Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NETRA Spring Challenge 2014: Suspension Upgrades and Moto Ladies to the Rescue!

MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Enemy conifers at 12:00!

So the NETRA Spring Challenge happened and I lived to tell about it, despite what this screencap from my GoPro footage might suggest. (I think my skidplate took the brunt of the impact with that tree for me.) My performance was markedly better than last year, although the course was less of a nightmare. I am extremely grateful to the folks at Enduro Spec for my recent suspension revalve, the details of which are recorded in this month's issue of Trail Rider (I also have a little write-up on the Challenge in there on the back page). Having suspension that doesn't try to jolt me off the bike every time I hit a rock is pretty life-changing!

The water crossings went well for me this year.
Photo credit: Lynn Hollis

The downside of all this improvement and professionalism is of course that now I have much less to bench race about on this blog. Unlike last year, I didn't get stranded in a boulder field filled with waist-deep mud for half an hour, I didn't get my foot sucked into my own rear spokes and have to be pried loose by a team of spectators, I didn't crash while being passed by somebody and get dragged down the track for 25 yards with my elbow guard caught on the guy's footpeg... I mean, thank God. There's something to be said for not rewriting Homer's Odyssey every time I get on the bike, even if it does occasionally leave me at a loss for stories. One of these days I'll post the six-page account of my boyfriend's knee injury from last year, just to drive home the point that sometimes no news is good news. (This was Lovey's first NETRA race since the incident, by the way. His knee still hurts and he's still 33% faster than me lap by lap.)

As you might expect, then, the GoPro footage from my race is really boring (and slow) except for that one crash. It does, however, reveal that I talk to myself while I'm riding--a LOT. It is vaguely interesting from a psychological standpoint to listen to the deterioration of what comes out of my mouth. On lap one, it is upbeat self-help stuff--keep your elbows up, stand up going over these rocks, etc. By lap two, it is mostly swears; by lap three, even four-letter words have become too much for my brain to handle and my commentary is mostly screams of rage. This is what Helmet Head syndrome does to me, and why everyone should be grateful that I am slow. If I were fast, I'd probably run people off the track left and right, not out of malice but just out of brainless competitive instinct. Thus, I am always amazed when I bin it 80 minutes into the race and someone still has the humanity to stop and help me. Or even eight minutes into the race, as in the example below:

As usual, I walked away from this year's Challenge with was a renewed appreciation for the awesomeness of moto people, and moto women in particular. There were probably 100 dudes to every lady in the Novice race, so what are the odds that the person who eventually lifted my bike off my legs was a girl? Pretty good, actually, if experience goes for anything. Motorcycle racing is a man's man's man's man's world, as James Brown observed, so moto gals tend to look out for each other. I really need to curb the Helmet Head and get on board with this--it's only right. Let that be my New Season's Resolution. If any women out there are undecided about whether to race, seriously, you should do it. It's a blast, and I promise, we've got your back!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Winter Resume

Hello, internet! It's been a while since I've written anything here, for the obvious reason that the snow has been waist-deep out there for the last month and--worse--I am an engineering student. Nonetheless, here's a brief overview of what little seat time I've managed to score since the last update.

1. I got new boots! 

Out with the old...

In with the new! That's the new on the right, below. If you couldn't tell. In which case, I recommend immediate corrective vision surgery. (P.S. Don't dis the flannel-lined pants. They belong to my boyfriend, anyway.)

The new Gaerne's are SWEET--or at least they became sweet after I put some cushy Dr. Scholl's in them. Thanks for the great birthday present, Mom!

2. I went hooning on corduroy, thanks to an off-road driving instructor friend.

Every time I see a ski slope from the highway, I kind of want to go down it on a dirtbike, because I am so terrible at skiing that I would probably crash less that way. Don't get excited, that didn't happen--but I did get to ride on packed powder at a ski resort. My boyfriend and I were sitting in a diner about a month ago, eating breakfast, when Greg gets a text from his friend Rees. "I'm in the Snowcat", it read. "Bring your bikes." Enough said.

An hour later, we were testing our traction on wide Jeep roads criss-crossed with snow ruts. The snow was deep and the grip was dubious, so you had to hold 4th or 5th gear wide open if you wanted to A) get anywhere and B) get there shiny side up. Whenever the ruts got too deep to be fun, Rees brought the Snowcat around to fill them in. Good times.

3. Oh my God, am I at Daytona Supercross?!

Yep. DEM RUTS. Also, Ryan Dungey almost ran me over with his pedalbike, no joke.

Q: Why didn't you take any pictures of the RACE?
A: LOOK, MA...


5. What else did you do in Florida?

1. Bought bikes at Walmart

2. Stuff.


4. Margaritas.

6. I encountered my first-ever motocross track and lived to tell about it.


This was at the first round of the Pilgrim Sands Trail Riders short course series, featuring two 40-minute motos of combined MX track and woods. It was a BLAST, well worth the four-hour drive! I hit all the jumps, bottomed out my suspension, took a couple good diggers in the fast-flowing but progressively beat-to-hell woods loop, and got to watch tiny children on 85's lap me twice and do outrageous whips off the tabletops. And I got second place in the Women's class. Out of four. Still, the woman who got first was WAY ahead of me. I should make it my goal to keep up with her in NETRA by the end of this season. #7009, I am coming for you! ...Very, very slowly.

Also, the PSTR short course was Lovey's first race since he shattered his kneecap racing in the Catskills last May. So far, so good--next up, back to NETRA!

That's about it for the winter, except for that great day of trail riding that has already been recounted in Trail Rider Magazine. Oh, and there was that ill-advised outing in February when we tried to ride at our home track and everyone's bike got stuck up to the seat on the logging road before we got to the track at all. I just left mine there and let Greg and his friend haul it out. I wasn't being a bitch, either--I honestly couldn't budge the damn thing. But let's not dwell on that. 

Spring season is coming soon--to be exact, it's coming this Sunday with the NETRA Spring Challenge. That was my first-ever NETRA race last year, so I'm looking forward to seeing how I've progressed. Tally-ho!