The Lonely Rider &
Stella, The Riding Princess
Sometimes ya just gotta get dirty, wet and even a little bruised and that's exactly what we did. Recently, Stella picked up a new Yamaha WR250 and wanted to go play. It was only her second time riding the bike and she was eager to take it off the beaten path. So with that in mind, off we went to go play on some local trails with me on my trusty "dirty bitch" (a BMW F650GS). Of course her bike was far more suited to such adventures than mine with its greater height, ground clearance and less weight.
After rendezvousing with Stella at her place in the evening, off we went. Once we arrived, we did a quick check of the trails to see what we would be up against. Although most off-road riders would no doubt laugh heartily at the trails before us, I was a little tentative with this being only the third time taking my bike off-roading and although Stella has a lot more experience than I do in the dirt, she was still getting used to a new bike, which is still a tad too tall for her despite having it lowered a bit (at least now her toes can reach the ground on both sides).
The following is an account of our evening from both our perspectives...
Shaun: The ride up was reasonably sedate and we made good time despite having to make a quick stop for gas for my bike. I was running on fumes and didn't really want to get stranded without any fuel. It was during this pause that Stella mentioned her two near misses behind me from two cars that pulled between us cutting her off. This was of course just another reminder of how clueless and careless drivers are on our roads but also reminded us of the need to be careful while on the roads. This would have been a good time to fill her tank too but noooo...she realized she needed gas about 5km later when her fuel light came on. No worries...another quick stop for gas and we were on our way. After arriving at a local off-road series of trails, we first scoped out the terrain and envisioned ourselves ripping up the dirt and braving a couple river crossings.
Stella: Shaun & his "dirty bitch" cruised along at a sedate pace while I followed behind and dodged cars turning in front of me: "She saw me. She turned her head and looked my way. Wait...did she really see me? Damnit! She is turning!" Reach for the levers, squeeze harder and harder, downshift...5-4-3-2-1...Little bead of sweat rolls down my forehead. Shaun is no longer in sight. Apparently, 36.6 inches of seat height makes you taller and thinner (and invisible to car drivers too). I finally catch up to Shaun who is kindly waiting on the side of the road for me. At that moment, a black truck sees the opportunity to squeeze in between us: "He saw me. Wait...did he really see me? Damnit!" Reach for the levers and apply the breaks once more. "If this happens one more time, I am turning around and going home!" My body temperature rises up along with my heart rate.
I am kindly reminded to take a deep breath. The show must go on. As I am riding along, my smile also widens as the WR "fun factor" kicks in. It is temporarily put on hold as the GS is thirsty and requires a fuel stop. I notice the slight cramp in my big toe from holding the motorcycle up with my vertically challenged inseam. I probably look like a dwarf ballerina on my WR! A few kilometres further, my fuel light comes on. I get the eyeball roll from Shaun, who amusingly highlighted that I am wasting precious fun time. The real fun of living wisely is that you get to be smug about it...I suppose.
After applying emergency manoeuvres twice, two fuel stops, an SUV talking a 1/4 of my lane and still surviving, we finally arrive at the guarded trails. It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety...the security guard eventually leaves and we joyfully trespass with our motorcycles.
Shaun: Of course our thoughts of ripping up the dirt like Pro Enduro riders quickly ended once we actually started riding and I wimped out on the bigger river crossings. Ok...I'll admit...I really didn't want to ditch in the river and get soaked. Instead we played around for a bit on the dry, rocky, rutted out trails and while crossing a small stream, my playtime came to a quick end. I nailed a rather large rock and broke off the springs for my kickstand. Not a huge deal really but since my kickstand kept falling down, it kept engaging the kill switch to the engine. Not really a fun feeling having your bike die on you while riding, so I pulled off and assessed the damage. Hmmm...nothing a couple zip ties couldn't handle to hold the kickstand up and it's a good thing I still had a centre stand to use. While I tended to my "dirty (broken) bitch", Stella was off "finding her grove" playing in the dirt. Needless to say...I was disappointed. Well at least she was having fun so I grabbed my camera and hiked back in to snap some pics. I arrived in time to see Stella having some first-class giggle fun as she flew over a huge dirt mound.
Stella: As I glanced at the terrain and analysed the paths that lay before me, a hint of doubt crossed my mind. My WR was still shinny and new and I had not been off the beaten path since my days at Tracks (an off-road riding school). Knowing my reputation of riding hard and dirty (sometimes abruptly and falling a lot) I approached the terrain rather carefully. I made sure my feet remained on the pegs and the clutch was slipped in order to give me the torque I needed during slow speed manoeuvres. However, as I opened the throttle and increased the speed, I became at ease with the bike and flew over obstacles with grace. I soon realized that the dare devil had taken over and I found myself looking for hills and jumps to climb or fly over. I was giggling like a little schoolgirl in my helmet! Caught in my own amusement, I realized the GS had disappeared from sight. I soon found Shaun's silver stead but all I could see were a pair of legs laying on the ground behind the parked GS. My initial reaction was one of concern as I approached and saw Shaun fiddling underneath the engine. At least he wasn't hurt but his "dirty bitch" had suffered a little blow to the side stand. I returned to the playground, leaving Shaun behind. I was having too much fun! My confidence increased along with my attitude, which soon became a combo for trouble. The bike went down once. A little slip of the foot on loose gravel and I gently tipped over. I cursed a little but that was nothing compared to what was to follow. I aimed for the river crossing: clutch half way in, throttle opened and loose front end. The rocks in the river bed were baseball sized and slippery. As they became the primary focus, I missed the large rock on the other side of the river. The same one Shaun smashed against. You know what they say: better face it dead on then try to avoid it. At least I would have jumped over it but the front tire hit the edge, slipped and the brand new, shinny WR went down followed by the rider, which was also followed by a series of colourful and obscene words. I was defeated! So was my brake lever. My history for breaking levers was repeating itself. Thankfully, Shaun's camera didn't catch any of this. I picked myself up along with my broken parts and rode home with half a brake lever, a missing mirror and a damaged pride.
Shaun: All good things must come to an end and after picking up Stella's bike while she beat herself up over "breaking in" her bike, it was time to limp home with various parts of her bike in my tank bag and our egos a tad bruised. It was getting late and both bikes needed some work before the night was through. Along the ride home Stella mentioned that she had done a number on her leg and it was beginning to hurt. As such I was expecting a more "conservative" ride back but noooo...her bruised ego seemed to have healed rather quickly and she was still very much enjoying her new (although somewhat battered) WR and proceeded to race me off the line every time we left a stop light. Ok...I got beat by a girl. Meh...my ego can handle that and each time she pulled away from me with light turning green, I was reminded of how zippy her bike really is. A couple times I tried to keep up and each time she humbled me by kicking my ass. It must be the bike.....right? Once back to her place, she checked her leg (just a scratch and a developing bruise) while I quickly re-attached her mirror. Her brake lever will need replacing though. As for my bike, it was too dark to fix so it would have to wait until I got home to be repaired in the light of my garage.
One thing is for sure though...despite the "issues" we had...we would do it again in a heartbeat.
Banged up bikes and bruised egos...welcome to off-roading!