On Sunday Kenny and I packed our little dirty bikes into the truck and set of for the pine barrens in New Jersey.
Our destination was Wharton State Forest. But not before stopping by Might Joe’s for a quick picture. I’d been there once before but it was after dark and I couldn’t get a good look at the big monkey. He’s pretty awesome.
It’s always fun to ride with my favorite fellow unicorn hunters 🙂
For people not familiar with New Jersey and it’s diverse natural areas, I bet this isn’t what you think of:
The pine barrens are super sugar sandy and yet, as the name implies are a pine forest. It is a pretty interesting landscape.
Mixed in with the sandy roads are also some giganto puddles. What lies beneath is often nasty stuff that might suction your bike in.
This pic of our friend from a couple years ago illustrates that quite nicely 🙂
This motorcycle girl goes ’round the outside, ’round the outside, ’round the outside…Say whaaaaaat?
Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? I am not brave. There.
It is no secret that I have had confidence problems all throughout my dirt time with the DRZ. No one knows this better than the people I ride with. I putt-putt around like a scared granny. Kenny with his infinite ability to know what is better for me than I do, bought me a Husqvarna TE 310 to help pull me out of my shell and grow to enjoy dirt riding more naturally.
As I previously noted, when I first stood next to the 310 I couldn’t help but noticed was that it was so tall. As I pushed the bike up my driveway, I logged a big red checkmark in the “Oh Shit” column of my Getting To Know This Bike checklist. I then parked it, put the sidestand down and immediately sat on it and began the new bike ritual. You know, poking and pressing everything that was in the would-be dashboard area.
During my examination, I leaned the bike to the right and went to sweep the sidestand up. No dice. While standing on my right foot, I could not get enough force with my tippy-toe to swing the stand up. Apparently though, the stand had pivoted just enough to keep its foot from sitting flat on the ground.
I was now in a limbo of not being able to lean the bike back to the left on its stand and I couldn’t get enough balance and leverage to kick the stand forward so that it sat flatly . The insult to injury was that I could no longer sit on the bike because the position of the stand and my weight made the bike tip to the right. I had to get off on the right side and walk around to the left side to kick the stand down. ::sigh:: I’m so awkward.
I then mentally drew a red circle around the red “too tall” check mark and drew devil horns on it.
Husky : 1 – Fuzzy : 0
Along with the bike, Kenny bought me a Kouba Link dogbone that was good for dropping the Husky down an inch. When you’re at your at the far end of your height comfort zone, every inch counts. News Flash: If someone says size doesn’t matter, they’re lying.
When I sat in the garage on my newly lowered bike, I was still unable to put the sidestand up. Now with the lowering link and because of the shape of the stand’s foot – when you go to sweep it up, it drags. You have to tip the bike to the right to allow for the rotation.
But the benefits of the link outweigh the inconvenience. I was able to get more than just the very tips of my toes on the ground. So, I have to get off the bike to put the sidestand up or down. Being that the 310 is so light, that is easy enough to do.
On Sunday morning, I had my first ride on the 310.
As Kenny loaded the Husky in to our Free Candy Van, its bars barely cleared the roof inside. He has this same trouble with his KTM. The barkbusters have to be removed and even then it’s a mighty tight squeeze as evidenced by the scars in the vans interior roof paint.
During the drive to the riding property, I wondered how I was going to manage dealing with this tall bike. Because I had zero dirt experience with any other dual sport bikes – I only knew what the DRZ felt like. Of course I was imagining what it would be like riding the DRZ but with more height. I was scared.
…and SO WRONG!
Power, Weight, Suspension, Ergonomics
Dealing with the differences in the way any new to you bike feels takes a little while. The pull of the levers and their positioning, throttle response, brake feel, foot controls – it was all so different than what I was used to.
I don’t even want to call these issues Cons – because they really aren’t. They were just small niggling issues that need to be adjusted or I need to get used to them.
The shift lever nubbin is so short and far from where it would “normally” be for me – I had to lift my foot off of the peg to click it. I missed many a shift.
The rear brake lever is high. I was unable to just press it with the toe of my boot. Again, I had to take my foot off the peg to use it. Also, when standing on the pegs naturally, the toe of my boot tended to tuck under it. I had to adjust my footing to avoid that from happening. The lever has since been lowered slightly but I’m not sure if I need to replace that with something different.
When we rode away from where our van was parked and headed down a sand road, I immediately noticed that for the first time, standing up on a motorcycle felt NORMAL! The height of the bars, the angle, foot placement – all of it. It felt natural in a way that it never had on the DRZ.
I have often remarked to Kenny in the past that I never felt quite “right” standing on the DRZ. It was awkward. I just went on under the assumption that I was doing it wrong or that it felt that way to everyone. Kenny smiled and said he had the same epiphany going from his DRZ to his KTM. So I guess it wasn’t just me.
The 310 is so beautifully narrow. It feels tiny and nimble. In a way it seems like there isn’t even a gas tank between your knees. With this svelt frame also comes a big weight savings – it has to be at least 60lbs lighter than the Suzuki. I was aware of that weight savings all day.
When you twist the throttle on the 310, the power is on. Not in an immediately violent way like Kenny’s 525 feels to me, but in a “okay, we can take it easy if you’d like but when you’re ready… we’re gonna fly” kind of way.
The bikes suspension was so much more confidence inspiring than the DRZ. I felt very natural moving much faster over terrain I’ve covered dozens of times. Everything felt firm and focused.
Kenny and I stopped at one of the sand pits and I let him take the Husky for a test ride. The sound of the bike echoing through the woods was like sex. He came wheeling back in with a huge grin on his face. I think he loves it too.
As the day wore on my stress and nervousness were all but gone. That was totally unexpected and most welcomed. I made several personal triumph throughout the day. I tackled some hill climbs and descents that felt effortless, moved significantly faster and with more ease overall and hell I *might* have even done a jump or two. I’m talking 2 big inches of air, people! 😆
For the first time it seemed like I was riding for pleasure, not to just survive until the end 🙂 I think that was the biggest gift of all. Taking away the fear element changed my whole day. It was, hands down, the most confident dirt riding I’ve done to date.
I came home buzzing, feeling high about what I was able to do. The DRZ introduced me to the basic mechanics of riding offroad but the Husky seems like it will now help me to build and fine-tune skills and will allow me to discover my confidence.
Not long after I got my DRZ, I picked up a bendy Mr. Bill in a Cracker Barrel in Alabama. He seemed like the perfect mascot for me and my bike, considering how he was always getting crushed, flattened and mangled.
When we were out riding our dirt bikes over the weekend, a potentially new mascot came in to my life for my new bike. He was laying amongst the dirt and debris. A diamond in the rough, if you will.
He’s a bit more rough and tumble than Mr. Bill. It’s hard to turn down a guy wearing little more than a sweet 80’s ‘stache, underpants and cowboy boots. You’ve been there, right?