Joined: Jan 2012
Location: Silicon Valley
Down and dirty with Doc Wong or, a neophyte’s quest for good judgment.
Yesterday I went on my first official Dirt foray, Doc Wong’s Dual Sport Adventure Riding Clinic.
The day was finally here. It had been 5 months since I purchased my Xchallenge, as visions of distant dirt adventures filled my head. The kind of journeys documented in thread after thread here at advrider. I’d never ridden off road before, well not intentionally, not on a dirt bike or dual sport.
The alarm was set for 5:45 am but my dog wanted to be sure I was on time so she woke me up at 4:30! Man’s best friend, sometimes in the o dark-thirty hours of the morning I wonder. It was sure to be cold, well for us here in the South Bay anyway, I’d guess in the low 40’s. The afternoon was forecast to be warm and sunny.
On Friday night at the pre-ride class, Doc described the various skills we would practice on Sunday. Sitting attack riding position, standing attack riding position, gas-brake, gas-brake, the balancing drill, locking up the rear, sliding the rear to the right, then left, locking up the front, wheelies and trail etiquette. He emphasized taking “baby steps” with each task. That is, start off gently then incrementally progress as you feel comfortable. He explained the ride was approximately 150 miles and that there was no gas, food or water in Clear Creek. I previously rode 223 miles before the fuel light went on between my two tanks. I heard your mileage is less in the dirt but was confident I had enough fuel for the trip. A couple of burritos and 4 bottles of water would be sustenance for the trip.
I was on the road at 6:30am, right on schedule. Arriving a Flap Jacks in Tres Pinos by 7:30, a half hour ahead of the designated meeting time, would be no problem. About a mile after turning onto highway 25 from 101, I hit a dense fog bank. Damn, I hadn’t anticipated that. Fortunately the fog was short lived and my focus shifted to my now frozen finger tips.
I arrived at the gas stop close to Flap Jacks and filled up, then over to Jacks to fuel my body. Two riders arrived ahead of me. Soon more and more riders showed up. I believe there were 21 in all. Around 9am, Doc held an informal rider’s meeting in the parking lot to review the day’s schedule, and then we were off!
The temperature and pace were brisk. The tarmac on New Idra rd. progressively deteriorated until it finally disappeared. I was reminded how a friend described the road to the lost coast. “It was like they practiced strafing runs on it. There were holes everywhere!” Once at New Idra, we practiced the riding skills Doc explained in our meeting the previous Friday night. So far so good. Only got a couple of wheelies off, you know the oh sh*t the front end is off the ground… then slam down in a heartbeat kind. No drops.
After lunch, we headed up the road! At one point the road forked. Doc explained that one way would be shorter less challenging than the other. I believe the saying goes “Good judgment is the result of experience and experience is the result of bad judgment.” Well, I was working on my good judgment but was at the bad judgment phase, when I decided to take the more demanding route.
Not far up the road, I remembered what one inmate said about deciding which bike to buy and that you shouldn’t buy it if you couldn’t pick it up 10 times. This was just after beating the ground into submission with my head. Ten times hell, I’m huffing after the 3rd! Mud was my first nemesis, then ruts. After the 4th or so splat, one of the other riders suggested I stand on the pegs. “I’m an old man,” I replied with the desperation of a man in the desert searching for water, “but I’ll give it a try.” Well that worked out much better.
Then there was the mud, ice/rut downhill combo. Wow! I was really on the path to good judgment now! I discovered the bill on my adventure helmet cuts a nifty little trough in the dirt when your head bashes the ground at just the right angle. Clever! At the bottom of this death road there was a small water crossing, maybe 10- feet across, about a foot and a half deep. Immediately, I envisioned myself sprawled out in the middle of that cold water, the bike sputtering, rear tire spinning then all would go quite. There, some adventurer in a not so distant future would find my body next to the instrument of doom, like the remains of a victim of Pompeii frozen in time. Actually, I’m sure the guys in the group would’ve fished me out, once they gained composure from laughing so hard. I already felt bad they had to help me pull up my bike so many times. “I’m going to pass on the water crossing,” I said to the group on the other side. Ahhh, good judgment at last! Fortunately for me I wasn’t alone, 2 others decided to forgo the crossing. I don’t know if I would have made it back up without them.
We turned around and headed back up the hill. I think I dropped the bike 4 times in 100 yards uh, ok, maybe 50 yards. Once we crested the hill, the trip back to the rendezvous spot went well. I think I only dropped the bike twice that stretch. I was glad we made it there before the other group. I needed the rest. Within 5 minutes the other group arrived with tales of dragons, ICE, and mud, did I mention ICE? Whew, sorry I missed that. NOT!
After a few minutes we were saddled and ready to head home. I didn’t drop the bike once from here! We made it to Coalinga road about 20 minutes before sunset, stopped to air up tires and layered up for the ride home. The group started to break away a few at a time.
It was an exhausting / exciting day.
Thanks Doc for putting on the clinic. It gave me the confidence to take a “baby step” toward off road prowess. I recommend his clinic to anyone new to the sport. And a big shout out to those of you who helped me along the trail. You all rock!
Does anyone know how to straighten out a bent handlebar?
Good judgment, there is no substitute!
Next time, I’ll own that water crossing!