This is a story about how riding trail bikes is not really designed for those of us who are size challenged – particularly for those of us who are…let’s say “petite”! Okay so I’m built more suited to being a jockey – 5 foot nothing, weighing in around 50kg and not particularly strong.
My first bike was a KLX125, which was a lovely little bike; great to learn on but not road registerable and therefore illegal to ride anywhere except private property and designated ORV areas. So we started the hunt for something more suitable:
Seat height around 850mm
Weight – as little as possible
Electric start – preferable
Road registerable – mandatory
In 2005, for 12 months only, Yamaha sold a road registerable TTR125 but they were pretty scarce and sold mostly in the Eastern States. We found one in Sydney and bought it sight unseen and had it shipped over. I loved this bike – very confidence building as both feet were firmly on the ground and it did everything I wanted, even a couple of 2 day West Coast Safari rides.
But as my experience grew I started to out grow the bike – I wanted more power and better brakes, suspension etc…so we were back to square one. No road registerable, enduro bikes were low enough or light enough. If I couldn’t get both feet on the ground, I needed a lighter bike.
Eventually we decided on the KTM200 – the lightest bike of this type we could find weighing in at 98kg, but my feet were miles away from the ground. Sander and his guys at Bunbury KTM came to the rescue with a plan which shaved an impressive 110mm off the height. This included:
Dropping the forks through the triple clamp as far as possible
Revalving the shock and fitting a spacer to reduce seat height
New shorter, softer spring
KTM low seat
Shorter motard side stand
The 2-stroke has taken a fair bit to get used to, as has the lots of extra power and I can only get one foot down and what I wouldn’t do for an electric start! But I love the fun of this bike, it doesn’t require me to ride it on the power band all the time (as long as someone takes it for a blast every now and then to clear it out) and the handling is amazing compared to the TTR.
But why do we have to go to all this effort to get a suitable bike – surely there is a big enough market of smaller/novice riders who still want a decent bike?? The TTR-230 has been the only bike in this market, but it is very heavy and from all accounts doesn’t handle well (and Yamaha have recently stopped selling a road registerable version).
So to all the bike manufacturers out there – us small female riders want a <100kg, <900mm, 250 4-stroke, with an electric start that is ADR compliant and capable of being road registered – now is that too much to ask???
It's nearly 24 hours since Marco Simoncelli's tragic passing and like Stoner, Rossi and all Marco's competitors as well as GP fans around the world I feel devastated and sick in the stomach.
Marco was a champion human being. God bless you Marco and RIP.
There is no doubt as a result of Marco's death the GP community will come together to mourn, examine, comfort, extol, improve and remember a great rider and human being. Marco's family and close friends will be loved and supported by this great community. Teams, race organisers and fans will seek to make improvements, increase safety and ensure Marco's life is remembered long after he is gone.
As I think about Marco, I also think of the West Australians who have had their lives tragically cut short as a result of accidents on trail or quad bikes this year (let alone the last 10 years). As a member of the WA riding community I find myself wondering what have I done to mourn, examine, comfort, extol, improve and remember these great people and part of my community. The answer I am very sorry to say is nowhere near enough!
Surely as part of the riding community I can do something to ensure these riders are remembered whether by improvements to the sport, increased safety, being accountable to riding colleagues, staying in touch with the families left behind.
RTRA represents the recreational riding community. Support us support you.
I really enjoy getting away trail riding and camping for a weekend with family and friends. This brings our family together in a great environment for communication between parents and kids. No computer games, no TV, no phones, just fresh air and plenty of physical activity. A side benefit of riding is it keeps us fit and healthy. Our kids have learned how to light a fire, cook, camp, and many other life skills on these weekends, all in a responsible, environmentally friendly manner. They were a little put out when we had to clean up someone else’s rubbish near our campsite, but they now realise that it’s important to take any rubbish home with you, even if it’s not yours.
Riding with friends is always great fun, and entertaining, especially if we have access to some challenging terrain. We are all competitive, but we all help each other work on improving our riding skills. There is hardly a weekend riding where I don’t learn something new.
Off road touring is a fantastic way to see out of the way places in the bush. One of our best rides was from Pinjarra to Nannup and back, with as little bitumen as possible. We’ve seen parts of the Southwest that most people don’t even know exist. My daughter couldn’t believe “Fish Ladder Falls” when she saw it. That alone made the weekend worthwhile. Much better than a classroom.
I guess I can summarise what I really enjoy down to two things. I like the physical and mental challenge of riding over difficult terrain, and I love getting away with my family and friends spending a weekend in the bush.
I rode at Gnangarra once in about 1979 I think. I was there for about half an hour and realised that this is more dangerous that drink driving, taking drugs, smoking, eating razor blades, and playing Russian roulette all at the same time. I will never ride there again while this area is totally uncontrolled and downright dangerous. Also, even if the area was controlled and safe, the terrain offers no challenges for experienced riders, but is not suitable for beginners. Lancelin at least offers something different with the dunes, but after about an hour I’ve had enough of that. It’s much more enjoyable to ride the tracks up to Cervantes or Jurien Bay and back.
What is my wish list? Where do I start?
• Firstly riding around in circles does not interest me at all.
• Tracks need to be marked, and directional.
• New areas need to be allocated to reduce the number of riders in one place at one time, therefore reducing the risk of accidents, and reducing the impact to the area.
• Trails to and from destinations need to be established, similar to the Bibbulmun and Munda Biddi trails. I’d love to be able to take a week off work and ride from Pinjarra to Albany and back. Or ride a different section each weekend. Obviously this would be suitable for registered bikes only. Introducing an “Off Road Rego” scheme such as the one in operation in Victoria would solve that problem.
• At a very minimum, there needs to be more areas for off road motorcycle use.
• Erosion can be a problem if an area is misused or over used. Again the more areas there are to ride, the less impact riders will have on these areas. If you herd every rider into a 10-acre paddock, it will be a dust bowl in a day. The construction of marked trails would keep riders away from delicate areas.
• Rangers have stopped me on a couple of occasions, but after a vehicle and registration check there was no problem. I have no problem with rangers doing their job and ensuring everyone obeys the rules. These are the same guys who stop idiots lighting fires during fire bans and making my weekend in the bush safer and more enjoyable.
• I don’t want a separate area for kids, I want to be able to ride with them and help them improve their riding skills. Maybe a parents-and-kids trail?
• Provide funding to the same level as football, netball, basketball etc to be used to provide a range of off road trails throughout the state.
• Introduce a “Recreational Rego” scheme. The income from this, combined with other rates, taxes, and GST generated by riders and the motorcycle industry in WA would more than cover the set up and maintenance of a fantastic trail system.
• The last two things combined would remove most of the current problems in residential areas.
The final thing on my “wish list” would be a “junior motorcycle license” so kids could ride legally while in the company of their parents. The long term flow on benefit would be when they turn 17 they will already have vehicle skills in difficult conditions making them safer drivers.”
After the discussion in relation to what the ideal ride is I have indeed participated in a ride that could be classed as an ideal adventure.
Earlier this year a group of my riding brethren and myself ventured to the Garden state of Victoria to find out what it was like to do an adventure such as The SEVEN DEADLY SINS.
Nine able-bodied souls ventured to Bairnsdale in Victoria, bikes in tow, to do a ride through the exact country that the publicised rides goes through. Albeit on our own “without the Guide”. One of the motley crew was a local boy who had boasted that the country in the Victorian highland is to be experienced as it is like no other in Australia and a total contrast to what we experience in WA.
Well the prep was done, the day had come, so we set of to ride the best seven days of riding I have ever been part of.
There are hills that go to the sky, rock outcrops that have boulders the size of bowling balls, creeks that never forgive, rain that is colder that the ice on the ground, rear wheel traction that allows you to continue beyond your fitness levels and beer that tastes better after being in the saddle for 8-10 hours (more on that in a later story.)
For seven days our band of merry men and the backup driver traversed the high country of Victoria's eastern ranges, up and down the many mountain ranges, jumping the endless amount of drainage ditch and /contour banks, in and out of rivers and streams following the trails provided by the Victorian government for the benefit of its off road community. Single trails, forestry roads, fire breaks and (if there was no other way) on the black top to the next access point to the off road unlimited adventure trail. We travelling a minimum of 250-300 km a day in the bush and pulled up at predetermined lodgings for the night.
The roads and trails are marked well and the need to navigate your way is kept to a minimum. Great scenery to be had at some unreal vantage points, with need for the oxygen bottle only required on the ski slopes.
If you ever get the chance to ride the High country of Victoria.. take it!
At the library a couple of weeks ago ... yes, they still do exist ... I was browsing through a Two Wheels magazine. The editor Jeremy Bowdler was dispensing his wisdom of 25 years of motorcycling. One tip was "spend half of your budget on developing yourself as a rider". The following week Cyril Depres was being interviewed after a stage of the Australian Safari "I just treated today as a training day and took it easy".
Good riders I've ridden with, well up to the first corner when they disappear, typically have a background in competition - be it enduro, motocross or trials.
I think there's a pattern forming here in the form of training and practice.
That got me thinking - even as a humble trailrider - how much time and budget do I devote to training and practice?
To be honest, I am very good or at the risk of sounding arrogant, an expert .... at finding excuses not to practice, no time, no supercross track in my backyard; or to avail of some training, no time, too expensive.
Then out on trails I wonder why I'm crap at [insert any riding skill here].
Maybe Jeremy, Cyril and the rest are on to something?
Time to stop making excuses and do some practice, get some training then maybe I won't go over the bars attempting to traverse the first log (read: twig) I meet on the trails.
I hear the infamous Wattsy is running a course at the West Coast Trailbike Park at Kirup in November. I'd love to go but ...