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Trail Topics

   One way trails the way to go

    Friday, December 02, 2011

Author: Paul Neve

I had been off the dirt bikes with motors for the last 22 years or thereabout.  So I have enjoyed getting back into dirt bike riding in a big way, riding my road registered enduro bike at any chance that I get. I must say that I love to ride my TM 250 2t EN fast. Which brings me to the realization that official riding areas with a one way trail network are very important to the recreational and sporting pursuit of dirt bike riding.

So far I have been to West Coast Safaris' Ride Park at Kirup, which has a great mix of enduro style loops of varying difficulties and a natural terrain MX style trail.   Great opportunity to ride and learn in a safe environment without have to slow down because of the possibility of another vehicle coming the other way. 

I have also been out to Dirt Rider Heaven at Mogumber which has more MX style tracks to ride - a great place to learn and hone the bike riding skills - again in a safe environment with everybody going the same way. 

Both of these areas are on private land.

This makes me strongly aware that part of what RTRA is working towards - open public riding areas with controlled direction trails and a mix of different style of tracks for all ages to use -  is heading in the right direction and is the right direction for a sustainable safe dirt bike riding community for all.

I strongly believe that the State Government needs to head in this direction with a sense of urgency. And that we all need to make enough noise that it takes notice NOW.

   An Open Letter to Minister Terry Waldron

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

Author: Peter Mathieson

As a motorcyclist with over 35 years of experience of road, trail and competition riding, I assure you that the benefits from trail bike riding are many, including economic, social and the general well being of participants.

12 months ago I wrote to you seeking your active support for the WA State Trail Bike Strategy which was developed more than three years ago and has only been actioned in part by providing very limited funding of $80k , despite members from both sides of the House supporting the Strategy (Hansard [ASSEMBLY .— Wednesday, 23 March 2011].

Whilst this initial funding is welcomed, I note with some asperity and cynicism that recent fatal shark attacks off the Western Australian coast have resulted in immediate decisions from the Government to spend the substantial sum of $13.5 million over the next 5 years into studies of shark behaviour and other measures to reduce the risk of attacks. This expenditure is further to the Premier's recent knee-jerk reaction to spend $1 million to subsidise daily aerial patrols until April 2012.

Whilst shark attacks create an air of palpable fear in the community, it is undeniable that people who venture into the dangerous environment of the ocean do so at their own risk. A value cannot be placed on the impacts of tragic shark attacks, and one feels for the families and friends of victims. Nevertheless, sharks live in the ocean, their movements cannot be predicted and no amount of studying and patrolling will assist in reducing the risk of attacks.

Recently, the community has also been saddened by the unnecessary deaths of trail bike riders. Where is the decisive action from Government to take action and commit funding over these tragic incidents? Are the lives of trail bike riders of less value politically, than ocean lovers?

The State Trail Bike Strategy can’t begin to address the issues until the government formally endorses it and allocates the necessary funds.

Recreational motorcycling is here to stay. The lack of amenity and safe places to ride will continue to be a problem in the community until action is taken.

I urge you to act now and provide adequate funding for the WA State Trail Bike Strategy.

Peter Mathieson
Trail bike rider and RTRA Member

15 November 2011

   Quadding it in the USA

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Author: Brett Soltoggio

In a previous blog Brett G posed the question: What is the ideal ride?

Well on a recent trip to the USA I think my family and I took part in the ideal ride.

Lorene, Shelby, Daniel and myself were staying with friends in St George, UTAH when it was decided that we would explore Sand Hollow State Park and some areas of Zion National Park.

The ride began at an ATV rental store on the edge of town.  From here we followed roads that led to trails which took us through scenic sand dunes and prehistoric rock formations to arrive on the beaches of the Sand Hollow reservoir for a quick dip in the warm blue water.

After drying off and a bite to eat we were on our way, eventually climbing about 760 meters in altitude to the top of a beautiful red plateau looking down into Zion National Park and up to Pine Valley Mountain. It was hard to believe we were riding quads in a national park - legally!

Unfortunately time was running out and we had to head back to town which by now was about 100kms away.

Every one of us was on a charge back down to St George but there was still time to enjoy the sand dunes on the top of the plateau before one final stop for photos of the giant rock formations such as the giant prehistoric petrified snapping turtle, alien nusery and battleship.

Riding back into town we pulled into a gas station, filled the quads and grabbed a coke. Nobody even looked twice at us even though we were on quads!  Everybody ride quads in St George it turns out.

Maybe some day in the not too distant future through the continued efforts of the RTRA my family and I will be able to enjoy a similar experience on our quads on our home soil.

Here's to hoping !!!!

Stay Safe
Brett S .

   Trail Bikes for the Size-Challenged

    Monday, October 31, 2011

Author: Valerie Pretzel

This is a story about how riding trail bikes is not really designed for those of us who are size challenged – particularly for those of us who are…let’s say “petite”! Okay so I’m built more suited to being a jockey – 5 foot nothing, weighing in around 50kg and not particularly strong.

My first bike was a KLX125, which was a lovely little bike; great to learn on but not road registerable and therefore illegal to ride anywhere except private property and designated ORV areas. So we started the hunt for something more suitable:

  • Seat height around 850mm
  • Weight – as little as possible
  • Electric start – preferable
  • Road registerable – mandatory

In 2005, for 12 months only, Yamaha sold a road registerable TTR125 but they were pretty scarce and sold mostly in the Eastern States. We found one in Sydney and bought it sight unseen and had it shipped over. I loved this bike – very confidence building as both feet were firmly on the ground and it did everything I wanted, even a couple of 2 day West Coast Safari rides.

But as my experience grew I started to out grow the bike – I wanted more power and better brakes, suspension etc…so we were back to square one. No road registerable, enduro bikes were low enough or light enough. If I couldn’t get both feet on the ground, I needed a lighter bike.

Eventually we decided on the KTM200 – the lightest bike of this type we could find weighing in at 98kg, but my feet were miles away from the ground. Sander and his guys at Bunbury KTM came to the rescue with a plan which shaved an impressive 110mm off the height. This included:

  • Dropping the forks through the triple clamp as far as possible
  • Revalving the shock and fitting a spacer to reduce seat height
  • New shorter, softer spring
  • KTM low seat
  • Shorter motard side stand

The 2-stroke has taken a fair bit to get used to, as has the lots of extra power and I can only get one foot down and what I wouldn’t do for an electric start! But I love the fun of this bike, it doesn’t require me to ride it on the power band all the time (as long as someone takes it for a blast every now and then to clear it out) and the handling is amazing compared to the TTR.

But why do we have to go to all this effort to get a suitable bike – surely there is a big enough market of smaller/novice riders who still want a decent bike?? The TTR-230 has been the only bike in this market, but it is very heavy and from all accounts doesn’t handle well (and Yamaha have recently stopped selling a road registerable version).

So to all the bike manufacturers out there – us small female riders want a <100kg, <900mm, 250 4-stroke, with an electric start that is ADR compliant and capable of being road registered – now is that too much to ask???

   Loss of a Great Rider

    Monday, October 24, 2011

Author: George Lowry

It's nearly 24 hours since Marco Simoncelli's tragic passing and like Stoner, Rossi and all Marco's competitors as well as GP fans around the world I feel devastated and sick in the stomach.
Marco was a champion human being. God bless you Marco and RIP.

There is no doubt as a result of Marco's death the GP community will come together to mourn, examine, comfort, extol, improve and remember a great rider and human being. Marco's family and close friends will be loved and supported by this great community. Teams, race organisers and fans will seek to make improvements, increase safety and ensure Marco's life is remembered long after he is gone.

As I think about Marco, I also think of the West Australians who have had their lives tragically cut short as a result of accidents on trail or quad bikes this year (let alone the last 10 years). As a member of the WA riding community I find myself wondering what have I done to mourn, examine, comfort, extol, improve and remember these great people and part of my community. The answer I am very sorry to say is nowhere near enough!

Surely as part of the riding community I can do something to ensure these riders are remembered whether by improvements to the sport, increased safety, being accountable to riding colleagues, staying in touch with the families left behind.

RTRA represents the recreational riding community. Support us support you.

   Simon's Wish List

    Monday, October 17, 2011

Author: Simon Mykolajenko

Someone asked my why I enjoy trail riding.

Trail riding offers many things.

I really enjoy getting away trail riding and camping for a weekend with family and friends. This brings our family together in a great environment for communication between parents and kids. No computer games, no TV, no phones, just fresh air and plenty of physical activity. A side benefit of riding is it keeps us fit and healthy. Our kids have learned how to light a fire, cook, camp, and many other life skills on these weekends, all in a responsible, environmentally friendly manner. They were a little put out when we had to clean up someone else’s rubbish near our campsite, but they now realise that it’s important to take any rubbish home with you, even if it’s not yours.

Riding with friends is always great fun, and entertaining, especially if we have access to some challenging terrain. We are all competitive, but we all help each other work on improving our riding skills. There is hardly a weekend riding where I don’t learn something new.

Off road touring is a fantastic way to see out of the way places in the bush. One of our best rides was from Pinjarra to Nannup and back, with as little bitumen as possible. We’ve seen parts of the Southwest that most people don’t even know exist. My daughter couldn’t believe “Fish Ladder Falls” when she saw it. That alone made the weekend worthwhile. Much better than a classroom.

I guess I can summarise what I really enjoy down to two things. I like the physical and mental challenge of riding over difficult terrain, and I love getting away with my family and friends spending a weekend in the bush.

I rode at Gnangarra once in about 1979 I think. I was there for about half an hour and realised that this is more dangerous that drink driving, taking drugs, smoking, eating razor blades, and playing Russian roulette all at the same time. I will never ride there again while this area is totally uncontrolled and downright dangerous. Also, even if the area was controlled and safe, the terrain offers no challenges for experienced riders, but is not suitable for beginners. Lancelin at least offers something different with the dunes, but after about an hour I’ve had enough of that. It’s much more enjoyable to ride the tracks up to Cervantes or Jurien Bay and back.

What is my wish list? Where do I start?
• Firstly riding around in circles does not interest me at all.
• Tracks need to be marked, and directional.
• New areas need to be allocated to reduce the number of riders in one place at one time, therefore reducing the risk of accidents, and reducing the impact to the area.
• Trails to and from destinations need to be established, similar to the Bibbulmun and Munda Biddi trails. I’d love to be able to take a week off work and ride from Pinjarra to Albany and back. Or ride a different section each weekend. Obviously this would be suitable for registered bikes only. Introducing an “Off Road Rego” scheme such as the one in operation in Victoria would solve that problem.
• At a very minimum, there needs to be more areas for off road motorcycle use.
• Erosion can be a problem if an area is misused or over used. Again the more areas there are to ride, the less impact riders will have on these areas. If you herd every rider into a 10-acre paddock, it will be a dust bowl in a day. The construction of marked trails would keep riders away from delicate areas.
• Rangers have stopped me on a couple of occasions, but after a vehicle and registration check there was no problem. I have no problem with rangers doing their job and ensuring everyone obeys the rules. These are the same guys who stop idiots lighting fires during fire bans and making my weekend in the bush safer and more enjoyable.
• I don’t want a separate area for kids, I want to be able to ride with them and help them improve their riding skills. Maybe a parents-and-kids trail?
• Provide funding to the same level as football, netball, basketball etc to be used to provide a range of off road trails throughout the state.
• Introduce a “Recreational Rego” scheme. The income from this, combined with other rates, taxes, and GST generated by riders and the motorcycle industry in WA would more than cover the set up and maintenance of a fantastic trail system.
• The last two things combined would remove most of the current problems in residential areas.

The final thing on my “wish list” would be a “junior motorcycle license” so kids could ride legally while in the company of their parents. The long term flow on benefit would be when they turn 17 they will already have vehicle skills in difficult conditions making them safer drivers.”

I don’t see any losers in the above do you?

   Seven Days and Seven Nights

    Friday, October 14, 2011

Author: Brett Grandin

After the discussion in relation to what the ideal ride is I have indeed participated in a ride that could be classed as an ideal adventure.

Earlier this year a group of my riding brethren and myself ventured to the Garden state of Victoria to find out what it was like to do an adventure such as The SEVEN DEADLY SINS.

Nine able-bodied souls ventured to Bairnsdale in Victoria, bikes in tow, to do a ride through the exact country that the publicised rides goes through. Albeit on our own “without the Guide”. One of the motley crew was a local boy who had boasted that the country in the Victorian highland is to be experienced as it is like no other in Australia and a total contrast to what we experience in WA.

Well the prep was done, the day had come, so we set of to ride the best seven days of riding I have ever been part of.

There are hills that go to the sky, rock outcrops that have boulders the size of bowling balls, creeks that never forgive, rain that is colder that the ice on the ground, rear wheel traction that allows you to continue beyond your fitness levels and beer that tastes better after being in the saddle for 8-10 hours (more on that in a later story.)

For seven days our band of merry men and the backup driver traversed the high country of Victoria's eastern ranges, up and down the many mountain ranges, jumping the endless amount of drainage ditch and /contour banks, in and out of rivers and streams following the trails provided by the Victorian government for the benefit of its off road community. Single trails, forestry roads, fire breaks and (if there was no other way) on the black top to the next access point to the off road unlimited adventure trail. We travelling a minimum of 250-300 km a day in the bush and pulled up at predetermined lodgings for the night.

The roads and trails are marked well and the need to navigate your way is kept to a minimum. Great scenery to be had at some unreal vantage points, with need for the oxygen bottle only required on the ski slopes.

If you ever get the chance to ride the High country of Victoria.. take it!

   I'd Get Good ... but ...

    Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Author: Tadhg MacCarthy

At the library a couple of weeks ago ... yes, they still do exist ... I was browsing through a Two Wheels magazine. The editor Jeremy Bowdler was dispensing his wisdom of 25 years of motorcycling. One tip was "spend half of your budget on developing yourself as a rider". The following week Cyril Depres was being interviewed after a stage of the Australian Safari "I just treated today as a training day and took it easy".

Good riders I've ridden with, well up to the first corner when they disappear, typically have a background in competition - be it enduro, motocross or trials.

I think there's a pattern forming here in the form of training and practice.

That got me thinking - even as a humble trailrider - how much time and budget do I devote to training and practice?

To be honest, I am very good or at the risk of sounding arrogant, an expert .... at finding excuses not to practice, no time, no supercross track in my backyard; or to avail of some training, no time, too expensive.

Then out on trails I wonder why I'm crap at [insert any riding skill here].

Maybe Jeremy, Cyril and the rest are on to something?

Time to stop making excuses and do some practice, get some training then maybe I won't go over the bars attempting to traverse the first log (read: twig) I meet on the trails.

I hear the infamous Wattsy is running a course at the West Coast Trailbike Park at Kirup in November. I'd love to go but ...

   Other People's Kids

    Monday, September 26, 2011

Author: Steve Pretzel

The recent news report of the head of Princess Margaret Hospital's Emergency Department questioning whether kids under 16 years of age should be allowed to ride trail and quad bikes certainly stirred the pot amongst riders.  When the West's poll closed, over 3,000 people (96% of respondents) had said NO! to the idea of banning children.

The RTRA's position, and clearly that of most riders (and presumably pragmatic non-riders) is that the decision about whether or not a child is capable of riding - and what, where and when they are capable of riding - is best left to the parents.

But of course this pre-supposes that parents can make sensible decisions on behalf of their kids.

I was up at Pinjar today and I saw:

  1. A mother who was distraught because her five year old had taken her younger sibling on a quad bike - and had disappeared.  I volunteered to go look for them, but within a minute I came across...
  2. A sub 8 year old on a PeeWee 50 who was out on the sandy trails on his own and had gotten bogged in a whoop that was nearly as deep as he was tall.  The bike had fallen over and the poor little guy was just sitting there crying, unable to pick it up, let alone start it and dig it out of the hole.  I helped him get it up and started, lifted it on to some more solid ground and pointed him in the direction of the car park.  I then continued my search for the kids on the quad.  I did a loop of the area where the disappearing quad-kids were last seen and, having seen nothing, started to head back.  I came across another rider who reported that the kids had turned up safely.  Phew.
  3. Not more than two minutes later an old MX bike came up Orchid Rd at a fast cruise.  Sitting in front of the rider (who was wearing a helmet) was an un-helmeted kid of maybe three or four years of age.

Now our typical reaction when we see things like these is to shake our head and say "Crazy ..."  Or to feel better about ourselves and our 'All the Gear, all the Time' policy and close supervision of our kids.

But today I felt really angry.  Because it's the incidents and accidents that happen to other people's kids that are threatening our own families' rights to enjoy responsible riding.

So what can we do about it?

Well, I can write about it in a blog and hope that these random incidents will make some parents think a little more about how they are supervising their kids' riding.

But more importantly, we need to all understand our stake in this and realise that if other people's kids continue getting hurt unnecessarily then the prospects of our own kids and grandkids being able to enjoy the freedom and joy of riding off-road is going to continually be under threat.

The RTRA is helping by lobbying to create family-friendly riding areas that makes supervision easier.  MWA is helping through its excellent MotoSafe series in schools and by working to create a MiniKhana series in WA that will provide a supervised riding environment.  Most major manufacturers, particularly of quad bikes create some good safety-related materials.  The emerging commercial ride parks are applying safety equipment and riding rules.  But it would seem more and better communication with parents is still needed. 

As individuals we can help by always setting a good example in protecting and supervising our kids and being empowered to tactfully suggest to others that they should do likewise.

It's not something we can ignore, because ultimately other people's kids are our problem too.


Footnote:  Just as I was leaving Pinjar today I saw a different, more positive, sight.  Dad on his mountain bike leading the way with a fully kitted out very junior rider happily following on his PeeWee!



   Are Quad Riders Trail Riders Too?

    Monday, September 19, 2011

Author: Brett Soltoggio

Are Quad Riders Trail Bike Riders ?

I believe that we are and if you read the following, I think you will agree.

We mostly ride for the enjoyment and camaraderie riding trails, camping out with family and friends in the outdoors and sharing good times. Activities all riders have in common.

Unfortunately as a quad rider, I have to ride illegally if I want to ride trails other than pine plantations and sand dunes.

Until the government issues a registration scheme, the quality trails that registered bikes have access to are off limits.

Quad riders find this very frustrating as there are currently no legal trail riding opportunities close to Perth.  Some of the trails in the eastern hills are clearly not suitable for quads, but there are many areas where a suitably registered quad rider would have as much fun as a two wheeler in single track heaven.

Another commonality we share is the lunatic fringe; riders who persist in riding in inappropriate places, without proper protective equipment and generally giving responsible riders a bad name.
These riders, both 2 and 4 wheels do more harm to the trail bike community by attracting more negative press coverage than we need right now.

A third issue that I see quad and bike riders having in common is a general sense of ownership of the trail network that you frequent. It's not unusual to see trail riders cleaning up rubbish and leaving areas in better condition after a ride than before.

How does all that RUBBISH get out onto the trails in the first place ?

So is my idea of good trail ride - a variety of trails, hill climbs, rocky sections, fast flowing fire trails, riding responsibly, but illegally, with a group of friends and family having a day out on their quads - any different to what a 2 wheel trail bike rider would do in the same situation?

I feel that this qualifies quad riders as Trail Bike Riders.

Hopefully soon we will be able to say that we are legal trail bike riders, just with four wheels instead of two.