The Dirt Rider Magazine 24-Hour Test Ride, 1/29~30/02

I had the honor of being invited to this prestigious event along with my friend Mike Sheetz.  Here's his account of what happened.   -Tom

2002 Dirt Rider 24 Hour Torture Test
By Mike Sheetz

This year I had the fortune of being selected to attend the Dirt Rider 24 Hour Torture Test through Blue Ribbon Coalition.  Fellow selectee, Tom Niemela and I decided to make the journey in my rig, the freshly rebuilt 1988 Chevy Diesel Van, now dubbed ďThe Mystery Machine.Ē 

The trek started Sunday evening January 27th.  We left my place at 11P.M. and made south under light snow.  We steadily progressed through the wee hours of the morning to Stockton, California for our only fuel stop on the southbound trip.  We had encountered very heavy snow between Redding and Stockton, so thick that Tom (who was on driving duty at the time) was keying off of a semi in front of us, just trusting we were still on the road.  After a full tank of diesel (at and astonishing 23 MPG), we soldiered onward.  The snow let up as the sun was rising and we had clear sailing for the boring drive through the barren wasteland of middle California.  We saw doom ahead as we approached the Grapevine, and began the climb, again in heavy snow after the reprieve, the snow didnít let up Ďtill we entered the city again, very strange weather for Southern California, we thought.  We stayed in Lake Forest for the night at Rick Niemelaís house, brother of Tom.

We arrived at the test site at Glen Helen raceway a bit before 9:00 A.M., checked out some bikes, saw all the people, and sat through the riders meeting.  There were more big names there than I can list, so Iíll just hit a few, Malcolm Smith, Dick Burleson, Johnny Campbell, Steve Hengeveld, Jeff Emig, Mike Keidrowski, Larry Roeseler, Chuck Sun, just for starters.  There were lots of bikes being ridden and tested, but not all for the 24 hour shootout, so Iíd better let you read the test, but there are some surprises, like KTMís new 450, and 540 EXCís, I did not misspell that either, 450, and 540.  The Husaberg 470, with Revloc Clutch (drooling) CRF450R also with Revloc clutch.  Mike Keidrowskiís DRZ.  A Yamathumper 426 of course.  Youíll just have to wait for the mag to get the real scoop though. 

Tom and I rode off and on most of the day, it snowed off and on too, perfect traction, some complaints from the peanut gallery, but most folks seemed pretty stoked about the ultimate traction.  They had set up a neat little off road loop, pretty tight in sections, fairly open in others.  It reminded me of the best of Four Corners, without the whoops, and add some hills.  The loop wasnít very long, about 13 miles, plus the option of riding the Glen Helen Motocross track, which we did, so we could say we did.  That hill that Ricky Carmichael fell off of at the national last year is huge, and scary to think of what might have happened to him.  We shot some pictures, took a little bit of video, and played with our suspension settings, mixed in with bench racing with some of our heroís.  It was basically just a free for all funfest for Tom and I. 

As evening approached Chuck Sun offered us a ride on one of his Revloc equipped bikes, a CRF 450R modified for off road.  It had hand guards, a big tank and suspension by Dicks Racing of Las Vegas Nevada. We left out on a short loop, since darkness was closing fast and this Honda was not slated to receive lights for the night ride, since it is not equipped with a lighting coil.  We hurried out just as the snow really started falling.  Tom and I switched turns on the bike in the heavy snowfall, looking at the white covered ground, and ripping along, wiping our goggles every few seconds to gain vision on the massive blizzard coming down.  We kept saying, man this is Southern California, itís 28 degrees and snowing!  Whatís up with that? 

The bike was a magic carpet ride, I cannot tell you how cool this thing was, itís one of two bikes Iíve ridden with the Revloc, I can tell you that itís cheating, but you canít possibly understand unless you ride one, itís that good.  The engagement of the clutch is adjustable, and this one was perfect, with an early, smooth engagement, unlike the late, sudden engagement of the other bike Iíve ridden.  It suited me well.  Huge kudosí to Dicks on the suspension too, it was as good as the clutch, perfect for my weight.  I wish my bike was this good.  The CRF can certainly be made to work off road.  Youíve already read about the CRF, and itís everything the magazines say, quite good.  It feels just like youíd expect it too.

Eavesdropping on the the buzz, I would not be surprised to see the Husathumper 470 win the test, although there was lotís of buzz about the 520 too, so weíll have to wait and see.  I was disappointed that the new Husky thumpers werenít there, weíll just have to wait for a report on them.  There were a couple of Gas Gas, a new Husky and a TM, all two strokes tooling around, but not in the test.  I made Tom take a picture of me with the new Husky.

The next day we hung out a little bit, the snow had let up, but it was still very cold, and the wind was blowing good.  We said our goodbyes to some new friends and headed North for a smooth, uneventful trip north.  We had a great time.  When I read this yearís shootout Iíll have a different perspective on the whole thing, and some great memories to go along with it. 

Photos by Tom Niemela (Click on thumbnails for a larger picture)

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My partner, Mike Sheetz at the start of the journey.
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Tuesday morning rider's meeting by editor Karel Kramer, with Kato in the background.
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Mike and Larry Roeseller.
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Yours truly and L.R.
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Even Chuck Sun showed up for the festivities!
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Start of the 24-hour sojourn.
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Glen Helen MX Track. It's not Washougal, but impressive just the same.
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A gaggle of NOHVCC and Blue Ribbon Coalition folks.
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NOHVCC N. Carolina rep and all around great guy, Brian Sears.
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Mike being my sidestand. The flats of N. Pomona in the distance.
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Yes, that's really SNOW on those mountains!  In S. California no less.
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American Honda's Paul Slavik and NOHVCC's Ohio rep, Bill Keppner.  Notice the Honda helicopter in background.
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When a camera comes out, everyone gets fast.
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Mike strangling the throttle of his XR250.
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Those flakes in the air aren't dandruff - it's snow, baby!
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They say it never rains in S. California, but it does snow.  Weird.
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Blue Ribbon's Don Amador and Honda's Paul Slavik.
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Yup, this is world famous Larry Roeseller on his custom peewee bike.
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One of the Husabergs.
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Very trick and cute little Honda.
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Now that's a helmet!
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Probably kept his head warm.
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Mike just had to get his mug shot take with this new Husky.
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Allan Roach and his Baja Designs Team working on Kiedrowski's lights.
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It started getting cold too.
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Chuck Sun working on the Husaberg.
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Gary Jones and Ty Davis in the White Bros. rig.
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Some of the KTM crew.
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Mikey heading back home.  We had a great trip!