By Barb Graham
It was billed as “Day in the Dirt.” This Meetup event was hosted by the BMW shop, and some expert dirt riders offered instruction. The plan was to meet at the shop, then proceed down into Borrego Desert and gather at a staging area by the Superstition Mountains.
The day was nice, once we got down into the desert, but traveling over the mountains was chilly, even with my heavy jacket and pullover. However, my hands were warm, thanks to the heated grips.
This was probably a three hour ride to the Superstitions, I was too busy being cold to notice. Weather warmed up considerably in the desert; a nice, mild day in the low 70s.
The final stretch of our ride was all sand, dirt and various sized rocks. Argh! We came up over a rise to find some shade tarps and vans all set up. Chairs were under the tarps for the initial introduction.
The staging area was a huge expanse of dirt mixed with rocks and sand. The exercises made me feel unstable, rocks sliding around. The first practice was a quick run ended by a brake stomp and a slide. I did okay with that. Next, riding around a circle in that shifty ground. Did not enjoy it. (Maybe I would have if I were riding a 250, but I was on a 650 BMWgs. Picking it up is a real pain for me!
The final exercise was one I skipped entirely; going up a steep hill, killing the engine at the top, then using the clutch to wiggle around until your front wheel is pointing downhill again. I get the concept, I understand it, but I don’t want to do it until I have to!
We broke for lunch, they provided us with beverages, apples and sandwiches, which we ate in the shade of the tarps. (side note, they also set up a tent/porta potty thing, which was brilliant. Ain’t no bushes to pee behind in this area!)
It was a great opportunity to safely mess around in the dirt. When it was time to go home, I boofed it on the sandy road out to the highway, with nobody around. Tried to pick up the bike, couldn’t. It was on a slight mound and wrong way round, so I started trudging back to the staging area, where I hoped the guys were still putting stuff away. Along came a dune buggy with a 9 year old at the wheel, accompanied by his dad. They gave me a lift back to my bike, and dad helped me pick it up. I am eternally grateful to that father/son combo! The desert is vast. I-8 down into the desert is like a nice twisty road, only bigger. Vast views that go forever. Hard winds that try to buffet you from all sides. Curves on steroids. I like that part. Trucks have their own lane, which keeps them out of mine! Added benefit, the Desert Tower attraction. Built by some crazy guy out of local rock, it’s always fun to visit and hike to the top of the tower for stunning views.
Main things to remember in dirt:
- Back brake only.
- Look ahead, not down. Yeah, this is basic for highway riding as well, but for some reason the desert is just fascinating to stare at.
- Disable your ABS or you will fall over.
I learned stuff that could be useful, but I also learned that I don’t care for dirt riding at all, which is a good thing to know. Next time I go down to the desert, it’ll be to hunt snakes, or do some photography. Catch snake, take picture, release.
Don’t like dirt, true. I have no problem with all the back country truck trails, and looking forward to exploring them this summer! Wanna go?