Friday
Nov102017

A Halloween trail ride in the mountains

 

 

Scott a rabid trail riding friend of mine thought it would be fun to put on a trail ride for a few of his friends and fellow woods riders. So with some help over the course of a few weekends laid out a couple of loops in the woods in the Tahoe National Forest. Trails developed years and years ago by other rabid trail riders and maintained today by the forest service and rabid woods riders.

This trail system is known for its very tight technical trails. Not a whole lot of huge elevation changes but expect 2nd and 3rd gear riding. This kind of riding is not for everyone. If you put 30 miles on in these trails you’ve spent part of a day. On a good day if I’m lucky I can average maybe 14 mph. There are of course riders who can average higher than that, but I’d say the vast majority of us are less than 14 mph. On a bad day it can be really ugly and I’ve had my share of those. I’d say most of Scott’s friends like this kind of riding.

This was the second year Scott put on this ride. This year’s theme was Halloween and the main camp site reflected that. I couldn’t count all the ghosts and goblins, spider webs, lights and things that go bump in the night that were hanging around. This is not an organized event so riders could start the two daytime loops anytime they wished. The night ride did start at 7PM and they did take names so they could account for everyone at the end. People started showing up as early as Thursday, however the official ride didn’t start until after a riders meeting Saturday morning. Scott reminded everyone that the trails were open to anyone so you needed to be on the lookout for other riders. There were no incidents to my knowledge.

There were two courses laid out the blue ribbon course consisted of fifteen miles and most riders said it felt like twenty five to thirty miles. The yellow course was ten miles and at the half way point stopped at an overlook that looked out at Bowmen and Spalding lakes and if you knew where to look North Star. The yellow course was also used for the night ride and it was recommended that everyone who planned to ride at night ride the yellow loop during the day as there were some off camber down hills that could make you pucker up a little, better to these in the day light first.

Saturday night before the night ride there was a big pot luck dinner and a raffle. As with most pot lucks the food was plentiful, varied and delicious. There were a lot of people who donated raffle prizes and the main real reason for the raffle was to help pay for the out houses that were provided. Scott had some great stuff to give away. One guy won a rear tire and latter on won a front tire, it doesn’t get better than that.

After dinner and the raffle Scott introduced Paul who is the ranger for that area. Paul is an avid rider and advocate for more, better trails. In fact he had just returned from a Dual Sport ride that started in Downieville, CA to Idaho and back, that’s a real enthusiast. We are very lucky to have a Ranger like Paul; a lot of areas now have people who do not like recreationists.

When the night ride started there were several ladies who donned costumes and positioned themselves out on the trails. The yellow loop was full of hanging ghosts, skeletons, and spider webs and such. One of the guys had a Sasquatch costume and jumped out at the riders on the night ride. One of the riders Go-Pro’d it and you could hear him say oh shit when Sasquatch jumped out at him. I told Bob (Sasquatch) he’s lucky no one was carrying and pulled a gun a shot him.  After the night ride people gathered around the camp fire and told stories. And they also had a motocross trivia game.

 

I’ve said this before when you get a bunch of like minded people together to have fun share food and tell stories it doesn’t get any better. Volunteers are always plentiful at gatherings like these; people are always willing to pitch in. Not all knew each other but that didn’t matter everyone got along. (Even all the dogs that always accompany people where ever they go) It’s always great to meet new people and create new friendships.

 

I believe Scott is planning to do this again next year. Better find out Scott’s last name and start sucking up for an invitation next year, I know I will be.

 

Doug 21J

 

Tuesday
Oct172017

2017 IOTMX Wraps Up at Glen Helen

Glen Helen the last round of the 2017 International Old Timers MX series.

Let’s get the bad out of the way. Friday offered up Santa Ana winds. For those not familiar with them suffice it to say they are nasty. High winds, dust and heat along with a practice day track that not been prepped. So what we got was Thursday’s beat up practice track. With all that going on for some it wasn’t worth the money. I know more than a few riders who didn’t bother practicing.

I was one of those who did practice Friday, if you want to call it that. And on top of that when I came off the track in front of the front grandstands (Luckily for me empty grandstands) I jumped off the side of the track right into the path of a fully charged two inch water hose in a snake like pattern going the same direction I was. I didn’t have enough time to react (Old slowing reaction times here) and that piece of shit hose put me on the ground so fast I couldn’t believe it. My leg was trapped under the bike; another rider stopped and got the bike off me. I jacked up my neck, left knee and my little pinky got smashed between the handle bar and clutch lever. That was it for practice I limped back to the pits and spent the rest of the day out of the wind licking my wounds.

Saturday morning had the promise of a better day, with the wind changing direction and a slightly cooler forecast, and a track that had been prepped. The track layout was a little different than last year’s track, slightly longer I’d say. I think most everyone liked the layout except there were a series of corners that were wet with deep sand. I’d say the vast majority of us struggled with those sections.  

I don’t think the ambulance left all weekend, one rider did crash at the highest point in the Talladega turn and they red flagged the race, but I think he was alright.

Still feeling the effects of my Friday encounter with the water hose (Hose 1 Doug 0) Saturday morning I got to practice something my friend Eric McKenna first told me about when we were riding in Baja many years ago and unless you have broken something to the point of not being able to get on a bike you practice it, it’s called active recovery. Which means even when you are beat up you go out and ride thereby starting the recovery process. So I raced Saturday practicing AR. I actually felt pretty good and rode well to boot. Thanks to ice packs and Ibuprofen.

After Saturday’s racing dinner was served and the raffle prizes were given out. Last year they ran out of food so people showed up early for dinner. By the time we got there the place was packed almost out of food and it was only 5:20.

The start of practice was delayed Sunday waiting for flaggers who apparently didn’t get the memo about this being a two day race. They also deliberately (I assume) did not prep a couple of the really nasty sections and completely changed a couple of others. (Some thought it was better and others not) No matter, there were only seven motos so we still got done early Sunday. The last time I raced was at Washougal where practice started at 7:30 AM and the last race left the starting gate about 7:30 PM on Saturday.

I didn’t watch much of the racing over the weekend; I was still recovering from Friday’s encounter with the hose and Friday’s weather for that matter. Saturday’s weather was much better the wind was a lot less and had changed directions and it was a bit cooler. Sunday definitely had the best weather for racing and getting out of town.

Only one of my starts over the weekend was good (The last one on Sunday) I even ran into the gate once. I had no one in my class (first time this year) so as usual I raced whoever’s in front of me.

I accomplished the two things I set out to do this weekend; I clinched the Sierra Old Timers Club championship and my class championship for the International Old Timers MX association. I guess its congratulations to me.

Despite the start to the weekend the track and weather turned out ok. Oh by the way we shared the facility (It was packed) with the car guys who were also having a three day event using the stadium track. There were cars for the eight-nine year olds all the way up to the trophy type trucks with the big horsepower engines. They were spread out and camped among us bike guys and my first thought was aw shit this will probably not work out, but it really wasn’t that bad. They also had a concert at a nearby outdoor venue and shuttled the artists in and out using buses escorted by police using a back a road that leads out of the back of the Glen Helen Raceway, the heightened security no doubt as a result of the Vas Vegas shootings.

 

Doug 21J

 

 

Sunday
Aug062017

Doug's Ongoing 2017 KTM 250XC-W Project

2017 KTM 250XC-W Part Two of the new project

My next ride (3rd) was at Chalk Bluff (Hwy 20 north of Nevada City) they’ve cut in some new trails since I was last there. I heard they were very tight which is saying something because this is what the place is known for, tight trails. It’s not uncommon to be riding a long look over and see another rider fairly close to you but in reality they could be thirty seconds or more behind or ahead of you because of the number of turns. It would be interesting to try and figure out how many turns per mile of trail they typically have there.

The new trails are indeed tight and relentless. The older I get the more I realize this place is a young riders place, but its great exercise and training.I videoed the ride and when I played it back one thing stood out, the motor sound was very quiet, and occasionally you could hear the motor sound like it was on the pipe so to speak. Otherwise it was very quiet and very controlled. My speed through the corners was much faster and for the most part very smooth. It certainly didn’t sound like I was carrying any speed though.

And all of that was due to what the bike is all about not the rider. It turns so well it’s no effort and it is very precise even with all the rocks and roots it stayed where you put it. The motor pulls from way down in the RPM’s (I do think the 300 would be totally awesome though, but I’m not ready to convert it)  At my age and skill level pulling through the corners to the next at a very predictable pace makes for less mistakes and a flow of sorts is certainly less tiring. When I did start getting tired some of the typical things of getting tired started showing up.

I rode without the steering damper and was totally comfortable with that (Those of us who have ridden KTM’s for a long time know that trying to ride an older KTM without a steering damper was not a good idea) As I have for years I put a set of Air Cells on my bikes, it helps smooth things out in the first few inches of travel and I had my Air Cells open for this ride. It helps soak up all the roots and rocks and doesn’t transfer any harshness back into my hands. I can’t believe it but the stock suspension along with the Air Cells is at this juncture almost perfect. Even the stock Dunlop AT81 tires are working well. (I typically like the AT81 rear but not the front)

Right now I can’t get enough of riding this bike and other than playing with the jetting there’s nothing I feel the need to change or add, 6 hours and counting. Went to Foresthill again with Mark which means a race Mark never trail rides. He knows that area like the back of his hand and decided we would work our way over to trail five for some more open flowing trails. But he hasn’t been in that area since last year and the rain we received last winter took a real toll on those trails. It was ugly real ugly in some areas. That whole riding area has taken a real beating and I don’t see any trail maintenance going on either. (Must be using our OHV money for something more important I guess) 

Three hours of run time on the bike and 48miles later we were done. (Gives you an idea how slow some of these trails were) Again did not feel the need for a steering damper. I did fall over in a couple of rock sections because I was being lazy. So the new bike now has a few scratches and several dents in the pipe and a total of 9.1 hours. So far I haven’t really noticed the wide ratio transmission, no real gaps except first to second. Low is low so I start in second maybe second and third could be a little closer but not a big deal so far.

The only thing I’m going to change is the pilot jet from a forty to a thirty five. I’m hoping this will make it run a little crisper off idle at altitude. 

I’m sidelined for a while now had surgery to repair two hernias and pull my stomach muscles back into place after ripping them when I broke my back last year.

Doug 21J

 

Wednesday
Jul262017

21J's Never Ending Projects

New Project Time

 

It was time for a new project I’ve had the Yamaha YZ250/290FX for going on three years. It’s a great bike and I certainly don’t need another bike, but since when does that kind of logic mean anything.

 

So I decided to buy a real trail bike, one that is designed for good old woods riding. And I all ready knew what I wanted and why. I wanted a 2017 KTM300XC-W for many reasons. New frame geometry, lighter weight, (220.4 lbs plus gas) a new motor with the starter relocated underneath the motor. The Exploror open cartridge forks, didn’t want the air forks or the rear shock linkage. The W means all those things plus an eighteen inch rear wheel, 2.5 gal gas tank, a kick stand, headlight and taillight, a six speed transmission and of course electric and kick start. Every time I looked at videos from Europe I’d see the vast majority of KTM’s were W’s.

Well I couldn’t find a 300-W anywhere around here, the W’s seem to sell out long before the XC’s. (With linkage and air forks) I could find 300 Husky’s or KTM’s around. So I decide to buy a 250-W with the thought I can easily convert it to a 300 later on.

The forks are new but are an updated version of the old open cartridge forks with the compression and rebound clickers on the top of the forks. The shock is a recently revamped PDS system shock.

In order to ride it in the woods I needed, spark arrester, plus for my piece of mind a skid plate, steering damper, hand guards and of course a Rekluse.

My first ride was at the rock pile known as Prairie City OHV Park. All I had added that first ride was the spark arrester. I literally went right out into the rocks and the first thing I noticed was how well the stock suspension worked I was very surprised and pleased. The other thing that surprised me was how low in the RPM’s the two strokes motor can keep chugging. I actually only stalled it once that day and this is a guy who’s ridden with Rekluse’s for years.

I have a 2016 Husky FC350 that weighs just a few pounds more than the 250 but the difference in feel is amazing. I’m sure it’s the four stroke versus the two stroke motor vibes, but the 250 feels a lot lighter. I eventually ended up riding all around the park that day and had nothing but positive feelings.

Not having had a two stroke for six plus years it does take a bit of getting used to, like no engine braking, I found myself rolling off the throttle expecting some engine braking so I over cooked some corners. The two stroke motor does not respond as quickly as the FI four stroke off the low end but nothing you can’t get used to. The jetting was totally stock and could have had something to do with that.

We ended up riding 28 miles that day and I had a smile on my face the whole time.

My next ride was at Foresthill, a place with a good mixture of single track flowing trails, rock up hills and down hills, water bars and some tight tuff. By this time I had the steering damper, skid plate, shark fin and Rekluse installed. I had also dropped the cir clip on the needle to help it run cleaner. I backed the compression off all the way on the forks and shock and slowed the rebound a bit.

I need to tell a little story on myself here. Something I believe we have all experienced at some point in our motorcycle mechanic-ing career. When I went to install the steering damper bracket and I know better than this but it seems I have to learn this lesson every time. And that is don’t think you can install the bracket with the front end (forks front wheel) still on the bike. At some point in the distant past I have had success doing it that way so I still try doing it this way every time. So after I tried and failed and ended up taking the front end off and had put it all back together I discovered I left the round fat O-Ring off. And so once again thinking I could take it apart just enough to slip that O-Ring on at the top only to fail again and once again have to take it all apart. Finally success after I don’t know how many hours, I decided to work on the Rekluse the next day, fresh start and all that. 

The Rekluse install went without a hitch or so I thought. When I was ready to test it I hit the starter button the only response was one single click. So now I think the battery has somehow died. Just so happens I have a Shoari battery which I install only to hear the single click. I check everything to no avail, I end up calling the KTM dealer I bought it from and from there I take it to them the next morning. Everyone pushes the button and offers a possible solution. Finally the owner comes out and looks at it and says did you install the Rekluse? Yes I said he proceeds to tell me a story about one of his mechanics spent eight hours trying to figure out the same problem with another customer’s bike. The problem, there are two long bolts one at eleven and one at five o’clock that are used on the clutch cover, one is about three millimeters longer than the other. I had a fifty, fifty chance of installing it correctly but as luck would have it I installed the longer bolt on the bottom where it interfered with the starter.

This is what this bike is made for and it worked amazingly well. It turns, it stops and the motor pulls extremely well. I’m not a screamer more of a torque it around guy and this motor would do that. Right now at least I don’t feel the need for a 300. One of the other reasons I bought this year’s bike was because of the counter balancer which cuts out virtually all vibration, it works. No hands going to sleep no foot peg vibration either.

Put another 28 miles on the bike, would have ridden more except it was getting hot and I was tired from riding moto cross practice the day before.

Interestingly enough and for the first time I don’t at this juncture feel the need to have the suspension worked on. And I’m not sure I need the steering damper that’s how stable it felt. Even at Prairie City on the open trail and roads it felt very stable. And can’t think of anything I want to change or add to the bike. Incidentally the new 2018 KTM250XC-W TPI (TPI is for fuel injection) is the same bike as the 2017I have except the FI of course. So I’m going to just ride it, continue to learn how to ride it all with a big smile on my face.

I’ll put some time on it and report back later.

 

Doug 21J

Tuesday
Jun132017

2017 Sierra Motocross Classic

 

Held on June 10th and 11th at the Prairie City national track (AKA Hangtown) outside Sacramento CA. Once upon a time the Sierra Old Timers annual race was called the “Hangtown Hangover” and put on I believe the following week or weeks after “The” Hangtown National MX with the help of the Dirt Diggers club. Who are still the only motorcycle club to put on an AMA national MX event as far as I know and have been for years? 

The weather was surprisingly good; it was cool over cast most of the time and a little windy sometimes, it could have been downright ugly but was almost perfect weather to race in. 

The rider turnout was a little lower than was expected. There was no shortage of theories as to way. But for those who did come, some traveling from as far away as Canada were treated to an outstanding event. Armstrong Racing who operate the facility are real professionals so the track prep and race program were handled in a top notch way.

Saturday evening a BBQ dinner was served to a full house of 150 people. Following dinner the raffle prizes were handed out. The club has become known for outstanding prizes including this year’s grand prize of an Evo Fat tire bike. In fact the club has been gaining the reputation of putting on one the best events of the series which includes clubs from all around the Western States and Canada.

I only talked to one rider who didn’t like the track and for him it probably had more to do with his ridding abilities on that particular day. (We all have those days)

Everywhere I stood  eavesdropping on other riders conversations I heard one of the things that keeps us all doing this and that’s the bench racing it’s a very important part of the whole thing. I invited Scott a friend of mine who is an excellent woods rider but hasn’t raced moto cross for fifteen years to come out and give it a try. It turned out he and Derek who ended up parked next to each other and me were in the same class spent the weekend passing each other laughing and yelling, then spent the time between moto’s talking about it. I’m sure this kind of conversation was repeated throughout the pits.

In fact my overall observation was I saw a lot of smiling faces of people engaged in conversation over the weekend. I talked with four support riders who were all under thirty who were still on their bikes and their helmets on talking about the great time they just had racing each other. And as I’ve said before that kind of camaraderie is what it’s really all about, especially the older we get.

 

Doug 21J