A Newbie 'Dirt Rider's' take - after the fact
A shout out and a big THANK YOU to Tracy, Janee (sp?), Liz and everybody else who helped put this together! I had never been off-road before, except for the unexpected gravel roads I might come upon unexpectedly (which is why 'gravel roads' are one of my avoidances on the GPS).
I got up early and stripped the cases and racks off my F650CS, just in case. Notice I said CS, not GS. I wasn't sure my little 'city bike' was up to the task. I wasn't sure I was, either.
While the instructor was explaining the field exercises we were to complete while standing on the pegs (an entirely new experience), I had a big knot in my stomach and huge doubts in my ability. He was very professional and his instructions were very clear. He took great care to explain how the things we'd be doing would effect the bike, then Liz demonstrated the exercise for us so we'd know what to expect. The first time or two through the course were a little shaky, but it got better and I calmed down. I started to think 'Hey! Maybe I CAN do this!' The braking exercise went smoothly, too, and after a short break, we headed off to the road portion.
A short ride into the country led us to some gravel roads to practice on. Some of it was flat and straight, some was uphill, some downhill, some curvy sections and a variety of dirt/gravel surfaces, stone chunks small and not so small. I admit, I was not the fastest in the group. In fact I was the last rider before the 'Sweeper', and Janee kept a good watch on me. We had been told to ride our own ride, so I did, and felt no pressure to try to keep up to the pack - thank you so much for that, too! I went at my own pace, and tried to get a feel for the road and for the controls; a whole different thing from a standing position. I stood up as much as possible, sat for short periods when my legs got too tired, mostly in the flatter sections, and stood again for the next challenge, hill or curve.
By the time we reached our half way point for a break before heading back, I was pretty tired. I don't know when my legs have had such a workout! But I was also really excited and over the moon happy! I had made it. I had conquered my fear of gravel! Even though I wasn't able to stand for the whole time, even sitting on the bike while riding on gravel used to have me white knuckled. I now know I can handle it, and handle it well. My ride back to the GS Giant Camp was MUCH more spirited than my ride out. I had a high all afternoon, so happy and proud of what I'd accomplished. One of my friends asked me if I'd do it again, and I said "In a heartbeat", without hesitation.
While a beginner GS ride might be small potatoes to a lot of you, to me it was HUGE. So, once again, my hearty and sincere thanks to all of the riders who put this ride together and took such good care of us. And a big thank you to the other ladies in the group for being so inclusive and non judgemental. You all made this a terrific experience for me!