I really don’t get out on the bike much anymore. That’s a shame. And when I do get the chance, it’s easy to get bummed when things don’t go as planned.
My brother John talked me into going for a Sunday ride. I wanted to go to Dogtown Public House in Mexico Missouri because they are a client of my wife’s photography business. She shot studio portraits of a series of iconic dog breeds, and had them printed on huge canvasses to be the thematic centrepieces of this relatively new Irish pub. Because of time constraints with their opening, my wife had these giant prints drop shipped to the pub and never got to see the finished product. I like Irish pubs. I like long rides, and I like my wife’s photography – This seemed like a perfect destination.
I met up with John at his place in the morning, and we hit the road – he on his Bonneville T-100, me on my Z1000.
We took the freeways and highways all the way there – a fast, but boring 2 hours with not much to see. We arrived between 11:00 and noon – perfect timing, I thought, since Dogtown Public House’s facebook page said they were open at 11:00 on Sundays.
Right away, something didn’t look right. there were no lights on at the restaurant, and no hours posted.
Peering in the dark bar, I could see Amy’s photos on the wall. It was a nice looking place. But there was mail from the previous day on the floor by the front door – a sure sign that they weren’t opening any time soon that day.
Defeated, John and I found a nearby pizza buffet, and had our lunch. We decided to take a more scenic route back home. We took 19 south down to Hermann Missouri, and jogged back East on 94, a pleasantly twisty and scenic ride through the wine country. The afternoon heat was not pleasant. And when we stopped for gas outside of Hermann, John’s bike wouldn’t start back up – the starter just ratcheted in protest when he thumbed the start button. We ended up bump starting it and resigned to riding straight home with no more stops.
94 was Ok, we had a fair few miles without being stuck behind super-cautious winery goers, but there were some times when we were behind some city-dweller putting along at 40 mph, and dragging his SUV’s brakes for a hundred yards before every corner. That makes the heat of the day even more unpleasant. 94 isn’t at its best on a hot Sunday afternoon, but it was still the highlight of the ride.
I have a new mission in life: I want to be a jumper.
I have piddled around on motocross tracks once every other month for a few years now, but I am not a motocrosser. When you talk about riding dirtbikes, the one thing everyone want so know is “do you go over those big jumps?!!” My lame response has been “well, no, not really, I’m new, and blah blah blah… wait, where did everyone go?”
Time to fix that. Big jumps: They look so easy and graceful when real motocrossers do them. Oh God, I want to do that. But I’ve been on a bunch of motocross tracks, and my self preservation instinct (limited as it may be) kicks in right before the commit point on the approach to a jump, and I decide a big NOPE sandwich would taste real good right now.
I dream of jumping. Nothing crazy. I just want to clear the doubles with grace. No Superman seat grabs, no sick triples. Just grace and competence without panic and gritted teeth.
I think about the things I would jump:
- A shark
- A double decker bus
- Snake River Canyon
- Your mom
But how do you get started? Jumping a motorcycle is the kind of thing the Fonz needed to build up to over several seasons of Happy Days. Who am I to think that I can learn to jump motorcycles faster than Henry Winkler? Clearly I need a plan. This is something that I need to work up to. Because I know for a fact that “just going for it” results in ambulance rides and a couple days in the hospital with a catheter up your woo hoo.
So today was day 1 in my personal campaign to become a semi-competent motocrosser. I’m gonna work my way up to jumping some shit.
I went to Ride Organic this morning with one goal: Clear the tabletop after the deep sand 180 degree right hand turn. This was a very safe goal. Tabletops are forgiving. If you don’t clear them, you land on high ground and just ride off the back side. I’ve seen lots of fast motocrossers blow this jump off – lolligag around the sandy corner and not clear it – so what? Heck every time I’ve ridden at Ride Organic, I lolligagged the corner and just bumped up the face of the jump, landing squarely in the middle of the table.
Right hand corners are hard. See, the rear brake pedal is on the right hand side of the bike. You can either use the brake, or you can put your foot out to stabilize and potentially save the bike from washing out in a right hand corner – you can’t do both. So whatever you decide to do – brake? Save? You’re committed.
Also deep sand is not a great canvas for anything other than slowing down and falling over. Bikes don’t steer in sand, they don’t coast in sand, and they don’t accelerate very well in sand either. The only thing you can do in sand is to kind of slew around on the gas – Crank that throttle and lean, and the bike will spray sand around as you carve a circle – point it where you want to go, and you will get there eventually, but not fast – you can’t accelerate in sand like you can on terra firma.
So put those things together: Tight right hand corner, deep sand, and a non-threatening but non-trivial tabletop jump right out of that corner… and you’ve got a nice low stakes challenge. Today I would work exclusively on that tabletop – I wanted to clear it repeatedly with ease before I went home.
First I watched a real rider do it.
Then I took a crack at it.
I’m happy to say that by focusing on one jump, and attempting it over and over, I was really able to make some progress and build some confidence. I have no doubt that I’ll be back at Ride Organic to work on another jump real soon.
This post isn’t terribly interesting – it’s a place to put photos of the damage to my Husqvarna TC449’s muffler. I’m posting this for the benefit of Bret at piperepair.com so he can tell me if this damage is repairable.
Here’s an overall view of the muffler:
Here are two views of the two major creases in the pipe, right at the point where the muffler mounts to the frame:
Here’s a view of the bent mounting bracket. The mounting surface should be flat, and the bracket should have two clean angles in it. Instead, it is now curved.
So what do you think, Bret? Can you fix it? Should I box it up?
I finally personalized my new Husqvarna TC 449 with some Decal Works custom backgrounds. I really like the way it turned out. Decal Works’ pre sales service was fantastic. They emailed me some images of what the bike would look like with various options. The stickers themselves were great, and fit perfectly, a nice achievement given that many of them wrapped over corners, or went on creased surfaces.
I chose one of their simpler options, the “Super” series graphics to show off the radical lines of the big Husky. I also went with a Italian “tricolore” scheme, which I have always liked on Italian exotic motorcycles. I was worried that it would come out looking like a pizza delivery scooter, but I think the green is subtle enough to not be too silly.
**UPDATE** for Gilles who commented below asking for a better view of the side number graphics:
Buddies Walter and Doug and I took our play bikes to Saint Joe State Park. The weather forecast was dismal, but wrong. While the ground was wet, we didn’t get a single drop of rain, and we enjoyed a high of 55 degrees, making for a great day of riding.
I had a funny thing happen. In our second hour of riding, I found that my bike was acting funny – hesitating at more than half throttle at high rpms. Out of gas? Bad gas? I topped off the tank. No real improvement. Over time, it got a bit better, but not much. I had visions of piston ring replacement, or hunting down a intake leak. What could it be?
The post ride bike wash revealed a blocked spark arrestor – more than 70% was caked in mud. No wonder it didn’t run right!
Brother John and I trailered the MX bikes to Lincoln Trail Motorsports in Casey IL on Sunday. The weather was to be great, and track prep was promised. I got up early to load the car and trailer. It’s a long drive for us – a little over two hours.
I worried out loud, about 30 minutes from our destination that I grabbed a helmet when I was packing that I thought was mine, but I didn’t check it; I realized that Helen’s helmet is stored in an identical bag. “Wouldn’t that be awful if I brought Helen’s helmet instead of mine?” I said.
After paying gate fees at Lincoln Trail, we unpacked and quickly found my fear to be true! No helmet for me! Auuuughh! I was so angry at myself. My brother consoled me. We would take turns riding, and I could use his helmet and goggles. It wasn’t ideal, but it was at least a way for both of us to enjoy the day to some degree.
So we took turns. And we had a great time. I enjoyed watching John ride, and he was happy to watch me. Neither of us has any real endurance for motocross, so our riding time wasn’t diminished much.
Then the second bad thing happened.
The newly rebuilt motor on the YZ gave out.
I distinctly recall being alarmed at the sound the Yamaha was making as John went by on his last lap. It was wheezy, with a kind of dull clatter instead of the deep thump of a healthy MX motor. “Ugh” I thought. And as he came by, right in front of me, over a low tabletop jump, the motor seized in mid air. John saved it somehow, landing with the rear wheel locked, he was up over the bars, feet off the pegs, but he didn’t crash. Thank God, I thought. What a total disaster this day had become.
I probably messed up the wristpin clips or something during the piston installation. Only a teardown will reveal it. No sense speculating. The next step is to pull it all apart.
On the way home, I tried hard not to be morose. We had actually had a very good day. Lincoln Trail is an excellent facility. I wish I lived closer. If it was half an hour away, I’d be there twice a week, I’m pretty sure. The Husky was fabulous, easy to ride, confidence inspiring, and fun. John enjoyed his first taste of motocross immensely. It’s all overwhelmingly positive stuff.
Now if I could just remember my helmet, and not botch my bike builds, we’d be sitting pretty…
Sixty four degrees in the first week of January. Saddle up the Z1000 and feel the warmth of the sun while you can!