Sunday, May 22, 2022

Supermoto East Coast 2022 (VIR - Alton, VA)

Ever since last year's experience riding supermoto at VIR, I've been looking forward to returning to the track for another round of racing on the asphalt & dirt.

Since I'd replaced my DRZ with a Yamaha YZ250 only weeks before, I was in a bit of a scramble to convert it into Supermoto mode. A second set of plastics meant I could keep my VCHSS number plates and swap over to my SMEC graphics [from SKDA] after applying them. For the wheels, I found a set of Tarazon rims laced to blue anodized hubs on eBay. When they arrived, I set them up for tubeless using 3M 5200, some duct tape & bolt-on valve stems. I changed the oil & filter and drilled the drain & fill plugs while they were removed so that they could be safety wired, along with the brake caliper bolts.

One change that I was incapable of making before the race was swapping the front sprocket for a larger one. On my vstrom, I send a pipe through my mag wheel and trap it on the swingarm. This holds the sprocket still so I can wrench it off. With only spoked wheels on the YZ this method is no longer an option. Impact wrench and rear brake were simply not enough to torque the nut off, so I had to leave the 13t sprocket in place. This resulted in not having QUITE enough speed on the back straight of the course, but otherwise not really an issue.

On Saturday morning, I loaded up the Crosstrek with tools & gear and headed west to VIR. By mid-morning I was unpacking and setting up camp at the kart track.

This time around, my wife was joining me. She arrived that afternoon with the dogs, as did a couple friends and my mother and stepfather. This weekend coincides with MotoAmerica, so convincing others to make the drive is a bit less challenging. The heat this weekend was definitely a factor. Finding shade was critical with the sun directly overhead during the 95 degree day.

Considering the heat, I tried my best to time my donning of the leather tracksuit to avoid sitting around in it for any longer than absolutely necessary. I also made sure to constantly drink water and electrolytes throughout the days of practice and racing.

Once on the track it was clear that I still needed to equip myself with the correct tires, as I chose to fit an 80/20 tire to the rear in hopes of gaining a bit more traction on the dirt section. The lesson learned was that grip on the asphalt is really what matters. In a way, though, it was fun letting the rear "step out" under hard braking. This would have probably required higher speeds had I fitted tackier rubber to the wheels. Luckily I had installed a more road-worthy front tire, so I didn't have any issues washing out in the front.

On the dirt section I attempted all of the jumps except the final double. After witnessing a few riders wreck badly there, I decided that was probably a wise choice.

Last year I competed in SMEC3 (beginner class), so I chose to bump up one level this time to SMEC2 in hopes of joining a larger field of racers. As it turned out, there were only five of us competing in that class. The caliber of riders was significantly higher, as I could only beat out one of the others in order to net a fourth place finish. I will say, though, that I was getting fairly close to the rider in 3rd place during our second moto. Each lap he'd pull away on the asphalt and I'd reel him in on the dirt. When the race was finished, we congratulated each other and laughed about our game of cat and mouse.

After two days in the swealtering heat, I was delighted to pack up the car and blast the AC on my way out of Alton. As I was making my way out of the parking area, Charlie Buffum flagged me down to say goodbye and thank me for making the event. Charlie is easily one of the superstars of this series (in fact, he won EVERY CATEGORY he competed in this weekend!). This is basically equivalent to Axl Rose thanking his concertgoers as they file out of the arena. It just goes to show the overwhelming feeling of inclusivity that this series fosters. Every racer and organizer is approachable and friendly, welcoming the "newbs" into the sport. It's a great time being on the bike, but what's really unique about the series is the mood. Everyone there has a smile from ear-to-ear and the stoke level is palpable. I feel fortunate to have discovered this series and hope to inspire others to give it a try!

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

VCHSS Hare Scramble (Martinsville, VA)

With two races under my belt on a DRZ dual-sport motorcycle, I figured it was time to step up to a "real" dirt bike. With some reluctance, I bid farewell to my beloved DRZ400SM, and found a 2018 Yamaha YZ250F to replace it with. The bike's motor, clutch, and suspension had been rebuilt, so I felt confident about buying what would otherwise be a fairly well-used motorcycle. It came with a spare 18" wheel also, so I figured it wouldn't be too bad in the woods despite being built for motocross.

I got one ride on the bike before the race and a crash-course on using the kick-start. Naturally, though, the bike was a bit hesitant to start when the green flag waived, so I started the race by giving the rest of my heat about a 30 second head-start.

Once in the woods, the bike felt in its element. I'll want to soften the suspension for the next event, but otherwise it wasn't too hard to handle.

My main focus was on keeping the bike running, since a stall would mean another round of kick-starting the bike. I was relatively lucky in maintaining this effort until a backup on the trail. A panic stab of the rear brake when I was following closely caused the bike to stall. Making matters worse, my friend Lory was also following closely behind the slower rider, so he slammed into me when I came to a halt. We were tangled for a moment, but eventually separated his brake rotor from my rear sprocket.

With a push of a button, he was off again, while I took a few deep breaths of air before kicking the bike back to life. After this, I was pretty gassed, with fogged goggles to boot.

From that point on it seemed like one stall after another. At one point, a bystander tried to help me kick-start the bike after seeing me wrestle with it for a while. I got it going each time, but at a deficit to my energy level and time.

Despite the setbacks, I finished in 7th place [in a class of 13 riders]. Given that the setbacks were mechanical in nature, I'm happy with the result. I'll be installing a Rekluse Clutch before my next race as well as turning a few clicks out on the compression damper to see what effect that will have.

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

VCHSS Hare Scramble (Charlotte Courthouse, VA)

My second race of the VCHSS series was another great time! This course, provided by the Central Virginia Trail Riders, was significantly more tight than the previous race, so I decided to play it safe instead of ending up T-boning a tree.

As with the first race, I let the heat leave the line ahead of me, which proved to be quite wise with three riders going down before even reaching the woods.

A few breaks to wake up my throttle hand and swap a GoPro battery kept me way behind the leaders, but it was still a great time getting a bit more experience riding in the dirt.

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Saturday, April 9, 2022

Wave Daze - Spring 2022 (Virginia Beach, VA)

This appearance marks my third time at the WaveDaze event in Virginia Beach, but only the first time that I've experienced it in the Spring.

There were two other "events" taking place while we were riding skis in the surf: College Beach Weekend & the Dredging of Rudee Inlet. The College Beach Weekend meant that we had more inquiring eyes watching the hijinx in the water and asking about the physics of it all - questions we're all more than happy to field. The second event, though, meant that the first 100ft of surf was filled with dark sediment - not exactly what you'd like to be swimming in.

I'm still nursing a muscle injury from a snowboard trip about a month ago, so climbing aboard the ski from a start was a bit difficult. I eventually figured out a way to favor my left arm in this process, which worked a bit better.

For the most part, though, I took it easy all weekend - only riding on Thursday and Saturday. The rest of the time I enjoyed watching the action from the shore, taking out the drone for several flights on Friday to document it all.

The rest of the riders were going off! Perhaps a result of waiting patiently for the season to start during the cold, snowy months of winter ;-)

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Sunday, April 3, 2022

VCHSS Hare Scramble (Arrington, VA)

Ever since I fit a set of dirt wheels to my DRZ400 Supermoto, I’ve been riding the bike offroad as often as possible.

Since I don’t really know where to go to find trails, I decided to join my friend Lory at a Hare Scramble in Arrington, Virginia.

Lory has years of experience riding dirt bikes, but luckily he didn’t mind showing me the ropes on my first ever race.

The classes lined up on race day and left the starting grid at roughly one-minute increments. Since I didn’t want to be in anyone’s way, I decided to forego the holeshot and instead let my heat enter the trails ahead of me.

In the woods, I tried to follow other riders’ lines and keep an ear out for faster riders behind me that might want to pass.

The format for the race is four laps of eight miles each. On the first lap, I had a few slips, but eventually got the hang of slowing for the quick turns without grabbing too much front brake.

Eventually, the entire field of riders was intermixed and I was constantly mindful to give way to the front of the pack as they approached from behind. I wish I could say the same for all of us “slow guys” but I repeatedly witnessed riders logjam the course instead of simply pulling to the side to let the real racers by.

One memorable off happened when I accidentally bumped the throttle, rocketing the bike toward a tree! Luckily I was fine, especially considering that I’m nursing a snowboarding injury from about a month ago.

At a couple points in the race, I decided to pull over to take a breather, drink some water, and generally relax since this was NOT a race in my mind, but rather an opportunity to ride the trails. These breaks meant that I only had time to complete three laps, but that was still PLENTY of riding for what was really my first time ever on singletrack.

The series is packed with races all throughout the summer, so I expect I’ll be attending a few more this season.

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Saturday, January 15, 2022

Daytona Freeride (Daytona Beach, FL)

Back in September, before I'd even attended this year's Wave Daze in VA Beach, I decided to sign up for the Daytona Freeride event set for January 2022. Given the load of fun I had at last year's Wave Daze, I was understandably excited to attend an even larger event once the cold winter had settled upon us.

My wife was too busy at work to attend the event, so I decided to go solo. With that in mind, I decided to remove my passenger seat in order to fit the ski inside my Crosstrek instead of hauling the trailer. It worked great! With no more than a few inches to spare, the ski tucked into the hatchback and I set off to Daytona!

I arrived midday on Wednesday, visiting the site to get the lay of the land before heading to my campsite at the Nova Family Campground. I'd stay there until my reservation at Daytona Beach Club began on Friday.

On Thursday I made my way to the beachfront near the Hard Rock Hotel for the first day of riding. I set up camp and got a hand unloading my 650sx from the car.

Unfortunately, my ski was not running well. It had a complete lack of power, so I set out to diagnose the problem. By that afternoon I'd figured out that it was only firing on one cylinder. Too late in the day to continue digging into the ski, I decided to return to working on it the next morning.

Early on Friday morning I pulled the spark plug boots and decided to re-crimp a new end on one of the wires. It worked! I was delighted that such a simple fix was all the ski needed. By mid-morning I was in the water!

Between rides in the surf, I'd walk along the row of vehicles to see the other skis and engage with other riders. I also took to the skies with the drone, capturing some great footage of the more experienced riders throwing spins and flips in the turquoise ocean.

On Saturday morning there was a line of vehicles about five blocks long waiting to access the beach. Eventually the gates opened and we filed onto the sand, packing in what some agreed was the largest crowd at this event in years.

Each day I'd settle in with a new group of riders. We'd help each other launch, keep an eye out for one another in the water, and share stories once back on land.

My confidence must've been increasing, evidenced by the sprained ankle I suffered on Saturday. Although I couldn't pin it down to one particular jump or fall, I believe it was the result of coming down tail-heavy after a jump. I did take one more ride with the injury before eventually packing up at the end of the day.

Moments after leaving the high-adrenaline of the event I was hardly able to put any weight on that foot. That night I skipped the afterparty and chose to ice my ankle instead.

The next morning I hobbled my gear into the Subaru and set off for Savannah, GA where I stayed with a friend. Although I wasn't very mobile, it was great to catch up. My friend couldn't have been more hospitable - even sending me off the next morning with some homemade hotsauce and a "snack pack" for the road. By Monday afternoon I was pulling into Richmond, unloading gear and rinsing the salt water from my ski.

All in all, it was an amazing event and I'm excited to return in 2023!

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Friday, December 24, 2021

Peters Mill Run (Edinburg, VA)

Knowing that I'd be driving to Winchester to celebrate Christmas with my wife's family, I scoured the internet for a possible place to ride the DRZ between there and Richmond.

What I found was an ATV/OHV area near Edinburg, VA called Peters Mill/Taskers Gap.

This trail system features 36 miles of rocky terrain. The section below Edinburg is mainly doubletrack (only wide enough for ATV's) while the section above is a full-width road with smaller chutes branching off from its main artery.

First, I explored the area below Edinburg. It was a great warmup for what lay ahead, with technical climbs and descents, while not letting myself wander too far from the starting point.

Next, I ventured to the area North of Edinburg. Although it was primarily a fireroad, I did eventually turn right onto Walters Gap Trail. This ascended to the Green Mountain Trail, which runs along the ridge of Green Mountain. Once I reached Opechee Peak, the trail descended back toward Peters Mill Run, where I could complete the circuit.

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