Unexpected Findings

Got invited to ride on some farm property yesterday. Close by, free, and wide open areas to work on some skills…how could I say no? I also saw it as a chance to do some scientific testing between some bikes and see which gets me through some trails quickest.

We plotted out a small loop. Started on a small section of farm field, into a singletrack tall grass section and then a quick duck into some mildly tight\off-camber section. This led to a small jaunt back out of the woods and back across the field. Once you were back across the field, there was a dried up pond that we roosted around. The outside was packed full of downed trees, and sticks, and by the end of the day, getting slick and rutted. As you finished your way around the pond, we had a pile of downed tree limbs to hop over followed by a slightly larger 18″ diameter-ish tree to hop. After the tree hop, you immediately banked hard right, and then a quick left to bring yourself back out of the pond area to where you started.

It was a short loop, but it gave me a chance to do a lot of hot laps. My findings were mildly frustrating, but I suppose telling of my riding. I had 3 bikes to test out. My Husky, the Mighty XR, and my buddies KDX200. I started out on the Husky, so I had a good general idea of how the bike handled the loop, what to do, what to expect, etc, etc. Initial lap times were 59-60 seconds. I then hopped on the KDX, and my lap times were 57-58 seconds. I hopped onto the Mighty XR, where my lap times were at a consistent 58 seconds. After all that, and some other fooling around, with my body tired, I did another 5 laps on the Husky, where my lap times were at a consistent 58 seconds.

So what’s this telling me? I know I felt that on the KDX, the bike felt the most compliant and kind of the easiest to go fast. The bike felt plush and confident. The S12XC front he has on the thing helped in the slick sections for sure. He’s got an autoclutch, though I still work the clutch manually, but that may have had an effect on things. The XR, I felt I had to work the most to go the same speed. The drum rear brake always required more attention to help stop you, and the slightly sticky throttle made you have to think more while riding, rather than focusing on going fast. I liken riding it to riding a 125 2-stroke. They can go just as fast, but require a LOT more input, body english, and finesse to get the speed out of it. Now for the WR, I felt to me it has the most room for improvement. The bike has got plenty of power which helps immensely in anything more open. It was the most forgiving if I messed, up, but required a bit more brain focus to extract the speed out of it. The suspension is also not nearly as plush as the KDX, however, it is feeling better now than it ever has (I opened HS\LS Rear compression 100% open).

I got to do a lot of work on drills that we did at the Shane Watts school. Braking\accelerating\drifting\wheelies\etc. From where I was a year ago, I’m 10x more confident in high speed roosting, and drifting out the rear. Heck, I could be dragging my knee on the XR if I wanted. 

Yesterdays riding (and subsequent timing results) has me questioning if the Husky is the bike for me. With my apparent knack for breaking a bike at every race, it’s got me considering the idea of going back to a Japanese bike, due to the abundance of parts\spares\cheap prices. Hard to say as I really enjoy the Husky, but I need something that I can trust will take me all the way through a race. Any thoughts\opinions on this?

I can say however that that XR350R just won’t be sold. We did some flat out drag races between it & the KDX200. The XR was dead even with the KDX. Quite the mighty little beast. 

Time for some Sunday lunch.
Andrew

Some y00per Fun!

Well this past weekend was spent re-energizing my riding batteries. A lot of time spent on the bike, in a non-competitive, non-race situation. Granted I still pushed myself while tooling around, but in a way that just puts a big ol smile on my face. Me & 2 other riding friends loaded up the toy-hauler and drove due North to the great y00per (The Upper Peninsula of Michigan). The plan was to ride some fun 2-track loops based around our camp & if we were up for it, hit up some of the local singletrack. Some\most of the pics courtesy JZEE

The 3 bike crew:


JZEE on the KTM 530xcw
Jburroughs12 on the Honda XR350R
Me on the Husky WR250

We were all having a blast out there. Essentially all of the 300ish miles we rode, we didn’t pass a single other dirtbike\4×4\ATV\UTV\ORV\Car\Truck\Bus\Logging operation. It was just some good pure fun. I realized immediately I shoulda re-geared my Husky. The OEM 13/48 gearing left a lot to be desired in the speed department. On these same trails on my 450, I could cruise 10-15mph faster and not feel like I was revving the snot out of the bike. My fault for not gearing up for the ride properly. Not the end of the world, but in some of the more open riding (and sandy areas), I really like to open the bikes up, and being topped out around 65-70mph, just wasn’t enough.

On the 2nd day of riding, just after a rockier section….followed by a high speed whoop section, I was flagged down, with John & Joe pointing at the rear of my bike. I thought I had some deadly animal attacking me, but soon found the problem.

A rock (presumably) shot up a hole through the center of the rear fender, and the following whoop section sealed the deal and that rear fender was toast. No biggy. First some duct tape, which was the replaced by just looping the thing onto my Nomad Rider pack. Initial repairs took place at the local Ace Hardware:

After that, we continued riding, and remembered part way through the 2nd day that the loop we were on, was one of our least favorite. It had a few road sections & way too much gravel road for our liking. It wasn’t much, but more than we’d care for. There were a couple more spirited sections, but nothing overwhelming. It’d be a better loop if you’re worn out on harder riding & just looking to have a more relaxing final day of riding. When we got back, Joe had the look of “I need some singletrack”, so we tossed our gear back on, filled up the camelbak & around 6:30pm rolled out to go hit up the Bass Lake singletrack loop (videos earlier in thread).

I started out on the Husky and Joe on the XR. I figured I’d offer up the Husky to him, since he’s more used to a 250 2T. He gladly swapped, and I gotta say I was quite happy to really ride the bike on some more aggressive trails. What a blast. That bike was so much fun. I was able to maintain a 15-20mph speed on the loop without trying too hard and was just having a blast while doing it. The only downer with the bike was the rear drum brake. I may have overshot a few turns and ended up in the weeds, but what a blast. I’m really loving that little bike.

Day 3 was our last, and unfortunately cut short. Before we rolled out, I pulled the Rekluse autoclutch from the bike. I didn’t miss it on the XR the day before and figured it’d be a good chance to really test the bike out without it in there. Things started out really well, but unfortunately about 20 miles into the loop, I came down from a roller, and noticed when I got on the gas, that it felt like the rear wheel was spinning. Odd, but it seemed to grab again, so I figured it popped out of gear. Again, another roller and this time it felt out of gear for good. I pulled the clutch cover and immediately saw the problem. My primary gear (on the crank), the nut had backed off and was somewhere in the engine.

I tore things down mid trail and found that the nut thankfully fell in an area where it caused NO damage, but then found that the keyway on the crank\primary gear had sheered itself. I also destroyed my clutch cover gasket in the process of all this, but knew at this point, I wasn’t riding that bike under it’s own power back to camp:

With that we figured the weekend was done. We just had to get back to camp. Luckily we were only a couple miles from a paved road, and luckily I had a tow strap in my kit, so we were off…….and with that I have the pic of shame:

Stuff happens, I’m just glad nothing more went wrong. A 2$ keyway, and 10$ in gaskets and the husky will be back in action for another day. I learned a lot though on the trip. For one, I immediately listed my Rekluse for sale. I just don’t need it. Shane Watts was spot on with his assessment on how it affects the bike. I just had to see\feel it for myself. I found I also learned to ride wheelies on the WR really well. Apparently all the tooling around on the XR translated over, as I can now click through all 5 gears and just rest at the balance point for as long as I want.

I also feel I need to do some work to my suspension. Higher speed stuff, the Husky is pretty good. Low speed stuff, the XR feels so confidence inspiring, and feels like you’re riding on pillows. Low speed the WR feels like it’s being jarred like mad. High speed on the XR…..well you just don’t. lol I’m really looking forward to my next race, whenever it may be. I’m just gonna go have fun with it. I found while riding the singletrack loop, that yes I could push myself super fast right off the bat, but I lose energy too quickly, and overshoot things. If I tone it back to 80-90%, I overall end up much faster. Heck, we rode the loop in 1:35. Not bad at all, considering the last time I rode it, I finished in 1:45.

I’m ready for riding.

Andrew

Another tough day at the races

The morning started well, a good breakfast, followed by loading up the truck and getting off on the road.  The weather reports showed that rain wouldn’t be a factor until the later evening, and the sky seemed to echo the same.  We arrived at Fox Valley Off-Road in time to see my friend head up to the starting line for his earlier race.  Just as the flag was dropped, the rains came.

For the next 30 minutes, the rain poured down.  I made the hike down to registration, and despite my better judgement, thought “this is gonna be fun”, handed over my AMA\District cards and money and get signed up.  About 40 minutes into the rain, it let up a bit, so I got myself geared up, thinking it’d be raining for the rest of the day.  As I finished gearing up, I saw my friend riding up to my truck.  I thought it was odd, as it was only 45 minutes into his 90 minute race.  He looked spent, and said the hills were terrible, and it seemed they were cutting some of them out.

My time came to fire up the bike.  The sun was beginning to show itself, and the rain had all but subsided at this point.  I did some practice loops on an oval next to the pits.  The XR felt good, but definitely wasn’t the Husky I would have rather of been on.  Starting an older 4-stroke is a little different than it’s newer 2-stroke counterpart, but it was what it was, and I was glad I was able to make it to the line.

The starting line was just slop.  As soon as I set my feet down, the mud caked onto my boots.  It was more of a soft and squishy clay than a wet dirt type mud.  I knew it was gonna be hell, and really wished I had the Michelin S12XC tires over the tires the XR had on it.  I knew the tires wouldn’t shed the mud as I needed, but it was what it was.  I got my game face on, and when the flag drop, was thrilled to have the mighty XR fire up first kick and pull me off and away.  From what I gathered from the start, I managed to take off in 2nd or 3rd place.

Things got more and more sketchy as the course went on.  My tires instantly caked in with mud.  No matter how much I spun up the rear, the tire wasn’t shedding the mud.  I did my best to keep the tips Shane Watts gave me in mind, but it grew more and more difficult.  There were really only 2 real hill-climbs in the race, and they were pretty mellow.  Unfortunately, if 1 person gets hung up on one, it messes you up pretty quick and its just a domino affect.  Each time this happened sapped more and more energy from myself.

First lap wasn’t pretty at all, and the 2nd lap wasn’t getting any better.  In normal conditions, this track woulda been easy, far too easy.  Unfortunately my bike was going all over the place.  No matter how fast I’d push myself, the front tire wouldn’t shed the mud and slipped around like a sportbike tire in the slop.  After running through timing and scoring, I found myself coming to an off-camber section.  Earlier laps I went high and shoulda stayed a bit lower.  This time I messed up, went low and upon doing so, spun out, casing the bottom of the bike into a tree.  Nothing major, but by now, the sun was out and me & the bike were feeling the heat.

My body was over-heating sitting on top of the air-cooled beast.  The bike for some reason was being a royal PITA to start, and I was stuck in an odd precarious position on the trail.  I managed to push the bike into a position where I could kick the thing.  Unfortunately due to all the mud, the kick starter would continually stay down after each kick.  Suffice to say, I was at my witts end.  I saw my buddy who raced earlier standing on the trail by where I was.  He was getting a good chuckle out of my situation.  I set the bike down (gently mind you), and walked off a couple feet to cool myself from the bike.  I needed energy to get the bike going and get up and running.

Unfortunately when I got back to the bike, it was no easier to start.  This seemed odd, as normally even when hot, the bike would start 1st or 2nd kick, every time.  After plenty of kicks, I finally fired it up, only to hear an awful tick coming from the head.  At this point I cursed the day 4-strokes were born, assessed my situation, and realized at this point I wasn’t having any fun.  I was frustrated with the bike, myself, and the mud.  I knew I had to just call it before I hurt me, the bike, or anything else.

I rolled back to the pits, feeling defeated, but better as soon as I got my gear off me.  We loaded up, and made our way home.  I accepted the day for what it was, and looked to ways I could improve things.  So despite the race itself being a bit of a letdown, it was at least a continued learning experience.  So things I learned:

1.  If there is ANY chance of rain in the forecast, bring the enclosed trailer.  Gearing up in the front seat of a truck is a pain.  No thanks.

2.  Invest in some mud tires.  It’ll cost a little bit to have them on hand, but they really could change the outcome of a race.

3.  Warm weather gear needs addressing.  I need to find an alternative to the pressure suit.  I like the protection, but it’ll make me over-heat in a hurry.

4.  Don’t invite family to first Harescramble of the season…..especially if it’s gonna be a wet\soupy one.  They got to see me get tossed from the bike as I crossed over a tall log by the timing\scoring section.  I’m sure plenty amusing for them. haha

All in all, not a terrible weekend.  I got to inspect the XR, and it was good I stopped when I did.  One of the tappet nuts came off and was floating around in the head.  Thankfully it caused no damage, and I was able to fish it out of the head.  I’m ready to go back for another one, but will feel much better being on my Husqvarna.

I’ll post up pics when I get them from my Dad.

-Andrew

Dirtwise: A weekend of going back to school.

I’m working to improve myself as a rider.  If anything, just to be safer as I get faster.  I knew I had to at some point attend a school.  I had been to a Tony Distefano MX School back in 1999 when I was a bit more active in racing MX.  That was a blast & when I had re-entered the dirt world competing in trials, I knew I needed schooling and sought out the experts down at The Trials Training Center in Tennessee.  I really wanted something off-road related, and as soon as I saw a school close by, I jumped at the opportunity.

Shane Watts school opened up close by, so I signed up the day registration opened.  I wasn’t taking any chances.  I signed up and waited the 2 months or whatever it was for the weekend to roll around.  Thankfully I conned a buddy of mine to take the class with me, so we were able to split the fuel for the 5.5 hour drive, hotel, and help keep me occupied while driving.

Saturday AM rolled around, and I’m not sure about anyone else, but I was anxious.  Anxious to ride, anxious to see what we’d be learning, anxious to see just where I was doing things wrong.  The morning began with a short pep-talk from Shane Watts, followed by a quick warmup around a short .5 – 1 mile long loop through the woods down at the Cahokia Creek Dirt Riders facility.  It was a rather simple loop with a couple twisty sections, turns, sand, roots, small ruts, and all the standard stuff you’d see in a race (aside from extreme elevation changes).

Immediately after the warmup, we began in with breaking things down to the basis.  Plain & simple is how Shane does things.  You start with building blocks, stack them up, and apply them all towards the end of the day.  Shane also kept things extremely structured in his overall method of how the “classroom” time went.  Shane discussed what we would be doing, key elements, etc etc.  This was followed up by some demo’s done by Shane, followed by adding in additional key points for us to remember.  After this, we would begin applying what we were taught and were sent to practice in the field.  Shane would watch us all, make comments on what we were doing right or wrong.  After 10 minutes or so of practicing the techniques, we’d pause for a few, discuss things, and then go back out for a little longer; continuing on with practicing what we were just taught.  It was a great process to use to be able to handle the wide range of rider ability throughout the class.

As I said, it was all about building blocks.  Slowly adding things in, finishing with tying it all together.  Saturday began with working on throttle control, brake control, and body position.  We tied these couple skills into a fun drag race\braking exercise.  A line of 4 of us would drag race down a field, click through a gear or two, and then have to brake as quickly as we could at the finish line.  What a great exercise to work on throttle, feeding out the clutch, modulating power and then at the end have to do the exact opposite and work on keeping the rear tire on the ground, not locked up, and keep the front tire gripping as much as possible.  Despite being work, it was a blast.

The day progressed, to where we began working on the Square Drill.  A simple exercise of setting up 4 cones, and basically doing all you can to keep the bike in a constant drift around the 4 cones.  Now in a car, I’d honestly have no issue at all, even a quad.  But hop on a bike and try to do the same and it’s a total PITA.  Despite it being a PITA, like Shane said, it’s an absolute blast.  We all struggled to drift for even 1/4 circle, but we all made progress.  This exercise faded into us doing laps around a grass track.  A grass track that was getting more and more slick as the drizzles that began falling, turned into heavier rain.  The day concluded with us completing more Square Drill exercises.  All of us exhausted, my upper body was being destroyed from fighting the bike, trying to keep it vertical, while keeping the rear end pitched out all while having Shane yell “Go FASTER!!! PICK UP YOUR SPEED!!”.  Our coach knew we needed to wrap things up, so we headed home (er Super 8) to clean up and refill on some much needed food.

Sunday morning I woke up to dark skies and a serious threat of rough rain ahead.  By the time we were ready to go, we rolled out to get some quick breakfast.  While in the health food *cough* mcdonalds *cough* establishment, the rains began.  We sat looking as the sky was pitch black, pouring down an intense rain.  All I could think was: “this is going to be a long day”.  Thankfully by the time we got back to the Cahokia Creek Dirt Riders grounds, the rain had stopped, allowing us to gear up and get ready for more riding.

Just as Saturday began with some warmup laps on the practice loop, so did Sunday.  This time it was much more wet, with large puddles, but a bit more slippery.  Oddly enough, I found myself pressing harder.  I was more confident in placing my wheels in what I’d normally think were slick conditions.  I was on the gas harder and pushing faster than I was even the morning before in the dry.  I felt really positive and prepared myself for the days work ahead.

Things started out with working on corner ruts.  Navigating them, entering properly, looking the correct way, and appropriate throttle on the way out.  This exercise ended and followed by the dreaded Square Drill.  I wasn’t looking forward to this, but knew it had to be done.  As soon as we got out there, things began to click.  I was holding consistent drifts.  I’m sure I looked like a total goofball, floundering around trying everything to keep the bike going, but the more loops I did, the better it was.  I was holding constant circles, I was feeling great, then heard Shane yell to me “GO faster….Push yourself!”.  Not wanting to let the coach down, I did and amazingly enough, I was doing the exact same thing, but at higher and higher speeds.  Not perfect, for sure, but an absolute blast.

The day wound up with us working on a “grinding” technique; riding with wheels on the opposite sides of a downed telephone pole, while riding the length of it, which tied into us putting the techniques into action out on a small ravine climb out in the woods.  Shane again gave us a demo on how it was done, along with several alternate routes up a ravine that left us all smiling, dreaming of being as good of a rider as him.  After the demo it was our turn.  It was a small uphill, that swooped to the right, with a tree root across the thing right at the top of the climb.  Not too major of a climb, but it was slippery, and the climb was well V’d out from the rain running down it.  First time up I got stuck behind the guy in front of me, and didn’t make it non-stop up the hill.  The next attempt, I was more ambitious and pressed a bit harder.  I went in at about 3/4 throttle in 2nd gear and made it up, though had to put a foot down.  I wasn’t happy with that.  Next go at it, I knew I had to just man up, full throttle 2nd gear and just roosted into the climb.  My front tire followed the left side of the climb, with my rear sitting nicely in the middle of the thing.  I came to the root at the top and gave it a touch more gas to really get me up and through.  The root kicked me a good 10-15 feet down the trail.  Unfortunately It also kicked me to the left  onto the side wall dirt.  As I picked up my bike, I heard Shane yelling “YAHHHH AWESOME!!!”.  I couldn’t help but laugh as it just felt great to get up the hill so quickly.  I ran the hill another time, a bit more subdued at the root, and felt like I had made some great headway in my skills.

At this point, Sunday was winding down as we all worked our way out of the woods.  We were tired, the day had gone incredibly well, and it was time for things to come to a close.  Shane gave us some ending inspiring words sending us off to go ride and just enjoy riding.  I know I for sure felt thrilled.  I have no doubt in myself that my skills and confidence have gone through the roof.  I knew I could hold some good speed before this, but the little things I picked up from the class have just helped me take things to a whole new level.  I’m stoked, I’m feeling great, and ready for the races to come this year.  I’m looking forward to putting what I learned into practice in this weekends race.

Pic of the class (I’m bottom right in the red, next to Shane Watts on the end in orange):

-Andrew

Enough about me. What about the bike?

I’ve spent a good deal of time on my mental end of things with my racing.  I figure it’s about time for some info on my weapon of choice.  I hopped all around the board in years prior.  My buddies ride KTM’s and get all giddy just thinking of orange things; just not me.  I thought my KTM was good, but honestly, they pull an extra $1000 premium right now, and there were plenty of other options out there, and I’ll add in a bit of spite as my final reason for not going pumpkin.  I knew that I had to go 2-stroke.  Granted I loved the power of my 450, I knew that I could get similar power out of a 2-stroke & not have to think about valves, yadda yadda yadda.

Much consideration went into the possibility of sorting out a Japanese 250.  I liked this idea, as there are plenty of bikes around, for extremely cheap.  I know how to revalve suspension, so that wasn’t a huge thing, but in the back of my mind, I knew I’d still have to get some lights (even if “not working”), some Enduro parts, and all that nonsense.  My brother, the wise man that he is, asked me a simple question: “Why not buy a bike that is built for what you want to use it for?”  It was at this point I knew I had 1 of 2 choices.  Husqvarna or GasGas.

I’d read mixed reviews on the GasGas bikes, and finding one that appeared in decent condition around me was a bit of a stretch.  The Husky was about the same situation, though I knew that I’d seen plenty at the races, and they sold a 300cc 2Stroke which is really what I wanted to get.  I had a line on a nice 2007 Husky, though a WR250.  It needed some standard items (hand guards, protection, bigger tank for longer rides, etc).  It was then that I recalled a friend had a 2006 Husky WR250.  I had seen it on some rides we did, but hadn’t thought too much about it at the time.  This led to that, which led me to buying the bike off of him.  Mint condition bike, I was in heaven.

Fresh from JZEE

Like I said, the bike was\is mint and ready to rock.  I posted earlier what was my first ride on the bike.  I knew after that first outing, that I needed to scoop up the 1 item that I will refer to as the “ultimate cheater”.  The Rekluse EXP 2.0.  I had an auto clutch on my YZ144 and really enjoyed it, but nothing existed for my G450X.  I’ve found this to be one of the best $ I’ve spent on this bike (almost).  The auto clutch saves me when I miss the clutch going into a turn, or have a bobble somewhere that would normally stall the engine (which really sucked due to the bike having such a goofy kickstarter).

I opted to not spend a dollar on any sort of engine upgrades.  The bike rips pretty well, and had an all around good feeling (slight carb tweaks required, but a given with any carb’d bike).  I decided that despite looking new, I had very little to no confidence in the front.  Before I would dive into suspension valving, I figured a fresh tire would help things out, and I was quite right.  The next time out on the bike, I felt very confident in the front end, and felt I could push the bike much better.  I didn’t have 100% confidence, but that is coming along with the more I get to ride & know the machine.

Just after the Bass Lake Loop

After my last trip to the UP, I felt the bike could handle a little loving’ to the fork valving.  Not much, but a bit.  Thankfully this isn’t the first set of forks I’ve massaged into better handling units.  I revalved my YZ144 & G450X, both with awesome results.  On the Husky, I focused on the base valves, and found that the OEM valving was a bit on the wonky side.  It’s damping curve, despite appearing linear, was far from it.  I added in some shims, smoothed things out, and got fresh oil in there.  I’m ready to ride!

So now I sit and wait for the weekend to arrive.  I’ve got the bike dialed in how I want.  I’m stoked on the machine, and itching to improve my feeling and abilities on the bike.  I’ll have more practice footage.  Any questions, feel free to ask.

 

-Andrew