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July 1999

Why Take a Spode to an Enduro?

The answer is obvious, "to watch him suffer." Jay wanted to ride an enduro, and I could not help myself from letting him. I knew the opportunity for comedy would be too great to pass on. It looked like our Spode had decided not to do this to himself, but stupidity ruled and he went anyway.

We had discussed this earlier in the year, and I thought it would be fun to do if we both got in better riding shape and spent some serious time on the trails. Of course this never happened and we entered the Little Polecat woefully under-prepared. Jay had promised that he would replace his bald tires and do some maintenance on his poor RMX before leaving. When I showed up at his house his bike was still covered in mud from our last ride, 2 months earlier. The tires were still bald, the chain hung slack and dry, and of course the air filter had been last cleaned by the dealer in ’94. After spending 45 minutes trying to find his stuff we loaded up and headed for Cycle Gear to buy a new UNI filter. Why clean it, when you can buy a new one? We finally headed out of San Jose, only 90 minutes late. Not too bad, but I was worried that Jay’s bike would not be returning.

We made it to the Stanislaus National Forest in a few hours and found the roads marked by the club, the Merced Dirt Riders. After passing some fairly decent camping areas we arrived at signup and followed the signs to some truly bad camp spots. I was tired from the drive and quite irritated with the Ev’Man for not being ready, so I grabbed a camp spot on the road behind some wild guys from Tulare. It was definitely camping on the road; we put our tents up behind my truck. We went through sign-up and were assigned minute 65. Jay was looking a little confused so we headed back to camp to work on the bikes and for me to program the event into the Pacemaker.

By the time we got back to camp the mosquitoes had come out for their evening snack. We checked over our bikes, Jay changed his filter, and noticed something dripping from his left fork leg. He had blown a seal and was really upset by it. I could not understand why he would be worried, his bike looked like it wouldn’t make it to the start let alone go far enough to lose all his fork oil. Anyway, if you prepare your bike the way he had – why be surprised? I was confident in my arrogance and had decided to let Jay deal with his problems on his own. My bike was perfect.

Jay just sat there being a blood donor, while I headed for the cab to program. Ol’ Ev’Man decided to join me looking a little green around the gills. He usually talks too much, but he was strangely silent as I programmed away. The club had said this was going to be a 76 mile event on their web site, but looking at the route sheet it listed 105 miles with 12 miles of resets. I began to dread the next day, knowing that I would be hurting big time and that I might not be strong enough to bring Jay’s dead body back to his wife. On my way to my tent I looked at my well-prepared KTM and knew that the bike would finish, even if I could not. Jay’s Suzuki looked like it was ready for Dr. Death to put it out of its misery.

The next morning found Jay whining about the start time, like it was my fault. I was worried about the dust and Jay’s bike, not the time of day. Finally we headed for the start. Since we were minute 65 we were to leave at 8:36. The club had decided to run only 3 riders per minute due to the expected dust, so we had only one other guy on our minute. I had hoped that the guy sharing our minute would get off the line quicker than Jay, but his XR did not fire on the first kick. I know Jay thinks he was off the line first, but only in his pain-addled dreams. We cruised to the 3-mile marker, dust free for me, and then the event really began. Dust was not really an issue, since MDR found the rockiest trails I have ever seen. My 380 is not set up for rocks, and I bounced through the tight trails totally out of control. The club could have taken many points from me in the first sections, but they were nice enough to throw in fast fire-road sections to get me back on schedule. I missed the flip at the first check and somehow burnt the second, but I was feeling pretty good and having a good time. I had not seen Jay since the 3-mile marker and had decided not to worry about him; the sweepers could get him.

After the second check I got on the gas for the next 3 miles, until the next possible check. No check and they put us on some more fire roads. I cruised down the road in fourth, staying in my minute, for several miles. I went to downshift when they took us off the road to some single track. Something was wrong, I couldn’t shift – couldn’t find the shift lever -- no *&^%$(+ shift lever. I pulled off the trail to let minute 66 go past and started heading backward on the course. Minutes 67, 68, and 69 went past me on the road while I searched for my shift lever. Then I saw it in the middle of the road. Now KTM does not attach their shift levers like other bikes with a pinch bolt, they bolt it directly to the shift shaft. I looked around on my bike to find a bolt and a washer that would work and that wouldn’t hurt the bike. As I was pulling off a side panel bolt the Ev’Man appeared following the guys on 70. He stuck around while I put the lever back on, knowing that it would not last for the entire race, but hoping to get to gas and my truck. The bolt was too long, but I figured it would make it another 10 miles or so. We were at least 5-6 minutes late at this point, my computer only said FASTER, so I started trying to make up time. A few miles later my shifter was gone again. A ranger on an XR came around the corner and he had my lever and then Jay appeared. I told him to go on and I that I was done for the day. The ranger told me how to get back to camp on fire roads, so I put the bike in 1st and backtracked on the trail. Once I hit the road, I stopped and put the KTM in 3rd and cruised back to gas. Jay caught up to me again, looking pretty beat, but still going for it. I was truly annoyed that his poorly-prepared bike was still running and my carefully-maintained KTM broke.

Getting back to camp, I immediately popped open a cold Sierra Nevada and sat down to wait for Jay.

He showed up looking like someone had beaten him with a baseball bat. Being sadistic I couldn’t help but harass him about quitting. Three beers later we were on our way back home. He actually did pretty well for his first enduro. If he could just keep the whining to a minimum I might be willing to do this again. The fall season starts in September; maybe he could wash his bike by then!


by George Vadney[Home]