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Trail Topics

   Who owns the Problem?

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Author: Tadhg MacCarthy

I am in the unique position (for me) of working for a company that believes in the mantra "people are our greatest asset". Now it's not all tree hugging and trippy dippy - but it is driven from a desire to make the best product, give great service to customers and contribute to the greater community. Money is not the driving force; if you focus on the rest - the money will come. I'm sure this is unique for a lot of people.

The company is built on a set of values - the core of which is personal responsibility. If you're not prepared to buy into those values - then that's fine - just go and work somewhere else.

Now we're all guilty of lapsing at times and recently our MD challenged us with:

"It is my view we still have people in our culture that ask what “they” (the company, the country, god, the universe) can do for me not what I am going to do about this problem. "

Ok so what does this have to do with the RTRA?

Well translate the "they" in the quote above to the "the RTRA, the government, DEC, motorcycle dealers, the rain gods".

The RTRA is the voice of riders.  The government, DEC and the rest are listening (well maybe not the rain gods!) - thanks to the tireless work and relentless focus of Steve & Val Pretzel.

The fact that you're still reading this - means you are engaged as a rider.

Can you get other riders to join the RTRA to add volume to the voice?

Can you do something for the RTRA to ensure a bright future for trailriding in WA?

Buy your slack riding mate a membership for Chrissie ... see for more ideas.

You can make a difference...

   What Does It Matter?

    Monday, October 29, 2012

Author: David Bylund

I got to thinking the other day about the various bikes that I have owned over the years. Ride number one was a 50cc Honda Gorilla. I was about 6 years old and my Dad had bought my sister and I this little bike to zoom around on in our back yard. One of my first memories the little beast was being flung of the back while being dinked by my sister after she ran over an old stump.

Since then I have owned a myriad of bikes ranging from a RM80 to an XL125, an XR200, XR250, XL500, WR400 and ECX250F. Now, apart my previously blogged interest in offroad electric bikes, I actually own a rather humble, and some would say daggy, Honda CH250, better known as a Honda Spacey. Now that bike’s a ride!! 

I can just hear you laughing to yourself at the thought of me zooming around on it. You're probably thinking of it in the context of your enduro weapon sitting in the shed. You may even be feeling smug about owning a big thumper and, that no self respecting rider would ever be seen on such a pithy thing as a scooter! Don’t worry if you are. I have thought the same thing about such a lowly ranked putt-putt machines in days gone by myself.

The question is, does it really matter what you ride?

Some would say that we live in a society that is fueled by marketing and an all powerful consumerist manifesto insisting that we must all own the ‘latest and greatest’. Does this condition prevent us from finding a fulfilling riding experience even if we ride a bike that is looked down on by others just because its now longer hot off the press?  

By all means, ride the bike of your dreams if that is what it takes. I would suggest that it's more about the old adage that says: ‘It is not so much about what you ride, but how you ride it’.

PS.  For the record, the Spacey is currently undergoing a transformation and is soon to be reborn as chopped cafe racer/street fighter!

   Riding Dreams

    Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Author: George Lowry

As this will be may last blog for a while I thought I'd share my riding dream. Ok here it is ... to ride awesome single trails from Perth to Albany and back again (on different trails), only getting off the trail to visit and spend money in bike friendly towns, perhaps going south through the forests and returning via the wheatbelt. 

I'm sure it could be one of the biggest loops in the world attracting visitors from afar to show off how well we do it and how good WA truly is!  We've done it for the walkers and mountain bikers. Surely we can do it for trail bikes?

After too many years not riding it was great to come back to a sport/ hobby/ obsession I enjoyed as a kid and hit the trails again. Growing up in the country meant you could ride almost where you liked for as long as you liked. People were generally friendly, encouraging you to enjoy yourself ... after all we were pursuing an outdoor, physical and social activity.  

Twenty years later and offroad riding in WA seemed to be an almost illegal activity and the dream became getting a ride in without meeting a ranger.

For this reason I joined the the RTRA (and the committee), to see the sport get back on the front foot and move towards the dream. I reckon it's happening.

PS. Another riding dream is a Perth / Geraldton loop!

   More to trail bikes than the riding.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Author: Valerie Pretzel

I have realized that the activity of trail bike riding is actually only made up of 50% actual riding – it is 15% bike and gear maintenance (Pretz would argue that I wouldn’t know much about the bike maintenance part!) – but the other 35% is time spent researching, reading, watching and talking about “so what will the next bike be”.

When we go away for a weekend or a week of riding with our riding crew, most nights are spent pondering the next bike, pros and cons of 2 stroke versus 4 stroke; a 250, 350 or a 450? are Husabergs just blue and yellow KTMS? What do the new models have? and the value of steering dampners, recluse clutches, pivot pegs and dozens of add-ons. Then for additional value you can have the same conversation about your child’s bike and which bike they should have next.

There is also the ride planning, trail mapping, bench racing and whilst I am personally not that into it – I am reliably informed by a number of riding mates, much excitement over the Ballards catalogue.

So the trail biking is far greater than the riding activity itself. There is a trail bike culture that provides an interest and a hobby even when you are not on the bike.

So what will you be doing this week – the riding, the maintenance, the ride planning or the dreaming about the next bike?....or if you are really lucky, all of the above.

   When is a good time to start teaching the young?

    Monday, August 13, 2012

Author: Brett Grandin

Having two grandsons (five and three) I am keen to give them the opportunity to ride dirt bikes. Or am I hoping that they will be interested? They are keen to help in the shed when I am working on my bike, don’t mind having a dink on the front of big bikes, although a bit reserved about of the noise of the exhaust (legal of course).

The opportunity came about so I purchased a second hand PW 50, then ensured that it was up to scratch and fitted a set training wheels. I explained to the boys that this was their bike and that the little red fox helmet was for use on the motor bike. Well we all know that the helmet gets used for all activities including the push bike.

The time came for the intro to the bike running, well this did take some getting use to but once you see your poppy riding YOUR bike it is surely game on. I get the eldest boy to get onto the bike and under supervision explain the concept on turning the throttle (thank goodness for the screw that enables limited throttle). So here I am chasing the grandson around the back yard hanging onto the rear of the bike. This is good exercise and I sure knew I had been at a large portion on my half acre block.

When to do the solo run? We are lucky enough to have a 10 acre location that the boys can use to ride the bike (and the great grandparents are grateful for the visits).  I decided that the preliminary training had been completed and it was time for the SOLO run.

Gear on ….. ran through the throttle on / throttle off exercise. Lets do it

Well the kid is off … I am running behind the bike ….. throttle off! …….THROTTLE OFF!!   I can not keep up …….. poppy gives up….. the fence will stop him!  Yep. (I am so glad that I am yet to screw out the throttle stop)

I am sure that the look on his face was “what the ………….you have tried to kill me”. Well the younger of the two young ones decides that it his turn. Nanna sitting on the rear ….as you could probably understand poppy has just had to do the 100 yard dash to save the other child and is a bit under the weather.

Well this went a lot better and this bloke understands the consequences of not doing the throttle off routine. Broom broom …….purrrr…..broom purrrrrr and his is turning the bike in circles by himself. Circle work at a young age …… the kid shows promise.

Rider number one looking on with interest and contempt.  I could see the square-up he was planning for his little brother showing him up.

So training continues. My question still is have I started too early?  Is three and five a good place to start?

   RTRA Westcoast Trailbike Safaris Hills'n'Thrills ride

    Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Author: Tadhg MacCarthy

July 7th was an opportunity for RTRA members to sample some Hills'n'Thrills courtesy of the crew at Westcoast Trailbike Safaris.  

This tour was pitched at the more experienced rider after the RTRA/Westcoast Intro tour run earlier in the year. Further on I'll dispense some invaluable trail tips for the inexperienced riders amongst you.

A motley crew turned up to a sold out tour - we had all types of bikes from KTM two-smokers to a go anywhere Suzuki DR650. Same bill for the riders - from new to dirt, or returning after many years to a few Bear Grylls on Bikes and a lone female Tania amongst a sea of testosterone.
The conditions were no less than perfect, and as usual Staino tailored the tour to cater for all.

Pommy Pete was having his last Westcoast ride as trusty sweep - before heading over to Melbourne to further his career as an international poet - so it was a bittersweet farewell for the bard from Essex.

The customary pre-ride talk was dispensed with, followed by a quick word from RTRA prez Pretz. We then waited the customary five minutes for the bike of a certain colour to be kicked a hundred times to re-fire into life and we were off.

Out the gate - and immediately into some hilly single track to blow out the cobwebs and pre-ride jitters. From there we were served with a smorgasboard of the finest trails in the Blackwood - before rolling into Tathra Winery for some hearty soup & rolls to prep for the afternoon.

The hills were tailored back a bit to cater for all the group.
One memorable one was Stig Hill.

Tip #1: When tackling a difficult hill; stand up and well forward - select the right gear. Keep the revs smooth and pick your line - and remember momentum is your friend.

I know this tip because that's exactly what Tania was doing as she passed me as I lay under my bike having speared off into the pine trees half way up the hill.

Tip #2: While climbing a hill remember to be ready to change lines quickly if required.

Tania learned this when Pat did a swan dive off his bike into her line on the next section of Stig Hill. Pat is available for lessons if required - contact his agent.

The afternoon brought out the rain with a nice shower as we traversed the rocky mountain trail.

Tip #3: Carry a spare pair of gloves on a ride so you can have dry & warm hands once the rain passes.

Remember to bring a left and right glove - unlike me who had a left and another left glove. Mmmm .. super toasty left hand.

The afternoon had us tackling some nice water crossings.

Tip #4: Water crossings are deemed nice when you don't fall in.

All too soon we were rolling back into Westcoast base for the trek back to reality.

Many thanks to the RTRA and the Westcoast crew for an(other) awesome day on the trails. Let's make next year a two (or three!) dayer.

   What next? Electric Go Karts

    Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Author: David Bylund

Just a quick one this week - been too busy with life to even get on my Bomber for a ‘quiet’ ride in my local patch!

I have been following the progress of the new KTM Freeride. Looks like it will arrive in Australia in about two months. No news on the Freeride E, but one can only hope. The question is, will these bikes fall by the wayside as a unique experiment in an enduro/trails hybrid or will they create a whole new subclass that that gets the other manufactures scrambling to compete?

A recent trip to NZ made me drool. Awesome riding country, seemingly limitless mountain trails. Snow, bush and surf all within one or two hours drive!

I did get to try some exciting electric go karts while in Auckland. They go like a bat out of hell and definitely must be experienced to believe. Given my penchant for electric power, these guys definitely fill the bill. If you're in NZ sometime, go check them out -  FormulaE, five minutes from the Auckland International Airport.

   Living in the Digital World

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Author: Howard Hindley

Taking photos and action videos footage while on the move has changed so much since the introduction of the “Digital Era.” 

I remember seeing some very old motocross (Scrambling) footage of “on board action filming” that was taken in the early 60’s in the era of Dave Bickers, Jeff Smith, Vic Eastwood and Dave Nicoll etc (no I’m not that old, it was just an old program!!!). I think it was Dave Bickers who had a so called “portable camera” strapped to his chest - it was a big as a small generator. The footage was awesome for its day with commentary from Murray Walker. He’d have difficulty walking never mind riding a bike but the concept was way ahead of its time!!!

When the small camcorders came out (the ones with a cassette tape inside), we mounted one on my helmet with a small wedge shaped block in between to get the camera angle right - or so we thought. Everything seemed to work well while trialling this around the house but it was so heavy and had no adjustment (as it was duct taped to my helmet) that when you rode the bike, you had to learn way forward to stop falling off the back of the bike. The end result was a few hours footage of the floor and a stiff neck!. After several attempts to get the angles right we gave this up as a bad job as it was just too heavy and awkward to fix anywhere else. The thoughts crossed my mind of how did Dave Bickers put up with that “monstrosity” strapped to his chest?

In today’s world, nearly everybody has a digital mobile phone with built-in camera which are of excellent quality for their size. Long gone are the days when you use a phone just for talking to people - we all use these cameras with our everyday activities and most of us will have heaps of photos and short videos of things you’d never taken a picture of before the digital world arrived. These days it’s just so easy!!

My youngest son has recently taken up off road riding and he was given one of the new generation of digital action cameras, by his mates (Great Mates!). In the short time he’s been riding he seems to have amassed heaps of photos and videos clips of him riding. So thinking back to the previous efforts with camcorder stuck on top of my helmet, I thought I’d give the new smaller version a go - just stick a small self adhesive plate on top of your helmet, clip in the camera and away you go. Didn’t even know it was there!! 

Here's a some recent footage that was taken.

Got a fair way to go to get up to “Spielberg’s” standards but will keep practicing!


   Mastering the Backflip!

    Monday, July 16, 2012

Author: George Lowry

For the last month I've been preparing for a comeback to riding after a shoulder injury which has kept me off the bike for two years. I have to say I am indebted to Xbox and the Redlynx team who dreamed up Trials Evolution. This game is awesome fun and it's uncanny how it mirrors the way I behave after a spill - a lot or moaning, groaning and uncontrolled twitching .. you have to see it to appreciate it!. Back to the comeback. I've been working on wheelies, endos, bunnyhops, flips, doubles and even front flips and I don't mind sharing with you I'm pretty good.

It reminds of a speaker I once heard talk about how her 18 year old son Jeff borrowed his Dads brand new SS Commodore one night to go down to the local store to get a video. His father was out of town and his mother on the phone when Jeff passed throught the kitchen picked up the keys to the car and waved to his Mum that he'd be back in 10 minutes. All went well until Jeff was returning home from the video store and had to stop at the local highway traffic lights. As he sat there events began to conspire against him in the form of a WRX pulling up beside him with engine revving. Somehow Jeff instantly knew he had to defend the honor of his father's new car. The lights turned green and it was all on. Jeff sped down the highway at high speed. Just as he was beginning to pull away from WRX he could see travelling in the opposite direction at some speed flashing blue lights. Immediately looking in his rear vision mirror he saw the police car turn around and head in his direction.

At this point Jeff new he was in some trouble. Fortunately, Jeff had a highly evolved brain which he immediately sought counsel from. The brain responded with an obvoius course of action which was to plant the accelerator firmly to the floor. It was now all on. Jeff got off the main road and into the suburbs, turned off the car lights and continued winding his way darting into and out of streets. Several police cars were called in to join the pursuit. After several minutes Jeff finally turned the car into what he thought was a partially hidden driveway. Two minutes later several police cars and uniforms surrounded the car calling Jeff to get out of the car and lie face down next to the car. It turned out Jeff forgot to take his foot off the brake and as the only car in the suburb with tail lights the on and no headlights the police thought it was a pretty safe bet. The police beleiving the car to be stolen treated Jeff as a hardened criminal. To make matters worse (for the parents at least) the arrest was watched by the owners of the house whose driveway Jeff and several police cars were in on and who also just happened to be Jeff's father's boss. Yes they had recognised car.

Sometime later Jeff's mother arrived at the police station. She asked him what could he possibly have been thinking to do such a stupid thing. Jeff couldn't only respond by saying the whole episode was straight out of his favourite video game Grand Theft Auto and that he must have thought in that moment of enlightenment that that he had outrun the police hundreds if not thousands of times before in the game it should be a piece of cake to do it for real.

So why am I telling you about this? Well if you see some 40+ rider doing back flips on the trails you will know it is the combination of a highly evolved intellect and Trails Evolution!!

   Balancing the Risk and the Enjoyment

    Monday, July 09, 2012

Author: Valerie Pretzel

I’ll admit that I am often quite conflicted about supporting my family in our trail bike riding activities.

In my role with the RTRA and Trail Bike Management, we are often amongst the first to hear about trail bike related injuries and fatalities. 

When I co-wrote the State Trail Bike Strategy I had to do a lot of research into the hospital statistics around injuries. So I am very well aware of what can go wrong – and how badly it can go wrong, and how it can affect people’s futures.  So why do I want to ride and why do I let my daughter ride and encourage my husband…am I crazy?? That’s what my non-riding family and friends think.

On the other side of the ledger are all of the reasons why we ride – the fun, adventure, challenge, exercise, quality time spent with friends and family in our amazing WA outdoors. Above all I equate riding with being like an “active meditation” because when you are riding you really get to switch off from day-to-day life, smell the roses and be absolutely in the present. 

For my 13 year old daughter, who started riding when she was 6, I like the fact that it encourages independence and self reliance – she alone can make her decisions when she is riding. She has to learn to correctly judge risks, read the best line to take, decide how fast she can go depending on the conditions and above all respect the bike. This will be invaluable when she first gets in a car and learns to drive.

So I worry that I am tempting fate by knowing the risks and continuing to ride. On the other hand we mitigate the risks by wearing all the right gear (our rule “all the gear, all the time”), ensure the power of the bike is suitable for the rider, ride in groups, ride with someone who knows the trail and trying to minimize the risk where ever we can.

I know that risk is involved in everything (my last broken bone was earlier this year from ice skating!). I also know that life wouldn’t be much fun if we stopped doing everything that was risky. So on that basis – see you out on the trails.

How do you feel about the risk of trail bike riding? and how do you manage it?