2006-11-16 17:27:11 UTC
Ride date- Nov 13, 2006
Location- Dale's secret stash
Weather- wet, cloudy, foggy, drizzly at times, about 45-50F
We meet at noon at Dale's place- I'm late as usual. Kevin is already
unloading. Dale and his friend Larry are getting ready.
If it was a skosh warmer, or at least not soaking wet and drizzly, I
probably would have just ridden the XRL to Dale's, but I figure
getting creamed on the street would be just the kind of thing to happen
to me on my 40th birthday. Not that loading the pig into a wet slick
pickup bed is what I'd describe as 'safe'!
I've got my XR650L, Dale and Larry have their kawi 4-strokers, Kevin
has his KTM 200 smoker.
It was a tough day to decide what to wear. It was going to be 45-50F
and probably raining, and we were going to be working hard and going
slow, and then going fast and connecting stuff with roads.
I settled on some long johns under my regular riding gear (vented
jersey and reg. riding pants), and decided to use my home-made
dual-sport helmet, a shoei street helmet with a KBC visor attached with
nylon bolts going into nylon nuts JB-welded to the helmet (its kinda
slick- the face shield even opens).
We head across some fields, through a fairly deep stream, then over
some slick grass fields. Feels like a flat, the bike's moving around
so much. next, its down a farm road where we have to turn around to let
a manure spreader coming the other way go through. Mmmm, that's why
the mud's extra slick!
Some more farm and access roads and we get to a nice easy section of
2-track, several miles long at least. It starts out as 'road' with
sloppy deep muddy sections (what is this, tug hill?) , but turns into
some nice twisty stuff that actually has a little traction, despite the
wet. The 2-track and the small road are the 1st things on the video
(taken on the way back).
We eventually get to a new fence, just some barbed wire across the
trail with minimal effort to make the fence obvious. If I'd been
leading, I probably would have charged right through it (and with the
tank, not have noticed it). The guys stop for a bit, so I just scoot
around a bit. Nice woods, fairly open, cool little moguls around and
enough deadfalls to keep it from being too easy to just pick a line.
On the way back out of that area, I lead since we've been over it,
and I find I can make pretty good progress despite the wet. Usually the
pig is sliding all over in the muck, but either I'm getting used to
it or those last few PSI I let out of the tires turned the trick. I'm
out of camera range for this part of the vid, which is too bad because
I had some hairy 2-wheel slides through here through the muck, but you
can just see me get crossed up just before Larry gets stuck, crossed up
in a rut- some of those puddles are deep!
Going down the road towards the next trail, right before we turn into a
field I hear 'ffft ffft ffft' from the front tire. Ohhh, crap. Flat.
Larry runs back to the house to get the truck and a few tools, and my
spare tube, as we dismount the wheel. I don't normally carry a tube
on the bike, but did happen to toss one in the truck before leaving.
Get the thing off, it was the valve stem. Twice that's happened, I
think I need a front rim lock at these low tire pressures. getting it
changed wasn't bad, I could see doing a front tube on the trail, but
not the rear if it's a teraflex or a big MT21. But then again, the
steel-belted variant of the 'flex has excellent long-distance
Looking at the rear, and someone complaining about their knobs, makes
me wonder why rear hubs can't be identical on both sides- you could
pull the wheel, swap the sprocket and disk around, and your rear tire
is flipped fore a fresh edge.
Back on the bikes, this time Kevin decides he should go through the
stream fast- and crap, of course I missed him get a soaking. Hope
he's got some warm clothes on under the riding gear...
Next trail is tighter and hillier- starts off the road midway down a
ravine, Dale leading. Good sized ruts, wet rocks, wet leaves, fun stuff
(just not steep enough!). We get to a log across the trail, Dale goes
around but I figure I'll hop right over it- its at an angle, but the
trail's wide enough I can get mostly square to it. Well, mostly
wasn't enough. The front hops right over, but the rear cogs on the
tree pulling the rear of the bike to the right, down the trunk. In
about 1/10 of a sec I was facing 90 deg. off to the right, right foot
on the ground, left leg just dangling over the bike. They tell me the
save looked pretty good, but for me it was all paranoia about not
getting stuck under the bike while riding alone.
To get back on the trail, I had to crash through some more deadfalls
and slick crap, almost dropping the bike. Dale was prompted to quip
'Dave we only clear the trail here, not the whole woods'. Hey, I'm in
it for the obstacles. If I wanted clear sailing, I'd be doing
We continue up, it's a nice cool hill, a little twisty and rutty, no
big sharp-edged rocks like in CT. These rocks move more, though. Top of
the trail there's a few field crossings, mucky spots for getting
out-of-shape, and cool little crossings through streams/gullies between
fields. Eventually we get up to an air-navigation transmitter called a
VOR (looks like a huge misshapen bowling pin on top of a big platform).
Next up is some nice mostly-drained 2-track, gotta watch those logs and
deadfalls across the trail, always ready to stab ya.
Stopping at the end for a bit of a break I notice the hill ranging
above us. Its pretty steep, crossed often by deadfalls and fallen
branches, and it looks like there's just enough room between two logs
at the bottom for me to get up onto the hill. gee, I'd like to climb
that hill but all those logs and leaves are wet and slimy... oh what
the heck! I chug up the hill, its really a nice climb because you can
only go a short distance before you have to go around a fallen tree,
its pretty steep so you can't just go around sideways on the hill,
you have to pick up or down. Older fallen trees that have rotted away
have left little hillocks and dips to add to the navigation challenge.
Man, I could play on this hill for an hour!
I head back down, and check the hill- just some ruffled leaves mark my
path. On an organized trail system I'd worry about leaving a marked
trail and creating an 'outlaw'trail, but this isn't a trail
system, and I'm pretty sure no one is going to follow my marks up
Back up to the VOR I lead and open it up a bit, going at a pretty good
clip, but I'm still self-limiting myself based on not wanting to get
badly hurt if I wipe or go off the trail. If yer hurt, you can't
Next attraction is down the bottom of the hill, we head down a farm
road to the bottom of a rocky, slimy, twisty hill with ruts on the
sides- big ruts filled with rocks and weeds, at least 2 feet down and
you can't see what's in 'em. Somewhere about here I tell Kevin to
go in front of me- no, he says likes to watch me. What, am I
entertainment? (OK, so the back end does dance around a bit- NTTAWWT).
Of course my rear tire gets sucked into one of these (teraflex tires
pull great, but are a little weak on directional stability in the wet,
have I mentioned that?), I'm going up front tire on the high part,
bike angled out with the rear in the ditch, I just have to pull the
plug and go both wheels in the ditch.
Surprisingly, there's some good traction down there and I'm
wheeling up the hill hoping there's no hidden log or boulder waiting
to put an end to my ride.
Larry had a brief washout on the hill, I almost had a big one further
up that hill, I think I may have killed some of Kevin's momentum
(2-strokers just can't follow a 4stroker too close- especially not an
XRL). Wet rocks, wet dirt, wet roots, wet leaves, its getting foggy,
this is good stuff!
We take a pause, its getting cooler, foggy, misting pretty well, and we
check the time- its already 4:30 (I'm hoping that's wrong, I'm
supposed to be home 5, it'd be darker if it was 4:30, right?), so we
decide to get moving to the big hill.
We head back up to the VOR, down a short but steep hill with a "Mr.
Stabby" branch poking all but one of us in the chest, and we head all
the way back out the long rocky hill down to the road. This time I
elect to go around the log (I'm way more chicken going downhill,
those extra 2 feet you fall hurt!), Dale takes a washout (usually my
job) when the front climbs out of the berm (well, rocky edge of the
rut), and it turns out the big hill is just across the street.
This is my kind of stuff, right here. The trail disappears down into a
ravine with a creek that's running pretty good, the hill starts with
a climbing the greasy stream embankment, and just disappears up into
the trees, climbing and climbing.
Heading down to the creek sees 2 more stick-across-trail washouts
(I've had some excellent face plants this way), and we're set to
watch Larry make the ascent. According to Dale, Larry's kawi has a
bit of a hop-up kit in it, aftermarket pipe and silencer (but still
nicely quiet), so its actually a little harder for him to make the
hill. The XRL is the master of the low-tech detuned motor, so I know
exactly what he's talking about.
The video picks up in hand-held mode at this point.
Larry gets lined up on our side of the stream at bottom of ravine and
charges out of streambed to get a little momentum for the opposite
streambed. Its slick, he's sliding a fair bit, then he hits the hill
proper and chugs out of sight.
I'm next, I negotiate the narrow ledge next to the rushing stream,
and instead of lining up for a charge I just dial the XRL throttle to
'tractor' and try to keep the back end from misbehaving too badly.
Most of the trip up I spend at just over idle, just putting in little
blips of power to clear roots and some steeper spots. Trail keeps going
up, no tight turns to rob momentum, gets a bit slicker, and then hits
the steep part. This requires a bit more speed, I gun it a bit but
still keep it in first, the rear bites in enough that I don't need to
start over to attack it with more momentum. A small clay bulge that
requires a bit more oomph, and I'm up over the tough part.
Larry and I wait for whoever is coming next, and we see Dale crest the
hill. We hang out and wait for Kevin. Dale and Larry walk over to the
edge to see if they can hear anything, I figure we'll be going down
to help (hey, I just figured the hill would be harder on a 200cc
2-stroke, that doesn't make me a bad guy!) so I ride over. dale is
about 100ft or so down on a ledge, there's no sign of Kevin so I head
down to the ledge.
Dale was right- there's no stopping on this hill, you just ski best
you can and hope for the best. The ledge offers a decent spot to stop,
We wait a bit, and I'm just going to go investigate when we hear
Kevin. He's moving up the hill pretty good, and gets past us no
problem. The steeper part past the ledge sucks up all his momentum, and
he expertly aims the bike off to the side with the last of his speed.
back down on the ledge he explains he spent a little time under the
bike near the bottom and he's fricken' tired.
As Kevin rests I take hill a few times up and down, fast and slow. You
can see the 'flex do a good job propelling me up the hill, you can
also see it lacks a bit in directional stability. If it had been a
little drier I might have tried a 2nd gear run for speed, but I just
didn't have enough directional stability.
I try one time to go as slow as possible, my strategy to go just fast
enough, and count on the 'flex to hook up with more throttle if I
need more speed, in these conditions I stay over the middle of the bike
as low as possible.
In here somewhere Kevin makes a run from the ledge, but there just
isn't enough traction to get the speed required for the steep
section. Its starting to rain, and starting to get dim.
Kevin goes back to next 'flat' spot to try again, gets it into 2nd gear
this time, much easier, he goes right up (I fig its because I reminded
him the rep of 2strokes world over was depending on him).
I take hill last time, getting tired, slaloming all over, almost get
sucked into a bowl, manage to climb out somehow. I'm almost stopped
on steepest part, but just keep throttle on 'tractor' and get up there
somehow (bet no one has ever recovered from going that slow on that
hill!). My strength is starting to flag a bit, too.
I have to say, with all the low-end torque and the flex I feel like
I'm totally cheating on the hillclimbs. I could make the bike faster
and more powerful, get cam, up the compression, but its a world class
chugger up the hills just as it is!
Other side of the hill there's an excellent view, moderated by the
fact that its getting dark, starting to rain and get colder.
Someone mentions a trail leading off the hill, I go check it out. I go
down pigslop hill, its nasty, slick, gooey, with an ugly but short
tire-deep mudhole partway down. At the bottom mudhole I turn around- no
traction! None! A bit more runup, I slog up hill, 1/2 worn
no-sharp-edge flex digging and sliding. Of course I have to hit the
slop hole on the way up to see if the flex will dig through (how does a
mudhole form on a hill?- little ledge right there I guess). That little
hole just steals all yer mo' going up that hill, I barely chugged
My quote at the top- "that's the nastiest, slimiest, ugliest most
useless pigslop of a hill I've seen yet!"
On the way down, Larry and I challenge the muck. Down to big mudhole
the 4 of us regroup, its getting dark, Larry does some spinning in a
mud bog, I try a different route and get stuck crossing multiple ruts
at same time, end up mostly going over Dale goes by, hey! did he just
try to roost me? Glad he didn't have a 'flex, I gotta tell ya.
Mudhole got Kevin pretty good, too. He did a bit of digging with the
rear knob to get out.
The guys get up ahead a little, I get stuck on a root going downhill
(its that slick!), a little nasty hill where as soon as you get to the
bottom, the front tire has to cross a rut (you think you're gonna
Out of the goop, I find the mud has spread the front pads, I'm glad I
tried those brakes before the next bit.
Down we go, past the nasty ruts and rocks, not too steep, but narrow
ledges on the edges.
Back down to town, its 5pm (someone forgot to 'fall-back' with the
watch used for the 4:30 time check, fortunately for me), its raining,
dark, and we did just under 30 miles.
I can't think of a better way to spend my 40th, except maybe to make
the whole damn thing twice as long!