Bike-urious does the Baja 1000 – Part 7

In Travel by Abhi3 Comments

It wasn’t a race, but we finally got to tackle our first long ride – Los Angeles to Barstow to Vegas.

Note – I’m splitting this in two parts. Here’s part one, which covers Day 1 of LABV.

Having gone to a couple of District 37 events in the last few months, Nathan and I kept hearing about LABV, a two-day dual-sport ride that tries to stay off the pavement as much as possible.

It’s designed as one main route with several optional harder turnouts, and we thought it’d be a great way to put more miles than usual on our dirt bikes. We had finally learned our lessons about preparation and started a week before the ride instead of our usual 36 hours. In addition to the usual chain clean/lube, filter clean/lube etc, Nathan’s bike got a new bulb in the taillight and a Scott’s stabilizer:

My bike got the usual small stuff, new tires/tubes, and some rewiring – the starter button wiring decided it wanted to come apart:

My beautiful bike, stripped down. Hopefully we were able to put it back together properly…

The event is a Friday/Saturday ride and it starts out of Palmdale. Many riders actually drive out to Palmdale on Thursday night so they’re ready to go in the morning, but we decided to just leave super early on Friday morning:

Thankfully, the ride leaves out of Palmdale Supercycles, so that you can grab last minute items. We checked in, picked up some roll chart holders and extra oil, then hit the road.

All of 1.3 miles later, I tried leaving a stop light and my clutch lever had no feel. Fantastic.

I nursed the bike back to the shop where we started – getting the bike into 1st gear wasn’t fun, but clutchless shifting after that is fairly straightforward. A technician at the shop took the bike back and noticed that the clutch master cylinder was dry. He filled it up, took it for a test ride, and said I was all good. I was slightly surprised by this because it hadn’t been very long since I last checked the fluid level, but I was just glad to get back on the road. Or so I thought – the mechanic took it for another test ride and lost feel in the clutch lever again. His new diagnosis was a failed clutch master cylinder, but unfortunately they didn’t have the part. At this point, we were approaching the deadline to leave before the final sweep vehicles took off.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one with problems. If I remember correctly, this group had to come back because one of their riders (with a basically brand new KTM) was having an electrical issue:

As we were trying to figure out what to do next, Nathan noticed that the GoPro he had left on the parts counter had been stolen! This day was not starting well. Thankfully, we saw that there was a security camera pointed right at the desk, but the owner said he wouldn’t be able to access the footage for another day. We would just have to hope the thieves were on camera and that the owner knew who they were.

When Nathan and I were looking at the bike ourselves, we couldn’t see a leak anywhere and we suspected the issue might have actually been at the slave cylinder. We decided to drive to the first major checkpoint so that he could at least get some riding in that day, and I could consider chancing it with my clutch and just using it for shifting from neutral to first. We drove out to Kramer Junction and dropped Nathan off. Unfortunately, the closest shop with the master cylinder in stock was in Bakersfield…90 minutes away. It basically boiled down do if I wanted to spend the rest of the day driving/getting the bike fixed, then meeting the group for the second day, or just calling it and tagging along to support Nathan from the car. You can probably guess what happened. We dropped off Nathan and hit the road.

Many thanks to Nathan’s girlfriend Ellen, who drove me all the way out to Bakersfield so we could go to Valley Cycle and Motorsports, the closest place with the master cylinder that I needed.

They were incredibly nice there – because of my situation they immediately got on the job. After replacing the master cylinder, they said that the slave cylinder was also bad. They replaced that as well, and 2 hours later we were on our way. Special thanks to Brian the mechanic, who took special care of me and charged less time for labor than I know he actually spent on the bike. He saved my weekend!

We got back into Barstow in the evening to hear about Nathan’s ride so far and then get ready so I could at least get one of the days of riding in.

On the other hand, Nathan had a pretty good day. He joined up with some of the guys riding from the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club and Deus ex Machina – meeting new friends, getting dirty, and generally having fun. Ellen and I got to hear all about it over dinner at a local Mexican restaurant:

That night we tucked our bikes into our respective rooms, and called it a night:

Missed Part 6? Here’s our first (unsuccessful) attempt at a race together.

Continue to on Part 8 – Day 2 of the of LABV.