I just got back from my first ride with the local club today. I recently joined the MVTR (Merrimack Valley Trail Riders) club and last week I saw an email saying they were looking for some volunteers to help clear some trails. I figured it would be a great way to meet some other riders and do a little riding while helping clear trees and logs which were blocking some of the trails.
It was pretty chilly this morning (I think around 35deg F.) and a little drizzly so I put on several layers and headed out at around 8:00. I almost loaded the bike up in the truck for the ride up to Loudon but felt like riding. Being bundled up it wasn’t too bad but a little chilly on the highway. I met up with a couple other guys with bikes and one guy with a 4-wheeler as planned in Loudon and the morning was pretty much what I expected. We would ride for a while until we found a downed tree, grab the chainsaw to cut it up and clear the trail. Then ride until the next one. The trails were not to terribly tricky but I did manage to drop the bike once on some wet slick leaves. My tires are pretty much worn out and I am planning on replacing them next week but the DRZ handled those trails fairly well.
Of course this was just the morning ride. The afternoon would turn out to be MUCH more interesting!
After clearing the first trail we moved over to meet up with another group of guys who were working over in Gilford. They mentioned something about those trails being a little more difficult but didn’t seem to be too concerned about the new guy and his bald tires.
I wish I had pictures but I was way to busy just trying to ride to even think about it. This was by far the most difficult trail riding I have done. The fact that I was on a heavy bike which is geared more for highway speeds than technical trails didn’t help matters either. If I had known how hard the trail was I would have probably not gone however I am very glad I did. You never really know what you can do until you try it.
Actually most of it wasn’t that difficult. But then we went up a very steep climb with a lot of loose rocks and steep ledges. I would be going along fairly well then fall in to the old “target fixation” (this is where you can’t help but look at that big rock that you don’t want to hit and of course since you tend to go where you look you hit it head on). I lost count of how many times I dropped the bike but it had to be 7 or 8 times. The embarasing thing however is about half of those drops were when I stopped. I wouldn’t realize how steep of an incline I was on and when I put my foot down it wouldn’t hit the ground so over I would go.
I did a little damage to the bike. Most guys remove the mirrors for rides like this. This is why…..
And also I noticed I actually dropped the bike hard enough to bend my hand guards. The right one actually is pushing on the brake lever.
It was still ridable but later on I found that it was pushing on the lever just enough so my brake light was on all the way home. I don’t think the brake was dragging however. I should still consider new front brake pads anyway.
On the left side it is bent as well but not quite as bad.
Otherwise the bike (and rider) survived just fine. I am glad I was wearing all my gear as I am sure one of the drops on the rocks would have hurt pretty badly. I most certainly will be sore tomorrow, mostly from picking the bike up over and over.
As much as I like the DRZ400 I am beginning to question if it is the right bike for this kind of riding….. ok there really isn’t a question, it is not the right bike for this. I am trying to decide if it will force me to be a better rider or if I would actually learn better trail riding skills using a lighter bike. I have been keeping my eyes open for a good deal on a used KTM. I would really like to find a good used KTM450EXC but I have not seen any of those. As much as I would love to go buy a new one I really can’t justify $8k on a new bike. The other bike I have considered and actually have seen a few used ones for sale is the 2-stroke KTM250 or 300. A couple of the guys today had the KTM250 and it looks like a very nice bike. Believe it or not those are 100 pounds lighter than my DRZ (just over 200 pounds vs. my 300 pound DRZ).
Anyway, I am putting new tires on this week and I think I will buy a new set of sprockets to gear it down for better trail riding speeds. I will see how that works before spending another big lump of cash on yet another bike.
Oh, the guy with the 4-wheeler shot a bunch of video on his i-Phone. I will see if I can get my hands on that and post it here.