Looking at the Pacific Ocean, six months later driving across America I found myself at the off-road skiing clinic The Cold Start in Ensenada, Mexico. This may seem like an amazing way to spend limited funds on travel, but the rewards for this type of investment are surprisingly numerous.

I hate to miss the opportunity to study, and when I heard that “Cold Start” was a perfect fit for my itineraries and times, I by no means missed it. Why has someone who has been riding adventure bikes across the United States for years on sand, mud, rocks and more decided to take a break in the midst of the journey to get back to basics? Aside from the pleasant respite from the constant movement of a land motorcycle trip, there are actually many reasons why any experienced racer should still enjoy clinics and workshops. First, on a motorcycle no one is infallible, neither you, nor I, nor even the Dakar champion. Second, the dedicated time of exercise is invaluable and many of us all too often recede into the background. Third, the external view is one of the best tools to improve body position. Finally, but most importantly, what is better to get to know other racers? The cold start not only put a tick on me at all these points, but also helped me adjust to driving in a new country, while feeling like I was on vacation all the time.

The Cold Start off-road clinic and culinary experience will begin in February 2022.

This is a classroom.

No one is above training

If you ever meet someone whose ego is so big that he no longer needs to learn anything new on a motorcycle, run away. Even daily riding does not mean that there is nothing more to learn, and these skills, like any other, are rapidly deteriorating. Many people hibernate in the colder months and can benefit from re-learning some things. The flexible two-day clinic seems to be just a gimmick. Morning workouts to tighten traction control, working out complete cornering and braking, and then an afternoon ride with a competent instructor will result in most people quickly approaching the peak of the ride.

All year round, riders may not feel the need to visit clinics for support, but, as one ridiculously clever scientist once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” This can definitely be said about my approach to driving. Feel confident on the sidewalk? Try dirt roads! Got it? Let’s deal with the sand! Feeling Zen? Find some one-way. It goes on and on, along a magical downward spiral of exploring different riding styles, different terrain and exploring yourself.

Fresh eyes

Have you ever heard that working out in front of a mirror is good for your shape? Unfortunately, this does not work for a motorcycle. The best thing you can do is take a drone or set up another camera to record yourself skating and then play it. I suppose you could get a tough honest buddy to express a few criticisms, but I hope they are more knowledgeable than you. A much more effective approach is to have a set of professional eyes to assess you and correct your body position. Small adjustments that I would never have noticed, even if I had written myself down, can be clearly obvious to the prepared eye. Many riders acquire bad habits during the riding period to get out of difficult situations to which the instructor is usually happy to pay attention.

Dedicated practice time

The structure of the class is based on the special needs of the riders.

Not all of us have a large yard to play with: some of us live on the East Coast, where it can be hard to find a simple platform to work on skills, and believe it or not, training on carts in a city park is generally unfavorable. Even if you come across the perfect space for exercise, time becomes a challenge. Those valuable weekends that we set aside for riding are usually spent actually riding to the destination, whether it’s a coffee shop, a campsite or just completing an established route. Convincing your friends to ride in a circle all day on the dirty playground you found is a little harder than you might think. Sure, we all want to improve our abilities, but most people just think it’s enough to just ride. The clinic can be a great balance between practicing skills in a controlled environment and then applying them on the tracks.

Don’t get me wrong, I bought little cones once, with the grand idea that I would spend so much free time on exercise and I practiced a few times. Less than an hour after various trainings in a random order, I inevitably distracted myself and went in search of tacos and promised myself that next weekend I will do more. Eventually, I found that the lack of structure in my exercises led to a very slow improvement. If you attend a riding clinic, whether it’s part of a larger exhibition or a training-focused event, you get the benefits of a course that’s already set up with exercises in a structured way so they lean on each other. Many clinics also include a trip to take these building blocks and apply them while they are still fresh, with the added benefit of instructors and volunteers.

Different terrain requires different skills.

Nowadays, as a traveler, I try to get to a certain point, fully loaded, with limited gas. In such circumstances it is not often an attractive option to get a little out of the way to practice. As unreasonable as it may seem, but riding a motorcycle seems to further reduce the time to build skills. The risks of damaging a bicycle, luggage or racer have very severe consequences in central Mexico, with long distances even between small towns and the not-so-surprising shortage of KTM dealerships.

The people who put these events together devote a tremendous amount of time not only to this dirty playground but also to the scout trails to ensure that students are challenged but not overly so. The burden of navigating, finding shelter or food, or literally the burden of all the things we carry on our bikes while traveling, is erased for a few days and replaced with time devoted to developing much-needed skills.

New friends

New friends on the ride!

People often ask how to meet friends on horseback, and clinics are my favorite way. Abandoned bicycles form a connection that is not easy to forget. Traveling can be difficult to establish and maintain friendships, and a break to the clinic was the perfect way for me to reconnect with the motorcycle community. At The Cold Start, complete strangers gathered together for a taco on the beach and confessed their strengths and weaknesses in the ride with the intention of building each other up. Our clinic was then built around our discussion in such a way as to show that our instructor Donnie was really invested in us. We were all uncomfortable at some point, but we were all ready to encourage each other at every turn. These are the kind of friendships that riding clinics can throw in our ways, and I haven’t left them without at least one new buddy. Over the years, I’ve kept in touch with both faculty and students, sharing tips, stories, and making plans to ride together again.

Ready for new adventures.

While many things could be added to this list to suit any rider, I dare say most would agree with these common nouns. Personally, I couldn’t think of a better way to get used to the new country than browsing routes and terrain, personal training to help me adjust, and pre-prepared friends on the ride. Activities such as The Cold Start can offer both new riders and experienced riders.

Odessa winter it is Backcountry route of discoveries Ambassador and member of REV’IT! The women’s team focused on encouraging women around the world to go out and ride through photos and stories. She is currently traveling across America with her boyfriend and their canine companion. Follow their adventures on advgoats.com

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