On Friday, we packed up the Ridgeline with our bikes, the kid and the dog and headed north to Massachusetts for a weekend of friends, food and riding.
Our home away from home was a cute little cabin in the woods. As soon as the captain turned on the weekend sign, we settled in to “hang” mode. You know – a little barbequeing, going for a nice lazy walk around the lake, just sitting on the front porch and enjoying the fire. We got busy doing a whole lotta nothin’.
While a couple friends and their families trickled in to the campground on Friday, the rest of our motley crew came rolling in on Saturday.
We spent Saturday laughing, grilling, enjoying each others company and managed to make some new friends along the way, too. That is one of the best parts about these events. You’re surrounded by like-minded people so it is easy to meet new people.
On Sunday morning, I awoke not long after dawn. When I walked to the cabin door I found a lovely green Luna Moth staring back at me. It seemed like it had to be some sort of auspicious sign that a good day was ahead.
By 7:30am our crew assembled like a ragtag Voltron and headed off the the start of the Berkshire Big Adventure ride. These friends of mine… they’re just the greatest <3
The start point was 17 miles away from the campground on the tar. It was the first time I’d ever really got to try to stretch the legs of the Husky a little. That type of riding obviously isn’t it’s strong suit but it felt great nonetheless.
Sometimes the universe lines up the sunlight through the trees and the temperature jusssst so and everything feels right in your world. Sunday morning was just like that.
I don’t think I did more than 50mph on that stretch of road to the start but, it felt like the best 50mph ever. Hand on the throttle, I motored up along route 8 where all signs pointed to a great day ahead. The sound of the Husky thumped through the morning. Hell yeah.
Sundays ride would be my first event on the TE310. It is still a bike I don’t know very well. After the 2011 BBA ride, I came away feeling a bit discouraged by my riding on the DRZ. This year I was hoping a better tool might help me to find my confidence.
When we pulled up to the start of the ride, many bikes were already lined up. It never gets old seeing a large group of motorcycles.
The title of the 2012 ride was the Berkshire Big Adventure – Vince’s “I’m Not Dead Yet” Dual Sport/ Adventure Ride. Vince, who is a member of the Berkshire Trail Riders Association and trail boss for the ride was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
During the riders meeting, he delivered a poignant address that left us all with a deep admiration of his courage in the face of such adversity. Live life to the fullest, enjoy each day – those words pierce your heart when you are looking at a man with terminal cancer. But – they ring true for every person, every day. Take it to heart.
As the bikes began to roll out of the start in waves, that excited feeling of finally being on our way came over me. I was probably grinning like an idiot in my helmet. I’m kind of goofy like that.
As you might imagine when it comes to moving over 100 bikes around, there is some clustering and jockeying for position that happens until the groups of riders start to thin themselves out and gap naturally. The first clump came near the first hero section. It was a short stretch of loose mud. From that point on riders began to spread a little more.
Into the slop we go…
The ride was mostly dirt roads with some tar connectors and a couple hero sections thrown in. Those parts were boney, wet and offered something more challenging.
During one of the hero sections a giant puddle swallowed Dan’s bike. The funny thing about muddy water is that you haven’t the slightest idea what’s under there or how deep it is until you’re in it. Ben and Dan managed to dislodge the drowned Husky and get it out of the puddle. After just a few minutes the bike started and on we went.
There are some pics by other riders on the ADV thread showing just how deep and gooey the water was.
There was a really nice lady who lived close by who was on hand with a tow rope helping riders who got submarined there. She was kind of excited to see me (a woman rider) out in the muck. She even offered to let me use her bathroom, bless her heart!
There was a good handful of ladies on the ride 🙂
About halfway through the ride, I realized that for the first time I didn’t feel like I’d been working hard, I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t even the caboose for the whole ride. I felt… normal great!
I can only attribute it to feeling so much more at home on the Husky. It is such a pleasure to ride. The weight difference over the DRZ alone is a huge change. But that combined with the suspension, the ergos and the responsiveness of the bike make it feel so. damned. good!
Love, love, LOVE this bike!
Since this was the first time I’d taken the TE on an extended ride, I had no idea how much range I could squeeze out of my small fuel tank. When the route came to a close we still had the 17 miles of road ahead to get back to the campground. With only 50 miles on my tank since last fill up, I figured I’d be fine to make it back.
As I buzzed along the hilly pavement, the miles began to tick by. About 5 miles from the entrance to the campground while heading down hill, the bike began to lose power and… died. Out of gas.
I kept the bike rolling and as the ground leveled out, hit the starter and it came back to life. When the ground tipped back upward enough gas would drain back and I could hammer my way up the next hill and play the roller coaster game. I kept that up until the bike died about 300 feet from the entrance to the campground where I rolled into it’s gravel drive. With one last bit of luck, the bike started one more time and I was able to ride to our cabin. I made it by the skin of my teeth and a measly 67 miles on the odometer. WHEW!
As we packed up the truck and made the rounds to say goodbye to our friends who were doing the same, I felt a pang of melancholy. It was sad that our great weekend had come to a close. I loved every minute of our time there.
Until next year…
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Yesterday I spent a grueling hour and a half at the DMV finally getting a plate for my Husky. It isn’t that I had to do battle with a clerk or anything, my transaction took less than 10 minutes. The issue is just… sitting there. There are 10 windows in the office but only 4 clerks working them for a room full of people. Hurry up and wait. ::sigh::
Since I got the Husqvarna back in February, I’ve only ever ridden it on private property. I was never in any kind of hurry to register the bike. But, with the Berkshire Big Adventure ride coming up this weekend I had to make that happen.
I haven’t ridden the Husky in weeks. So with my new plate, a warm night and a few free hours on our hands, Kenny and I took our dirty bikes out for a shakedown ride on the street.
I’m happy to report that nothing rattled off, the bike sounds sexy, Mr. Bill is back in his rightful place at the helm and my Fuzzy tugger is on. We’re good to go.
DAMN the TE feels so much “easier” than the DRZ did. I’m amazed at how much lighter and more natural everything feels. I can’t wait to see how I make out on the BBA ride compared to last year. More than anything, I’m hoping for a boost in confidence.
I also got to try out my new Shark SXR offroad helmet. It is so deliciously light and the shape fits me better than the Thor I had been wearing. Happy, happy, joy, joy.
Though my bike is lowered an inch with a Koubalink, it’s still quite tall for me. But, I do my best to make it work though even if I look like a dwarf next to it.
Limitations are between the ears, right?
Everything feels so right in my world.
Looking forward to a good ride this weekend – Bring it on!
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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.
I’m so happy 🙂