The Ride When I learned a Skill After I Needed it

Riding from our house in Arvada, Colorado to the Rampart Range located in the Pike-San Isabel Forest just southwest of Castle Rock was one of longest distances I’ve ridden on my little Yamaha XT-250, AKA Dory.   The round trip (including the trails we rode) was approximately 120 miles.  After some discussion, Motoman and I decided to ride there because of the diversity of trails in the system and unlikelihood for mud.  It had snowed a couple of days before and we were hopeful that it would not be muddy.   It turns out that the OHV trails at Rampart Range are very similar to the mountain bike trails at Buffalo Creek in that they are covered with granite pebbles and sand, which tends to keep the mud to a minimum.

When we arrived at the Rampart Range Staging parking lot, I was surprised at how many vehicles were in the lot.  I became nervous about how many other riders I would encounter along a trail and how I would maneuver my motorcycle to share the trail.  Mountain bikes are so much lighter!  When Motoman asked me which trail I wanted to ride first, I picked a beginner trail, of course!  It was a twisty path through the forest with the occasional water puddle.  The trail was fairly smooth and the most common obstacle was tree roots, which are slippery when wet. It was an uneventful ride until we came to a 40 foot section of rocks on a downhill where I completely lost control of the motorcycle.  I had stood up for the descent and when I reached for the rear brake with my right toes, all I got was air.  I bounced down the trail, afraid to touch the front break for fear I’d go over the bars.  I had a death grip on the clutch and bars.  By the time I thought to release the clutch to slow down, I was at the bottom of the hill and came to an easy stop.  I don’t know how I didn’t crash.  We encountered only two other riders on this trail, despite that full parking lot.

The trail ended and we found ourselves on the Rampart Range dirt road, which travels through the heart of the trail system.  It was here that Motoman taught me the rear brake  skid technique.  It works like this: get your speed up to about 15 MPH, pull in the clutch, let off the throttle, and step on the rear brake hard enough to skid.  We practiced this over and over, eventually seeing who could leave the longest skid mark on the dirt road. I wish we’d had this session before that first trail!! [Sidebar: now I understand why Motoman is constantly buying new tires.]

The next trail we did was still relatively smooth, but much muddier and hence slipperier.  The climbs and the descents were also steeper.  We found a beautiful rock formation and stopped for a snack and pictures.  On this trail, we encountered only two other riders.

It seems every time I ride the motorcycle, I learn something new.  This ride offered three valuable lessons. First, the skidding lesson has already proven to be a valuable addition to the toolbox.  I used it non-stop for the second trail we rode that day.  Second, I don’t like riding in mud.  Third, speed is helpful.  If I’d applied the brakes during the rocky section in the first trail, I suspect I would have gone so much slower that I would have crashed.  The fact that I took that section at speed kept me from getting a wheel hung up on a rock.  I’ve replayed that section in my mind a number of times since the ride itself, and words from my fearless daughter keep coming to mind:

“Sometimes you just gotta give it gas and hang on.”

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Finding Dory

Long ago when I met Motoman ~ circa 1997 ~ he was riding a crotch rocket style motorcycle. He was into big adventures. Our weekends consisted of rock climbing in the mornings and jet skiing in the afternoons. Mountain biking was thrown into the mix between all the other fun activities. A few years later, along came Sierra and farewell went that motorcycle. He lasted about ten years without a motorcycle.

When he got back on the motorcycle, his focus turned to dual-sport riding with the kind of motorcycle built for riding on roads and dirt alike. His adventures became more exciting as he traveled to far away places.  Sierra and I would look and listen with awe at his pictures and stories. It wasn’t long before Sierra presented us with half the money necessary to purchase her own motorcycle. Together they rode off and returned with beautiful pictures taken from mountaintops across Colorado and memories that will last a lifetime.   I came to realize it would be impossible to visit many of these places on my mountain bike; and, more importantly, that I was missing out on some fantastically adventurous family time. This became particularly evident on a family trip to Lake City, Colorado.

After returning home from Lake City, the search began for a dual-sport style motorcycle that would fit under my short legs. The choices were few and far between. To top it off, I wasn’t willing to pay for a new motorcycle that I knew would likely take a beating as I learned how to trail ride. We finally got a phone call in May of 2016 that a motorcycle had arrived at Motorado that just might work. I quickly snatched it up since there weren’t any others to choose from.

I’m pleased to introduce Dory aka Little Bluey. You can find her in the picture below. Since I started this blog back in 2014, the posts have been about bike rides, bike races, bike gear, and lessons learned from the saddle.  That’s going to change. I’ll continue riding and writing as inspiration comes. However, the stories will now include experiences from a motorcycle saddle.

I hope you’ll keep reading and find yourself some inspiration.

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