It’s nine in the morning on a grey day in August. My Sat Nav is sending me down the most obscure back roads in West Sussex, for some reason known only to Google maps. Turning into a light industrial estate in Small Dole, we weave past garages, car sales forecourts and single-storey lock-ups, wondering where on earth we are heading. Then suddenly, with a heavenly ahhhhhhhh, we open up into a valley of lush green and ribbons of Motocross track laid out like spaghetti on a plate. It’s the KTM Motocross experience ran by Barry Johnson and his family, at Golding Barn raceway.
Over 30 years of motocross experience!
Former top-level British Motocross rider Barry, won four British titles with a successful schoolboy and amateur career. In the mid 80’s Barry gained full A.C.U Motocross coach certification, mixing competitions with teaching. Entering 125cc and 250cc Grand Prix at World and British levels. Son Ryan has been riding since the age of four, also a qualified A.C.U coach, competing in BSMA and AMCA events.
The bright orange of KTM stands out like a beacon, as you approach Barry’s Race lorry. A lorry that is every track day or weekend racers dream vehicle. The team of Barry and son Ryan, both outstanding in their field of MX with a lifetime of experience. Watching them roar around all day is impressive, once you’ve started to have a go, their gooning around is particularly entertaining.
The latest KTM bikes to use!
The bikes we had to use were KTM’s 250 SX-F and 250 EXC-F. The enduro bikes had clear tanks (the only way I could tell them apart), and they were a bit softer than the others. As well as the bikes, full protective kit is provided, including helmets, chest armour, gloves, top, bottoms, knee armour and boots.
One by one, everybody starts to arrive, ten riders in total this day. Barry is warm and welcoming with an air of Brummy authority. You immediately get the feeling his job is a little like herding cats. He asks the group has anyone ridden an MX bike before, a few hands go up, maybe five out of the ten. Then he asks who’s ridden motorbikes before… wait, what, why are only seven hands up?
So then he asks the three without their hands up, have you ever ridden before……three replies of “no”come back. So now all Barry has to do is watch all ten of us, so we don’t do something insane, and teach three total novices how to ride a motorbike. Oh, and not on a tarmac playground like doing their CBT on a scooter or 125 but on loose gravel and dirt in fat boots on an MX bike. How?!!
The best motocross coaching in the UK?
Barry runs through the controls and his four top pieces of advice, all vital but easily forgettable in the moment. We get split into three groups, with one total novice in each group so that he can focus on them. There are also two guys here in their own gear. It quickly becomes apparent that they are much more advanced than the rest of us.
Under Barry’s tuition, a mix of shouting, sarcasm and frantic pointing, it is to my amazement that the complete novices are looking totally at ease and in control within half an hour. I’m still not sure how he managed it, but the cats were herded.
Beginner or pro, it doesn’t matter!
We start off on a small track, just getting used to the bikes, the control, techniques, dangling legs to push ourselves up and body positioning. The groups are rotated every five to ten minutes, MX is insanely tiring, it turns out. After the basics are learnt, we headed onto the big track, only half of it at first. After a few sessions, they opened up the entire track, and it is glorious. MX is, without doubt, the fastest you will ever go on a motorcycle at 30-40 mph.
It’s at this point where the two guys in their own gear show their hands. They are just gone every session, one of them is a gentleman in his 60s, and he is majestic to watch.
Years of road riding have created a muscle memory that cannot be forgotten quickly enough today for me. At one point later in the day, I was covering the brake lever, and upon landing, I gripped the handlebars and managed an emergency stop on the top of a tabletop. Honestly, I am a liability on an MX bike and not because I send it.
We only all stopped for a half-hour lunch break, then got straight back on with it. There are noise covenants on the track, so everything has to stop by 4.00 pm and quite frankly, towards the end, I was running out of energy.
Perfect training for road riders to racers!
The bike is constantly moving, and it’s a wrestle in a straight line and non-stop input. I firmly believe everyone should try this. If you’ve ever had the back let go even slightly on the road, you’ll know how much it makes you jump. After this day, you’ll be much more relaxed. I promise, the rear tyre never stops letting go on an MX bike, and the front can tuck in a heartbeat. There’s a reason the top BSB, WSBK and Moto GP riders do MX training, it’s perfect for them.
The day costs £199, which I think is pound for pound, possibly the best value day you can have on a motorcycle. Everything’s included, if you drop the bike, the day continues, and you can still have fun. I’m already looking at dates to go back as well as Ady Smiths Enduro experience. I think KTM are on to an absolute winner with these schools.
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