Dirtwise DirtWise by Shane Watts


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yz250f_spud

  • 5
   1 of 1 member found this review helpful 1 / 1 member

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.  

Pros: :thumbsup:

  • Individual attention
  • 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

Cons: :thumbsdn:

  • May be limited opportunities to take the course in your local area
  • Course conditions may dictate what drills you are able to do

Spud's Bottom-line

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/

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Great bunch of guys in the class!

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Bryan Bosch

  • 5
   1 of 1 member found this review helpful 1 / 1 member

I did a two day class with Shane when I lived in Colorado. I'm a self taught rider of 35+ years that can get through most terrain without too much trouble and my speed is pretty good for a weekend warrior. No matter how good you think you are, I guarantee you that if you're self taught, you probably have some bad habits. I did and Shane wasn't shy about pointing them out.

Definitely bring your energy and leave the ego at home. Shane packs a lot into the class and there isn't much idle time. In fact, a couple of riders in my group washed out and didn't come back for day two. The class is designed to challenge you and if you apply what you learned, you will become a better rider. Not just faster, but safer too.

Day one exercises can seem a little basic at times, but on day two, you get that "Ah ha!" moment of clarity when the riding exercises require you to use one or more of the core skills from day one to execute successfully. If you've never received any critique from a professional rider like Shane and you're committed to improving, I highly recommend taking a DirtWise course. It's money well spent and a memorable experience to boot.

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WFO_Pete

  • 5
   1 of 1 member found this review helpful 1 / 1 member

I went to a Shane Watts 2-Day "In Depth Dirt Wise" school last month in Barryton, Michigan.  Watts is a good instructor as he motivates, encourages and even has the patience for the goober riders. Shane is a pretty conservative/old school in his approach to riding.  Body position, balance, throttle/clutch control, eyes ahead...slow is smooth and smooth is fast type of guy. He is methodical in his approach and demos the techniques over and over.  As you would also expect you get just enough exposure to the drills to know what "right" feels like but you are still hours away to be proficient at the technique. Be prepared to push out of your "comfort zone". With the drills we riders encountered over the two day school, I know my confidence is way up on dealing with many aspects of off roading at speed. One example is ruts, I was pretty much a typical rider dealing with them but after learning a few rut things and practicing the drills, I'm kinda looking forward to the next time I get to ride them. So forget that next cam, pipe or bling for your bike and put your money into learning how to ride faster.

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