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By: Jason Giacchino

October 2010 - Off The Pegs

The List in Review

“We’ll all stop and regroup at the next trail junction,” my buddy Kyle announced moments prior.

I instinctively grabbed a handful of brake lever as the junction in question approached. Rather than progressively coming to a stop, I was greeted with a rock-hard feeling lever and absolutely no decrease in acceleration. Thankfully, some well-timed downshifts brought me to a halt without incident, but the list had grown one entry longer: Never fully rely upon a 26-year old hydraulic brake as your only method of stopping.

The list, for those of you who are wondering, is a collection of lessons learned this past summer, many of which were the direct result of my acquisition of and attempts to ride a 1984 Honda ATC 200X. It turns out that a good part of the process when it comes to trying to keep up with modern ATVs with benefits such as an additional wheel up front and displacement advantages sometimes three times greater, many, many lessons are learned.

The list, which began as a simple joke to keep track of why my credit card statement was growing larger and larger with charges made to eBay Inc. has actually developed into a realistic set of rules most riders of vintage equipment should pay attention to. Allow me to take this opportunity to share some of the entries:

Never Ride Alone: When it comes to the reliability of a machine older than the entire cast of Twilight, it’s usually wise to expect mechanical anomalies at the most inopportune times. For example: a master link snapping while tooling along in second gear miles from civilization--which leads us to our next entry.

Never assume parts are readily available for older ATVs: One would think something as simple as a drive-train master link would be fairly easy to come by, but alas, I was turned away from many of the local dealers like a bar-goer with a bad fake ID before finally coming up with a master link at the Honda dealer (last one they had in stock naturally) for a very reasonable $10.80. Just to further add salt to the wounds, an eBay search later that evening revealed an entire brand new replacement chain would have been $15 and yes, that included the master link.

Never ride without your cell phone: Yes, this is similar to never riding alone but even more dramatic when you convince yourself: “I know my phone is on the charger, but I won’t need it, I’m only going for a quick cruise.” Having to be towed back to civilization when the timing chain lets go and shatters the cam sprocket is even more disappointing when you have to walk for miles to find somebody who can tow the machine out of the woods for you.

Be wary of wearing gear that costs more than your ATV: My first ride on the old ATC seemed, strangely enough, at the time like a good opportunity to break in my brand new pair of Alpinestars Tech 8s. It was only after being reminded that 3-wheelers are structured so that every bit of foliage you encounter smacks you directly in the feet that I realized the boots were precisely $100 more than the vehicle I was depending on to carry both them and me. Oh, and the color of said boots? White of course, but the boots were closer to camouflage after that ride.

Roll anything bigger than a pebble: Blame it on the deterioration of shock internals for nearly three decades if you must, but at present the rear end of my 200X has more in common with a pogo stick than it does a modern shock absorber. If you catch anything over a few centimeters of hang-time, it will result in a bucking bronco effect that could wow a rodeo crowd. The first time I flew through some briars; the second time I hit a sapling; the third time I finally wised up and added it to the list.

And the list goes on and on: Consider carrying emergency flares; schedule rides to coincide with flights of the Sheriff Department’s Search and Rescue helicopter, brush up on survival shows on Discovery channel, buy and learn how to use a compass, master navigating by the stars, develop a taste for grubs and so on. The point is: half the adventure is learning from these experiences and you know how the old expression goes. “It’s never a mistake if we learn something from it.” My credit card company is hoping I’m a very slow learner.

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