"I've been riding since I was a kid!" The phrase repeated over and over during a Zoom orientation just days before our class as riders introduced themselves to the Dragoos and fellow students. D.A.R.T. (Dragoo Adventure Rider Training) is owned and run by a 2010 GS Trophy U.S. Team Member and BMW Certified Instructor, Bill Dragoo. Located in Norman, Oklahoma, he and his wife Susan, and sons, are joined by very knowledgeable instructors (yes! they help pick-up bikes!). The whole operation ran like a well-oiled Gelände Straße.
From the start, communications were outstanding. The Dragoos provided riders with information for everything from what to wear, what bling to remove from the bike before the class, lodging, lunch options, daily schedule, and so on. Their user-friendly website provides information on upcoming dates and easy registration. I also watched a few YouTube videos posted by former students. Having attended the Off-Road course at the BMW Performance Center, I was curious how similar the format would be. I'm happy to say it felt like an altogether different experience.
I met up with a fellow club member for dinner and a cold beverage the night before to ensure a good night's sleep. Class began with an introduction to the bike, including balance, riding modes, preferred posture, hand configurations, etc. With varying bike brands, the occasional issue; such as not being able to shut off ABS, was addressed ahead of time. One instructor had a tricked-out KLR, demonstrating for the non-boxer crowd. More than half the class had some off-road experience. Granted, there are those with no experience off-road, riding in on the latest model R1250GS loaded with options and still a showroom shine. Training methods are designed to work for almost all bikes, and they advise you if there is an alternative method. They also make it known, that if any exercise feels too difficult or you are nervous about getting your bike dirty, you are more than welcome to just watch. I don't recall that ever occurring.
The days began at about 8:00 am, lunch at 11:30 am, then afternoons 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Training is designed to build on learned skills. People learn in different ways. With that in mind, Dragoo seeks to maximize the grasp of concepts and skills for each and every rider so that they feel they got the most they could from the training. Q & A sessions before and after each exercise reinforced goals and allowed riders to comment. Ample coaches and instructors were always close by to help with comments, questions, and bike pick-up support. Day One Level 1 included, but not limited to,: Bike balance and exercises, picking up a dropped bike, proper posture, throttle control, slow turns, counter steering, rear and front brake usage, figure eights, and circling cones. Day Two Level 2 included, but not limited to,: Importance of braking and practicing fast braking with skids, ruts, hills, hill recovery, hill stop, and start, riding on the side of a hill, bike to bike towing, followed by a follow the leader challenge course mixing skills from both days. Fun, in other words!
Following a full morning of training, we congregated for what I would call a gourmet luncheon. Preordered based on your preference, the Dragoos served fresh tasty sandwiches with a side of chips or potato salad, beverages, and always a cookie or brownie! We were lucky to have beautiful weather, 65°F and partly sunny. The entire crew dined with us and made themselves available the entire time to answer questions, give a smile, and job well-done encouragement. Bill and Susan even invited everyone to their personal residence the first evening to foster camaraderie! As a follow-up to the class, they also sent an email at the end of the course which recapped what was taught and provided tips to help you continue practicing! The final detail was Susan Dragoo taking great action photos of each rider nearly all day, which would later be provided via email link!
D.A.R.T. is relatively close for Texans, affordable, reputable, and runs many types of courses including both beginner and advanced immersion trips to popular destinations like the Ozarks. They also team up with other well know rider training organizations like West38 Moto and BMW. Private training for clubs and events like Overland Expo keeps them exceedingly busy. I highly recommend the D.A.R.T. for anyone who is interested in off-road riding and seeks new skills, to sharpen current skills and practice real-life obstacles that don't always present themselves on every trip or just to have fun with like-minded riders.