For many people the Desert 100 marks the start of the riding season. My advice to any dirt bike rider is to go at least once. Not to race, unless you are an experienced rider, but to experience the event. I am a firm believer that if you like bikes, and things related to bikes this is one of the best events to attend. You will see just about every make and model of bike you can imagine. Everything from tiny little pit bikes to big adventure bikes. And riders of all shapes and sizes.
Over the years I have talked with quite a few would be racers and my advice is always the same. Go, do the poker run, watch the race and if you still think you want to race do it the next year. I am no expert, but I have competed in the race several times and I can say it is exciting and fun, but one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done. It's one thing to go for the day riding in Mattawa with your buddies and put on 50 miles. It's something else entirely to ride 30 or so miles on Saturday with several hundred other people, get up early and race 100 miles the next day with several hundred people. The race terrain is extremely varied; ranging from tight technical sections with lots of rocks to open fast sections through sand. Mix that with the fact that you are physically and mentally tired and sometimes surrounded by riders who are feeling the same way. It's easy to make a mistake and get hurt. Having said all that, I am firm believer that if you are inclined to race at all you should at least try it once.
Once you decide if you are ready physically and mentally you need to decide if your bike is ready. Just like you, your bike will be put to the the test both on the Poker Run as well as The Race. Every year I see people broke-down on the side of the trail or simply out of gas. Here are some things to check and consider as far as your bike is concerned.
First off, Odessa tends to be windy and very dusty. If you don't have an extra air filter, get one. You will be amazed at how quickly your filter will plug with dirt. This leads to your bike running very rich, using more gas, and possibly fouling spark plugs. Along with that, do you have an extra spark plug and the correct tools to change it in the field? No one likes carrying extra weight. But the reality is there are no mobile mechanics running around to help you. You might get lucky and one of the sweep riders might take pity on you and/or might have the correct tools and spark plug. Did I say "might" enough times? Don't assume someone will be around to help, otherwise you may be pushing your bike a long long time, uphill both ways.
How about your chain and sprockets? This is a big one that we often don't think about much. If you sprockets are looking like little shark fins or sharp little ninja stars; change them and your chain before you get there. You might get lucky and find a vendor that has the correct parts, but don't hold your breath. While you are at it, check your bearings and spokes for play. A little bit of play now, could lead to an early end to your day and a very expensive repair when you get home.
When was the last time you changed your engine oil and filter? Or your transmission oil? Frequent oil changes is probably one of the cheapest and easiest maintenance tasks that gives the most bang for the buck. Most dirt bikes hold somewhere around a quart (1 liter) of oil, which isn't very much. Just because you are running the latest and greatest, most expensive synthetic oil doesn't mean you don't need to change it. I could go on and on about oil changes but I will spare you the rant and just leave it at this. Change your oil and filter before you go. If you old oil is black, flush the crankcase.
Last but definitely not least is your tubes and tires. I strongly recommend a good desert tire with a stiff sidewall along with a heavy duty tube. Pinch flats are extremely common on this type of terrain. Lots of sharp pointy rocks, high speed whoops, etc. Next thing you know, you have a flat. If you have the skill you can patch it on the side of the trail but that means you need to carry the appropriate tools. Remember to run your tire pressure a little higher than you might normally. If you do get a flat and have to ride it out you can use zip ties (lots and lots of zip ties) to hold the tire to the rim. This of course means you need to carry zip ties!
A final thought; there are many good vendors on-site that can do repairs and sell you parts. But don't assume they will have the parts you need or the tools to fix your particular problem. But if you do find yourself needing something, stop by and see us in vendor row and we will do our best to get you back on the trail!
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