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.