Gary LaPlante and MotoVentures come to WMST
September 12, 2013 – 8:30am-3pm
The Gary LaPlante DualSport/Dirt Riders Clinic
Gary LaPlante has been riding motorcycles for more than 41 years. A successful trials rider at both state and national levels, Gary moved into the motorcycle business in 1976 as an R&D test rider for Kawasaki. That was the start of a 25 year career that included work as the Public Relations coordinator for Kawasaki, working in Honda in product development, and also as an Aftermarket Program Director for the Motorcycle Industry Council.
Gary maintains his both his fitness and his trials and desert racing skills at a vet-expert level. MotoVentures was founded by Gary in 1998 and is so much fun he may continue to teach forever!
In an unusual co-promotion of sorts, Chris Johnson of Washington Motorcycle Safety Training (WMST) brought Gary from his home in Southern California to put on a day of skills training at Gary Anderson’s facility in Roy. This was a kick-off event for WMST’s new “go Dirt” instruction program. Participation was limited to 20 riders.
Some of the students rode their own bikes, and Dave Swezey of Ride West and Chris Johnson of WMST provided a few more, so one way or another all of participants were geared up and riding appropriate machines.
Before the clinic Gary checked out each bike and answered questions about how to set it up, adjust it, and modify it to suit individual body types and riding preferences.
The clinic began how all motorcycles function and what rider’s must do to control them. Much of this discussion can be found in chapters called “Foundation Building” and “Body Positioning” in of Gary’s book; How to ride Off-Road Motorcycles.
I rode my Ride West R 1200R BMW down to Roy not to participate, but to take pictures, observe, and listen. It’s good to take advantage of any opportunity to spend time with someone who has achieved such success in the motorcycle sport, both as an individual competitor, as an industry professional, and now as someone who educates others.
I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many “stars” in various sports over the years of my coaching career, and while some of them were excellent instructors, others were people who had attained tremendous success as athletes but had no real idea of how they had done it. Former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkins always made the point that his coaching success came from a sport that he found difficult. Even though he was an All-Star NBA basketball player, none of it had been easy for him. He had to study everything from shooting to dribbling to defensive stance and work at it before he “got it,” and then he was able to teach others.
I attended some clinics where the “coach” who was teaching was much more interested in impressing everyone present with his genius and success, and I include in that number a former US Women’s Volleyball Coach and Digger Phelps, the legendary (certainly to himself) Notre Dame basketball coach.
I immediately took to Gary’s teaching style, which was filled with casual humorous remarks that were so subtle he at times had to assure the class he was kidding. There was no egotism at all, and in fact I never heard him make any reference at all to his own personal success. Each drill was explained, and then demonstrated by Gary or by Gary Anderson (the class was held on his property) or by an WMST instructor, or by a combination of all. After that each member of the class got to try out the skill practice, with lots of individual help from the instructors.
While some of the people in the class had lots of experience, and/or are instructors, some of them had never been on a dirt bike at all before this day, or had some experience with a large dual sport bike and were trying out a smaller dirt bike for the first time. This was not a problem for Gary or any of the instructors, and each student was given as much, or as little, instruction as needed, and each session included time for students to practice on their own with instructors watching from afar but not necessarily making a corrective comment every 15 seconds, which I personally find really harmful when I am trying something new. I can only absorb information at a certain rate, sort of like a slow drip.
Most of the day consisted of a series of MotoVentures Level 2 and Level 3 riding exercises. Riding exercises included; proper sitting turns, threshold braking, correct stand up riding and stand up turning, steep up-hills, down-hills, and side hills. After that came turns on hills, hills with no traction, and how to get unstuck from a failed hill climb. Exercises continued with a slalom course, narrow board ride, and wheelies for a purpose.
At the end of the day a free seminar was held at Ride West BMW for the participants and anyone else who wanted to come. This evening session was not a formal presentation but a chance to enjoy some pizza (thanks to WMST) and pop (thanks to Ride West) and spend some time listening to and learning from one of the legends of our sport.
People had a great time. I for one hope Gary will make the Northwest, WMST, and Ride West BMW permanent stops for a yearly northwest tour!
David Preston Copyright 2013