Riding across the face of a hill

This is lengthy, but I want to give all the details to find out what I was doing wrong.

Last weekend my buddy and I got totally lost trying to find a trail up the side of a small mountain. We knew about where we'd parked the truck, but somehow missed coming back down the way we went up. By the time we got close to where we knew we wanted to be, we were nearly out of gas and the only way to get there was to ride across the face of a very steep hill. We couldn't ride up it because the top was near vertical.

We came out to this hill about halfway up it's height (I would guess it was 400-500 ft tall). The top was close to vertical and the bottom quarter was large rocks and thick brush. The surface was grass/weeds about 2 ft tall, but hidden underneath were a multitude of rocks ranging from fist-size to basketball-size, plus a lot of holes 6" to 12" deep (probably where rocks used to be). The angle of the hill was approximately 50-60 degrees up. We had to cross about 100 yards of this to get to where the slope was more reasonable and we could see a trail that we recognized up above.

I'm nearly 60 yrs old, on my first dirt bike in 20+ years, and in crappy condition. I've only been out on this dirt bike about half a dozen times. All my previous dirt experience was motocrossing for 16 years, and as bad as some MX tracks are, I'd never had to deal with anything even close to this. My buddy (a mere child of 46) was on his first dirt bike ever, had bought it the same day I bought mine, and had the same amount of riding time. Both bikes are CRF230F's.

Not a pretty picture, is it? We had no choice, we had to do it....

As the semi-experienced one, I went first. I was on the pegs, 2nd gear, trying to miss all the rocks and holes I couldn't see. After about 30 yards I hit something that made me lose my balance to the right. Even thought I'm fairly tall, there was no way I could touch the ground with my right foot, and over I went. Fortunately, the bike just fell over (nearly upside-down) and stopped. Unfortunately, I didn't....rolled down the hill, bouncing from rock to rock, for about 15 yards before managing to grab enough grass to to stop. Climbed back up, almost blew my guts out trying to pick up the bike (those little things are heavy when they're laid way over at that angle), and got it restarted. Got about another 30 yards and repeated the first get-off. Struggled to get the bike upright again, restarted (thank you Honda for the electric start), and decided to walk it the rest of the way and feather the clutch in 1st gear.

That seemed a little easier. Leaning the bike slightly outwards while I half crawled and half walked alongside....until I stepped on something loose, lost my footing and went head first right over the bike. Again the bike dug in and stopped while I went ass-end over tea-kettle about 25-30 yards downhill before I finally stopped. When I finally got back up to the bike, I was totally exhausted, gasping for air, drenched in sweat, dizzy, and thought I was going to puke. After about 5 minutes of rest, I finally managed to get the bike back up and walked/clutched it to where I could finally point it uphill and ride up to a point where I could park it and watch my buddy try his luck.

His ordeal was very similar to mine except he fell four times, didn't roll as far downhill each time, and wasn't totally exhausted like me (he just retired from the Marines, so is in pretty good condition).

So, what did we do wrong....other than getting lost in the first place? Those hills look so soft and smooth from a distance, but up close....wow!! Neither of us wants to try to walk the bike from the downhill side because we figured if we lost balance, the bike would land on top and pin us underneath....which would really suck! Is there a smarter way to cross the face of a steep hill?

By the way, my RockGardn Flak Jacket was worth every penny....I only had one small bruise on my lower back. My bud, however, looked like he'd been badly beaten with a big stick...covered with bruises. On Monday he ordered a Flak Jacket too!

Any and all advice is welcome.

Cheers,

Mac

I'm not entirely sure how i would tackle this, but congrats for still being at it.

When I have been in similar situations I put the bike in 1st gear, weight the outside peg, lean the bike slightly (just off balance) into the hill and used my inside foot as a brace to sort of hop along as I feather the clutch and work myself along the side of the hill. Slow and tedious. I've been in a couple of situations where it was quite slick and the attitude of the bike is back end slightly down hill, front end slightly up hill and the only thing keeping me from sliding down the hill was the throttle. Kind of like a flat track corner attitude at a trials speed dabbing every couple of feet. Whatever works.

Tubo pretty much nailed it, even for a Trials Bike in that situation. Except that we have MUCH more room where the seat would be and about 1/2 the weight.

On a hill not quite as steep.. say 45 degree or less and maybe not as far across, you could use the same stance as suggested above and have a chance to *RIDE* it across.

Start with a slight uphill angle above straight across if possible.. try to get a quick start without spinning the tire and with some help from the uphill leg by shoving off... try to maintain your speed as smooth as possible. Still keeping most of the weight on the downhill peg and light on the front tire with the bike still tipped slightly into the hill.

Any slip will likely be from the rear wheel downhill. If you are quick and ready, you should have a little room to steer into the slip before the rear gets too far out and before "High-Siding".

The earlier uphill angle will give you a little more room for the correction up to about a 5 degree angle below straight across before you'll need to think about stopping.

If that is not enough, with the bike still tipped into the hill and your weight on the downhill peg. you should be able to stop and lay the bike into the hill with your uphill leg ready to catch you.. Angle the bike again for another shot if possible. But 100 yards of this is asking a lot. 40 or 50 feet across with a 45 degree slope is more reasonable for a single shot attempt... otherwise, on the one you described, I would work it across as Tubo described.

:)

.

Tubo & 2Ply,

Thanks for the response. I was actually aiming the bike slightly downhill, figuring that would give me more warning that the back was going to come around. Obviously that was my first mistake, because when the rear end started slipping, it went down the face of the hill quickly. I didn't think about keeping it in a "flat-track slide" position and try to hold it that way.

Secondly, I was trying to ride it with both feet up for the first two tries, and was leaning it outwards slightly....which would put most of the weight on the inside peg. On both the "riding" tries, what threw me was hitting a large rock hidden in the grass with the front wheel, which twisted the bars to the left (uphill) and tossed me off.

The third try, with me semi-walking beside (and very much above) the bike, just about killed my back and was a lot slower, but seemed to be easier until both feet went out from under me and I went over the top of the bike cross-ways as it fell.

Guess I really needed to combine the two methods in the manner that you described. If I get into that position again...and I really hope I never do....I'll follow your advice.

Thanks for the info.

Cheers from sunny Africa,

Mac

OUCH !! :) Or if you plan to do much more of that, take one of these along:

one-of-these.jpg

one-of-these2.jpg

Seems to me that it might have been better and easier to have helped each other walk the bikes thru with both of you helping, and then going back to get the other bike. Sitting and watching the other guy struggle doesn't really help anyone. Might have saved both of you some grief? But at least you are on the right track talking about how you could have done it better. My riding buddy and I have discussed situations later where we figured out how we could have handled a bad situation better next time. :)

I think your only mistake was probably trying that with those bikes. Alothough they are new, they dont have the brute torque needed. I have an xr250 (300bore) with a supertrap and I run out of power when going up extreme steeps like that. When I get to stuff like that I usually pin it in 1st gear and try to keep the front wheel just barely touching or off the ground. Be carfeull doing that because if you get tracting you will wheelie and that can be bad. I think hills like that are for cr500s or 400cc+ 4-strokes. I personally don't think I would have tried that hill with a crf230.

My hat is off to you for trying

I believe the problem was they didn't have much choice.. It was the Dreaded "but somehow missed coming back down the way we went up" scenario. :)

The one I fear most about cross-country riding in unknown terrain in steep mountain areas.. :)

.

2PLY,

>> Or if you plan to do much more of that, take one of these along: <<

I've always admired trials riders for defying every single law of gravity and physics, often simultaneously!! :) I did get a chance to play with an OSSA Plonker many, many years ago and was amazed at the things it could do (other than teaching me how to keep my balance).

The bottom of the hill that we were crossing looked very similar to what's shown in your photos.

Cheers,

Mac

Durango Dave,

>> Seems to me that it might have been better and easier to have helped each other walk the bikes thru with both of you helping, and then going back to get the other bike. <<

That's one of those Homer Simpson "Doh!!" moments after something has already happened! :)

Truthfully, he offered....but ole hard-headed me declined because it really didn't look that hard. By my second tumble, he was laughing so much that he didn't think of asking again. He later admitted that he was really worried after watching my troubles.

Once we got back to the truck and rested up a bit, we talked about what we should have done, and helping each other was right at the top of the list. Hindlight is always 20/20!!

Cheers,

Mac

Shinyboat,

Like 2PLY says, we didn't have a choice.

>> I think your only mistake was probably trying that with those bikes. Alothough they are new, they dont have the brute torque needed. <<

All our problems occured going across the hill, which didn't need much power at all. Once we got across, the steepness of the hill was much less (which is why we were trying to get there), and the 230's had more than enough power to get us to the top. While it is nowhere as powerful as your XR, I am often surprised at how good it does on hills.

Cheers,

Mac

2PLY,

>> I believe the problem was they didn't have much choice.. It was the Dreaded "but somehow missed coming back down the way we went up" scenario. <<

Okay....I didn't put it in the original post, but will admit it now. We even had a GPS with us, but forgot to start it at the beginning of that leg up the mountain so we could use the "take me home" feature to get us back the way we came. Talk about feeling stupid!!! :)

We both just got our GPS units and are still learning about them. I've pretty much got the on/off button figured out, but the rest of it will take some studying. :) My buddy used to have one before, so he was the one carrying it on this ride. You can bet that we'll have them both up and running for our next ride.

Cheers,

Mac

:):D:thumbsup::o;):D:):p:D:D

I know it wasn't funny when you were there, but reading about it certainly is!

I just ordered a new GPS for my bike. Guess I better figure out how to set the starting point before my first ride :D

That's one of those Homer Simpson "Doh!!" moments after something has already happened! :)

Once we got back to the truck and rested up a bit, we talked about what we should have done, and helping each other was right at the top of the list. Hindlight is always 20/20!!

I hear you there, bro! I ran into a similar situation with my riding buddy, only we were stuck in a sticky quagmire! We decided to turn around, and I told my friend that I would stop at the first safe spot, which was about a mile down the road, and wait for him. Problem was though that his TTR 250 didn't have enough power to get going with all that super sticky mud stuck between his tires and frame, forks, etc.. So after waiting about 10 minutes I started walking back and he finally came riding up, but his bike was smoking. We were able to ride out the 30+ miles back to camp, but his clutch was toast. :)

Later I told him I did him a favor because he got an upgraded clutch for only $300, but over a couple of beers around the campfire we both agreed that it would have been a lot better if I could have found a place to park my bike, which wouldn't have been easy under the circumstances, and helped him get going before I took off. BTW, the KTM had no problem at all powering thru the quagmire, just goes to show what an extra 17 HP will do for you. :p

But he easily could have been stranded out there. We were lucky that he could ride it out. Otherwise, it would have been a really long day for me to go back and get the truck to pick his bike up, and I'd hate to tow someone 30 miles even though we had a tow strap with us. Like you said, hindsight is 20/20, and now we always try to err on the side of safety. :D

Dave,

>> I hear you there, bro! I ran into a similar situation with my riding buddy, only we were stuck in a sticky quagmire! We decided to turn around <<

My very first dirt ride after 20+ years was a few months ago when the dealer loaned my buddy and I his kids' CRF230s to try out. The shop manager took us out and we were riding down a nearly-dry riverbed. Unfortunately it was only dry on the surface and nasty/sticky underneath. My riding buddy (same that was with me last week) got stuck and tried to power out and managed to dig himself in so deep that the top of the rear rim was level with the surface. It took the 3 of us nearly an hour to dig it out, only to find out that the CRF battery was dead (and it doesn't have a kickstarter as backup). We had to drag the dead bike about a quarter of a mile back up the riverbed, sinking about 4-6 inches into the muck with each step, before we could get to a place where we could bump start it. That was another of our "total exhaustion" moments that we laugh about now. :) Now I carry a tow strap on every ride.

>> BTW, the KTM had no problem at all powering thru the quagmire, just goes to show what an extra 17 HP will do for you. <<

The KTM 400cc thumper was the bike I really wanted when I decided to get back into the dirt. My last few MXers were KTMs before I gave up racing and I love those bikes. However, here they cost well over $11,000 and I wasn't going to lay out that much money just to go playing on weekends. As it was, the CRF230 was nearly $4,800!! If I'm still able to ride by the time I get back to the States in a few more years, I'll definitely give that one a look.

>> Like you said, hindsight is 20/20, and now we always try to err on the side of safety. <<

Yep...I agree completely. My bud had to drive to Pretoria this weekend to get a new tire on his street bike and visit his in-laws, so I don't have a riding partner. As much as I want to go out and play some more, I won't. Just like in scuba diving, it ain't smart to ride alone!

Cheers,

Mac

drjack,

>> I know it wasn't funny when you were there, but reading about it certainly is! <<

As I was trying to pull myself back up the hill after the third get-off, I kept telling myself "you'll be laughing about this some day". :) Actually it was only about a half hour later when we got back to the truck and was relating the details to our wives that we were already laughing. We weren't laughing so much Monday morning at work though...far too much pain!

>> I just ordered a new GPS for my bike. Guess I better figure out how to set the starting point before my first ride <<

And remember to actually start it too!! Try to get a topo map of the areas where you'll be riding...that could be a lifesaver. We can't get any sort of GPS maps for this area....not even the roads, so the "breadcrumb" method is all we have.

Cheers,

Mac

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now