Artwork by Mr. Jensen

Bum Tips

This is titled “Bum Tips” because these are tips from a certified bum dirt rider.

We read riding tips from the pros with great interest. For instance: Bud Ekins, a pro among pros, recommends treating a downhill “like a straight with a longer stopping distance.” I think that’s backwards. Stepping off the roof of a 10-story building usually ends up with a real short stopping distance.

It’s important to understand that a pro is a fellow whose income doesn’t go down the drain just because he can’t hobble up to the time clock before eight o’clock on Monday morning. He also has Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage on everything with a nerve ending, a 10,000-gallon limit at the Red Cross blood bank and a wheelchair ramp in his swimming pool. If these fellows get hurt, it’s just a paid vacation with a nurse who knows some marvelous ways to help him relax and go to sleep.

Artwork by Mr. Jensen

For most of us, getting hurt is a self- inf licted wound. Usually we won’t admit it happened at all unless there is some evidence—like a Yamaha spoke sticking out of our upper calf and we can’t get our work pants on. We don’t ride downhill adding throttle because the boss has seen us limping around and he’s already heard the story of the heel caught in a gopher hole while sliding into second base at a Legion game.

It’s not only the risk to ourselves; we must also worry about our one and only bike. Pros have bikes coming out the kazoo. Our bikes already have one side of the handlebar an inch lower and two inches behind the other. And the money we saved for a new rear knobby just went into a pair of work shoes because the old shoes were worn so thin we could step on a dime and tell you if it was heads or tails.

And don’t tell me you can even out the handlebars by crashing on the other side a few times. No matter how badly out of shape I get, I always manage to get the motorcycle cranked around to crash left side down. Always.

Only a bum rider like me can tell you how to go down the Grand Canyon without having your blood type tattooed on your forehead. It won’t be graceful, and you’ll lose a lot of time, but when you reach the bottom you can ride past the banzai artists walking around with their eyes pointed in different directions, looking for their motorcycles and trying to remember which way to turn the canteen cap to get it open.

It’s called bulldozing. It’s what cowboys do with steers, except you can’t eat the bulldozee. Here’s how:

At the Canyon rim, shut the fuel off and enjoy the view as the carb runs dry. This way you can be sure the engine won’t be flooded when you reach the bottom because the float on the needle valve has become totally confused on the trip down.

Drop into the lowest gear you can find, then stand next to the bike on the right side (also called throttle side, off side or starboard). As you pull the clutch lever in to release the clutch and push over the lip into the unknown, yell “Geronimo!” This serves the same purpose as fore on the golf course. It’s sort of like a drunk phoning his wife to get the kids out of the street before he drives home.

It’s obvious that pulling on the front brake lever will stop the front wheel and that letting go of the clutch lever will stop the rear wheel, but somehow this is never clear to me. I remember what does what by imagining that the motorcycle is in reverse gear and letting the clutch out will engage the clutch, same as always.

Hey, it works for me.

On a really steep hill the rear wheel can just slide the whole way down, with the front wheel doing most of the stopping, but only if it’s not locked up.

Keep in mind that a sliding front wheel won’t steer very well and certainly won’t roll over anything.

If the bike starts “running away,” the best tip is to get it stopped quickly. The worst thing you can do is dig in your heels and hang onto the bar as you try to pin the bike below you.

You’ll quickly be reminded you’re on a hill when you slingshot past the machinery and find yourself staring at a lot of sky before you stop.

Near the bottom there is usually a rideable slope. This is a perfect place to turn the gas back on. Wait a minute for the float bowl to fill, then roll down and bump start the motorcycle.

If you see one of the pros lying there with a piece of his motorcycle on each side of him, ask him if he really does have a wheelchair ramp in his swimming pool.

Get Ed’s latest book, 80.4 Finish Check on

This column originally appeared in our February 2018 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.