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How to improve your riding skills without trying

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We did our annual Father's Day Weekend Ride - the week before Father's Day due to my son riding in the Loretta Lynn Regional Qualifier Father's Day Weekend.

Went up to our usual spot at Little Pend Oreille and rode a nice 53 mile loop Saturday with 17 riders. All of the club members headed out after the ride because of graduation but a couple of Karl's buddies showed up to camp & ride Sunday.

Sunday we headed out with Karl's buddies and about 15 miles into the ride the end of my clutch cable came off. As I dismantled the lever in order to save the parts & pieces, Karl went ahead to tell the other guys that we were heading back to camp. They decided to return to camp too since no-one was feeling real energetic.

With no clutch I had to start the bike, get rolling & put it into gear. The trails are fairly tight and technical so it was a challenge to figure out when to hit neutral in order to not stall but to keep rolling fast enough in neutral that I could kick it into gear for the next uphill section.

Karl was following me and kept telling how this would really make me a better rider. Woohooo, I'm feeling better already I told him after the first misshift stall. I swear I can't find neutral unless I'm in the middle of a hillclimb trying to hit 2nd THEN I have no problem finding neutral. But, I did notice that I totally overuse my clutch when I have it to use!

We got back to camp and tried to find some way to fix the cable but found everthing we needed except some solder - oh well, I was actually starting to like riding without my clutch, it was a challenge!

To our surprise the kids and their bikes along with their gear were all gone. The girls have been less than thrilled about riding lately. When they got back from their candy run at the store we told them that we were all going to ride the trail to the store and get lunch.

My daughter was apprehensive since she just bumped from her trusty 60 to her bro's CR80 but the bribe of more candy and pizza worked.

We headed off, both Karl and my son had passengers (the girls' friends that don't ride). Karl's daughter had a little stall in one section with my son behind her. They all got going again and I realized that I was on a very FLAT section of trail. After the third try at a running start, I got going.

I quickly realized that I shouldn't be riding sweep because the twisty trails have way too many hills and there was no way I was going to get going on an uphill. I hung way back so I could see that the trail was clear looking at switchbacks ahead. Came around one corner, saw my son & his passenger at the bottom of a small hill with Karl's daughter trying to get going after a stall due to the rider in front of her stalling. UH OH!!!

You should have seen the look on the faces of the 3 kids when the crazy women came by yelling "Get your bike out of the way I CAN NOT STOP!!!!!" phew, made it to the top where the ground leveled out.

I had to explain to the kids what was going on, then we decided it would be better for me to lead and it was MUCH Better.

The kids all did awesome on some pretty technical trails. Both of the girls that were passengers want dirtbikes now and I learned that I overuse my clutch A LOT!!! My son's friend on a YZ125 said he tried to not use his clutch on some of the sections and there was no way. I didn't tell him that my bike is much easier to do it on than his, I just let him stay impressed.

After we got back home, we repaired the cable and installed my new (Ebay) steering stabilizer and enjoyed a few nice rides where I found that I absolutely LOVE my steering stabilizer!

So this past Sunday, Karl & I decided to head out from home for a nice ride since it rained over an inch Friday & Saturday. The trails were beautiful. We took turns knocking the rain from the bushes until we came upon some fresh knobbie tracks on the singletrack. I was leading at this point and had the thought of "hmmm wonder if whoever is out & about will be coming back." so I slowed down a bit to look around the corners better.

We hit 7 Fingers and lo and behold there were 5 other riders just arriving - one of which happened to be one of my cousins. I have 4 cousins that I grew up with, used to babysit them all summer since I was the oldest. All 4 of them have ridden bikes since they were 4 or 5 yo, now they are from 35 - 40 yo but I still call them my baby cousins. The 3 boys (one is a girl and she doesn't ride much anymore) are all very fast and have done well in flattracking, desert racing and a little MX. I was happy to see the one cousin because I had just been telling Karl that I have never ridden with any of my cousins.

So Joe told us that they were heading to the meadow at Signal Point to meet up with my other cousins, cool!

Off we go, meet up with the other two cousins and stop to discuss route options. Karl suggests the 45 mile loop he had already planned for us to ride so all agreed & off we went. I was feeling good because even though I couldn't keep up with my cousins & Karl, I could stay well ahead of three of the guys that had happened to show up at 7 Fingers when we all did.

Everything was going great until I came up a small hill and saw carnage!! There were bikes & bodies and I couldn't tell what had happened. Karl and another guy were both on the ground groaning. The guys were picking up the bikes. I asked the first guy if he was okay and he groaned that he was but his knee was hurt. I saw Karl down the trail so I headed over there to see if he was okay and he said he was but his ankle, knee and shoulder took a hard hit. Luckily, both of the riders and their bikes were basically ok. The guy that crashed with Karl was a friend of Karl's and the guy riding with him was an old friend of my uncle so he recognized my cousins. After introductions, everyone decided that they would continue on riding. I pointed out Karl's bent shift lever so he straightened it out and we headed on down the trail. I had made the comment that I should have brought my new shift lever that we haven't gotten around to installing along. Bad Karma on my part!

As I was following one of the slower guys, I had to shift down to first at a road crossing. The guy sped up so I went to kick it into 2nd and my foot came up without feeling the lever. "What the heck?" I stopped, looked down and there was no shift lever on my bike!!! I remembered that I had shifted down at the road so I parked the bike and started walking back looking for my lever. One of the guys in our group for some reason ended up behind me so as I was walking along, he stopped and asked if I was okay - yep, just looking for my shift lever. I told him to go ahead & let the group know what I was doing.

I found the lever and it had sheared off! Oh well, I stuffed it into my pack and headed on (kickstarting a CR500 in gear is not something I usually like to do but it fired right up). I soon saw Karl and one of my cousins. I showed them my lever and Karl said "Well, looks like your done." "What? No I'm not! I can put it into 2nd and ride the rest of this stuff." "Okay, if you think you can."

Heck yeah, freshly watered trails and riding with my cousins - I don't need no stinking shift lever!~ We met up with the rest of the crew, showed them my lever and told them that we were continuing on. My cousin Joe commented "Geeze, we need to get you on a 4 stroke." I asked if they broke shift levers too, and he laughed, well, yeah. My other cousin defended my bike though "I don't know Joe, a 500 is hard to beat." I had to smile at that.

I left it in 1st gear because I knew the rockpile hillclimb up Signal Point would mean 1st gear. As we approached the first section of the climb with it's monster broken sharp faced rocks, it was nice to see two of the good riders were hung up like I usually am. We decided to head up the road to the next section since it looked like they would be ahwile on the first section. As I climbed up the second section, my cousin was just topping out on the first section so we rode up the rest of the way together, dodging huge rocks, holes and logs. After a break and some pics we put my bike into second gear and headed out.

Most of the rest of the loop is pretty open with rocky downhills except the creek section which is tight singletrack with some good rock shelves so I was clutching the heck out of my poor bike. The guy ahead of me was a bit slow so I had to stop a couple times to let him get ahead and clean out my bike. When we got to the top of the creek section, my smart alek cousins were laughing (payback for all the early years of torture I had inflicted on them) and asked me if I wanted to try it in 3rd next time. Ha ha ha ha.

We got to complete our 45 mile loop and had a great ride despite the early complications. Karl is limping around with ice bags covering his left side. Unfortunatley, after seeing the doc yesterday concerned about the ankle (which turned out to be badly sprained but not broken) he is now waiting to get to an ortho for a possible shoulder fracture. But I do have a nice shiny new MSR Shift Lever on my bike. Can't wait to try it out but gotta take care of the man for a few days. I'm not good at being sympathetic but I do hope it isn't really a fracture because he is my very favorite riding partner, he always picks out the coolest trails so I just hope it all heals quickly and with less pain than he's had the last couple days.

Nothing like loosing the crutch you rely on to break you of a bad habit - no clutch taught me that I can lighten up on it's use a bit and no shift lever taught me that I can go faster than I thought on the tight stuff. :applause:

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I think the next step is to break off your front brake lever. My boyfriend keeps threatening to do it because I rely on the fron brake too much (but I have thwarted him so far in his plans!)

Way to not let little things like inopperating clutches and shifters get in your way though!

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I have ridden short distances without clutch levers on both KTM and old XR due to mishaps. To quote Cinderella, "You don't know what you've got til it's gone ..."

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I type fast! :applause:

I think the next step is to break off your front brake lever. My boyfriend keeps threatening to do it because I rely on the fron brake too much (but I have thwarted him so far in his plans!)

Nah, that one won't be necessary. I've been down enough sandy rock shelf strewn steep downhills that I've learned to be careful with the front brake. It took a few bruises to get it through my head but I got that one now!

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