2016 Soboba Trail Ride

Our test rider Michael Allen was invited on the 2016 Soboba Trail Ride, it is a bucket list trail ride on the Indian Reservation that is full of private hills, trails and water-crossings.

Michael Allen, 2016 Soboba Trail Ride
Michael Allen drops into a sand wash.Photo by Bryan Denny

The 37th annual Soboba trail ride took place on February 28th 2016 on the Soboba Indian reservation just outside of Hemet California. The trails that lead into the rolling hills are off limits to the public all year, except for the annual trail ride. There is a plethora of single track, hill climbs, washes, rocks, and any other type of off-road terrain you could imagine. In the past, the ride was lead by Malcolm Smith, but he has since passed the torch to his son Alexander, who explained how lucky all of the entrants (himself included) were, to be able to ride such fun trails that, since they are normally closed, aren’t very beat up. Before the event got underway, Malcolm addressed the attendees, thanking everyone for coming and asked everyone to think about where their lives would be if they hadn’t discovered motorcycles, he then assured everyone that their lives would indeed be far less exciting.

Bryan Denny, 2016 Soboba Trail Ride
Bryan Denny carves through a silt corner.Photo by Michael Allen

The format of the trail ride is fairly basic, there is a leader (Alexander), and you are not to pass him. Now before you think “that’s lame, I want to ride fast”, just remember that Alexander is a Romaniacs finisher, as well as finishing this year’s Dakar rally, so being held up by the trail boss is not an issue. The main course is marked by orange ribbon, the hard, optional trails are marked with pink ribbon, and the yellow ribbon marks an easy route around a difficult obstacle. The starting order is based upon who puts their bikes in line first, and since this was my first time riding the event, and was riding it with my 67 year old father, I didn’t rush to get my bike in line and figured we could start toward the back so as to not hold anyone up. Being that Southern California hadn’t seen rain in a few weeks, this proved to be a mistake, after roughly 250 riders started in front of us, (3 riders every minute) by the time we got to the first hill we were riding in talcum powder. I didn’t mind the level of difficulty as much as some of the entrants who looked as if they were trying to swim in a gigantic bag of flower.

Malcolm Smith and son Alexander, 2016 Soboba Trail Ride
Malcolm and Alexander Smith were both on hand, Malcolm was signing copies of his new autobiography, while Alexander led the ride.Photo by Michael Allen

I witnessed many interesting techniques when it came to trying to climb silt hills: The always amusing “I’ll just hit the hill in 4th gear and hope for the best” method made for some comical dives into the silt. Also, the less entertaining and anti-productive “I’ll just putt up to the hole in the hill where everyone is getting stuck and grab a handful when I get there” method. The rest of the 36.5-mile loop was indeed dusty but provided challenging hills and washes, along with plenty of scratches from the thick brush. The organizers did a great job of marking the trail and the hard loops proved to be just that. Starting that far back made for dustier conditions, but the only difference from starting in the front was that we had more dirt in our teeth when smiling at the end. The Soboba trail ride is definitely something you need to check off your bucket list no matter the weather conditions, but it wouldn’t hurt to do the rain dance before sending in your application.

2016 Soboba Trail Ride riders
The line of bikes stretched for almost 1/4 mile.Photo by Michael Allen
2016 Soboba Trail Ride
Red Bull once again supported the trail ride along with Malcolm Smith Motorsports.Photo by Michael Allen