Tools I Recommend Having if you Own a Dirt Bike

Craftsman 230-Piece Tool Set:

When I began working on my own motorcycle, the first thing I bought for my garage was a Craftsman 230-Piece Mechanic’s Tool Set. This kit includes most tools that’ll allow you to perform basic maintenance and repairs for your dirt bike. Despite this kit having SAE tools, you are still saving a lot of money compared to buying each metric tool individually. In addition, the briefcase makes it extremely practical and each tool has a slot where it is labeled. Tool organization is what I find to be lacking in most garages. With this kit, it organizes everything for you and takes up very little shelf space.

Photo Credit: Craftsman

There are many other options for tools kits so feel free to shop around for other sets. Although I would recommend shopping within the Craftsman brand because they are tools of such great quality. They back up all their tools with a lifetime warranty. If a tool breaks, just bring it to a store that sells Craftsman products and they’ll replace it right then and there, no receipt required. I’ve heard that other brands such as Snap-On and Mac Tools also offer products of a great quality, but I personally don’t have any experience with them. However, please stay away from Harbor Freight when it comes to sockets and ratchets. They’re just cheap tools that don’t feel good and tend to break with minimal torque.

Craftsman Drive Extension Set:

One thing the 230-piece tool kit doesn’t come with is a decent set of drive extensions. It only comes with a 1-inch long 1/4” drive extension and a 3-inch long 3/8” drive extension. The 1-inch 1/4” drive is too short to be beneficial at all and the 3-inch extension is for 3/8” sockets which can be too bulky in certain spots of your dirt bike. For example, when changing your oil, a 6-inch ¼” drive extension works perfectly for your 10mm transmission oil drain bolt. So, I’d recommend adding the Craftsman 3-piece 1/4″ drive extension set to your toolbox. And again, their lifetime replacement guarantee applies to all of their tools.

Photo Credit: Craftsman

Spoke Wrench:

As mentioned in my previous blog, I am a big fan of Tusk Off-Road products. Tusk offers a spoke wrench set that includes 8 bits ranging from 5mm to 6.8mm. I don’t have much experience with the art of spoke truing (balancing), but I have had my spokes come loose many times. When your spokes are loose, they poke through your rim and can pop your tire. This tool comes in handy especially when making last-minute adjustments to your bike before a race or a day out in the hills. Additionally, this tool is very small and lightweight so you can bring it with you if you ride with a fanny pack or backpack.

Photo Credit: Tusk Off-Road

Portable Air Compressor:

When I turned 16 and got my drivers license, my aunt gave me a AAA Roadside Emergency Kit. This kit includes a 12-volt portable air compressor which I found to work great for filling up my dirt bike’s tires. You simply plug it into the DC outlet in your car and then fill up your tire. A lot of people prefer having an air compressor that plugs into a wall, but I tend to fill up my tires when I’m at my location of riding, so this works perfectly. Additionally, it’s less than $20 so you can’t go wrong with that.

Photo Credit: AAA

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment on what tools you believe are a must have.

The Basic Fundamentals of a Motorcycle

If you are looking to get into motorcycle / dirt bike riding, it’s important that you have an understanding of the basic functions of your bike. Of course, every function is important, but you have to start somewhere. Once you get the hang of the basics, you can then move onto more advanced functions of your bike. The four key components to mention are the throttle, front brake, rear brake, and the clutch.

Throttle:

When your hands are on the handlebars, you’ll notice that your right hand can twist downwards. This is your throttle which controls the intake into your engine. As you twist this back, you are opening up the carburetor or fuel injection system to spray a mixture of gas and air into your engine. The further you twist it, the more it opens up hence the increase in RPM’s. For beginners, it’s very important to use as little throttle as you can because if you use too much, things can get ugly. Try to not give it more than 1/8th throttle when starting out.

Front brake:

Your front brake is the lever located in front of your right hand when holding onto the handlebars. As you pull this lever in, the hydraulic line creates pressure that squeezes your brake pads onto the rotor. Your rotor rotates along with your front wheel, so the friction of your pads slows it down. I couldn’t explain to you the physics, but your front brake has more stopping power than your rear (which is the same logic for cars). When riding off-road, be cautious of your use of the front brake as too much will cause your front tire to slip out from underneath you.

Throttle & Front Brake Lever
Photo Credit: Louis-Moto

Rear brake:

Your rear brake pedal has the same function as your front brake, but this is used via brake pedal which is located by your right foot. Until you get a feel for riding your motorcycle in its lower gears, I’d suggest you use more rear brake. Once you start clicking into your higher gears, try to use a mixture of front and rear brake to increase your stopping power. Much like the cautious of using your front brake while riding off-road, be careful to not too much rear brake to where your rear wheel locks up. If your rear wheel locks up, you’ll slide in a drift-like way to whatever direction the bike decides to go.

Rear Brake Pedal
Photo Credit: Touratech-USA

Clutch:

The most important component of your motorcycle is your clutch. This lever is in front of your left hand. Your clutch engages your engine to your transmission which allows you to move forward. The clutch is needed when you are idling in gear, when you engage first gear, when shifting, and when downshifting. If you are learning how to use this, I’d recommend reading my previous blog. In that blog I provide step by step instructions on how to use the clutch.

Clutch Lever

Thank you for reading and I hope this blog helped you understand the basic fundamentals of a motorcycle. If you are new to riding and need some help, please let me know by commenting below.

Aftermath of the 2019 Virginia City Grand Prix, What I’ve Learned, and What I Recommend

At this year’s VCGP, I had a goal of completing the race and two laps. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I went down 6 times in the most undesirable spots of the course, and it was very time consuming to get going again. What I mean by that is every time I went down, it was amidst a rocky, uphill trail where momentum is required. Additionally, my day came to an end when I was on my second lap. But regardless, I did learn a lot and am very excited about giving it another shot next year.

The Positives:

If you read my previous blog, you’d know that I changed my final-drive for this race. Last year I raced this event with a 14:47 ratio and this year I changed it to a 13:49. This helped tremendously! This shortened my gears enough to not rely so much on the clutch. Additionally, I changed the chain and that was also a good call. Riding with a new chain is almost like riding a brand-new bike. The delivery of power is so smooth it feels like butter.

Ultimately, the greatest positive of my race was that I felt good on the bike. Although I went down 6 times, I was riding loose and in control of my ride. Last year, I was riding scared which caused me to ride tight and very tense. I remember getting arm-pump about 3 miles into last year’s race but by staying loose this year, I was able to avoid arm pump and maintain my ability to use the clutch, throttle, and the brake at all times.

The Negatives:

As mentioned in one of my blogs a couple months ago, I ride a Crf450r that I have converted to street legal. This bike is a motocross bike, so a lot had to be done to it in order to pass the vp254 inspection. Behind the headlight lies the center of all your connections. This includes your horn, regulator, ignition rerouting, wires from your blinkers, speedometer wires, etc. All of this is stored and mounted here because it’s the only spot where it can fit and be hidden from the elements as much as possible. However, there’s so much going on that you don’t have much room to work with. When racing VC, you’re riding on trails that are incredibly demanding for your suspension. Each time I bottomed out or aggressively hit an object, the upward force of my front wheel pushed my brake line and speedometer wire into the back side of my headlight. Eventually, after this continuous pressure on what I have store behind my headlight, a bracket finally gave out and broke. Unfortunately, this bracket broke in a way that prevented me from moving my handlebars side to side. This happened on my second lap and I had to throw in the towel. If you have a headlight on your bike and plan on racing VC, I’d recommend that you take it off to avoid your chances of this happening to you.

Another factor that hindered my success in this race was my endurance. Every single time I fell on a steep trail, the energy it took to pick my bike up and get going again was unbelievable. It’s one of those things that seems easy on paper but when you actually do it, it’s much more intense than it sounds. Additionally, Virginia City is at about 6,100 feet in elevation which didn’t help my already significant lack in endurance and cardio.

Overall, I had a great time at this event and am counting down to do it again next April. Next year I will make sure that I have better cardio and I take off my dual sport kit in order to save weight and limit the number of potential issues. More is not always better, especially when it comes to racing with accessories on your bike. Thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you also competed in this years VCGP.

General Dirt Bike Maintenance: Air Filter & Chain

Air Filter:

Much like oil changes, changing/cleaning your air filter is one of the most important things you can do when maintaining a dirt bike. Unless your bike is street legal and you only ride on the road, you must religiously check your air filter to see if it needs to be serviced. Even if you aren’t riding on dusty tracks or trails, you’d be surprised at all the dirt, sand, and dust that finds its way into your air box. Every combustion engine relies on air intake in order for it to run efficient and effectively. Having a dirty air filter forces your carburetor or fuel injection system to suck harder for it to take in the necessary amount of air. Eventually, some of the dirt will be sucked through the filter and can be catastrophic for your engine.

Example of what a dirty air filter looks like

When it comes to cleaning your air filter, please follow these steps:

1- Remove the air filter from your bike and its bracket and apply a healthy amount of Purple Power.

2- Massage it while dipping it in and out of a bucket of hot water. If needed, drain the bucket of water and refill it so you’re not putting dirt back into your air filter.

3- When it’s clean, let it sit overnight on a clean paper towel so it can dry.

4- Once it’s dry, apply air filter oil until the entire surface area is covered (both inside and out).

5- Stretch it around your air filter bracket and attach it back to the boot inside your air box via the wing nut you used to remove your filter.

Cleaning your air filter is very easy but if you are in a time crunch or just don’t feel like cleaning it, you can always just replace it with a pre-oiled air filter which cost around $25

Chain Lube & Tolerance/Play:

Applying chain lube before every ride is a must do for every dirt bike owner. The chain on a dirt bike serves the equivalent purpose of the drive shaft on a car. The engine’s top-end creates the energy, the bottom-end turns that energy into motion, and the chain transfers that motion to your back wheel which allows the bike to propel forward. Chain lube helps prolong the life of your chain and enhances its performance. If you fail to lube your chain before every ride, it will rust quicker and will develop kinks. When you have a kink in your chain, the delivery of power will become choppy in which you will feel a lag when engaging your clutch into first gear.

Since dirt bike chains are sold pre-stretched, you don’t have to obsessively worry about them moving in length over time. However, it is a good thing to occasionally check its tolerance, just to be sure that it’ll perform correctly. With the bike on a stand and the wheels off the ground, grab the top of the chain in the middle between your front and rear sprocket. Wiggle it up and down to measure the play. Every bike is different so be sure to check your owner’s manual for the recommended play. For my 2006 Crf450r, it’s 2 inches, easy to remember. This is important because if it’s too loose it’ll bounce around and damage both your swingarm and chain guide. If it’s too tight it’ll snap when you bottom out your suspension. If it snaps, the force will be strong enough to break your leg despite having boots on. So please, make sure you at least keep an eye out on the tolerance of your chain.

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment below.

FMF Review

FMF is a motorcycle exhaust company located in Compton, CA. It was founded in 1973 by Don Emler who is a motorcycle enthusiast and master machinist. Their line of exhausts are made specifically for your exact year, make, and model, and they even range in abilities to cater to your riding style. FMF is probably the most iconic brand within the motorcycle industry because of their story, their 100% American made products, and their products that exceed expectations in the category of performance.

As mention in my previous blog, I used to ride a 2001 Yamaha Yz125. When I bought the bike, it came with a Pro Circuit pipe and a stock silencer. The pipe was so dinged up that I replaced it with an FMF Fatty Pipe and an FMF TurbineCore II silencer. The Fatty is truly an iconic motocross pipe. It’s made out of aluminum and is thin in order to save weight. Its big expansion is why they call it a “fatty”. In my blog about two-strokes, I mentioned that the expansion chamber provides backpressure in your exhaust which creates more power. The bigger the expansion chamber, the more power you’ll get out of your bike. Since I mostly rode trails, I decided to put a pipe guard on this pipe in order to save it from getting dinged up by rocks. The only negative aspect of this pipe is that its larger expansion creates a stronger vibration throughout your bike, and especially your handlebars. If you change your stock or dented pipe with a new Fatty, you’ll notice the vibration. However, you’ll eventually get used to it.

Photo Description: t-shirt with two expansion chambers (pipes) making a heart. “love this sound”
Photo Credit: fmfracing.com

In addition to the Fatty, FMF also offers a Gnarly pipe for two-strokes.  The Gnarly pipe is a heavier, thicker pipe designed for those who ride trails. Its thicker design enables it to take more of a beating when riding rocky trails. My brother rode an ‘01 KTM 380 MXC for a few years and he had this pipe installed on it. His 380 and my old 125 are apples and oranges in the category of performance but he certainly pushed the limits of that pipe through many Hare Scrambles and it survived some gnarly terrain (pun intended).

FMF also makes headers and mufflers for four-stroke motorcycles. I honestly don’t have any experience with their four-stroke products due to the high prices. The motocross industry is dominated by four-strokes so they invest more money into this product line. When I bought my used Crf450r it came with the stock header and a Pro Circuit muffler. However, I know that the money invested into these products is money well spent. They are extremely light because most are made of titanium now and they sound incredible. If you plan on going to any motocross nationals this summer, keep an eye out for Dean Wilson’s Husqvarna, that bike sounds incredible!

Overall, FMF is a great product and I’d say it’s one of the few brands that I’d be happy to represent. I appreciate that their products are made in California and they haven’t sold out to a cheaper, outsourced manufacturer. If you ride a two-stroke, I’d fully recommend that you install an FMF pipe and silencer. If you ride a four-stroke and can afford it, go for the Megabomb pipe and the Factory 4.1 muffler. If you have any experience with FMF products feel free to let me know how you like them via commenting below.

Riding Restrictions in Riverside County

Located in Riverside County of Southern California lies the hills of Beaumont, Perris, Moreno Valley, Hemet, Indio, Lake Elsinore, and Banning. These locations are arguably the most influential spots to ride as it bred the freeriding movement back in the mid 90’s. Here, professional racers gathered to simply have fun on their dirt bike. Without the pressure of thousands of spectators and executives of their sponsors expecting them to perform well, these riders were free to ride how they wanted, when they wanted. During these days of freeriding, professional racers such as Brian Deegan, Travis Pastrana, Jeff Emig, Jeremy McGrath, and many others reaffirmed the correlation between riding and having fun, which is exactly how it should be.

Photo Credit: vitalmx.com

Crusty Demons of Dirt:

Back in the mid 90’s filmmakers Jon Freeman and Dana Nicholson began filming these professional riders cruise and jump through the hills of Riverside County in effort to produce a movie series that captured the subculture of motocross. In addition to the professional racers featured in this series, it also helped struggling racers reestablish a name for themselves. One of my favorite scenes was in filmed in Beaumont in 1996 for Crusty Demons of Dirt 3. It may not seem significant, but motorcycle enthusiasts tend to appreciate the movement that they have created. To me, these movies have sentimental value because as a kid I would watch them instead of cartoons. It led me to dream of living my life around motorcycles and having fun while doing so. For these professional riders and for me simply being a spectator, usage of the land in Riverside County is to thank for significantly progressing the sport and the joy of freeriding.

Laws:

Riverside County has provided a map to show you where you are allowed to ride. Please take a moment and open the maps but warning, you will be disappointed. The law states that OHV’s are not permitted on either public or private land, even if it is your land. If you try to ride off-road, you’ll be greeted by a no trespassing sign. Additionally, the county is so strict that they’ll enhance your punishment by creating noise and dust. Just another fine that you’ll be hit with when riding in this county. The only places you are allowed to ride are privately owned motocross tracks who have successfully been permitted such as Perris Raceway.

Most logical solution:

I’d recommend that they convert areas of Riverside County into government managed OHV Parks. This will allow riders to enjoy these prestigious riding locations without the hassle of dealing with law enforcement. Turning this into a public OHV park will allow for the government to generate revenue via annual registration and daily usage fees. Additionally, they could enforce spark arrestors to prevent fires and to maintain the beauty of these hills. I and probably many others would agree that it’s ridiculous that they have all this land and at the very least won’t allow people to hike through it.

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you have another solution that will allow riders to utilize this land.

Cycle Gear Review

Cycle Gear has been around since 1974 where it’s goal is to offer excellent customer service while “providing motorcyclists with the gear that they need to better enjoy life on two wheels”. They sell motorcycle parts, gear, helmets, and accessories in a wide variety of brands. Recently, they have been revamping their presence online and are trying to compete with Amazon, Rocky Mountain MC, Motorcycle Superstore, and other online retailers that sell similar products. Their executives know that selling products online are now a customer preference so they’re doing all they can to pivot in order to keep up. When it comes to purchasing helmets and gear, there are still quite a bit of people who would prefer going to a store and trying it on first. However, with very detailed sizing charts, competitive pricing, and easy return policies, online sales are taking over.

Sacramento location:

Online efforts aside, Cycle gear remains to have a great brick and mortar presence. From middle school up until I moved to Reno, I shopped at their Sacramento location quite a bit. This store is located just off exit 96 on I80 in Sacramento which is very easy to get to. The best part of this location is how big it is. If you find something online that you’d like to buy today, odds are they will have it in stock. This location also has a parts department where you can find most of your part necessities that cater to your specific make, year, and model. I have had a lot of success buying parts specifically made for my old ’01 yz125 and if you read my blog in the past, you’d know that I had to buy A LOT of parts for this bike. Additionally, I have found that this location truly does have excellent customer service. It seems like most of their employees actually ride motorcycles and can help you via advice, tips, and recommendations. It’s always nice shopping at a store where the employees have real life experience with the products that they sell.

Cycle Gear in Sacramento.
Photo Credit: resellerratings.com

Reno Location:

The Cycle Gear in Reno is relatively new, and I have been inside about 5 times yet only made one purchase. This location is conveniently located just off the Plumb exit on 580. However, it’s extremely small so their selection is very limited. The one purchase I have made there was a matte black full-face street helmet that was on sale. Other than that, I have had no success going there to get what I wanted.

One time I arrived in search of a seat strap for my Crf450r. Seat straps are fairly common for people who like to ride trails because it gives you something to grab onto when moving the back end of your bike. When I went into the store I searched through their “parts” section which is essentially just three small shelves with aftermarket parts, and they didn’t have it. The parts section in Sacramento’s Cycle Gear is bigger the entire Reno location so you can imagine the frustration. Furthermore, when I asked the salesman if they had it in the back he laughed and said we only stock parts that are more common. So naturally I left the store and bought the strap online at Rocky Mountain MC.

Ultimately, if you are in the Sacramento area I encourage you to go to Cycle Gear. That location is big, convenient, they have plenty in stock, and they are staffed with some very knowledgeable employees. However, if you are in the Reno area and need a product today, I’d recommend you look on their website, find what you need, and call them with the part #’s so there is no confusion. If they have it then ask them to set it aside for you. This way you won’t waste your time going there for something they don’t have.