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Jim aka "jschner" 1st Annual ThumperTalk Ride.

It's been a while since my last bike review so I thought I'd get back on track with reviews starting with my ride at the the 1st Annual West Coast Thumpertalk.com ride.

First off the WCTT was held Sept. 20, 21, 22 at Foresthills OHV in California about 45 miles East of Sacramento. I must say that John "EGO" and his buddies "Cisco" and "Bill" and many others who I apologize for forgetting their names, did an amazing job pulling off this event. It was an absolute blast and wish we could have stayed the extra night.

A buddy "Cubby" riding a DRZ400 and myself on my '02 E440 actually got there a day earlier because we had to leave a little early Saturday afternoon. So for going early we were the first ones there and on Friday morning we had all the trails to ourselves. We missed the ThumperTalk contest Saturday afternoon so were not sure how those went.

However, I must say the country was beautiful to say the least. The lake at Morningstar was crystal clear with tall pines and some very inviting trails everywhere you looked. It was dry and dusty but there was a little breeze and the temperatures were great at about the high 70's to low 80's. The camp is privately owned and they had some very strict rules but for the most part everyone obeyed the rules and there were no real problems. But we left early so who knows?

We stayed in the Morningstar Camp area which is inside the ForestHill OHV park. At the ForestHill OHV park there are seven main loops with a bunch of interconnects. They range from easy ATV width trails to difficult mountain rocky single-track stuff with some pretty steep banks. There was a lot of varying trails from switchback type hill climbs to solid rock climbs to rutted rooted challenging single-track trails. There were also a lot of fire roads with 3 ft high water bars that made for some big time fun.

Anyway, on to my experience with my Cannondale E440. I did a total of 50 miles and the experience was both awesome and awfully disappointing. My bike was acting a little goofy at home not wanting to start very easily hot or cold but I was always able to get the bike started within a minute. It acted the same way all day Friday riding at Foresthill wanting to crank and on the verge of starting. But hit the green button again and it would fire right up. A real odd problem but more of a nuisance than anything.

So on Friday we start out exploring the trails and hit this awesome section of uphill water bars. They were an absolute blast as you gas the bike over these 3ft high things and jump 5ft to 7ft in the air and up to 20' up the hill. There was about a dozen of these in a row on this very wide road spaced about 80ft apart. With my low weight and my suspension settings dialed about as soft as they can go they felt great and I kept hitting them harder and harder and the Dale handled them with ease. The suspension was really plush over these.

We went through a bunch of single-track that day with a lot of switchbacks. My Cannondale felt really good especially on the tight 180 degree turns. I could easily lean the bike over, gas it and hit the obstacle, hill climb or whatever laid around the corner with full confidence. I personally don't think I'm that fast but I was feeling really confident on my "E" blasting through the trails and I thought the bike handled great all day. Even hidden ruts, hidden under lots of dust the bike felt really good. I hardly noticed the ruts were there and obstacles like logs, softball size rocks, and rutted washed out hill climbs were not a problem. The bike tractored over everything fairly easy.

We hit a lot of what I'd call hiking trails that were a bunch of fun. The trails had a lot of hill climbs with a bunch of switch backs. The trails were in great shape so everything was done in second and third gear which made for a pretty quick pace in the tight stuff. My "E" felt great as we navigated trails 1,2,3,4,and 7. All very easy trails with some of them having some very nice berms made by our friends on quads. We did about 35 miles without seeing or meeting anyone on any of the trails and loving it. A little rain would have made it even better. In some places the dust was incredibly bad. So whoever was in back backed off a bit.

We got back to camp and some TT guys started showing up. So four of us, Cubby on a DRZ400, Bill on a YZ426, Jason on an XR400 and myself decide to go tackle a section of intermediate stuff on trail 5. We hit this dirt road on the way out there and the dust was horrendous. It was so dusty I had to hang back what seemed like a 1/4 mile so I didn't crash and burn hitting basketball size boulders in the road at 45 mph. We finally make it to trail 5 and it was very challenging but also a ton of fun. It had some very nice single-track sections with technical hill climbs, a lot of 180 degree switchbacks and some pretty technical cliff stuff that you had to stay on the line or you were down the hill. I don't even think I could have been able to put my foot down without stepping off the bank and ending up sliding a hundred feet down. It was very narrow in a few places but added to the excitement.

I was behind the YZ and Bill was setting a pretty good pace but slid out on a corner right off the bat. I asked if he was OK, he said yeah, and then I took off. I was up front and felt so comfortable on that trail I didn't have a single problem in any area. Well I did stall my bike in one spot but clearly it was my mistake. Wrong gear for the ruts I hit on a hill. Other than that the whole trail was an absolute breeze and definitely the most fun trail the whole day. It was second gear most of the time except a few small hill climbs that demanded first gear.

At the end we end up coming back down that section of jumping water bars I talked about earlier and they were so incredibly fun. I kept hitting them harder and harder getting higher and higher and jumping further and further with each water bar. They were a blast and a highlight for me.

We make it back to camp with a lot more people showing up and do the camp thing, gabbing around the fire before calling it a night. Met a lot of cool guys from TT there which was worth the trip alone.

The next day I was looking forward to hitting Trail 5 again and doing the full loop and then trying part of Trail 6 one of the advanced trails. But that's when my starting problems really showed up.

I got my gear on pushed my bike to the gate and tried maybe 50 times to get my bike started but it wouldn't fire up. It was always on the verge of starting but didn't until I wore my battery down to nothing. I tried various things like adjusting the idle up and down but no go. The only thing I did different to the bike was to clean my air filter that morning so I was stumped.

I coasted back to camp and proceded to check various things. I tighten all the connections and found that I had a loose ground on the battery so it wasn't fully charged like it usually was. Combine that with the starting problem I was having, the cool morning we had and my battery had a hard time turning over the bike. Anyway I was eventually able to get the battery charged got the bike running and rode a couple miles actually up the water bars again. I got to the top and decided to try starting the bike before I got too far away from camp. I couldn't get the bike to fire up and killed the battery again. So I ended up coasting the bike back down the hill back to camp. I was bummed and decided to call it a day. I had to pack anyway but not the way I wanted to end it.

Of the 8 months I have had my bike that is the first time I have had a problem with bike that kept me from riding. I was pretty disappointed to say the least. But I did have a great time with all the guys there from TT and had a very fun 50 mile ride the day before. I look forward to the next West Coast event and say thanks for all the TT's who got this event going.

Till next time,