(Registration for Saturday’s enduro skills clinic starts at 8:30 AM. I have to drive an hour and a half to get to Riverglade Motocross Park; I get there 15 minutes early, but several keeners beat me to the punch. The parking lot is filled with pickups unloading dirt bikes. I walk over to the registration table where Megan Griffiths is working alone. During sign-in, riders want selfies with the day’s instructor. That’s something I’ve never seen at any riding course before).
The best-known Canadian off-road rider right now isn’t a motocrosser, or an enduro racer, or a Dakar rider. It’s Megan Griffiths, from British Columbia. She’s raced in the past, but now, she’s far better known for her YouTube and Instagram channels, where she posts content under the name @megs_braap. In fact, she might be the best-known Canadian motorcyclist, period.
Griffiths started uploading just-for-fun videos around 2012, but around 2015, she changed her focus towards rider education. Now, the channel has a mix of instructional videos, and first-person riding footage. When she isn’t making those videos, Griffiths is teaching in-person riding clinics, or just out riding for fun.
(We’ve got a full group of a dozen riders and just one instructor today—not ideal, but in a world of COVID-19, it’s pretty hard to run rider training as normal, especially when you’re bringing in the instructor from across the country. The day starts with a speech on bike setup, and then we’re paired up to practice our static balance).
Going into the class, a lot of people warned me that Griffiths would put us through the wringer. If the instruction was anything like the fast-paced single-track riding on her YouTube channel, we were in for a wild ride. But, that’s not what her Beginner/Intermediate rider clinic is about. Instead, Griffiths starts the morning with the basics. Her course isn’t about powerslides and railing through the trees, it’s about clutch and throttle control, braking and balance. Borrowing the building blocks of trials riding and applying them to the world of enduro. It’s safe, and it’s practical (you can use these skills on the street, too). And, it’s fun: Griffiths is full of life, 110 percent engaged with her students. She isn’t giving a tired, well-worn speech, she’s doing what she loves.
After lunch, the action picks up. Following some more braking drills, Griffiths moved the class on to small, practical wheelies. From there, we progressed to log crossing techniques. Each segment built on the previously taught fundamentals. It’s not a high-pressure learning environment, it’s a step-by-step how-to that can help a dirtbike noob gain practical skills.
(I’m the odd guy out here, for sure. Almost everyone else at this course is on newer European enduros—Husqvarna, KTM…a Beta. There are a couple riders on two stroke Yamaha 125’s and me, on an 11-year-old Honda CRF250X I borrowed for the day. I put a couple of hours on the bike the day before to get vaguely acquainted with it, but I’ve been stuck at my desk all summer so my skills are about as sharp as a marble. Normally, I do a few days of riding gravel and dirt to prep for the Fundy Adventure Rally, but FAR didn’t happen this year so most of my riding has been on the street. Thankfully, the basic, building-block approach was well-suited to my rusty skills and unfamiliarity with the bike).
This is Griffith’s first swing through the Maritimes. Most of her teaching has been through Traction e-Rag’s off-road programs out in British Columbia. COVID-19 border restrictions made it hard for her to pull off her planned trip through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but she made it happen despite the challenges. After teaching Beginner/Intermediate, Expert and Women-Only courses in Nova Scotia, she’ll be doing the same in New Brunswick. After this clinic, she was off to teach in Ontario.
Ultimately, she wants to take her training all across Canada, with Newfoundland and Quebec being two big goals; she says she’s really keen to teach a clinic in French. Thanks to COVID-19 that might be difficult to manage in the immediate future, but Griffiths is determined to make it work.
(By the end of the day, I’m knackered. Using muscles I haven’t had the chance to work from my desk all summer, I’m beat. In addition to sore muscles, I came away with a long list of things to work on during what is left of the riding season. But I’m not deflated – I started the morning woefully out of practice and ended the day doing log punches. Sure, my technique was crap, mostly due to my reluctance to “send it,” but I’ve learned some new tricks. I’ve seen how easy it is to push your limits once you master the off-road building blocks. This has been time well-spent).
Griffiths’ story is inspiring. She doesn’t come from the stereotypical off-road, go-fast background. Many of the speediest riders learned their skills because they had parents with money who bought them a minibike, then a series of larger MX or enduro machines, paying for track time through their school years. Griffiths didn’t have that. She says she always wanted to ride, but wasn’t able to get a bike until she was 17 when she managed to get a loan for a Yamaha TTR125.
From there, she spent years riding forest service roads, then moved on to forest trail riding, building her skills along the way. She learned from faster friends, and eventually she was good enough to get invited to the 2016 ISDE off-road competition in Spain as part of Canada’s female team.
Now, she’s ridden with a wide range of go-fast experts, people like hard enduro wizard Graham Jarvis, and social media heroes like YouTuber Barry Morris. She’s still picking up tips from those riders. ”Riding with someone who’s level is higher than mine can be stressful, but it’s beneficial for improvement,” she says. As for the other social media sensations, she says she loves working with them to entertain and educate each other’s audiences.
But, it’s not all fun and games. Last winter, Griffiths gave up her day job as an electrician to pursue her moto-teaching career. Then COVID-19 destroyed her instruction schedule for 2020. She’s so keen on following her dream that she’s paired her life back to the absolute essentials. At an age when many are starting to think about long-term life decisions like buying a house, Griffiths isn’t even spending money on renting an apartment. Her home base is a tent in the British Columbia forest.
“The toughest part about it is not having any money, ever, “ she says. “So many people say, ‘Oh, must be nice,’ but it’s not for most people. But for me, it’s worth it.”
Literally living in a tent in the woods, she doesn’t have a means of running water. She has to fill buckets from a creek and haul them to camp where she heats it up on a fire.
“On social media, I look like I’m having fun, and don’t get me wrong, I am, but when the camera’s not rolling, there’s other stuff I’m taking care of that isn’t fun and nobody else wants to do,” Griffiths says. “But I love what I do, and I want so badly for this to be my career, so I’m just going to keep pushing.”
Despite that level of sacrifice, the trolls still take potshots at her, especially because she isn’t currently racing. “I do receive a lot of criticism like, ‘Oh she’s not qualified, Oh she’s no good, Oh she’s not a good rider, she’s just a flash in the pan, a social media sensation, that sort of thing’—and it hurts my heart,” she says. “I really do care what people think, because I’m trying to do something good in this industry.”
It’s not that she doesn’t want to race. Griffiths says she loves racing, because it’s fun and makes her a better rider. She says the only reason she didn’t go all-in on racing was finances.
“I could afford to race the local circuit, but when it comes to racing on the national level, you need family support or some serious sponsorships,” she says. “I didn’t have the finances, so I decided to think outside of the box and build a career in this industry in a different way, and I found a true passion for teaching.”
(The course was mostly filled with dudes in their 20s and 30s; read into that as much as you want. But, there was one girl signed up, probably not even old enough for her drivers license. She was on a KTM 150; her dad accompanied her aboard his own enduro. She obviously knew her way around a motocross track, but she seemed a bit worried about the log crossing techniques. Once she’d learned the basics in the morning and pushed outside of her comfort zone. She had some difficulty, but she’d gone from intimidation to an attempt, and she left the course knowing she was capable of more than she thought.)
The criticism gets to Griffiths, she says, so why keep on trying? Why make moto-content and live in the woods while taking flack from keyboard commandos? “It’s well worth it because I’m reaching people in a positive way,” she says. “Ninety percent of the feedback is positive and it feels good to help riders learn new skills. I love it when someone comes in, unable to wheelie, and they leave the class doing wheelies.” That’s the key to her program: Incremental improvement that builds self-confidence. Lack of confidence paired with fear are the two things holding most riders back, she says.
“A lot of people just don’t think they’re any good, so that holds them back,” she says. “Attitude is everything.” That’s one of the challenges she’s trying to tackle with her program – showing people how to work past their preconceived self-limitations and learn good riding techniques.
If that sounds like it’s for you, check out the Traction e-Rag website. They’ve had to adjust their riding clinic schedule for 2020, but that’s where Griffiths’ riding school dates are listed.