As a brief background, I am a 26-year old guy, married for 2.5 years, and have been bicycling for ADV's sake for about 4 years. A bicycle (and my endurance
) have their limits. I wanted to get out of the city. I enjoyed rough riding, so I wanted to ride dirt. It was around this time that I discovered dual-sport motorcycles. Obviously, I had very little prior motorcycle knowledge: I didn't want a sport bike because they're too damn fast and I hate traffic, and I didn't want a pure dirt bike because I don't have a truck (plus there's next to nowhere to ride one around me). So, I assumed I'd never be a motorcyclist. After discovering dual-sports, a missing gear was slammed into place, and the machine came to life.
I started researching variations and particular models. I wanted something small. I never intended to go on an interstate. "250 looks perfect". Next, I looked at the range being offered. I had initially picked the KLX250S, but after enough review reading and recommendation, I locked onto the Honda CRF250L. It had very modern tech, reliable brand reputation, and it was clearly aimed at a starter.
I put a down payment on one 100 miles outside of town (local dealers were out of them for months
), then I bought up a full set of gear, enrolled in a training class, and all the while started forum-crawling. I immediately met some great, helpful people willing to take some time to give me useful advice (www.RideDualSport.com
So, I practiced in a parking lot near my house, and completed the BRC last weekend. Today was the day I had been planning for for weeks: my first solo ride out of town.
I geared up right after my wife left for work, and headed out around 7 am. I quickly broke through the north border of Wichita, and continued on for a bit. My experience with traffic (again, first) was very positive. People seemed to be overly
cautious. I certainly won't complain about that, but also won't take it for granted. Once I turned east and was thoroughly out of town, the 55mph speed limit came up. Holy shit! How do people ride for long periods at 70?! I was a bit shocked by the force of the wind (and my hands were cold), but I gradually calmed myself down.
Not too long after, I hit my first dirt. And I captured the moment!
I VERY quickly gained an added respect for dirt riders. My arrogant self expected "soft pavement", but I'm an idiot. I tried to drill my head with the advise I had read: don't fight it, just keep the wheel in the right direction. My front tire was shifting back and forth, and I kept panicking and clinching. "No! That's the exact wrong thing to do!" My instincts and my consciousness had quite a brawl. I kept it around 25-30, and things were going pretty smoothly.
I took some breaks to enjoy the scenery and calm my nerves. Everything was going well, but I still felt strung out. I was very aware that I didn't have full control of this machine. It was going where I wanted it to, but if it surprised me, I wouldn't be ready. Luckily, this environment was obstacle-free, so I took it slow.
The road converted back to pavement for a bit, and it was headed to the junction with the interstate, so I decided this would be my turn-around point. I offset my path by a mile for a new ride back. Little did I know, the smooth sailing would not last much longer.
"Why do I keep drifting right? What the hell?" Eventually I hit build-up on the edge of the road and the front tire lost it. I later discovered that the wind was coming from my left side - that explained the mysterious force attacking me. I laid it right over and trotted to the right a bit. The right edge of the road dropped off too much for me to put a foot down, so I just planted it down. On the plus side, I got it down to first gear!
It killed itself after spinning the back tire for a bit, then I flipped the cut-off switch.
I had not picked it up before, and the off-camber slant didn't make it look easy. I'm a weak guy (no shame there, it's true). I planted my MX-boot-laden feet under the frame and made a first attempt. "Oh shit". A few inches, then back down. Hm... breathe a bit. I found a couple better holds, then made a serious attempt. It was going! I heaved it upright. Then, I discovered my right hand's hold was right in the pinch point for the fork when it started leaning right. Ouch. I was able to shift it a bit, then reach over with my left hand to get the side stand down.
There's a few great things about this event: I was going almost 0mph, nobody saw me, and I needed to take a pee anyway! Nothing more than a little dirt on the footpeg. An ideal first fall I'd say.
I got moving again, and started actively fighting the wind with some left grip pressure. Works well! Like I had read here, after you fall once, you aren't as scared of it happening again. The fear of the unknown is very strong for me, and after getting a taste, I thought, "that wasn't bad at all". I immediately felt some relief. My grip felt a little softer on the bars, and my back loosened up a bit.
About 5 minutes later, I was making an S-turn at low speed, and somebody's dog decided to guard their driveway, and he headed right toward me. "Geez today is eventful." I had to straighten up some, then I sped up to avoid him. He got within a few feet from me before I got on the throttle. I was really worried he would jump and knock me off balance. That was not the case, and once I got away from the driveway, he left me alone.
As I neared town again, a little bit of traffic picked up. I saw a slow-moving oncoming minivan over a hill, then I spotted two trucks right on its ass. The rear-most truck was a true hillbilly mobile, and he wanted to pass BOTH of them just as I was riding by. I saw it coming, started braking, and made my way to the shoulder. He spotted me, but he was fully in my lane before he darted back. I came to a stop successfully and got my foot down. I assumed I'd lay it down just like the last time I encountered the shoulder, but no! Emergency maneuver #1 - check.
I made it back to pavement and got some more speed practice. My goggles were pressing quite tightly to my face, and the wind was wobbling me more than the trip out. It was warming up though, so my hands felt much better.
I hit my driveway, and felt relieved to be back safely. At the same time, I thought "gah, am I done already? I want to go back out!" As scared as I may have been, I'll be damned if it wasn't fun. I'm rarely a risk-taker, but I'm glad to be taking this one.
I knew myself too well - the excitement was masking the discomfort. I was hungry and my hands were stiff. The rest of me felt great though. The bike has almost zero vibration, and the seat didn't hurt at all.
Time to relax and think back on what I learned.
And, hopefully my story is entertaining/useful to others! Thanks for reading.
--- ADV stickers coming soon