Following up on my plan to regularly verify my semi-competence (see “Creating A Baseline”), I headed for the Red Wing MSF training range yesterday. I invited a friend, but he wasn’t interested in testing himself or his new V-Strom in the rain. I invited a kid I went to school with this year; he couldn’t get his bike to start. Absolving myself of any sense of obligation to combine my self-analysis with some sort of service to my fellow man, I wrapped up my honey-do projects and loaded up for the afternoon ride and practice.
Rain was definitely in the weather prediction, so I suited up AGAT Aerostich. First, I had a few errands to run on the bike, so I filled it up for the first time this season and put about a dozen miles running errands from one end of the gigantic Red Wing metropolis to the other. It’s a rough life, but someone has to be enough of a screw-off to manage it. About the time I wrapped up the errands and started up the hill to Southeast Community Tech where the MSF range lives, it started to rain. Rain isn’t a big show-stopper for me, but the Red Wing range is poorly marked and pretty much a mess on a good day. Still, if I were teaching a class we’d be riding, so I might as well get on with it. As expected, the range was soaked and I had to ride around it a few times, noting visible markers as clues where my targets would, roughly, be.
I started off surprisingly well, considering my lousy day on the bicycle last week (where my new cleated clip-in pedals put me on my ass twice in about 20 miles). I aced the figure-8 box twice, which wasn’t expected because I’m stiff as a board after this lethargic winter and turning my head to look for my target points was a little painful and not particularly impressive, flexibility-wise. However, it went downhill from there, fairly quickly. I moved to Exercise 6, the small oval cornering exercise, next. I was Ok there, but not as confident as I should be as a coach or even as a half-decent rider. I kept at it for a couple dozen laps in each direction. I got better, but a little colder, too. Cold equals stiff and so does old. Next, I worked on the 270o timed corner. Ok, but not great again. No problem staying in the lines or going minimally quick enough, but I didn’t convince myself to push the bike hard enough to get a little slide out of the back tire (easy in the rain) or to approach touching a peg to the asphalt. Quick stops, emergency swerves, and the big offset cone exercises pretty much wrapped up the stuff I usually practice and after all that I’d blown about two hours on the range.
Then the sky opened up and dumped for a couple of hours. Between when I left and this morning, we got 5” of rain on Wednesday. 4” of that landed on me between the school and home that evening.
When I bought my WR250X, I busted my “no bikes from kids” rule. Some of the stupid things that had been done to that bike were trendy nitwit stuff: like removing the “tail” of the rear fender, hacking up the tail pipe and the intake air box. In a rain storm like this one, the last thing I need is a shade tree butchering of Yamaha’s well-thought-out air box. Water and high compression do not mix, ever. Likewise, without that “ugly” tail fin on the rear fender, the back tire tosses crap from the top of my head to my ass. I know, I rode it a couple of times before I found a cheap used replacement fender. Since I replaced all of that stuff fairly quickly, I made it home in the rain without any mechanical problems.
Unfortunately, that didn’t apply to my personal protection. I was properly geared up, so I should have been reasonably dry. However, there is a key move you have to make to stay dry in an Aerostich Darien: you have to zip up the jacket all the way and close the collar. I didn’t do either. Lucky it was a warm rain.
I’m still trying to decide if I passed this year’s riding benchmark. I absolutely decided that I’m not smart enough to take advantage of good riding gear and the protection it provides.