2.12.2008,1:08 PM
Sandworm Bike
Sherpie was a little sandworm that hadn't yet learned how to navigate in the sand. Well, her rider hadn't. Just like the Shai' Hulud, the sandworms of Arrakis in the novel series Dune (Frank Herbert), bikes can navigate sand with the right tires and a rider that knows how to ride sand.

I'm learning.
The hard way.

Two weekends ago a small group of us drove our dirty bikes to Red River Motorcycle Trails in Muenster, Texas, to ride trails. Terrain of every imaginable type excluding desert on 2,700 acres bordering the Red River that divides Texas and Oklahoma; this was the track for three years of the Last Man Standing races. Most of it is sand and rock, but single track trails through the woods crisscross everywhere and trails lead down to the river.

Deep sand.

Techniques for riding sand seem counterintuitive: throttle rolled open and momentum are paramount. The goal is to have the front tire 'float' over the sand with the rear tire driving through it. To accomplish that the rider's weight should be shifted back over the rear to lighten the front and maintain momentum using the throttle. Lose momentum, the front tire buries itself with a rude stop. Tip over and down we go.

My first introduction to sand was on the Whee navigating a decline and turn: Boom! The fall severely dislocated my collar bone (posterior dislocation; the bad kind) with accompanying trap and shoulder damage (and I rode for six hours after that). So now my Lizard Brain signals my adrenal glands to pump out tons of adrenaline, cortisol and alarms go off all over my body: "Danger, danger!!!"

Intellectually I know what I should do. I try and command my body to perform the required tasks, but my Lizard Brain battles with my cerebral cortex, the frontal cortex and the cerebellum with the hypothalamus slamming the autonomic and central nervous systems and the bike is under me wondering what the heck it should be doing. I'm a young Fremen learning to ride a sandworm in the dunes of Dirt Bike Heaven.

After falling down for the eighth time (actually, I lost count), the last time only a minute after the prior downfall, I was so exhausted I couldn't pick up the Little Bike That Could. Frustrated to the point of sitting in the sand shaking my head, I called it quits for that run. I was like an anvil being dragged behind everyone else. I didn't want to be the anvil anymore; they deserved a good ride without dead weight. I told them to go on ahead.

I need to go to Sand School. Just like kindergarten kids eventually climbing up to high school, I need to learn this in increments. Not only do I have to learn and master the technique, I have to silence Lizard Brain.

Ed graciously and patiently led me on trails with less sand and I practiced how the bike feels under me in the sand, moving my weight back and rolling on the throttle. On the way back to base camp, I felt the front tire float over the sand. It was exhilarating and fun! I now have the memory of that, which feeds Lizard Brain some quiet pills.

Now I need to practice that so that I can demonstrate to Lizard Brain that we can do this without the internal battles and frustration. Like most challenges, I look forward to the process and the end result: riding those deep sand whoops and trails without falling. And I will do it.

On the other hand, the river sand bars and water bring out the demon rider. I blast through those like a young Labrador after a prize duck, spraying water everywhere and whooping inside my helmet.


posted by Macrobe
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