Practice makes perfect – I think not…
OK, as a dirt rider I suck. Well maybe “suck” is too strong of word. After all, I’m usually pretty hard on myself. Lame may be more appropriate. I’m certainly not fast. OK, so how’s “technically competent but slow” sound? Pretty pathetic, huh?
Over the past several years, due to having kids, buying a house, and increased responsibilities at work, my seat time has diminished considerably. In 1998, aside from a couple of half-day rides at a local county park, I went riding twice. The first was a ride in Rasor Valley and the second was to Ocotillo Wells. By the time I had gotten to this point of only riding twice a year I was very frustrated. As much as I hate to say it, I wasn’t having fun. I had gotten fat and out of shape. A three-day trip was thoroughly exhausting. This combined with problems with my RMX had me about ready to give it up altogether. On our 1997 annual Rubicon ride I rode for about an hour the first day. During that time my RMX wouldn’t idle at all (a long-standing problem that’s finally been fixed). I spent the rest of the long weekend sitting at camp, drinking beer, eating chips and either reading or playing solitaire. It was actually a nice vacation but I was very bitter about not being able to ride.
With this ongoing lack of riding, my riding skills also diminished. Over time I forgot everything I knew. Each time I got on the bike I needed to learn to ride all over again. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. Now, I’m really slow. But things are looking up! I have always refused to make any type of New Year’s resolution, however, I have decided to take my dirt bikes much more seriously. In fact if all goes well, I may even enter my first race this year.
Here in the Bay Area we have a couple of places to ride that are within about an hour’s drive. These are the Santa Clara County Motorcycle Park (commonly known as Metcalf) and the Hollister Hills State ORV Park. I have always had very little interest in either of these places. They are small and crowded and never caught my interest. In fact I used to scoff at people that wasted their time at these parks. They are just not the types of places were adventures are made.
Things have recently changed. I’ve been trying to go to one of those two places for a “half-day” ride every weekend since the beginning of the year. While I haven’t made it every weekend I have made it several weekends so far. As a result, I’m slowly getting better at riding, but more importantly I’m starting to have fun again. In the past most of our rides were multi-day adventure trips. My thoughts were always on things like who’ll run out of gas first, will we get back before dark, where will we get food, will all of the bikes survive, and on and on — I never had time to worry about improving my skills or getting faster. On these half-day rides, there are no worries. I don’t have to keep up with anyone and I can concentrate on improving my skills and gradually getting faster.
It seems to be working. While the improvement is small, I can certainly notice it. In fact I’m starting to really feel good about it. I’m not as good or as fast as I used to be, and I don’t think practice alone will get me there. I’m too old, fat and out of shape. All the practice in the world won’t fix those things, but it certainly isn’t contributing to them . . .