The Ice Trial, Gold Bar, WA Feb 1, 2009

Well, here we are at the start of a new tri­als sea­son. I hadn’t got­ten near­ly as much prac­tice over the win­ter as I’d hoped, part­ly due to the pres­sures of my job, and part­ly due to the 2 FEET of snow we had around christ­mas! yikes. That is real­ly unusu­al for west­ern Wash­ing­ton, and brought a lot of the area to a halt.

Any­way, final­ly got off my keis­ter the week before the event and put a clean fil­ter in the bike, a new spark plug, and turned the rear tire around, so as to wear the sharp edges off of the oth­er side of the knobs. Only took 3 tries to get the rim band to seat prop­er­ly and hold air. Need­less to say, it was a bit frus­trat­ing. Those Mon­te­sa-style flanged wheels look bet­ter and bet­ter all the time! Oh, and I also replaced the fork oil, and while doing so, I added an extra 50cc of oil to each leg hop­ing it would give me a bit more pre­load and spring pro­gres­sion than before. I weigh a bit more than you aver­age tri­als expert, so I fig­ured this might stop some of the bot­tom­ing that I’d been feel­ing. I also cranked up the pre­load on the rear shock about 14″. I might actu­al­ly need a slight­ly heav­ier spring in the back, but more on that later.

Got out to the site, found a park­ing place and unloaded. Accord­ing to Edward, it was about 38 degrees F. Pret­ty chilly, but at least it wasn’t rain­ing or snow­ing on us. Went through my morn­ing rit­u­al: unload, sign-up, dress, set tire pres­sure, warm up, more cof­fee, warm up, and wait for start. I felt pret­ty good, although not ter­ri­bly relaxed on the bike, and the slight­ly stiffer sus­pen­sion felt real­ly good, more respon­sive to my weight trans­fers and a bit quick­er. Had a short dis­cus­sion with anoth­er rid­er about Group Check vs. Cross Check. I’ve made my opin­ions about Group Check known on this forum before, but this time I allowed as how I prob­a­bly dis­liked the idea of stand­ing around in 38-degree weath­er more than I dis­liked group check. It’s all about per­spec­tive, folks!

A short rid­ers meet­ing, explain­ing the new mark­ing sys­tem, and we’re ready. For those who haven’t seen it, the new mark­ing sys­tem we’re using here in PST works like this: for each group (morn­ing, after­noon), each class is assigned a col­or. When you are walk­ing a sec­tion, all you have to do is fol­low the arrows that are your col­or. For exam­ple, Advanced class was white. So I sim­ply had to fol­low the white arrows all day. Pret­ty sim­ple, and I thought it was easy to use. It’s still pos­si­ble to miss a mark­er, but it’s hard­er to mis-under­stand a sec­tion this way.

Gath­er up into groups and we’re off. Bit of a traf­fic jam at Sec­tion 1, but that’s give a chance to what oth­er rid­ers a bit. Looks like a typ­i­cal Gold Bar “Tech­ni­cal” sec­tion: lots of jumbly rocks, but noth­ing scary. Should be a cake­walk. Right. My back wheel gets kicked off line at the entrance gate, and I’m so stiff that I floun­der through with a 3. Many of the rest of the sec­tions were sim­i­lar, jumbly, slick, sharp rocks. Noth­ing dra­mat­ic, noth­ing scary, but chal­leng­ing of bike con­trol and line con­trol. There were real­ly only two excep­tions, Sec­tion 8 and Sec­tion 9. Sec­tion 8 was the Log Sec­tion. 3 Cross­ings of a slick log, seper­at­ed by 180-degree tight turns; The first cross­ing was easy, but you could get spooked going off of it, if you weren’t back far enough on the bike. My first time over, I wasn’t and felt the back end get very light and try to start to go over my head. The sec­ond cross­ing was the chal­lenge, as it was under­cut and the approach was lit­tered with a root and some rocks; you had to be per­fect­ly on line and have good tim­ing on the throt­tle and rear-end weight­ing. I flubbed this the last loop, didn’t get the clutch out in time; by the time the pow­er hit the rear wheel, the sus­pen­sion has already start­ed to set­tle up front and I plowed right into the log! ooof! I tried to recov­er by doing a stand­ing bounce up onto the log, but didn’t quite get ‘er up on top! dang! oh well. Sec­tion 9 was inter­est­ing in that it had some logs and some rocks, mixed togeth­er with some tight turns. Nev­er did get a clean here, as I couldn’t get the first sharp left-turn log cross­ing just right, took 1 every time. End­ed the event feel­ing pret­ty good, I tight­ened up dur­ing the sec­ond loop for some rea­son, then had a decent third loop, except for the above 5.

Over­all it was a very tech­ni­cal tri­al, and a bit eas­i­er than a lot of last years advanced tri­als. I believe the win­ning score was 34, where­as a lot of win­ning scores last year we’re in the 45 – 60 range. I don’t have a strong opin­ion about the score range, although I very much like the very tech­ni­cal tri­als, as opposed to the event with lots of big-scary obsta­cles. On one hand, the tech­ni­cal tri­als give me a bet­ter chance of going back to work on Mon­day with all my body parts intact, but I also under­stand the sen­ti­ment that these types of events don’t real­ly pre­pare our up-and-com­ing younger rid­ers to com­pete at the expert lev­el. I’d very much like to hear what you folks think about this.

All in all a good start to year. I’m excit­ed for the next event, have some ideas for a few more improve­ments to the bike, and plan on get­ting at least one prac­tice ses­sion in before that event.

Keep those feet up!
black­dog