I recently had one of those Ah-Hah! moments. A friend of mine is selling his newish Tiger 800XC on C-List.... 2012 tiger xc
Somebody came and looked at it and had some questions about the way that it rode and brake concern... The way the prospective buyer commented kind of irked him and made him question whether or not there was really a problem.. Reality is, with our personal machines we forget that someone else may not know the little nuances that we compensate for without thinking about them.
He asked if I would take it for a ride and verify whether or not there were actually any problems. I have wanted to test ride a new Tiger 800 since they debuted. I have resisted the urge to do so for fear of "licking the cookie" and "wanting to eat it", as some like to say... You know who you are... We swapped bikes at his house and took them down a twisty little road that I take all of the time. We stopped at the end, he said, "This 955i Tiger is so smooth. It turns in so nice and rides almost like a touring bike."
I did find one thing wrong with his 800xc Tiger... It needed front and rear brakes. Aside from that, it turned in quickly, but I felt it lacked front end feel. The motor pulled in every gear, from any RPM. Troubadour was right.. just needs three gears, first, third, and fifth. I did find the throttle was a bit digital.. on or off.. there was analog deceleration. All inherent characteristics of the bike I am sure.. All the same...It was not my 955 Tiger..
I have taken it places I ought not have gone.. and done things with it that ought not have been done, (see also... Tigers with Shinko tire don't like snow or mud.) Together we have pushed our limits and learned what we can safely or should not do. It will tear up 1000 mile days.. It will traverse bad tarmac with ease. It will even allow me to probe ...carefully... down a rode less travelled, and it is often the road I choose.. It isn't the prettiest of bikes, but I am a function over form person anyway. It is neither too big to be unwieldy, nor too small to be insufficient for long distance travel.
Having purchased the SWM, and it being a trials motorcycle, and the wife and kids conveniently being out of town. I decided to try my hand at a trials event. I looked online and at various YouTube videos to try and gauge what I had roped myself into. I looked at some of the AHRMA trials videos.
Ohhhh.. this should be fun.. Not too terribly difficult..
I wrangle up my camping gear as this is a two day event. Got it all sorted out and packed up for a Friday departure as the event was in Connell Washington, which is over 340 miles away.
Yes, that is frost covering everything... It's still March after all
Scout not too sure about this travelling thing.. last time in the car he went to the vet...
Drove all day and finally reached our destination.. set up the tent, (which has not seen the light of day in 7 or 8 years), in about 20 minutes. I then set up the remainder of camp and unloaded the SWM and did a little bit of last minute prep. I then lit my Portable Propane campfire and just chilled out for a while. The nice thing about it is that there is no smoke blowing in your eyes and you don't smell like campfire for 3 days after.
As the night settled in, I snapped these pics of the firelight bouncing off of the SWM. It reminded me of something primal. The melding of fire and metal, a tribute to Vulcan, or Hephaestus.
The night was cold, temps dropped to the mid 20's. I definitely brought the wrong sleeping bag for that. The next morning, I awoke, cooked some eggs and bacon for breakfast and tried to stretch out these old bones.. It sounded more like I was having cereal for breakfast, with Snap, Crackle, and Pop.. Finished making coffee, cleaned up breakfast, and got signed in.
With Trials events, the sections are laid out so that multiple skill levels can use different lines within the same section. You have to follow whatever skill level your line is. As this was my first event, I signed in as a Novice. This turned out to be a very good thing as I could have signed up for Vintage. However, Vintage had to ride the Intermediate lines. Oh yes, and there is a time limit to complete it.. 3 loops, 10 sections each loop, 3 hrs to complete it.
I get my little scorecard and head to the first section. Sitting there waiting, and watching and trying to figure out the which side of the little 6x6 gate indicator cards I am supposed to be on..
My turn. This is nothing like the video I watched.. Oh crap... drop off the edge of the bank, hard off camber left, up and over the rock, hard right down 4 ft down the rest of the bank, off camber right back up the bank, cut through the v channel in the rock, and make the immediate 90* left through the out gate...
Oh yeah, we done screwed that one all up... I didn't feel too bad though, a lot of people carried to much speed in the last bit and couldn't make the 90*.. I you don't get the front axle out the exit gate, you get a failure for a 5 score. Did I mention that this was only section one...and it got harder as it went.
Section 3...I struggled and wriggled and screwed it all up as well. However, the observer also taught trials riding and passed on some advise. "Square your shoulders to the world and look where you want to go. Let the bike do what it wants, but stay centered over it." So, I tried doing that the rest of the day.
I get back to the scoring booth and turn in my card for the first loop... mostly 5's with an odd 3 in there. "You have 1 1/2 hours to complete 2 more loops." says the lady at the scoring table.. I was already worn out, frustrated and ready to pack it all in right there.
Screw it.... I came here to do this... It's go time.. Back to section 1.. I got out of my head, knew the line, and just went for it.. Loop 2 ended with mostly 3's and 2 fives.. there were 2 sections that were way beyond my current skill level and I got more tips from the observer at 3.. "You have got to commit.. Let go, don't pull the clutch in, ride over the obstacle." I pulled into the Scoring table with 45 min left.. Last Loop... Strung my card and kicked the starter... Loop 3.. I dropped into my sections with more confidence each time... and my score reflected it.. one 2, six 3's, and the two 5's... pulled into the scoring table with 3 minutes to spare..
I went back and ate some lunch and reflected some on the day.. Then my muscles all started to knot up and I realized it was time to pack up camp and go home tonight. There was no way my body was going to make it through three more loops tomorrow and pack camp and drive 340 miles home, and still function on Monday.. It's about knowing your limits, right?
As I packed up camp, I could watch the Advanced riders climb section one which was directly across from me. It was a goat path up these gnarly rocks and I can only imagine what it looked like from the top. One guy broke off his shift lever.. Trials Masters are evil that way... They like to see case covers split open on rocks when you get it wrong..
Here is a couple of pics from the Advanced section one and a couple of videos.
Did I absolutely suck at it... You bet.. Would I do it again.. I can't wait.. Now I know what to practice for the next one.. and that one will show me what to practice for the next one.. A steady series of progression is all I can hope for.. Besides, riding trials may be the very cheapest form of competition, as well as having the toughest competitors, namely myself...
I almost forgot.. Somehow out on loop 2 between section 7 and 8, just bopping along the trail when next thing I know, I am laying in the weeds in heap.. just crashed for no apparent reason... I thought it was just the Tiger that needed a nap...
Square your shoulders to the world and keep pressing on...
So I finally pulled the trigger on a helmet communicator. There are now just too many reasons not to have one. For instance, being able to check in on my son while riding in the woods. Or to give instructions to him. Also for keeping tabs with my woods buddies... In case one of them "Has fallen and can't get up." Then of course there is the ability to converse back and forth with my wife without using gestures of a sometimes questionable nature. That way I don't freak out when she starts pounding on my back because a bee just flew in her helmet... Or, something like that. Took just about half an hour to get the wire routing sorted and all the components secured in there locations. Sitting here listening to Alice In Chains "Man In A Box" through the headset. Holy Cow that can go loud. Might even be enough to drown out the Potato Wobblers..
Stay tuned for further reviews of the Sena SMH10R.. We'll see what kind of mischief we can engage in with it. Apparently, they now also make an attachment for the new GoPro Hero 3 that allows you to narrate over the top of the footage.
Track just switched to Heart... That sounds pretty good in here..
Until next time.. Polarbear and Bud E. will be rocking out.
A million smiles and a life long obsession for all things moto..
So sad to see it go. Its time here was through. Bud E's home for wayward motorcycles found a loving home for the Suzuki Jr50.
It has been crashed into a tree. It has been crashed into a fence, ...more than once. It has slid out from underneath on a high speed turn on loose rock. It's beaten and scarred. I wouldn't have it any other way.
It has brought tons of smiles and with a simple twist of the wrist. It has brought good times and memories spent with family. You can see his smile even in the helmet..
But its found a new home. A new five year old boy whose birthday is today. Too start him down the motorcycle way.
and there it goes.. the cycle of life continues...
There is talk of droughts and snow and crazy weather everywhere. I was not concerned with the relatively dry fall and early winter we have been experiencing. As of late it has been feet of snow, ice, and rain..... Days on end filled with rain, rain and wind, and finally fog and rain...
Or, "Welcome to Oregon".. its winter and once it starts to rain, it isn't likely to stop any time soon.
Today, the sun shone down upon us and graced us with its radiant brilliance. Time to get the bikes and have a little practice session in the yard. Well, that, and the fact that I needed an excuse to test out some recently acquired obstacles to play with
So, I got the cub out and had a little fun a little offroad slalom using the cable spools and a long 4x4 timber that I acquired. I tell you what, it is a lot harder than it looks. I think there was 1.5 - 2 meters in between them, and they are almost a meter in diameter. The ground is very uneven, holes and ruts. The soil is super saturated clay, that kind of squishes out water when you step on it. Today was a lesson about clutch control and steering. The exercise was to enter down either side of the 4x4, cross over between that and the first spool, slalom the next spool, circle around the last spool and reverse the pattern. Ohh... did I forget to mention.. Don't hit the van or the fence... and that he has the attention span of..., well,.. a 10 year old.
Yes, it was a challenge for him. He was learning the importance of covering and pulling in and releasing the clutch to smoothly apply and take away the power. This is a very important skill to have since traction tends to be at premium around here. Just ask Troubadour. After a couple of hours, he was starting to get pretty comfortable with the clutch and how slowly or quickly it needed to be applied as well as some throttle control. It is a little 2 Stroke Honda CR60R and revs really quickly. We were outside in the sunshine and that was good.
For myself, I upped the ante. My goal was to enter, circle each spool, reverse it and back out, without putting a foot down. This too, is harder than it looks. The front wheel would get stuck in a small hole or up against a rock and throw my balance all off. Its all about practice, right? If it were easy, it wouldn't be any fun. I did manage to clean the section a couple of times. That is a phase I hope to use much more often in the future. Trials is about control. Slow deliberate movement and balance.
Yes the best in the world have figured out how to overcome amazing obstacles with ease, (Check this out)
But for the rest of us mortal men, Trials is test of ones skill against himself and his environment. A test of how well you have mastered your motorcycle riding craft, and every foot down is another lesson learned.
I awoke to a layer of white as far as the eye can see...
No problem, just part of the job, and the weather is supposed to be better up north. After warming up the service van, I head out on the road. Traction is okay, not slipping too much. I arrive at the interstate, tiptoe down the onramp and cruise about 40 mph, noting the numerous vehicles off in the median and shoulder. Reach the next metro area and everything comes to a stop.. Ohh Crap..
I start to navigate through the maze of stop and go trucks and cars. People can be very impatient.
I decided that I had had enough fun and called it a day and turned around. Near white out conditions and an improperly equipped service vehicle make for a bad combination.. 2 1/2 hours later, I arrive mostly in one piece. The passenger side wiper arm could not hold up to the volume and weight of the snow and detached itself. Now I have near white out conditions and only half of my windshield is cleaned.
2-7-14 Report.. More snow falling.. had over a foot yesterday and more overnight.. This is not your light fluffy snow.. This is what they call Cascade Concrete. It is very heavy and has a super high water content. So, though the depth does not seem to be growing significantly, it is being compacted into a solid mass.
So, What is a Polar Bear to do with all of this snow? I couldn't let Troubadour have all of the fun from the last snow..
We get out the SWM and practiced wheelies in the snow.. I actually wasn't sure how much traction would be available... Last motorcycle I dumped in the snow was a 575 lb Tiger... I was still a bit gun shy, but it was good fun and I got my ride fix in.
So, a little bit of history about me for context. I can already hear people say, "Another one.. Doesn't he have enough already??" Okay, maybe that is just my wife. I am a fourth generation motorcyclist. There is a photo of my great grandfather standing on the seat of his old Indian sank in the mud up to the axles. So, apparently doing foolish things on motorcycles is a hereditary trait. My grandfather raced boats, and cars. Worked the Motor Patrol in LA County, was CHP and die hard Goldwing Rider. My father raced cars, and rode misc. old Honda's until he had a spill when I was younger, and that was the end of that. He soon developed MS and poor balance. Before I was married, I goofed around with my cousins on ATVs and raced amateur dirt track cars. So, I LOVEanything mechanical. Trains, Cars, Airplanes, Motorcycles, Tractors, Heavy Equipment, all fascinate me with their engineering and craftsmanship. I make a decent wage as a Forklift Tech. It's not great, but it keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and keeps the lights turned on. So, there is no way that I can afford to mess around with cars. The math formula for that is $$$$ = speed.
Motorcycles, on the other hand, can be found on the cheap, if you are patient and know what you are looking for and can perform any repair work on your own. I love "Vintage" motorcycles, but the price of anything that is not a total basket case is through the roof. So, I have settled in on motorcycles that were important for one reason or another. I try to keep the price below $500. That way it is mostly just the little bits of overtime that I acquire rather than playing with House money. The 1974 Honda MT125 is one..
Granted, it is not the CR125R, but is a very close cousin and was street legal.. The Elsinore completely changed what motocross was.. It was developed completely without Mr. Honda's knowledge or approval. He hated 2 strokes. It is a great story to read. The Suzuki Jr50, I bought to try and pass on my love of all things mechanical...
Jury is still out on that. Can't say I didn't try. He had short legs and it is one speed with a centrifugal clutch.. It had some carb issues that needed sorting but was a good start for my son.
The 1983 Honda Cr60R, was only imported in '83, '84 and part of '85.
Honda was winning everything. It was the battles between David Bailey, Johnny O'mara, Bob Hannah, Rick Johnson, and Brock Glover, and Chuck Sun. It was the days when they left it all out on the track and then left just a little bit more. ( Okay, going a little of tangent there, but I was in my formative years then). Honda made all the motorcycles look relatively the same, but they all came with big power. It is a little rough, and doesn't run. I pay the guy a $100 for it and haul it home. Quick search on Ebay.. $50 in parts and a bit of labor later. It fires every time. I love it when stuff works the way it was supposed too. It spins up a little too quickly for him and is still getting used to the clutch.. I have ridden it, and it damn near threw me off the back in a wheelie at 50kph.. It was awesome...
1987 Honda CR250R. They jacked the compression up this year and added a factory rear disk brake. This was The motorcycle I wanted when I was in my teens.. It started and ran, but needed some work.. still does, but I ride it anyway.
Strike that.. I try to ride it, but I suck at it.. It is tall, awkward, and I just haven't been able to put it all together yet.. Yet... I say.. Which brings us to the latest member to reside at Bud E's Home For Wayward Motorcycles.
In an attempt to gain more practice and control, I started watching Motorcycle Trials riding techniques. They have been referred to as the ballet of motorcycle riding.. Precision and Control is the name of the game. I thought to myself, that looks cool. I wonder if I can do that. I tried to do it on the CR250, but it had other ideas. I need an inexpensive specialized motorcycle for this. I found one. For Sale, 1982 SWM TL320 motorcycle $350. Hmmm.. never heard of them before.
Turns out I should have.. Bernie Schreiber used to ride for them after a fiasco with Bultaco. Anyway, it was kind of the "IT" bike to have. Rotax motor that pulled like a freight train. Betor suspension all the way around. Talked my loving wife into letting me purchase it. Offered him $250. Drive way up the coast with the trailer. Look at it. It is a little rough and has a small leak from a shift shaft seal. Okay, owner said it has spark but won't start.. kick it over several times to confirm.. No spark.. What's up dude.. So, he knocks off another $50. Haul it home.. Clean it up a bit.. start messing with it.. Found the spark plug boot is corroded. Cleaned up the boot and cut the plug wire back just a bit. Hook it all up ... Kick, Kick, Kick, Pop, Pop, Pop.. We have ignition...
This is so much fun to ride. I get why they ride them, every obstacle can be ridden a thousand different ways. It just chugs along, I had no idea that a 2 stroke could run that slowly. I now am beginning to develop the control necessary to help achieve my goal of one day racing my CR250 without doing bodily harm. If not, it is still fun and challenging to ride.
I love all aspects of riding motorcycles. Going into a corner trying to put knees and elbows down is awesome. Flying across gaps on a motocross bike is amazing. I want do it all. Hmm might have to see about a Flat Track Single now... How much fun can you have on a limited budget.. A whole heck of a lot don't you know.. Do I still want a fuel injected two stroke enduro motorcycle with an electric start and a kickstand? Yes... Will it make me a better rider.. Not a chance.
Dollars for dollars, I will have more fun on my old, beat up, wore out motorcycles; than a guy who just dropped 10k on a new 450f. Why, because these machines and I have a connection across time. They evoke memories of growing up wanting to ride like Marty Smith, and David Bailey, Rick Johnson, and Bob Hannah.. They all just seem so much tougher than riders today.
And if it completely goes to crap.. I am out less than $500... Dang near costs that to take a date to dinner and show these days....