This is a really hard thing to write about. I’ve always taken great pride in the fact that I’ve lived a life complete with no regrets. Recently, current reflection has proven that I’ve been living a lie. I DO have regrets and I can’t put into words how nearly devastating this is. Even worse is the fact that all of my regrets involve dirt biking! How can this be? Well, continued reflection has proven that (on rare occasions) I’m not all that bright. I realize that this comes as no surprise to the All-OffRoad crew — in fact we laugh, on a regular basis, about the secrets I’m about to share.
My first regrets are in regards to an episode in the Saline Valley. This was my first experience with the great California desert. We had had a great weekend of riding, and I was on my XL600 dual-sport. On our last day we decided to go for a “quick” ride up the hills to check out a mine. Being completely unfamiliar with the area we had agreed that we’d take the right fork (or was it the left?) at every intersection we crossed. As we headed into the hills, the trail had gotten steeper and steeper. I had fallen behind Bryce and Brad and was attempting a particularly nasty, rocky, rutted section of hill. My third or fourth attempt resulted in a rear flat tire. I coaxed the behemoth bike to the bottom of the hill and sat waiting. Not having a watch, I seemed to have waited for hours – probably only 20 minutes. I didn’t have a patch kit or an extra tube so I decided to ride slowly back to camp. I was very careful to turn left (or was it right?) at every intersection. I found riding so slowly very disorienting, and not having a watch and not resetting, or checking, my odometer before leaving camp compounded the problem. I rode for quite some time crossing hill after hill, all looking the same. There was no sign of camp. After a couple hours I began taking inventory of my water supply, my stash of granola bars, and my gas. Not to mention the fact that my rear tire was nothing more than a shredded carcass. All sorts of scary thoughts began racing through my mind as I rolled though the desert beeping my squeaky little horn, praying someone would hear.
Meanwhile Bryce and Brad were convinced I went off a cliff and were sweeping a hill side on foot, looking for my mangled body. I began riding faster and faster. 45-50 mph was the best I could do on what by this point was mostly just my rear rim. After about four hours I finally came rolling into camp. Shortly after that Bryce and Brad showed up as well. After about 20 minutes of them yelling at me for taking off alone and me yelling at them for leaving me behind, we loaded up and headed home. Let’s see, how many regrets can I pull out this little experience?
- Not taking a watch.
- Not resetting or even looking at my odometer before leaving.
- Not packing tools or parts to deal with a flat.
- Not paying enough attention on the ride to see/remember all of the turns.
- Not waiting longer when I got the flat.
- Taking off alone in an unfamiliar area.
- I’m sure there are more, but I can’t bear to think about it.
Moving to the next experience full of regrets… We were preparing to go to Baja in a couple of weeks and Brad and I wanted to go on a warm-up trip. We planned to go towards Barstow to Cadiz. We planned to leave Friday night after work. I spent most of Thursday night getting ready and drinking some beer. About midnight (several beers into the evening) I decided I needed to do an oil/filter change on my XL This went smoothly and I was ready to go. We had a great weekend of riding. On our last ride of the weekend we ended up dropping into a dry lake bed (someplace I’m now sure we shouldn’t have been). We both jumped into it in 5th gear with the throttle tapped. I have rarely felt such deceleration that didn’t involve a head-on collision with a solid object. After down-shifting to 3rd we were able to hold a close to constant speed. Looking down we saw that we were almost buried up to our axles and there was no turning back. We rode for at least a half mile like this before exploding out the other side hitting a 3-foot-high, nearly vertical face (not something to be taken lightly on an XL600). My engine was so hot that I was afraid to slow down. We rode back to camp and headed home. A week or so later we headed down to Baja for a week. The whole time I had to continually tighten my valves. This was very unusual for this bike. After a series of unrelated problems (a fouled plug and a rusted coil wire) that occurred about 45 miles from camp, I finally got the bike started and raced back. I rode like I’d never ridden before — full throttle most of the way, using the occasional cactus as a berm. Though he’d never admit it, I’m convinced Bryce even had a hard time keeping up. Upon returning to camp, my valves were louder than ever before, and we determined that I had worn through the hard facing on my cam.
I was pretty annoyed by this and took the bike back to the dealer that I had purchased it from. I had also purchased an extended warranty that was still, barely, in effect. Several hours later I got a call from the dealer asking who changed the oil last. My annoyed response was “I did, SO?” He then informed me that I had installed the oil filter backwards. This had plugged the oil feed to the head as well as punching a hole in the back of the case — leaving me with absolutely no oil pressure. Oh, that poor bike. After several months of buying replacement parts a piece at a time I was picking up the last batch. I was now over $1600 into replacing everything but the cases and the tranny. As I was standing at the parts counter I overheard a guy that was picking up a brand new motor for his 600 that cost him about $1300.
I won’t even go into counting these regrets. Please read carefully and never change your oil at midnight when you’re drunk. By the way, I stopped counting at five . . .
The final episode can be found in my Baja 1997 Trip Report. It was yet another of the flat tire episodes, finishing in an endo. I’m getting quite a reputation that has to do with flats . .