On the trail and loving it

I’ve long had this fantasy of riding singletrack — the kind we rip on bikes — on a motorcycle. Just swooping through the woods, left right up down brap braap braaaping along, so smooth, so flowy, so graceful.

Once they’re realized, most fantasies have a way of disappointing, but not this one. Today some buddies and I rode 48 miles of swoopy trail at Rampart Range southwest of Denver. These trails are designed by and for motorcyclists, and let me tell you: They flow like the finest Santa Cruz bike trails — without the pedaling.

Every turn has a berm. Some are wishy-washy decomposed granite, some are overhung blue groove, and some are hard-packed garage doors. Set the pace to 7 out of 10, put your CRF450X in third gear and go: braap across the rocks, double the whoops, lay it into the turn, roll the throttle and repeat. Dislocated thumb locked in a brace, heart thumping at 115 bpm, feet dancing on the pegs. Again and again and again and again.

There’s no time for anything but now. The throttle is halfway open, but the brain is pinned wide open. Scanning, scanning, looking for lines. Coordinating tire placement, bike lean, body position, brakes, gears, clutch, throttle. No time for worries, no time for photos.

Motorcycles embody everything great about mountain biking (without the pedaling). Not that riding moto is easy; it’s actually very physical. But when you remove self propulsion from the equation, quite a bit of bandwidth opens up. You can use this free capacity to take it easy, rip extra hard or achieve a deeper level of grace.

I choose the latter.

5 replies
  1. Jeff Kendall-Weed says:

    Hell yeah Lee! Moto is soooo much fun. Glad to hear you’re enjoying yourself. The level of risk seems no higher than that on a MTB, and the fun factor is equal as well. Besides, variety is the spice of life. I’m struggling to decide whether or not it’s worth it to sell my extra MTB frame and get a cheap moto for ripping around Spain. Reading articles like yours only makes the decision harder! I currently have no bikes left, but hope to get some new ones soon. Motos seem way more reliable, until you need to buy new top ends and tires. (2 strokes are street legal in Spain) Gas compared to flat tires? Practically free! Rock on Lee!

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    This just in via email:

    — — —

    Joel wrote:
    What is up with the recent shift to the motorcycle bro? I have been an avid weekly visitor to your site for some time now and am surprised to see the cross-over. Hell yeah they are fun (I started on a 50cc myself at age 5) but taking a closer look at their impact (i.e. Berthoud!) was enough to turn this soul rider off. Everything many of us love about pedaling and singletrack (like natural beauty, mountain solitude, high levels of fitness, low environmental impact, etc.) seems to be the polar opposite in the world of motorcycling. Gas, exhaust, trail decimating tires, Brap-Brap………I think you are going to find ALOT of your readers quite divided (and quite opinionated!) on this topic. In lew of stereotyping the beer guzzling, multi-use disrespecting, mountain beauty ruining motorcyle riders that I have had the displeasure of dealing with on occasion I will say only that I am keeping hope alive that you will stick to your roots! Also, the fact that we are the same age and I look to you for continued inspiration, the thought that this might be a factor in your recent cross over is too much to bear! Thanks for your great work and commitment.

    — — —

    Hey Joel.

    Thanks for your note, and I see your points.

    Maybe it’s a case of selective ethics, but I really enjoy riding motorcycles, and I’ll try to justify the practice. But it’s definitely selfish — all that commotion for a few moments of flow. For what it’s worth, my CRF-X is EPA certified for emissions and noise. So I’m as green as you can be.

    I’ll always be a mountain biker who rides some moto. Never the other way around. But still … leelikesmotorbikes.com?

    — Lee

  3. Eddie says:

    I can understand the negative views of mtn bikers towards the moto crowd, but we can get along. Moto’s first and foremost are FUN! Moto’s are also one heck of a work-out if you’re not putting around, and there is no better way to build those high speed dh skills that a moto develops. They can also be ridden responsibly to minimize trail impact, just like a mtn biker must be attentive to. Now, with the development of 4-stroke technology, the new 4-stroke moto’s are much more emissions friendly.

    With all that pro-moto spew, I must admit nothing is more pure than my Heckler on tight alpine singletrack. Heck, I’m even currently without a moto but am eager for the day when I can twist the throttle again : )

  4. Rich says:

    In Australia a lot of trails are being closed to mountain bikers. And the reason seems to be that there is a lot of trail damage occurring from moto, but we all all lumped in the same category as far as the bureaucrats see it.
    In my home country New Zealand, it couldn’t be more different. Like the US and Europe, mountain bikers are widely welcomed.

Comments are closed.