Rick Sieman Column: DirtBike Fear Analysis

Ageless dirtbike sage Rick “Super Hunky” Sieman journeys into the world of fear, citing humorous examples of basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

FearToo many young riders nowadays don’t have the right respect for good, old-fashioned fear. Fear is something that must be nurtured—much like good manners. In order that fear be put into its proper perspective, the following course of instruction will be offered to the general riding public.

Fear Orientation
What is fear? Many philosophers have asked this question throughout the years, and none have come up with a total answer or definition. However, by giving several examples of fear-inducing situations, perhaps a greater understanding of the phenomenon will be realized.

Situation A: You are going into a corner at the very ragged edge of your ability, and as you deftly tap the rear brake and shift down, you realize that the throttle is stuck in the full open position. A large oak tree is at the apex of the turn and you can see bits of fiberglass and metal stuck into the bark.

Situation B: You hit a jump in fifth gear and soar gracefully into the air. As spectators click their Instamatics in approval of your daring and skill. At the height of your leap, both grips slip off the bars, leaving you perched on the pegs with no visible means of support. Your motorcycle reaches an altitude of seven feet—you reach an altitude of 11½ feet.

Situation C: You are riding through deep woods on your enduro machine, and attempt to ford a shallow looking stream. As the water gurgles Over the cap, you notice a largish snake wiggling through the water in your direction. At this moment, you realize that you forgot to install your filter last night and it is sitting on your workbench nice and dry— unlike yourself.

Situation D: You are howling down a long straight in top gear at 11,000 rpm, leading the race. As you set up for the half-mile-style turn, the engine becomes one piece. The left footpeg (which has been scraping on the track) leaves the track and the right footpeg makes contact with the ground. On a left-hand turn yet. A fraction before your body becomes a permanent part of the track, you look up and see not only your own machine, but the entire pack, about to use you as a berm.

Situation E: You are descending a long, evil looking downhill, whilst trail riding. To prevent the machine from picking up too much speed, you apply the rear brake. A snap much like the sound of a breaking brake rod permeates the air. It is a brake rod, breaking. You squeeze the front brake and the cable end pops off and caroms off your right nostril. You stomp on the gearshift lever and it strips off the splines and points straight down to Mother Earth like a deformed divining rod. Your friend, who is directly in front of you, stops to examine a particularly interesting rock ledge, blocking the only trail—which has a 600-foot drop-off on each side.

These situations, although hypothetical, give an insight to the reac¬tion that will follow. However, not all riders will encounter fear at these levels. So …

Basic Fears
Not everyone experiences fear at the Pucker Power Level. Many of the fears are simpler, more subtle. Examples:

Situation A1: You are riding along, enjoying a pleasant trail ride, on a moderately easy trail. Nice day, birds chirping, the whole bit. All of a sudden, a rappa-tap-tap noise starts issuing from the mysterious confines of your engine. It never gets any louder, or softer, but stays there nonetheless.

Situation B1: Again, you are trail rid¬ing. As you blithely wander through nature’s wonderland, you spot a large rock to the left side of the trail. For some reason, the bike seems to be drawn to this vicious rock. Perhaps subconscious desire, or a death wish? A mechanical malfunction in the bike? Who knows? But you do know that you are going to hit the rock— no two ways about it.

Situation C1: You are still trail rid¬ing. As you progress through the woods, a steady dripping emanates from your gas tank. You are unable to find the source of the leak, but you know that the possibility of fire is great, as the engine normally runs hot and you have a cheap spark plug cap. You do not dare to stop, be¬cause you heard wolves howling and are aware that a blizzard is due to move in from the north in 6 hours.

Situation D1: You smartly pass a rider, flinging a quantity of mud on his sparkling Top Gear Riding Jacket. As you pass, you notice that he has a rifle mounted to the forks and spittle is dribbling out of the left corner of his mouth and his eyes are spinning around like an off-center 78 rpm record.

As you can clearly see, basic fears are nothing more than situations that are dangerous, or potentially dangerous. Most riders can cope with this sort of thing.

Intermediate Fears
Intermediate fears are obtained by being involved in a “must-react” crisis situation. More examples:

Situation A2: Fourteen riders fall directly in front of you just as your bike comes on the pipe in fifth gear. You either enter the pile of bikes, or hit the water truck to the immediate right. The water truck is owned by a very large, ill-tempered individual.

Situation B2: Two trails in the desert merge into one trail. You are on one trail, going as fast as humanly possible. The other trail is occupied by another racer doing the same thing. You are determined not to shut off. So is he. As your handlebars overlap, you realize that something, indeed, must give.

Situation C2″ You purchase a hot dog at a motorcycle race concession and examine it closely. Hunger gnaws at your insides, yet the hot dog is obviously the lowest commercial grade
it is possible to purchase and a hint of off-green is at the edges. Relish stains? Who knows.

Advanced Fears
Situation A3. You are on the starting line at a big-money motocross. All of your friends and 14 relatives are there to watch you do the dirty deed to the pack. It is a rubber band start, and you, fortunately, are right next to the release mechanism. The surgical rubber strand is stretched tight and you are eyeballing the catch. . You see the pin start to lift and wind the engine up to 9,000 rpm and let the clutch out. As your 400 CZ hits second gear, you suddenly realize that the rubber is lying across your throat and getting tighter by the millisecond. Could it be that the mechanism did not… urrrrgh!

Situation B3: You get the best start of your young life at the local motocross track and have a clear 30-foot lead in the first turn. It is at this very moment that your chain decides to part company from the motor¬cycle. The wheel locks up and the bike spins around 180 degrees, leaving you a clear, unobstructed view of 40 crazed 500 Novices—all on 400 Suzukis. Also the lace on your right boot is caught in the kickstarter.

Situation C3: You are slowly riding your motorcycle to the rest room area, heeding nature’s call. You are not pit racing, but are still eager to get to your intended destination. As you pass the Portacan marked “ladies,” the door flips open directly into the path of your machine. A large flash of green indicates that all will shortly not be well.

Situation D3: You are in the afore¬mentioned Portacan, when a loud thump issues forth from the side of the structure and a knobbied wheel pokes its nose through a crack in the wood. The above-ground structure rocks back and forth like a seesaw. It reaches the balance point …

Situation E3: You are out riding in your favorite sand dune area, on your brand-new motorcycle. You and the bike are as one, and great flights and leaps through the air are dazzling, yet delightfully easy. As you crest the tallest dune in the entire area, you cock the front wheel to one side in a demonstration of control that would make Gary Bailey mutter to himself. When the bike starts its downward arc, you look straight ahead only to see several dune buggy riders beneath you with their vehicles. They are having their annual barbecue festival. The charcoal pit is about 8 feet long. Your bike is about 7 feet long.

Fear And Its Many Uses
Now that you have a good work¬ing knowledge of fear, here’s how you can put it to use. Naturally, if you’re a normal rider (slow like me), you’ll already have a healthy respect for fear and ride accordingly (slow like me). But many of these snotty-nosed kids (who pass you and me up) don’t have the advantage of our know-how.

The hot setup, then, is to tell them the previously described situations in such gruesome and gory details that they will instantly fear for their safety and slow down. Then we will pass them up.

No, you are not doing this out of a greedy desire to beat them. Nosiree. You are doing this to protect them from themselves. After all, if they keep going this fast all the time, they’ll end up as slow as us. And we have to keep them from this terrible fate by preventing them from going fast in the first place.(?)

If you really work at it, you can get the go-faster who lapped you in the last race so fear-stricken that he’ll be afraid to unload his racing machine from his truck. Especially if you break a dry stick (discreetly, of course) as his bike is rolling down the 2” x 6” wooden loading ramp.

Imagination is your only limit. Explore the Wonderful World of Fear to your advantage for a change.