While others on the team patiently awaited the arrival of their crated motorcycles I was busy prepping my brand new Gas Gas rental bike for my 6 foot, 215 pound frame. I added taller handlebars and a Scott's steering damper to the front end of the bike and headed out to the test track to see how the new EC would work. Right away I noticed the strong low and mid range pull of the motor perfect for lofting the front end over obstacles and the jetting was spot on for the warm and humid air. From the first lap around the rough test track I knew that the stock Marzocci Shiver fork and Ohlins Shock were way to soft for this big boy so after a couple of laps I headed back to Parc Ferme to have the suspension guys at Gas Gas re-work it for me. This was just one of the perks of the Gas Gas rental program.As I waited for my suspension re-spring and re-valve I began going over the rest of the bike. All of the nuts and bolts came from the factory with thread locking compound, the chain was a press fit chain rather than having a master-link for less chance of failure, and all of the components seemed to be tailor made for Six Days competition. One of the coolest features on the bike was the dual curve ignition. One curve gave the bike a powerful midrange surge and the other gave it a smooth tractor like pull. The ignition toggle switch on the right side of the handle bar reflected this with a sun beside the button for the mid range hit and a rain cloud for the smooth power delivery. My newly set up suspension arrived less than a half an hour after dropping it off. They added a heavier spring to the Ohlins shock and heavier springs, valving, and new pistons in the Marzocci forks.The new set up was much better for my weight but it still seemed a bit soft compared to the stiff KTM motocross suspension I ride at home. After a few laps I realized that the Europeans have good reason for setting their bikes up super plush. After becoming accustomed to the softness it works really well in the choppy grass tracks that make up the special test sections at the Six Days. After fine-tuning the suspension with the clickers I rode back to Parc Ferme to impound my bike.Pre-ride reports told us that this event would be one of the toughest in recent years; 150 miles per day, 99 percent trail with bike swallowing mud and ruts, rocky creek beds, root infested hill climbs, and adrenaline pumping descents. And to top it all off the time schedule would be nearly impossible for the mortal to make, for superheroes and World Enduro Champions it would still be very difficult. Luckily the weather forecast predicted no rain for the first half of the week. Otherwise it was suggested that less than 100 riders would finish.
Day one started on 10 km of road to the first check point and then straight into the first cross test of the week. It was situated on a grassy hill the start-finish at the bottom of the hill with the test running up, down, and across the side of the hill with treacherous off camber corners. The Gas Gas carved the off cambers with ease never wanting to push the front end. The motor had plenty of power to pull my 215 pounds up all of the hills but was still smooth enough to not have to worry about the rear tire breaking loose. The front brake was a little softer at the lever than what I am used to on my KTM but had surprisingly good stopping power on the steep downhills. I rode cleanly through the test and made my way to the first trail section of the event.The trail sections through out the event were littered with rocks and roots. There was rarely a smooth section of trail where ruts or slippery mud were not a concern. But the Gas Gas tackled all of these obstacles with ease. The suspension soaked up the roots and rocks like they weren't even there. However, on larger bumps and drops it did tend to bottom out underneath me. The plushness on the small bumps would prove to be an asset as the week wore on saving my body from much of the abuse caused by square edged acceleration bumps.Days one and two had the toughest sections of the event. There were several steep creek beds covered with soccer ball sized rocks that were favorites of the spectators. I clicked the Gas Gas ignition switch to rain cloud mode for super smooth power and motored up the slimy rocks like a pro. The locals cheered as I passed less skilled riders like they were beginners. I finished out day one having never so much as tipped over and solidly in contention for a silver medal.Day two was the same course as day one the only difference being an even faster time schedule and more acceleration bumps. About half way through the seven-hour day as fatigue started to set in I had my first crash of the week. I cross-rutted on a fast down hill and was thrown from the bike landing on my back. I was unharmed, but as I picked up my bike Team USA legend Jeff Fredette passed me giving me a thumbs up. The 2005 ISDE was Jeff's 25th appearance at the Six Days and has finished all of them! I followed Jeff into the next check point taking notes as we rode through the technical terrain. At the end of day two I still had been having a fairly uneventful ride with very few mistakes and no route points.On day three the course changed. The terrain was slightly less steep and there were several smooth flowing trail sections where I could really get into a rhythm and go fast on the Gas Gas. The six-speed transmission really allowed me to speed along on the mile long straights through green grassy meadows. The special tests were more exciting with many drop offs and jumps. I gave the spectators a good show by busting out my slick free style moves over the jumps. My no footers and one footed wheelies were the crowd favorites. Especially when I lost focus, when riding a monster of a wheelie past a group of attractive girls who were cheering loudly, missed a corner and rode straight into a bush.Day four dawned foggy and drizzly which caused the hard packed clay to get slippery in spots. This made navigating in the fog tricky because it was not easy to tell the spots with good traction from the spots that were as slick as ice. Between checks four and five was the most technical trail section and it was also the tightest on time with only seconds to spare. As I rode in the fog as hard as I could to stay on time I hit a spot that was like grease smeared over smooth concrete. At 30 miles an hour the front end slid out from under the bike and I hit the ground, slid 20 feet down the trail and slammed into a fallen log. My head was throbbing as I picked the leaves out of my goggles and checked my body for protruding bones. I picked up my Gas Gas and soldiered on to the check point where I had 45 seconds to gas my bike and make it to the time clock. I rolled through just as the clock passed my minute. It was my first route point of the week but I was still solidly placed for a silver medal.Overnight the rain started falling. It wasn't a light drizzle but a monsoonal downpour that wouldn't let up until the following afternoon. Day five was a mud fest! Right from the get go I clicked the ignition into rain cloud mode. The first grass test of the day was about a mile into the course. It was in a flat field and was only about a mile and a half long. It was like trying to ride in a solid sheet of ice covered with two inches of axle grease! It took twelve minutes to ride one and a half miles! I knew I was in for a long day. At the first check I was five minutes late. I knew I had better go into survival mode and just finish the 170 mile day rather than beat my self up and crash my brains out trying to stay on time. I soon learned how to ride in the mud, shift up two gears too high, look as far ahead as you can, and let the bike drift through the six inches of slop. This method got me to the next two checks on time. I then arrived at the first Enduro test which was a combination of grass track, steep hills, and lots of roots. I very slowly navigated the first grassy section with my rear tire turning about 5,000 rpm and my front turning at about 100. Then there was an off camber left hand corner into a steep up hill. I spun out on the up hill and fell off as the bike landed with the handle bars pointing downhill. I tried to lift my bike but it weighed about 400 pounds from all of the mud and my feet just couldn't find traction. Finally after watching my try in vain to lift my bike for several minutes the spectators came to my aid. I got back on and took several more runs at the hill before screaming the bike to the top shooting a hundred foot roost. Around the next left hander I looked up the hill and saw an opening in the trees with spectators lining both sides. I knew that could only mean that there was trouble ahead so I pinned it. As I entered the trees the hill got steeper and up ahead I saw the roots. Thousands of then embedded in the steep wet clay and the hill got steeper as it went up. As I neared the top the rear wheel started to spin and I knew my momentum wouldn't carry me and the bike over the top. I pulled in the clutch shifted down and pinned it. Then as I bailed off the back of my bike I dumped the clutch and pushed the bike forward. The rear tire caught and sent the bike sailing for the top. The crowd cheered as I slid down the hill on my hands and knees watch the bike on its journey. The bike landed on its side but before it could start sliding down the hill five or six spectators ran to it and pushed it to the top of the hill for me. I climbed to the bike, hopped on, and I was on my way again. Through the rest of day six the Gas Gas shined in the mud but I still lost a total of 25 route points which dropped me back into finishing with a bronze medal.Day six was sunny and bright and looked like the final moto would be a good one if the dirt at the motocross track dried out. When we arrived at the track the conditions looked perfect. I scraped as much mud from my bike as I could and turned my suspension adjuster to full hard during the work period before my moto. I would ride in the third E2 moto. I lined up on the far outside and waited for the gate to drop. The bike bogged a little bit off the start and I ended up mid pack through the first turn. The suspension was too soft for the landings on the big table tops and step up jumps but I didn't let that slow me down. I started picking riders off around every corner and over all the jumps. My forearms felt like they were going to explode and I could barely hold on. Soon I was in a three way battle for fourth place in the moto. I made my move on last lap over the last set of table tops. I pinned it over the first jump and passed for fifth. Over the next jump I pinned it again and pulled even with fourth place. We were neck and neck headed for the last turn where he pushed me wide and got the better of me. It was a great finish to a great Six Days event.My Gas Gas EC 250 held up great, with no problems other than a few loose bolts, and performed strong all week in one of the toughest Six Days events to date. With its strong motor and super plush suspension it really is a great bike for anyone racing enduros or even cross country.DR Tested****Troy Lee Designs
Speed Equipment HelmetTroy Lee has been synonymous with style and design innovation for as long as many of us can remember. The TLD Speed Equipment Helmet is no exception. The low gloss blue Hot Rod paint scheme on our test helmet is fresh looking and nothing short of what you would expect from Troy Lee in the style department. The shape of the helmet is unique in that it has style lines built into the shell of the helmet. These stylized ridges serve a dual purpose: they give the helmet a great look as well as house the helmet's ventilation system. This may be the most ventilated motocross helmet ever built. The huge ventilation and exhaust ports in the outer shell and no less than eight air-flow channels in the inner shell allow you to actually feel the wind in your hair! The fit of the helmet is great with large ear pockets and relatively thin padding in the cheek. It is snug but does not squish your face like some helmets. At 3 pounds 7 ounces it feels comfortable and light on your head even after a long day of riding. With a price tag of $425.00 it is a fantastic helmet for someone looking for a new high-end lid. After several months of riding in this helmet it still looks great and it is now the helmet to beat in my book.