The 2017 Soboba Trail Ride

Epic conditions and an epic crash

The 38th annual Soboba trail ride took place on February 26th, 2017 on the Soboba Indian reservation just outside Hemet, California. I got a text from Malcolm Smith's son Alexander a few weeks prior to the event asking if I was interested in joining him on the trail ride. Of course I said yes, especially since Southern California had been getting an unusual amount of rain which meant conditions would be epic. Around 11pm the night before the event the skies opened up which became apparent as I woke up and loaded up the Dirt Rider 2017 Honda CRF450RX along with my cold weather and rain gear. After meeting Alexander at his house, we loaded up his sprinter and headed to the reservation, on the way we were both ecstatic about the rainfall and talked about how prime the dirt was going to be. He explained that it had been since 2004 that the Soboba trail ride had wet conditions like this.
Once at the event we got our gear on and prepped our roll-offs for what was shaping up to be a muddier than normal trail ride. Before the start, Alexander said a few words over the loud speaker and wanted to let everyone know that Malcolm was sad he couldn't make it, but he was busy "working"/adventuring in Mexico in his UTV. Just before they let us off the line, a cannon was fired off (which scared the coolant out of me) then the banner was raised for the first three riders, Alexander, one of his employees, and myself. They continued to let three riders off every 30 seconds until all 200+ riders had started. The 30+ mile loop was designed to take the average rider 3 hours to finish if he or she took all the hard loop options, but Alexander had different plans. From the get go, he took off like a special test at Six Days and I took chase, soon realizing that a very powerful 450 in very slick conditions was a handful.

Malcolm Smith Motorsports sprinter and the 2017 CRF450RX.
Malcolm Smith Motorsports sprinter and the 2017 CRF450RX.Photo by Michael Allen
The line of bikes that started three at a time for Soboba Trail Ride
The line of bikes that started 3 at a time.Photo by Michael Allen

The loop started out on grassy flatland and headed into grassy hills that were quite slick especially since we were the first riders to touch the wet trails. It seemed that even in the soft map of the 450RX the throttle was very touchy which made the rear-end want to step out around every turn. I found that riding a gear or even two gears high as well as using the clutch to modulate the power more smoothly to the rear wheel helped tremendously. I also found that if you are too low in the RPM range the RX had a tendency to flame out and stall. It wasn’t long before Alexander and his smooth lugging Husqvarna 300 were out of site and I was all alone slipping and sliding my way through the tight single track hills of Soboba. About 5 miles into the ride I finally started to gel with the RX and figure out that even though it may not be the best choice for slick, snotty conditions, when I took it easy it was manageable, and worked very well on more rutted turns when I had something to bank off of. I also noticed that the suspension settings, although a little stiff in small chatter, worked very well on drop-offs, jumps and whoops at speed.

Soboba trial ride damp conditions
The damp conditions called for roll offs.Photo by Michael Allen
The damp conditions of Soboba Trail Ride
The damp conditions called for roll offs.Photo by Michael Allen

Just as I was starting to figure the bike out my ride came to an abrupt end, but don’t worry about the bike, my head and shoulder took the brunt of the impact. I came over a rise and started going down the quite steep, slippery hill and noticed that the transition at the bottom was pretty sharp before dropping off again. I knew I was in trouble when I tried to straighten the bike out with the throttle and gave it a little too much. The rear end slid out more as I headed toward the transition and I figured that maybe I could blip the throttle off the transition and jump to the bottom of the next hill. Well I achieved my goal of jumping to the bottom of the next hill; the only problem was that the bike was no longer underneath me. I pile drove myself into the ground, breaking my visor and popping my shoulder out then back into socket. I was able to get the bike up before warning the next rider of the treacherous hill, and starting on my way back to the truck. It took about twenty minutes to one handedly find my way through water crossings and canyons back to the truck. When all was said and done I had a bummed shoulder, bent bars and bar mounts, and a bruised ego. Although I wish I had been able to finish the trail ride, I was glad the my crash wasn’t worse and will be back next year to find that same downhill and teach it a lesson for messing up my perfectly good ego.

The CRF450RX awaiting the start of soboba trail ride
The CRF450RX awaiting the start.Photo by Michael Allen
The CRF450RX awaiting the start of soboba trail ride
The 2017 CRF450RX awaiting the start.Photo by Michael Allen
Ready for action, but not ready for a crash Soboba Trail Ride
Ready for action, but not ready for a crash.Photo by Michael Allen
Ready for action, but not ready for a crash Soboba Trail Ride
Ready for action, but not ready for a crash.Photo by Michael Allen
Alexander Smith at Soboba Trail Ride
Alexander Smith addressing the crowd.Photo by Michael Allen
Soboba Trail Ride
A thumbs up before we start.Photo by Michael Allen
Selfie with Alexander Smith at Soboba Trail Ride
A selfie with A. Smith.Photo by Michael Allen
RX Crash at Soboba Trial Ride
Don't worry about the RX, I broke its fall.Photo by Michael Allen
RX crash at Soboba Trail Ride
Don't worry about the RX, I broke its fall.Photo by Michael Allen