I received this today:
It looks like they’re once again trying to shut down, or severely limit, OHV recreation at the Oregon Dunes. If you enjoy riding there, please take five minutes and send off a letter to support our efforts to keep it open!
I received this today:
It looks like they’re once again trying to shut down, or severely limit, OHV recreation at the Oregon Dunes. If you enjoy riding there, please take five minutes and send off a letter to support our efforts to keep it open!
I attended Portland Kayak‘s Rolling Class last Sunday (the 28th). Thankfully, it was held in the heated pool the same as with the Rescue Class from a couple of weekends prior… since Oregon weather this time of year tends to be cold and rainy.
This is a fairly short class, at only two hours. But it’s one instructor for two students, so you get plenty of attention and practice! Our instructor this time was Mike, who is apparently quite the accomplished roller of kayaks. He makes it look so easy… and really, once you learn from him, it actually is.
Mike starts out by getting into one of the kayaks and breaking the roll down for us. He first leans over and backward, with his paddle outward. He uses a paddle float on the end to assist with bracing so he can concentrate on describing what’s going on as he does it.
After doing this a few times, he goes all the way over, and just as seamlessly, rolls back upright. It’s amazing to watch from our un-initiated point of view!
Now it’s our turn. He holds the kayak and tips us slowly while describing what he wants us to do, how to position our paddle and our bodies, etc. After a few of these, we go all the way over and start learning how to find our starting position and properly do the sweep with our bodies and paddles that results in the kayak rolling back upright.
We each take turns doing this for a while, and then Mike starts tipping us over in “less than ideal” positions to force us to learn how to find our starting position when we weren’t already there in the first place. Of course, he’s always an arm’s length away if we need him.
By the way, nose plugs are strongly recommended! I would also recommend ear plugs if you have any trouble with getting water in your ears. I wish I had had some; I ended up nauseous about 2/3 of the way through and had to get out and just watch. I will re-take the class after the first of the year and have earplugs this time. I’ll also make a point of not eating lunch so close to class time.
Once again, it was a great class! I strongly recommend this class and also the Rescue Class to be properly prepared when you’re out kayaking.
Last Saturday (October 27th), I attended Nigel Foster’s Directional Control and Blending Strokes class up at Portland Kayak. Nigel Foster is quite the kayaking authority. He and his wife, Kristen Nelson, have been just about everywhere in a kayak, and written about it, made DVDs about it, and are kind enough to give classes both in Portland and Seattle.
Nigel and Kristen are a ton of fun to be around. Nigel is really quite the character and bit of a joker. It’s really cool. He makes you feel very much at ease and wants you to seek him out with questions if you’re unsure of anything. Kristen is a sweetheart and acts as an extension of Nigel’s eyes, watching everybody practice each lesson, and providing tips and feedback as needed.
This class is a great sequel to the Kayaking Essentials class I had three weeks ago. It covers a few of the strokes I learned in that class, but then goes way, way beyond. It’s a six-hour class rather than four, like the other class. There’s so much information taught in this class, that I can’t really even begin to write about each individual stroke. I’ll do my best to give some highlights.
Nigel begins by focusing a lot of attention on the dynamics of the kayak and how it relates to the wind. He explains how to course-correct when travelling with the wind from the side, and ways to make turning into and out of the wind easier. His big thing with all of these strokes is to maximize effect while minimizing effort. The less energy you can expend means the longer you can paddle.
Most of his lessons are very small and focused, and build on the previous one. For example, we start out learning to edge the boat (leaning it to one side or the other), and get comfortable with how that feels while sitting still. Then we paddle and try it. Then we paddle and try it while adding a single sweep stroke on the edged side and allow the boat to turn. And so on.
I especially liked the lessons on balance. I have a long way to go to really get good at it, and develop the muscle memory, but it’s something I will practice as much as possible. I’m already looking forward to getting out on the water sometime next week to go through this stuff so I don’t forget it.
I can’t recommend this class enough if you’re serious about becoming a better kayaker.
You can learn more about Nigel Foster by visiting his website.
I started riding 2-1/2 years ago with the primary reason being to commute and save time (and gas) getting to and from work, thanks to Lane Splitting, which is legal in California, where I was living at the time.
Not long after, I found myself in Northwestern Oregon on a new job (I moved around depending on the work — that’ll be another blog post later). Well, as you know, it’s wet in the Pacific Northwest. It rains at least eight months of the year here. On top of that, it’s not possible to get a parking permit to park a car in downtown due to a two-year waiting list, and a monthly cost of $65 if you did have such a permit. Motorcycle parking, on the other hand, was easy to come by and a permit was only $6/month. So for me, commuting via motorcycle was mandatory. The only time I wouldn’t ride the bike to work would be if it was snowy or icy. Thankfully, that’s rare.
To prepare for wet weather commuting, I read reviews and purchased waterproof riding gear. There are several approaches you can take for this. One is to buy a jacket and paints that are waterproof. Another is to buy a rain suit to go over your regular riding gear. The latter method has an advantage in that the rain suit will act as another insulating layer when its cold. But, the downside is you have to plan ahead to put it on before it rains, or have to pull over and put it on along the side of the road.
I chose the former method. All of my gear is waterproof, with the exception of my mesh jacket, which is meant purely for Summer riding. My two main commute jackets are a Tourmaster Transition 2 and a FirstGear Kilimanjaro. I also have a pair of Tourmaster Caliber pants. My Alpinestars street boots are waterproof, and I have two pair of waterproof gloves, one from First Gear, the other from Frank Thomas. None are Gore-Tex, by the way. Gore-Tex stuff is nice, but incredibly expensive. Sorry, I don’t have that kind of money to spend.
Once you have the gear, you’re getting close to being ready. There are a couple more things you should do. First, your helmet Go get a bottle of Rain-X and treat the visor on your helmet. Only treat the outside of the visor, or it’ll make a huge mess. But this will make it much easier to see, especially when riding in traffic in the rain, with all the spray other cars are kicking up around you.
Next… tires. Motorcycles have a very small contact patch with the road, and when you add water to the mix, you’re asking for trouble. The tread on motorcycle tires, in my opinion, is woefully inadequate. You really should get some good tires suited for riding in the rain. I’m only aware of two tires that fall into this category right now — the Michelin Pilot Road 2 and Pilot Road 3. I’ve used the Pilot Road 2 on three bikes now and love them. They last very well; the rear tire typically goes 5000-6000 miles before wearing flat in the middle. The previous owner of my 2001 Yamaha FZ1 ran those tires exclusively, and went through a set every 6000 miles over the 60,000 miles that he owned the bike. So I put another set on just last week, in preparation for the rain.
Prior to this bike, I used to ride my Suzuki DR650 in the rain. Being a dual-sport bike, its tires are actually far superior (again, IMO) to even the Pilot Road 2′s. The tread is deeper, and there’s more of it. I’ve used Shinko 700 and Shinko 705 tires on that bike, and both have performed superbly in wet weather. But since my FZ1 is not new (or even close to it), already scratched and in need of several plastic pieces, I’m going to continue commuting on it instead of on my DR650. I will report back later as to how well it does. On my DR650, with the exception of braking, it stuck to the road in the rain almost as well as in the dry. And with a whopping 36 hp, it’s in no danger of overpowering its tires.
Now that you’re geared up and your bike is ready, it’s time to ride. The key to riding in the rain safely is to be smooth. Avoid any abrupt control in puts. Don’t lean the bike over as far as you might usually do. More than anything, leave a lot more space to stop, and either go very, very easy on the rear brake, or avoid using it at all. If your bike happens to have ABS or traction control, you’re in a much better position since it will take care of a lot of that for you. But, learning to get by without those technical gadgets will make you a better rider in the long run.
If, while riding in traffic, you do find yourself in a situation where you can’t stop in time, ease up on the brakes (or release them altogether) and aim between cars. It’s better to risk a “lane splitting” ticket (if you aren’t in California), or take off a car’s mirror or side-swipe them than it is to hit from behind — both you and your bike will fair better.
Now, if you’re the “timid” type that tends to freeze up in emergency situations, then honestly, you should reconsider riding in the rain at all, at least until such a time as you can overcome those feelings. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble. There are enough variables to contend with when commuting in traffic on a dry day; adding wet roads and reduced visibility makes it that much worse.
Today was my Rescue Class, put on by Portland Kayak. This class teaches some very important skills needed to kayak safely, whether with others, or by yourself. I got started in this sport over Labor Day weekend, and was eager to learn this stuff so I would be more comfortable on the water — especially since there are a few friends that I would like to try to addict to kayaking.
The point of this class is to teach how to get back into your kayak after capsizing. The class teaches you how to do this with help from another kayaker (an assisted rescue), or by yourself (a self rescue).
Once again, we had the pleasure of Alicia as our instructor, just as with last weekend’s Kayaking Essentials class. Alicia has been kayaking, and teaching kayaking classes, for years.
There were only three of us in today’s class. Since it’s held in a heated swimming pool, there’s only so much room.
After introductions and a review of boat components, like in last weekend’s class, we put the boats in the pool and got into them. I was volunteered to be the first one to capsize, so I put on my nose plugs, and over I went! Wow.. what an interesting feeling. Going over is easy — just tip to either side while moving your paddle parallel to your boat, and keep going. I tended to let go of the paddle at this point (bad idea), and focused on finding the pull-strap on the spray skirt. Pull that, and the boat spits you right out.
Now that I’m all wet and in the water, we’re taught that it’s up to the rescuer to come to me and provide instruction. The rescuer assumes that the victim (for lack of a better term) may be hurt or in shock and not be in a good frame of mind. If the water is very cold, that would make a lot of sense.
Alicia taught us three versions of the assisted rescue. The first version has the victim climbing up onto the rear deck of the boat on their stomach, pointing themselves aft, and then sliding their legs into the cockpit, and rolling over. Nice ‘n easy.
The next version has the victim hooking his inside leg over the side of the boat in the cockpit, while grabbing the coaming, hooking the other leg, and, “rolling” (again, for lack of a better term) up onto the deck. Then, ultimately into the cockpit the same was as the previous method. I wasn’t terribly fond of this method.
The third method is to have the victim come in between the two boats, with the rescuer holding the boat in a sort of narrow Vee position. The victim places their arms over each boat, leans their head all the way back, and then hook their legs up into the cockpit. I found this one especially difficult and tiring.
As the rescuer, we were taught how to properly assist the victim. I learned (the hard way, a couple of times) how important it is to hold onto their boat properly. You have to pretty much tip your own boat on its side while holding their boat for them to climb back in. It’s okay — you aren’t going to capsize since you have hold of their boat. But until you actually try it, you can’t help but think you’re gonna get wet.
During one of my times as a rescuer, I failed terribly. The victim was attempting what I’ve been calling the Vee Method, and I didn’t have a good hold of his boat. It also didn’t help that he was a big guy, weighing at least half again as much as me. But while holding his boat, and him trying to get back in, I lost my grip. He went back in the water, and I went over too. But the learning experience was that I went in while leaning backward.
When you capsize, you try to lean forward as you go under, but I didn’t really get that option. So the boat is upside down, I’m underwater, and I’m leaned back. I instinctively try to get out, and I can’t — I’m stuck because of my spray skirt. After about two seconds of alarm, I shoved that aside and relaxed, moved forward, found the strap, pulled it, and popped out. It was a good thing to learn in a controlled environment.
Next up were self-rescues. This was the part I was most looking forward to, since I paddle alone most of the time. My favorite is the paddle float method, where you slip a paddle float over the end of your paddle, inflate it, and use it as a counter balance while you get back in the boat. The other method that I learned was what Alicia calls the Cowboy (or Cowgirl, as the case may be) method. It’s very similar to the Paddle Float method initially, but once you get up on the boat, you’re straddling it kinda how you would straddle a horse to get back into the cockpit. It takes quite a bit of energy to use this method, and I wouldn’t want to do it unless there was no other way.
Alicia then showed us two more versions of the assisted rescue that, if done quickly, you don’t even need to exit your boat when you capsize. I would call it an assisted roll. Basically, if your partner is closeby when you capsize, the idea is that they will point the bow of their boat perpendicular to your boat, and come over and touch your boat with their bow, at the cockpit. Meanwhile, you’re upside down, with your hands up on the sides of your boat, feeling around for the other boat’s bow. Assuming this all happens fast enough and you don’t have to wet exit to catch your breath, you can grab the bow of the other boat, and flip yourself back over.
The other version of this is to have your boat parallel to the capsized boat. You hold your paddle perpendicular to your boat, across your lap, but extended over the hull of the capsized boat. Pressing down on the shaft of your paddle, the other person can reach up, grab the shaft of your paddle, and use it to roll themselves upright.
Alicia pointed out that it would be a good idea to guide the capsized person’s hand to the paddle shaft with your own hand to save them time and let them know somebody is there to help them.
With that, our time in the pool was up, and it was time head home, full of lots of new knowledge! I had a great time, and I’m already looking forward to the Rolling Class in two weeks.
I strongly recommend this class to all kayakers, even if all you do is paddle around lakes in a recreational boat. Every kayaker should have these skills. It really could be a matter of life and death. I’ve spoken to two kayakers in the last week who have said they want to learn to roll, but have shown no interest in taking this particular class. I think this class should be a prerequisite to rolling; what happens if you attempt to roll and can’t do it? You end up wet exiting. Now what? With this class under your belt, you’ll know what to do.
Two and a half years ago, I started riding. Not long after, I got bit by the dual sport bug, having been sent a thread to a Ride Report on http://www.ADVRider.com, the de facto Adventure Riding web forum. Six months later, I finally purchased my first dual sport motorcycle, a 1996 Suzuki DR650SE. I picked the DR650 because of its size, weight, durability/reliability, and availability on the used market.
The DR650 has quite a following on ADVRider; the thread dedicated to it has over 70,000 posts going back about five years. Anything you could ever want to know about it is in that thread. Most popular ADV/Dual Sport bikes have similar threads, though the DR650, I believe, is the most active of them all.
After getting the bike and adding some more accessories to it (referred to as, “farkles”), I started exploring the various forest roads near Salem, Oregon, where I lived at the time (and do again now — that’s another story in and of itself). It didn’t take long to figure out a few things. First, the bike was too tall, and second, despite being the lightest of the big-bore dual sport motorcycles, it’s still pretty heavy, and quite a bear to pick up when you drop it.
After moving to Southern California for work a few months later, I attended an ADVRider rally in Death Valley the following March. This was my rude awakening. I learned just how “fish out of water” I was. Dirt riding is totally unlike street riding, and when you’re new to it, being on a big bike like the DR650 is enough to make you want to say to hell with it and go back to street riding.
Once I got home from that trip, I decided I needed a smaller bike. I had no intention of replacing my trusty DR. It’s an awesome bike that I doubt I will ever get rid of. I wanted something smaller to ride on more technical trails, and lighter so I could learn how to ride in dirt.
I ended up picking the Kawasaki KLX250S. I wanted an inexpensive, relatively lightweight, and small bike that still had something resembling respectable power. Well, I got two out of those three points with the KLX. Sort of.
The KLX is a tall bike with a 35″ seat height. I have a 29″ inseam, so do the math. For the record, the DR650 also has a 35″ seat height when stock. I managed to lower it 2-1/2″ using factory suspension adjustments and a set of “dog bones” (lowering links) on the rear shock. But the KLX has no such suspension adjustment options. I added a 1″ lowering link set, which made a slight difference. I knew I had to get it lower. And I knew it needed a better seat, since the stock seat is awful. I had a custom seat made by Bill Mayer Saddles in Ojai, California. I rode the bike out to their shop and waited while it was custom made. The upside is they were able to cut the seat height down by almost three inches. This made all the difference, and I got a much more comfortable seat in the process. No, you do not want to know how much it cost.
So now the KLX sat about an inch lower overall than the DR650, by my estimates. I would have liked one more inch, but it wasn’t practical without having the rear shock rebuilt, and that wasn’t in the budget. Besides, it would compromise ground clearance too much.
With all that done, and other farkles such as hand guards (to protect the levers), a skid plate, and a rack (for carrying stuff), I was set. A friend I made during the Death Valley trip was nice enough to take me out and start showing me the ropes of dirt riding. I did a fair amount of chickening out in some of the stuff he would try to take me on, but I got through other parts of it. It’s a matter of working up the nerve, doing it, and gaining confidence from it. He and I rode off and on for the next few months, and I got lots of good practice.
Then in November, I went back to Death Valley again. I made the mistake of trying to follow some very experienced riders on the first day I got there, and got thoroughly frustrated when I kept dumping the bike on a rocky uphill. I let them know I was giving up, and went back to camp. For the next few days, I stuck to easier trails.
Fast forward about six months to the next year’s Death Valley trip in March (2012). I put a fresh set of knobby tires on the KLX, along with a larger gas tank and a jet kit. The tires made an enormous improvement in how the bike handled. The stock tires were just garbage. They were fine on pavement, but on the dirt, forget it. It’s no wonder I was having trouble! I did several rides that were pretty challenging and did very well. I was finally learning and gaining confidence!
So here we are, present day. What I’ve learned is this: If you want to get into dual sport riding, keep in mind that you really should start with a smaller bike, with a seat height you can deal with, that is light enough for you to pick up when you drop it. And you will drop it. Repeatedly. It’s a part of the learning process.
Keep in mind, though, that these smaller bikes, such as the KLX250S and its bretheren — the Suzuki DR200, the Yamaha XT225 or XT250, the Yamaha WR250R, etc., are all SLOW motorcycles. We’re talking 12-18 hp or thereabouts. On dirt, that is plenty of power. It’s fun. On pavement, it’s painfully slow. You will get beat by pretty much every car on the road. And heaven help you if you try to go on the freeway.
If having a smaller bike isn’t in the budget, and you just want something capable of going off-road, that’s still workable. The learning curve will be much slower, but you’ll still learn. Just don’t try to take it off the pavement by yourself at first.. because again, you will need to be able to pick it up if you drop it. And you can drop it on a fire road just as easily as something more challenging.
Riding a motorcycle on dirt is like riding a cow wearing rollerskates. At least that’s what it feels like at first. You feel like you’re riding on marbles. The bike won’t feel at all, “planted,” like it does on asphalt. The front wheel will dart about depending on the surface you’re on. The rear end may feel like it could jump out from under you at any moment (it won’t, necessarily, but it may feel that way). Only with time will you gain the confidence to understand what you’re feeling so that it’s not nerve-wracking all the time.
I’ll do another post later with more specifics on dirt riding; for now I just wanted to give a realistic introduction for those who are considering getting into dual sport riding.
Unless you’re made of money, odds are you’ll be looking at used bikes. What are some good ones to consider? Here’s my short list:
As mentioned at the start of this post, it’s the lightest of all the big-bore (meaning 650cc or larger) dual sports, at 366 lbs wet (meaning full of fuel and other fluids). It’s air-cooled, which means simpler maintenance.
The KLR650 is more popular than the DR650, probably because of marketing. It’s a heavier bike, unfortunately. Kawasaki claims 440 lbs wet, but I have a friend with one, and with a full tank of gas, his weighed in at 475 lbs, and his only accessories were a skidplate and crashbars. The older KLR650′s (pre-2008) weigh about 30 lbs less, but aren’t nearly as attractive.
This is BMW’s version of the DR650. It’s still heavy (440 lbs wet), but it’s a single-cylinder just like the DR650 and KLR650. It’s a decently capable machine, and has more modern features like fuel injection.
Suzuki V-Strom DL650
This bike is more of a street bike than a dual-sport, but many people do successfully take them off-road. It weighs about 470 lbs wet. It has a 650cc V-Twin motor, which makes more power than any of the aforementioned bikes, and will be by far the most comfortable for long distances on pavement. But it’s also by far the least capable off-road. I personally wouldn’t take one of these onto anything more challenging than a fire road. Still, it’s a great bike. There is also a 1000cc version, weighing about 40 lbs more, but making about 50% more power.
That’s it for now. Any questions? Please post in the comments.
Being new to the sport of kayaking, I signed up for the Kayaking Essentials class, put on by Portland Kayak (www.portlandkayak.com). I wanted to get some real training before I developed many bad habits, having started out on my own about a month ago.
They put these classes on several times a month, usually on Saturdays, and usually from 10 AM to 2 PM. They ask you to arrive fifteen minutes early to get ready. Being new to the sport, and since Salem has no kayaking shops, I was very excited to get there and get to look around and talk to some knowledgeable people.
When I arrived, I met Annie, whom I had spoken with in email and on the phone. She directed me to a place to stash my stuff and a room where I could change into my wet suit. As I did this, the other eight students gradually arrived.
By 10 AM, we were introduced to our instructors, the lovely ladies, Alicia and Lauren. We were led out to the garage and assigned to our respective boats. I was assigned a light blue SEDA kayak. After a brief lecture about how to wheel the kayaks down to the water (stuff like, don’t drag it on the concrete and please don’t drop it), we all headed down to the water.
We all lined up at a grassy area, and removed our boats from the dollies. After introductions, Alicia went over all the parts of the boat (bow, stern, cockpit, etc.), and then put on the spray skirt. She was nice enough to explain to us guys that it’s perfectly acceptable for male kayakers to wear skirts.
She got into her boat and attached the spray skirt, and demonstrated how to do a wet exit. We all then put our own spray skirts on and got in our own boats to do the same. Alicia and Lauren went around and made sure our footrests were properly adjusted and that everything was correct — such as keeping the loop on the front of the skirt accessible.
Once they were sure we could all get out if we capsized, we loaded our boats back onto the dollies and rolled them down to the dock. One by one, we got them into the water, and with help from Alicia and Lauren, we got in them, and headed out into the Willamette River.
Now that everybody was in the water, we were instructed to head across the river to a cove on the other side, where we would be somewhat protected from the day’s unusual, and very gusty winds… 15 mph gusting to 25+.
After everybody was in the little cove, Alicia began our lessons. We started with the forward sweep stroke, used to turn the kayak without losing momentum. Next, it was the reverse sweep. And then doing the forward sweep on one side and a reverse sweep on the other, in order to effectively pivot the boat in place. Well, in place inasmuch as the wind would allow.
At some point during all of this, one of the other students capsized. I’m still not sure if this was accidental, or if he was paid off to do it as a demonstration.
In any case, he kept his cool (literally, since the water was quite chilly), and Lauren performed a flawless two-person rescue. I was especially fascinated by this, since I’m signed up for the Rescues class next weekend.
Alicia then demonstrated our next strokes.. I’m not 100% sure if this is what they’re called, I can’t remember for sure… bow rudder and stern rudder turns? Both are very slick turns, my favorite being the bow version. It’s great for turning such a long (17′) kayak in much less time than with a sweep stroke.
Once we had all practiced those strokes, Alicia then showed us two sculling strokes. These are meant for moving your kayak sideways. Think, “parallel parking” for lack of a better way to describe it.
The final stroke, oddly enough, is the most common — the forward stroke. With special emphasis on proper torso rotation, we all paddled for a hundred yards or so (while battling the wind), meeting up at a bit stump in the water. We hung out there for a recap of the class, and then headed back across the river to the dock.
In all, it was a great day! The wind made it especially challenging. I enjoyed it, though I think some of the other students who had never been in a kayak before would have preferred calmer conditions, but hey, this is what this sport is all about!
If you’re new to kayaking, I strongly recommend taking one of these classes. It teaches some very valuable and (in my opinion) essential skills. Not to mention making things a whole lot more fun!