Desflurane's Romaniacs Blog

Chronicle of My Participation in the World's Toughest Enduro Rally – Again…

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  • Husqvarna

My new training grounds

Posted by desflurane on January 21, 2016

I finally had a day off where I could get out on the dirt bike. 

Most of the surrounding hills are covered with snow so I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a new riding area. Historically I have done a lot of my training rides in the hills just outside my neighborhood. I have been politely invited not to ride there any more, so the search has been on. 

There is a stretch of open desert that I drive by quite frequently. It’s just a few minutes away from my house – a bit too far to ride the bike there, but a trivial drive in the truck – a major local road cuts right through it in fact. The area features some large, steep hills with lots of bouldery rock piles and outcrops breaking up the terrain. Big jeep trails wander all over, going nowhere really interesting (usually straight up the smoothest part of a hill, then straight down the other side). It’s not uncommon to see people riding dirt bikes and ATV’s here, but it’s usually somebody letting their kids putt around on a Honda 50 or thrashing around on a dirtbike wearing Levis and tennis shoes. I’ve never seen anybody “seriously” riding out there. And for that reason I’ve always turned my nose up at this area – it’s just for folks who don’t know anywhere better to ride.  

My current need for new stomping grounds has lowered the blinders that must have really been obscuring my vision. When I scanned over this area as I drove past day after day, I bean to see that this place has some real potential for hardcore training.

The hills are plentiful and steep, lots of interesting rock gardens everywhere you look, and best of all – none of it has been ridden before! The gomers who usually ride there stick tenaciously to the burned-in jeep trails which carefully avoid all the great features this patch of land has to offer. 

I’m sure you have guessed by now that this is where I went riding/exploring. I’ll shorten the story and just say that this place is fantastic! There are limitless opportunities to ride some gnarly stuff, some fast dirt roads, steep hill climbs through the rocks, a few double-jumps and berms just for practice. The one thing that is completely lacking out there are miles and miles of whooped-out, worn-out trails (which I have encountered at every other local riding area). It’s essentially all virgin once you venture off the jeep tracks. 

I snapped a few pictures, but they really don’t illustrate how good this place is. It does give an idea of how much room there is to explore and cut in new trails. 

And it’s worth mentioning that the dirt is just phenomenal at the moment. It’s “chocolate cake” everywhere you look! Sadly this will all turn into talcum powder in a few months, so I must enjoy it while I can!

 

 

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The suspension – installed 

Posted by desflurane on January 18, 2016

Since we were in Puerto Rico all last week, I asked the fine folks at Stillwell Performance to hang on to my suspension for a few days so it wouldn’t be sitting on the front porch for an extended period before I arrived to claim it. 

According to plan, the goodies arrived today in a big white box:

  
The contents were securely packaged:

   
 

Installation took a couple of hours

 
   

I got everything thread-locked and torqued down and checked the sag utilizing a high-precision custom gauge I constructed 

 

Sag was right on the money. 

By the time I completed all this toil the sun was about to set, eliminating the possibility of going for a real ride, so I just scooted around the cul de sac. While I can’t say much about how my new suspension works it does feel pretty good. When I climb aboard it doesn’t crush down through a good portion of the stroke. It feels like it stands up taller and made popping little wheelies up and down the driveway completely irresistable!

Of course the tendency is to say that “this new suspension is awesome” or something similar, but the fact is that I have no idea at the moment. I’ll have to get out for a few good rides before I can say anything useful. Benny’s dad put it very well when he said “after you have spent that much money on your suspension, you are absolutely going to say it is the best thing in the world, whether it  works better or not…” I’m excited to get out and see what it really does.

Addendum…

Stillwell also included this handy adjustment guide for other riding conditions. Based on this info, I’m assuming that I’m currently set at the “offroad plush” end of the spectrum. Other environments will require stiffer settings. 

  

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Puerto Rico Day Three

Posted by desflurane on January 12, 2016


Spent a couple of hours body surfing with the kids yesterday before hitting the gym. The surf was gradually growing in power, making it more and more fun, but I’m feeling a bit banged up today. The sand is soft when you walk on it, not so much when the waves pound you into it.

By this morning the lifeguards weren’t letting anybody swim  – something about deadly riptides- blah, blah, blah…


Tonite I learned that about 8pm is the magic time of the evening to show up in the fitness center! I was just finishing up my workout and noticed that I was almost alone. I guess everyone else was off clubbing or whatever. I’ll use that to my advantage!

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Puerto Rico Day One

Posted by desflurane on January 10, 2016

  Technically, this is day two – since I arrived yesterday, but I’m counting it as my first FULL day here. (Since I didn’t make it to the gym yesterday…)

The resort fitness center is actually quite nice and surprisingly well equipped. I did 45min of hills on an elliptical then worked lats and abs on the various machines. There is a nice selection of free weights as well. As always, showing up during the off-hours is key to getting the equipment you need. My conference begins tomorrow so I’ll be up fairly early. I’m not so sure I’ll be able to hit the gym first thing though, it’ll probably end up being in the evening some time.

  

We headed over to San Juan and walked around all day. It was quite hot and humid. Most enjoyable. 

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Event poster

Posted by desflurane on January 8, 2016

  

Pretty cool!

I communicated with Stillwell Performance today, and they have started work on my suspension! I’m getting their Pro Kit minus the billet preload adjuster (which only comes in orange and would look a bit odd on my blue and white Husky). 

I also took advantage of the bike down-time to get my TuBliss installed on the rear wheel. I’ve ordered one for the front as well and will install when it arrives. 

I’m also leaving for a week of much deserved vacation in Puerto Rico. At least it’s sort of a vacation – I’m attending a seminar being held there. It’ll be lectures each day from seven until noon, then beaches and fun the rest of the day. 

I’ll also be hitting the gym there each day to try and maintain the training routine I’ve been settling in to. I’ve been working out at least four days per week (tough between family, work, holidays, etc.)  and I’m planning to hit it harder and harder over the coming months. Of course I’ll ride as much as possible – once my bike is back in one piece…

== Update ==

I have arrived in San Juan and spent the afternoon on the beach with the family. January is a FANTASTIC time to visit Puerto Rico! Temperatures in the low 80’s, nice warm water, blue skies and soft sand. I could get used to this!

I also made a quick foray to the health club to see what they have to offer – and it looks LEGIT! Loads of machines and free weights. There will be no excuse for losing ground on my training just because I’m on vacation!

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Romaniacs bike semi-secured!

Posted by desflurane on January 6, 2016

  I heard back from Angelo in Romania just a few minutes ago regarding a 2015 TE300 he was offering, looks like I have it reserved! This is great news, as it means I will be able to take my suspension components over and have them bolted right on to my Romaniacs bike – perfect! It would be nice to get a 2016, but I’m not going to be too picky. 

I was getting a little anxious about the bike rental situation. Angelo only had this one Husqvarna 300 left with the event eight months away still! Nobody else responded to my emails, so I’m glad to have this taken care of. 

I said semi-secured in this post’s title because I haven’t sent any money yet, it’s just an email agreement right now 

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Waiting for better weather

Posted by desflurane on January 3, 2016

Winter has returned to northern Nevada – meaning that there is actually snow capping  the mountains and dusting the surrounding hills for a change. While this is excellent news for everyone living on either side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, it does no special favors for anybody who would like to ride their dirtbike right now. 

It would definitely be possible to ride – as there are some south-facing hillsides that are nearly free of snow – but the options are limited. With that fact in mind I have made a bold step forward!

Since I won’t be riding much in the next week or two, I have pulled the suspension off of my Husqvarna in order to let Stillwell Performance give it a working-over. There can be no question that I would benefit from stiffer springs front and rear, and  I’ll be taking advantage of Stillwell’s revalving wizardry as well – in the form of their “Pro Kit.” This is reputed to correct the 4CS fork’s misbehavior. 

My plan is to take my tuned suspension with me to Romania and mount it on my bike over there. This plan assumes that I’ll be able to secure another TE300 for the race, as the KTM EXC300’s do not use a rear linkage. 

I began this task by dropping the bike off its stand and cracking the axle bolts loose with the wheels on the floor. I then mounted the machine on a hydraulic lift and pumped her up to a comfortable height.

Then, following the recommendation of one of Jeff Slavens’ videos, I heated up the front most nut on the rear linkage with my propane torch to free up the thread locker applied by the factory. Next, I removed the front wheel entirely, hanging the front brake caliper with a zip tie. The forks slid easily out upon loosening the triple clamp bolts. Then I pulled off the rear wheel and unbolted the rear brake pedal. 

By this time the nut had cooled completely and was easily removed. Some guys have described how difficult and “tight” that nut is to get off… Because of the thread locker!

After removing the other bolts that fasten the rear shock I discovered that the silencer has to be removed in order to wiggle it out of the frame. 

   
   

Since I had the linkage apart anyway, I installed the slavens guard that has been sitting atop my toolbox for a month. 

  I cleaned the last bits of mud and grime from the bouncers and set to work boxing them up for the journey to Arizona. 

My good friend Jim provided me with a stack of 48″x48″ cardboard sheets, so I grabbed my box cutter, a ruler and a roll of packing tape and stole off to my wife’s sewing room – specifically to the wonderfully large cutting mat she has there. 

I cobbled together a pretty nice custom carton to cradle my precious WP goodies. I forgot to get pics of the rest of it, but here is the box that I made to hold the shock: 

   
The photos don’t really show all the tape, reinforcement and baffling I built in to it. Once I taped the top shut it was pretty darn solid. 

I whipped up two more similar boxes for the forks and after double-layering them in bubble wrap, sealed everything up. 

Lastly, I rafted all three boxes together, taped them into a bundle, then built another box around that. 

Once it was all together, it was quite solid. The guy at the UPS store actually congratulated my efforts when I dropped it off. 

The only thing I forgot was to put a note of some kind inside, identifying whose stuff this is… The return address on the shipping label is the only ID it has. I shot off an email to Stillwell mentioning this fact and advising them that my package should be arriving there Wednesday. 

So now I just wait…

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Pro Bends mounted 

Posted by desflurane on December 1, 2015

I finally put on he Cycra Pro Bend hand guards which I “harvested” from he KTM prior to selling it. They look sharp!


During the install, I realized that there was no possibility that the right-hand aluminum bar would clear the front brake reservoir. I puzzled over this problem for a few minutes before realizing that a simple spacer would solve the issue.

I ran to my shop and grabbed a length of 1″ diameter 6061 aluminum rod. Once chucked up tight in my lathe, I turned and bored two custom spacers which match the other parts perfectly. I had to wait until the next day to get some longer M8x1.25 flange bolts to complete the project.

It turned out nicely and completely solved the clearance problem.

The Pro Bends now mount without the significant torquing of the aluminum bar that was required before. It also eliminated the need to reposition the levers in order to get the hand guards to fit. Everything just bolts easily into place. I wish I had done this a long time ago!

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Ups and Downs

Posted by desflurane on November 24, 2015

  
The picture says it all! 

But there is a bit of a story to tell. 

The gang over in Sibiu decided to change the way registration is done for 2016. First off it was stated that there would be a limited number of starting positions available and they were expected to vanish swiftly (this isn’t really a change, it is simply a reflection of this event’s growing popularity). Second, the registration page on the Romaniacs website would go live at 10am on November 3rd. As Romania is ten hours ahead of me here in Reno, that means that I would be able to sign up at the stroke of midnight on November 2nd. 

A convenient count down clock was provided, and I checked it repeatedly to ensure that my logic was correct. It was.

When the counter wound down to zero, I was stationed at my computer, eager to click my way in to Romaniacs 2016!

The clock vanished and… Nothing! The page was blank. I sat in stunned silence for a moment before I thought to hit the refresh button. Maybe I needed to reload the page in order to see the registration stuff… Still nothing! 

Seconds dragged by, though it felt much longer. I could just see all those other guys getting registered – taking MY spot! I feverishly pounded the refresh button, to no avail. 

I lept over to the Romaniacs Facebook to see if anything had been mentioned there. All I found were a few comments indicating that the site wasn’t working for people other than myself. 

I went back to serial page refreshing and was suddenly greeted by a signup page that looked almost identical to the one used in previous years. I must admit to a smidge of disappointment here – after all that rigmarole a few fireworks or a marching band would have been nice…

I completed the online form and was reminded at the end that my registration would only be considered complete when I had paid the entry fee, and that I would be receiving a confirmation email with payment instructions very soon. 
Great!

I was ready to send my cash at that very  second, I just needed to know where. 

The next day I watched my email like a hawk, knowing that my spot was only half-way secured. Nothing came. 

Days passed and anxiety began to build. Had there been a computer glitch of some kind? Had my registration form vanished into digital oblivion? 

Then I received an email from Crina Ujupan who is the hotel booking coordinator for the event asking about the accommodations I might need. Clearly my name was on the books and the wheels were turning, it was just infuriatingly slow. 

Another week or two went by. I visited the Romaniacs website again and was speechless when I saw that registration had been closed and the starting list had been published – without my name on it!

Once again I searched my email accounts – trash folders, junk folders, you name it – no email from Romaniacs had ever arrived. I sent a desperate email to Cristina asking what had happened, and what I should do next. 

This was last Friday afternoon (wee hours of Saturday morning in Sibiu) and I knew I would get no answer until Monday at the earliest. 

I waited impatiently through the weekend and Monday morning. Near noontime I happened to be sitting at my computer when Cristina’s reply popped up on my desktop. She said that I “received” a confirmation email and should pay the registration fee asap to secure my starting position. She included links to the payment page. 

Back in business!

I sent the money and now I’m on the list!

I just love it when things go exactly according to plan…

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Clickin’

Posted by desflurane on November 10, 2015

I was at work all night last night and therefore had the day off today. I came home and crashed for a few hours then dragged myself out of bed at around 11:00. The kids were at school and my wife was meeting a friend for lunch. I found myself alone…

Obviously this is a great opportunity to go out for a dirt bike ride, but I was really having a hard time getting myself motivated to go out – alone – and ride the same old stuff I always ride. Ignore the fact that I have never come home from a ride on my training loop without a smile on my face… I just wasn’t feeling it today.

I settled on going for a nice long bicycle ride. I went out into the garage and plugged in the battery of my Di2 system since I haven’t charged it up for several months. I noticed the brand-new can of chain lube I bought the other day and picked it up. “Just washed the bike,” I reasoned, “might as well lube up the chain for next time.”

I carefully sprayed the chain inside and out while slowly turning the rear wheel. It is quite satisfying to hear the clacking, scratchy sound of a dry chain transformed into a quiet, slippery hiss with just a spray of oil. I spun the wheel around a few more times savoring the way the chain flowed smoothly over the guides and around the sprockets.

Next thing I knew I was pulling my boots and helmet on and I was headed for the trail.

It was a good ride.

The weather is quite cool today. Light showers of rain spattered my goggles as I wheelied off of the pavement, over a rock-lined ditch and onto a dirt road.

I came to the top of the trail and stopped.

It was fairly cool out and my nose had really begun to run while I had worked my way around the last few turns. As I reached up to pull off my helmet I noticed blood dripping down the side of my gas tank. I hadn’t crashed at all, or injured myself in any way.

It took me a moment to put it together, and realize that I was having a good old nosebleed. Late fall and winter get very dry here – it is high desert after all – and your skin takes a beating. The inside of my nose is no different. My goggles were pinching just below the bridge of my nose hard enough that it kicked up a little bleeding. I flailed around for a few minutes trying to find something to jam up my nose to staunch the flow. I had already grabbed a handful of dry cheat grass to sop up the blood that was already running down my face, but there was no way I was shoving that crap into my nostril. Next I pulled a micofiber cloth out of my Camelbak and packed it in. It held back the flood, but was way too big. If I left it in place it would dangle out the chin of my helmet and had no chance of staying put.

I eventually tore a piece of material from the elbow of my jersey and stuffed it up my nose as far as I could stand it. That jersey was pretty shredded anyway…

I figured that I would just head for home after that, but once I got rolling again my nosebleed didn’t seem like much of a priority – hitting my favorite rock gardens for some extreme practice on the other hand…

I spent a couple of hours climbing up stone stair-steps and working on some short but steep hillclimbs. Eventually I made my way to a broad patch of nearly flat ground that is covered with jagged stones. They range from fist to head-sized and are just loose and uneven enough to make for some good practice. As you ride across them the bike starts to bounce around a bit and the rocks start sliding around a little, making it a challenge to keep the bike balanced and on course.

I decided to see what would happen if I clicked the compression damping of my forks up a bit.

Two clicks more than the stock setting and I made another pass across the rocks. Wow! The bike tracked straighter and deflected less! I made another pass to see if I was just imagining it.

No, there really was a difference!

Two more clicks (four total) and Holy Cow! The rocks were no longer a challenge at all. I could just ride directly across them without any concern. The bike felt completely stable and planted as I rolled through.

I wound the clickers back to stock and tried the rocks again – difficulty was back. I wasn’t just imagining it.

I wove my way back and forth through the stones until I basically got bored with them, then headed for home.

I arrived at the house just as my wife returned from lunch.  She was thoroughly impressed with the bloody scrap of cloth hanging out of my nose.

Anything to impress the ladies!

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