Our shop picked up a new '02 E440 from a shop in southern NC that is getting out of the C'dale business. The boss must have felt sorry for me, knowing how bad I've been wanting to get my hands on one of these puppies because he put it into the demo program and let me ride it two week-ends ago to get it broken in and then race it this past Sunday. The break in ride was an eye opener for sure, and I fell in love with the bike, but trying to do the right thing I only rode it for short periods and would then let it cool down, making minor adjustments and tweaks during the breaks. Sunday was the first time I was able to really push the bike, well as much as my very limited riding talent and poor physical conditioning would allow anyway. The H/S course I was at is a little over 6 miles long, on gentle rolling terrain with a few moderately steep, but short hills. It is a good mixture of tight deep woods stuff, with fairly open sections, and a couple of 'lets see how fast you can go' field sections thrown in for good measure. Some sections are rock gardens, others are root infested and the whole track is begining to show it's age with braking bumps and ruts from past events. My class was starting on the last row, so that gave me time to realize that I've never done a dead engine start on an E-start bike. So, as a few of the rows in front of me left I practiced lighting it up a few times to get the hang of it. As you would expect, things went pretty smoothly up until it was my turn to go. As the starter raised the flag I hit the button and wicked the throttle open. That was followed by a cough and a dead engine! I hit the happy button again and of course the engine had to spin over a few times to clear out, then it lit and I took off...dead last. There must be a trick to this, and I obviously don't know it! I was able to pass several riders in the first mile or so, but then traffic thinned out, giving me more or less clean race track to work with. For the first couple of laps I was able to maintain a fairly good pace and was amazed at how comfortable I felt on the bike. It is a very stable machine, yet at the same time turns with minimal input from the rider. Power was more than adaquate in any situation. The engine pulls clean and strong from the bottom and builds to a frenzy of revs the longer you hold the throttle open. At one point I found myself a gear to high (or so I thought) going up a short steep silty incline. A stab on the clutch was all it took to get the front end light and the bike pulling strong. Just for giggles one time I purposely didn't shift into high gear going across a field section that dumped into some woods. The bike just continued to build revs and gain speed right up until I chopped the throttle. At that point the engine breaking was more than adaquate to get me into positon for the slight turn into the trees, then back on the gas through the woods. I felt like that was actually quicker and certainly less complicated than rowing all the way through the gearbox, breaking and downshifting and then setting up for the woods. On the third lap I was really beginning to get tired and started making mistakes. A few riders got around me, and I stalled the bike twice. The first time I stalled I found myself cussing and reaching for the kick starter. It didn't take long to remember that magic button! The next time I stalled it I immediately went for the button. I didn't even put my feet down or stop rolling! I looooove that green button!!!! I got the white flag and started lap four. By this point I was toast. My arms were jello, my hands cramping up and I was totally exhausted. Pure determination was all that was going to get me through the next 6 miles. I took it easy, deciding that I didn't want to take any soil samples or get hurt. About 300 yards from the finish line another rider got by me, but this time it was one in my class. I found out later that I gave up a trophy letting him get by. Now while that may not sound like much at first, but this was my first race in about two an a half years as I have spent that time acting as an official of a series instead of a rider in one. I was actually quite tickled with myself and the bike. Overall I'm very impressed. The bike is close to magic. It simply works. The amazing part is that I really didn't have a chance to dial the suspension in, and I know that there is more performance to be had from both ends of the machine with a little tweaking and experimenting. Now if I could just figure out how to get it off the demo program and into the ownership one!!