Once a year, I travel to the middle of Pennsylvania and ride motorcycles in the woods.
I join a much larger group of people including several colleagues and customers for Conserve The Ride, an event put on by one of our vendors, AltRider. (Disclosure: We sell their products. I’d buy the products and attend their events even if we did not. They know how to make good bits for motorbikes, they know how to ride, and they help people protect their bikes and learn how to ride the piss out of them. That's enough for me to support a bidness.)
Normally, I try to have a schtick when I do this. The first year I went, Conserve The Ride was my second time off-road. Ever. Of course, I had to do all the hero options and basically torture myself to prove both my journalistic integrity and my own mettle. On my second CTR, I had the bright idea to complete the whole course with Mrs. Lem gracing my fender. This year? I present my record of events.
April 19, 1:27 p.m.: Flop down in the office chair belonging to Stevan in Purchasing. Plan on doing CTR. He has traded his adventure bike for a dual-sport. I have plated a dirt bike. Mutually agree “R” will now stand for “race.”
April 19, 1:28 p.m.: Acknowledge running at or near race pace with colleague in non-race event is something assholes would do.
30 seconds later: Conserve The Race 2018 plan finalized.
June 4, 2.21 p.m.: Stevan agrees to meet me at Lemmy Mountain early on Friday morning.
June 8, 9:00 a.m.: Stevan shows up for breakfast wearing designer jeans that have been cut off into capri pants, Ralph Lauren T-shirt, expensive flip-flops, and scowl. Do not want to bring Stevan to my small-town breakfast joint.
June 8, 9:09 a.m.: Eat omelettes with Stevan. Ignore looks from waitresses who know me well. Stevan and I agree to get in and out of bed early both days. Realize we are not exciting people. Also realize waitstaff who know my wife and son think I am having an affair with a man.
June 8, 9:49 a.m.: Pick up phone in truck. “Yeah, I guess we can stop. Never? It’s neat. You’ll like it. Take the next exit.” Shake head at friend’s curious ability to be complete hick and member of haute bourgeoisie simultaneously.
June 8, 10:12 a.m.: Look at dirt bike in my truck bed parked in a Starbucks parking lot. Between sips of Nitro Cold Brew, realize GS riders do not have Adventure Panache I am displaying.
June 8, 11:03 a.m.: Stop for ice cream for Stevan and beer for me. Ice beer down.
June 8, 11:11 a.m.: Groan at Spurgeon’s timing. I literally just bought beer.
June 8, 2:13 p.m.: Arrive at camp. Begin drinking beer. Unload dirt bike, find beer makes spectacular lunch.
June 9, 2:18 p.m.: Take ZLA head count. Shake head at fruitcake colleagues; do not want to talk about work on a weekend. Get stuck doing it anyway.
June 8, 3:01 p.m.: Inform Zillans I shall abandon them and am looking for strangers to ride with. Fast strangers.
June 8, 4:16 p.m.: Elect to not go on evening trail ride. Tell everyone I am tired. Secretly admit to self I will push way too hard and end up either hurt or too sore to dominate next day. Vow to exercise better self control. Laugh and open another beer.
June 8, 4:16 p.m.: Spurgeon’s beer gone. He sent pictures of beer from previous afternoon. Spurgeon dirtbag. Do not tell anyone I have own cooler. Conserve The Beer.
June 8, 4:52 p.m.: Examine Rev’It custom motorcycle. Seesoft handguards are eyecatching, though probably a little useless. Not really in love with bike. Someone fires up bike. Bike makes glorious noise. Soften attitude toward bike.
June 8, 5:30 p.m.: Finish final lunch beer. Begin drinking first apéritif. Coincidentally is beer. Gather round for body positioning/tire changing seminar. Realize I have changed more tires trailside than most riders change in their garages. Vow to keep flats at bay by doing wheelies over baby-head rocks.
June 8, 6:00 p.m.: Begin eating tasty dinner. Debate quitting RevZilla and working for Chef Michael in the woods forever.
June 8, 6:30 p.m.: Flutter around camp as tipsy social butterfly. Say hello to many riders; begin investigating nightcap beers.
June 9, 1:12 a.m.: Turn on air conditioner in cabin. Set alarm for 5:45, flop into bed, smugly realize I am probably the toughest Adventurer ever.
June 9, 6:02 a.m.: Finish brushing teeth. Pour fancy Starbucks coffee into cup with some milk. Starbucks products critical to Adventure.
June 9, 7:00 a.m.: Pour av-gas into dirt bike. Top up oil tank.
June 9, 7:30 a.m.: Begin feasting on breakfast. Adventure catering is quite good. Realize other Adventure People who talk about how hard this is must just be very weak and mushy, not tough like me. Eat yogurt to look fit, then destroy 19.2 pounds of breakfast meat. Ask Chef Michael about what bennies he offers.
June 9, 8:30 a.m.: Set out with group. I saddle up with Stevan, Jeremy LeBreton, AltRider’s president, and Brian from eastern Pennsylvania. Take off. Go fast.
June 9, 8:45 a.m.: Finish jamming down Option One. Realize am missing tools from my rack. Brian’s rack-mounted Pelican case popped open, and he is missing a phone and a pair of socks, too. Stevan and Jeremy take a break. Run Option One backwards.
June 9, 8:51 a.m.: Meet Hugh, on an XR650L. He hands me my tool roll. Make mental note to hook Hugh up with free shit when I get to camp. Continue backwards in phone search.
June 9, 8:53 a.m.: Find socks.
June 9, 8:59 a.m.: No phone. Really rip it coming back. Oil light on motorcycle comes on. Kill bike, check oil. Start up again. Verify oil still moving to carb. Shrug. Ignore oil light shining in eyes.
June 9, 9:01 p.m.: Jeremy and Stevan left without us.
June 9, 9:36 a.m.: Follow stupid pavement to more dirt. Brian willing to ride aggressively. Bang gears past a lot of riders. Vow to continue Conserving the Race. See MotoADVR. He attempts to use throttle. I laugh and show him what a Beta taillight looks like.
June 9, 10:10 a.m.: Find Stevan and Jeremy. Apparently they hung back to help a guy called “Mr. KTM,” who suffered a flat. Put away tools, crank up velocity.
June 9, 10:31 a.m.: Jeremy has a flat. Fix. Screw the throttle on. Guy on Triumph Tiger can ride fast.
June 9, 11:37 a.m.: Brian has a flat. Fix. Really start hammering. Triumph guy really quick.
June 9, 12:01 p.m.: Realize we lost Stevan.
June 9, 12:02 p.m.: Tell Jeremy I have to go back for him. Jeremy reminds me we are both short on fuel. I assume Jeremy will fetch fuel and bring it to us.
June 9, 12:03 p.m.: Begin heading back. Get motorcycle into top gear, run low revs. Conserve The Fuel.
June 9, 12:07 p.m.: Flip petcock to reserve.
June 9, 12:16 p.m.: Find Stevan looking mightily pissed. He’s getting flat help from fast Triumph guy. Find out Triumph guy is Tyler Gantt, a former motocross pro turned Triumph dealer. No wonder he’s fast. Convince self he is running flat-out and I may be able to take him. Ignore fact he is on lardy adventure bike and I am not.
June 9, 12:16 p.m.: We are apparently now out of tubes. I have patches. Whatever. Realize we’ll have a good sales day on Monday.
June 9, 12:16 p.m.: Stevan asks me to spoon his tire back onto the wheel, terrified of pinch flat. I do delicate reinstallation. Stevan informs me my appearance belies my gentle touch.
June 9, 12:31 p.m.: Take off.
June 9, 12:36 p.m.: Run out of fuel. Empty spare fuel bottle into tank. Really take it easy on throttle. Note we have picked up Drew at this point on a Super Ten.
June 9, 12:39 p.m.: Pass spot where Jeremy and Ryan were. Realize they are not coming back with gas. (I should probably note at this juncture that Brian had another front flat separately from us, and they were fixing that one. I found this out later. Conserve the Tubes.)
June 9, 12:41 p.m.: Throttle way down. 30 mph. See Drew drop back to flank me in case I run out. Now aware my guardian angel rides a Tuning Fork bike.
June 9, 1:22 p.m.: Find fuel. Fill Beta.
June 9, 1:31 p.m.: Stop and eat lunch. Lunch mostly gone because of being so late. Silently hate flat tires. Eat chocolate cake crumbs from pan in anger.
June 9, 1:51 p.m.: Note Saint Drew is beating the snot out of Super Ten to keep up. This dude is solid. And apparently nuts, because he's handily keeping up with a very angry dirt bike pilot.
June 9, 2:31 p.m.: Bang gears through hard section.
June 9, 2:42 p.m.: See Spurg. Hi, Spurg!
June 9, 2:43 p.m.: Spurg asks if I am OK. I tell him I am fine, just getting a drink.
June 9, 2:43 p.m.: Decide to check oil tank.
June 9, 2:44 p.m.: Next to no oil left. Fuck. Watch Spurg ride off. Bike not running, horn cannot function.
June 9, 2:44 p.m.: Send text to everyone on ride. Realize service sucks for me, and probably sucks for everyone else. Groan loudly.
June 9, 3:13 p.m.: Start pushing. Fuck. Not how I wanted to Conserve The Race.
June 9, 4:07 p.m.: Mile and a half down. Pop onto road. Laugh as over a dozen bikes ride by me. One rider finally stops. Does not have two-stroke oil, obviously. Keep pushing. Now Conserving The Energy
June 9, 4:12 p.m.: Stevan gets my text; bringing my oil from camp. I stop by roadside spring. Looks like a WPA project.
June 9, 4:15 p.m.: Guy with truck pulls over. I start talking to him. Throroughly confused as to why I am chatting him up. Realize he is pulling over just to fill his water jug from spring. Four more townies do this before Stevan arrives. Wait for area to clear.
June 9, 4:17 p.m.: Take impromptu shower in spring. Cool down mightily. Sweaty parts now less sweaty. Stink abating.
June 9, 4:46 p.m.: Empty oil into reservoir and right into gas tank. Fire up bike. Ride back to camp. Crack Adventure Beer in shower.
June 9, 6:01 p.m.: So much dinner.
June 9, 8:01 p.m.: Greaser, Joe Zito, and Spurg all inform me simultaneously that they have received my text moments earlier and are wondering why I am requesting recovery assistance. Shit.
June 13, 9:00 a.m.: Send résumé to Chef Michael.
This is but one account; if you read a dozen of these, they’d come out a dozen different ways, all of them funny and sad and filled with hope and satisfaction. We all had many different experiences, but we overcame the same obstacles. Groups intermingled, broke up, and every rider had his own personal tale to tell. Some achieved great success. Some overcame failure. Some succumbed. Many learned to change tires and make trailside fixes. MacGyvering ability is largely rewarded on this ride, like most other trail excursions.
This was my third CTR, and each year, my favorite part is watching the difference from Friday night and Saturday night. Friday is filled with politesse, light chitchat, and warm reintroductions. Saturday night, after the obstacles have been overcome and everyone is back in camp, some in better shape than others, is a time of war stories, over-imbibing, and great camaraderie. It’s one of the most radical shifts I observe, and I am sure it would make a fascinating case study for a sociology student.
Before CTR becomes a college experiment, you should give serious thought to joining in the fun. You bought your bike and you make payments on it. Why not take it out and actually use and abuse it? Get your money’s worth. Nobody wants to look back and remember Conserve The Bike.