One of the main reasons I bought the DR650 was for it’s dual sport (or dual purpose) capabilities. I’ve always fancied the idea of riding in the dirt, across an African desert or some other romantic destination. Well, I took the first step towards that goal this Labor Day, albeit in the not-so-romantic South Bay at Metcalf Motorcycle Park. Here are some amazing pictures of the park, from SBR.
A couple of days before the weekend, I hooked up with a few dirt riders online and they graciously agreed to help me with my first dirt ride. I rode out to Metcalf on the foggy Labor Day morning at reached there just as the park opened (8AM). Joel was the experienced one (on his YZ450F) and Steve (on his KLR650, pictured below) had had a couple of dirt rides before.
You can see the fog in the background; it was heavy, but burned off pretty quickly. All the pictures below are from Joel and copyrighted to him
Anyway, we first started on the novice oval: a very simple 500 feet oval, where you go up and down a hill. I got my first taste of dirt riding there: dust blowing in my eyes, wheels losing traction and tiny 12-year-olds zooming past me on their little bikes.
After we got comfortable on the oval, we rode down trail-1. Trail-1 is certainly not as benign as it sounds. A short distance from the entrance the trail goes into a steep descent and I was literally panicking the first time I rode it. I shifted down to first and used the engine to slow me down, but it was still a little scary. The trail is then fairly bumpy for the most part, with lots of places to jump. I rode it out pretty much standing all the way.
After doing trail-1 about half a dozen times (each round trip is 3-4 minutes), we decided to head down trail -2. Trail-2 is a little gentler (and I recommend trail-2 over -1 as an introductory trail) going through some scenic sections. At the top of trail-2 there is a little moto-cross track — T. T. Track, which stands for “Tourist Trophy”, as in the Isle of Man race or the Audi sports car. The track has 2 jumps, one smaller and one pretty big. I got comfortable after a few laps.
I even caught some “big air” 🙂
Steve and me taking a break:
Anyway, after about 2 hours of riding, we rode trail-1 and -2 one last time before calling it a day. What a remarkable experience it was!
A short water break and I took the freeway back home (101-880).
Here are some things I learned:
- The DR is an amazing machine. It will go just about anywhere you take it. And no matter how much you abuse it, it will start right up.
- The DR transitions very well between a street and a dirt bike. I’m riding the freeway at 7:30AM, the twisties at 7:45 and the dirt by 8:00. And I’m equally comfortable in each situation. Like any dual sport, the DR is a compromise, but Suzuki has really nailed the sweet spot with this one.
- The DR is heavy. I was close to falling more than a couple of times and that was scary. If I ever get into serious dirt biking, I will definitely need a lighter bike.
- Dirt biking is not going to be easy on any bike, especially a dual sport. At every bump I was secretly hoping I don’t wreck my beloved DR. The DR is incredibly robust, but I’m sure a dozen rides are not going to be easy on it. In fact the bike was so dusty from two hours of riding, that I immediately washed it after coming home.
- Metcalf is not that far from Fremont. It takes about 45 minutes to get there. I spent the morning riding down to the park, off-roading for a couple of hours and riding back. I was a little tired, but not terribly. I can certainly do this again!
- Joel is an awesome guy, as are most folks over at SBR. Connect with them to learn about dirt riding.
- The $6 I spent entering Metcalf was the best Labor Day purchase of any year!
I look forward to more riding in the future!