Posts Tagged ‘Dirt biking’

Examiner Resurrection: Learning Dirt-Biking Techniques

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Dirt Riding Training

This Examiner Resurrection is dated in that I have since acquired a dual-sport bike and have a lot more dirt riding under my belt. Still, the points it makes are timeless and it was not a bad thing even for me to reread the material.

Learning Dirt-Biking Techniques

Riding motorcycles in the dirt is not the same as riding on the street. That may not come as a surprise to a lot of people but until you try riding in the dirt you may not realize how different it is.

I had the opportunity yesterday to receive some dual-sport dirt-riding training. I’m doing some coverage of the Adventure for the Cures ride that kicked off today and Sue Slate, the organizer, invited me to participate in the training session. Let me backtrack: The “Dirty Dozen” riders participating in this breast/ovarian cancer research fundraising event are all experienced street riders who have not ridden on dirt before. Thus the training.

Of course I accepted the invitation. So at 6:30 a.m. I was headed up the hill to Keystone in order to be there for an 8 a.m. “working breakfast.” You might be amazed how cold it is on an August day at 7 a.m. at 10,000 feet. My fingers were ice cubes.

The training took place, as so much motorcycle rider training does, in a parking lot, although this one, of course, was unpaved. The trainers were Andrea Beach and Bonnie Warch, of Coach2Ride, a south California riding school specializing on dual-sport riding.

Having only recently taken a refresher Beginning Rider Course (BRC) from T3RG Motorcycle Schools, where they told us to grab the brake lever with all four fingers–a practice I was working on adopting–I was surprised to be told that in dirt biking you want to always cover the lever with two fingers in order to quicken your response time. OK, so now I unlearn.

Andrea also told us you don’t counter-steer on the dirt; you turn by putting your weight on the opposite peg from the direction you want to go. You also shift your weight. That is, if you want to steer left, you lean the bike to the left but counter the lean by moving your weight to the right. This initiates the turn while keeping the bike’s center of gravity stable.

The fact is, this is the technique they taught us in the BRC for tight turns at slow speeds. That’s something else I had been practicing since I took the class so this was good reinforcement.

Another difference is that when you go dirt-biking you tend to stand up on the pegs a lot. Not exactly a recommended practice on the road. First off, standing up serves the same purpose it does on the street where you momentarily stand up to cushion a hard bump. Cruisers, with their pegs way out front, aren’t suitable for this, which is why I always prefer a bike with the pegs underneath me. And on the dirt you’re always dealing with bumps so the need to be able to stand on the pegs is obvious.

Secondly, you get better control of the bike when you stand on the pegs because it shifts the center of gravity down. Dirt bikes tend to be very tall because of the suspension, and this counteracts that situation, which is good.

So after a couple hours of training we took off up a fire road to put it all into practice. This was only the second time I’ve ever ridden dirt but I remember the first time being a lot of fun. This was a lot of fun, although way too short.

We rode up, making a point to steer around some potholes and obstacles for the steering practice, and deliberately hitting others for the practice that afforded. By the time we got back down I was really getting into standing and steering with my weight. It had taken awhile but I had found the comfortable–read “less tiring”–standing position and had developed an understanding for the direction to grip the tank with your knees. Some things you can hear about forever but not really understand until you have a chance to do it.

Will I do more dirt riding? Man, I’d love to, although not having a dirt bike or trailer is a bit of an issue in that regard. Or any place to store them. We’ll have to see what I can figure out.

Biker Quote for Today

When you’re on a motorcycle you’re never lost if there is still gas in the tank–you’re just finding new roads!

Two Dirt Riding Skills I Got But Don’t Get

Thursday, September 1st, 2016
Dirt Bike On A Hill

A day out on the V-Strom with Ron Coleman.

It’s a simple truth that you can do things even if you don’t understand what it is you’re doing or why. At the end of my dirt-biking lesson there were two such things I was left wondering about. Not that Mike and Kathy didn’t do their best to explain them, the idea just continued to see at odds with my thinking.

One had to do with riding a bike across a slope, traversing. You’re going one continuous direction with the slope angling down from one side to the other. Mike showed me to shift your weight to the downhill side with the idea that that allows your tires to get a better grip on the slope.

Here’s what I don’t get. If you want your tires to have as much good contact with the ground as possible it seems as though you would want to lean the bike enough so that, if the slope were completely level, your bike would be perfectly upright. That would mean putting your weight on the uphill side and leaning the bike to the downhill side. On the other hand, it seems as though putting weight on the downhill side would lean the bike at a very sharp angle to the sloped surface, putting you on the sides of the tires. Almost like if you really leaned a long way and the slope was steep, you would just lay the bike down on the side of the hill.

But no, the idea is to put your weight on the downhill side. If anyone thinks they can clarify this for me please, be my guest.

The second thing that didn’t really click was lifting the front tire to get up onto the beams. Mike insisted that I didn’t need to yank upward on the bike, that a good blip of the throttle would be all that was needed to elevate it. He even showed me, and I practiced, throwing my weight forward to compress the suspension and then blip the throttle as it came up to get really good lift. And he did some wheelies and demonstrated it all to me and made it look simple.

I couldn’t do it. Bouncing the suspension before blipping the throttle, no matter how many times I tried it, I never once got the tire off the ground. I couldn’t wheelie to save my life. And when it came to going over the beams I did blip the throttle but I also pulled back on the bars. I had no trouble getting over or onto the beams, but it wasn’t happening the way Mike said it should. Now, I was in second when I was doing this, and maybe if I had been in first I would have gotten more torque and more lift, I don’t know. One way or another, I was able to do what needed to be done, i.e., I got over the beams. But once again, if anyone thinks they can explain to me what else was going on I would appreciate anything you have to offer.

Biker Quote for Today

The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment on a motorcycle.

The Test Of My Developing Dirt Bike Skills

Monday, August 29th, 2016
Dirt Bike On Beam

First one beam, then two, and then two separated by a few feet.

After we rode Mike’s maze up to the house I needed to catch my breath. It’s a lot of work whipping a motorcycle around in an extended series of tight, extreme turns. Mike was ready to keep going. “What do you want to do next?” he asked.

I was loath to call it a day. I don’t get this kind of opportunity often enough. But just to ride the trail back to the track and then ride it to the house again felt like not enough. But Mike had an idea. We took the trail back to the track, this time with me in the lead.

So once again, tight turns where you have to turn your head absolutely as far as it can go in order to see the exit of the turn. Multiple times where the only thing to do to keep from falling over was to goose the throttle. Getting to be fun.

And then back at the track Mike set up the beams I had ridden straight over before into a couple end-to-end balance beams. The idea was to get up on the first beam, ride the length of it, and continue on the second one. This looked interesting!

It also turned out not to be too hard. I had a lot of times to work at it, too. It didn’t take long before I had made my first run the length of both of them. Most of the time I went off before I got to the end but that was no big deal. It wasn’t as if going off meant falling over; the bike just kept going but now I was on the ground. And sometimes I was hardly aware when I went off.

But of course Mike wanted to challenge me. So he separated the two beams by about two or three feet. Now the idea was to ride the length of the first one, come off, and then get up on the second one. This was a lot harder. Although I took my shot at it quite a few times, there was only one time when I was able to get down off the first and then up on the second. The rest of the time I just couldn’t get off the first and redirect quickly enough to get up on the second. But it was fun trying.

Then it was time to ride the maze/trail back up to the house to drop the bike I was using at the garage. Once again, riding the tight twists and turns, standing as much as I could, sitting as much as I needed to. And I was getting better and better. Which set me up for the real test. My own bike, my 650cc V-Strom, was down at the track. Kathy drove me back down to it and Mike came on his bike. I had two choices: just ride straight back to the house or take my V-Strom on Mike’s trail. We’re talking here a much heavier and less agile bike than these little dirt bikes I’d been on all day.

No one who knows me will be surprised I chose to take the trail. I mean, the whole point of getting some dirt bike training is so I will be more comfortable and more skilled at riding the V-Strom off pavement.

I was really glad Mike had suggested earlier that I put the bike in one gear and leave it there, avoiding having to even think about the clutch or shifting gears. You can do that on these bikes that rev really low. So off I went, whipping my bike hard around these turns that had seemed tight on a much smaller bike. And doing it. Wahoo! And then there were the times when it became suddenly very evident that this was not a dirt bike, and–most importantly–didn’t have dirt bike tires on it. My V-Strom has tires that are a compromise between full dirt and full street. They lean more heavily toward dirt but they’re not all-out dirt tires.

I counted three times in that run where that rear tire just came totally loose and started spinning out. In each case I dabbed, putting my foot down to keep the lean angle from going too far, and at the same time I goosed the throttle to make it stand up more. Was I thinking this all through in my head? Of course not, it was all just instinct coupled with experience. At times I ran way wide of the trail but no big deal, just head back to it as quickly as possible.

And then we were back at the house. Mike, ever the serious instructor, took another 10 minutes to discuss dirt riding etiquette with me and then I was headed home. And you know, their gravel road was just as simple and non-challenging as it could possibly be. That’s my objective right there.

Biker Quote for Today

A bike makes you a motorcyclist. Attitude makes you a biker.

Motorcycle Story From My Vet

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

You never know when you’re going to hear a good story to pass along. We took the household critters to the vet two days ago and in talking with Doug, our vet, he had this one.

dirt bike in the airDoug is from Wyoming and he has always ridden motorcycles, mostly dirt bikes. Some time ago he picked up an old 350cc Honda dirt bike cheap. His partner at the vet clinic, whose name is Jeff, I believe, had never ridden so he came out to Doug’s one day to give it a try.

Doug went through the controls with Jeff, showing him the clutch, the gearshift, the brake, and explained one down, four up. Jeff responded, “Where’s my clutch?” That was probably a hint.

He turned Jeff loose in the pasture and Jeff putted around a bit, getting the hang of it. After awhile, Doug was standing up on the bank of a dry pond and motioned to Jeff to come over there. Doug figured he’d pull up and stop. Wrong.

As Jeff picked up speed coming up the embankment Doug signaled to him to slow down but Jeff launched over the bank into the air. “I could see him in mid-air pushing away from the bike.”

They both hit and slid, and the bike’s throttle did not disengage, so it ended up doing circles on its side in the dirt. I don’t recall how Doug said the bike got back upright, maybe a bump that lifted it up, but it hit the fence and with that for support it just kept going down the fence line until it hit a telephone pole. That finally put an end to its ramblings.

The old bike wasn’t in very good shape to begin with but it was in a lot worse shape after all this. Doug didn’t say whether Jeff has any more inclination to ride. But hey, you know, it’s all about the stories.

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Biker Quote for Today

Slinging Mud at Thunder Valley

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Do you do it in the dirt? To be honest, I’ve only been dirt-biking once but after going to the MX races at Thunder Valley Motocross Park this past weekend I have a serious yen to do it again.

MX racing at Thunder ValleyOn a cold, gray day following two days of rain, the operative word was “mud.” And watching these folks, from the very young to the decidedly older, slinging mud and plowing furrows through the curves was just a kick.

This event was the state championships but don’t ask me who won in what class. I wasn’t there for that. I was just out for a good time and I really had one. I can give you some of the particulars, though.

First off, Thunder Valley is owned by the City of Lakewood, and is privately operated by Sherri and David Clavaugh. You pay $25 for a year’s membership and then you pay $12 each day you come out to ride. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday all year round, excepting, of course, days when the snow shuts them down.

On occasion, as on this past weekend, there are scheduled events going on. The Sports Riders Association of Colorado sponsors races around the state, of which this championship run was the season finale. In June or July each year Thunder Valley hosts a national motocross event that draws the top pros from around the country, along with about 20,000 spectators.

The course is set into the slope of the hogback, on 130 acres on the west side of Rooney Road. If you’re coming down CO 93 from where it crosses I-70, Thunder Valley is that dirt-bike track you see just to your west immediately south of the interstate.

One thing I really like about it is that it’s really open. You can go anywhere you want around the track to get whatever view of the racing that you want. Tunnels let you into different parts of the infield but you can just walk across the track as long as there aren’t any racers coming. Of course you sign a waiver when you pay your admission fee. It cost me $13 to get in on Sunday but I’m not sure if that is the standard admission fee.

So I tell you, the roar of the machines, the way the riders pop up and drop down on the whoops, the way the mud goes flying on those curves–it was all a blast. I’m definitely going back, and who knows, maybe I’ll figure out a way to get my hands on a dirtbike of my own. I would LOVE to ride that track!

Biker Quote for Today

Riding fast on the road is only limited by your mental health. Riding fast on the track is only limited by your ability.