We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”. I’ve watched numerous videos over the years “practicing” how to hop a log or how to rail a corner from the seat of my couch. But low and behold, I manage to get distracted within 5 minutes of hitting the trails and rarely practice or fully apply many of those skills. Recently, I took the DirtWise "In-Depth" two day class led by legendary off-road racer Shane Watts, in hopes of breaking through my somewhat plateaued skill level. I’m a B class rider with 15 years of riding experience under my belt including track, trail, street, and ice riding. Shane offers three classes in his DirtWise school: a one day “Fundamentals”, a two day “In-Depth”, and a two day “Hardcore” class.
Our class consisted of about a dozen riders with a wide range of age and capability. The small class size allowed for individual attention to be given to every rider. Leave your ego at home, you will get called out on bad form and execution for the sake of improvement; the exact intent of this class. One of my immediate realizations was that my body position was nowhere near what I perceived, and I think this was true for several riders in our group. Even though you may feel like you are doing exactly as instructed, it really does take another set of eyes to point out what you are doing wrong. This proved to be true multiple times over the duration of the class.
Day one started out with a Slow Ride exercise where the goal is to ride as slowly as possible without dabbing a foot. As basic as this sounds, it's a great way to improve balance, and most importantly, develop good form. The simplicity of the exercise allows you to really focus on the key concepts. Shane repeatedly called out our flaws, reinforcing good form, and execution in the process. The rest of the day included exercises such as accelerating, braking, and flat turns. These are areas where a rider can always improve regardless of skill level. Much like the Slow Ride exercise, I benefited from a coach providing immediate feedback on what I was doing wrong.
The class layout allows for an incremental approach for building riding skills. For example, we practiced stoppies and front wheel skids to get a better feel for front wheel traction in order to maximize our time later spent on the braking exercises. Each lesson included a quick overview from Shane, followed by a demo on his bike. He then let us try it out for awhile, giving us feedback as we went along. We would then stop to regroup, where Shane would point out the issues he saw and how to correct those behaviors. This approach allowed us to make mistakes and learn to self-correct, and it also kept from overwhelming the rider with too much information. We could focus on the key concepts for the first attempt, then work on the finer details in the subsequent attempts at each exercise.
Our location had a short (~2 minute) lap set-up in the woods that we rode multiple times throughout the two days, allowing us to directly apply what we were learning. It was encouraging to see I was getting more comfortable with my corrected body position and was slowly starting to break some of my bad riding habits (such as riding on the balls of my feet). Several of us adjusted the position of our bike controls to better fit the skills being taught.
Some of the drills helped to practice situations riders typically avoid, such as front wheel skids. There is never a time on the trail where you should intentionally lock up your front wheel, but practicing that situation builds comfort and confidence, and teaches you how to correct it. These drills not only make you a better, faster rider, but a safer rider as well. All of the exercises covered in the course can be completed in a flat field, making it easy to recreate and practice at your own riding area or backyard. I’d recommend taking this class with others you typically ride with if at all possible. This allows you to further critique each other on your riding style in the future.
Day two involved some more technical drills like rear brake slides, log grinding, and rutted turns. Because of the content in day two, I would not recommend this particular “In-Depth” course to a complete riding novice. Basic clutch, brake, and throttle control is needed for day one, while day two adds a requirement for more aggressive riding in order to be successful. Unfortunately, we had to skip a couple exercises because we did not have the right conditions. Deep ruts didn’t form during the acceleration exercise, removing straight ruts from the curriculum, and the ground was not slick enough to practice power slides, otherwise we would have likely seen some spectacular high-side wrecks.
A few of Shane’s lectures were on the long side, but a couple were compounded by what seemed like an endless barrage of questions from the riders… and yes, there are dumb questions. Many were about particular areas on our short lap in the woods. Numbered turns and obstacles would have helped the questions be more direct and allow more time for us to practice skills instead of clarifying questions from the riders.
Skills are applicable to both track and trail
Long enough session for new skills to stick and old habits to break
I definitely improved my riding skills
May be limited opportunities to take the course in your local area
Course conditions may dictate what drills you are able to do
I’ve ridden several times since taking this class and can definitely tell my riding has improved. I find myself conscious of my body position and focused on applying the techniques I learned in the class. It was somewhat awkward and slowed me down at first, but bad habits I’ve made over the years are starting to break. I’ve seen big gains by using my body weight (all 160 lbs. of it) to my advantage and getting my weight transferred correctly for accelerating, braking, and cornering. I feel the biggest take-away from the course is that I am now (partially) able to coach myself, as I can point out what I am doing wrong, and self-correct. This is something I don’t think I could have ever gained by watching on-line tutorials.
Details @ http://shanewatts.com/
Great bunch of guys in the class!
The 2016+ KTM 690 Enduro R and Husqvarna 701 Enduro both come from the factory with a pleated paper air filter. While that's great for posting max HP numbers to tout and helping to meet tight emission standards (no oil present), paper isn't necessarily the best filter media for those riding these bikes in dusty and/or wet conditions. While oiled foam doesn't flow as well as a relatively fresh paper air filter, they do a better job maintaining their efficiency as they become dirty. Also, where a paper air filter will fall flat on its face when wet, foam can be squeezed out to get you back on the trail and serviced when you get back. These are the main reasons why I swapped out the stock disposable paper air filter on my 690 Enduro R for a drop-in oiled foam unit from Twin Air.
The plastic frame is reusable and it has an integrated rubber strip for a tight seal against the airbox. Installation is exactly like the stock paper filter (stupid simple) and the Twin Air Filter fit my airbox accurately. There are two pieces of reusable/serviceable filtering foam, the piece with the black layer being backfire resistant and both are pre-oiled from the factory with Twin Air Bio Filter Oil.
From the folks at Twin Air regarding the foam pieces and layers:
Despite oiled foam not foam not flowing as well as a relatively fresh paper air filter, my butt dyno can't feel it. Throttle response, overall power, and intake noise feels/sounds pretty much stock. In terms of filtering abilities, the only real testing that I could do was to visually inspect the inside of the airbox after each ride. While I found an extremely tiny amount of even tinier dust particles in a couple of the low spots of the airbox, when rubbing them between your index finger and thumb, I couldn't even feel any grit to them. In fact, they were easier to see with a bright light against the contrasting black airbox than feel with your fingers. Considering that all my local off-road riding is fine sugar sand, I'm satisfied with how the Twin Air has been performing.
Croom OHV, Brooksville, FL
There is no such thing as the perfect air filter and they all have their pros & cons depending upon where you're riding. I'd run the stock paper air filter all day long if I was mostly a pavement pounder, but I get off-road as much as I can. Our winter riding conditions are very dry and dusty and our summer conditions are quite wet with plenty of water crossings on pretty much every ride. For the conditions I ride, oiled foam is the best option and this unit from Twin Air was a good choice.
Installed on a 2017 KTM 690 Enduro R
More @ https://www.twinair.com/news/news-item.php?itemdate=170217