RawHyde Adventures is one of the leading motorcycle off-road training schools. Founded by Jim Hyde in 2002, he started offering training programs in 2004. On this ARR Rider Skills episode Jim Hyde talks about RawHyde Adventures, and about dropping your bike. Learn how to drop your bike safely and how to get over the embarrassment or emotional hang-ups associated with it.
Topics Discussed: Courtesy Jim Hyde
- “fear” of dropping
- what usually happens when you “drop” an adventure bike?
- minor issues of a drop
- major issues of a drop
- injury implications of fighting a drop
- where does ego and pride fit into this?
- WHY did you buy an adventure bike if you don’t want to risk a drop?
- GET OVER it…. Enjoy the ride… drop the bike…pick it up… its no big deal!
Interviewer: Jim Martin | Photos: Jim Hyde
This transcript has been created from the original audio episode released February 1, 2018. This transcript may have been modified to make reading easier. As Adventure Rider Radio shows are meant to be listened to and not read, the following script may contain some grammatical and other errors. You can also listen to this interview by downloading the episode.
Jim (Narrate): If you’ve ridden you bike in the dirt much, then chances are that you’ve dropped it at one point or another. Now, the question is: the last time that you dropped it, what did you do? Did you hang your head in shame? Did you pick it up as fast as you could so that nobody else would see it? Or maybe, you took the opportunity to snap a photo and have a chuckle with your riding friends. Well, if you were Jim Hyde from RawHyde Adventures, you’d likely be honking your horn, and cheering.
Jim Hyde (J.Hyde): I want everyone to whoop, and holler, and lay on the horn.
Jim (Narrate Con’d): So, whats the deal? Did you drop the bike because you lacked the skills for what you were doing? Or maybe it’s just one of those things that happens when you’re riding in the dirt. Or maybe, it’s a little of both. But the real question is- should we care? Today on Adventure Rider Radio we have another one of our exclusive rider skill segments. And today, your instructor is Jim Hyde; from one of the world’s top adventure training schools for motorcycles, RawHyde Adventures. Today, we’re going to talk about dropping the bike. The psychology of it, the potential damage, how to do it, and the reason behind it. You’re also going to hear the story behind the making of RawHyde Adventures, and how, beginning with a dozen Jeeps, an unthinkable event did an about-face for RawHyde that ultimately ended up making them into a BMW poster child for ADV motorcycle training. My name’s Jim Martin, this is Adventure Rider Radio. Stay with us- we’ve got a good one for you.
J. Hyde: My name is Jim Hyde. I am the owner of RawHyde Adventures, and we are the only officially sponsored off-road riding school, that BMW sponsors, in the United States.
Jim: Jim, welcome to Adventure Rider Radio.
J. Hyde: Thank you so much. Glad to be here.
Jim: Well it’s about time we got you on. As you said, you’re the only company sponsored by BMW- you’ve got to be doing something right. But you’ve been doing this for a long time.
J. Hyde: We actually started RawHyde back in 2002, and oddly enough, motorcycles were not part of the equation. We started as a Jeep travel company. That had been the intention. I’ll give you a very short back story on the complete back flip we had to do on the business model. RawHyde was originally going to be a Jeep travel company. I had spent the entire summer of 2001 in Europe marketing our services to European travel companies. I had a dozen Jeeps, and some fancy big rigs that were designed to provide hospitality and accommodations in the middle of nowhere. I flew home from Europe on September 9th of 2001, and a couple of days later with the whole ugliness of the World Trade Centre and all that, everything changed. So we started off then with motorcycles, working with the American market, and that’s how we got started with bikes- and here we are today.
Jim: What did you do with the Jeeps? I mean, you’ve got all these Jeeps lined up.
J. Hyde: I just sold them all. I had no choice. It took about a week and all the contracts that I had lined up…most contracts that involve travel have some sort of a clause about terrorism, cicvil unrest, etc, and those were the clauses that got activated to kill the contracts. Probably a good thing in the long run, because the motorcycle business has been a good and fun thing to be involved in.
Jim: What made you think that you couldn’t market Jeep tours to Americans?
J. Hyde: The truth of the matter is that America is still the wild wild west in the eyes of folks who live outside the boundaries of the US. Most Americans that have a desire to cruise the back country own a Jeep or a pick-up truck or something like that. To Europeans…You have to understand the European mentality. So many countries are so closed. And what I mean with that is, the population densities of Europe are really high. There’s not a lot of available back country to go and explore. So America looms as a very very high profile point of interest for people who have the interest of exploring and getting out into the back country. The American west in particular, because “cowboys and Indians” has a great deal of allure to the European traveller.
Jim: So you decided to switch to motorcycles. Before that, with the 4-wheel drive thing, does the Jeeping come from a background of 4-wheeling for you?
J. Hyde: For me, it does. I grew up as a kid in the California deserts. My dad had a Jeep, a bunch of our friends had Jeeps. I had a dune buggy that I used to bomb around on the dirt roads and trails of the Mojave Desert. For me it’s where I grew up. It’s a magical place. We spend a lot of time there today with RawHyde as well. So yeah, I do have a background in that.
Jim: And where do motorcycles enter your life?
J. Hyde: Well, that ties in a little bit to the story of what we can talk about here. I represent…how do I want to put this? Demographically my story is very similar to the stories of an awful lot of people who are getting into the adventure bike world. I had a dirt bike, also, when I was 17 years old living in the Mojave Desert. My two forms of entertainment were a little Yamaha 125 MX, and a dune buggy. I sold both to go to college, and then I did not really look back on the motorcycle world for 25 years. When I did, I got a chance to ride an adventure bike for the first time, and that’s a different story to tell.
Jim: You mean the actual riding of it?
J. Hyde: Yeah. The short version of the story is that I was in Europe on a vacation in the Dolomite mountains of Italy (which are just spectacular) and I was cruising around in a minivan with some friends looking out the window on this twisty cobblestone road. And the idea sort of hit me: wow, I’d love to ride a motorcycle here. Of course, once you get a thought like that in your head, then they tend to stick. So I came home and started researching opportunities to rent a bike or take a tour in the Dolomites. One thing led to another, and I booked myself on a motorcycle tour with a company called Beaches Motorcycle Adventures. The only bike that they had for me at the point in time when I booked was a BMW GS. And that was my first experience riding an adventure bike.
Jim: And is that mainly street riding?
J. Hyde: Yeah, mostly. In fact, there’s more that ties into our overall story here with the fact that, yes, it was a street ride. But, when I found out about the bike that I was going to be assigned on this tour, I did a little research. I got the impression that it was a motorcycle that some could take off-road. So I tinkered with that a little bit on the few dirt roads that I saw as I travelled about Italy and Slovenia. I quickly learned that the skills that I had as a kid, riding the 125 MX, were not quite adequate for handling the big dog off-road. So I turned around and went back to the pavement. I spent the rest of the time riding on the street. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful experience. And it was my first introduction to the adventure bike world.
Jim: Before you decided to come up with this Jeep tourism thing, and then eventually RawHyde Adventures as it stands today, what were you doing before that?
J. Hyde: I have been in sales my entire life. Mostly in high-end expensive machinery. I have sold everything from industrial laser systems, to Boeing, to machine tools. That’s what I did at very first was just machine tools, and mills, and lathes. Metalworking equipment. Then I went to lasers. From lasers I spent most of my time working for General Electric selling their high-end medical equipment. MRI scanners, CT scanners, cardiac cath labs, things like that.
Jim: Was there a point where you sort of woke up and went into work one day and thought, I don’t want to do this anymore?
J. Hyde: There was a point. For a sales guy, it’s a pretty common story. General Electric, when I joined them, was number three in their market space. And of course, GE’s goal is, if they can’t be number one in any market that they’re in, they choose usually to back out of that market. But they felt they could achieve the number one position and in a three to four year period, they did. As all big companies do (once they’re number one)…they start a publicly traded company, they’re looking for ways to increase profits, increase the value of their shares…so one of the first targets is salesman commissions.
Jim: So you work hard to get them there, and once you get them there, they start to cut you back.
J. Hyde: That’s exactly the way it works in the corporate world. At that point- actually, I loved working there. When you have the opportunity to deal with the cutting edge of technology. Especially cutting edge for good, trying to heal people, it’s fascinating. It was exhilarating, it was fun, it was fulfilling. But then the company decides to start chiseling away at your income. I hold no ill will about that, it’s the way it works, so I said it’s time to quit and take charge of my own destiny. So at the point I did…start RawHyde.
Jim: So you started RawHyde. You went for the Jeeps. Now you’ve scrapped the idea for the Jeeps. You’ve got bikes there. What was the first year or two like?
J. Hyde: Really damn tough. I didn’t know anything about the motorcycle industry. I had a vision. My vision was to take people on rides through the American desert, or the western deserts, and show them how awesome it is out there. I wanted to do it with a certain style; good food and comfortable accommodations in the middle of nowhere. But at the point in time, I didn’t have a name. Nobody knew anything about me, my business. I didn’t know anything about the motorcycle business. It was a long arduous uphill climb.
Jim: And at times I’m sure you feel like, maybe I should just give up.
J. Hyde: I get [that] many times. I thought, I should have just started flipping houses. However, eventually we got some traction. I can tell you that story if you want.
Jim: Yeah, I’m curious. I’d like to hear this.
J. Hyde: Well, here’s the real truth of the matter: The only thing I really knew about the motorcycle world harkened back to my dirt bike days. So I thought, gosh, I want to provide these tours to show off the Mojave desert mostly, because that’s what I love and that’s where I’m most comfortable. I thought; demographically, who’s the client? Like I said, I like to do things with a certain style- food, wine with dinner…I had this vision of dining underneath the stars on white linen with china, good wine, a good meal, in the middle of nowhere. Get up the next morning, ride bikes hard and get dirty. Then do the same thing again the next night. Get a hot shower, have dinner under the stars…
So, I put together this business model, but [still] I thought; demographically, who’s the client that could or might be interested in this? I gravitated toward the BMW crowd. I then approached BMW dealers here on the west coast in the US. I would just walk in the door and ask for the owner. I’d tell them my story, and say; look, I’d like to work with you to draw your GS riding clients toward me, and take them for an adventure. Slowly we began to get a trickle of GS owners coming to us. Realize too, this was back 15 years ago now, and the adventure bike world was nowhere near as robust as it is today. Nonetheless, BMW was selling quite a number of them.
Universally, these guys were not very good off-road riders. So I began quizzing them: You’re a GS guy, and here you’re on a dirt bike tour and you’re struggling. What’s the issue? Pretty universally I would be informed by the owner; gosh the GS is a great bike, but I don’t want to drop it. It’s too expensive. The sales guy told me it really wasn’t an off-road bike, in spite of the advertising. As I heard these stories, I thought to myself; you know, there’s a market here to teach people how to ride those things. Then- you want to talk about serendipity- about a month after I had that realization, there was an article in the BMW Owner’s News, the club magazine for the MOA. That article was lamenting that BMW had off-road training centres in nine countries, and nothing in the United States. That was like- lightbulb clicked on. Okay. If BMW actually has their own schools in other countries, I didn’t know anything about that. I did some research and found out that yes, indeed they did have schools in other countries. England, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Germany…I said, there’s room in the US for this. So I hung out a shingle to offer up training (specifically to GS owners), and I began to push that through the BMW dealerships of the west. It slowly grew, and here we are today. So that’s the snapshot back story.
Jim: At one point, BMW knocks on your door, I assume?
J. Hyde: So again- talk about good fortune and serendipity. When I finally hung out the shingle as a training centre, I had no rental bikes, I had a very small physical infrastructure, but by luck- I happened to get a journalist in my very first class. He wrote a very complimentary article about what we did and what the experience was like. That actually opened the doors. That article…I leveraged the dickens out of that for a couple of years. This is 2003 and a half at the point that that article came out. So between 2004 and 2008 I worked hard to promote our services to the BMW dealers of the west. [I] began moving eastward a little, through the rockies and Mexico and Arizona. In 2008, October of 2008, I was approached by BMW with the precursor; Jim, we’ve heard a lot about you from our dealers, we understand you do a really good job, and we’d like to know if you’d like to become part of the BMW family. After I stopped pinching myself, I’m like- yeah, you bet I would! It kind of came out of the blue. It was the most random phone call one afternoon, and I was like wow. I’d rather be lucky than smart any day.
Jim: What’s the key to your success? If you dare share it.
J. Hyde: Well, it’s a couple of things. At RawHyde I can offer something that no other training centre in the United States or North America can offer. That is an experience the like of which none of the other schools provide. I have a 2500 acre facility in southern California that has every bit of the type of terrain you will ever face anywhere in the world (except in a jungle) to offer as a place to develop skills. On top of that we have our own restaurant, our own bar, our own accommodations- right here on the property. [With] all the other schools around the country, you either have to camp (you’re on public land usually), or they may have a facility of their own, but there’s not a lot of extras. They don’t really provide accommodation or meal service or anything else. So we’ve been able to create a vibe here that is just remarkable. It sounds like I’m tooting my own horn pretty loudly when I’ll say what I’m about to say, but…I cannot tell you how many people have come up to me and said things like; Jim, I have not had so much fun since I was a six year old at Disney Land. Or, I’ve had men in their 50’s say, I have been so bored of my life the last ten years because all I do is work, and this is a breath of fresh air. You changed my life. I hear comments like that and I say, you know what, we’re doing a good thing here.
Jim: The bar and restaurant- is that open all the time, or is it only for your guests?
J. Hyde: We’re really a private facility. We don’t do anything except operate for our guests when we have our structured classes or tours.
Jim: 2500 acres. That’s a huge chunk of land. You’ve gotta put a lot of people through to make that worth while.
J. Hyde: Well, it’s a long story again. It’s family property. My parents bought this place just after my father returned home from World War II. They wanted some place quiet, so they bought this place. It’s unobtainable today, to find 2500 acres in southern California. No one could probably afford to buy a place like this, to open a motorcycle training school. The numbers just don’t make sense. But since it’s family property, I’m using it in a good way. Everybody loves it when they come here, it’s a good facility.
Jim: What is RawHyde today? What sort of trips do you offer? What sort of instruction do you offer?
J. Hyde: Today what I call RawHyde is…we are a lifestyle company. I can offer something to anybody in the adventure motorcycle market, regardless of where they’re at in the life cycle of their involvement. We offer three levels of training currently. We’re working on a fourth tier.
The three levels of training that we offer are called Intro to Adventure, which is a program designed for street riders that are curious are want to explore the adventure life scene. It’s a pretty low level class. It’s focuses on balance and control, how to ride gravel roads, how to effectively turn and climb hills, thing life this. That’s level one.
Our level two class we call the Next Step. It’s our class that’s aimed at guys that either have basic skills (and want to improve them), or people who have already taken level one. The best way to explain it to a lay person is to say, it’s the difference between a grated road in a national park, and a Jeep track somewhere out in the back country. In level two, we’re teaching how to deal with narrower pathways, how to confront and get over obstacles, how to maintain a higher pace of speed. In the real early stages of anybody’s learning, they go pretty slow. A novice rider that is just getting started may think that a 40 mile off-road day is a full day. But, if you really want to cover any distance, you have to be comfortable moving at speeds between 35 and 60 in the back country. So, our level two class is more technical terrain, higher trails, increased speed. That’s the best way to synopsis it.
Level three is an Expedition Preparedness program. It’s a five day program that covers all of the others things that we really don’t cover in how to ride the bike classes. We talk about navigation, field repair, first aid and communication, as well as some advance riding skills. Again, that is a five day program.
So that’s our training portfolio, if you will. And then we [also] run tours all over the world. Iceland, South America, we’ve been to South Africa, Namibia…we’ve got a full list of tours that run all over the place on our website. But some of my favourite things are right here in North America. A lot of folks think that due to the mechanization of North America, there’s not as much adventure to be had here as there are in other places of the world. But I gotta tell you, that’s not true. More than 50% of the access (in the US anyway) is unpaved roads or worse. So, there’s a lot of wonderful things to see out there. We do a lot in the US and North America as well.
Jim (Narrate): Coming up next, we’ve got our rider skills. We’re going to talk about dropping the bike, and all those things that go with it. Stay with us.
Jim (Narrate Con’t): Okay, now it’s time for the rider skills segment of today. And of course, we have Jim Hyde, whom I’ve already been speaking with. We’re going to talk about dropping your bike.
Jim: Well, for our rider skills, you’re our instructor for this today. You had a great topic- how do you approach this topic? Is this one of the first things you talk about with people when they come to your school?
J. Hyde: It’s actually the very…shall we tell them what the topic is?
Jim: I think we should, yes.
J. Hyde: It’s the whole concern about dropping your bike. Yes, it’s the very first thing that we teach in our basic level class- how to pick your bike up when you drop it.
Jim: The thing is with adventure bikes, if you’ve ridden adventure bikes for very long and you’ve been through different types of terrain, you’re going to drop the bike. You can’t get around it. But there’s a lot of things that come with the dropping of the bike. For example, the ego thing- if anybody’s ridden street, you never want to drop your street bike. There’s a lot of psychological things to overcome with this, isn’t there?
J. Hyde: Yes, there are. We have actually come up with a way of diffusing all of that here in class. Before we ever get started, we tell all of our students that we actually celebrate drops and falls. What we want everybody to do, and this is an instruction to the class, [is] folks, if you see one of your classmates drop his bike, I want everybody to whoop and holler and lay on the horn. That takes away all of the embarrassment. Everybody’s laughing, everybody is going to do it. That’s how we treat it in class. in the real world, yeah, there are a lot of things involved. In fact, as you recall from earlier in the chat here, when I very first started asking GS owners specifically 15 years ago why they didn’t take their bikes off road more, the number one answer is that they don’t want to drop it. There’s a lot of things to deal with in this whole dropping. So what should we talk about first?
Jim: Well, hang on. Before we get into that I was just going to mention that I did some looking around about dropping your bike to see what sort of questions people ask. And, there’s a lot of information on the internet where people will say; don’t drop your bike because if you do, it could need an engine rebuild, you could crack your frame…There’s all types of varying opinions or supposed stories that people have of dropping their motorcycles. How real is that with today’s bikes?
J. Hyde: That’s pretty bogus to be honest with you. At RawHyde I’ve got 48 brand new BMW’s this year. We’ve been using them, BMW has provided of us with a fleet for the last 8 years, and those bikes get dropped hundreds of times during the year that we own them before we have to sell them. Out of the hundreds and hundreds, I will say now thousands of drops, I can’t think of a single engine we’ve had to rebuild. And I can absolutely positively promise you we’ve never broken a frame. There’s a difference between a drop and a crash. We can go into that?
Jim: Let’s talk about that to begin with.
J. Hyde: To me, a drop is the most common balance failure in the adventure riding thing. It’s really simply because a rider is moving fairly slow. They’re coming to a stop (usually coming to a stop) or trying to perform some slow speed maneuver, and they just lose their balance. Or their front wheel rolls up on a rock and then kicks sideways a little bit, and that little sideways slip causes them to drop the bike. Five miles an hour or less is a drop. Ten miles an hour and above, say 10 to 15, is a minor crash. If you’re doing 20 to 30 miles an hour and the bike goes down, that’s a real crash. Real crashes cause damage. I have rarely seen anything other than a bent crash bar in the 15 mile an hour range. The five mile an hour drops…the only real probable damage comes from two areas. If you do not have value cover protectors on your bike there’s a chance that a pebble or a sharp stone that hits just right can crack the valve cover causing an oil leak which obviously needs to be repaired. The only other way, the only possible way that an engine can go south because of the drop, is if the owner is laying there kind of shaking and just lets the engine run while the bike is laying on its side. And he thinks it can run for three to four minutes without damage. That’s not the case. You need to turn the motor off pretty quick or you can score the uphill cylinder because theres no lubrication. All the oil falls to the downside of the motor. Those are the only two things that are going to happen.
Jim: So when you’re talking about valve coverage you’re talking about the R1200 in particular because it has the cylinder out the side. Not necessarily for other makes of bike.
J. Hyde: That’s correct.
Jim: Let’s look at that. As far as a drop goes, quite often, I think you’d probably agree with this, most times when people are doing those drops, when people are doing a slow speed maneuver or something, it’s almost one of those drops where you slightly ease the bike down. Is that the case?
J. Hyde: That can be. We don’t really recommend that people try to ease it down, it can hurt your back. The bikes are tough. Even the Africa Twin, the V-Strom’s, the Yamaha Super Ténéré’s…they don’t have the cylinders that stick out sideways. But crash protection is available for all of them. If people are going to get into this world, they need that. You can still…if the bikes going to fall, let it fall. You might break a clutch lever, but that’s about it.
Jim: You can replace that fairly quickly, whereas fixing your back is…well, the older we get, the longer it takes.
J. Hyde: Well, even if you just pull a muscle. Then you’ve ruined your day. Then you’re going to be in pain for the rest of the day. So we teach people [that], if they start to lose it, just step off the bike and let it go down.
Jim: Let’s talk about the minor issues of a drop. You mentioned a broken break lever, you talked about the stone on the R1200’s. What other things could you expect from a minor drop?
J. Hyde: There’s some variables there. It’s depends on…you know, are you in the brush?
Jim: Well Jim, hang on. Before we go any further than this, let’s just only talk, when we’re talking about this drop),about that almost stopped drop. Not so much anything that’s considered a crash. I think you said five mph, or five mph or less.
J. Hyde: Yeah, five mph or less…The only real variables are, if you’re out in the bushes somewhere, a random stick can get up into the wiring and maybe pull a connector off. I’ll give you a great example of the minor issue of a drop…well no sorry that’s not a minor…we poked a hole in a value cover on a ride in Argentina [that] I was doing. It was a zero mile an hour drop. We had a really heavy side wind [that day], and one of my friends pulled up next to me. We were going to chat. He put a foot down but there was so much wind blowing, he lost his footing. The bike wasn’t moving forward, it just fell over. But, it fell on a sharp rock, and the valve covers are fairly brittle. [We] poked a hole in the valve cover. We had to sit there for four hours, in 50 mile an hour wind in southern Argentina, while the plastic epoxy dried so we could carry on. Honestly, low speed drops…you might bust a windshield if there was a rock sticking up and the bike fell against it. You [could] bust a valve lever, you could poke a hole in a valve cover. That’s it. Scratch the paint, maybe. But there’s nothing major that would ever happen on an adventure bike from a low speed drop. It’s a freak accident if something else happens. It’s a freak incident.
Jim: Really what’s taking the impact is, I guess mainly your handlebar, isn’t it? It’s taking the impact, and maybe if you have bags on the back. If not, it’ll be the back of the bike.
J. Hyde: Yeah the bags- soft bags, hard bags, whatever- that keeps the backside of the bike up if you’re on a Moto Guzzi or a BMW. The cylinders will keep the bike up. On the narrower bikes the handlebars are probably going to hit and then fold over. You can bend the handle bar perhaps a little bit. But again, I’ve never seen anything major in the thousands of drops I’ve witnessed at our school.
Jim: You mentioned that you do not recommend easing your bike down for injury. What sort of other things can happen if you fight that drop? I think a lot of us do it because it’s that thing of, you [just] want to try to ease the bike down nicely. A lot of people do it, and I know I do it myself in a lot of instances.
J. Hyde: There’s two or three things that can happen from an injury standpoint. One, it depends on your footing. If your foot slips and you’ve got a tremendous load on it and at the same time you’ve got another 500 pounds of motorcycle that you’re trying to ease down…you can tear a ligament in your knee. It only takes about 60 pounds of lateral force to completely dislocate a knee. So you’ve got to bear that in mind. People’s fitness levels, depending on age and fitness,…hurting your back is a big part of that. You can rupture a disc at the worst. At the most moderate, you can pull a muscle. Once you pull a muscle in your back, you are not going to be comfortable for the rest of the day. Hopefully you’re not on an extended ride someplace you’re away from home. To me, I just choose to drop my bike all the time. It’s just not worth it. For people who think that they can ride weeks on end without putting themselves in a situation where their bike is probably going to drop, that’s kind of ludicrous. If you’re really going to ride off-road, the potential exists all the time. A rock you roll up on may slip sideways. You may think you can get out of a rut, but you can’t. Suddenly you get hooked in harder…whatever. It’s so much easier. Just drop it. Collect your wits, pick the bike back up, and go. If you let it go, you’re not going to get hurt.
Jim: As we talked a little bit at the start about, the whole pride and ego thing, you said you do a thing where you get everybody to cheer and lay on the horn etc. to remove that. It is a big thing, isn’t it? Ego. If you’re out riding with your friends or whatever, how should we be looking at dropping the bike? Should we be looking at it as: hey, that is what you do if you head out here. That’s what’s going to [happen]. Basically, you’re going to hike the woods [and] you’re probably going to get wet feet. Or, do we look at it as: hey, maybe you’re not that great of a rider because you happen to drop your bike?
J. Hyde: That may be part of it. The better you get, the less you will drop your bike. There should simply never be ego or pride involved in this. It’s not worth it. Although, I can tell you…I can share a short story with you of the absolute worse case of ego. Years ago, Harley Davidson threw their Buell division, produced a semi adventure bike they called the Ulysses. It was Buell’s attempt at a dual sport motorcycle. We had the pleasure of hosting the press launch for that bike. We conducted the launch here at our property in SoCal.
As you can imagine, from the Harley world, when Harley sends out all their invitations to the press, most of the people who get that invitation are from the street side of Harley. So we had all these guys in half helmets with leather chaps with fringes and stuff…and they’re going to ride an adventure bike. The very first exercise that we wanted them to do was just get comfortable standing up on the bike and taking a lap around an enclosed arena. This one gentleman hops on the bikes and followed the instructions. He stood up, and the minute he went into a turn, he was just doing the wrong thing, and dropped the bike. Without so much as looking back, he just walked off the field and headed for his car. I’m like, where are you going? He goes, I have never dropped a bike in my life, this is not for me. He got in his car and left. He was a journalist for goodness sake. That’s the essence of ego. Instant…quit instantly because you’re too embarrassed to carry on. Jim, people who are going to engage in this sport need to come to terms with the fact that they are absolutely going to drop their bike. There’s no lost pride in that happening. It’s part of our world.
Jim: Really, that’s what the adventure bike is for. It’s not necessarily for dropping, but it is for rough use.
J. Hyde: Absolutely. There’s a lot of guys out there- in fact [about] 80% of adventure bikes at this point in time- [who] don’t really do much with it, along the lines of what it was intended to be used for. They use them as commuters, they go to the office…I think most of them think, and hope, someday they might use the machine. But for whatever reason, there’s a lot of non-use of adventure bikes by owners.
Jim: So when we get into a situation where the bike is going to go down; that slow speed turn like you said, the rock that moves, you lose your balance, you stall the bike…all those situations where it’s going to go down…what do we do?
J. Hyde: Well, what we’re going to do, is we are going to get off the bike. We are going to make sure that our foot or our leg is not underneath the bike at the point where it’s going to hit. A lot of folks ride along praying that they’re not going to drop their bike. I would say, don’t worry about that. There’s a couple of easy dismount techniques. I can dive into that if you like?
J. Hyde: Okay, so, here’s the deal. Let’s just assume we’re easing ourselves through some rocky terrain. Maybe we have a foot down to steady ourselves, and we’re just trying to roll the front wheel over volleyball sized rocks in front of us. We’ve got 30 or 40 feet we have to navigate, and then we’re going to carry on. Rocks are really unpredictable. You don’t know how well embedded they are in the soil beneath. A lot of times, what’ll happen is, [your] front wheel is going to start to roll over an obstacle, and as your front wheel comes up, the distance to the ground gets further. For a moment there, you may not be able to keep your foot there to steady you, and then that rock slips sideways. Then the bike is 6 inches higher in the air than it is normally. You really don’t have the ability to have your leg down there to stabilize you. Suddenly you’ve got a zero speed drop coming up here. Your front wheel has just slipped, you know you’re going to lose it, the bike is going to fall to the left. That’s where you see it, it’s starting to fall to the left. What you want to do is spread your legs as wide as you can, get you left leg out of the way, and let the bike kind of fall between your legs. Now, most people can’t spread their legs that wide, but as the bike starts to go down, you’ve made sure your left foot is out of the way, and you can just flop over onto your back. By falling backwards your left leg will stay out of the way, and your right leg will come up in the air (and probably land on top of the bike when everything settles down). The thing that happens a lot of times is that people will struggle to the very end to try to keep the bike up. But by that time, weight is bearing down on their leg, and they can’t move it. Then the bike comes down on their like. When 600 pounds of adventure bike comes down on your ankle, it hurts, regardless of what kind of boots you have on.
Jim: Okay. So, basically, we are letting it fall over. I think what you’re saying, probably a good rule of thumb would be, you always want to get the weight off of the leg that the bike is falling on. You don’t want any weight on that leg. So when the bike falls down, it actually pushes your leg out of the way.
J. Hyde: If your going to fall to the left, if the bike looks like it’s tipping to the left, just simply spread your left leg, get it out eight to ten inches away from the foot peg. Let the bike come down. At that point the bike is most likely going to brush your leg, but need to fall backwards. You just have to get off of it. If you’re on flat terrain, maybe you’re making a turn of some type, and you just weight the peg the wrong way and the front wheel slips a little…90% chance you can just throw your left leg down on the ground and run away from the bike. I saw some great examples of that this weekend at our training class. A lot of times, turns are where people drop the bike. They let it lean in too far, they don’t counter balance properly, whatever- and then the front wheel slips a little and down goes the bike. At that point, if it’s flat terrain, it’s so easy to just step off and go, darn I screwed that up.
Jim: Now what about preventing damage? Mitigating at least to begin with. What can we do as far as prepping our bike to lessen the chance of damage when we drop our bike?
J. Hyde: Well, the number one thing is crash bars. There’s a ton of companies that make them. For the GS and the water-cool bikes, radiator guards are an important addition. For those who ride in really rocky terrain, a good solid skid plate is important. Then you can upgrade your handlebars if are concerned about that. There’s a company called ProTaper that makes bars for most of the bikes. You can also buy hand guards that have a metal band in them. Most of the hand guards that come form the factory are just nothing but plastic. I know one company in particular, Bark Buster, makes a hand guard with a metal band in it there. That’ll protect the levels. And luggage. You can put luggage on. Aluminum luggage, if you tend to drop it a lot, tends to get bent up and misshapen, but you can get some soft luggage. Usually if you’re carrying gear in there that helps keep the bike up off the ground a little bit. But those are the main things.
Jim: You mentioned luggage there at the end. Which is interesting because a lot of people think, if you’re going to do any sort of technical dirt stuff, the first thing you want to do is chuck your luggage. For myself, I have soft bags on my bike. I consider them sort of a bit of my bike protection because they absorb some of the impact.
J. Hyde: They do.
Jim: Do you recommend leaving the luggage on when somebody’s doing dirt stuff?
J. Hyde: Well, I have a philosophy about that. Which I’ll share, if you’d like. I don’t got anywhere on my bike without being prepared to spend the night. You just never know. That evolves from a trip we did in Mexico a few years ago. We thought that we would make it to the hotel by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. We sent our support truck, with our panniers in the truck, around a long way on a paved road. We ended up getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere. A river had risen to the point that we wouldn’t get through it, and there was no way to turn back. So we had to spend the night rough with nothing because we had sent our panniers with the truck. I just decided at the pint, for myself personally, I would learn how to ride with the panniers and I would keep everything with me that I need. From tools to food, and a little tiny camp stove, and some rain gear, and all the other things that are the ‘what if’ things that you carry with you. I have learned just to ride with my panniers and I deal with it. Yes, they’re little heavier. And yes, if you don’t ride correctly, and you put a foot down as your bike coming forward, your pannier can come up and clip you in the back of the leg, and it hurts…but to me that’s worthwhile…what’s the word I’m looking for…I’ll put up with the panniers to have everything I need, just in case.
Jim (Narrate): Now we are just about to give you an exercise to help you practice dropping your bike. But, before you do that, it would be good to get a couple of friends to help you out. Lay the bike down carefully before you drop it, just make note of anything that could end up breaking. If you’ve added auxiliary lights, or maybe your direction signals hang out, or something that may get damaged when you go to drop it. You need to pay attention to that first before you go into this next exercise. So, do that first, and then practice dropping it.
Jim: You mentioned you had an exercise [for] if somebody wants to…in particular if they haven’t dropped their bike, or maybe they’ve only done it a couple of times and they’re really not comfortable with it. A way that may be able to instil confidence in themselves and doing this?
J. Hyde: I do. Again, to recap the topic here of dropping your bike and getting comfortable with it…there’s a mental thing that has to happen first. You just have to ask yourself, why did I buy one of these things? This is a rough and tumble motorcycle. It’s not a frail little flower. This is tough piece of gear. You need to say to yourself, I am willing to face the consequences of dropping my bike. Once you’ve gotten over that mental hurdle, then the actual practice…all you need to do is take one or two or three furniture blankets, and lay them down. Maybe on the floor of your garage, preferably on your front lawn. Lay them down along one side of the bike, and then the best way to do this- it’s a quick thing you have to do. Your furniture blankets are on the left side of your bike, you’re sitting on your bike. In a single step, or a single motion, you stand up on the bike real quickly, but leaning to the left a little bit. Get your right leg up on the foot peg, stand up, and then as the bike falls to the left, just move your leg out of the way. Just move your leg 12 inches to the left of the foot peg. As the bike tips over to the left, there will be a point where your foot touches the ground, and you’re actually standing for just a second. As your foot hits the ground, your right leg comes off the peg, then fall backwards. If you want to have a soft landing, put a couple of furniture blankets out for yourself as well. Otherwise, wear your armoured riding jacket and your helmet, and go ahead and fall. You can do it to the other side as well. Left, right, doesn’t matter. Just put some padding down to protect the bike if you’re concerned about scratching it, and a little extra for preventing bruises. That’s a great way to test and practice falling. Once you’ve done it a couple times, you’ll realize, wow, that’s no big deal.
Jim: At your school, do you have the people drop the bike right off the bat, or do you wait for it to happen?
J. Hyde: We usually just…again, here’s an interesting thing I just thought of. By the time you’ve decided to sign up for an off-road school, you’ve probably decided it’s okay to drop your bike. All the videos that are online about RawHyde, at one point or another, show a bike laying on it’s side. If you’re willing to take the risk to come to a school, you figure you’re going to drop your bike. We talk about what to do. I explain it very much like I just did. Then, we wait for it to happen. Then we all cheer, and we all yell, and we help the guy pick his bike up, and we slap him on the back and dust off his butt, and he gets back on the bike and goes. Or she. If it’s a she, we don’t dust off their butt. We let them do that.
Jim: Before we wrap things up then; we’ve learned how to basically let the bike fall down and get out of the way. We’ve figured out a way here to practice it on our own. Do you have any tips for- because we talked mainly about these drops happening at very low speeds- do you have an tips to prevent it to begin with? Things that you see, maybe two or three things that you see always go wrong? You know, [e.g.] people always do this and they always end up dropping their bike from that? Do you have that?
J. Hyde: I can give you a couple of ideas. There’s lots of reasons why people drop their bikes. One of the biggest things that happens in the early stages of people learning to ride is that they aren’t reading the terrain in front of them very well. They target fixate on things. Target fixation- if you stare at it, you’re going to hit it. So if there’s rock in their way, and they start staring at it going, oh no I’d better try to avoid that rock…the more they look at it, the more certainty they’re going to hit it. Learning how to read the terrain, and picking the line they want to ride, and actually riding it, is a big big step towards avoiding unintentional dismounts. Frankly, taking a class and just learning all the principles of riding would help tremendously. But that’s a bit of shameless pitch for what we do. Honestly, just practice getting comfortable. A lot of people, I would say a lot of riders, make more mistakes than they need to because they are nervous. Just getting comfortable with whatever it is you’re going to do would elevate an awful lot of drops. When people get nervous, they tend to drop the bike more.
Jim: Well Jim, thank you very much. Great to talk to you. We’re going to have to get you back on again.
J. Hyde: It was delightful to be with you today. Thank you so much for the invitation. I would love to chat more with you at some point in the future.
Jim (Narrate): I’ve been speaking with Jim Hyde, owner and operator of RawHyde Adventures. You can find out more about what he does at www.RawHyde-offroad.com.
Interviewer/Host: Jim Martin
Producer: Elizabeth Martin
Transcriptionist: Natasha Martin
*Special thanks to our guest: Jim Hyde | RawHyde Adventures | www.RawHyde-offroad.com