Gift of a Day

Today’s weather was incredible – high sixties and breezy at the halfway point in November, with lots of moisture in the dirt from the previous week’s rains. I made the most of this gift by taking my Husqvarna to Ride Organic for a splendid afternoon of dirt riding.

The TC 449 is a GP machine

The TC 449 is a GP machine

Bill relishes the perfect November weather

Bill relishes the perfect November weather

I got to rip around the GP track and relax in the November sunshine.


Mexican Misadventure

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.

John is ready to ride to Mexico MO on his Bonneville T-100

John is ready to ride to Mexico MO on his Bonneville T-100

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.

Our bikes parked at Dogtown Public House in Mexico MO

Our bikes parked at Dogtown Public House in Mexico MO

Right away, something didn’t look right. there were no lights on at the restaurant, and no hours posted.

John looks for signs of commerce at our destination

John looks for signs of commerce at our destination

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.

The view through the tinted window at Dogtown Public House

The view through the tinted window at Dogtown Public House

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.

My sweaty selfie at our gas stop outside of Hermann MO on the way home

My sweaty selfie at our gas stop outside of Hermann MO on the way home

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.

Friends of Joe

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.

Walter picks a course

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!

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…

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.

New and Old

Husqvarna's new style

Husqvarna is going with a new look

I bought a 2011 Husqvarna TC449 yesterday from Gateway BMW/Hsuqvarna. Today was my first chance to ride it. I loaded it and my 2000 Yamaha YZ426F, picked up my little brother John, and went to Saint Joe State Park. It was a beautiful day. Both bikes worked great. The Husky is taller, longer, and stiffer feeling than the YZ. It’s engine is simultaneously powerful and friendly. Where the YZ spins its rear tire and wants to bring the rear artound on the throttle or on the brakes, the Husky is super stable and just drives out of corners with no drama at all. Even when you break the rear loose on purpose,, it just hangs out there, lazily, never threatening to swap.
I had gone for an hour, charging whoops and powering out donuts in the sand before I had my first spill – in the middle of a feet-up power slide through loose sand, I sideswiped an old stump, and launched myself over the high side. No pain and no damage, just a mouth full of sand for my carelessness. All part of the fun.

Morning MX

cold morning for MX

Bill is keen to go ride

I went out for a morning of MX practice at Archview MX Park in Washington Park, IL. My parents stopped by and my dad shot a little video of me on the track. Every time I try it, I get a little better. Today I worked on getting up in to 2nd gear between the corner exits and the jump faces. It made the bigger gaps more doable.