Sunday, October 15, 2017

Right Tool For The Job

Don't get mad, just use a bigger hammer.

With any job there's the right tool, and many, many wrong tools. Using the wrong tool to accomplish a task can be dangerous, and if you're unlucky, can cause injury.

I recently used the wrong tool for a job, and fell off a ladder. I was using a ratchet and socket to tighten a lag bolt into a post; I have an impact driver which would have worked much better, and it did the second time, after learning my lesson. But more importantly, the other tool I was using which was the ladder was too small. Unfortunately, I was a little slower learning this lesson as I had gone out and purchased the same sized step ladder to replace the one I broke when I fell.
Guess what? Yep, a mere two weeks later I fell off this ladder too.

Ladder = 2
Bradley = 0

I'm okay for the most part. I may or may not have sprained, or fractured my right hand/throttle wrist. It is still sore nearly 4 weeks later. I also bruised my pride.

The right tool for the job was my Gorilla Ladder, which was leaning up against the wall in the garage. It is heavy, cumbersome, and noisy to use, but it is the right tool for the job. I was just too lazy to fetch it.

So speaking of heavy, cumbersome and noisy. My Tiger is designed specifically to do a job, and I have been known to use it beyond that specific job. I've taken it down the primrose path a time or two too many, and dropped at least as many times doing so. Not the job for what it was intended.

The Tiger is a 500+ lb. adventure touring bike, meaning it does street and gravel roads quite well, anything more adventurous than that and you're going to have a bad time.

I have my Suzuki DRZ400S, a much better tool to use when adventure overcomes sensibility.

My intent was to put more street oriented tires on the Tiger and use it primarily for street riding, with an occasional gravel road thrown in to keep me on my toes. Well, that opportunity presented itself much sooner than I had anticipated. Team Oregon invited instructors to practice slow, precision maneuvers, setting up several drills from their police training course. Of course, again, adventure overcame sensibility and without hesitation I signed up. I received an email confirmation with a list of things to do to our bikes in preparation.

Because of the advanced, low-speed nature of this course, we recommend you prepare your bike:

·         Fresh oil and filter
·         Adjust and lubricate chain
·         Remove damage-prone accessories (tools will be available)
·         Increase tire pressure 3-5 psi for the riding drills (a compressor will be available)
·         Tires worn no more than 50 percent

I went out to the garage to confirm what I suspected, my rear tire was indeed worn.
Time to buy new tires.
Oil change and filter? Meh, that was just done recently.
Remove damage-prone accessories? Gulp! What am I getting myself into?
According to Pat Hahn, "scratches are street cred; the second exercise is taping up your bike".

It's not the bike I'm worried about, I've dropped the Tiger more times than I can recall. I am however getting a little tired of falling down and hurting myself.

I ordered up a set of Metzler Tourance Next tires, claimed to be a dual compound, 90/10 street/gravel tire. The same tires Polar Bear Andy has on his newly acquired Tiger and recommended.

Then I got to set up my new tire changing set up, a Tusk tire stand, a couple of rim savers, and a Baja No Pinch tire mounting tool (highly touted by Richard himself). I don't know why I didn't consider the front and rear axles being different sizes, I only bought the 20mm axle shaft. I needed a 17mm for the front. D'oh! I had to do it the hard way.

Once I mounted the tires and balanced them, it was off to work the next morning to scrub them in. Wow! New tires are the best, but these make turning in so much easier and not nearly as sluggish as the Shinko 705s I'd been using all these years. I wanted to feel how the new tires were in gravel, they are definitely a 90/10 tire. I don't particularly like them in gravel, hard pack is fine, but loose gravel es no bueno. The hefty old girl tends to wallow more than pounce. I'll have to drop the tire pressure and try it again.

Saturday afternoon came and it was go time. The first exercise was learning the proper technique on picking up your bike.

Courtesy of 

Then, sure enough and as promised, the second exercise was in fact taping up your bike. We used pieces of firehose, zip ties, and Gorilla Tape to save what we suspected were the touch down points.

The first "riding exercise" was the box, which consisted of two consecutive U-turns, or a figure 8.
Before we started I was called over by both instructors whom recognized my new tires upon arrival. After learning I had less than 100 miles on these tires, they both advised that I take it easy for the first couple of exercises.

Out of the box we went into a tight radius "S" turn, before finishing up with a sharp left turn.

So far so good. We all practiced for 20 minutes or so to limber up.

Next was entering a "T" intersection for a tight turn from a stop. We were to signal, stop, and turn without putting a foot down.

Well, not to disappoint, I was the first... and the second one in the class to drop their bike, on the same exercise. Good, that should make everyone else in class a bit more comfortable.

I failed to load up the rear wheel and stalled the Tiger mid turn, both times. Maybe I'm not such a slow learner after all, because I nailed it every time after that, it's all in the technique.

From there, we went to the "Iron Cross" intersection.

Not our class, courtesy of youtube member - j coppeta

That was fun, one of my favorite exercises as we could go around either to the left or right. We were also able to go back and practice any of the previous exercises on our own, at our leisure.

We moved onto the offset cone weave, which is much more challenging than the one we set up for our students in the Basic or Intermediate class. I would be rounding one cone, leaning the bike in that direction while looking over my shoulder setting myself up for the next cone. Big head turns.

The last exercise was the keyhole, roll in, go either left or right, dip the bike around the corner then pick it up and lean it the opposite direction around the circle to pick it up again for the exit.

The Vancouver Police demonstrating the keyhole

It was a great day honing my skills, and I got to scrub in my new tires... and my bike.

Thanks Team Oregon! I'll post more photos as they come available. 

~  “Regardless of where you started, there is always the next level. You need to keep leveling up your skills.” ― Mustafa Saifuddin

Monday, August 21, 2017

Oopsie Daisy and the Eclipse

Way back in January, I put in to take this week in August off from work, thinking we'd be in overtime and everyone else would want this same week off for the eclipse. My original plan was to partake in the Rat Dog Dual Sport Rally in Tillamook, then Monday ride up into the woods to a peaceful clearing and watch the eclipse.

Unfortunately, the media created all this hype that one million plus visitors were going to descend on Oregon for the eclipse. This would result in a shortage of food, water, and gasoline, as well as put a strain on the local electric and internet infrastructure. We could be without power or the world wide web for several days. Not to mention the ever present, extreme fire danger warning that Oregon issues every year. This year the Forestry Department shut down the forests, no burning at all, and closed any and all service roads, you know the fun roads. The influx of tourists were going to gridlock the entire state highway system, and burn the whole state to the ground.

I'm not much of a Chicken Little Henny Penny type, but I also don't care for crowds of people, large or small. The last thing I wanted to do was go off riding for two days, then not be able to get home, trapped on the side of the road or caught in a forest fire with no way out.

Change of plans, I can always do the Rat Dog next year and instead opted to stay home to work on honey-do projects that have been piling up in the corner. No people, no crowds, no problem. We rode our mountain bikes to coffee Saturday morning, just in case we encountered hordes of "eclipse followers". We rode through the eerily quiet OSU campus, through an empty park, and down to the unexpectedly unoccupied coffee shop. How odd, where are the million plus people? They must be coming.

We rode home and I started on a small deck project, we wanted to set up a screen to block the ominous two storey house behind us. I set up a small step ladder, measured and marked a couple of lines, and began attaching a bracket to hold a 2x6 base to a 4x6 post. I climbed up, started ratcheting the first lag bolt tight when it snapped.

Oopsie Daisy!

Evidently, the force in which I was using on the ratchet was significantly more than that used to balance. However, the force of gravity against keeping me upright was that much more again. Needless to say, I went down like a sack of certified organic potatoes. Alas, I did put up a fight and flailed hopelessly, grabbing at anything to slow my decent, which was the 4x6 upright post with, of course, a small screw sticking out of it. Fortunately, landing on the step stool broke my fall as did a sitting bench nearby. All I could think of was not to strike my head, and knock myself unconscious on the big ceramic planter I knew was somewhere in the vicinity. I road-rashed my right tricep, and my back between my shoulder blades, bruised my right hip, and tore a small triangle gash in my left hand palm where that small screw ever so slightly slowed my decent. I went against my own advice for motorcycle crashes of staying down and assessing the situation before getting up. Instead I jumped up, clenched my wrist and held my hands high in the air above my head before Brandy knew what I was doing. She didn't panic, but was somewhat alarmed for my current situation. We found it surprising how such a small, but deep wound will bleed. I got it cleaned up, applied pressure, then contemplated if I should just bandage it up and carry on.

Guys, there's a reason we get married, someone has to make good choices. Off to urgent care for stitches, a tetanus shot, and antibiotics. I am stiff and sore, but now I get to spend my vacation doing exactly what you're supposed to do on vacation... relax.

Ladders should come with warning labels.
We went for a stroll downtown Sunday to gauge the crowds, and we found them. Apparently the predicted hordes trickled in unnoticed. Thought I'd grab a beer and some lunch but... people.
Instead, we just beat feet for home.

This morning we woke with the sun, strolled down to a nearby walking path and open field to witness the eclipse. I must admit, that was pretty cool. Donning our ISO certified safe eclipse glasses we watched  as the moon slowly blocked out the sun. Totality was awesome, truly a once in a lifetime experience and I understand why people travel to see it. The temperature dropped significantly, the lighting was indescribable, birds did go quiet, a cheer among the small crowd, and a 360º sunset/sunrise, wow.

Waiting for it to warm back up, brrrr.

The crowds were not a big as the mean, old, media made them out to be, traffic was heavy, especially along the I-5 corridor, but not the apocalyptic gridlock as expected. Nor did we lose power.
We decided not to venture out today, other than this morning's viewing, we came home for lunch and a nap... it went dark, I had to reset.

Now to surf the internet for motorcycles, they're much safer than ladders. Better safe than sorry.


"Being an adult is mostly being exhausted, wishing you hadn't made plans, and wondering how you hurt your back." ~ unknown

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Black Dog 2017

That came fast, I couldn't believe that the Black Dog Dual Sport Rally was here again already.

This year went much smoother than last year. Trains ran on time and stayed on the tracks, allowing us to run up I-5 and I-84 to Hood River and the fairgrounds in Odell where we'd spend the weekend. Polar Bear looped around the fairgrounds looking for a suitable spot to call camp. We drove up past the restrooms, past the bandstand and found the perfect, shady spot in the corner with power for our buddy DJ and his Class C motorhome and trailer. It was away from both busy roads and all the hustle and bustle of the other attendees.

Base camp for the weekend

Home Sweet Home

We unloaded our gear, got our tents set up, then sat and enjoyed a cold beer under the shade of a birch tree while waiting for DJ. It was sure nice to be up there early, claim a spot and relax while everyone else rolled in. About an hour later DJ and his friend Thad rolled in, backed up and leveled the rig in true glamping fashion.

Dinner plans were discussed and the gang went down to the meeting hall for $2 tacos from a local vendor who set up on site. I wasn't up for a token lettuce taco so I stayed and puttered with my jet-boil and prepared a delicious meal of rice and lentils in curry sauce. Just add hot water and stir.

This beats many restaurants  

The guys got back with the news that the night ride was easy gravels roads "C course" so we decided to all go. DJ and Thad brought their dual sport bikes for Saturday's more challenging "A course", and their bigger adventure bikes for Sunday's "B-C course"; and now Friday night's ride. Andy and I unloaded our bikes all the while trying to figure out how to fasten lights to our helmets to read the roll chart.

Course descriptions for our events    Note: this is assuming dry weather conditions.  Inclement weather or fire danger will dictate probably running only B or C courses, so as not to damage trails.  Letter designations are in key with typical AMA enduro class descriptions.
AA: VERY DIFFICULT [extremely advanced] -  sophisticated and complex trails that are only passable by a real dirt bike. Extreme uphills/downhills and trials-like sections, which require lower gearing.  Aggressive knobbies required. 
A: DIFFICULT [advanced] - plenty of challenging trail that requires advanced trail techniques.  Aggressive knobbies highly suggested. 
B: MODERATE [normal] - moderate or mild trail skills required.  Larger single-cylinder or two-up bikes should easily traverse these  sections.  Generally passable by an advanced Jeep/driver combo.  Regular dualsport tires are acceptable.
C: EASY [very easy] - practically no trail.  Mostly gravel road. Passable by large 2-cylinder bikes, two-up,  sidecars or most any 4-wheel drive.  Regular dualsport tires are acceptable.

We wandered down to the hall to pick up the roll chart for the ride and any other information we needed, such as departure time and approximate mileage. Back at camp we loaded our roll charts, taped flashlights and head lamps to our helmets, and waited for dusk before gearing up and heading out.

Thought this was ingenious 

Not being familiar with the area makes the riding fun and full of discovery. The road unfurls before us, revealing beautiful scenery as the sun slowly sets behind a mountain. Again, not being familiar with the area makes the riding in the dark... fun... and full of discovery. Especially for the one of us whose "street legal dirt bike" has less than adequate lighting. Polar Bear, short of stopping to light his gas lit carriage lamp of a headlight couldn't see into the night let alone cut through the dust which hung low like an early morning fog. Me being behind him didn't help, so I passed him to give him a taillight to follow. We had our Senas on so we could at least communicate with each other and it wasn't long before I felt like his seeing eye dog, leading him through "most" of the sharp turns. I commented that his red and white Husqvarna was like a blind man's walking stick, which I don't think he appreciated, but isn't that what are friends are for?

The pace slowed considerably, but we made it back safe and sound. It was late, we had an early day Saturday, so we called it a night and made our way into our respective beds.

The neighborhood rooster woke me up at 4:00 Saturday morning, which is about the time I get up for work anyway. So I quietly gathered up my jet-boil and breakfast fixings to peacefully enjoy the sunrise with a hot cuppa tea. I knew that once everyone woke up, the race would be on and the pace set for the day.

Good morning sunshine

Tick tock, pick up roll charts at 6:00, rider's meeting at 7:00, there's the horn, let's go!
The organizers have us raise our right hand at the meeting and recite "this is not a race".

Rider's meeting "This is not a race"

Andy and I prefer the "B course", also Andy likes to start off slow then taper off from there. DJ and Thad on the other hand were chomping at the bit and were gone on the "A course".

The two of us eased into our gear, rode our bikes down to obstacle course, spanked the monkey, then headed out. Much easier in the daylight.

Saturday's ride was a leisurely tour, much less KTM rhinoceros traffic than last year's shared course. The "A course" and "B course" were split up this year, on opposite sides of the river, in separate States in fact. We rode across the scary bridge into Washington while the "A course" stayed in Oregon.

B-C-Courses-BD-2017 from Thom Niemela on Vimeo.

We took our time and ambled along as we had all day. Took a few pictures and stopped for snacks, pee breaks, and more often than not, to stretch our butt muscles.

Andy the Polar Bear on his Husky

Overlooking the Columbia River Gorge

With so much rain this year, neither one of us had been out riding motorcycles or mountain bikes, let alone any training for longer rides. I'm in pretty good shape for a guy not in very good shape.

Saturday's ride

Pulling back in the fairgrounds for the day, we were met with a little riding challenge for points. We had to ride up to a mailbox on our left side, reach in and grab a poker chip without dabbing (putting a foot down). This is much harder than it sounds as the left side doesn't allow you to use your clutch, thus causing my bike to stall and me to dab. Andy had better luck by staying on the throttle a bit and dragging the rear brake. Must be a trials riding technique. My neighbors are going to wonder what the hell I'm doing practicing at home riding up to my mailbox trying to grab a poker chip.

We were whooped, so we headed back to camp for a cold beer and converse about our day. It wasn't long before bed as we had to be up early again for Sunday's ride.

Cock-a-doodle-doo went the alarm at 4:00, and again I enjoyed the peaceful sunrise over a cuppa while packing up my sleeping bag and camping gear.
Grab the roll charts, load our holders, gear up, spank the monkey, and we're off. All the rider's shared Sunday's ride so we were wary of the KTM rhinoceroses. And sure enough they didn't disappoint.

We had to be back by 2:00 so the pace was a lot quicker, with fewer stops and much fewer photos.

Had to stop for the covered bridge photo

The route and roads were awesome, we crossed the scary bridge and made our way up to Gifford Pinchot National Forest for a quick loop through the woods and past the Ice Caves, too cold to stop. Then it was back down to Trout Lake and up the other side toward Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, wish we had time to visit. Sunday's route was fantastic, but the pace was way too fast. It does give me an excuse to go back with Trobairitz and enjoy it at our leisure.

There's a mountain back there somewhere...

We did find time to stop and assist a KTM rider with a broken hub, more console him than assist as there was nothing we could really do. He called the event organizer to have a truck come pick him up. And we talked to a 70 year old gentleman that rode the entire B course, both days on his Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. He said it was lighter than his BMW R1200GS and he could touch the ground.

Back at the fairgrounds we enjoyed another  challenge for more points, touching the top of 4 traffic cones lined up in a row without dabbing. Again, much harder than it looks, I nearly lost control of my bike and fell. I tapped two out of four, and something else I'm going to have to practice.

We rode back to camp, loaded up just in time to attend the awards ceremony. I didn't earn enough points to warrant a prize, but I wasn't there for the points, all I wanted was to ride.

It was an uneventful drive home, it was great just to sit and relax.

"Thanks for driving Andy!"

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." 
—African proverb

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Another belated post

April 2017, we were into our seventh month of rain, an annual record breaking amount of rainfall at that, and needless to say were are a bit sick and tired of it. May has finally dried out some, at least enough to mow the lawn between showers.

Online photo

A couple... 6 weeks ago, Polar Bear suggested we trailer the dual sports over the wet, snowy mountain pass in search of drier trails and the sunshine of Central Oregon. We heard about a small OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) area nestled between Redmond and Sisters, about a 2-1/2 hour drive. We loaded up the bikes and were off to Cline Buttes.

We drove through rain, and there was snow on the side of the roads, but as we got closer and closer to Sisters, the sun was shining and the snow disappeared. Through Sisters and toward Redmond we kept an eye out for the turn off to the OHV area. I have driven and ridden by this spot at least a dozen times, never knowing it was there, (I bought my Tiger in Redmond).

Three more miles... 2 more... 1 more.... a half mile ahead on the right. There it is! Two dirt bikes were on the cross road to the left waiting to cross the highway. Passing us after our turn in, we followed them to the staging area. More like a camping area as there were camp trailers and toy haulers, even tents staking claim to their own little area. We were only there for the day so we didn't want to take any camp spots and just parked off to the side.

Sunshine! Warm, bright, glorious sunshine! 
And dust! 
Actual, float in the air, in your teeth, up your nose, wear your goggles, dust!

We couldn't get the bikes off the trailer fast enough, then we geared up as the sun warmed our Western Oregon, water-logged spirits. The temperature slowly climbed as we mounted our bikes.

It's been months since being on the bike, so we did a loop around the kiddie track to keep us from setting off full throttle and doing anything foolish. Then it was a slow tootle along the easy, green trails before venturing off to the intermediate blue trails.  We rode clockwise, down to trail 11 and over to 15 and 21. What a great loop, not too difficult although a couple of rocky areas tested us, we had a great ride. 

Intersection of 11 & 15

Our approach to Dry Canyon

Whence we came

Hi Andy!

We gonna talk about it, or ride?

Dry Canyon was a wonderful trouvaille, photos didn't capture the impressiveness, and although not as grandeur as that famous canyon visited by thousands of tourists every year, it was beautifully secluded and quiet.

We rode on, checking the trail map once just to make sure we were still having fun and making good choices. After both of us lugging 500+ lb. Tigers out of mud trails in the past, we are much more cautious of chasing the fearless down rabbit holes, let alone each other.

We meandered back to the staging area for a bite to eat and to load up for the 2-1/2 hour drive home. Andy drove more than we rode, but it was certainly worth it to dry out some from the long, wet winter of Western Oregon. We discussed coming back again with the families for a weekend camping trip and ride.

trou·vaille tro͞oˈvī/
  1. a lucky find.