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 My first dirt bike ride, ever.

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Tally Whacker

PostSubject: My first dirt bike ride, ever.   Sun Jun 28, 2015 2:08 pm

It might come as a surprise, but I've never ridden a dirt bike in the dirt before yesterday's ride.  My dirt bike experience had been limited to quick little test rides up and down the block.

Now, to be fair, I've ridden motorbikes in the dirt plenty- but they've all been street bikes.

Anyhow, a friend (who is probably on this board) loaned me his Yamaha WR250R after I mentioned that I'd been kicking around the idea of getting a dual-sport.  His suggestion was to give it a try and see if I wanted to pursue the whole thing any farther.  Our discussions had been about bikes for back-country exploring, not MX or endure competitions ar anything like that.  I have no interest in 400+ "adventure" bikes at all, but it absolutely had to be street legal so I could ride any dirt road open to traffic and not be limited to OHV areas.

The WR has some attractive features, mainly to do with reliability, durability, low, low maintenance and a real subframe so it could actually work as a pack mule- exactly what I wanted.  It isn't known for its high horsepower or extremely light weight, though.  Still, at 300 pounds, give or take, it's far lighter than any GS or other ADV bike.

Well, for one reason or another the bike sat forlorn in my garage for three weeks before I actually got the chance to ride it.  Finally a free day appeared on my calendar, and off I went.

Now, it was important to me that whatever bike I was going to get (and the list of potential bikes is quite short) it had to be able to deal with the pavement, so I simply suited up and rode to the ride.

On the freeway, the little WR is capable of maintaining 70 mph in reasonable comfort, but 75 is asking a bit too much, and as you get near 80 the bike starts to weave like a drunken monkey.  On the two-lane twisties, the knobbies and low air pressure give the tires a certain vagueness when leaned over at speed which I found discourages any real heroics.  Also, at 27 horsepower (or whatever the actual number is) you just aren't going to get a lot of speeding tickets.  I did find that I could catch up to and pass (with enough run-up) pretty much any car in the turn bits, but not with a tremendous amount of authority.

After a couple of hours of pavement, I arrived at the Corral Canyon OHV area.

I was familiar with the area from having ridden my mountain bike there some time past (well, back in the '80s, really, but hey- it hasn't changed much).  I figured it would provide a mix of stuff for me to try.

At the upper right corner of the map is a dirt parking lot referred to as "Four Corners".  From there I rode up the climb to the Los Pinos lookout, a paved but severely potholed single lane road with plenty of rolling grade dips to launch off of.

Here is the view from the top towards the east.  I should have climbed up the lookout tower and taken some photos, but I wanted to get back on the bike.

(Click on pictures to get hi-res full-size versions)

Heading back down, I turned onto Spur Meadow Trail, a single track downhill I remembered as being a lot of fun on a bicycle.  Well, it was a lot of fun on the WR, too.

At the bottom, I turned right onto the main dirt road and tooled along until I got to the west end of "Gunslinger".  

Right at the start of it there's a side loop called "Rattlesnake" that was new to me (And not on the official map I had, either) but was signed and obviously a legal route.  It soon became very rocky, and near the limit of my technical abilities at the moment.

Looping around, Rattlesnake dumped me back on Gunslinger so I proceeded east, enjoying the day.  Eventually the road came to a T, so I turned south on Bronco Flats, then left on the main dirt road that circled the area.  Turning left again, I proceeded uphill on Wrangler, a single track I remembered as being a fun one.  I was correct- it was very fun and flowing.  At the next intersection I figured I'd explore some, so I turned right down Bronco Peak trail, which eventually became a very steep, rock-filled rut.  I was doing all right, even though I couldn't use the rear brake at all because of the lever angle, but then it happened- my first unscheduled dismount of the day.  Everything had seemed just fine, but a sand pit in that steep rock-filled rut caught the front tire and stopped the bike cold.  Sorry, no pic.

It turns out that 300 pounds isn't all that light when you have to lift an upside-down bike back onto its tires before all that gas spills out everywhere.  Well, a bit of wrestling later, I had the bike upright and pointed back down the trail.  It took me a bit of coasting and repeated stabs at the starter button before it occurred to me that the bike must have a tip-over shutoff, so I turned the key off, waited a minute or so, then turned it back on.  The bike started right up without a hiccup, which is good, because I was in BFE and hadn't seen another should since the fire lookout.

I proceeded downhill and back to the main loop road, then turner right.  I was motoring along on the fire road when I saw the entrance to "Greenhorn" a single track that had been unknown to me.  It was a lot of fun and not very technical at all, but all tight twists and turns with little elevation gains and losses, so it was almost entirely a first-gear affair.  All too soon it dumped me back on the ring road, so I turned right, and soon right again for another pass up Wrangler.  This time, I turned left at at the intersection to climb Bronco Peak.  This was quite challenging, with some extended granite slick-rock sections that tested my willingness to trust the tire grip, but I made it through eventually.

Turning right onto the Bronco Peak Connector, though, I finally had to concede that I'd met my match.  Well, more than my match, actually. It was a steep, twisting singletrack climb, with a hard right-hand turn a few feet before a granite rock face that had an initial vertical step-up that was about knee high, and then a 45 degree slope for another few feet.  I gave it a try, and it didn't work out so well.  I wrestled the bike back onto its tires and backed it down the trail a bit and gave it another shot.  "Wow- this bike lifting thing is getting to be a lot of work!"  I thought to myself, before getting set up for a third pass.  Well, third time was not the charm either even though I took a different line, so I opted to give up on the maneuver.  

Here's the problem spot, with the bike in its post-lifting attitude:

I climbed up on some rocks to take the photo, so it flattened the perspective a bit, but you can still make out the little vertical face the rear tire is snuggled up against.
See the scratches on the pipe, swingarm and shark's tooth?  Courtesy of those granite rocks.

Turning the bike around on a three foot wide single track was nearly as much work as lifting it from an upside-down position three times was, so I was pretty spent by that point and I opted to simply backtrack.  I took Wrangler back to the loop road, then took the easy way back to Four Corners and the pavement ride home.

All in all, it was six hours (mostly) in the saddle, and most of the time it was quite enjoyable.  Even the tough bits were good.  I was quite pleased with my first day ever of dirt biking.  I'd wanted to explore the bike's abilities as well as my own, and I see what fun could be had.  Missions accomplished.

So- bike review.
The little Yamaha did everything as well as I could have wished.  The difficult bits were simply above my current ability level, but I can't blame the bike for that.  It was fast enough on the street, torquey enough in the dirt, and light enough to lift off my leg when I was underneath the bike with my head downslope.  Can't ask for much more than that.
I think my friend has convinced me that I need one of these things.

Gear review- my stuff.
My Sidi Adventure boots worked perfectly.  I had good feeling on the pegs, shifting was easy and they had good grip when I need leverage to upright the bike.  When my ankle was trapped under the bike I didn't even feel any squeeze.  A solid thumbs-up.
Roach pants.  Perfect.  Comfy, resistant to scratchy desert plant life and rocks alike.  Flawless- except for the fact the company was bought out and now you can't get them any more.
Thor MX shin-knee guards.  Comfy enough that I could forget I had them on, but good at fending off the rocks when the time came.  Another flawless piece of gear.
SixSixOne helmet.  An utter failure.  It had been a while since I'd worn it last, and it took me a while to find it.  I went to put it on and the strap literally crumbled to dust in my hand.  No good at all- it went straight into the trash can.
Scorpion EX-700 helmet.  It worked well.  I can't complain.  Not as vented as a dirt helmet would have been, but hey- it was no doubt better on the two and a half hours of pavement riding I did, right?

Gear I borrowed from my friend.
SixSixOne pressure suit.  A bit too small for me but it fit well enough.  It saved me from a few nasty bumps to the elbow, so it did its job.  Sure, it was a bit sweaty, but not too bad.  I'd consider buying one for myself.
Klim jersey.  It was like wearing a long-sleeved T shirt.  Good airflow, and it kept the sun and bugs off.  It doesn't show any damage from my hitting rough granite with my elbow, so that's a good thing.  Again, I'd consider buying one like it.
Leatt brace.  I couldn't get it to work with my road helmet, so it stayed home.  Thankfully, I didn't wind up needing it.
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Tally Whacker

PostSubject: Re: My first dirt bike ride, ever.   Sun Jun 28, 2015 2:09 pm

UPDATE: My second ride.

Today I took the bike out for my second dirt bike ride ever.  My plan for the day was to do the kind of ride I imagine myself doing if I actually owned a bike like BMW-K's trusty little WR.  Last time was an exploration of the bike's limits, as well as mine.  Today wasn't planned to be anything like that, but instead a ramble through some of the lesser-travelled parts of San Diego County.

Again, like last time, I rode to the ride.  It is in fact really important to me that I get pavement time in on the bike, as the type of riding I would like to do more of will certainly include paved bits as well as unpaved.  What I hadn't expected was the rain, though.  I wasn't too concerned, knowing that I'd dry off by the time I got to the desert.  Knobbies can be a bit sketchy on wet pavement, I noticed.

After an hour and a half of freeway to secondary road, I found myself east of Julian, CA.  I turned off the pavement and onto a reasonably steep, rocky fire road.  Now, I had a vague idea of which way to go since I used to mountain bike in the area decades ago but memories fade and things change, so I expected that some exploration was on the menu.

Soon enough I was in terrain that looks remarkably like this:

The area is littered with mines, some old and abandoned and some still active.  This was one of four active mines I passed today:

An interesting historical tidbit: the last miners vs claim jumpers shootout in the area was way back in 1989.  Yeah, that's right.  1989.  If I recall correctly, the judge ruled that the since the survivors were the ones with the legal stake, they were justified in shooting and killing the invaders and therefore no criminal penalty was assessed.

I had no intention of getting involved in any shootouts of any kind, so I stayed on my side of the barbed wire.

Here's a truck near one of the old mines:

I don't think they use it much any more.

I continued on my merry way, enjoying the peace and solitude (which I shattered with the WR's mighty engine roar and fearsome exhaust howl).

The discussion about appropriate bikes a few posts up in this thread?  Well, here's something to consider.  Notice the sign:

A bike that's not road legal would be worthless to me.  

Soon I came upon a group pf three riders enjoying the nice, cooling desert breezes, trying to wish themselves some shade.  I didn't take any photos, because it would have been rude to have documented their misery.  One of the two KTM riders had roasted his clutch coming up the hill I was descending, and was hoping that letting the bike (and clutch) cool down might let him limp back down the hill and onto the pavement to get back to where they had parked their trucks.  The second KTM guy was concerned he was overheating his bike.  The third rider was doing just fine (albeit I imagine much slower than the other two) on his TW200.

While chatting, the TW guy asked me if I liked my WR.  "It's not mine," I answered.  "A friend is letting me borrow it."
"What kind of bike do you have?" he asked, curious.
"I've got a BMW street bike- an S1000."
"What kind of dirt bike?" he persisted.
"I don't have one.  That's why I'm borrowing this- to see if I like dirt riding, and whether I want to buy one or not."
At this point burned-out clutch guy asks "What do you mean, 'see if you like it'?  How long have you been riding dirt bikes?"
"This is my second ride," I admitted.
"And you're riding down this?" he demanded, flabbergasted.
"Well, it's not really all that different," I hedged, but they didn't seem convinced.
Anyway, by that time I'd finished the rest of my bottle of coke, so I bid them good luck and headed off down the hill, eventually dropping down into the Anza-Borrego Desert.

See those mountains in the background?  That's six thousand feet of elevation gain that I'd just come down, and was about to U-turn and go back up.

When I had turned off the pavement I'd expected that I'd eventually get to this point at the bottom of Oriflamme Canyon, so I was quite pleased with my navigational ability after all this time.  My plan was to backtrack a bit past where I'd seen the other riders, then hang a left and head on up Mason Valley and up to Cuyamaca lake.

On the way back up I detoured into this lovely little riparian camping spot:

The shade makes all the difference in the comfort level in the desert.

After a couple of miles back up the hill I spotted burned-clutch guy rolling down, so I pulled aside to let him past.  He was coasting to give his bike as much recovery time as possible.
He asked if I'd given up on making it all the way to the bottom, but I told him no, I'd been to the highway and taken photos.  He seemed surprised that I'd been there and back- in fact, I got a real doubting look from him.  I suspect he thought everything I'd told him was a load.
His two pals came coasting down the hill about that time, so I took off onwards and upwards.  I didn't set any land speed records on the loose, rocky and steep climb, but my clutch was never in any danger, either.   :bigok:  

Soon after I made my left-hand turn off of the Chariot Canyon road things leveled out a bit and the road got dramatically smoother.  I stopped for a drink of water and to take a panoramic photo.
Here is a link because I left the picture full-sized.  Click to open in in another tab.

Not long after that the road devolved into a weedy doubletrack, and a few miles later I was back on pavement again.  Back in Julian, I texted BMW-K to let him know I'd survived the ordeal, then tooled home.

All in all, a lovely way to spend a few hours on a Saturday.

I'm starting to think there might be something to this whole 'dirt bike' thing.
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PostSubject: Re: My first dirt bike ride, ever.   Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:56 am

beautiful. looks like you didn't have to breathe dust either! solo riding can be alternately peaceful, exhilarating, and terrifying...in my experience.
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PostSubject: Re: My first dirt bike ride, ever.   Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:45 am

Good write up, we dont have area`s to ride here, we can go any where as long as its not posted private property, which is pretty much any where, so are you going to get a bike now hahaha
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Tally Whacker

PostSubject: Re: My first dirt bike ride, ever.   Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:01 pm

Fiftygrit wrote:
so are you going to get a bike now hahaha

I'm starting to look around for a well-set up used one, all right.
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PostSubject: Re: My first dirt bike ride, ever.   Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:05 pm

Dont blame you, they do make you smile. If you ride to your abilities and learn off road its a hoot.
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My first dirt bike ride, ever.
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