written for Countyline Publications and printed in Wisconsin and Illinois Biker Information Guide third quarter 2010 by Dale Lumovic, President, DRILL Is it summer really already? With the recent rains during the weekends, and the work week being relatively dry it makes it hard to tell without looking at the radar frequently and being caught out in the rain without an overpass or rain gear for protection. I’m certain of one detail however; it is nice enough to ride without a chill in your bones. So we need to be thankful for that in the upper Midwest that we call home. From the time I was a youngster, many moons ago, I enjoyed riding dirt bikes with friends in the woods near our home and passing the time trying to master the technique of riding fast and challenging one another in who could jump the highest, furthest or complete a series of laps in the least time. A few years ago I purchased a new KTM 525EXC enduro motorcycle (a motocross bike for those that don’t need to jump 40 feet into the sky) to renew that excitement and teach my three sons to ride with the same joy I once experienced all those years ago and perhaps encourage them to race if bitten by the same bug that bit me. Its fun riding with the kids but because they are young they don’t have the same level of comfort riding at the speed or the skill that I had accumulated from years at full speed and fear be damned. You have to temper your frustration at not being able to go as fast as you’d like, with them in my company, but to see them learn how to ride better, faster and more confidently is priceless. Certainly in time they will be waiting for me to catch up instead of the other way around. Now I’m certain some of you like me, have had the chance to share in doing the same in your own lives and it is a great family event when you’re able to travel to a riding destination for a weekend with the family and show them other parts of the region while traveling to the rest of our country and perhaps camp out or just make it a day trip to nearby motocross tracks or trail system like the ones available in Illinois, Wisconsin and specifically Michigan view this link  for more great info and trail maps. The state of Michigan has an extensive trail system that is groomed and cared for unlike many states in the area other than areas in the western states. Being that we are entering prime vacation time, this is something to consider doing during this time as a fantastic get away for the entire family. It allows time to bond with each other that it difficult to do in as much as our work and professional lives demand our time away from our families. We all have different interests when it comes to motorcycling but I believe that this adds to the excitement when we try something we haven’t done before like this endeavor of dirt biking. It doesn’t have to be motocross which is pretty extreme for most folks, but there are many that find pleasure in quads as well as those of us that enjoy two wheels off road. I jokingly gave everyone in DRILL – Ducati Riders of Illinois, an ultimatum that if you want to be part of DRILL, not only will you need to own a Ducati… but you should plan on getting a dirt bike too! Last fall  some of my favorite road riding buddies and I began riding together at two of the area’s many off road RV sites; Fox Valley Off Road in Ottawa and The Cliffs Extreme Terrain Park in Seneca. It started out with four of us going to The Cliffs and riding in the woods and bluffs with some extreme elevation changes in the park that has dirt and clay with the consistency and grip of cold butter! Needless to say at any given moment you either had the front end or rear tire sliding without mercy as trees were thrust at you like something out of a Marvel comic book. Harmless looking puddles may be chest deep.  As an example, last weekend a harmless looking puddle nearly swallowed an entire bike, except for a portion of the saddle, fender and rear wheel! Got to be careful where you place that wheel! I rode fast yet cautiously and thankfully came home without me or the bike breaking. Although we had plenty of opportunities to ask ourselves why we were here doing this, between fits of fall down laughing. To say that you were tired at the end of a days riding with your friends, would be like saying boxing Mike Tyson is a pretty basic physical workout. We’re all in pretty good fitness although nobody was boasting that they weren’t sore in addition to two days afterwards when I spoke to them about how even walking was a challenge.  In the end nobody would voice any regrets, and couldn’t wait until we did it again.  Woods riding is not about riding at top speed but weaving your way through the trees and over logs, rocks and other obstacles while going up and down ravines, small water crossings to open thigh deep rivers and the occasional open field. Although we’re all riding dirt bikes we were joined by quads and other 4×4’s that The Cliffs cater to. Fox Valley focuses on dirt bikes and quads. Nobody is left out of the fun. The best part is that on the bikes you’re challenged to ride well technically, not just whack open the throttle and spray your riding buddy with freshly excavated mud and occasional rock, but nobody said that you shouldn’t do that if you have a viable victim.  This kind of riding rewards finesse and excellent riding skills. You work hard to manage your balance and forward momentum without ending up splayed out in the mud or wedged between and tree and your bike. Both of which I have humbly experienced. The best part after we end our time in the woods is the laughs we shared about who made a major blunder or whose skills were the sharpest and rode like a champ. Once again an experience shared with your friends that is, priceless. One thing that comes to mind and brings all this full circle is that it’s another discipline that inevitably makes us better street and track riders because riding in the woods is not easy, but contributes to how well you manage what you ride; whether an Italian sport bike, a long distance touring  mount, full bagger or even a chopper. Because it is work to do trail riding well, it forces you to use parts of your body that don’t get exercised in a street saddle and cannot be mimicked in a gym during a workout, but it doesn’t hurt to add it to the regimen. The end result is that you’ll ride more confidently and invariably safer because of the off road experience. Never mind the smile that will beam across you face when you’re reminded of your days in the woods with your friends and family. Give it a try if you can and I’m certain that you will not have many regrets other than how you’re going to get the mud out of all the places it found to wedge itself into. Be well and see you on the road!