By Scot Harden
The following is from the July issue of Upshift
Back when I first started riding the sky was the limit as far as where you could ride off-road. This was pre-BLM, pre-public land closures, pre-endangered species, back when you could ride almost anywhere without looking over your shoulder for a park ranger or BLM agent patrolling the area.
It’s a much different world today. An alphabet soup of state and federal agencies regulate not only where, but also when and what we can ride. From national parks and forests to federal preserves, wilderness areas and vast tracks of public land, rules and regulations have been established that clearly define the limits of motorized off-road recreation. And while some long for the good old days of unlimited access, frankly I’m happy we’ve set some boundaries. The simple truth is we need to protect our natural resources from ourselves. Sadly, not all of us are good stewards of our public lands.
Case in point, the Mojave Preserve. As most already know, the Mojave Preserve is one of my favorite places to ride. I've been riding there since before it was federally protected and before it was closed to unlimited off-road use. Most thought it the end of off-road recreation when so designated. The truth is the opportunities for off-road recreation inside the Preserve are almost limitless. Thousands of miles of legal routes remain, and nearly every historical, geographic and culturally significant point of interest remains accessible. Yes, you need a street-legal vehicle, but fortunately, our industry has created a variety of amazingly capable street-legal off-road machines to meet the requirements.
Which brings me to the point of my column this month, the need to learn to play by the rules when riding in these areas. If we are to keep these riding areas open its incumbent on every rider to know the rules of where they are riding. And while most view the park rangers and agents that patrol these areas as adversaries, the reality is that most of them are enthusiasts just like us. Case in point Jesse Benskins and Kevin Lister, Park Rangers for the Mojave Preserve. Jesse owns an African Twin, and Kevin is an avid enthusiast himself. I met them on a recent visit to the park and spent over an hour talking to them about their experience as park rangers and fellow enthusiasts. Their biggest wish was that we all learned to play by the rules when inside the park. Their biggest concern, the knuckleheads that ride cross country, use excessive speed and show zero courtesy when passing or encountering other visitors in the Preserve giving the rest of us a bad reputation. It’s already creating problems for them with their superiors and could lead to further restrictions and closures.
Our sport has so much to be grateful for, great bikes, great gear and great places to ride. Let’s not blow it for future generations. Be sure you know the rules and regulations of the places you plan to visit. And remember the rangers who patrol these areas are most likely riders just like you. Don’t be afraid to stop and say hello, most likely they will only want to talk about motorcycles.