Roadmap for a new rider?

Discussion in 'Pacific Northwet - Where it's green. And wet.' started by Chickenmunga, Aug 1, 2014.

  1. Chickenmunga

    Chickenmunga Adventurer

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    Hello all, I'm a new rider on a '13 WR250R. I bought the bike on July 5th, and as of this posting, I've ridden slightly over 100 miles. Other than the PSSOR Intro to Offroad and the BRC, that's my total exposure on two wheels! I'm Breaking into the scene as wet and green as they come!

    Before this forum, I joined another forum with an active local community where I hoped to get my learn on. However, it's more of a superbike/street scene and I'm feeling the proverbial round peg to their square hole.

    If there's a forum superhero out there, I'd like to get a roadmap of what to do in terms of gear, classes, practicing on my own, difficulty progression in rides (i.e., parking lot > drive to work > a sample weekend ride on google maps > ?), groups to join, and so on.

    Would this book cover everything, or do you recommend a different one?

    I know I'm asking a lot, but I'm facing two issues:

    1. I've been gearing up for the street, and it hasn't been a cheap thing to do. I believe in having the right stuff without needing the perfect stuff, but I'm worried about becoming a 'gear whore'. I'm thinking I need a separate dirt helmet and maybe something other than my street coat, but wondering where the line is on going overboard?
    2. I also belong to a 4x4 small adventure-oriented truck club. In two weeks, we will drive the WABDR starting in Packwood. This is going to be pretty ho-hum in my truck, but probably over-the-top for a first big outing on the bike, so I better tuck my tail and wait to bike it another time. We also have an annual meet in Tillamook State Forest in late June, and two of the guys that are seasoned motocrossers want to see me join them. I'd like to figure out how to get 'ready' so I can say yes.

    EDIT: Below is a summary of what I've learned, for quick reading


    First Things First


    • Take offroad courses first. Trying to generalize, I would do the following order:
      • Intro to offroad: this style of class should be for people who have never touched a bike, and over the course of the class, you will have learned enough basic skills to be ready for the beginner on-road course. I suggest that even if you only want to ride a Gold Wing, this class will begin giving you a mastery that comes slowly to an on-road-only student. Bumps on the ground, throwing bike weight around, going creepingly slow... it will all apply and be easy once it comes to take a test for your license later on.
      • Offroad 101 style course: even though you could take the beginner on-road course now, I would still suggest taking this beforehand. Now that things are no longer an introduction, this course reinforces your skills and makes you prepared for a great deal of road conditions, body posture, and speed control.
      • Beginner on-road course with testing to get street licensed: This course will feel stressful because there's a test, but if you've taken at least one offroad course, the pressure really comes down, and now you only have to pay attention to road rules, refinement in some body posture, and staying in some painted lines.
    • Have a way to get your bike home. Without going into a long story, I managed to hurt myself during a training course, and I had not pre-planned a way to get my bike home while I went to the hospital. I lucked out and found someone who could ride it home. Next time I will either
      • have ramps and a truck
      • have a hitch mount carrier and a tow rig
      • be able to use or rent a trailer, and have a tow rig
      • have a friend on standby who can drive the 'tow rig' to come get me!
      • have a motorcycle friend who can come ride the bike home
    • Going slower is harder than going faster. If you have nothing better to do, go out and do the sharpest corners you can at the slowest speeds you can. It's probably the BEST thing you can do.
    • Before logging miles, learn how to maintain your chain Chain cleaning is needed every 300 miles, or after a ride when moisture contacts your bike. It's an easy process, but there's some tools you need (do you have a bike stand?) and chemicals to get. At every 300 miles, you need to check chain tension. This can be intimidating, so spend a lot of time with YouTube. There's some really bad info, and some really good info. The two tools I use is a ruler with 1/64ths measurements (which is overkill), which I place on the swingarm to check chain tension, and a set of digital calipers, which I use to check rear wheel alignment. There's better tools, but these were probably $20-$30 total.

    Gear for You


    • Upgrade in order of what makes you comfortable and safe. Being able to have correct posture, survive a fall, and withstand riding for prolonged amounts of time is your primary concern.
    • You may have more than one protective jacket: I have an Olympia Airglide jacket, and even with it being partially mesh, it gets hot as blazes in the dirt going slow. It also gets really dirty, so if you believe in hi-viz, it starts turning brown! If you are on an adventure trip, you might have to compromise, but if you are capable of bringing more than one jacket, having purpose-built gear can be a godsend. Conversely, a plastic padded offroad jersey is going to explode in a pile of fail and agony when it comes to pavement.
    • You will have more than one pair of gloves. I already have two.
    • You will most likely have more than one helmet. A road helmet is freaking hot in the dirt.
    • Full face helmets FOR THE WIN! I've headbutted the dirt at about 15mph, and my first thought was, "Yeah! I just kicked the Earth's ass!." I had no injuries to my head or chin. I can only wonder about open face helmets.

    Gear for the Bike and Bike Adjustments

    Street riding is the part we put up with between stretches of "the good stuff". Adjust the bike accordingly
    • Reading other rider's build threads are more important than you think. They can sometimes tell you what doesn't work or what does.
    • Handguards help deflect wind, keeping your hands warmer. Notice I didn't say warm. If it's that cold, you probably should be worrying about ice, which means 4 wheels might be a good idea. Getting handguards sooner than later is probably good, since it does offer hand protection.
    • Consider shorter levers. You only use the first two fingers of your hand to work a lever. Notice how short upgraded levers are. You could get upgraded clutch and brake levers that are all nice and short, but a workable shortcut is to use a hacksaw on those immensely long levers. It's an easy measure twice cut once, but if you are bad at DIY, just be ready to buy new levers :rofl
    • Adjust the brake and clutch levers so they angle more downwards. This makes them easier to operate in a standing position. PROTIP: On many bikes, the mirrors are mounted to the brake and clutch controls. Loosen the control mounts just enough that they can be adjusted by gripping the mirror stalk and rotating the controls. This is also helpful if you fall and the levers get shifted inwards - now you can pull them back out!
    • Get bar risers. You will be standing most of the time offroad, and having bars that are too far down limits your control. To measure bar risers, stand on the bike in an attack position (imagine catching a football) with hands out Where your hands are is where the bar needs to be raised to.
    • Get wider foot pegs. Stock footpegs are like standing on the short end of a 2x4 piece of wood. Relieve those feet!
    • Adjust the shift peg. For my bike, I just had to remove a retaining screw, rotate the peg, then put the screw back. For most people, they will want to move the shift peg upwards so that it is slightly higher than the foot peg. This makes it easier to shift, rather than having to duck your foot under. If you have very large feet like me, try to get the shifter so it is slightly higher than the plane of the foot peg so that you can slide your foot forward and shift with the boot like a wedge.

    Adventuring

    • Work on storage as a last measure. They may limit what sorts of rides you can do in terms of distance and multi-day trips... but what good are these upgrades if you are uncomfortable and in danger? (Although he didn't outright say it, the underlying message here is to go on trips that you and your bike are presently capable of. Chances are, you need practice at your current level of gear capability!)
    • When it comes time to get storage, you want the weight to be low on the bike, otherwise it becomes top heavy and wiggly! Don't forget to evenly distribute the weight
    • You probably need new camping gear. If you have you gear 'done', your bike outfitted, and you are planning for that camping trip, now is the perfect time to get new camping gear. Ultra lite camping is not just for yuppies and hippies. There's been a huge advancement in camping tech. New gear is lighter, packs smaller, keeps you dry, and keeps you warm. When rolled up, my old sleeping bag is the traditional big bulky thing you remember from Boy Scouting or hunting back in the day. My new sleeping bag is about the size of two stacked coffee cups. To avoid the high cost of ultra lite gear, try checking out videos by 'preppers' who create bug-out-bags; they typically try to get inexpensive stuff, or come up with an unconventional alternative.
    • Invest in clothes that keep you dry and happy. This goes double for the camping folks. I used to have clothes like Randy Parker. Big thick stuff made of cotton which made me hot, got wet, and stayed wet. Now I wear thin poly or wool shirts in layers with a eVent or Gore-Tex rain jacket. Nylon pants with zip off legs (so you can convert to pants) work well as almost 3 season clothing, dry better, and pack better than jeans. I'm still working on finding good pants.
      • PRO TIP 1: Despite the release of Smart Wool and fancy synthetics, this is hardly new tech. Remember your grandpa and your dad wearing those wool, plaid, button-up shirts? They work the same as the new stuff.
      • PRO TIP 2: Value Village has tons of ugly wool sweaters and cast offs. Make sure they say 100% wool on the tag, and after that it's cutting edge sportswear on the cheap.
    #1
  2. tblume

    tblume gettin'it

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    Do the Wabdr before you start commuting; seriously.

    Learning curve is steep but the consequences are minimal, your buddies can pack your gear, help you up (after laughing and taking pictures) and you'll have way more fun.

    And be a gear whore, it happens...:deal
    #2
  3. eric n

    eric n Been here awhile

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    http://www.dualsportriding.com/

    http://www.rawhyde-offroad.com/

    I cant emphasize this enough LEARN TO STAND UP ON THE BIKE....

    http://www.roxspeedfx.com/category/adv-handlebar-risers.htm

    get mx boots so your feet don't lose circulation while standing on the pegs. set up your bars and levers for the standing position. some of the old dogs may contradict this they have experience you don't yet.

    dual sport helmets are best. rain hurts at 70mph. and street helmets will suffocate you when playing pick up bikes. I use goggles with my dual sport helmet and I can see in the heavy rain and fog.

    heated grips are a must I don't care how tough you are. an some kind of windshield. but not too tall. and if you get a tank bag get a small one or it WILL hit you in the balls when standing. giant loop is very popular amongst us for luggage.

    you also need to get a small air compressor and enough tire irons to change a tube in the middle of nowhere. you lower tire pressure for long off road runs.

    and get actual knobbies dunlop606 mt63's 50/50 tires are dangerous for n00bs
    #3
  4. Maddaddy

    Maddaddy Greg

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    Get out and ride with experienced riders.
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=213831

    Take more training. Even professional need coaching.

    You can't learn from a book if you can't apply the theory from the book correctly. And you need someone who knows what "right" looks like.
    #4
  5. Scott_PDX

    Scott_PDX Leisure Engineer

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    I bought that book when I first started riding and found it helpful if you are really green to the sport. He's got a companion video as well that has some good drills, though they are a little centered to where he rides (high desert).

    Tillmook/OHV Trails will be MUCH more challenging than riding the WBDR. I wouldn't ride with experienced Motorcrossers on trails until you have a couple 1000 dirt miles underneath you - unless you are young and have rubbery bones.

    If you can find someone to ride the WBDR with you, that would be good practice. You won't be running the same pace as 4x4's.

    You don't NEED a separate helmet or coat to ride offroad, but may find as you ride more, that task oriented gear is helpful. A dual sport helmet will serve you good on both street and dirt, you'll "overwhelm" a FF Road Helmet pretty quickly. Dirt helmets/goggles are great on trails, but suck in the rain. You have riding pants and boots? If not I'd make those a priority, if you are going to ride offroad get some "comfortable" dirt boots, and padded pants. Kneepads over Levi's will work to get you started, but don't skimp on boots.

    Riding dirt in summer temperatures is best with a dirt jersey over armor vs. a coat that will get hot. Don't be tempted to ride without gloves, elbow, shoulder and back armor of some kind in addition to the boots and knee pads.

    Most of all, just ride the thing. Even if it's only a few hours here and there, the more you ride the more confident you will be. Avoid Interstates, and fast 4 lane arteries as much as you can, too many cars to keep track of. Keep to the speed limit until you know how to stop fast, and practice panic stops.

    Relax, you'll be fine, welcome to the "club".
    #5
  6. what broke now

    what broke now Petroleum Brother

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    Above it was suggested that new tires are in order, which is always solid advice with a small qualification in your case. I assume that the wr has the brigestone 301/302 tire combination, which gets bashed by many, but in fact are a fine street tire, as well as in hardpack and rocky country, where they work fine. You can save a couple hundred bucks and ride them at least thru the summer. They are no good in mud or wet roots, or loose stuff, and the front is the worst offender. I put ~ 2500 miles on the set that came on mine, and went lots of places on them.

    It's geared a little high for off pavement work, too, and you can skimp by with a 12 tooth front sprocket and keep your stock chain, or spend some money for a new longer chain and 47 tooth rear sprocket to get to about the same ratio. "Baby head hill" on the wabdr would eat your lunch with the stock gearing, for example.

    Just some ideas to conserve bucks until you get some experience.
    #6
  7. Chickenmunga

    Chickenmunga Adventurer

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    Sorry if I made this thread really generic and made it octopus out.

    TL;DR version:

    My main question is what order do you do things in? tblume suggested doing the WBDR as the very first trip ever, but wouldn't it be better to work up to that? I guess I'm hoping for a magic numbered list or something to save me from myself (get this, do this, take this course, take this ride...). For instance, the local shop has been good to me, but they wanted to sell me an FMF pipe before I even had a helmet :confused


    The rest of it:

    You sure that's a great idea? I'm reasonably willing to do something outside my comfort zone, but being an unprepared idiot who holds up the group and becomes a liability isn't fair to others.
    I have some other places to go locally, such as Capitol Forest, which I can do on weekend trips.

    I think I'm going to need to get an experienced buddy to help pick that out... I want HDB guards, so determining risers and possible different bars seems like a lot of adjustments to get right.

    Yeah I was having difficulties finding something I liked because I wear glasses with thick frames. I talked to a guy who said I'd probably have two different helmets anyway, so I bought a Shoei Qwest on closeout that fit my glasses like magic.
    I'm due for a doc appt. and I'll see about having my spare, thin glasses fitted with new lenses, or look at a cheapo thin Chinese pair... then go helmet shopping again.

    Hehe, I'm using an old fanny pack I found in my camping gear. For more stuff, I have a backpack I use instead. I'm eventually thinking one of these racks would be nice since I already have a rotopax I can steal off the truck, and then drop a bag on top.

    I'm watching that. Also saw your Labor Day ride. I probably have plans, but would that be something at my experience level?

    • Road Helmet was frigging expensive so I don't mind a second cheapie beater helmet. I wasn't sure if the coat would get shredded up by stuff.
    • Pants are showing up Tuesday. Until then I'm wearing paintball pants over my jeans :wink:
    • I have a very hard time with shoes due to a birth defect causing my right foot to grow larger than normal. If cost was not an issue, I would wear a size 14 shoe with a 4E width on my right foot which might fit, and a normal size 12 on my left foot. As a result, I just make do with size 14 shoes. With boots, I stack or remove liners to soak up some of that extra space. I currently have a pair of Danner Quarry mid-calf steel toe work boots. I compared these to a pair of Gaerne Balance Oiled, and I couldn't figure out what the big benefit would be? I was expecting some sort of heavy ankle support or something that would set it apart from my Danners... am I missing something? (without trying to make this a gear thread, I talked to Revzilla and they suggested TCX would have better fitment.)
    #7
  8. Chickenmunga

    Chickenmunga Adventurer

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    I will also settle for a personal Mr. Miyagi who I can pay in rice.
    #8
  9. beemerron

    beemerron machine washable

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    Before you do much street riding and especially commuting, read "Street Strategies" by Dave Hough.

    Welcome and bring me a beer. Stat.
    #9
  10. HellsAlien

    HellsAlien a has-been that never-was

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    #1 Learn to use the front brake.

    #2 Learn to use the front brake.

    #3 Learn to use the front brake.

    This will save your life. It is the most powerful part of any motorcycle, including superbikes.

    "Using" the front brake on a dual sport means learning how to modulate it for different terrains/traction levels. Learning how to ease off the lever is as important as learning how much and when to squeeze it.

    Use the front brake to "stop" at signs and red lights on tarmac.

    Practice slow, medium and quick stops every time you get on the bike for a while. Be safe, clear the area behind you first. You need to be calibrated to the day's surface: dry/wet/tarsnake/gravel/whatever.

    Learn to squeeze it to reduce speed to what you are comfortable with for corner entry. Learn to ease off the lever as you steer into the turn. Then try this on positive and negative camber gravel roads, see what happens.

    Leaning over a lot comes later with experience. Experience is what you get 5 seconds after you needed it! Later.

    In the dirt, loading the front with the brake before corner entry a)slows you to corner speed you are comfortable with, b)tells you how much traction you have before you get into the turn and fall down, c)loads the tire on the ground, making it possible to steer into the turn with more friction due to load transfer. All this stuff happens real quick, that's part of the "fun."

    Look where you want to go. Important. If you want to go to a Buick fender or stump/rock, look at it. If you want to go behind/around it, look there!

    I've been at this over 45 years, I teach high performance riding at racetracks. Dual sport dirt is good for that, same habits/reactions at lower speeds, almost as much thrills. The falldowns don't slide out near as far! I'll be out at The Ridge Sun/Mon, drop by for a visit if you want.

    You got good equipment, now have fun learning how to use it! :D
    #10
  11. tblume

    tblume gettin'it

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    If you're with a group of 4x4 guys you know, who are going 20-30 mph on faster sections and 10 or less where it's technical; you won't slow them down a bit, I bet you get tired of waiting for them after a couple hours.

    Slogging to the trailhead from Oly will be ok if you guys usually convoy, unless they're high speed trucks, then have one haul the bike and you.

    Remember:

    Have fun
    take chances
    safety third.

    You'll be fine.:D

    edit: how much of that will be shut down for fire related activities?

    Good luck
    #11
  12. DeFens

    DeFens Been here awhile

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    Personally, I think biting off the entire WABDR as a noob would be a mistake. If you're not absolutely comfortable riding, you'll be going fairly slowly and the trail will be long, grueling, and you won't likely enjoy it. The guys that are recommending it for a first timer are probably sizzling along at 30+ mph over terrain that you'll be picking your way through at 10 mph. And, you'll be carrying camping gear, more than likely - which will also be a new experience.

    What I could recommend though, is to pick out a beginner friendly portion of the trail - say, the Ellensberg-Cashmere section, with current detours. Take a couple of days to do that, camp out at Lion Rock, and enjoy the deteriorated, paved, Old Blewitt Pass Highway section. This would give you an authentic dual sport experience without beating you to death on your first outing.
    #12
  13. tblume

    tblume gettin'it

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    #13
  14. Maddaddy

    Maddaddy Greg

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    Come out and ride Saturday, Camp the night. You can always do more or call it a day. I bet you will learn some more.
    #14
  15. Maddaddy

    Maddaddy Greg

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    That is a unique situation. Nothing compares to a good set of Motorcross boots.
    #15
  16. tblume

    tblume gettin'it

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    Imagine the ass kicking possibilities. ...:lol3
    #16
  17. acesandeights

    acesandeights Asperger

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    I think if you bite off more than you can chew, you'll choke. I would ride a bit off road before riding something like the WABDR. If you ride to the point of frustration, you're less like to ride again.

    Sounds like you've already done it, but I'd buy a Tourmaster Jett3 jacket, Tourmaster Venture pants, motorcycle specific boots and a dual sport helmet (AFX, Fly, etc). If you have the money, Alpinestars Bionic Jacket and Venture vented pants for when it's hot out.

    If you've done the PSSOffroad class(es) you got a good start going. I would ride some of the easier stuff off road and practice some of the skills you learned in class. I'd do the WABDR next year after doing it in a 4x4 this year. They will be completely different experiences.

    I find value in books and videos. I think they give you a place to start as opposed to not knowing what you don't know. Finding riding partners that want to teach can be difficult if what they want to do it ride. Also, there are a lot of people that think they have knowledge and skill and what they have is experience. Experience is good, if it's backed with proper knowledge and skill, a good foundation. Experience can be negative if it's based on improper knowledge and skill. Just because a person has been doing something for a long time doesn't mean it's right.

    Also, I've found riding partners while out riding. If you go to a local place to practice and see someone doing well the thing you want to do, it's a great opportunity to ask.

    Here's sort of the numbered list you were looking for:
    So, get the gear, take the class, read the book, watch the DVD, practice the basics (stand up and see how slow you can do everything...balance), ask questions, build a foundation, ride faster (and smoother), ride the WABDR and ride some other dual sport/adventure rides (check the OMRA calendar and similar Washington group).
    #17
  18. Chickenmunga

    Chickenmunga Adventurer

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    Thanks everyone for the replies, it has given me some more to consider.

    HellsAlien, your advice is much different than the basic classes that I've taken. They are all about even braking front/rear and don't talk about corner entry braking much. I'm guessing their advice is generic and your advice is a bit more advanced... I tend to use engine compression to slow me for a corner and typically go for front brake because I forget the rear when doing anything but complete stops.

    tblume, I appreciate your enthusiasm and part of me wants to throw caution to the wind, but I think I'm going to hold off. My opinions side with what DeFens said. All my gear would be nicely carried by the trucks, but I still would be going slow, tackling the terrain, and adding the hot weather will just beat me down. I'm thinking Maddaddy's suggestion might be the way to handle things.

    I think I probably went a bit deluxe on the gear and probably could have done with cheaper (Olympia Airglide jacket, FirstGear Kathmandu pants), but oh well.
    I'm not sure what more I need for the dirt ventures, probably a Bilt Redemption helmet... but what do you do with jacket again? I'm guessing my street jacket is going to be hot/get busted up, so one of those plastic armor shirt things would be needed, but then I need the jacket to get to the trailhead... not sure what you do with all this STUFF.

    i think I'm somewhere near step 2.5
    #18
  19. doggitter

    doggitter Long timer

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    You mention compression braking. I myself put big importance on comp braking on gravel especially. Its a smooth, constant braking that really makes a diffrrence if you shift down to get some rpm behind it. Not redline type rpm but not towards idle either.
    #19
  20. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    I'll weigh in here as I was in your shoes once.

    Now that you have a WR250R (one fine ride), I'd recommend attending Dual Sport Northwest over a weekend this month and take the PSSOR off road course there. Tom Mehren, the organizer, also puts together a great set of d/s rides of short to moderate length and these can be used to practice the training on.

    I definitely wouldn't recommend biting off the WABDR as one's first serious d/s ride. But it's a fun ride with an appropriate set of skills and companions.

    Another local ride to consider is the GripTwister Tour of the Olympic Peninsula. It's right in your backyard.

    BTW, Hells Alien is one fine dual sport rider. Listen to his advice.
    #20