Mar 14, 2001
Author's Note:
I often tell my 4 year old son stories before bed. His favorite are recounts of my enduro races. Generally I forget the details over time. So, now when he asks me to tell him about the Black Bear enduro I find myself just stringing together various scenes from trail rides, past races, or things others have told me.

On my recent race, I made notes as I rode so I could recount the story to him. The version he will get will be a bit sensationalized. The hills will be bigger, more people will crash, there will be bike swallowing puddles, and I may even throw in an alligator or two (he likes alligators).

In the end he usually says, "That was a good story, daddy. Daddy, how come you never win?" I tell him it's enough that I finish. Then I remind him that none of his friends daddies even ride dirtbikes, much less race them.

Here is my recount of the Sparkplug enduro. Held every year in the Pacific Northwest.

By the way, like the race, this is'll probably be glad when it's over.

I took my bike out for a ride two weeks before the enduro to check things out. Thit would be the second time I had ridden since last fall. My brother in law went with me and brought along his new YZ250F. We rode around our normal trials and messed with suspension settings. I think I got my bike riding better, but not a drastic change by any means.

I week before I had gone riding with a friend and rode his XR250 that had the susepnsion totally re-worked. He had Ohlin forks on it and the thing just sucked up whatever came its way. That's what I wanted, but the clickers weren't getting me there.

Near the end of the day with my brother in law, he let me ride his new bike. Wow, what a difference. Even his suspension felt plusher than mine. I wasn't expecting this from a MX bike.

I mentioned this to my XR riding buddy and he recommended sending my forks to LT-Racing to be re-valved. I pulled the forks the next day and off they went.

While waiting for my forks get back, I decided to order up some new tread, front and rear. Since I was looking at paying shipping charges anyway, I decided to order up some other stuff. In then end, I had new tires, tubes, some flat-proof stuff, a new riders wrench, some of those padded shorts and a set of foul weather riding gear (panst and jacket). A trip to my local shop to pick up some new google lenses and I was set.

Back to the bike, while I was waiting for the forks to get back, I did some other stuff. I hooked up the enduro computer and attached my chart holder. I had borrowed a throttle of a Hond reflex as it had a slower response and would give my better control. I have been considering a G2 throttle, and this would give my a chance to see if I would like a slower throttle.

****....I notice that the fitting at the carb end of my throttle cable is cracked. I had damaged it accidently before I ever installed it and had spot selded it back together...apparently the vibrations cracked the weld. It wasn't a big deal, but I couldn't let it be (though I have probably been riding that way for a while). So I call up LT-Racing and ask Les Tinius to send me another cable. He sells these steel braided ones that are pretty sweet. Well, he only has one that he says has too much drag and doesn't really want to sell it. He does agree to send it to me so I can use the fitting off it to repair mine.

Next up is the air filter. I have 2 filters so I usually have one read to go, but at this point, both need cleaning. In the process, I notice that one is coming apart at the seams. I use No-Toil and it tends to do this with stock filters, though all the after market ones I have used don't have this problem.

Back on the phone to Les..."Throw a filter in the box....and some new grips." I can see the Visa bill getting bigger in my head.

At this point, I am waiting for my forks so I turn my attention elsewhere. Hey, I think I saw some mail from the Bremerton Cruisers MC who is putting the race. I get the mail and pull out the route chart. Perfect! I can make a roll chart. I had never done this before, but always wanted to. Plus, things were starting to add up.

I fire up a spreadsheet and quickly determine all the possibles. I then go and add all the notations from the route (turns, resets, bridges, etc). I study the route a bit and try to determine where the tough sections are and were is looks like they may have checks. I add all this to the chart, color code it, print it out, and put it together.

I also made a summary that shows all the speed averages to tape to my bars.

The next day my forks and new parts show up.

First I work with the cable. Les is right, the drag is more than I want to ride with and it's being caused be the bend in the fitting. I could fix it by melting out the nylon, but I don't have time for that right now. I pull my stock on out of the box of parts (we all have one of these, right?) and put it on. It looks really wimpy compared to the steel braided one, but it will work and I can trust it.
I put the front end back together and swap out the front tire and tube. I do the same on the back. While the wheels are off, I notice the bearings seem tight. I pull the seals, and things look a little gunked up. I clean them out the best I can with some WD40 and a small brush re-pack them and replace the seals. I then make a note on the piece of paper I keep taped to my cabinet:"replace wheel bearings." No time now, so the clean and re-pack will have to do. There is no play, so I figure there's not much of a safety concern.

I can't find my 5mm hex attachment for my ratchet, so I make another note to pick on up in the morning. It's Friday at this pint and we are leaving Saturday afternoon. At this point, all I have to do is torque the fork clamps and chain my gear oil. Both get done by early Friday afternoon.

I pull my riding gear together and finally, I am ready to race!

The Race
I know, it took forever to get here...

We drive to Belfair and get in at 11:45pm (we got a later start). Unfortunately, tonight's the night we move the clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time, so 6:30am is going to feel like 5:30am.

We get a decent start and make the quick drive to Tahuya State Forest in Washington.

I'm there with my brother in law (Bil from now on) and his yellow YZ. We are riding the same minute. our bikes are ready to ride, so we attend the riders meeting, get a sound check, and gear up.

We're on minute 48 and are in line by minute 40. Much better than the time I was looking at the wrong clock and noticed my mistake 3 minutes before our minute.

I noticce the rider in front of me. KTM with matching orange helmet. Minute 47 rolls by and the KTM rider leaves. We roll our bikes up to the start. 5-4-3-2-1...

I bump the button to start the computer going and give the bike a solid kick. It starts up and I'm off ahead of both riders on my minute: my brother in law and someone on a white XR400.

The conditions are perfect. Overcast with some moisture from some rain over the last few days and last night. Traction is great. The soil is sandier than the clay I normally ride west of the Cascades. Tahuys is located on a piece of land that sticks out in to the Puget Sound. Is is almost an Island. I think the result of this is that a lot of clay has been eroded away over the years and a lot of sand deposited in it's place. I'm not a geologist, but I definitely like the traction.

The trail at this point is fairly easy and the speed average is 12 MPH. This is a farily typical start. The trails near the staging area are well used and I think the clubs like to give you some time to warm up. There're plenty of miles ahead to have some fun with us.

I slow down at mile 1 to match the mileage on my computer (I have an ICO that re-calibrates when I adjust the mileage) and the white XR passes my. So does Bil. I'm about 15 seconds early which is perfect. I can easily scrub that if I see a check.

Somehow I miss the 2.9 marker, even though I was on the look-out for it and find myself at a bridge that I is at 3-something. I adjust my mileage again o the fly and keep trucking doen the trail.

I'm starting to pick up speed at this point as my legs are warming up and I'm getting comfortable on the bike. The next thing I know, the trail takes a sharp right and just about drops out of site. I'm going to fast to really stop. As I came around the corner I peered down the slope. The trail was stepp for about 5 feet, then dropped about 3 feet (it looked vertical from my angle) into a sort of trough that looked like it could catch a front wheel. After that the trough was more like a rut that looked well ridden into another drop off.

I take the first part wide and try to stay out of the trough and up on the side of it. the bike carves a nice sweeper out of this part and shoots my down the rut. I blip the throttle, tug the bars, and the front wheel lofts off the second drop off. The trail continues down hill for a bit and end up in a series of switch backs.

The forest seems thicker at this point, and the trail is getting narrower. Somewhere in here we pop out on a road, and ehn we get back to trail, it is single-track. No more than a foot wide line of dirt cutting through the lush Pacific Northwest fauna. It draws me in...

Rocks start appearing in the trail and things are starting to get tougher. I'm still at the top of my minute and feeling good at this point. I'm still having fun.

I come around a corner and see Bil sitting at a check. I switch to the Key Seconds display on the ICO and see that I am within but near the top of my minute. I drop off the throttle and coast into the check. I zero the check.

Bil looks confused. This is his thrid enduro, but the first time he has actually tried to keep time. He bought a Wathdog computer, but was unsure of how to use it and probably not entirely clear on the time keeping thing in the first place. He asks my if we are late. I look at his card and tell him he was a minute early, then I'm off.

He is a faster rider than me, and after a few minutes I can hear him on my tail. I look at my clock and see that we are just in our minute. I pull over so he can pass.

He gets out of my sight except on the straighter parts of the trail. Then after a while I don't see him then either. I cross a bridge. I know there is a bridge at 9.2 miles, so I check my mileage and adjust it accordingly.

The trail has is a little wider at this pint, but the speed average is up to 18 MPH. I know from studying the route that the section starting at mile 17 is probably tough. I am expecting a to "check into" that section and expect another check (probably an emergency check) before the speed change at mile 20.3.

I pop out on a road but don't see any arrows. I look down the rode and see a blue rider on a yello bike. It's Bil pointing down a trail. He goes and I follow. I'm desparately looking for arrows but don't see any. I'm also looking for a bridge at 11.3 miles. I pass that and see no bridge.

Then a see riders coming the other way telling me we missed a turn. There are about 5 of us and we all turn around and head back.

I hear a clicking sound and see that the extra tube on my front fender is coming loose. I stop and quickly tug on the strap.

I make my way back to the the road and up the trail I came down. Bil is out of sight, but I see the other riders go up the trail and make a turn. I follow and see the arrows I missed before. I look down. My computer says I'm 2 minutes late, but it doesn't know I spent the last four miles off course.

OK. I'm late. Forget about time and just ride fast.
I see Bil sitting to the side of the trail. It looks like he is waiting to see if I am back on track. I think "he's late too, why is he waiting for me?" as I pass by and give him a wave.

I come up to the bridge and synch up my odometer. I don't think this helps much since the ICO will re-calibrate and still be wrong due to going off course. I will have to mark my mileage one more time to get it right.

I enter a tough section of narrow switchbacks. There are some nice root crossings here as well. I've been doing some trials riding lately and the roots don't cause much of a problem, but the turns are kcicking my ass.

I'm not the only one though. I pass some people. They are riding slow and are surely a later minute than I. Only one or 2 people had passed me so far. I note some of the bikes I pass. Some guy on a TTR-125L, a women on an XR. Another on a Suzuki. I see the face of the female XR rider. She's working hard. Her face is red and it looks hot inside her helmet. I remember to drink some Gatorade from the hydro-pack.

A little farther down the trail and I come up to the second check. I look at my mileage. Right around 17. Close to where I expected. I reset my odomter again. My euphoria of being right about the checkpoint is quickly displaced at being 10+ minutes late. OK. I can chalk some of that up to getting off course, but know that the swtichbacks would have gotten my anyway.

The real problem is that the swtichbacks worked me over pretty good and I am coming into another 18MPH section that I expect to be tough.


Mar 14, 2001
Sparkplug Enduro 2006...part 2

I enter the section and it is. I'm tired and it's tough. Fresh cut trail with really tight turns. I stand and apply those trail riding skills to weave through the turns. Other guys are sitting. Some sit, then stand, then sit...That looks tiring. I try sitting, but feel I don't have enough control and have to muscle the bike around too much. I return to my feet and trudge forward. I'm passed by three guys who are probably on the same minute. One is on a KTM, on a WR, and I think the third was a CRF-X. As the ride away I notice how smooth they ride, how effortless they make it work.

The lactic acid is building in my thighs and a check of my computer shows I'm about 15 minutes late. Ouch. I lost more time. Finally I roll into the emergency check. It too is close to where I thought, but I really don't care at this point. I know there is a 60MPH section coming up and that means rode. And that means rest.

I come onto the rode and try to make up time. I sit down to rest my legs and try to suck down as much fluid as I can. I ride by the group of 3 (KTM, WR, CRF-X) on the road. They are obviously early and are enjoying a break. That's one of the problems with getting later early in an enduro. You forfeit any rest in order to mke up time.

The road doesn't last for long and I am back on trail. I feel a little better. the combination of the mental and physical break the rode provided is paying off. I enter the next section feeling good.

I start riding better. I feel the bike moving from side to side. I feel my self rotating with the handee bars and am looking farther down the trail and through the corners. This is how I'm supposed to ride. If I can do this for another 40 miles I'll be fine.

I'm starting to make up some time here. It feels good. The group of 3 hasn't passed me yet. Come to think of it, I haven't seen Bil since just after I got back on track. He is a faster rider than I am. He should have caught my. There's an observation check right after Gas. I 'll check with them to see if he came through. Maybe he passe me and I didn't recognize him.

I'm trying really hard to make up time here. I know I'm riding well and it won't last. The trail will get harder. I'll get more tired. Something will slow me down.

I go through some deep puddles and come up to a section with a staricase of roots. I see a white XR. This could be the guy from my minute, but I don't know for sure. He is stopped in the roots. I take a line to his left, dip my knees, pull back on the bars, and give the throttls a twist. The front tire gets high enough to clear the first set of roots. I back off the throttl and dip my knees again as the back tire rolls over the root. Another tug and blip and I'm over the second set without a hitch.

Feeling like a pro and pick up speed. I come around a bend and into a rocky section of trail. The front tire tags a sharp rock head on. I brace for the impact, but the forks just suck it up. Mental note, send a thank-you to Les.

I lose speed and tag another rock. This one is at an angle and sends the front tire careening off to the side. The tire slides out, then finds traction and I maintain forward motion. Mental note, get a steering dampner.

I see a rider on a CRF-X (not in the group of 3) stopped on a hill. I think he is stuck. he is off to the left and I can just get by on the right. I don't want to fly by him, so I slow down and pick my line up the right side.

Right when I am next to him, my handle bar barely tags a 2 inch limb. I come to halt and start falling into the CRF-X rider. My left foot is on the downhill side and I can't stop my fall. "Sorry<" I call out as I knock the rider and bike down. He tumbles down the left side of the trail. I fall into him and my leg is pinned between our bikes. I smell nylon burning then feel my leg burning. "Ahhhh, my leg!" I call out. I can just barely unweight my bike enough to get my leg out of contact with his header.

My victim goes around and pulls my bike off me. I think him and help him get his bike up. For some reason, I am completely exhausted at this point. we are about mile 23. Gas is at 27.8 and the trail should be easier the few miles before it as we'll be close to the staging area. The CRF-X rider takes off. I pull off my helmet and take a rest. The group of 3 go by. No sign of Bil. I'm a little worried. He must have crashed.

I get started again. Shortly after the hill the trail opens up and I make up some time as I ride into Gas. When I get to the Gas stop I am runing 20 minutes late.

I gas and go and make up 10 minutes by giving up my rest.

I ask the person at the observation check if they have seen rider 48B. "No," they tell me. I tell myself not to worry about him. I can't help him if he is hurt and there are people here to do that. Just ride.

I'm beat at this point. I can understand how you could easily not leave gas. The gas stop was at the start. I had dry clothes there (mine are soaked with sweat), a few beers, I can sleep in the truck. But I came to race and I pan to finish. I decide to try to mainting my current time. It's a new race and I'm riding minute 58.

I starting watching my early/late time again. OK, it's really just Late Time for me. But I am determined to not drop any more points.

I'm riding on a road and see 2 arrows pointing left. I look left and see nothing. I continue ahead and come up to a barricade (one of those tractor dug holes). There is a trail around it, but it doesn't look well riden. It surely doesn't look like 100 riders went through it today.

I go through anyway. Then I see that there are rides riding across the rode I'm on. **** I missed a turn. I had only gone about 100 yards from the arrows, so I turn around and head back. As I go around the barricade, I see a rider truning off the road near the arrows. When I get there I find a trail that was definitlye created by a goat, or a masochistic club member.

I head down it. It is narrow. There are ruts, roots, and rocks. I'm tired. I try to drink as I ride, but the gatorade just runs down my chin. I have to stop, but tell myself to maintain forward motion.

I try to ride sitting down, but can't do it. I tell myself I have to practice this. Too much trials riding, maybe. Used to standing up all the time. I see guys passing me. They're sitting down. they don't look as tired as I feel. They are definitely faster. Maybe there are ome A riders that started after me. Yeah, that's it.

I go through some more fresh cut. It smells like Pine. I think to myself that this would be anice place to stop. I've dropped another 5 minutes since Gas, and I really need to cool down. I want to puke.
I tell myself I may get hurt. I tell myself you can't win if you crash. That's the first rule: "Don't crash." I tell myself I am responsible for supporting my family. That seems to make it easier to stop. I do and pull off my helmet. I want to pour the contents of my hydro pack on my head, but it's Gatorade and sticky. Plus, I really should drink it.

As I'm sitting there someone stops next to me to see if I am OK. I lose my balanace and start to fall towards him. "Oh no! Not again!" I through my weight the other way and stick out my left leg to catch my bike. I avoid falling on my fellow race, but my left leg cramps up. I'm not really having fun anymore.

He rides off and I start stretching my leg. Bil finally shows up! "Have you been behind me?" he asks. I think that is a strange question since he came up on me. "I've been in front of you since I passed you after we got off course." "What are you talking about?" he asks. "I never got off course and don't remember you passing me." I guess that wasn't Bil who led me down that trail after I hit the unexpected road. But it was him on the side of the trail. He jus didn't notice me go by.

"What took you so long?" I asked. "Tough trail," he says. I tell him it may be a trail ride for me the rest of the way, and he takes off. I leave about 30 seconds later. I feel better. Maybe even a second wind (or is it the third by now?).

The trial is a little easier. We're up on a bit of a ridge and the trail is pretty straight over all. A few good logs and rocks to climb over and I think I'm having fun again. I remind myself that this is a race, not a trail ride. I am about 20 or 25 minutes late at this point. I tell myself that I need to finshi without getting disqualified. I only have about 20 miles to go. I can do this.

I crawl through more fresh cut with tough swtichbacks and am exhausted by the time I get to some open trail. the trail was wide enough for a few quads here and pretty whooped out. I ride pretty fast over the whoops. I have a good rythm for the first few, then I start to feel the bakc end going from side to side. I slow down, but that makes my drop my front wheel into the face of a whoop. My forks and forearms collpase and my chest is against my crossbar as I get ready to go over the bars. The suspension takes it thought and I stay up. Mental Note, "Send Les Beer."

The easy stuff ends and I start recognizing rocks and downed logs. Or at least I think I do. Can you really recognize a rock? The probelm is that if I am really goign through a rpevious section, it was the hard one. I see a familiar set of roots that I know I crossed. ****, this is where the emergency check was. I want to cry.

I crawl throught this section, happy to maintin any forward motion. Just finish...just finish..I keep repeating it in my head.

I suck on the tube from my hydro pack but it is empty. I glance at the odo: about 15 miles to go.

I get to the emergency check 35 minutes late. As I pull in I just about fall over. The volunteers at the check give my a laugh and offer to help hold me up. I laugh, thank them for working the race, let them know it's tough and press on.

At this point I know I'm nearing the end and that thought pushes me on. I ride well again for a while. It feels very efficient. I wish I could do this all the time and wonder why I don't. It's in your head, i tell myself.

As the trail continues It gets easier. There are some huge puddles in these open areas. I went through these before pretty close to the gas stop, so I know I am getting close. I start to get happy about that. I pull some wheelies through the puddles. I think of that scene in "On Any Sunday" wher Steve McQueen, Bruce Brown and Malcolm Smith ride through a puddle. I realize how much I love doing this in that marathon runner sort of way (ever notice hoe they never look like they're having fun). I'm having fun again.

I pull into the end of the short course. I think myself that I'm done (the long course had another 20 miles to go). The workers grab my card so I don't have to actually see my score and give me a finisher pin that I will later give to my son.

I find Bil at the truck and ask him how long he's been there. He tells me 5 or 10 minutes and hands me a beer. We sit there and eat. When we are rested we load up the bikes and I check out the burn on my leg. I have a quarter sized blister, but no pain and it is intact.

We have a 3 hour drive home, so we don't wait around for the scores. The guy next to us says that we should stick around to see if we got a trophy. I tell him I doubt I did that well. I'm sure I dropped over 100 points. I laugh. It was a great day.

Thanks to the Bremerton Cruisers and Northwest Motorcycle Association for a great race.

Thanks to Les Tinius at LT-Racing for working magic on my forks. Really, I think that without that work, I would have lost steam earlier than I did and would have probably gone over the bars when I hit that whoop.

Thanks to my son for giving me another reason to ride enduros (and about a million other things).

Thanks to you for taking the time to read this. I hope you enjoyed it. I know it was long.



May 20, 2000
Hey Magellan,

I've got full results for the Sparkplug that I can forward to you if you're interested. Either drop your e-mail addy in this thread or send me a PM with it and I'll send them to you.

So did you carry a tablet & pen with you to take notes on all day long or what?! I was a little too busy riding and keeping time to be able to regurgitate all the deatil you have. It was a fun enduro, and my best overall results there since about 2001. Looking forward to Shelton in a couple weeks.


Mar 14, 2001
I would love to see the results.
I've been checking NMA's site since the race, but have found nothing.
I'll pm you with my email addr.

I'll be at Shelton!

As far as the report goes, I knew I had to report back to my kid, so I just made mental notes or worthwhile moments. I may have got some of the sequences out of place, but overall, it's pretty accurate representation of what I felt/thought during the race.

Glad to hear you did well (or at least your bets ;) )
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