Big Update(s) Part I

In my post from August I told you all about my new ATV.  I did a lot of riding on it back in the woods behind mine and Paul’s house, but finally got to see some real action on it one hot summer day in October.  Yes I did say October.  This was that hot weekend right before it turned into winter.  Anyway, that weekend Paul and I went with one of Paul’s neighbors down the street to a place called Crow’s Canyon MX park.  I had heard of the place before from, but had never been there.  Paul’s neighbor had been to it a couple times with a group of guys he rides with so he had suggested the place.  My brother had to sit out and this one as he had not installed the new axle bearings or brake pads in his quad yet.  His quad ran, but it could hardly be considered safe.  As I’d find out, it was probably best that he didn’t go.

Crow’s Canyon MX park features a large motocross track, a kiddie motocross track and a couple hundred acres of free riding area.  For $15 you get full use of the the entire facility.  The first thing I noticed when we pulled into the parking area was how big the track was.  What stood out in particular was the width of the track, about 30-50 feet all the way around, and the size of the jumps.  I had seen pictures on the facilities website and the jumps didn’t look all that big, but up close in person… well they’re not small.  While I’m sure an MX regular might consider them to be on the small size, for someone who’s never ridden on an MX track in their life they’re huge!  While the MX bikers were flying over the ramps, getting mad air and making it look easy, I’d be taking my time.

We unloaded the trucks, geared up and hit the track.  When I hit the track surface my first thought was wtf?!  The place seems to till and water the track about twice a day thus leaving a surface that can best be described as riding on rocks made of dirt.  These dirt rocks where on average 6 inches in diameter and made for a really rough surface to ride on.  I had expected a nice smooth surface, but this was not the case at all.  This made the approach on the ramps more difficult as you’d still be in bumpy riding mode as you’d hit them, but due to the size of the ramps it wasn’t too bad since the face of them was relatively smooth and much larger than the face of the average backyard ramp.  This gave you at least a little time to transition before the lip.

Speaking of the jumps… wow are these things big!  These jumps were easily 2-3 times as big as anything I had hit before.  Several of them where over 6 feet tall, which like I said may be small for a regular, but for a novice like myself it’s huge!  Jumping these ramps is completely different than jumping the backyard variety as well.  With the backyard ramps the approach is usually fairly slow, maybe 10 mph max.  You’d hit the ramp, gas it it to keep the front up while at the same time kind of doing a little jump of your own while shifting your weight back.  A very natural feeling as you’re actively involved in the jump.  Feels a lot like jumping off the ground on your own two feet.  For the jumps on the track… it’s nothing like that.  All you can really do is keep the speed up as you hit the ramp then go along for the ride.  It has a weird feeling to it.  Like I said, with the backyard jump it feels like you yourself are jumping.  On these big jumps it just feels like the ground has just dropped out from underneath you, which for all intensive purposes is exactly what it did.  Kind of a scary feeling.  Gassing it at the top of the ramp at trying to "jump" doesn’t really work as the speed is too high for the additional throttle and your own movements to do much.  About all you can do is shift your weight to keep the nose up and prepare for the landing.

The landings of the ramps are something else too.  Kind of harsh.  With this much air, for a smooth landing you have to land on the back side of the down ramp.  This is way easier said than done.  After the lip of the ramp there is always either a flat spot or a dip before the down ramp.  If you don’t have enough speed you won’t clear the flat or dip.  With the flat this isn’t too bad, just a hard landing that really works your leg muscles.  With the dip it’s bad!  If you don’t clear the dip what you get is a nice smack, typically nose first, into the side of it.  If this doesn’t cause you to fly off the bike over the handle bars it will typically cause you to plant your face into bars.  That’s exactly why off road helmets have the large face protection on them.  On my first lap I managed to do slight face plant into my bars on one of these jumps with a dip.  Didn’t hurt may face thanks to the helmet, but it sure hurt my arms not to mention gave me a scare.  The thing is you can’t see what’s after the jump until you’re already at the top of the jump.  Much to late to decide whether to go for it or not.  On my first lap I had taken all the jumps easy only going maybe 15 mph or less, but for the ones with the dips this speed was too fast or not fast enough.  There were two things I quickly learned riding the track.  One, you really do need to know the track and every jump before you can safely attempt to really take the jumps.  Two, when you do the jumps you gotta go all in or not at all, especially when there is a gap after the ramp.  There really isn’t much in the way of middle ground.  If you go half in you don’t make the proper landing spots and well… it hurts.

Between the bumpy track surface and large jumps, after about two laps fatigue had already set in.  You really have to be in shape to be competitive in MX, that’s for sure.  We headed back to the truck for some water before heading out to the trails.  When we reached the truck my hands were in pain.  The track had me holding on for dear life so hard that trying to expand my fingers now hurt.  Fortunately it cleared up pretty quickly as the blood finished rushing back in and settled.  Maybe I should get some better gloves or handle bar grips?  Oh well I prefer trail riding over MX anyway.  It’s a lot less painful to ride!

We hit the trails and were greeted with hills.  Lots of really big and fairly steep hills.  The first area we ran into was kind of like a big canyon, hence he name of the place I guess, with trails going up the sides all over.  Paul’s neighbor was in the front, an experienced MX rider and almost immediately started leading us up one of these steep uphill paths.  Oh great I’m thinking.  At this point in my riding experience I’m still pretty uncomfortable with riding large hills not to mention I still lack health insurance.  At Elson Street riding park there were some big steep hills, but none of the hills were as long or as tall as these.  Also at Elson, there was always an alternate path that you could take to go around the steep hill climbs.  This place… not so much the case.  With no other path to take I just sucked it up and followed.  I occasionally had to fall back from Paul and his neighbor as with the two of them up front they’d kick up so much dust I couldn’t see anything more than 5 feet in front of me.  Not what you want on a long uphill climb which, as is typical of any riding area, has ruts, roots and rocks jutting out in the path.  The kind of which if not prepared for could catch you off guard and send you rolling back down the hill.  I had that white knuckle feeling in my hands again as I climbed the hills.  All I could do was look ahead of me and stay on the gas, trying to dodge any ruts and roots or keep the nose down when dodging was not an option.  When I reached the top and looked back it was quite a site.  I don’t know the exact height of the hills but we were probably 80-100 feet up.  60 at the very least.  I’ll have to check with my GPS next time.  Now it was time to go back down.

Going down is easily as scary if not more scary than going up.  For starters you’re looking down the hill so you see exactly what you could end up rolling down.  The approaches often have you tilted at an angle sideways so you’re kind of hanging off the side of the bike looking down the hill before you drop into the channel.  Trying to make the experience end quickly by trying to go fast down the hill isn’t really an option as once again the ruts and roots come into play making going down with speed really dangerous.  Also, after you reach the bottom of the hill there isn’t much room to stop so even if the surface was smooth going with speed wouldn’t be an option.  Your only choice is to take it slow, put the bike in low gear (and keep it there) and gently apply the brakes trying not to lock the wheels up as you go down.  One of the worst things you can do is lock up the wheels as this will start you sliding down the hill.  Depending on conditions this can get really bad. Typically it will cause you to speed up even though the tires aren’t spinning and can cause rear of your quad slides around on you putting you sideways down the hill.  This will usually result in the side of your tires catching on something and your quad rolling down the hill.  Keep it straight and slow with your weight toward the rear of the bike and you should be fine.

After a few of the long hills we hit some normal trails.  Eventually they led us to this one area with a nice steep downhill maybe 60 feet long with a really steep part for the last 10 or 15 feet.  It was pretty smooth and there was room after the hill to slow down so a slow approach until the steep spot then just speeding down the steep part was the order.  Nothing too difficult to go down, but up would be another story.  We kept following the trail then hit a really steep uphill.  It was only maybe 20-25 feet long, but it was STEEP and there was a nice rock sticking  out to bounce up your front and make your rear lose traction.  To make it worse the approach was not straight but required you to turn into the hill thus not allowing much space to build up speed.  Paul’s neighbor, the experienced rider, made it up with out too much problem although his rear wheel was definitely spinning all the way up.  Of course he was on a dirt bike so finding a good line to ride up isn’t so difficult.  For the quads though, there’d be no way to avoid that rock.

Even though he was as inexperienced as I, Paul like the crazy person he is attempted the hill without hesitation.  He made it about 3/4 up when that rock kicked his front up.  He let off the gas to bring it down, but let off too much and lost all forward momentum and was stuck.  It was amazing he didn’t roll as it looked like that was exactly what was about to happen.  It took all three of us to get the bike back down the hill.  Once back down Paul decided to try again.  Crazy person.  This time he managed to avoid the rock a little better and stayed on the gas and made it.  Now they ushered me to try.  Hell no!  I saw what happened on Paul’s first attempt plus I still lacked health insurance.  Also, Paul has ITP Holeshot tires on his quad which hook up great in wet dirt.  My quad was running the stock tires which don’t hook up that well in wet dirt.  They’re great in the dry stuff, but they blow in the wet stuff.  I said no way.  Maybe next time, but not this time.

They came back down the hill and we back tracked to steep hill we came down.  Rather than trying to go back up that we went off on this other trail that was at the bottom of the hill.  It had a nice hill to climb but only after crossing a big mud pit.  The pit was about 15 feet across and a foot deep.  The mud was slightly thicker than pudding with a slight coating of water.  It smelled pretty bad as well.  Paul’s neighbor barely made it across on his dirt bike taking a path on the side that was a little shorter than straight across.  Due to a tree, following this path wasn’t an option for the ATV’s and the only real option was straight across.  Paul went first and almost made it across but got stuck right at the end.  It wasn’t too hard to get him out and on his way thanks to the Holeshot tires.  For me on the other hand… well this stuff is the absolute worst stuff my tires perform in.  I lined up and hit the gas.  Hitting the mud pit my quad almost immediately came to a stop.  I pushed into the gas again but was completely stuck, about 2 feet from the other side.  It took about a half hour of all three of us pushing and pulling on the bike with Patrick Swayze driving it to get the bike out.

With the bike out of the pit I now had a nice hill to climb.  A fairly muddy hill with a nice small smooth round rock in the path to pop up over.  I hit the gas and got moving up the hill.  The front tires made it over the rock but I didn’t have enough speed to get the rears over.  They just sat there spinning.  I back back down and we tried with me further back so I’d have more room to get speed.  I hit the gas and went no where.  My tired were packed with mud and this spot where I was starting was just as muddy.  Paul actually had to get behind me and give me a push to get started.  This time though I hit the gas even more and tried to keep as mush weight as possible toward the rear (which is counter intuitive since in hill climbs you usually want to keep the weight toward the front so you don’t roll back) to maintain traction and made it up.  It was pretty fun as my engine was screaming the whole way up yet I was only going about 5 mph as my tires were spinning the whole time.  We hit a few more mud spots as we continued down the trail then headed back to the trucks.

At this point Paul’s neighbor had to head home so Paul and I headed back out to the woods on our own.  I let Paul lead and he ended up taking us to this ditch basically in which the only way out was a couple nasty hill climbs.  Of course on the way down he had to stop mid hill to pose for some pictures of him being a retard on the quad.  I went down slowly but surely.  This hill wasn’t super steep, but it was on the border of being too steep to  stop.  That is the traction was almost to low to stay stationary on the hill.  At least with my tires anyway.  At this point we didn’t know that there was no way out of the ditch except nasty hill climbs so we continued along.  Right after this hill there was a nice drop about 10 feet long that was about 60 degrees, rutted, and had a nice right hand turn in it while leaning you too the left.  Also on the left of the turn was  nice tree to catch your handlebars.  This hill was definitely too steep to stop and I truly felt like my quad was going to roll forward on this one.  I almost caught my hand between the tree and the handle bar going down so I think I’m probably going to pick up a set of hand guards for my quad.  When we reached the bottom and continued a little further we were presented with a nice and treacherous hill climb and no other paths out of the ditch except back the way we came.

While the path back up the hill we came down wasn’t too steep or treacherous, it was a bit slippery and there was no room at the bottom to build up speed.  Also, there was still that one part before the base of the hill with the steep curve and the tree that would have been nearly impossible to go up.  The only real choice was to go up the nasty path ahead of us.  This trail was moderately steep so it wasn’t too bad in that respect.  The thing about it was that it was kind of rocky so the traction wasn’t very high and about 30 feet up it there was this nice big rock sticking out in the middle of the path.  If you stayed right you could avoid hitting it, but immediately to your right you were within one foot of a 30 foot vertical drop so there wasn’t really any room for error.  If you went left you’d hit the rock with your right wheels so you had to be careful not to pop it up.  You also had to watch it because the slick rock surface of this rock ran for about 10 feet of the trail after the front edge of it so if you lost speed hitting the rock you weren’t going to gain any riding on it.

Paul as always just went right at it made an attempt.  He stayed left and hit the rock popping the front end up.  His left rear had traction while his right rear did not and the bike turned 90 degrees sideways on the hill before he came to a stop.  I seriously thought he was about to roll this one.  I ran up and stabilized the bike as he got off and we straightened it out.  He got back on and tried continuing up the hill from that spot while I held the front down to keep him from rolling back.  The bike wouldn’t move so we backed it back down.  He went at it again taking more caution when hitting the rock and managed to pull it off.

I looked over the hill again to find a better line.  The best path really was the one right next to cliff.  It had the straightest and most stable path.  I had Paul stand by to grab the bike should I get stuck and begin to roll back then went for it.  I went right up past the rock with no problem and just kept on the gas, muscling my way up the rocky path  ’til I got to where he parked his bike.  After I stopped I looked up only to see even more hill to climb!

The last leg of this hill was a moderate to steep grade that sat in a 2 foot deep channel, rutted the entire way up, with a nice big boulder sitting smack dab in the middle of the channel at the top.  This boulder stuck out of the ground a good foot and half so there was no going over it.  You either had to go right or left of it trying to pop yourself out of the channel.  There was a second path available though that was much less worn in.  It was a lot steeper than the channel and a bit longer, but much smoother and didn’t feature a boulder.  Paul took the boulder route.  He climbed the hill then tried going right of the boulder.  The side of the channel popped the front up into this big wheelie which came down smacking his left nerf bar right into the side of the boulder before exiting the channel.  He made it, but he has a nice dent in his nerf bar now.  I decided to take the steeper but smoother path.

Using what little starting area I had I gained some speed and started my climb.  As soon as I got on the face of the hill I thought, "Oh Shit!  This is way steeper than it looked!"  To make it worse, the nice coating of leaves made the hill nice and slick.  I just kept on the gas and made it to the top, tires spinning the whole way.  I was relieved to finally be out of that pit.

At this point it was getting late so we headed back to the truck.  Of course to get there we had to go down this nice long hill.  It was a good 300-400 feet long, bumpy all the way down, moderately steep and due to the thick coating of dust, had that low traction thing going on making it impossible to stop on the hill.  Between the fatigue of riding all day and the unavoidable speed that naturally built up going down it, it was a little freaky, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  I was just happy to be done with the big hills and on the easy path back to the truck.

Overall Crow’s Canyon MX park was a pretty good time.  I enjoyed trying out the track and have a new respect for it.  The hills, while there were lots of them everywhere, for the most part they weren’t too bad.  The shear length of the climb makes most of them seem way worse than they are  There’s really only a few where you really gotta know what you’re doing before you should try them.  This place is definitely is not the type of place to take someone riding for the first time though.  If you aren’t proficient with your quad’s clutch or any other operation of it I would not go here to learn.

If you’re like me and are proficient at operating your quad, have ridden your typical rutted riding park trails, then this is a pretty good place to go to learn to ride hills.  Since most of the hills aren’t too steep, just really long, you’ll get that feeling of danger due to the height, but you really aren’t in that much danger.  Just watch out for rocks, roots and ruts on the hills and be careful.  Especially on a couple of those hills.  I have to say, Crow’s Canyon is a really a good place to learn to overcome your fear, plus due to the fact that you can’t really get anywhere without climbing a hill, you pretty forced to overcome it.  I wouldn’t consider myself a hill climb expert by any means at this point, but I definitely feel a lot more inclined to try some hills I avoided in the past.

There isn’t a whole lot, but I do have a few photos and videos from the trip.  You can find those here.

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