Category Archives: Uncategorized

gear review: Alpinestars Trials boots

I pur­chased the­se boots last win­ter, replac­ing a pair of well-worn Gaerne’s that had final­ly sprung a leak. For Tri­als rid­ers in West­ern Wash­ing­ton, leaky boots are a real down­er, since we spend sub­stan­tial time walk­ing through muddy/wet sec­tions. I’ve now rid­den 5 or 6 events with the­se boots, so I fig­ured it was time to share my impres­sions and thoughts about them.

Fit: I have aize 10.5 feet, I ordered the size 11 boot, and they fit fine. I can wear a thin sock under them for sum­mer events, or by loos­en­ing the latch­es a notch or two, wear a heav­ier sock for cool­er rides. The­se boots are pret­ty easy to get snug over the entire foot, lead­ing to a very sup­port­ive and secure feel­ing while wear­ing them.

Water­proof­ness: So far, no water intake. This includes the bit­ter cold and wet April tri­als. It also includes slog­ging through a small creek at the last Walk­er Val­ley Tri­als.

Trac­tion: trac­tion from the soles seems good. Every­thing was real­ly slick at Walk­er Val­ley last fall and at Gold Bar last week­end, so it was hard to tell, but I have had no prob­lems pre­vi­ous and no prob­lems with them com­ing off of the foot­pegs or any­thing like that.

Buckles/Straps: some cool fea­tures here: the attach­ment clips are on the oppo­site ends from the adjusters, so once they are adjust­ed for you feet, the just snap on and snap off. Heav­ier or lighter socks might take one or two notch­es of adjust­ment, but it’s pret­ty easy to make.

The only down­side I’ve dis­cov­ered so far is that due to the way the boots tight­en up on my feet (your feet may vary 🙂 ), there is a rather con­spicous fold of leather on the inside of each ankle. So far I don’t notice it while rid­ing, but I have noticed that it rubs on the frame of the bike, and has already tak­en the smooth fin­ish off of the leather on that area of the boot. A pret­ty minor thing, and it might be that some­one with dif­fer­ent­ly shaped feet and ankles may not run into any of this.

Con­clu­sions: This is a high qual­i­ty boot with good pro­tec­tion and good com­fort. Not cheap, but good qual­i­ty.

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!

Maintenance Observations

A short sto­ry of deferred main­te­nance, dirty carbs, and bro­ken kick­starters.

At the last tri­als a few weeks ago, I noticed that my ’04 sher­co was becom­ming a lit­tle hard to start and was occa­sion­al­ly kick­ing back dur­ing start­ing.

So I got on the horn and ordered a few parts for some main­te­nance, and some improve­ments. One of the improve­ments was a 9-tooth cout­ner­shaft sprock­et to slow the thing down a lit­tle. So I changed the sprock­et and was going for a short test ride. Got the bike start­ed, but it wouldn’t run with­out the choke on. uh-oh, this doesn’t sound good. it died, and when I re-start­ed it, it kicked back, and I heard some­thing go ‘ting!’. When it imme­di­ate­ly died, I looked down for the kick­starter, and the end of it was gone! When the bike kicked back again­st my foot, it snapped the ‘foot’ part of the kick­starter off! cap­i­tal CRAP. lucky i wasn’t wear­ing train­ers!

so. next step is to order some parts. so i place an order for some new spark plugs, a kick­starter , and just to be safe, a cou­ple of woodruff keys. The woodruff keys are because one of the things that can make a 2-stroke kick back is bad tim­ing. on a mod­ern engine like our bikes, the only way the tim­ing gets inac­cu­rate is for the woodruf key to shear and the fly­wheel to slip on the crank­shaft. May­be that’s what hap­pened…

While wait­ing for my parts, I pulled the carb, the air­box, and the fly­wheel. The woodruf key was good, every­thing looked clean inside the engine. The carb was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter though, crud in the float bowl, and and appar­ent­ly a plugged pilot jet. a good clean­ing lat­er, i reassem­bled and rein­stalled the carb, and wait­ed for the parts. 

When the parts arrived, I put a new woodruf key in, just on gen­er­al prin­ci­ples, poped in a new spark plug, and reassem­bled enough of the bike to start it. Got it start­ed, tuned the low-speed jet a bit, and it runs great. 

So the morale of the sto­ry is: buy your bike a new spark plug and clean it’s car­beu­ra­tor every few years, it will thank you. oh, and be very care­ful kick-start­ing a bike in train­ers!

Event Report: April Fool’s Trial, 11 April 2010, Walker Valley

Check­ing the weath­er fore­cast on sat­ur­day con­vince me to take the chance and leave my portable shel­ter at home: 10% chance of pre­cip­i­ta­tion, highs in the upper 50s. If that actu­al­ly held up, it would be one of the nicest rid­ing days we’ve had in quite a while.

Sun­day dawns way too ear­ly, and chilly: about 36 degrees at Black Dog Farm. Break­fast, cof­fee, put the last few things in the car (lunch cool­er, wal­let, phone, etc.) except for the water bot­tles to fit in my fan­ny pack. This omis­sion will be impor­tant lat­er.

Cinch the tie-downs on the bike down, and boo­gie north­ward. Only about 10 min­utes behind planned depar­ture time, should put me there right after 8 AM. Get up to the turn-off, expect­ing anoth­er 3 miles of dirt road, and whoa, here’s the whole gang, just parked right here in front of the gate. I park and ask why we’re down here and not up at our pre­vi­ous loca­tion, and I’m told that they don’t want street-licensed vehi­cles past the gate. Oh well. 

I unload, check the bike over, and gear-up for a lit­tle warm up. There’s not much at the gate, so I head up the road a bit, find­ing a turn-out with some downed logs in it, and warm up. Sec­ond attempt over a 20″ log, the front end digs in and over the bars I go! and onto my back­side on the sog­gy ground, to add sog­gi­ness to cha­grin. Well, hope­ful­ly I’ve got­ten *that* out of my sys­tem for the day! But no, 3 min­utes lat­er, drop the front wheel into the same hole, and over I go. Well, this is either good, in that I’m get­ting this out of my sys­tem, or this day is doomed to be a com­e­dy rou­tine from start to fin­ish. I ride over the log a few more times, just to teach it a thing or two, and head back to the truck to get ready.

I get my punch, pack a hat, good­ies, tools, etc. into my day-pack. Water, I should take some water.… Shit, where are my water bot­tles? at home, on the laun­dry room floor… oh well, I’ll deal with that lat­er. Head up the road a cou­ple of miles, and fol­low the rugged loop trail into the deep woods to Sec­tion #6. It’s right next to 5, so I have anoth­er observer to chat with when things are slow. Pret­ty straight-for­ward sec­tion, a climb and descent, fol­lowed by a cou­ple of tight, tricky cor­ners to the exit.
Most Novice and Inter­me­di­ate com­peti­tors do well in my sec­tion, i punch lots of cleans, and only a few fives, a cou­ple of folks lost the front end and sam­pled the dirt, and one gen­tle­man for­got where the sec­tion went and end­ed up rid­ing part of it back­wards. oops, I hate it when that hap­pens!

Around noon we’re done, head back to the pits to get ready for my turn. Now I must deal with the fact that my water bot­tles, which fit so nice­ly into my fan­ny-pack, were I also car­ry a few tools and spare levers, are sit­ting at home on the laun­dry room floor. Well, I decide i’ll just put my fan­ny pack and my gal­lon-sized water cool­er in my day-pack, car­ry it up to sec­tion 1 and leave it there until I’m fin­ished, and the retrieve it for the ride back down. Ok, that’s a plan, not a great one though: it means only hav­ing access to water once per loop, not opti­mal hydra­tion.

Off to the rid­ers meet­ing, get a quick run-down of where the sec­tions are, and we’re off. Grab my pack and up to Sec­tion 1. A tricky sec­tion with a rock step, and a cou­ple of diag­o­nal log cross­ings near the end, depend­ing on how you tack­led it. I get into the sec­tion, and my per­cep­tion is all off, I’m way behind the bike, and end up with a 3. Much of the first loop was like that, I only real­ly start­ed get­ting in the groove on the sec­ond loop. By the time the third loop start­ed, I was feel­ing pret­ty con­fi­dent and had real­ly start­ed to ride up to my abil­i­ties. My judge­ment how­ev­er, remained at it’s his­tor­i­cal­ly low­ish lev­els. I enter sec­tion 1 the third time, resolv­ing to clean it this time: around the tree, over the rock, so far so good, up the chute, hey feel­in’ good, right turn here and out.… front wheel starts to slide and instead of just tak­ing the dab and escap­ing with my 1, I chase it with the throt­tle and wind up on my head! Cost me a 5, some bruis­es, a smashed fin­ger, and (i would lat­er find out) 3rd place! stoopid. 

Over­all, it was a well done event: good, well-marked, and chal­leng­ing loop trail. Good sec­tions with­ouit too many dan­ger­ous obsta­cles. Wish my rid­ing had been up to the chal­lenge. It seems obvi­ous from look­ing at the scores that my prob­lem is prac­tice and being ready to ride. As I get ‘back in the groove’, my scores go down every loop. Seems clear that I need more prac­tice. Now to devel­op the dis­ci­pline to do it!

On an admin­is­tra­tive note, this is the last event report you’ll be see­ing here for a while. In cel­e­bra­tion of achiev­ing ‘a cer­tain age’, I have tak­ing 4 weeks off in May and trav­el­ling around the west­ern states on my KTM 950. I’ll be using this space to chron­i­cle my prepa­ra­tions and pro­gress as I go. Uni­verse will­ing, I should be able to make at least one day of the PST round of the PNTA cham­pi­onship, in ear­ly June. Watch this space!

keep those feet up!

Walkabout day 4: visiting old (and newish) friends

walk­a­bout day 4. today was vis­it­ing day. lunch with an old high school friend, tea with an author/teacher friend in oak­land, cof­fee with anoth­er old high school friend, and then din­ner with motor­cy­cle friends in Galt. not much rid­ing, only about 185 miles, but a busy day non­the­less.
spent some time check­ing out road con­di­tions in the Sier­ra Nevada, doesn’t look pur­dent to try to make it to Mono Lake tomor­row. So i’ll head south, skirt­ing the foothills on the Sier­ras, prob­a­bly end­ing some­where around bak­ers­field of so, giv­ing me all sort of options for thurs­day, depend­ing on whether of not i can con­nect with my friends in Escon­di­do.

Another Day, Another Website goes Alpha.

Coming down in the world, now back in alpha…

Black­dog and Mag­pie is cur­rent­ly under­go­ing heavy ren­o­va­tions. A few bits and pieces still work, but most of it is thor­ough­ly tossed up and over.

We are Jim (black­dog) and Lara (mag­pie) Har­riger. You can reach us by send­ing email to black­dog_at_black­do­gand­mag­pie_­dot_net or mag­pie_at_black­do­gand­mag­pie_­dot_net

Drop by again in a week or so and we’ll have some­thing new and cool to show you!

PNTA Points Round #8, Walker Valley, June 13, 2010

This turned out to be an inter­est­ing day for a vari­ety of rea­sons, not the least of which was the park­ing and loops sit­u­a­tion. There was appar­ent­ly some last min­ute con­fu­sion between the club and the land man­agers about where we were sup­posed to park, and as a result, we wound up park­ing near the west­ern entrance to Walk­er Val­ley, and rid­ing a loop of sec­tions that were all at high­er ele­va­tions. I mis­un­der­stood the instruc­tions in the fly­er, which indi­cat­ed that rid­ers need­ed to be pre­pared to car­ry an extra liter of fuel ( thought it said ‘after­noon’ rid­ers), and so arrived with no con­ve­nient way of car­ry­ing fuel. Any­way, got signed up, for Senior Inter­me­di­ate, as I hadn’t been on a dirt bike of any kind for over 6 weeks and Region­al Points events are known for being pret­ty tough. That was when they let me know that morn­ing rid­ers too, need to car­ry extra fuel!

did a lit­tle warm­ing up, deter­mined that i had for­got to let any air out the back tire after air­ing it up to put it on the rack. Yep, 7 PSI is way too much! i let it down to my nor­mal 3−1÷4 or so; ah, much bet­ter trac­tion and bite! Then i went back to the truck to fig­ure out how i was going to deal with this fuel issue, as i have no aux tank my bike, and i had no fuel bot­tle. ah, well, here’s a big plas­tic sack, i’ll just wrap my 1 gal jug in that and car­ry it in the day pack. With that prob­lem solved, I com­plete­ly for­got about car­ry­ing any extra water or snacks in my day pack, and head­ed out with­out either. The loop was what i call a ‘lol­lipop’ loop: ride a longish trail ride to the start of the sec­tions, ride all 10 sec­tions 3 times, and then ride the longish trail back to the pits. This means you get back to wherever you dumped the day­pack every loop, but not back to your vehi­cle. It wasn’t until the end of the first loop that I real­ized the I was going to run out of water, and had no snacks or oth­er nutri­tion what­so­ev­er. argh. 

Oh well, sec­tion 1 was a pret­ty easy tra­verse of a pile of sharp rocks, but I got through OK, so that’s a good start. In gen­er­al, I rode pret­ty well, but I had some incon­sis­tent moments: stalled the bike in one sec­tion, a real­ly stu­pid mis­take, and didn’t plan an ade­quate safe­ty mar­gin into my line in anoth­er sec­tion the 3rd time through, and wound up sky­div­ing off of a 10-foot high rock into the bush­es below. I rolled to a stop, picked the bike up, and when asked if the bike was OK (yes, they asked if I was OK first), replied, ‘of course: it’s a Sher­co, you can’t hurt the­se things!” Got through three loops with lit­tle dra­ma, picked my pack up from sec­tion 1, and head­ed back down the moun­tain. Got back to the pits, and drank about a liter of water, right then. had lunch, and went to col­lect my punch for my after­noon observ­ing assign­ment, I had sec­tion 3. About 1pm, I head back up the moun­tain, find sec­tion 3, and am then informed that there’s been a switch, I’m to observe sec­tion 4, a bit far­ther up the hill. Nor­mal­ly, this would be a triv­ial change, except that I’m already tired, and seper­at­ing the two is about 14 mile of some of the nas­ti­est trail at walk­er val­ley. wind­ing through the trees, over the roots, and real­ly, seri­ous­ly steep uphill. sign at the bot­tom reads “up, turn, up, up, turn, turn, up, up, up”. ha. you a fun­ny man, Ron! But I climb the moun­tain and find my sec­tion: a real­ly inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of sharp turns and a vari­ety of paths, depend­ing on class, over a rock the size of a small cot­tage. The experts in par­tic­u­lar, I thought, had a nasty chal­lenge: a real­ly sharp left u-turn fol­lowed by a rock climb with lit­tle run at the bot­tom, and only about a 6″ wide line. I spot­ted for quite a few folks there dur­ing the day, but had to catch sur­pris­ing­ly few bikes.

All in all, a very enjoy­able day, great fun to watch folks like Max and WIll do absolute­ly amaz­ing things with a motor­cy­cle. I can’t wait to head out to Fun­ny Rocks for our next event.

keep those feet up!

Getting It Home

We have friends, very help­ful friends. The kind who have bots that cruise Craigslist for inter­est­ing motor­cy­cles for sale. And then post the best ones to mail­ing lists with a plain­tive “Who’s going to buy this one?” append­ed. Yeah, those guys. So on a not so sun­ny Sun­day we went off to look at a Hon­da 305 Dream.

This is what we found in Sil­vana. It’s com­plete except for mir­rors, a bro­ken tail light lens, and a cou­ple of miss­ing badges. The pipes are wrong. The motor doesn’t turn, the rear wheel is frozen but the trans­mis­sion snicks nice­ly and the body parts are all present and account­ed for with no major dents or holes. Oh, and it came with a love­ly lit­tle flow­er on the han­dle bars.

It doesn't have mirrors but there's a nice flower on the handle bars.

The new toy. 1966 Hon­da 305 Dream.

So we got it load­ed up on the back of the Defend­er. It got com­pli­cat­ed because we didn’t think about the non-fold­ing foot pegs. We had it half way up there and real­ized that we had to get the spare tire off of the back door. (But I love the hitch rail car­ri­er. No trail­er to back up next to this guy’s boat.)

just a little tighter

Load­ed up and almost ready to trav­el.

Once home we had tha prob­lem of how to get a non-rolling bike off the rail and into the shop. Uh, yeah, we’ve got a trac­tor for that.

tractors - not just for manure!

This is how we (don’t) roll down here on the farm.

And there it is. Tucked in between the cut-offs box and the com­pres­sor wait­ing it’s turn.

new home

Warm and dry.

The engine num­ber is: CA 77E — 1004102. The body num­ber is: CA78 1004074. I tried to get a pic­ture  but there’s no way with­out start­ing dis­as­sem­bly and we can’t do that just yet.

CA 77E - 1004102

Engine Num­ber (roll-over)

There’s a lit­tle water here.


Bare­ly 5k on the clock.

Bonus: Jim got it on the lift Mon­day night. But it’s going to have to wait a week or two for any more atten­tion. The “Great Rover Heater Motor Fail­ure Right Before Win­ter Starts of 2011” has to be fixed first.

waiting patiently

On the Lift

Going Home

July 21st. The big day.

He was just wait­ing for us to come for him.

yup, it's me.

Just Wait­ing for You to Say the Word

There was some play time. All the young­sters get­ting in on it. There’s a pile of chew toys under there some­where.

all those puppy butts!

Pup­py Play­time

Susan showed us a lit­tle of what the boy could do. Here he’s start­ing a Down.

um, it's going to where?

Down, Fol­low­ing a Treat

He sits so very hard. As if sheer deter­mi­na­tion will get big­ger, bet­ter cook­ies.

i'm sitting, i'm sitting, i'm sitting


It was a long ride home. Giz­mo gets car sick. He’s a pret­ty good sport about it, but it’s not how he likes to spend the day.

Once home he had a good run around the work yard and got some treats.

really? aren't all four paws supposed to be on the ground?

Gim­me, Gim­me, Gim­me

Met the old dog.

hey, what's that big floppy thing you brought home?

Meet­ing Dee-Dee

Posed for a nice por­trait. My Two Dudes


Jim and Giz­mo

Had a real­ly wild run from the barn to the rock wall and back and forth chas­ing Jim.


Run­ning Laps

He can real­ly get the ears and lips and tongue fly­ing.


Def­i­nite­ly Some Sort of UFO

Then got to wade in the buck­et.


Buck­ets are for Wad­ing…

drink it? nu huh.

Right? Oh, Drink­ing…

That wet dog look is one that we’re get­ting used to.

i wanted to be a water dog

All Wet

This isn’t going to be quite as cute in Jan­u­ary. No, he isn’t going to give up play­ing in the buck­ets just because it’s 30 degrees out­side instead of 90.



At the end of the day — at the end of almost every day. He smiles.

and I like your tile

Hap­py Pup­py Smiles

Pool Time

Giz­mo was born in Yaki­ma. It’s hot in Yaki­ma. He learned to love play­ing in a wad­ing pool.

Late­ly we’ve had some almost East­ern Wash­ing­ton tem­per­a­tures. So we’ve got­ten our own wad­ing pool out.