While riding on Memorial Day, I overcooked a corner and hit a tree. The impact blew out one of my fork seals, which I didn't notice right away but did notice later when I tried to brake and the fork oil all over my front brake made it not work so well. It was time to change the fork oil anyway, so throwing new seals into the mix wasn't a big deal.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, just a walk through the process. If you're comfortable changing engine oil and filters and removing your front wheel, fork seals aren't a whole lot more difficult. Just make sure to consult your owner's manual for the proper procedure, as every fork is a little different, and it's entirely possible that I forgot something. This video is also helpful.
Put the bike on the stand and remove the front wheel. Remove the front brake caliper and the plastic fork leg guards.
Dial back the rebound to zero. Take note of the position of the fork legs in the triple clamps so you can put them back to the same height. Loosen the top caps on the fork legs. Then loosen the triple clamps and remove the fork legs.
Once the fork leg is removed, finish unscrewing the top cap. Compress the spring enough to expose the top of the damper assembly where it connects to the top cap and put an end wrench (in my case, 19mm) on the damper assembly. Put another wrench on the top cap and remove the top cap from the damper assembly.
Remove the spring, spring spacer, and damping rod from inside the fork leg and place them on a clean towel. dump the fork oil into a catch container where it can be recycled. Pry the dust seal off of the bottom of the slider. Remove the retaining clip from the oil seal and then extend the fork firmly to pop the oil seal out of the slider. Remove the seal and bushings from the stanchion.
Clean all the parts you are going to reuse (in my case, everything but the oil seals) and then reassemble starting with dust seal, then retaining clip, oil seal, spacer ring, bushing, and pilot bushing.
Compress the slider completely and add about 2/3 of the required fork oil. Pump the damping rod a few times to work the new oil into the damping unit. Then fill the fork to the required level, measuring from the top of the compressed slider to the top of the oil level.
Once the oil level is correct, replace the damping rod, spring spacer, and spring. Screw the top cap back on to the damping unit and tighten to the proper torque. Tighten the top caps into the sliders until they are hand tight.
Replace fork legs in triple clamps to the correct position and tighten triple clamp bolts just enough to hold them in place. Replace the front wheel. Once everything is in the right place, torque fork legs in triple clamps and then torque the top cap. Reset the rebound damping to the desired setting. Replace the brake caliper and the plastic.
Remove the bike from the stand and give everything a final check. If your brakes got oil on them, make sure to clean them thoroughly with brake cleaner. Give the bike a test ride to make sure everything is working properly before hitting the trail.
Several of my dirt bike riding friends have Rekluse clutches installed on their bikes. A Rekluse is an auto clutch, so shifting is still manual, but braking doesn't require disengaging the clutch to avoid stalling the motor. Similar to an automatic transmission in a car, it's centrifugal, so the clutch engages and puts power from motor to drive as engine speed increases.
The advantage of the Rekluse is apparent in slow speed technical riding where stalling the engine is likely. My propensity to stall my engine in these situations caused me to give a Rekluse some serious consideration.
There are only two problems: 1) my bike has a big bore kit, so there isn't a readily available Rekluse clutch; and 2) even if a Rekluse were available, I am reluctant to drop hundreds of dollars to buy one. Additionally, a Rekluse isn't perfect--you lose some of the manual control, such as popping the clutch to raise the front wheel to clear an obstacle.
Enter the Midwest Mountain Engineering clutch lever. This lever changes the pivot mechanics, reducing clutch actuation force by ~50% with a much shorter throw. This means you can cover the clutch with one finger with much less finger fatigue, allowing the rider to more easily modulate the clutch in technical riding. Additionally, it's a "shorty" style lever, with only room for two fingers, which I prefer because the ends of my fingers not on the lever don't get pinched between lever and grip.
I installed mine over the weekend and tried it out in some of the steepest, rockiest conditions I have ridden to date*. I don't think I would have made it up some of those climbs with my old lever--I simply would not have had enough control. Would a Rekluse have been better? Possibly, but that takes us back to reasons 1 and 2 above.
*And quite possibly that I will ever ride, as I am never, ever riding up trail 39 in AF Canyon again.
The Midwest lever isn't perfect either. With the lighter pull and the shorter throw, adjustment must be more fine-tuned than with the stock lever. I thought I had mine adjusted correctly but found that my clutch was slipping a bit and had to make several trailside adjustments to get it just right. Additionally, it is only available for hydraulic clutches. Mechanical clutch users, which basically means everyone not on a KTM, Husaberg, or Husqvarna, are out of luck.
Drawbacks notwithstanding and only two rides in, I'm sold. It took maybe ten minutes to install, and it's an inexpensive part that makes riding noticeably better.
My first few rides on the dirt bike, I just went out and rode trails. I dumped my bike at least once on every ride. Let's just say it's a lot heavier and faster than the mountain bike, and keeping all of that under control requires more skill than I presently possess.
I then went to Five Mile Pass with some friends who had just completed a Shane Watts riding course. Rather than ride trails, we found a big, steep tailings pile and practiced riding up and down that. Then we went to another tailings pile and practiced some more. Rinse, repeat for three hours until I was too tired to try anything new.
My next ride after that was with the neighborhood guys, and we went to the MX track in North Salt Lake. I chased little kids on 50s and 65s around the mini moto track for a couple of hours. I wasn't fast, but I got a better feel for how far I can lean my bike in a corner, and there may have even been air visible under both wheels a few times.
Then it was off to Moab for the weekend. Had I only ridden more trails and not worked on my skills, the trip would not have been nearly as much fun. That said, I have a long way to go. But for me, the journey is what keeps me interested. Trying something new that I'm not very good at and seeing myself get better over time is a reward in itself.
Last post I introduced you to Stella. Rachel and I took a rider education class together this spring. The objectives of the class were to a) learn how to properly ride a moto and b) help Rachel decide whether she wanted to be a rider or a passenger.
It took about 20 minutes of moto time for Rachel to realize she wanted to be a rider. Which meant just one bike was never going to cut it. So we started looking for a second bike--something with similar but complementary capabilities. After my first ride on dirt with Mark N, it was clear to me that it needed to be a dirt bike. Stella is amazingly versatile, including remarkable trail capabilities, especially for a 180 kg bike. But something lighter would be that much more fun.
Meet Marianne. Husqvarna TC 250 dirt bike to which I added an aftermarket light kit to make her street legal. Which led to an interesting discussion at the DMV when I went to pick up the plates and was asked for an odometer reading.
"It doesn't have an odometer."
"It has to have an odometer."
"No, it doesn't."
"Well I have to enter an odometer reading in the system, so just make something up then."
Today was the first ride in the dirt. A few observations:
1. Dirt bikes are insanely fun.
2. It's amazing what you can roll over with 12 inches of travel.
3. If in doubt whether you can make it up something, just twist the throttle, and you probably will.
4. The mountain biking near my house on the Salt Lake County side of the mountain is unbelievable. The dirt bike trails on the Utah County side are equally impressive. I love where I live.
It seems that my excitement for blogging about skiing and riding bicycles has waned. Much of that is because I haven't been racing consistently for quite some time, and the skiing the last couple winters has paled in comparison to the skiing in previous years, both due to snow quality as well as time available to ski.
Since this blog has always been a place for me to record what's interesting to me, with the assumption that somewhat of a readership will develop because said interests are also somehow interesting to others, I'm going to add a couple of topics heretofore not covered.
The first topic is beer, specifically homebrewing. I started brewing just under a year ago and may occasionally comment on my successes and failures. I actually had a beer blog once, but it was anonymous, and I never mentioned it here.* But that project may provide some interesting background as to how I got started homebrewing in the first place. If you're going to go back and read, I recommend starting in January 2010 and reading in chronological order.
*I've since been pretty forthright about my departure from mormonism, but at the time it was new, and I wasn't yet entirely comfortable with how others may react.
The second topic is motorcycles. I've toyed with the idea of a motorcycle for a few years, but I didn't grow up riding and never felt confident enough to go out and buy something to try and figure it out as I went. So Rachel and I took a rider education course together. We absolutely loved it. So we bought a motorcycle, which Rachel thought needed a name.
You will probably hear more about Stella in the future.
One of Andrew McLean's oft-repeated suggestions for how to get invited on grand adventures is to practice saying yes. In the context of which he speaks, it's good advice. If, when people invite you places, you always say no, you will quickly drop off the invitation list.
My resolution for 2013, however, is to practice saying "no." Not to invitations, per se, but to situations. Once in the backcountry, it is easy to become subject to group think. My friends are doing it, I should too.
Sometimes it's harmless. "Ski it from the top" is another common backcountry mantra. But if getting to the top requires an inordinate effort for two more turns through thin coverage, why not drop in from the shoulder if that's the most direct route to a safe, fall line run through the deep powder that you came for in the first place?
Other times it requires not being ashamed to "chicken out." Yesterday I found myself traversing a steep slope with thin coverage above a band of cliffs. Conditions were generally quite stable, but if something was going to slide, it was most likely to happen in an area of shallower snowpack such as we were on. The cliff band meant that if the slope did go, the likelihood of survival wasn't high. Sure, we went one at a time to try and make it safer for the group, but we should not have been there at all. I should have said no. I should have turned around.
Discussing the situation afterward, a friend indicated that he and another in our group were both also uncomfortable with the situation and wondered why we continued. Simply put, it's hard to say no. It's hard to turn around. Sometimes it takes more courage to chicken out than to continue.
This year, I am going to practice having that kind of courage. If it means fewer invitations, I am OK with that.