On The Road With Bolt-On: Cherokee National Enduro

Photo by 88Fotos.com

Photo by 88Fotos.com

I had an idea forever ago about a new feature series called “On The Road With Bolt-On” where I share my various stories from my various adventures. As with many feature ideas I had for this website, I may have done 1 or 2 and forgot about it, or realized that my stories really aren’t that interesting, or I don’t want to publicly share something because of it being embarrassing, boring, or just plain stupid. However, I figure that I can come up with the occasional cool or semi-interesting story, so here it goes anyway.

I made the trip down to the Cherokee National Enduro in Greensboro, Georgia to race the opening round of the 2013 National Enduro Series. I haven’t raced an enduro since last year’s Sandlapper National Enduro, so I knew I was going to be a bit rusty but since Bart at Powersport Grafx set me up with the 250SX I’m now riding, I knew it would be worth making a not-so-triumphant-return for. I was rolling with my dad and his buddies all weekend, and we all had row 55 to ourselves, so it made things even more fun.

We got to the race site Saturday afternoon and did some of Jason Raines’ Yamaha demos. Honestly, I’ve never meshed well with any Japanese bikes coming from a strong KTM background but I have to say I was pretty impressed with them. I rode the GYTR version of the YZ250F right off the bat and the throttle had a little too much play in it for me personally but everything else about that bike was really awesome. I feel like I went faster on it than any of the others.

I also rode the YZ250, which is Raines’ personal bike and it was really impressive as well. The YZ250’s have so much power and snap that I caught myself wheelie-ing out of some of the corners.The YZ125 was a load of fun as well but what really impressed me was the WR450. My only other experience with really riding a WR450 was at the 2011 Ironman GNCC when I rode Barry Hawk’s bike in the Industry class but the updated version of the WR is awesome. I could definitely see it making a killer dual-sport machine and even a really good race bike if you like the feel of those machines.

Anyway, on to the actual race. Like I mentioned before, we ended up with row 55 which also happens to be the best row I’ve ever had at a National Enduro, so I was pretty pumped. Before the race ever started I had my mind made up that I just wanted to go out and have fun. I had only ridden the bike for the first time the weekend before and hadn’t done any real riding in quite some time beforehand. I decided that I at least wanted to look cool for 100 yards off the start so in a split section decision when it was our turn to go, I blasted off the row in front of everyone else. That lasted, oh, maybe 1/2 mile or so until I blew a turn that some had obviously blown in rows in front of me. After that, I decided it was time to go into “fun mode” and that’s what I did.

There were a couple of nasty mudholes in the first section but other than that, the course was absolutely excellent. I ended up finding some creative lines around the mudholes and just kind of cruised through the first section at a medium pace. I ended up 10th in the first section, so obviously I was going even slower than I thought.

After the first section was the long road transfer section, and it was COLD. About 1/4th of the way into that road section I could see someone pulled over in the ditch ahead. As I got closer, I saw it was my dad, so obviously I stopped. His bike had died in the middle of the road and his day was done (upon further inspection on Monday, see photo) Luckily Ned Sanders stopped, loaded my dad’s bike in his truck and rode him around the rest of the day.  photo (5)

The second section went a little better overall, however, I hit a slump about 1/4th of the way into the section and slowed down a good bit, then managed to turn it on around the 1/2 way point and was able to work back up up some slight speed. I logged a 6th in that section, which really surprised me considering the slump I was in for a good bit of that section. After that, we hit the gas stop which was a bit welcomed stop for me because I was about to starve at that point.

The third section could have gone better. I really feel like I never got a groove in that section at all and I feel like I had been passed more there than I had all day up to that point, and even though the section was fun, and had some good single track, I was really glad when it was over. However, I still was able to muster a 7th place there even though I felt really slow.

Section 4 proved to be what would absolutely kill me. As I was sitting at the reset I knew I was in for a rough ride because I could feel the fatigue starting to set in. I had been fine up until this point but not being on the bike had really taken it’s toll. I went kind of hard for a short clip of the section, then absolutely hit a wall. I slowed down a lot, then slowed down even more. Then my hands started to crap out on me and it got to the point that I couldn’t pull in the clutch. I’d go into a corner, try to go for the clutch, but just stall it instead.

I started getting passed by people who hadn’t passed me at all and that was a pretty good sign to me that I was sucking worse than I had sucked all day. So, I decided to pull over and take a break until I could hold on again. I also happen to still have a couple of Lance crackers in my pocket, so I even sat there and ate those and just watched riders go by and cheered on the people I recognized. I was getting ready to roll again when I saw Sarah Whitmore coming through the woods, so I opted to ride the rest of the section with her. As crazy as it sounds considering I had been sitting there pretty much dead, that was the best I rode all day other than the point in the 2nd section where I felt like I knew what I was doing and made up some time. Hey Sarah, please ride on my row at Rad Dad so I can suck less!

Turns out, I was actually a bit closer to the end of that section than I realized, so that was kind of a brain fart on my end because I should have toughed it out and used the transfer and reset as a good break. Instead, I decided after sitting there for so long to not even ride what would have been the final section for me. Instead, I called it a day. Oh, and what’s the first thing I hear back at the club grounds? That the B and A sections were the best ones. Oh well.

Anyway, I sucked it up pretty hard but had 2 points during the day where I felt like I could actually ride. The RidePG/GDR KTM 250SX ran absolutely awesome though and was an absolute blast to ride. I’ll try to take what I re-learned at Cherokee and put it to work at the Sandlapper in a couple of weeks. Maybe I can suck less there and finish the whole thing… I mean, probably not, but maybe I can.

While the results won’t show it, I had a lot of fun at Cherokee! The Cherokee Enduro Riders did a great job with the course and big props to them for putting on the event and also thanks to NEPG for their work. There’s also too many other people I want to thank and the chances of many people still reading this are pretty slim, so anyone who wants me to thank them or just mention their name, consider it done.

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