New Mechanic

A rather successful “practice” day at Rocky Glen OHV was had this past Sunday.  Saturday night I tossed the YZ back together, installed the oversized Acerbis tank, and crossed my fingers that my jetting for 30-40 Degrees F would work in the 80+ Degrees we were due to get.  Much to my surprise, the bike went together as easy as expected.  I had confidence in the little 144 and opted to not start the bike (nor wake my wife) at 11pm.

Loaded up and ready to roll Sunday AM, John & I took off for Rocky Glen.  Clear skies, warm temperatures, and most importantly: fresh grippy track awaited us at Rocky Glen.  The YZ as expected fired up immediately.  Unfortunately the CR belonging to John decided to foul a plug 30 seconds after starting up.  Fresh spark and we were both off riding.  As the day progressed and the sun shone down upon us a few things became clear.

1. The Shinko 520 tires were hooking up like mad.  I’ve noticed them to be the slightest bit slippery on harder pack surfaces, but anything remotely soft and they just dig in and grip.

2. I’m still having minor confidence issues on longer higher speed turns.  My ability to keep the bike pinned through these sections needs to be improved.  This is especially highlighted when the section is followed by a jump.  Which leads me to revelation 3.

3. I need to learn more bike control in the air.  I understand that bike movement in the air is also started by bike manipulation while on the jump take-off, but I need to sort out mid air corrections\movements a bit better.  I believe this also ties in a bit with my suspension, which is the final 4.

4. Suspension setup is slowly becoming a stumbling block in my overall speed improvement.

Now, allow me to elaborate mildly on the suspension setup.  I have almost always been a rider who has believed that I should be able to ride around most suspension\bike setup issues.  I most always keep my suspension clickers at stock settings, and usually don’t even bother with tire pressure (ok, I’ll usually set tire pressure once, and then leave it there).  I’ve tended to just roll with how the bike feels, and have gone back to the mindset that I can improve my riding if I can find ways to work around my bike setup.  Up until now, I’ve known that YES, I could improve the bike setup, but felt that I haven’t been at that speed yet.  I’ve known that I’m fast, but have felt that personal improvements can be made before changing\improving my machine.

Things were different this Sunday.  John was at the track with me, and was able to offer up critical input on how  my bike and I looked while on the track.  Things I normally can’t see on my own.  I know a lot can be seen through a GoPro, unfortunately I’d need about 10 of them setup all over me and the bike just to provide the input that one persons set of eyes could.  John put things quite bluntly for me, which is what I need while riding.  John explained that when comparing my bikes suspension to the other faster guys on the track, that mine appeared to be in the bottom end of it’s stroke throughout most of the track and also appeared to be bottoming out on the face of most jumps, on the landings, and even on bumpy sections of track.

In all honesty, I knew that the suspension would bottom out if I overshot some of the landings, but to me the bike felt just fine throughout the rest of the track.  My stubbornness & laziness led me to explaining to John that while I completely agree with his statements about my suspension, that the reality is, that I while out riding won’t mess with my bike setup.  It sounds completely stupid I know, but it’s just how I am.  I’m usually either focused on a competition, or just having fun messing around on the bike that I don’t mess with the bike.  Up until now it hasn’t been an issue.

John wasn’t satisfied with my laxidasical feelings towards my suspension and promptly grabbed a screwdriver from his tool bag.  He spun a few clickers and said ride and come back, then tell him how things felt.  I found the front end to become more and more planted through turns, which felt good.  Jumps were less draining (this was also in lieu of John saying that I wasn’t completely gapping all the jumps, but coming up just shy of landing on the downside).

In light of these rather simple and obvious changes, I found it easier and less draining to press harder and ride faster.  With properly gapping jumps, I had less overall body fatigue, and was able to push through rutted up high speed sections easier.  With the suspension feeling more planted, I was able to worry less about tires washing out on me.  It all made me feel good.  Unfortunately shortly thereafter, my body was feeling the drain of 4 hours at the track under the mid 80’s sun beaming down on us.  On top of that, it was becoming sadly apparent that my fork seals are blown causing my fork oil to seep out.

And so it is.  John has graciously offered himself up as official “Track Mechanic”.  I will be putting my bike in his hands while we’re out riding.  This should help me boost not only my confidence in my bike, but in my overall riding.  I’m excited for things to come here.  Now if only it were the weekend!


PS. If anyone out there would like to teach me how to do whips\scrubs on jumps, I honestly feel it’d be a good skill to have in my pocket. 🙂