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Gaining a New Skill Set

February 5, 2020

Even an experienced rider can learn new tricks.

Story by Misti Hurst

Photos by: Pacific Riding School

Mark Kruger has the nickname Kramer for a reason: tall, lanky and quirky – he describes himself as a “scrawny guy, a little bit crazy with an ego.” I used to race with Kramer back in the day – not against each other, as we were in different classes, but I knew him from the track as an eight-time Supersport Champion. Now he runs a successful rider-training program called Pacific Riding School (pacificridingschool.com) in Surrey, B.C., where he and his staff teach first-time riders. New riders take a program certified by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to obtain their Class 6 licences, ensuring they are safe and well prepared for all road-riding situations. Kramer is also a BMW Motorrad Certified International Instructor (enduro) and offers beginner and advanced off-road courses for clients.

I ran into Kramer at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show and he invited me out to try his beginner enduro training course. Then, on a gorgeous sunny day last spring, I showed up at his training facility by the Cloverdale Fairgrounds ready to ride. I’ve ridden dirt bikes and done some flat-tracking and motocross riding, but have never really ridden anything enduro-ish.

I began my course on a Yamaha XT250. (Kramer said I could use his BMW 1200GS after he saw me ride a smaller bike first.) Before the course began, instructors Malcolm Cairns and RD Merritt adjusted each student’s levers and had the students sit and stand on their bikes to make sure everything was set up correctly. There were five other students (all men), although Kramer did mention that his next course had nine female students.

Kramer’s coaching style is laid-back and relaxed – like hanging out with an old friend or a slightly annoying little brother. He outlined how the course would go, talked a bit about using “slow strong hands, not wild spiky hands (for braking).” Then he reminded us to “stay with the objective of each lesson.” 

Walk Before You Run

We began the day by putting our bikes in neutral and, with the engine off, walking them along the pavement for a bit, turning around and walking them back to get used to the weight and balance of the bike. From there, we started our bikes’ engines and put the bikes in first gear and, using the throttle this time, walked them up a hill and around a corner. The purpose of this exercise: sometimes while in the bush, you may encounter obstacles that you can’t ride over and will need to manoeuvre your bike over or around something by walking beside the bike. (I’ve done this dozens of times in the bush when riding my Yamaha YZF250 and, most recently, on my new, smaller YZ125, but this exercise still was good practice. 

After that, we headed to a large gravel training area that featured some carefully placed cones and other obstacles, where we were given a brief demonstration on motorcycle gymnastics.

We first rode around in the gravel to get a feel for the bikes, then we lifted our right leg over the seat and stood on the left foot peg and did some loops before switching sides to repeat that exercise. For those of us who were comfortable enough (all of us in our group), we were challenged to put both knees up on the seat and complete a lap riding around that way before doing a final few loops with our left hand completely off the handlebar and held out to one side. This exercise was to really emphasize the need for gripping the fuel tank with your knees while standing up in the enduro riding position – “attack” elbows with a slight bend; eyes up, looking ahead; knees pinching the tank and slightly bent; toes straight or slightly inward; and heels on the pegs with…

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