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Old 12-03-2007, 11:25 AM   #1
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Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Well, you people have finally done it. For two years, I've ridden a SuMo (MZ Baghira 660), and it's seen the dirt a grand total of two times on some trails in Death Valley but never anything that you could call "off-roading." Well, when you ride a SuMo, you also start to read all of those exciting trip reports from the dual sport crowd, because "hey, my bike's technically a dual sport, right?" And all of a sudden, you're envious that you've been so limited all these years to paved roads.

Anyway, when that dual sport conversion kit for my bike fell into my lap for a price that I absolutely could not refuse, it was useless to resist. So, long story short, I'm ready to slap on the DS wheels and other kit and take my first real foray off road. And being a guy with only the aforementioned off-road experience in the last 20 years, I of course want to start slow, which is why I want to find someplace remote and uncrowded to try my first few rides... uhh... I mean falls.

So, being the Peninsula dweller that I am, I have two or three choices in the way of organized off-road parks (Carnegie, Frank Raines, Hollister, etc.) that are close enough for a day ride. And another, less organized option (Clear Creek), that might provide more safety and privacy for the ultimate novice. Which gives rise to a few basic questions:

1. Is there a reason that I should not try a place like Clear Creek first? It seems that the best thing for me would be as much open space as possible with as few other people around to annoy/injure. Also, I figure I'm less likely to get in over my head and try something stupid when I'm alone with a variety of difficulty options than I am when I'm around other riders and I might feel the urge to "keep up."

2. If I do go out to Clear Creek, are there any tips about the place for a first-timer? Places to try or stay far away from? Suggested areas that have good terrain to practice?

3. Any other good areas for a n00b to try out his off-road skills (or lack thereof) closer to the core Bay Area that offer the same kind of thing as Clear Creek, only less highway miles to get there?

Thanks for any input, and BTW, I've already telepathically read everyone's first response, and all I can say is yes, I would LOVE to go to Doc Wong's next Dual Sport/Off-Road Clinic, and I can't wait until he does another one!
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Old 12-03-2007, 12:29 PM   #2
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Re: Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Hi Michael!

Welcome to the dirty side.

As for the questions you asked...

Quote:
1. Is there a reason that I should not try a place like Clear Creek first? It seems that the best thing for me would be as much open space as possible with as few other people around to annoy/injure. Also, I figure I'm less likely to get in over my head and try something stupid when I'm alone with a variety of difficulty options than I am when I'm around other riders and I might feel the urge to "keep up."
Except for the "road trails" (R001, R011,R014, R015 etc) most of the trails at Clear Creek can be mildly to wildely challenging.
I really wouldn't call it a place to go to learn. Especially by yourself.
Since you are new to dirt riding I would also advise against "solo" ventures to learn. This is because if you get in over your head you will likely need help recovering. Say you ride (or fall) off a narrow trail. It could be very very difficult to get your bike back up onto the trail by yourself. This is not even mentioning the problems that could arise if you got injured when out solo.

Quote:
2. If I do go out to Clear Creek, are there any tips about the place for a first-timer? Places to try or stay far away from? Suggested areas that have good terrain to practice?
If your mind is set on Clear Creek I would advise staying on (or as close as possible) to the main routes, again, like R001, R011 etc.
The "open areas" would be a good learning area as they are typically on peaks and ridges without the hinderance of narrow trails. This lets ya ride around and try different climbs, bumps, jumps and surface varieties (loose, hard, rutted, etc)
HERE's a good site on the Salinas Ramblers page about Clear Creek.

Quote:
3. Any other good areas for a n00b to try out his off-road skills (or lack thereof) closer to the core Bay Area that offer the same kind of thing as Clear Creek, only less highway miles to get there?
You did mention Hollister Hills.
IMO this is a great place to learn to ride.
It has a lot of areas for you to practice without getting in over your head.
It also has a LOT of one way trails which means you will have to worry less about someone else coming from the other direction.

About once a year SBR (South Bay Riders) puts on a newbie dirt day at Hollister.
HERE's the SBR post for the Newbie Dirt day held in February of this year.
HERE's a post calling for volunteers to the one we had in Feb of this year.
It has a good map showing where we guided the newbies so you can be pretty sure that nothing there is overly difficult.
Mike (mightslip) mentioned getting the ball rolling for the next Newbie dirt day during this last weekends SBR trip to Stonyford. I suspect this will (again) be sometime in February.

I can surmise from your post that you would like to stay away from other people while you learn to ride.
I would suggest you do just the opposite. Find experienced riders who are willing to help you out with hints and tips. It will make the learning curve much shorter and quicker.
Of course you want to try to avoid the experienced rider that just says "Follow Me!" and wheelies off up that impossibly steep hill.
A good experienced rider should know that they need to provide some basic pre-ride instruction, then move on to flat area to verify proper bike operation skills then proceed to the trails. This person should also be "following" in the beginning to see where you might need instruction for best results.

Eventually you will be following the instructor. What you learn here is riding line selection as well as bike control (lean, throttle, braking, etc). But even thenthe (good) instructore will be holding the speeds down to give the beginner a chance to be comfortable while observing the experienced person for visual hints & tips.
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Old 12-03-2007, 05:08 PM   #3
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Re: Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Hollister Hills is the best by far:

All trails are marked easy, intermediate, and advanced.

Trail Maps are available.

You can camp there.

People are friendly.

Medical help is close by should you need it.

Hard to get lost when you have a trail map with you.

Variety of trails to learn on.

Not the best place to ride when it rains hard as the South/East part of the park is clay and the dirt becomes unridable. The North/West part of the park has decomposed granite and is fine to ride on when things are wet.

There is also a store in the park where you can get a soda, burritto, engine oil, get a flat fixed and buy some riding apparel.

Go to Hollister Hills and you won't regret it.

Carnagie has more advanced riding and so does Clear Creek. Only go to Clear Creek with someone who knows their way around as you can get yourself into serious trouble accidentally.
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Old 12-03-2007, 08:10 PM   #4
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Re: Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Hey Michael,

Another option is to find a nice forest or dirt road to practice on. These can be more relaxed as you get used to the feel of riding on dirt with a larger dual sport versus pure dirt bike. One I enjoy, that is fairly close to Monterey, is old Hwy 1, heading inland from the Bixby Bridge down to Andrew Molera S.P. Hardly anyone on it, pretty scenic, with plenty of elevation changes to practice dirt riding skills on. I'm sure there are lots of unpaved roads to explore around the Bay area. Better yet are the Sierras, although these may be tougher to get to now that winter is setting in. Great forest road riding over there during Spring through Fall. I'd agree with the advice from John and Jim. There is an organized Fun Ride going on this weekend at Clear Creek, they will have guided rides for all levels and bike types, may be a good way to get familiar with this area. The beauty of dual sports is you can ride the pavement to get there, enjoy the back roads and dirt, and not have to worry about trailering the bike.
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Old 12-04-2007, 07:57 AM   #5
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Re: Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Thanks a TON for the info guys. All very good stuff.

I guess the reason that I was hesitant to try Hollister was the vision in my head of me being that guy who goes down a ski slope that's way over his head because he wants to look cool, but just ends up crashing in the middle and getting in everyone's way. I suppose if there are trails marked "easy" then I won't be ticking anyone off by going slow/falling down (hey, if you're that good, stay off the bunny hill!).

I'll give Hollister a shot, but maybe on a weekday where it might be a little less crowded. It also has the benefit of being closer to where I am.

Thanks also Tom for the tip on the dirt roads. That's actually what I envisioned when I first thought about putting the DS wheels on. However, where I live (on the Peninsula) all you hear about is how there are no such open dirt roads left, and if you find one, you're probably on private property and risking getting shot. I'd love to go down to the coast and see if there's anything in the Big Sur area to try.

BTW, my sincere apologies for causing the first rain storm in weeks. I knew as soon as I started putting the DS kit on and planning a dirt trip, the weather gods would smack me!

Thanks again, and I hope to see you guys out on the trails soon!
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Old 12-04-2007, 08:19 AM   #6
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Re: Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Michael, my wife is just learning to ride on dirt (and I'm more or less a rookie too). We live in Petaluma and are going to try out Cow Mountain near Ukiah...but probably not until Jan or Feb. I haven't found many reports on it beyond this one. Also the official site here.

But it does say that Cow Mountain is mostly or all 2-way trails. If Hollister has a lot of 1-way, that's probably better especially for beginning riders. (One less thing to think about...)

Regardless, we'll be sure to post up a review from the noob perspective and hope to see yours on Hollister. Hollister would be a bit further for us to go, but if there's camping, it might be an option for us.

You're not kidding about the rain. It was pouring on the penninsula this morning. I hope the Clear Creek riders get a break or it's going to be really muddy out there....

Good luck!
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Old 12-04-2007, 08:40 AM   #7
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Re: Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Quote:
Originally Posted by kimber99
Michael, my wife is just learning to ride on dirt (and I'm more or less a rookie too). We live in Petaluma and are going to try out Cow Mountain near Ukiah...but probably not until Jan or Feb. I haven't found many reports on it beyond this one. Also the official site here.

But it does say that Cow Mountain is mostly or all 2-way trails. If Hollister has a lot of 1-way, that's probably better especially for beginning riders. (One less thing to think about...)

Regardless, we'll be sure to post up a review from the noob perspective and hope to see yours on Hollister. Hollister would be a bit further for us to go, but if there's camping, it might be an option for us.

You're not kidding about the rain. It was pouring on the penninsula this morning. I hope the Clear Creek riders get a break or it's going to be really muddy out there....

Good luck!
Hi Kimber.

I have not (yet) ridden Cow Mountain but have talked with many folks that have.
In fact, we were just talking about it this weekend while riding Stonyford.
From what I heard it is "NOT" the place to take a newb.
As the site you first provided a link to says... there is really only one or two trails that would be newb friendly and they also lead to areas that are difficult.
On the South Cow Mountain BLM map I have of the 26 noted trails only 4 are considered easiest (green). Tot Lot, Brushy Ridge, Old Road and Buckhorn Rd.
And of these only the Tot Lot is near the primary staging area.
I do desire and hope to ride Cow Mtn this season and will try to provide a better description after doing so.

Hollister Hills does have camping available and (IMO) would make for a much more pleasurable newb learning experience than Cow Mtn.
Even if it is twice as far (or more) for you to drive to get to.
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Old 12-04-2007, 08:52 PM   #8
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Re: Qs About My First Dirt Foray

Hey John. Thanks for the post. Sounds like we really need to get a ramp for the pick up so we can haul bikes and the camping trailer to Hollister! And, if we do go to Cow Mountain for a daytrip, it won't be with expectations that we're going to cover a lot of ground. Just find some corner of dirt or one of those few easy trails to practice on... (I don't know a single good road near us...so it would be worth driving for an hour an a half just for a single easy trail.)

Hollister sounds really fun!
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