RIDING TIPS

Failing, It's Going to Happen | A Guide to Staying Mindful & Managing Expectations When Learning to Ride Dirt

Discouragement is something that can come from learning any new challenging thing. As more and more people take to the dirt, we think it’s important to talk about how to overcome the mental block we sometimes experience from “failing” or not advancing as quickly as you think you should. Take it from me, if I had a $1 for every time I failed hard while riding (or in life), I’d be richer than Oprah.

Manage Expectations

Street to Dirt? Should be Easy Right?! Not exactly. For the majority of riders, going from street to dirt may seem like a breeze but we promise its an entirely different animal. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been riding street for over 10 years, the dirt will humble even the most skilled person (and that is ok!). These machines do not acknowledge ego so if you go into it with a level you think you should be at but simply are not there yet, you are going to have a really hard time focusing on learning or potentially getting injured.

  • Slow down (mentally and physically)

  • Invest in quality gear that fits

  • Accept that you are starting as a new rider all over again

  • Take the time to learn trail etiquette

  • Stick to open spaces and green trails then work your way up

  • Don’t give up

Practice Makes Perfect

You won’t become a better rider without putting in the seat time. Make the effort to add a few ride days with pals who are a bit more experienced on your ical and enjoy the camaraderie that follows. The feedback, cheerleading, and advice you’ll get while on the trail from your buds is the best . Whatever you do, don’t give up. No friends yet? Well damn… come to Babes in the Dirt 5 and meet some :)

Take Lessons | Ask Questions | Watch YouTube Videos

There are so many incredible classes you can take to become a better rider. Google your area to see what is close to you, you might be surprised. Nothing in your area? There is a world of YouTube videos on technique that you can watch and apply on your own.

Some of our favorite classes are taught by:

Babes in the Dirt

Stacy Dixon & the Dirt Ladies do LA-Barstow-Vegas

2 days and 400+ miles off-road sound fun to you? Us too! Stacy Dixon @pikeylady and @dirt_ladies did the LA-Barstow-Vegas dualsport ride last week and are sharing there awesome story with us. Adventures like these are filled with triumphs and mishaps that help shape us all in to better and more prepared riders. Read on to hear more about her experience and the advice she has for other riders thinking of joining in the fun. Congrats on crossing the finish line babes!

babes in the dirt

Name:

Stacy Dixon (@pikeylady)

Where do you live?

Lancaster, CA 

How long have you been riding?

I’ve been riding dirt on and off for about 8 years, and street for about 2.

What bike do you ride?

For dirt and racing, I ride a 2017 KTM Freeride 250R (two stroke!), and for long moto camping trips or street rides, I use my 2014 Honda CB500X. I’ve turned it into a mini adventure bike.

What is LA to Barstow to Vegas?

LAB2V is a self-guided, two-day dual sport ride that’s been running for 35 years! It attracts hundreds of riders on everything from vintage bikes, to sidehacks, adventure bikes and dual sports. Any street legal bike is welcome, and it’s cool to see what kind of bikes people have used to complete this ride. The routes and mileage vary a bit every year, but it usually totals around 450 miles over two days. It starts in north LA County (Palmdale, CA), stopping in Barstow, CA the first day, then continuing on to Las Vegas the second day. The terrain includes sand, rocks, whoops, gravel, pavement and everything in between. Fortunately though, LAB2V plots multiple route options to suite all kinds of riding abilities. There is the standard “Easy Route”, which is primarily off-road and great for the average dual sport. For those who like to be challenged, there are “Hard Routes” which periodically break away from the Easy Route and contain enduro obstacles like rock gardens, deep sand, boulders and step ups. There are also some “Bail Out” options. If you’re on a heavy adventure bike or need to make up lost time, you can choose to take a stretch of pavement or a well maintained dirt road and give yourself a break.

 

What made you want to participate in LAB2V?

This year it was a matter of continuing what’s become a new Thanksgiving tradition for me, and riding my favorite dual sport event. My first LAB2V was in 2016 after buying my first dual sport and finally getting my motorcycle license. I had always felt so intimidated by street and dual sport riding, but I also couldn’t ignore the desire to try it, and I love a good endurance challenge. One obstacle I faced back then was that I didn’t have a lot of riding buddies, and I didn’t know anyone who wanted to do the ride with me. But I wanted to try it so bad that I was prepared to ride LAB2V solo. I spent months researching the ride and prepping and I had the support of my Mom, who agreed to drive a chase vehicle and help me with pit stops. I also had the peace of mind of there being an amazing volunteer group that puts on the event, including sweep crews, Rescue 3, and experienced riders that were full of helpful tips. The week before the 2016 LAB2V ride, I met someone on a District 37 forum who matched my riding style and also wanted to give it a try. So that year, I showed up to the start, barely knowing that one other person, and we set out on the ride. He wound up crashing towards the end of the first day and couldn’t continue, so I rode and navigated day two by myself. It was a little scary, and my bike gave me a lot of problems that forced me to finish the ride on a bail out. I think I was the very last person into Vegas after dark, but I finished! I also met some good people on that ride and through the social media afterwards, including the amazing Sara Dinges (@dualsportwomen). In 2017, I rode LAB2V again with much better luck, and this year was my third ride!

babes in the dirt

 

What bike prep did you need in order to get ready?

This ride requires a lot of prep! Every year, I’ve actually made a spreadsheet months in advance to keep track of what I need to buy, do and pack so I don’t forget. This year I decided to do some bike upgrades before the ride: a Seat Concepts seat, TUbliss system, JD Jetting kit, new tires, and a Giant Loop gas bag to go with my Giant Loop Mojave saddlebags. My bike’s fuel tank is less than 2 gallons (with no aftermarket options) and LAB2V fuel stops can be 100+/- miles apart, so carrying extra fuel was absolutely necessary. After the upgrades, my amazing friends Ruben Arizaga and Hollie West helped me with hours of bike work including an oil change, new brakes, a carb clean and rebuild, silencer repacking, air filter cleaning and prep, new fork seals, and an overall deep clean and inspection. My fellow LAB2V rider Christina and her boyfriend Giancarlo also provided some much needed mechanical help the weekend before the ride. Then there were the logistics: ensuring my 6-year-old son was taken care of during the ride, booking hotel rooms in Barstow and Vegas, coordinating with the other riders, getting time off work, and organizing the ride home. I also made sure I had all my trail gadgets ready to go: my Antigravity XP10 battery pack (my bike doesn’t have a kick starter) and mini compressor, Garmin Montana GPS, SPOT tracker, Tusk helmet lights just in case, and a GoPro for the fun sections.

Who did you ride with?

This year I was excited to have three women riders with me, and it was their first LAB2V. I rode with Christina (@motorobot), Erica Kim (@itsericakim) and Casey Jaeckel (@tonedapollo), who was recovering from a broken wrist due to a recent street bike accident (such a trooper!). I’ve ridden trails with Christina, who is also on a KTM Freeride, and she put me in touch with Erica and Casey through our Dirt Ladies group.  

babes in the dirt

Tell us about the ride, any mishaps? Did ya get lost? How was the terrain? Any particular challenging sections?

As usual, the ride starts the Friday after Thanksgiving in Palmdale, CA.  We were in line for tech inspection around 5:30am, and there were already hundreds of bikes ready to go! After tech inspection, I picked up maps, a roll chart, rider instructions and GPS tracks for Day 1, then regrouped with the girls to make a game plan. Since I had some experience, I was asked to the group and navigate. Our chase crew included my mom Lori driving the MotoMinivan, Christina’s boyfriend and our team mechanic Giancarlo in a truck with their two pups, and Casey’s friend Kyle, who was also keeping an eye on two other LAB2V riders. We all confirmed where our first pit stop location would be, then hit the road.

As we made our way north to California City, I kept looking in my mirror and thinking how cool it was to see three badass, brave women taking on this new adventure. We kept up a great intermediate pace, and were staying on schedule to make it to Barstow before sunset. Although we carried extra lights for night riding, we didn’t want to use them! After the first gas stop, we headed east towards the lunch location in Johannesburg. Along the way, we decided to test our first Hard Route opportunity in Last Chance Canyon. There were some bottlenecks with other riders once we hit the deep sand and rock sections, which made riding through the obstacles even more challenging. With Casey’s injury, she made the very smart call to preserve her wrist and go back to the less crowded route, with Erica by her side. We communicated to our chase crew that we were briefly splitting up, then continued on. Christina and I put our two strokes through their paces in the long stretches of rocks and deep sand before meeting back up with Erica and Casey at the end of the canyon. It was at that point that Casey was having trouble getting her bike started. Some friends of ours, Billy and Joe passed by and they were able to get Casey’s bike running well enough to get back to the main road, and be picked up by our chase crew. Once again, Casey’s selflessness insisted that we press on while she figured out the fate of her poor CRF.

The trail was from there was fun and flowing, with amazing views overlooking Searles Valley. Then we arrived at a steep downhill with a bit of a rut, which is my biggest fear in riding. I know how I’m supposed to ride downhills, but executing it is another story. As I looked down the hill I saw a vintage XL600 on its side part way down, with its rider looking stuck and unable to fully lift the behemoth of a bike. I got off my Freeride and walked (slid) down to assist. As I helped him lift his machine, I learned he had no front brake! The bike would quickly pick up speed when we lifted it, pulling us all back down to the ground. We decided to push the XL on its side into the rut for leverage, where it could be stood up and walked down in gear, using the clutch as a brake. After the rider caught his breath and expressed his gratitude, he was able to get down the hill more safely. The other riders now had a clear path down, including Christina, who tackled that downhill like a pro. Fearless and confident, she rode down flawlessly as I watched from the rut. Then I realized I still had to walk back up to my bike! This made me realize how steep the hill felt and made me psych myself out even more. Despite being inspired by Christina’s success, I didn’t feel confident about riding down, and I wound up walking my bike halfway down the hill too. I got back on my bike and coasted to the base of the hill, where it plateaued before descending again into a second hill. I tend to be a stubbornly cautious rider, especially in the middle of a 400-mile ride. 

Our entire group reorganized at the lunch stop in Johannesburg, where my mom greeted us with sandwiches, gasoline and ibuprofen. Casey’s bike was still in the truck, where it would stay until we could get to Barstow and let Giancarlo take a crack at getting it running well enough for day two. After a well-deserved lunch break, Erica, Christina and I got back on the road. Johannesburg to Barstow had a lot of fast, flat sections, and it was fun to open up the bikes after all the previous rocks and ruts. The very last dirt stretch of the day was a long, wide whooped out dirt road just outside of Barstow. This is where Erica really showed her speed and skill, as she opened up her 250 and flew across every rut and whoop section with ease. This girl can rip!

We eventually rolled into Barstow to end day one around 4pm, an hour before sunset and ahead of many other riders. I was proud of our pace as we picked up our roll charts and GPS tracks for day two. I immediately started bike prep before my fatigue totally set in. For me, that meant topping off my gas tank and gas bag, swapping out my air filter, replenishing my camelbak, cleaning and lubing the bike’s chain, checking tire pressure, mixing gas for tomorrow’s pit stops, charging all my electronics, loading the new roll chart, and previewing tomorrow’s route options as part of my navigator duties. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep but this ride is all about prep. Giancarlo already had Casey’s bike torn apart by that time and he discovered that, despite his outstanding efforts, the bike simply required new parts and wasn’t reliable enough to ride day two. We were heartbroken that Casey’s ride had come to an end so early in the weekend, but thankful that she stuck around and continued supporting her friends for day two. After carb-loading at the best Italian restaurant in Barstow, we got some rest before another early morning start.  

The next morning we were all a bit sore and were starting to feel the muscle fatigue. Despite how much we wanted to ride the super rocky Hard Route through Calico Canyon that morning, we decided to stick to the Easy Routes and save our energy for Red Rock Canyon at the end of the day, which for me last year, was the highlight of the ride. We left Barstow and rode alongside the Calico Mountains for a bit. It was so difficult to pass up the Hard Route turnoffs into the canyon, but I felt that staying conservative was the best option for the group to get to Vegas while the sun was still up. A small consolation for missing out on the rocky canyon was watching the still-visible full moon hang over the mountain ridges while the sunrise cast long shadows of our bikes on the short stretch of pavement past Calico. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of the ride, but I tried to remember to look up and enjoy the beautiful scenery that we are fortunate enough to be able to ride through.

The pavement faded to dirt and the dirt to sand in a canyon. This turned that beautiful sunrise into a challenging one, as we were now heading directly east in clouds of hazy dust. Ultimately, we popped out onto some fast, wide dirt roads that paralleled powerlines and railroad tracks near Yermo, and the wind helped clear the dust. Giancarlo met us at a railroad crossing so Christina and I could top off our small tanks before the next gas stop in Baker. As we headed off towards our first checkpoint, we turned on to the sandy and curvy Powerline Road. I could see that Christina and Erica were eager to click through some gears behind me, so I waved them on ahead, knowing that navigation wasn’t going to be an issue for several miles. Moments later, I came around a corner to see a group of riders huddled around someone on the ground near a small washout on the left side of the road. Then I saw a Freeride with no one on it and my heart sank. But just as quickly, Christina’s face appeared through the small crowd as she was sitting upright and looking my way with a slightly bloody half grin. I knew then that she was okay… relatively speaking. Erica was by her side and so were a handful of other riders who had stopped to check on her. Christina took some time to recover and felt good enough to press on, so we did. We sped off towards Baker, home of the World’s Tallest Thermometer, and arrived there just before 9:30am. We were still ahead of schedule to be able to ride Red Rock that afternoon, and we took advantage of that with a long break. Giancarlo went to work fixing a few things on Christina’s bike while Erica and I indulged in more of Mom’s sandwiches.

After Baker, it was a quick 50ish miles to Sandy Valley, a tiny little town in Nevada where we were served a hot lunch by the local student council at an elementary school. Once again, the volunteers that come together for this event are amazing! We realized that Christina’s front tire had a slow leak after her crash, so a repair was in order. Giancarlo saved the day with a post-lunch tire fix that allowed Christina’s Freeride to keep going. With a little time lost on the tire change and an ankle issue creeping up on Erica, we decided to take what can only be described as a dirt highway from Sandy Valley to the entrance of Red Rock Canyon to make up some time. On this final leg of the trip, we had a couple other friends tagging along as well: Scott and Ichi.

We arrived at the start of the Red Rock Canyon Hard Route and were immediately greeted with some fun, winding single track leading us to the base of the canyon. We twisted our way through stone-filled dips and climbs until we arrived at a rocky downhill, where sheets of dark red shale were stacked like stairs covered in loose rocks and small boulders of the same color. This place was appropriately named. The downhill ended with a sharp right turn into deep, deep sand where other riders’ tracks wound tightly around Joshua trees and more rocks. I had to keep looking up from the faint trail to find the signature LAB2V ribbon markings and make sure we stayed on course. The sand ended into a deep wash filled with nothing but rocks and boulders, with gravel underneath. Some parts were narrow enough for only a single bike to fit through and the wash’s walls came up over our handlebars at times. But I felt like a kid in a candy store. My little Freeride was built for this type of terrain and my excitement outweighed my fatigue. My bike gobbled up the rocks and crawled up a few small step ups without issue. Eventually the wash widened and leveled out a bit, so I stopped to check navigation while waiting for the others.  

I realized the roll chart and GPS both alluded to a right turn that I had missed, which could get us back to the main road more quickly. This was the first time on the ride that I felt uncertain about navigation, and I certainly didn’t want to lead the group through more enduro riding then they had to, since shadows were getting long and muscles were getting tired. The group caught up and took a break while I turned around and unsuccessfully tried to find a cutoff back to the main road. Other riders passing by confirmed that they didn’t see a turn either, so I double backed to my group. We decided to keep following the wash, since more riders were heading that way as well and none of them had turned back around. It wound up working out and we reached the blacktop a short while later. I linked back up with the GPS track and I knew we were around the corner from the grand finale. 

After a very brief paved reprieve, we were back on winding dirt two track, ascending to the rock garden at the peak of Rocky Gap Rd that seems like the most sought after section of Red Rock and the LAB2V ride itself. I arrived at the peak to find 4x4s blocking all the non-Jarvis lines through the first stage of rocks and step ups. Some riders tried going around the trucks but were having trouble because the lines were nonexistent. Ichi hopped off his bike and assisted the riders ahead of us. Eventually the trucks moved but I was already set up for a less-than ideal line choice. I tried it anyway and dropped my bike. I repositioned, and gave it another shot, and successfully crawled up the first rock face, with Ichi spotting me just in case. He stayed behind and helped some others while I charged ahead with Scott right behind me. There were more 4x4s coming towards us on the trail, which took away more line choices, but we were there for a challenge anyway. I bounced around from one rock to the next, smiling and feeling at home in the rocks. Within minutes, the hardest part of the section was over and it was just a matter of flowing back down some rocky two track before emerging into the beautiful Red Rock Park.

One of the best parts of the ride, is the sense of accomplishment felt when reaching the pavement after Red Rock Canyon. The dirt portion of the ride was over, and I could see a glimpse of the Vegas skyline poking up between the Red Rocks and horizon. I felt so proud of our little group for finishing despite the challenges along the way. I was elated to riding into town, even though we had to jump on the freeway momentarily and caught every red light down Flamingo Blvd on our way to the finish line at The Orleans Casino.  We pulled into The Orleans’ parking garage around 4:30pm, with the last bits of daylights fading behind us. My mom and Giancarlo were waiting proudly at the finish, taking pictures and sharing in our excitement. After some high fives and two stroke revs, we lined up to have our picture taken with Santa Claus and two Vegas showgirls; a traditional LAB2V finish. 

I loaded up my bike and gear in the MotoMinivan, then and rushed to my hotel for that long awaited shower. Next it was time for the LAB2V rider’s banquet inside one of the casino’s ballrooms, which is a cool ending to the event filled with awesome giveaways, photos, drinks and grub. For those who stayed in Vegas through Sunday night, there was an LAB2V bowling event also at The Orleans, which I participated in for the first time this year. My bowling team happened to also win the 50/50 pot that night, so thanks to my teammates Dave, Abigail, and John!

babes in the dirt

 

How was the navigation?

It takes some practice, but this year I felt more confident with navigation and was able to lead the group without getting lost. I use the mandatory roll chart issued by LAB2V, alongside my Garmin, which is loaded with LAB2V tracks before the start of each day. I also carried a SPOT tracker, which was a huge help to our chase crew. They could see our movements every few minutes on an app and receive check-in messages that we were okay when we stopped.

 

Were there a lot of ladies on the ride?

I didn’t hear the official count this year, but the last couple years there were less than 20 women riding out of over 550 participants. That makes it even more awesome to have a group of 4 women take on this ride together! We hope to inspire more female participation by sharing our experience and giving women a resource for information about the ride and how to prepare.

 

Tell us about some of the people you met.

Because of the Sunday night bowling event, I was able to spend time with some of the volunteer 4x4 sweep crews, and learned even more about what they do. One of the volunteers, Abigail Williams, was on her second year of teaming up with her husband and using their truck to rescue several bikes and riders each day. Sweep’s job is stay behind all the riders and help get every last broken bike or stranded person safely off the trails. No one gets left in the desert because of these amazing volunteers and their collaboration with Rescue 3. We can’t thank them enough for their efforts.

Favorite part? Least favorite part?

My favorite part was definitely Red Rock canyon. It offers some challenging but rideable enduro obstacles in the middle of gorgeous scenery at the end of an amazing ride. My least favorite part was that steep downhill, and there is definitely LAB2V drone footage that proves my discontent. Maybe someday I’ll get over my fear and tackle it the “right” way.  

babes in the dirt

Would you do it again?

Absolutely! I hope I get to do this ride every single year, and some day, I’d love to be able to ride LAB2V with my son. He’s only 6, so it’s gonna be awhile! This year, there was an 85 year old man that completed the ride, so there’s no shortage of inspiration when it comes to returning year after year. 

Any suggestions for ladies wanting to participate next year?

Here’s some essential tips:

1)     You don’t need a 500cc, high speed desert rocket to do this long ride. Reliability is key, and you’ll be much happier on a smaller, lighter bike that you’re comfortable picking up multiple times. You’ll need to be able to hold onto it for 8-10 hours straight for two consecutive days. All our girls rode light 250s at a steady, consistent pace and did great.  

2)     You also don’t need a bunch of bike upgrades and gadgets to make this ride happen. My first year, I just used what I had and learned what was essential for the next year. If you love it enough, you’ll accumulate the “nice to haves” over the years as your budget allows. I’ve also borrowed friends’ gear before, and pooled resources with other riders. And don’t forget to get creative! Padded bicycle shorts can be a life saver when an upgraded moto seat is not in the budget. Fuel bottles can be carried instead buying an aftermarket tank. And you can buy an old, cheap smart phone on eBay and load it with a GPS app as opposed to spending hundreds on a dedicated GPS unit.

 3)     Start prepping months before the ride. This includes bike maintenance and training. Ride as much as you can before LAB2V to prevent things like arm pump, blisters and cramps. The gym is helpful too, but nothing beats seat time. The more you ride, the easier it gets.

 4)     Do a shakedown ride during the weeks before LAB2V using all the gear you plan to wear and pack for the ride, and consider the temperatures you’ll be facing. Give yourself time to fix any issues you find before Thanksgiving.

5)     Practice navigating ahead of time, or better yet, find a buddy that’s done the ride before and is comfortable navigating and leading. That way you can focus on enjoying the journey during your ride, and maybe learn navigation along the way. Babes in the Dirt would be a great place to network for LAB2V riders and navigation experts, as well as various dual sport groups on social media, like @Dirt_Ladies and @dualsportwomen.

babes in the dirt





 

Let's talk Suspension | Some insight on what you need to know before you lower your dirt bike!

Photo by Genevieve Davis

Photo by Genevieve Davis

For some of us ladies, we find stock dirt bikes can be a bit too tall to be comfortable on. Lowering your dirt bike and getting the suspension properly set up for your height, weight and riding style will most definitely improve your experience on the bike! We felt it was time to address the issues that we hear so much about from so many Babes in the Dirt!

The first thing you should know is that any high performance motorcycle is set up to have 12”-13” of suspension travel which is why they are so tall. Stock bikes are set up for the average rider which is (you guessed it) a dude that, on average, is taller and weighs more than most females. For some female riders and the riding style they plan on participating in the most, the stock suspension is ideal. To determine what is best for YOU, there are some key things you need to take in to account and a few recommendations we have.

  1. LEAVE IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS. Once you start playing with the suspension in your garage you are majorly messing with the geometry of the bike. The linkage and ratio pressure of the shocks are set up that way for a reason and if you don’t know what you’re doing then you are doing you and your bike a disservice! Shortening the front forks and rear shock requires disassembling delicate components and requires specialized tools. This is definitely a task best performed by a trained suspension technician that understands how to lower a motorcycle properly.

  2. DO NOT USE A LOWERING LINK. Don’t listen to your friends that say “just throw a lowering link on there” by doing this you completely throw off the balance of the bike and all that engineering that took years to perfect goes right out the window. The linkage system is a crucial part of the rear suspension. It is important that the front forks and rear shock act together. When you add longer lowering links, it changes the leverage ratio, which can cause all sorts of problems. Think about it like this; the shock has the same travel but less distance between the wheel and fender which can result in bottoming out.

  3. An important question to ask yourself is: What type of riding do you plan on doing? Mostly trails? Moto X Track? Enduro cross? Fire roads? Dualsport? Different types of riding require a different suspension set up. For example: If you plan on launching your bike off some sweet jumps on an MX track, you are going to need that suspension travel when you land. If you are mostly riding smooth trails, desert riding and fire roads you probably don’t need quite as much travel.

  4. Height is not the only factor when figuring out how much your bike needs to be lowered (or not). Your weight (with all of your gear on) is important to factor in as well. We recommend bringing your gear with you when you drop off your bike to get set up. You will need to jump up and down on your bike to see how much your weight compresses so that they can properly set the sag. Sag is the name given to the amount of suspension travel used up when the bike settles with a rider on board.

  5. Do not over lower you bike just so that you can touch the ground better. Yes, touching the ground is important but not as important as ground clearance. Ideally being able to touch with the balls of your feet is very comfortable but it all goes back to what type of riding you plan on doing.

  6. You can also look in to simply get a lower profile seat so that you can reach the ground better but this does nothing in terms of setting up your suspension for you and your riding style.

Not having your motorcycle set up specifically for you can result in some very frustrating situations. Trust me, I have been there. I am guilty of impulse purchasing a bike that was way too big and heavy for me and had suspension set up for a dude that was twice my weight and about a foot taller. It was not a pleasurable experience once I ended up on some tight single track trails in Kennedy Meadows. In fact, now that i think of it, that was the last tie I cried on a motorcycle. Yep, thats right, I cried! Out of sheer frustration and exhaustion from trying to battle the beast on some pretty technical sections. I call this experience PH (pre Husqvarna) Everything changed for me once me Husky came in to my life.

When I got my Husqvarna FE 250 I wanted to make sure that I got it set up just right for me. I was determined to take my riding to the next level. I am 5’6” 125 pounds and do mostly trail riding that can involve some more technical terrain like single track, rock quarries, and an occasional log and river crossing. I had my bike professionally lowered 2 inches and I can touch on the balls of my feet which I am very comfortable with. Getting my bike dialed was a complete game changer and I credit that (and the overall superiority of Husqvarna engineering DUH) with my progression as a rider these past few years. I highly recommend that riders spend the money and do it right! You wont regret it!

Here are some places that I recommend having your suspension done.

Northern California:

http://www.santacruzsuspension.com/

Southern California:

https://gbcapodieci.wixsite.com/espsuspension

Thanks you to Suspension Guru Rich Dandalo of #SantaCruzSuspension for helping to go over the technical details and consult on this blog!

Riding Season is coming up quick! Make sure your bike and your gear are ready to GO!

Dirt Bike Season is Almost Here! October 1st in California is the start of Red Sticker Season so it’s time to make sure your bike and gear are as ready as you are. A  little pre-maintenance goes a long way! Our friends at Thousand Oaks Powersports have you covered! Read on to make sure you are dialed to hit the trails!

babes in the dirt
photo by Genevieve Davis

photo by Genevieve Davis

Our shop is buzzing with anticipation for the upcoming riding season! With all the new gear and bikes rolling in it’s hard not to get amped up. There is also word that we may see another El Nino style winter which means desert riding will be perfect again!

First of all, if it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, start your bike. Let’s see if it fires up!

Fuel, Air, and Fire

If your bike hasn’t moved in awhile and you left gas in the tank then you may need to clean out your fuel system. Generally the pump gas we use begins to evaporate and separate after only a couple weeks. As it evaporates it leaves behind all of the grime that is mixed into the gas. This separation will cause your gas to “gum up” your fuel system and restrict the flow of fuel from the tank to the engine. It’s almost like having rubber cement in your fuel system. If your engine isn’t getting the correct amount of fuel it won’t run properly. The amount of fuel running through your carburetor or fuel injector is only ounces at time so a little clog makes a big difference. The best way to know if your bike needs a carb clean is to turn it on. If your bike doesn’t idle with the choke off or you’re getting popping from the exhaust when you turn the throttle then your fuel system is dirty. Your carburetor may work okay like that at sea level but when you go up in elevation (Hungry Valley is 3000-6000 feet) you’re going to have a bigger problem. If your bike warms up and idles with the choke off you should be in good shape. Using something like an enzyme fuel treatment or “ring free” treatments can help prevent and alleviate fuel system clogs. If that doesn’t work then get your carburetor or injector cleaned. Always follow the manufacturer's recommended dosage when using fuel treatments.

If you’re going to clean your carbs or injectors it's a good idea to have your spark plug replaced at the same time. Having an extra spark plug in your gear bag is always a great idea as well. Your bike needs to breathe so make sure your air filter is clean. Cleaning an air filter is messy but it’s pretty easy to do. If your air filter is falling apart then replace it. Air filters are pretty inexpensive so throwing a new one on is a good idea.

Oil

Most dirt bikes require the oil to be changed every 10 to 15 hours of riding. Changing the oil, filter, and crush washer is a pretty easy job on a dirt bike. A lot of dirt bikes call for a 10-W40 or 10-W50 oil and usually take a quart or less. KTM and Husky’s are about 1.1 quarts and use a full synthetic oil. Your local shop should be able to tell you what the oil specifications are for your bike. Try to avoid looking at forum pages to see what you need for your bike’s oil. We’ve seen some disastrous results based on opinions in online bike forums. Bel-ray has a great lubricant advisor to tell you what your bike needs.

Traction

Your tires are the only part of the bike that should be in contact with the ground when you ride. If your tires are worn, cracking, missing treads or the treads are peeling off then it is a good idea to put on new tires. Pushing a dirt bike with a flat back to camp is a bad time. When riding dirt the earth is always moving underneath your tires so it’s a good idea to have plenty of traction. If you are unsure about which tires to put on your bike give us a call and we will go over the differences in tires with you. Also, check your tire pressure and make sure your tubes are holding air. Whenever you change your tires always put in a new tube and check your rim band. You may also need a rim lock. We recommend using a heavy duty tube over a regular tube.

Controls

You’re going to want to make sure your controls work as well. Pull your levers and make sure they pull smoothly. If not, the cables may need to be lubricated or replaced. A lot of new bikes have hydraulic systems. Make sure you’ve got fluid in these systems before you go. If you check your brakes and they seem soft then it probably means you need to add or replace brake fluid. Brake fluid heats up and cools down when you ride. This thermal change breaks down brake fluid. Brake fluid lasts an average of 6 months before it begins to go bad. Check your brake fluid levels as well. This is also true for street bikes. Going fast is a lot more fun if you know you can stop when you want to. While your checking your brakes make sure you have a look at the brake pads as well.

Drive

In our experience most riders over look good chain maintenance. Cleaning, lubricating and adjusting your chain will help your bike run more efficiently. It will help to keep your sprockets in good shape as well. At the very least, apply chain lube to your chain before every ride. If you clean your bike after every ride don’t forget to use some chain cleaner on your chain and sprockets. If your chain is rusty and has a bunch of kinks in it then it’s time to replace your chain and sprockets. It’s always a good idea to change your front and rear sprockets each time you put on a new chain. You can lose up to 20% power delivery with a poorly adjusted chain.

Spark arrestors

You’re going to need one to ride most places in California. Modern bikes and exhaust systems are so much better than the old days that running a spark arrestor full time offroad won’t hurt the performance of the bike nearly as much as legend may have it. If you do have an older bike then you may want to invest a little money in a new pipe with a spark arrestor. It will probably help the performance of your bike a both low and high speeds and more importantly it’ll make your bike sound cool!

Batteries

So maybe your bike has a battery and it’s been on a charger or tender for the last 3 months. That doesn't mean your battery will be charged. Check it early before you go just in case you need to replace it. Lithium Ion batteries are a great replacement battery for dirt bikes and they save a lot of weight as well.

Helmets

How old is your helmet? If you don’t know the answer to that you can check under the padding and there should be a date the helmet was created. If it’s more than 5 years old it’s time to replace your helmet. The Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) liner in helmets break down over time. This means if your helmet is more than 5 years old, when you need it to work for you it will be about as useful as wearing a styrofoam cooler on your head. That vintage helmet you picked up  might look cool but leave it on the shelf at home. Maybe your helmet isn’t too old but you ‘re wondering if it’s still in good condition. Look under the liner and check for white cracks. Sometimes the inside of helmets are painted black to make it easier to identify if a helmet is no longer safe. If you see some cracks in your EPS liner it’s probably time to change your helmet. In the picture below there is a small crack in the EPS liner near the front part of the helmet. This helmet is no longer safe to wear.

babes in the dirt

Buying a new helmet? New helmets should fit snug but not tight. Your cheeks should feel squished like you couldn’t chew gum without tearing up the insides of your mouth. Over time this eases as the helmet padding packs in a bit. When you go to try on a new helmet, wear it around the store for at least 5 minutes to make sure the shape of the helmet won’t give you any headaches. If it doesn’t make it 5 or 10 minutes in a shop it won’t last an hour or more out in the dirt. Different brands have different shell shapes and many of the top brands have removable padding that you can swap out for different thicknesses to get just the right fit.

If you are buying a new helmet get the best you can afford. It’s your head and it’s worth way more than the cost of a cheap helmet. Stick with brands that you’ve heard of. Working in a motorcycle shop we hear horror stories all the time, please get yourself a good helmet!

One more thing on helmets, never throw them around or let heavy objects rest on top of them. Take care of your helmet so it can take care of you.

Bike prep checklist

  1. Check running condition

  2. Spark plug

  3. Air filter

  4. Tires

  5. Tubes

  6. Rim strips

  7. Rim lock

  8. Levers

  9. Cables

  10. Brake fluid

  11. Brake pads

  12. Chain

  13. Sprockets

  14. Oil level

  15. Oil filter

  16. Spark arrestor

  17. Battery

  18. Grips

Thousand Oaks Powersports

1250 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd

Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

805-497-3765

www.thousandoakspowersports.com

@topowersports

photo by Genevieve Davis

photo by Genevieve Davis









 

Pushing Limits | My Experience on a Husqvarna at Babes in the Dirt 4

It's not everyday you have the opportunity to try out a brand new Husqvarna dirt bike. Coming from a street background, dirt is still very new to me. You'd think if you had years of experience on the road, dirt would be  breeze but its not. It takes discipline and courage to get better at riding off-road and every time I've had the chance to ride a Husqvarna, I always walk away a more confident rider but this year, I actually shocked myself...

Anya about to take me on some of the green routes behind camp. I like to take my time, get used to the machine, and no one is more accommodating than my road dog Anya 

Anya about to take me on some of the green routes behind camp. I like to take my time, get used to the machine, and no one is more accommodating than my road dog Anya 

With the event space changing, I was challenged to try new things. I'd never been on a mini track. Quail Canyon had 2 on the premises and after a few rips up and down the hill side getting used to the Husqvarna, I felt ready to try it. Turns out this track was the perfect area to practice my cornering. The track was wide, offered tons of visibility, and had a few opportunities to get a tiny bit of air. After 20+ times around the loop, I wanted to step it up. 

Ripping it up on the mini track! Cornering was something I needed work on. This track helped me improve my skills! With every loop, I learned so much on the Husqvarna. 

Ripping it up on the mini track! Cornering was something I needed work on. This track helped me improve my skills! With every loop, I learned so much on the Husqvarna. 

In the past I never would have hit the big track as most tracks have tons of fast as hell riders and for me to try and weasel my way in woud have caused carnage. Having the track groomed and all to ourselves only happens at Babes in the Dirt so I knew it was now or never. With a heightened confidence and a pep talk, I hit the big track on the 250.

You could not get me off that track. I stayed on it until my body couldn't take it anymore. There was another girl out there cheering me on the entire time (I don't know who she was but if she is reading this, it meant the world to me). The bike cut into the dirt like no other and soon I found myself going faster and faster. The thrill was like nothing I had ever felt before and the the time I spent out there seemed like a flash. To be on that bike, on that track, in that moment was pure bliss. 

Anya telling me I slayed it! 

Anya telling me I slayed it! 

That night I couldn't stop talking about my experience on the bike and hitting the track. I was so proud that I pushed my limits and hearing that others did the same while demoing the Husqvarna fleet made me smile until my face hurt. Thank you again to the entire Husqvarna team for providing these incredible machines for us during Babes in the Dirt 4. You made hundreds of ladies incredibly stoked and helped me personally push myself further than I thought possible. 

Going from Street to Dirt? 5 Tips for Riding Dirt by Kelly McCaughey, Creator of the Ladies East Coast Dirt Bike Event Over and Out

"I’m super stoked for anyone who wants to try riding dirt for the first time or take off-road riding to the next level, because riding is as rewarding as it is challenging, both physically and mentally. There’s a lot to learn, and to keep learning for many years to come" - Kelly McCaughey | Creator of the Ladies East Coast Dirt Bike Event Over and Out 

Babes in the Dirt

Getting started or making progress can be tough if you’re not set up for success with the right information and guidance.  So, whether you are a street rider trying dirt for the first time, or new rider altogether, these tips should help you understand a little more of what to expect, and what to do, as you set your sights off-road.

1. Start Small

I think one of the biggest mistakes newer riders make is to start riding on a bike that is way too big for them.  In street riding, as riders gain experience and confidence, they may seek to increase engine size because that affords them more stability and comfort at higher speeds for longer distances.

When making the switch to off-road, many riders think this street experience translates to dirt, but it doesn’t.  So, regardless of what cc engine you’re riding on the highway you should always start small with a bike you can handle confidently.  There is so much that even smaller bikes can do, so don’t underestimate them.

In truth, riding a smaller bike doesn’t make everything easier. Many things are harder on a small bike, but you can seriously benefit from that!  The wheels may be smaller, the suspension leaner – and all that jostling around can do a lot to help you develop core muscles and reactions to sudden movements that would otherwise throw you off.

2. Invest in Gear, practice ATGATT

What’s ATGATT? All The Gear, All The Time. Trust me, because I’m one of the many people who learned this the hard way.  And look, even if YOU do everything right, you’re riding in nature so there are variables beyond your control. Slippery rocks, roots, sand, you name it. As they say, “it’s not IF you fall, it’s when.”  So gear up!

First, invest in a decent dirt helmet.  Dirt helmets and street helmets are different. They are made from different materials, and they are tested differently.  Dirt gear companies will also offer different levels of helmets, with the levels being in direct relation to the materials, weight and technical features.  If you’re planning on riding a lot, and you like your brain, I say spring for a decent level helmet.

Other types of gear include: knee and elbow pads or braces, neck braces, chest protectors and back protectors. 

My favorite piece of gear is the Fox Titan vest. It covers shoulders, elbows, chest and has full back coverage. It’s also connected with mesh, so on hot days I can layer it over a tank top, and on cold days I can layer it under a riding jacket.  I’ve taken some serious spills in this thing and walked away un-bruised and un-broken.

Babes in the Dirt

3. Learn the Fundamentals

In any and every sport, the fundamentals of form are crucial! Form comes first, speed comes later.  There are a ton of different techniques you can and should practice, including these basics:

Body position:  A lot of new riders sit too far back on a dirt bike. You should be seated or standing directly above the pivot point of the bike (basically the center engine and foot-peg area).  Your head should be just over the handlebars, elbows up and out.

Babes in the Dirt

Leg and foot positions: Squeezing with your knees helps steady your body to the bike, supporting your body weight with your legs rather than your arms. You want to keep weight and tension off your arms to avoid getting arm pump and to keep the center of gravity low.

When standing (which you should be as much as possible) you want to be on the balls of your feet so you are more at-the-ready to make different movements. It’s good practice to place your bike on a bike stand, stand on the pegs and practice shifting your feet on and off the brake and clutch back to the balls of the feet to build muscle memory. 

Babes in the Dirt

I personally don’t ride in sand too much, and upon my first visit to Babes In The Dirt I was advised by my own crew to maintain the grip in my knees, keep the front end light and keep on the throttle. Sure enough those simple tips made adapting to the sand that much easier.

4. Take Advantage of Education

Again, there is so much to learn when it comes to riding dirt and that learning curve can extend for decades depending on what you’re riding and where! A lot of this information that I’m relaying to you today has come to me from people who have coached me, but also from training resources, manuals, magazines and more.

Think for a second about the world’s best Motocross racers. We’re talking about a relatively small group of exceptional athletes out of millions of people in this world, and they still have trainers.  They’re not out there just riding; they’re training, and getting feedback and assessment from coaches and training experts. 

Babes in the Dirt

So, take advantage of lessons, classes and instruction from experienced riders and trainers.

5.  Get that PMA!

Positive Mental Attitude is something that can change your life, and I believe the reason I meet so many great people through off-road riding is because they all understand and subscribe to this general practice of PMA. 

With street riding you can relax somewhat and just cruise. And yes you can do that on dirt, but it’s more likely that you’ll be focused on the challenges that are right in front of you.

Riding is for sure a mental game, possibly even more than a physical one.  Top riders get special training for mental toughness and resilience, and confidence is something that is essential to becoming a better rider.

I still get butterflies in my stomach every time I go riding, but I’ve also learned that riding is the time to cast doubts aside, focus on myself and my ride, and dig deep for that part of my brain that doesn’t have time or energy to waste on fear. 

Written by Kelly McCaughey Creator of Over and Out, a east coast off-road experience for women taking place June 22-24th in Hancock NY . Click HERE for all details. 

Credit where credit is due: I get most of my knowledge and insight from my husband, Dan Sternaimolo, who has been obsessed with motocross for over 40 years and has taught me a lot but also done me the wonderful favor of encouraging me to read and watch training materials by Gary Semics. 

Kelly will be at Babes in the Dirt 4 with a bunch of east coast ladies in tow! Make sure to say hello and feel free to ask her for more tips and tricks on riding dirt.