
After an amusing evening of tales of derring do, some embellished (perhaps?!) around the supper table, day two arrived. I was nervous again and the weather was ridiculously heavy rain, however breakfast with Ross Noble caused the anxiety to, at least temporarily, be distracted.
So, day two, as Linley predicted, it all started coming together - mostly anyway?! I still wasn't giving it enough 'welly'. On the way there, Gary Taylor (yet another stonking rider) appeared alongside (I was at the back again) to the Walters Arena, to encourage me - both in spirits and in using the throttle!! Incidentally, the back drop to Si's offroad school is absolutely stunning, although I could only really see it on Friday! Nestled in the Brecon Beacons - just beautiful.
One comment that has stuck in my mind is to 'let the bike do it's job' . The moment you start to fight it is when it's likely to go pear-shaped. As Si commented so often, top riders do everything with finesse. To watch Si, I know that absolutely to be true.
This is probably the time to mention my clutch control or lack of! I was dropping the clutch big time, stalling regularly as if it were a competition and therefore, finesse was not a descriptor that would be used, reference my riding, any time soon! And my poor, long suffering little bike, did smell a bit once or twice - oop! Had a top lesson from Si in what's going on with the clutch, and therefore letting it out slowly - what a difference!
Billy gave me some top throttle tips in the morning, i.e. use it girl! He came alongside at one point jauntily side-saddle which made me smirk and urging me on to rev it!
To say, my riding has come on in leaps and bounds (or perhaps smooth and powering through would be more appropriate) would be an understatement. I broke my brake lever day one, my clutch lever day two at the point just beyond my middle finger - that got me using it properly with two fingers!! I have bruises of every hue.
I took Mr T's Benelli Tre-K out today, an 1130cc road bike, which had someone paid me to do last week, I wouldn't have. It was great, I loved it and enjoyed it, even if I did possibly look a complete eejit in full offroad regalia on a road bike. I had just been out on the GasGas - what a difference two days make! Do I sense a shopping opportunity for some leathers on the horizon!!
Linley, once or twice suggested, 'look where you're going Kate, not where you're at' - a motto for life me thinks . It works!
So, whether you're a seasoned road biker wanting to develop your skills, a keen offroader, or a novice or even a complete beginner, a few days at Si's school and you won't be disappointed!
On a personal level, I made some really lovely friends which was wonderful and got to know others a bit better.
The girls Irene and Ailsa, seasoned roadbikers were so very supportive.
Oddly, I didn't cry, whilst very close to it several times until Simon said well done at the end of day two - lost it then big time - fortunately it was raining too, I hid in my helmet!!
Thanks Si. Thanks Linley. Thanks Gwyn. Thanks Irene. Thanks Billy.
Sooo very much!