In a few of these pages (especially the ones under the "Comments" section) I've tried to impart some "words of wisdom"; giving you the benefit of my long experience with bikes and motoring in general. That doesn't mean I'm infallible though! And it doesn't mean I haven't done my share of stupid things! If you've read the one on "Downhill Terror", you'll know that already! So here are a few more you can have a laugh at!
You've probably read my "Downhill Terror" episode (if not, read that first, then you'll know what I'm talking about here). So I'll start with that. When I wrote the article I wanted a photo to put on the story. Now I wasn't stupid enough to go back to the same place; so I spent some time looking out for narrow dirt tracks that I could get to without getting myself into the same situation. And eventually I did find a narrow bush track right alongside a main road. I just had to swing down that for a few metres and take the photo; and that's the photo you saw. But before I got to that I did get myself into another "cat-up-a-tree" situation that wasn't as bad as the other one, but still enough to get the feline panic going!
I knew a place that might provide a good photo. It was an extremely steep one-lane track leading up into the bush. It was sealed with concrete for a short distance, then when the concrete ended it ended on a flat spot before continuing as a rough bush track. I knew this because I'd been up there many years before on the trail-bike. The concrete section I figured would be okay, and I could possibly get a good "bush-track" photo from the spot where it ended.
I went to there and headed up the narrow track. Boy, it is steep, isn't it! I had reckoned on the solid surface being okay, but it was littered with small blue-metal type stones. Hmmm, not looking good, but I'm still okay. I got to the end, stopped and investigated photo-opportunities. It didn't provide any good shots, so I got back on the bike to come down. And that's when the panic set in! I had some trouble even turning it around - the flat area seemed smaller than I recall it being on my DT Yamaha!
When I did get it around, I was pointing down this massively steep hill; and it looked even steeper looking down than it had riding up! The surface might have been concrete, but having all those little rocks over it made it look pretty treacherous. The heart was racing and legs wobbling as I got back into the "engine-off and walk-it-down" mode; leaning the bike slightly to the left so it wouldn't over-balance and using light application of front and rear brake to hold it at walking pace.
Once down to the bottom I couldn't believe I had been stupid enough to get myself into the same situation! And (and this is probably the most stupid part!) I knew I really could have put both feet on the pegs and ridden down it, but ..... it's that "cat-up-a-tree" thing again!
You might recall in the "Downhill Terror" one that I came to a stop on a steep loose-surface hill, and put both feet down and grabbed the front brake. Stupid thing to do! Well, I remember doing this once before, many years ago. Similar sort of situation, I ended up going up a very steep trail that was extremely loose – all rocks and stuff. And once again it ended at a locked gate. So down went both feet and I pulled on the front brake. Stupid! Immediately the front wheel locked and I went hurtling backwards down the hill leaving three skid marks – one from the locked front wheel, and the other two from my heels dragging on the ground! I tried getting the right foot back up onto the brake pedal, but by now the back brake probably wasn’t going to be much good – only lock the back wheel on the loose surface and then the whole show would come tumbling down. (Or maybe the wheel would lock and the bike would do a nice back-flip?). But somehow I had to stop! So I tried steering the bike towards the side of the track, where the surface seemed not quite so loose. I’d half disappeared into the bush on the side of the track when it finally came to a stop. Then I had to try and turn the thing around and get back down. Same scenario as in the “Downhill Terror” one again. I guess all the years didn’t overcome these cat-like, stupid reactions!
CHECK THE KILL-SWITCH
There were probably many incidents back in the trail-riding days that might indicate less than totally sensible behavior, so I'll pull just a couple out that I remember.
One was in the very early years - I'd just bought my new Yamaha DT125. We'd tailered it to a popular riding spot up the coast. We unloaded the bikes, pulled on the gear, and started up the bikes. Except mine wouldn't start. Weird, it usually starts first kick! We checked for petrol and spark, and discovered a lack of electrical action. Try a different plug. No luck. Check the plug-lead; but that was fine. A friend was helping me at this stage. "You haven't got the kill-switch off have you?" he asked. I told him no, I never used the kill-switch. So it was down to the source of the spark.
This was before electronic ignitions, so it still had the old points system. Checking the points involved taking off the side-cover and then rotating the flywheel until you could see - and with some very fiddly motions adjust - the points through little "windows" in the flywheel. We checked the gap, but it was fine. We decided that there must be a major failure in one of the ignition coils or some other related component. The only option seemed to be to load it on the trailer and be a spectator for the day. Then my friend noticed something. "The *#@$# kill-switch is off!" he yelled at me.
What had happened was that one of the tie-downs we'd used on the bikes had crossed over the handlebar and nudged the switch into the "Off" position. Flick the switch, one kick and it fired up! I think it was that experience that inspired me to always use the kill-switch to shut the motor down - partly to get used to it being there to use in an emergency, but partly to avoid any repetition of this incident!
And speaking of things like kill switches, I suppose we’ve all done this – left the choke on. This is not something I would be likely do because on all my bikes I’ve usually only used the choke briefly, before pushing it in and warming it up on normal mixture. I figure this is healthier for the engine than running it on a rich mixture. Anyway, one day I took off for a ride and all was going well for a while until the bike began running very rough. Eventually it reached the point where it wouldn’t idle. So I turned around and headed for home, trying to work out what was wrong. It felt like a fuel problem, and I was thinking of things like a leaking needle-and-seat causing the carbies to flood. I was almost home when I thought to check the choke. Yep, it was still on! Push it in, and immediately the bike was back to it’s usual self. And feeling a bit silly, I turned around and went for my ride.
THE STUPID MECHANIC.
Now I have always been a bit of a mechanic. I do my own servicing, and have had experience at pulling engines apart and so on. Although my crook back prevents me from doing the heavier mechanical jobs these days. But the point is that I do know a bit about the mechanical workings of cars and bikes. So when it comes to mechanical things, I'm not dumb - well, not usually! But I suppose even the best of mechanics do silly things from time to time. Here is a really dumb thing I did!
I wanted to change the fork-oil on one of the trail-bikes many years ago. This is a simple job. You drain the existing oil out via drain-screws in the bottoms of the forks, then add the prescribed amount of oil through the top of the forks. Simple. For efficiency and to make the job easier, it's best to drain both legs at once; because it's easier to pump the suspension up and down to make sure you get all the oil out. With that done I replaced the screws. Next job is to remove the caps on the top of each fork leg and add the new oil. And, thinking of efficient working practice, I removed both caps at once, seeing as I had the spanner in my hand. You know what happened, don't you! As soon as the second cap left the fork leg, the whole front-end crashed down to the bottom, and the springs flew high into the air above my head, landing on the lawn somewhere behind me. Stupid! Of course it is the fork-caps that hold the springs in place at the top. That was blatantly obvious - half a second after I'd released the second cap! I managed to find the springs and washers okay (luckily I'd cut the grass not too long before!), then replaced one of the springs and caps, and proceeded to fill each fork separately, which is what you are supposed to do, of course!
DON'T RIDE SIDE-SADDLE!
Years of riding trail-bikes, and especially my time riding trials, gave me a pretty good sense of balance. In fact, one of my little "party-tricks" used to be to ride off the side-stand. That was back when you could do this; these days there is an automatic engine-cut-out that doesn't allow it. What I used to do was, with the bike on the side-stand, I'd click it into gear, stand up and ride away. Balancing the bike was actually very easy doing this. You just had to pull it up straight as it moved forward and the stand flicked up. But there were times when I pushed this balance thing too far.
One occasion was when I had the bike out the front of our house and went to wheel it down the driveway, which slopes downhill. Instead of starting it up I let it coast down. And instead of sitting on it properly (and here comes the really stupid part!) I decided to just stand on the left foot-peg. Going down the driveway was easy, hanging off one side and balancing the bike with the handlebars. At the bottom of the driveway I had to turn to the left towards the shed where I kept it. And that's where it all went wrong! As I turned, the bike over-balanced to the right. I pulled up on the bars, but by this time I was over-balanced, and so the whole lot - bike and me on top of it - came crashing down on it's right side. Stupid, stupid! It broke a mirror, and gave me a few bumps and scratches; not to mention a severe case of embarrassment!
DON’T PULL OUT THE NAIL
I left for a ride one day many years ago (back in trail-bike days, but this happened on the road) and got just to the other side of the town where I live when the bike began handling very weird. A quick inspection revealed a half-flat rear tyre. The fact that this weird handling had occurred fairly suddenly was a good indication that I had got a puncture. I wheeled the bike slowly forward, looking at the tyre and yes, sure enough, there was a nail imbedded in the tyre. I got the tool kit out and using pliers managed to pull the nail out. PSSSST! The tyre went totally flat! Stupid! It’s always best to leave the offending item in the tyre because it does offer some restriction to the amount of air escaping compared to the gaping hole that’s left when you pull it out!
Now, with a totally flat tyre I couldn’t ride it, but had to push it (I did use the engine for some assistance when possible) back into town. Let me tell you, if you’ve never had to do it, pushing a bike with a totally flat tyre is hard work! Not only is it heavier to push, but it wobbles all over the place!
I managed to get it back to a service station where I thought I’d try inflating it. I whacked about 40psi in it, jumped on and raced off to the next servo which was a few hundred metres down the road. By then it was almost flat again, so I whacked another 40psi or so in it and off I went again. By doing this I eventually made it home, where I was able to push it into the shed, and pull the wheel off to take it in and get the puncture fixed. I’ve actually never had another puncture, but if ever I do I’ll know not to pull the offending item out!
DON’T GO ON YOUR OWN
Trail-riding is probably a bit like sex – you really shouldn’t do it on your own! This is just common-sense, and I have always known this and followed it. Well, almost always. I remember one occasion when I headed off for a day at a trail-bike park. However it was a holiday weekend (Easter, as I recall) and when I got there I found the park was closed. There I was, car and trailer, bike all tied on ready, and nowhere to ride! Then I remembered an area not far back where I’d often seen bikes riding in the bush beside the road. So I went back there, drove a little way down a track off the road and unloaded the bike. I figured I’d just ride around the area close by; not going too far, because I was on my own.
I rode around the immediate area for a while, and then turned down a fire-trail. The trail was wide and not very rough; pretty safe. But it got rougher and steeper as it went on. A little voice inside was telling me I should turn back, but it was an interesting ride, and so I kept going. Then I decided I would head back in the general direction of where I’d come from, but not back the same way. I headed down another trail that very quickly became very muddy. It was thick, slimy black mud. I was handling it okay though until suddenly it hit a particularly slippery patch and the bike skidded out sideways from under me. I furiously prodded the ground trying to keep it upright, but it ended up crashing down on it’s side, with me half pinned underneath it.
I lay there for a moment, making sure I was still in one piece, and then scrambled out from under the bike. My leg hurt, but there were no serious injuries. So I got on and rode back the way I’d come. It was still a reasonably challenging ride, but I made it back to the car safely. But it was stupid! What if I had hurt myself more seriously, like broken a leg or something? There was no-one else around, so I could have been there for days before anyone found me! Yes, pretty stupid!
Of course you inevitably end up doing stupid things from time to time when you trail-ride; although my oft-mentioned sense of self-preservation kept me from doing things too dangerous or stupid. Usually. I’ll recount just one other incident. We were riding along a trail through the bush when we came to a big pool of muddy water. The obvious path was to go through near the edge. But the ground around the muddy water was fairly flat, so I figured it wouldn’t be very deep. And I thought it’d be fun to blast through the middle of it! So I lined it up and powered on in. SPLOOOOSH! There was a reason the muddy water was all pooled up in that particular spot – that particular spot happened to be a rather deep hole in the track! And the water was actually quite deep. The bike and rider got totally drenched in mud! Luckily it got through without the engine gulping too much water, (which wasn’t always the case when we attempted creek crossings – one of our group once managed to get his bike upside down in a creek, and it took ages to get the water out and get it going!). It spluttered a bit for a few minutes, but dried out and got going again. It took a bit longer for me to dry out though!
Okay, so these are just a few things I remember.If I thought hard enough I could probably come up with more - but I think I've embarrassed myself enough already!
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