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CAUTION: Dirt Bikes May Be Habit Forming

You Think You're Too Old To Eat Dust Again?

By John "Dirt Clod" Schofield

WARNING: To anyone who has ever thought, "Dirt bikes? Are you kidding? I'm a responsible adult. What would I want with a dirt bike?" - stop reading right now. Reading further could lead to second thoughts, motorcycle shopping and years of kicking yourself for not trying it sooner.

I used to think like you. Really, I did. I believed it too.

I remember thinking that adults don't ride dirt bikes. I had chalked up my childhood riding experience as a passing phase. One of the many frivolous things you do before your head is filled with sober, responsible thoughts. Before relationships and the 1040 long form. Before the word "prostate" enters your vocabulary.

At least, that's what I thought until one fateful spring afternoon in 1997.

I was sweeping my garage and I couldn't help noticing how empty it was. Sure, there were a pile of skiis, and a bicycle or two. But I was missing something. I probed these feelings of longing and it hit me like a bag of kitty litter. "A motor. I need something with a motor." Not being a road rider (another notion with which I have since dispensed), I thought to myself, "Maybe I should look into a dirt bike."

It sounded innocent enough, but it turned out to be the equivalent of saying "Crack? Sure, I'll try some." Five years and seven bikes later, I have stopped trying to explain it to myself.

Like a lot of people, I started when I was a kid. The day my dad pulled into the driveway with a brand new XR-75 sticking out of the back of his station wagon, I knew I would never be the same. Through grade school, junior high and high school, I rode that bike and several others over everything from vacant lot racetracks to the now-forbidden coal hills of Cle Elum. (A moment of silence, please.) Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah. At the ripe old age of 19, I put my precious Yamaha IT-250 up for sale and headed off for college, never to look back...  Never? Didn't someone once say, "Never say never?"

Fast-Forward Eleven Years.

With the imprint of the broom still in my hand, I'm standing in the showroom of University Honda writing a check for a brand new XR650L. Not exactly the best bike for starting out I was to learn, but it was a dirt bike. (Well, kind of.  It was more like riding a stepladder with a weight problem.) Though it was clearly more bike than I was ready for, one day on the fire roads of Capital Forest and I felt like a kid accidentally locked in the Hostess factory overnight.

It was a blast. What a fool I'd been! I had wasted years of prime riding time. It was everything I had remembered. Long power wheelies and flat tracker slides. There were trees, mountain views and a smile that would later have to be removed surgically. Yes, dirt bike riding is a kick in the ass.

Since then I've ridden technical single track that would give a mountain goat pause. I've been lost, stuck and spooked by some wild animal. (What was it? I have no idea. I was too busy holding open the throttle and trying to remain continent to look behind me.) I've had more fun than a guy pushing forty should be allow to have and stay out of custody.

So what about you? Care to take the Dirt Clod challenge?

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Yeah, sure, Mr. Shallow-end-of-the-gene-pool. I'm a civilized, sophisticated street rider. Dirt bikes are for highly-strung Korn fans with facial blemishes the size of Crunch Berries. I wouldn't enjoy it."

Try a dirt bike. Go ahead, try one. I dare you. I promise your mind will change so fast your neighbors will hear the sonic boom. And when you do, drop me a line, we'll meet up at some trailhead and act like a bunch of sixteen-year olds with mortgages.

Just don't say I didn't warn you.


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