Weekday Hooky

Wednesday was too beautiful a day to stay cooped up. I took a long lunch and burned laps at Ride Organic.

Author and his Husqvarna

Beautiful day for a ride, had to sneak out and burn some laps


Breaking out of (and into) a rut

This makes two days in a row that I’ve taken my Husky to Ride Organic – beautiful weather, and another opportunity to reacquaint myself with dirt riding. I worked mostly on rutted corners, finding the right rolling speed at the beginning to motor out without standing┬áthe bike up and getting cross-rutted. I’m certainly not in riding shape – I got pretty tired pretty fast.

I’m hoping to do lots more riding, get those skills and stamina back…being off the bike for so long has been a bummer.

Project airborne

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
  • etc.

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.

Husqvarna motorcycle parked at a motocross track

A perfect day for moto training at Ride Organic

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.

A motocross tabletop style jump

Goal for the day: Clear this table top repeatedly

sandy corner before a tabletop

The sandy right hander leading into the tabletop

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.


Roman Numerals

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:

Left side view of Decal Works decals for Husky TC 449

Left side view of Decal Works decals for Husky TC 449

Decal Works for Husky TC 449 Right side view

Decal Works for Husky TC 449 Right side view

Joy and Anguish

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.

frame grabs from video of Bill on TC449 at Lincoln Trail MX

Husqvarna TC449 is fun at the MX park

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…

Shock Collar

View of entire shock with remote preload adjuster installed

Nice new preload adjuster (red) for my Husqvarna

I ordered a remote preload adjuster for the shock on my Husqvarna TC 449 from the Husqvarna performance parts catalog. It arrived yesterday. What a pretty piece of equipment it is!

Remote preload adjuster from the Husqvarna performance parts catalog

A beautiful piece of kit

The point of the adjuster is to replace the lock rings that come on the shock so one could adjust the rear sag of the bike with a 8mm t-handle wrench after only removing the seat. The rings that come stock on the shock are only accessible after the right side plastics are removed, and then to adjust the sag, one must use a drift, as there still isn’t enough clearance to use a shock spanner.

OEM lock rings on a KYB shock

Lock rings? What are we, cavemen?

Shock removal went exactly as the Husqvarna service manual said it would, pretty simple. Removing the spring was harder than I expected. The shock body isn’t long enough to allow the clevis to be removed even with the lock rings moved all the way up the threads – I had to use a spring compressor to get the requisite clearance.

The adjuster threaded on easily, and adjustment pin loosened up nicely just from the installation.

Remote preload adjuster installed on shock


Putting the shock back on the bike was a chore – the adjuster fits nicely in the space provided, but doesn’t allow enough clearance to the gas tank to fit the top eye of the shock into its space on the frame. I had to loosen up the muffler clamp and the bottom bolts of the subframe, and then remove the top subframe bolts completely so I could tip the gas tank back far enough to install the shock. That worked, and isn’t too much of a hassle for future servicing.

The adjustment collar fits nicely and works very well. It should make trackside sag adjustments a snap.

Warm and Squishy

Mud on TC449 front fender

full frontal filth

Today, the high temperature was 53 degrees F – pretty darn hot for late December! I decided to celebrate the great weather with an afternoon of riding at Coyote Trails.

The only problem with Coyote trails is that it’s all clay. When it’s been wet (and it has been) that clay turns into snotty, slippery, sticky mud that cakes everything and makes motorcycling hard. But I only had the afternoon free, and Coyote trails is close at hand, so that’s where I went.

I was worried on the way there, because I could see standing water in the fields along the way. That’s usually a sign that the trails are going to be snotty and rutted. When I arrived, every ATV and bike I saw was brown and drippy. And my new Husky was so clean! Oh well.

I took the bike out on the trails, and was immediately impressed with its handling, traction, easy clutch, and super tractable motor. As crazy tall as the Husky TC 449 is, it was the easiest ride through deep mud I’ve ever experienced. This Husky plain WORKS in ugly situations – no fuss, no drama, just stability and traction, and controlled grunt from the motor. It’s like having one of those “easy buttons” from the Staples commercials.

I met a pair of dads and a pair of sons out on the trail on their bikes. They had spent the whole day riding, and were all pretty dirty. We chatted for a nice while at the end of the day. That’s one of the things that I like best about dirt riding – you meet some really nice people, out there, in the mud.