Over the weekend I was bit. Sure, it’s springtime and that means the pesky flying things and the creepy crawly things are starting to make their moves around most parts of the country. Luckily, I escaped the insects and venomous reptiles this weekend and instead, I was bit by off-road riding.
Here at Direct Cycle Parts, we were founded on the V-Twin industry. When you browse through our website, you probably won’t find a lot of off-road things either. We are proud of our V-Twin heritage and what we’ve been able to accomplish in that sector of the industry, largely in part to the support that each and every one of you has given us. That being said, we have connections with dozens of distributors and our sales staff is just like me, they enjoy everything powersports, on road and off. V-Twins and Sport Bikes, Side by Sides and Watercraft. If it’s got a motor and you’re having an issue finding the part you need, give us a call. Yes, a call, the old school way. Not only are we happy to help you out, but there are also deals you can get over the phone that you will never get anywhere else. Give it a try!
Back to my weekend, and to get there, a little jog down memory lane. I grew up on a farm in a small town in Kentucky. It was just as common there to see a fourwheeler or dirt bike on the road as it was a tractor. The world as I knew it was my playground! Riding dirt bikes started for me at the age of 10, the racing bug took a bite out of me from age 13 until my early 30’s and then everything just kind of dropped off. I sold my last dirt bike just as the pandemic sat in and prices skyrocketed for used bikes. I hadn’t ridden it in over a year, didn’t have any local riding buddies, and no good riding spots nearby. I always said “Oh, I’ll get back to it at some point.” The pandemic raged on, parts availability teetered on the brink of despair, I changed jobs, relocated, found temporary housing, and off-road riding completely slipped out of my thought process.
One night between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays I was browsing Facebook marketplace to pass some time and ran across a bike that I had built up in my head as the ultimate off-road bike for me. Since its introduction in 2011, the KTM 350 has been a bike that doesn’t truly fit into any modern racing class. In its history, it has found little use in professional racing circles, but I looked at how I enjoyed riding and it has just always seemed like the perfect combination of small bore agility and free-revving power without the brute force of a 450cc motocross bike. As I read through the listing though, the only issue I could find was the fact that I was back in Kentucky staying with family and this bike was actually close to my home, 6 hours away! I contacted the seller, verified that it was low hours, and at the price it was listed out, I knew it wouldn’t last long. I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.
I don’t know how many of you are impulse buyers, but I knew I had to run and get it. The next morning I stopped by my bank for cash and pointed my van south to snag this bike up before somebody else got the deal of a life time. The seller’s residence couldn’t have been sketchier if it tried and for the first time ever doing a deal over $1000, I didn’t have any “personal protection” on my side. Nevertheless, I drove up the pitch-black gravel driveway, past abandoned tractors and dump trucks to a mobile home and small garage. I basically broke every rule of safe deals on Facebook marketplace. Don’t go at night, if it looks sketchy, it probably is, never meet at a person’s home…you get the point on how bad I wanted this bike. Out of the garage came a younger guy who explained that he and his buddies all bought bikes to try off-road riding and then when all the racing stopped in the area due to the pandemic, they all bought boats and the bike had just been sitting around. The bike fired up, sounded fine, so I clicked it into gear and attempted to ride it down the driveway. When I say it was dark out there, I’m talking lights out in a coal mine dark. My test ride lasted about 150 feet, another red flag, but at this point, I knew I was sold. We made the deal, I loaded the bike up, slammed the doors of my van and my next stop was to my house to drop the bike off, catch a few hours of sleep and then return back to Kentucky. Yes, I pulled a 12 hour round trip to add this bike to my collection. It was THAT kind of good deal.
That’s where the story ended for 4 months. It sat, covered by an old blanket in the garage of my rental home. No one to ride with, no knowledge of a good riding area locally, but I had the bike and I got it for a song. A little over a week ago, through a series of Instagram DM’s with a local chopper builder that I have befriended, I was invited to go off-road riding with them at a near by public riding area. Who knew there was a huge riding area 20 minutes from where I was living? The day before the ride I went through the bike the best I could. Tightened spokes, checked bolts, checked the oil and coolant. Adjusted and cleaned the well-worn stock chain and then declared it fit enough to take out for a proper test drive.
Sunday morning came along, and I felt like a kid on Christmas. Getting to the riding area, I was shocked that even in 2022 it still only costs $20 to ride for a day. It cost that much to put 4 gallons of premium in my gas can! It took me a few minutes to shake out the rust and cobwebs out of my body from being away from off-road riding for several years, but it was worth it. We all laughed, dropped our bikes at some point along the way and basically wore ourselves out until all that was left to do was enjoy a rewarding beer for a ride well done at the end of the day. We’re already planning to meet up again. I’m already excited. Excited enough to put in a major parts order together for my bike today.
You see, the skills you hone on an off-road bike will always help and transfer over to your on-road riding. Always. You can learn how to do a better burn out, a better wheelie, really anything when you’re riding off-road. For the more casual street riders out there, riding off road will give you the confidence and the quick-twitch reflexes to handle your bike when the unexpected occurs. Gravel or other debris in your lane? You know what it feels like to have the tires slip underneath you if you ride off road. Taking evasive action and having to go over a curb? Easy. Weight back, try to pop the clutch if you can, and handle that like a downed tree. I won’t say that it will save you from a crash on the street, but it will certainly make you more prepared. Guess what else? You’re going to have a ball of a time riding with your friends off-road and it’ll probably take you back to “the good ole days.”
You certainly don’t have to go out and buy the latest, greatest $12,000 dirt bike either. Fun can be had by adults on just about any off-road bike, no matter the size. Go buy some $1,500 pit bikes or maybe find that fixer-upper motocross bike you dreamed of in high school that you either couldn’t afford or your mom wouldn’t let you have. It’s all out there, just get out and ride!
Of course, if you’re just getting started, you’re going to need stuff, so I’ll sign off this week by saying, we certainly have the stuff. Shop online or give us a call. We’ll get you dialed in. Time to get dirty.