Weekend Adventure: Riding the Dunes

Weekend Adventure: Riding the DunesCourtesy Garth Milan
Ronnie Renner catches some air at the Imperial Valley Sand Dunes Recreation area in Glamis, Calif.

When the best freestyle motocross riders in the world want to have some fun and catch a little air, they head to the Southern California desert and the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in Glamis, Calif.

A vast expanse of sand dunes near the Mexican border, this sea of sand is a rider's paradise and considered some of the best natural terrain in the world.

"In some directions you get dunes as far as you can see," said Drake McElroy, a professional freestyle motocross rider.

"It's really fun to come out and ride. Being out here is completely different from riding your bike in any other situation. It's challenging, yet fun and adventurous all at the same time."

VIDEO: The worlds best motorbike riders catch air on the southern Calif. sand dunes. Play

The Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area is not just a haven for motorbike riders, but for riders of sand buggies and all-terrain vehicles as well.

"It's like a wasteland to some people, but to anyone who can ride a motorcycle, or a dune buggy, or a quad, this is like heaven on earth," said Ronnie Renner, a professional freestyle motocross rider.

The dunes are a challenge for beginners as well as experienced professional riders.

"The sand dunes, no matter how good a rider you are, will teach you a lesson and usually that lesson is respect. You've got to have just that extra little heads-up or it can get away from you pretty quick," said McElroy.

"It's just completely unpredictable and ever changing because the wind is always moving the sand."

"Good Morning America Weekend" tagged along recently with a group of Team Red Bull riders: McElroy, Renner, Robbie Maddison, Lance Coury, and Mat Rebeaud as they rode the sand dunes and caught some air.

"It doesn't feel like you're that high in the air, but then when you get it down, you can really just hit it a couple times and appreciate being up there," said McElroy. "The feeling is like no other."

To find the best jumps, the riders searched carefully for steep takeoff and landing areas to reach maximum height, while remaining safe. Reaching speeds of over 70 mph, the riders need to measure their jumps perfectly to avoid injury.

Jumping at such high speeds is both mentally and physically demanding.

"You've got to be in pretty good shape to be out here," said Renner. "You can't just come straight off the couch. It's physical. You're fighting the terrain a lot and you're fighting a 230- to 240-pound bike."

While the dunes are a mecca for off-road riders, they are also a natural marvel.

"The desert is a pretty place. You get out here and you're watching the sun go down and there's these crazy layers of sand dunes. It's one of a kind. You are not going to get that look anywhere else," said Renner.

"It's just the most unreal thing," he said. "Probably the closest thing to explain it would be like being on another planet. It's unbelievable, it's endless."