A LACK OF LUBE

By Tom Webb

 I felt bad. The pilot had explained that he had made the trek from Colorado based on the story I had written about the ride last year. He mentioned groomed sand washes, miles of trail, elevation changes and big fun.

This year’s Nevada 200 was just flat tough. A virtual lack of any lubrication had left the terrain thick and deep in the washes and dry and callous on the ridges. Every rock that last year got pushed into the softened ground when you rode over it, was exposed, knife-like, and ricocheted off your front end like you had broom sticks in your forks rath-er than springs. Last year’s high-speed sand washes were packed down from rain and offered hero traction. This year they had deep furrows etched throughout that snared your front end and attempted to rip the bars out of your hands.

You had to have a really, really good attitude and not attack the trail but rather embrace it. The dust was like a curtain, and if you did not distance yourself from the rider in front, you parachuted straight into hell. With no vision comes panic, and with panic comes chaos. When chaos is combined with a charging dirt bike in a deep sand wash with toaster-sized rocks sharpened to an arrow tip, the fun factor gets nuked.

I was there again with my broth- ers. It is definitely one of our favorite rides, regardless of the weather. Camaraderie is a huge factor with the Nevada 200, and folks come from all over the western states to chew on the robust terrain that seems to have several eco-systems housed within. The three-day ride is in its 36th year, and the event that started as an invitational put on by Casey Folks and Scot Harden has evolved into a multi-day adventure for the serious off-road dirt biker.

Day two’s ride is right around 100 miles. After a few miles of two-track road, it dives into a sand wash. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate; it’s an abyss that sucks the life out of your motorcycle and turns even high-end talents into worthless mutants strapped to machines that have minds of their own. It’s tight, second-gear stuff, and the sand seems bottomless, coarse and Photoshopped with missile-shaped obstacles. It causes arm pump in under 45 seconds.

After that, the trail suddenly has rhythm, morphing into hardpack that meanders through desert scrub with gener-ous elevation changes. We began to go from feeling like a chunk of cement strapped to a seat to feeling like a well-oiled Rodney Smith.

Rodney was a hoot. Racing for my brother at Suzuki, Rodney won 13 off-road championships, was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame, and now works for Beta as the off-road race manager. Rodney loves to ride, and he came down to help Scot Harden and Daryl Folks mark trails for the event.

One of the big draws of participating in an event like this is the bench racing. Rodney had stories from racing the GPs in Europe and being the South American motocross champion. In his first big win in off-road, he took down Larry Roeseler at the Virginia City Grand Prix, and he spent years racing the GNCC series.

Later in the loop and after the lunch stop, I was wait-ing for brothers Mike and Tip on top of a decent-sized climb. I had just finished what I call, “The seat-sucker sand wash,” which is flat gnarly. It’s as fast as you can handle, and speed helps to offset the lack of control and the bike’s penchant for diving, nerfing and head-shaking. And it goes on and on, and then on some more. While I was enjoying the view, one of my favorite people in the dirt bike world showed up—81year-old Max Switzer and his young riding buddy from Nebraska, a 70-year-old newbie to the sport.

Max is an off-road racing icon, winning in Baja and the Mint 400 (teamed with JN Roberts) in the ‘70s. He rode and raced with Casey Folks in a myriad of events—from the Tecate Enduro to Baja—and told me that he had ridden in something like 34 of the Nevada 200 events. Even more interesting was the fact that Max, at 81 years old, rode the A-loop of the ride. And this isn’t terrain that smiles; it’s hos-tile and designed to test your skills.

The event—stalled by the pandemic—was another huge success. My brothers and I came away laughing, pooped and fulfilled, as the very dry course was a brute. Thanks to Scot Harden and Daryl Folks for their efforts. Cheers to Chris Carter from Motion Pro, Rodney Smith from Beta, Max, and the folks who supported and rode a very tough event.

The Webb brothers will be back!

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