Willfully Into The Unknown (Mojave Ride 11FEB17)

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From front right to rear: Evan, Me, Matt, Josh, Christian. Fantastic bunch of people!

Hey there friends, and welcome back! This last Saturday 11FEB17, I proved once again that the ADV community is the friendliest, most welcoming, and passionate group of people you could possibly associate yourself with. I mean every word of that! What started as a purchase over FaceBook turned into the most fun I’ve had in years. I was in the market for a center stand for my RX3, and decided to check on the used market. I started on the CSC RX3 Owner’s Page. Straight away I found one for sale and decided to scoop it up. The guy selling it, Matt, ended up being a great guy and invited me to join him on an off-road adventure through the desert! So here I am, trying to decided if I’m ready to trust a stranger, drive 130 miles at 5:00 AM to meet up with another group of strangers, and follow them blindly another 100 miles through the desert on a bike I’ve never taken in the dirt, then (Assuming my bike was still in one piece), drive the 130 miles back home. Of course I said yes! I could not be happier that I did!

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The meet-up point! (Photo credit: Evan Brown)

The Meet-up point was a small lot full of truck with empty trailers. I assumed they were already out in the desert having fun. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me take a second and start from the beginning: My house. I left at just after 5:00 AM, wanting to make sure I made it the 130 miles to the meet-up point before 8:30 AM. Should’t be a problem, right? My weather app says it’s going to be partly cloudy with no rain, so things should be smooth sailing. Wrong. I made it about 70 miles before the fog rolled in. It was so think I could’t see the tail light of the car 5 meters in front of me. Can’t get worse than this at least, I though incorrectly. At about the 80 mile mark it just dumped water on me. My RX3’s windscreen was doing a decent job of keeping my chest dry, but it was also keeping the wind from blowing the water off my helmet’s face shield. I was wearing jeans and a pair of tennis shoes (I know, I know), and I was drenched. My teeth were chattering and my fingers were aching from the cold. I thought more than once about turning back. I got to the meet-up point a couple minutes late, and the whole gang was already there. We made our introductions. As I looked around I noticed the guys were all wearing tennis shoes as well. I don’t feel so stupid now! I thought. As we were making our final preparations, to my horror, every single person in the group took off their tennis shoes and strapped on a pair of riding boots. I groaned inwardly.

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Fuel top-off and a Safety/Route brief by our leader and navigator Evan. (Photo credit: Christian Almen)

We made a final stop a few miles away from our meet-up point for fuel and a final route & safety brief. We set up our riding order with Evan in front as our leader and navigator, and me right behind him since I had the least amount of experience in the dirt. Evan had a KLR650 which is up front in the above photo. I was behind him on my CSC Rx3, and behind us were three CSC TT250 dirt bikes! The ‘China bikes’ were out in force today! Except for that big ol’ Japanese bike leading us of course! The route was to be about 80 miles of mixed hard pack dirt, loose rocky terrain, and loose sand. Suddenly I was thankful for the rain. I have zero experience in the sand, and rather than get too nervous about it, which I was to an extent, I decided to think of it as a great opportunity to get the experience I need to be competent the next time I ride through it! Then we were off!

 

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Hard pack roads! This was the easy part! We were headed around that mountain in the distance. (Photo credit: Evan Brown)

We started off innocently enough, with a trip around the Lockheed facility. We kept our distance from the barbed wire fences and stayed on the road. These roads were large enough to have full sized vehicles on them with no issue at all, which I think was the point. Just as I was starting to get nervous that the whole trip was going to be on these easy roads the trail just dropped. Literally. Cut right across the road was a two foot wide and about a foot deep trench. Not a big deal, for everyone but me. I went straight into that ditch and at the last second I throttled back hard, trying to get the front wheel up in time. I didn’t get it up in time… After smacking my helmet onto the top of my windscreen I decided to pay far, far more attention. I managed to stay on the bike, but I may have bent my front wheel. I’ll talk about that at the end.

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My licence plate flew off right at the beginning! Zip ties it is then! (Photo credit: Josh Taylor)
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Evan turned out to be a fantastic leader! I’d follow him any day!
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Having a blast on a beautiful day…for now! (Photo credit: Evan Brown)

As the hard-pack fell away we found a few hundred feet of loose sand. The rain had managed to firm it up a little bit, but this was new to me. I managed to muddle through it (Pun intended) by placing both feet out and ‘walking’ the bike as I carefully loosed the clutch to keep my rear wheel moving. If worked out okay, and I made it through! I probably looked like a baby deer trying to stand for the first time but, hey! I was walking damn it! By this point we had one of the TT250’s go down with no damage. The sand can be merciless.

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Gutted out house in the desert! (Photo credit: Evan Brown)

Evan is great at finding interesting stuff for us to see. We found a gutted out house with an in ground pool. We decided this would be a great spot to take a quick break. We got back to the ride a few minutes later and started heading towards lunch! On the way there we found a cool train underpass and decided it would be a great idea to snap some pictures!

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Can’t believe I got this shot! Train was flying!
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Lined up in style!

 

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Had a chuckle at Evan’s expense as he ran back to the bikes to get in the shot before the camera went off! (Photo credit: Evan Brown)

There were two ways to get to lunch: The road, or the dirt. What the hell are we here for eh? Dirt it was and this was the most challenging part of the ride for me. We followed the railroad tracks on what I think was a very unkempt service road. This thing had it all: Soaking mud puddles, sandy ridges, steep hill climbs, and the most nerve wracking steep decent I’ve ever seen. The route was tough for me, as it would go from mud, to hard-pack, straight into sand at some points. About half-way through the route, we came across a house on our left. It had a small chicken coop in the back yard, and a six foot fence around the property. I remember looking for a quick second at the chickens, it registered that they existed but I paid them no more mind. I felt the ground under me get really soft, my front wheel was beginning to wash out. The sand was about to get me again. Suddenly, from out of no where, this rooster flies (jumps!?) over the fence and right toward me. I’m in the middle of trying to save myself from a face full of dirt, but this rooster was having none of my shit. He nearly jumped right into me. I was so startled I righted my bike and throttled down to get away from the little monster. I think he actually saved me! I later found out there was a second one that jumped over the fence and hassled the guys behind me. What a day! If you own that farm, I apologize your animals got out, but I think they scared me as much as I scared them.

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Lined up at the top of the hill! I was extremely nervous here. The rain was coming. (Photo credit: Josh Taylor)

It may not seem instantly obvious from the above photo, but this was a monster of a hill. As we got to the top of it all I could think was, If I drop it here I’m done for, and the bike would have been done too. This hill was a curving drop about 80 feet down at a severe angle. I’m gonna make an un-educated guess and say it was at least 40 degrees.Evan gives me a few words of wisdom on how to get down this thing, and takes off without hesitation.  He made it to the bottom without a hitch. Since I’m next, I took a deep breath and just went. If I was going to wreck, than I was going to wreck. No use thinking about the consequences… And besides, this was the only way down… I start slow, and as I make it around the first immediate bend I start to pulse my rear brake. Evan made it incredibly clear not to touch my front brake, and I took that as gospel. The tire kept locking, the sound of dirt tires dragging against rock, and the clanking sound the bike was making when I pounded on the pedal were difficult to drown out as I focused on staying up-right. Even with the pulsing I was picking up speed at a rapid pace. Near the bottom of the grade the slope got even worse, and the pulsing was no longer working. I was having a hard time steering, and finally I just let off the brake all together, and grabbed the clutch lever in. I coasted to the bottom where a pool of lose baby head sized rock smashed against my skid plate, my front suspension bottoming out hard. I made it. I was sweating bullets as I pulled up to Evan, who gave me the thumbs up. Everyone else made it down without incident, and learned a few very valuable real world lessons. Finally, it was lunch time!

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The food here was excellent!

We ate lunch for about an hour. The rain had just started as we arrived, and we discussed whether or not we were going to keep going. We agreed that we would, but we would take a shorter route.

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I had the ‘Hobo Skillet’. It was great!

The rain was really starting to pick up again as we started our trek back. My face shield had to stay up to prevent fogging, which just got my glasses wet. Visibility was an issue. All my clothes and gear were soaked again.

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It was just beginning. (Photo credit: Evan Brown)

We decided to cut the route even shorter, and started directly back to the highway. We made it to the highway a short time later. We had another spill on the way there, but nothing serious. The TT250, again, took it on the chin without any issues. The rider was okay too! We made our way to a gas station to get some hot chocolate and warm up for a bit. Evan treated up, he’s a stand up guy!

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The sun was finally creeping out! (Photo credit: Evan Brown)

After this we made our way back to the start point, said our goodbyes, and headed home. It was 3:30 PM, and I had another few hours of riding ahead of me. I realized when I got home at 7:00 PM that I had been in that saddle of that RX3 for the better part of 16 hours that day. When I finally post my review of the RX3, the seat is something I’m going to have to criticize.

To wrap things up I just want to say I had an amazing time with these guys, and I would ride with any or all of them again in a split second! The bikes held up amazingly, with only a bent clutch pedal and some scratches to show for the day. My RX3 got about 330 miles, and it handled the day far better than I did. My back was killing me and I passed out just as soon as I got home.

My only real issue for the day was my front wheel. I’m getting some shake (up and down) on the handlebars that is very noticeable at low speeds up to 50 and less so at highway speed. It was doing this before the ride, so I don’t really think I bent my wheel. I’ll look into it soon.

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Worth every penny.
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I got that dirt I was begging for! Skid plate paid for itself twice already!

For all you guys that took me out there, you have my sincerest thanks! I had an amazing time and I cannot wait to do it again! And thank you all for allowing me to use your photos on my page. Feel free to leave links to your videos and pictures in the comments of you like!

-Mike

 

 

 

 

No Better Way To Spend A Saturday (CSC Ride 4FEB17)

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Saturday turned out to be a great day for me! Since I’m active duty, married, and have a 3 month old getting out of the house for a full day can be something of a challenge at times. I’ve been following the CSC Official Blog for the past few months (As we all should be eh?) written by CSC’s own Joe Berk. They host a ride on the first Saturday of each month. I’ve missed it up to now but I went out of my way to make sure I was available for this one! It wasn’t easy, but oh so worth it!

The first stop was the CSC Plant, naturally! I’m about 60 or so miles of highway travel from there, so no big deal right? Well… I’m still technically in the break in period on this bike, and the service manual says specifically not to rev the engine past 6000 rpm’s at this stage. Well I broke the Hell outta’ that rule cruising gracefully at 8000 rpm’s the whole ride. That put me at about 68-72 mph. Very comfortable for early morning highway 101 traffic. Bike didn’t seem to care…I got to the plant at about 8:30. Outside they had the complete line-up of CSC bikes. The RC3 street bike was calling my name, but as I mounted one images of my wife setting me on fire filled my mind. Inside I was greeted by none other than the Owner Steve, the world famous Joe Berk, and the Lead Mechanic Gerry. After a brief introduction I was whisked into the back shop area for a tour. I had heard through reviews and the FaceBook page that Gerry was a good guy, but Holy Cow I was not prepared. Not only did I get a first class tour of the facility, but after I expressed that I was ready to do my first valve adjustment and was a bit leery about it, Gerry grabbed a spare engine from a shelf and gave me a 20-minute tutorial on how to do it! I really wish I had grabbed some pictures of all this, but I got so caught up I let time get away from me and before I knew it, it was time to leave. Joining us on our ride was Joe and Duane on their RX3’s, as well as Richard who brought his personal bike. I’m pretty sure it was a Suzuki Burgman 650, but if not I apologize Richard!

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Richard, Joe, Duane, and Me having breakfast at the Rock Store (Credit: Joe Berk)

Out first destination was straight to the celebrity hang-out and incredibly well known Rock Store on the equally infamous Mullholand Drive. We had an easy enough time getting there, minus the police slowing all lanes of traffic on the 101 to allow a street sweeper to pass. It was oddly slow at the Rock Store when we walked in. We ordered breakfast and had a chance to get to know each other better. Turns out 3 of the four of us were/are military and the other was in the security business! Go figure!

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The Rock Store! No celebrities today though. Except us of course!
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Grisel and Duane outside the Rock Store (Credit: Joe Berk)

Outside the Rock Store we were greeted by Grisel, a native of Chile on her Orange RX3. That made three orange RX3’s and one blue. It should be common knowledge at this point that the orange RX3 is the fastest! Interesting contrast in this photo. The orange RX3 closest to the camera here is Joe’s. Paint fading in the sun seemed to be a complaint among the buyers of the original models after they were first imported to the US. Now take a look the other two orange bikes in the back. See the difference there? I will admit Joe’s bike is about two years older and much more heavily used than mine or Grisel’s, but talking with Gerry confirmed that CSC got the paint changed to a higher quality that is far less likely to fade. A consequence of that, or in my opinion, an upgrade, was a different shade of orange.

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Bikes lined up outside the Rock Store. It’s usually much busier here! Apparently Sunday is the day to go!

We had no less than four separate people approach us and begin questioning us on what these bike were. Of course we were happy to oblige. I met one man with a heavy Austrian accent who asked where the bike was made, because he did not recognize the CSC logo. Normally when I say it’s made in China I get the eye roll, but this guy straight up asked me if it was made by Zongshen. My jaw just about dropped. Joe went so far as to allow a complete stranger to take his bike for a test ride. Gerry, who apparently had been looking seriously into buying an RX3 just happened to be at the Rock Store, and after his test ride he decided to join us on the rest of our trip! He was riding a WR250R Dual sport, and with our newest rider we took off again!

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Parked at the Snake! (Credit: Joe Berk)

Our next stop was at the infamous Snake curve on Mullholland. We were only here for about 10 minutes, but in that short time I was reminded of why I made this blog. A couple of guys riding liter bikes parked next to use began having a conversation about our RX3’s. I overheard him say ‘Chinese crap’ and ‘Unreliable’. I guess I can’t fault him for expressing his opinion, I can only do my best tell the real story.

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The beautiful view from the Snake!

Getting back on the road took us back down the mountain and down toward the Pacific. The air cooled noticeably as we hit the Pacific Coast Highway. We made out way to the last stop in the ride. It’s a small dirt lot people gather at to take pictures at, and with good reason!

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Beautiful view of the Pacific and the PCH!

It was at this point that we all took our final photos and said our goodbyes. This is why we ride right? To meet new people. To see new places. I had an absolute blast, and I truly hope I get the opportunity to do it again soon!

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Left to right: Duane, Richard, Me, Gerry, and Grisel (Credit: Joe Berk)

P.S. Joe, I apologize for using so many of your photos. You just took so many damn good ones!!