I just never get tired of these videos/stories!
Lone Star BMW/Triumph recently hosted an off-road clinic given by RawHyde Adventures, this which is an official BMW training center. The clinic is basically a short intro to what you learn at the full RawHyde Camp, emergency and it was free so I made sure to RSVP as soon as I could. The clinic was held at the Capitol City Trap and Skeet Club which was about a half-hour ride from my house.
The class was scheduled to start at 10am and I decided to go early. I arrived at 9:15 and was glad I did. I was a little nervous riding in since it was on gravel and I’m not so comforatble riding on the stuff, especially at slow speeds. By arriving so early, there wasn’t a huge audience to scrutinize my riding ability! I really didn’t want to drop my bike just pulling into the place. But it was all good since everyone seemed pretty cool and probably wouldn’t care. We’re all there to learn, after all! (I did just fine, btw)
I was maybe the fifth person to arrive and got to chat with a couple of the riders. The cool part was checking out the other bikes, which were of course BMW machines. It turned out there were a couple Yamaha TW200s that Robert Krull (one of the owners of Lone Star BMW/Triumph) had trailered over just in case someone wanted to train on a smaller bike. There were several 650cc bikes like my own, but most were the big 1150 or 1200 GS models with a couple 800cc bikes thrown in for good measure. Besides myself there were several other newbies in the group. Everyone was really cool and the two instructors from RawHyde, Shawn and Lance, put everyone at ease and made sure everyone felt comfortable.
We started out with a ganeral overview of the clinic, and then a demonstration of proper riding posture and technique. It was really interesting and neat to see some real experienced riders explaining how riding an adventure bike is properly done. Next came individual one-on-one bike inspections, where Shawn and Lance went to each bike/rider and evaluated the riding position, lever position, and made recommendations on any kind of upgrades we may want to make in the future. They also performed adjustments to pegs and handlebars right there and then if needed. It was so cool! When Shawn took a look at my bike, he recommended some lower pegs (which I knew about) and some guards for the radiator. He said that the 650 single’s radiator was prone to damage from the side if you dropped the bike. Other than that he said my bike was nicely equipped with the handguards, Heidenau tires, and bar risers. It was funny, but because I had taped over the Barkbusters logo on the handguards he asked what kind they were. When I told him about the tape, he (and the others standing around watching) said that was a cool idea. Apparently other people felt like I did and would rather not have the big white advertisement on the front of the bike. We also aired down the tires to 25psi in preparation for the riding, and learned how to disable the ABS systems on our bikes. Shawn showed me how to semi-permanently disable the ABS on the 650 by simply disconnecting the front sensor cable. Good to know!
After the inspections were done, we hit the course for some training. This consisted of riding as slow as we could over the dirt/grass. The point of this exercise was to keep your focus towards the distance (don’t look down), get proper riding posture, and get comfortable using the friction zone. It was pretty fun, and riding around the small range was really confidence inspiring. The instructors said that each exercise builds upon the previous ones and that we’d be learning about 5 of the 30 or so techniques they teach at their full camp.
There were a lot of bikes at the clinic (maybe about 30?) so the queue was a bit long. But I have to say that I learned a lot just being in line. Moving forward over the uneven ground for 20 feet, then stopping, then doing it again was nice practice. Especially having to turn, while scooting along over small rocks and washes was kind of fun. I thought for sure that I’d drop my bike at some point but I made it through the day without any mishap! While in the queue, there was a bit of excitement behind me. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I heard a revving of an engine, then saw a bike on its side. Then I saw another bike behind it on its side as well, runing into the first bike. It was just a small collision but I think one of the bikes had a broken auxiliary light.
After another time around the range, this time with Shawn trying to distract each rider, it was time for a break. Burgers, beans, and iced tea were provided by Texas Rib Kings and we all sat at the covered pavilion and chatted about bikes and rides. It was fun and I met a few of the other riders. It was getting really hot out so the lunch was a good time to cool down and get hydrated. After lunch there was another demonstration of how to pick up a bike that is on its side. The two ladies in the group each picked up the huge 1200GS on their own using the technique shown to us. It was pretty cool.
Back on the range our next drill was executing a “trail stop”, which is coming to a stop then accelerating again — all while standing on the pegs. We also were told to use only our front brake. This was really good because everyone got to put away the notion that you should never use your front brake on dirt. Sure, you can’t use it as forcefully as you can on the pavement, but it is effective. When I first did the trail stop, Shawn said I was stopping too slowly and that I should grab more brake. He said that if you come to a stop while deccelerating too gradually, you’ll lose your balance a lot quicker. So the next time, I braked a bit harder and sure enough, I had more balance and could easily do a trail stop. This stuff really works!
The next drill was the one I was really looking forward to: tight turns. This was a exercise in body positioning and counter-balancing, and also looking ahead to the next turn. I did pretty good at it although I did go through the turns a little fast. But the more I practiced, the better I got. There was a second part of this course which was a series of even tighter turns, but I wasn’t successful in pulling those off! Some of the other riders had a ton of skill and could do those turns on their monstrous 1200 GSs. It was really impressive! I did stall my bike’s engine a few times during this section of the clinic, but I always started it up while still standing on the pegs. I got pretty good at that!
At around 2pm, the clinic came to a close and everyone packed up their things, aired up their tires, and rode off. It was a fantastic day and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I know I did, and I feel like I learned a ton! I know that I can trust the bike more and that by using the proper technique, some of the things I was really worried about can be overcome. In fact, that apprehension that I had about arriving in front of all the other riders is gone now. And I’d love to take the full RawHyde Adventure Camp sometime in the future!
Kiki is nearing the 12, dentist 000 mile mark which means a bunch of service needs to be done and I’m trying to do most of it myself to save a bit of cash. One of the things I haven’t done before on the GS is change the spark plugs. Although my bike is a single-cylinder model, medicine it’s a “dual-spark” which means there are two spark plugs. I decided to use the stock NGK DR8EB plugs as replacements and the price for these were about $4.50 each as opposed to an Iridium plug which goes for upwards of $20. Too pricey for me and the performance difference is debatable.
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For a nice guide on how to change the spark plugs, you can check out the FAQ at the Chain Gang site. However, there were a few parts of the procedure that could use a little more detail. For my 2007 model, I’d recommend taking off the plastics, removing the snorkel, the battery, and the battery tray. By doing this, you can access the tops of the coil/caps. There is a grey rubber sleeve that secures the coil to a metal mount, and you’ll want to turn the coil so that the sleeve comes off of the metal mount. After that, you can pull the coil/cap up off of the plug. It’s easier if you have small hands. For the coil/cap on the side, you might be able to push that up from the side, rather than pull up from the top.
Click on the photos below to view at Flickr where you can see highlighted notes.
Once you get the coil/caps off, blow off the plug area with compressed air to get rid of any dirt. Next, you can use the spark plug socket included in the BMW toolkit to unscrew the plugs. For the center plug, you will have to drop the socket down onto it from by where the battery was. Then, use a big screwdriver and put it in the top of the socket. My plug was in there pretty tight, so I used some vice-grips on the screwdriver handle to turn the socket. Once you get the plugs out, just reverse the process and you’ll be done!
On my old Supercub, changing the plug would take only a couple minutes since it was so easily accessible. The BMW F650 GS’s plugs are tucked in there pretty tightly and there was plenty of cussing and sweating when I was figuring out how to do it. But now that I know how it’s done, the next change will be pretty easy. Anyways, I hope this post helps someone who might be unclear on what they have to do to change their plugs. You can always leave a comment here if you want me to contact you for more explanation!