Spartanburg-BMW Training Academy

Steve Kinchen, Sr/ August 15, 2016/ Touring/ 1 comments

Unlike most of my blog posts, this one is not being written during, but after the experience.

In early August, my son Steven Jr and I traveled to Spartanburg, SC with my friends Matt and Trent to take the two-day off-road motorcycle class that is offered at the BMW Performance Center.  Our first day took us to Cleveland, TN setting us up for a quick joy ride through the Cherahola Skyway and the Tail of the Dragon early the next day.

After a full day on the superslab, we we’re looking forward to a more leisurely pace of riding to Spartanburg.  Rain was in the forecast, but we were spared most of the day. Since it would be Jr’s first time to experience the Skyway, we suggested that Matt and Trent ride ahead and that we would meet up at the Chevron station in Robbinsville before heading towards the Dragon.

Riding the Cherahola Skyway is always a treat, but apparently we bring the rain with us every time we go.  I think I have only ever ridden it without rain 2-3 times out of the 10+ times I have taken that path.  Nonetheless, it was a fantastic ride and we stopped off a time or two in order to take a few photos.

After rejoining Matt and Trent at the rallying point, we headed to Deals Gap.  Along the way, the rain grew increasingly heavy and then it would stop, only to start again.  I am particularly fond of the stretch of 321 that connects Robbinsville to the Gap as the pace tends to be quick, the traffic is low, and the ride along the river is at times stunningly beautiful.  The ascent towards the gap from the dam is tricky at times as the roadway is narrow and there is no guardrail there in the event that you lose your concentration on the road.

It was a busy day at Deals Gap which means heavy traffic on “The Tail of the Dragon”

Since the roadway was wet, and it would have been Jr’s first time through those very challenging 13 miles, we elected to wait at Deals Gap for Matt and Trent to make the run to the scenic overlook and back before heading to lunch at one of the best-hidden gems in the area.

From Robbinsville, we had roughly 120 miles to what would be our basecamp for the next two nights in Spartanburg, otherwise known as the Greenville Marriott.  With each passing mile out of Robbinsville, the weather became more hostile and before long, we were caught in a torrential downpour without having had a chance to don our rain gear.  Jr was understandably nervous as this was the heaviest rain that he had ever been in on his motorcycle and we were on interstate close to peak hour traffic time.

The good Lord blessed us by clearing out the rain for the last 40 miles or so as we approached Spartanburg which was enough time for us to air dry almost 80 percent.

BMW Performance Center

BMW was offering a special pricing incentive on their off-road training class at the Performance Center located in Spartanburg, SC.  This was enough incentive for us to book the class and make our plans to attend. The training grounds are 100% first class as are the instructors and the rest of the facility.   

Our class had a total of eight students ranging in skill level from a teenager with less than a year of riding experience to a full-time motorcycle cop.  Ages ranged from 17 (Jr) to late 60’s and there were skills being presented that challenged each of us to grow beyond our current skill set.

The class starts with picking a bike to be used for the two days.  I called ahead and requested a GS with a lowered suspension and the staff accomodated me with no issues.  Trent selected a GSA, which is a very tall bike to match his height, while Jr and Matt selected standard GS models.  You do have the option to ride your own bike, but the cost of the rental of the performance centers bikes is so economical that you would be foolish to ride your own through the two days of torture and abuse that these bikes endure.

After a 20-30 minute orientation to the GS and off-road riding in general by our terrific instructor, we were introduced to the first exercise which would entail riding the bike standing up, switching legs from one side of the bike to the other, riding with one foot on one peg while the other leg is resting on the seat, and finally riding the bike while standing with your left left only on the right peg and then reversing it.

This is Richie, one of our three amazing instructors

After we all thought to ourselves, “these blokes are nucking futs”, none of us were willing to wimp out on the first skill, especially since each subsequent skill was progressively going to get more challenging.  The motto of the Performance Center is “Challange By Choice”, which meant, if you’re too much of a wimp to try it, you can sit on the sidelines and the rest of us will mock you! HAHAHAHAH…

Figure eights on gravel and dirt

Braking techniques on the gravel and dirt pad

On to the loose stuff

The dreaded sand pit

Everyone went down, especially as the sand became more ground up and rutted

All in all, the two-day class is one of the best training experiences, in my opinion, that is currently available for riders looking to improve their understanding of riding dynamics in a controlled environment.  If you are primarily a road only rider like I am, the off-road skills presented will definitely apply to on-road handling situations ranging from emergency braking to how to handle the unexpected gravel or loosely packed surfaces that we sometimes encounter when we are traveling in unfamiliar areas.

I plan to retake the course when my second son is old enough in 2018 or 2019.

-Steve

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1 Comment

  1. That course was the most challenging, strenuous and fun course I have ever taken. I would love to push my limits and do it again.

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