More from the test

I’m holed up for the day near Durango, after a training ride yesterday and before another one tomorrow, and I wanted to get caught back up in a meaningful way on the blog. Here’s a gratuitous picture from yesterday, it’s a good day when you can chalk being places like this up as productive:

I’m going to share the story of this current trip on advrider.com (on my thread in the racing forum, if anyone hasn’t seen that) but I wanted to share the more intimate details here.

Overall, the trip has been a rocking success.

First, and this has to be kept secret for the time being (that means no ADV, no facebook, no anywhere, please!) we’ve picked my mechanic for the race- Tim Morton. Tim owns Baja Bound Moto tours, and is a fantastic guy that I’ve known for quite some time- I don’t think there could be a better choice. He’s calm and fun to be around, positive and helpful, and of course, guiding clients for hundreds of thousands of off-road miles means he has a keen sense for mechanics and what will hold up and what won’t. I’m sure this will become public in time, but he asked me to keep it quiet for the moment, and I decided you all were within the definition of quiet.

Tim made the drive up to Dumont when he heard we were coming so he could check out the bike- pretty nice thing to do, considering it’s 6 hours from his house. No sooner did he pull in than we put him to work, my fuel line routing didn’t pass the test of time, as the bike couldn’t get to the last little bit in the tank. We figured out a solution and got it sorted out, and working with Tim on that gave me the best feeling of good fortune, to have him along to help. As a multi-time Baja champion, there’s a real question of who should be riding the bike, but we’ll just ignore that for now. :-)

Second, the bike is truly awesome. My goal starting out was to build something that felt more like my trailbike, and less like what I’ve experience as a rallybike, and I think we’ve accomplished that. Some key points- it’s pretty light, I’ll get it on a scale but I believe that before adding gas, it weighs only ~12-15lbs more than a stock 450. That’s a big advantage everywhere, from how the suspension works to the effort required to ride it. It is narrow at the frame, which may sound esoteric, but having a wide skidplate annoyed me no end on my other rallybikes- you can’t take a tight line around rocks when cornering, you get hung up in ruts, and the low pipe that is common on rallybikes is a real achilles heel as it drags and gets crushed. This bike will never have those problems. And, it’s very friendly and easy to ride. Whether in slow off-road (called HP in rally, for Hors Piste), or in fast desert road, it just clicks along with no effort and responds exactly how I want it to. I couldn’t be happier. 

Third, my fitness. I’m not happy here. On the plus side, I had no issues at all on the 500km day, I felt great when I finished and could easily have kept rolling. On the minus side, I apparently got behind on hydration in the heat of Death Valley, because I felt awful on my ride yesterday- cramps and weakness and generally not up to par. I know I’m in better shape than that, so I think it underlines the need for me to learn about and get scientific with fuel and recovery nutrition. This is a lesson well learned, I’m not going to ignore it! It’s also time for me to get in the gym and on the bicycle, first order of business on Monday when I’m home will be sorting out a plan here and getting to work.

My goal was to be quite disciplined about testing and learning, and I feel I was successful with that. Suspension testing was great and surprising- I settled on spring rate and ride height and am happy with the valving as a starting point. Jetting was perfect and gave good fuel economy throughout the weekend. Navigation systems on the bike were good- roadbook well positioned, ICO switch easy to operate, etc. Electrical system had no issues with continuous light use, roadbook use, GPS, fan, etc. 

Finally, an area of riding I realize I need to improve is dunes. I went out in the big dunes on Friday in the heat of the day (~110 ambient in a reflector oven!) and got torched. I don’t have any trouble riding in sand, but I struggled to navigate the dunes effectively- the flat light meant I couldn’t see any contour, the heat meant both the bike and I were unhappy, and I kept getting surprised by where things were too soft to travel. I’m going to schedule another dune trip before January with a buddy who knows his way around.

Overall, some lessons learned, which was the goal, and some confirmation we’re headed the right direction, which is reassuring.

Good stuff!

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