More on a good motorcyle for the Backyardsman

That is NOT me in the picture. Not by a long shot in fact… OK, so I dumped my new motorcycle the other day. Now harm, no fowl, just a skinned knee and twisted ankle. Oh, and a chip on one of the side panels. Hey, it’s a dirt bike, right? Well, one problem I didn’t mention was thet when I laid it down, it started bleeding – the bike, not me. Seriously, there was red fluid dripping on the ground from somewhere I couldn’t see. I looked it over, couldn’t find the leak, so I brought it home. Eventually I found a big pool of red liquid in the air box. Went to the shop I bought the bike from and asked about it. Turned out to be nothing – the engine has a vent that empties into the airbox. If the bike tips over and stays down too long, engine oil leaks into the airbox. At least I didn’t do anything expensive… So if the RS500 isn’t it, what is a good beginner’s motorcycle for the Backyardsman?

My little crash does bring up some points though. Is the SWM RS500R a good motorcycle for the Backyardsman? For someone who knows how to ride, hell yes. For me? Maybe eventually, but it’s far from the best choice right now. For one thing it’s really tall. For someone who knows how to ride this is good. The high ground clearance and long suspension travel make it easy to ride fast on rocky, rutted trails. For someone like me, it puts the center of gravity higher, so the bike is harder to keep up once it starts to tip over. The hard core dirt bike at the soul of the bike makes it too tempting to take trails that a beginner should probably stay off of. The knobbies are great on the dirt, but not so great on the street. It’s a little overpowered (OK, a lot overpowered…) for me. Finally, it’s brand new and it’s inevitably going to get banged up while I learn to ride.

A better beginner’s motorcycle for the Backyardsman

I’ve been posting a lot on dirt bike forums since my little crash, asking advice on a good beginner’s motorcycle. There’s the usual stupid bravado (“man up, lift weights, quit crying…”) BS to wade through. Then the bike snobs (“oh, you should have bought a $14K KTM ’cause they’re lighter and handle better…”). And then the common sense answer – for your first motorcycle, get a used bike. That way it won’t matter when it gets banged up while your learning. Get one with a lower seat height so it’s easier to keep right side up when you start to fall over. Make sure it’s not overpowered so you don’t have to learn throttle control while you’re trying to just learn how to ride without crashing. To paraphrase one person…

The answer to the question “What is the best dual sport bike for a beginner?” is usually a 230 – 250cc trail bike.

So that’s what I’m looking for now. I don’t regret getting the RS500 and I’m going to keep riding it, I’ll just be a lot more careful for now. Especially about not talking myself into trails that are too much for my current skill level just because I have a badass enduro bike. Not sure what I’ll get yet, but I know it will be air cooled (easier to work on, cheaper to rebuild), carbureted, and as light a bike as I can find.

I’m kind of thinking about the Yamaha TTR230. It meets all the requirements and it’s pretty cheap, even brand new. The only thing wrong with it is the suspension is marginal. For learning, that might not matter. What I really want though is an older bike, like late 1970’s to early 1980’s. I don’t see them often, but when they do come up they’re pretty cheap. I guess I’d need to check parts availability…

Oh, and one more thing, if you’ve never riden and you’re getting your first bike, CHECK YOUR EGO. One of the guys at the shop I bought my bike from offered to met me and give me some pointers… I should have taken him up on the offer. Also, when I got to the crash trail, I should have listened to that little voice saying “not this trail, not yet…” But, you know, ego…

Also some randome thoughts… I was just wearing my normal hiking boots. If I had been wearing proper riding shoes, I wouldn’t have gotten a twisted ankle. I was also wearing jeans, which offer almost NO protection for your knees if the bike goes down. Finally, I was riding in a semi-remote area with no cell phone or ham radio with me to call for help if I needed it. One stupid thing after another…

Anyway… get outside, enjoy life to the fullest, but use common sense. I didn’t, and even though theday turned out OK, it could have gone really bad.

Peace out,

365 Photo Project, Day 61

Walked by myself today. Didn’t see much new because I’ve taken this route many times. This time I walked it in the opposite direction so I did notice the sign… which I agree with 100%. I try to do just that, as often as I can. Also noticed the tress are starting to bud even though we’re still getting freezes at night.

Peace out,

A Backyardsman motorcycle – the SWM RS500R

To be honest, the SWM RS500R wasn’t my first choice for a motorcycle. That honor fell to the KTM 500 EXC-F. The KTM is the biggest, baddest, lightest, and fastest dual sport motorcycle you can buy in 2021. I know it’s too much bike for me, but I didn’t care. What I did care about was the price – almost $14,000 out the door. No can do. My second choice was the Suzuki DR-Z400S. That’s actually a much better choice for a first bike, especially one that’s going to spend at least half its time on pavement. But… the local dealership was fresh out, and couldn’t tell me when they might get another one in. They did have a nice Yamaha WR450F in stock that can be converted to street legal. OK, about $11K out the door, another $1K to make it street legal, and I’m almost at the KTM price – might as well suck it up and get the KTM. Buy once, cry once, right?

I was talking it over with some friends, and one of them asked why didn’t I just get an SWM? “Just as good as the KTM but about $4K less.” So I checked them out. I’d never heard of the brand but from what I read they’re Italian bikes made in [artnership with a Chinese company. That didn’t sound too promising but I kept reading. I’m glad I did because they’re actually a legit company. There history has been well told so I won’t repeat it here, but basically the SWM is a 2010-era Husqvarna with an updated suspension.

It’s made in Italy in a formerly Husqvarna factory for former Husqvarna engineers and workers, using 2010-era Husqvarna technology. In reality, it’s more genuinely Husqvarna than the current Husqvarnas, which are actually KTMs with different suspension and plastics. Confused? So was I. But I’m glad I found out about the company, because imo it’s a better trail bike than either the KTM or the current Husky line (which like I said is really a KTM at heart).

The RS500S has a few things I like and a few that… lets just say are a compromise at best. First of all the things I like… For one thing, this is actually an old school (OK, 2010 era, but things move fast in the dirt bike world) Husqvarna. Being old myself, I like old school stuff. I love that it’s a Husqvarna and not just a KTM with different paint. Being older (but brand new), it has smoother power than the newer crotch rockets, so I’ll be less likely to kill myself on it. It’s a 500, so it should have plenty of power for going up steep, rocky trails. Finally, I love the way it looks. It should work perfectly for climbing hills and fast trips down power line roads.

So what’s not to like? For one thing, it has a tiny gas tank so range is very limited and noone (yet?) makes a large aftermarket gas tank for it. I’ll probably hang an auxilary tank off the left rear end once I replace the dual muffler setup with a single muffler. Which brings up another thing, this bike is heavy – about 288 lbs. compared to 245 for the KTM. The single muffler will shave about 13 pounds and also make it possible to mount the auxilary tank. The stock tires are pure dirt, so I’ll replace them with something a little more rideable on the street. Probably Dunlop 606’s. And that stock license plate holder is butt-ugly. I’m going to make my own out of sheet aluminum. I like working with metal so no big deal.

Anyway, it will be here this week and I’m ecstatic. It’s about a 90% dirt/10% street bike, which is OK for now. I can’t really see myself commuting on it though, so that DR-Z400S might end up in my garage sooner rather than later. Can’t wait to give you guys a ride report on this one though… Until next time…

Peace out,

What’s a good motorcycle for a Backyardsman?

Last week I ordered a motorcycle. My wife thinks it was a sudden decision, but it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. She should know, it’s not like I haven’t talked to her about it – a bunch of times. She’s always found some reason why it’s a “bad idea” at the time. “Just wait, not right now.” I guess I should thank her, because my tastes have changed a lot over the past few years. I used to love street bikes, especially Harleys and vintage Triumphs. I still do, but those are pure street bikes and not really suited to the needs of a Backyardsman. So what is a good motorcycle for a Backyardsman? It depends on exactly what you want, but for me it has to have a few things.

What motorcycle should a Backyardsman buy?

First, I need a bike that can run on dirt, and I don’t mean just smooth, hard packed dirt roads. Where I live, lots of the roads are steep, rocky, and rutted with lots of sharp turns. Some run through sand washes, others are muddy and slippery when wet.

Second, it also needs to work OK on the road. I don’t want to deal with trailering it or loading into the back of my truck just to get to where I want to ride. I want to be able to commute on it. Heck, I want to be able to take road trips on it. Just being street legal isn’t good enough, it also has to ride well on the street.

As it turns out, the motorcycle that meets all my needs doesn’t exist. I decided on an SWM RS500R for reasons I’ll talk about in a future post, but I’m probably going to end up getting a second bike. The RS500 does most of the things I want now, but it’s not even close to doing some of the others, at least not very well. Like 200-300 mile road trips…

What I’m looking at…

My first choice was actually a Suzuki DR-Z400S, but the dealer in town was out of stock. Other bikes that are interesting to me are Yamaha (WR250R and WR450F), Suzuki (besides the DR-Z 400, the DR-Z650 and the TU250X), the Honda XR650L, the KTM 350 EXC-F, the Hawk 250 Enduro, the Phatmoto All Terrain, and the Rokon Scout. I can’t afford all of them, but I’m going to study and write about them. Hopefully, at least one or two of them will join my SWM in the garage.

For now, I’m loving on my SWM. It should be home this Friday, and I already have a few things I want to do to it. Mainly an auxilary gas tank. Before I can do that though, I need to replace the dual mufflers with a single. Anyway, hope to have a first impression/riding post in the next couple weeks. Until next time…

Peace out,

I did a thing…

Monday I was talking about getting a motorcycle… the shop is closed on Mondays so I called yesterday to check on the status of the 2021 bikes and seeing if the last brand new 2020 model on the planet was still available. The 2021’s are still on EPA hold (gee Biden, thanks for nothing…) and by some miracle the 2020 they had a line on is still available. So I had him work up a price sheet for total OTD (out the door) price. With destination, setup, and doc fees, plus my state sales tax, the total OTD price for my 2020 SWM RS500R is $9,280. In comparison, the KTM 500 EXC-F is about $13,800 OTD. Yep, the RS500R is over $4K cheaper than the KTM. That’s a lot of spare change…

So… I went ahead and told them I’d take it. My wife will probably be mad for a little while. She knows I’m getting a bike “some day” but she’s not happy about “some day” being so soon. Oh well. I can’t see spending $4,500 more for a bike I like less than the SWM. Not that there’s anything wrong with the KTM, I just like the SWM better. It’s a little heavier which is worse for racing but (hopefully) better for stability going fast on smooth dirt roads. Plus in reality it’s a 2010-era Husqvarna with updated suspension and fuel injection and I like that. Went down today and put down my deposit. It should be here next Tuesday and ready to pick up on Thursday. Whew…

The only two problems are (1) I don’t have a motorcycle license and (2) my wife. She’ll eventually forgive me (I did save $4,500 by jumping on this deal after all…) but getting the license will be a little trickier. Luckily I can buy insurance and register the bike without a motorcycle endorsement on my license. The problem is I can’t (legally) ride it without the motorcycle endorsement, and I can’t get the motorcycle endorsement without riding practice. Kind of a chicken and egg dilemma… I’ll figure it out, for now I’m just happy I’ve got the bike on the way. Here’s to exporing all the dirt roads and trails in my AO. Until next time…

Peace out,


Whew… another week’s backlog caught up. By the end of this week I should be done. Spent all my spare time today looking through my fishing gear and figuring out what I DON’T have. Couldn’t even find one of my tackle boxes… I think it’s been at least 5 years since I’ve even seen it. So basically I’m starting from scratch except for the rod and reel – and I might need a new rod and reel. All my stuff is (was) set up for catching trout in small streams. This bass fishing is a whole new ball game. We’ll see. I’ll probably start with the rod and reel I already have and go from there. I ordered some topwater plugs because according to a friend, that’s what the bass in these ponds bite on.

In other news, I really need a motorcycle so I can explore all the dirt roads and trails around here. I think I’ve decided on a SWM RS500R. Two problems: 1, my wife is opposed. 2, the 2020 models are all sold out and the f*****g EPA or some crap Federal alphabet agency is holding up the 2021 models over some alleged emmissions bullspit. So they’re here – sitting on a dock in a shipping container somewhere. The shop I’m getting it through said they’d call around, so I’ll check with them in a day or so to see if they have any updates. Of course I could just get a KTM, but those are 14 freaking THOUSAND dollars out the door. They sure must be proud of them… The SWM is less than $10K out the door (assuming I can even get one).

If I can’t, the next choice might be a Yamaha WRF450F with a street kit on it to make it street legal. Which isn’t actually a choice. For one thing, it’s not as powerful as either the KTM or the SWM. Second, I really have my heart set on a European bike. Finally, the Yamaha is only about $1K less than the KTM – for that price, it’s not too big a jump to just get the KTM. But I don’t WANT the KTM. The SWM is a better bike imo, leaving alone the cheaper price. I guess we’ll see… (that phrase seems to come up way too often lately). Anyway, until next time…

Peace out,

Getting caught up, looking forward to unemployment…

I’m finally getting some time to get caught up. Pretty much all I’ve had time for here is working on my 365 photo project. After getting hacked at the beginning of the month I haven’t even had time for that. It took 2 weeks to recover and I’m still not caught up all the way. I have the pictures but it takes awhile to decide which one to use, then edit and caption it. I got about a weeks worth done today, and hopefully I’ll be caught up by next weekend.

Getting ready for unemployment…

The thing keeping my the busiest is getting ready for unemployment. I was told earlier this year that there’s no guarantee my contract will be renewed at the end of June. Not only that, there’s a chance it could be terminated any time before then with 30 days notice. I hate dealing with uncertainty, so I signed a voluntary early buyout agreement. This guarantees I’ll keep working through the end of June and also gives me a small severance package. I’ve been wanting to quit and do my own thing for a long time, so this is actually good news. If only I could get my wife to see it that way…

Anyway, I’ve been busy getting ready. For one thing, I’m documenting everything I do so my friend (who still works there) will know pretty much how to do my job. He’ll be stuck doing it and I don’t like leavingĀ  friends hanging. Plus I don’t want him calling me with work questions after I retire… lol. I’m also traing a kid (student worker) who hopefully – eventually – be hired as my replacement. All good stuff.

Besides prepping at work, I’m also getting ready around the home front. I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning up the back yard and getting ready for a garden this summer. Also started working out again and “planning” to start eating healthy. And most important, making sure everything I want to buy is bought before my wife finds out I’m gonna be jobless after June… like a motorcycle… Also the mundane stuff of course, like cutting our monthly spending, enrolling in a health insurance plan, and finding a safe place to sleep for the first few weeks after my wife finds out.

Post-employment plans…

I’m already planning on going to Wilderness EMT school in July (the same one that’s been cancelled twice so far b/c of Kung Flu). I’ll be done with that in early August and don’t have any firm plans after that. I’m really hoping for self employement. I’m really burned out on working for others. One option I think I would like is working the camping or fishing department at our local Scheels. Home Depot might be OK too, and we have one close to our house So we’ll see…

The main thing I’m looking forward to though is having more time for woods running. Or in my dase, desert running. I haven’t had much time over the last 15-20 years to go off the beaten path even around my own local area. Hell, just last week I learned about a nice big bass pond less than 5 miles from my house. I mentioned it to a friend who lives almost next to it. Not only did he know all about it, he’s actually pulled bass out of it. He said the biggest he’s caught was a 4 pounder.

There are also tons of trails and dirt roads ripe for exploring (hence the need for a dual sport bike) and of course the garden. I also want to get into raising ducks and rabbits. Anything except sitting around the hause getting nagged at for sitting around the house. And also getting caught up and keeping up with the blog. Anyway, I have a lot more to say (been bottling it up for a long time) but work comes early tomorrow and I have a lot to do. Until next time…

Peace out,


About two weeks ago the site got hacked. I’ve been spending all my time making sure everything (posts, picures, etc) were secure and was finally able to get back online today. I’ll get caught up on my 365 photo project over the next few days. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Peace out,

Goodbye to 2020

Time to say goodbye to 2020. It was easily the strangest year of my life, but it was actually a pretty good year from me. I didn’t lose any family or friends to the virus. We got our house paid off. I went to Washingto DC with some friends for a Stop the Steal rally. I had cataract surgery so my distance vision is back to 20/20 in both eyes. Even better, my near vision is good enough that I can see my handgun sights without reading glasses. My employer has told me that because of budget cuts, my contract that expires at the end of June won’t be renewed. I’ve been looking for an excuse to “retire” so I consider that a positive. The best thingĀ  about 2020 was making some new friends. For a loner like me, that’s a big deal.

Early in the year we decided to experiment with indoor gardening. It actually worked pretty good. My wife saved the roots from some green onions and planted them. We set them inside a sunny window and watched them grow. Kind of surprising how fast they grew. We got about 3 cuttings before my wife decided she wanted the counter space back. Too busy with other things to try it again in the fall, but next year I want to do more.

Welcome to socialism in Amerika… Lines outside Costco caused by arbitrary limits on store access and people panic-buying toilet paper, dissinfectant wipes, etc. This was about 2 weeks after the government mandated shutdown. It would get better about a month later, but this kind of crap should be unnacceptable in a free Republic.

Went for a walk one day and came across this Great Blue Heron. Even during a pandemic there are things to find joy in. This guy was hanging out at the golf course about a half mile from my home. He let me get pretty close before he decided to leave.

Open Nevada Rally in Carson City. This was in early May, about a month after the state mandated shutdown started. Lots of families peacefully protesting for their freedom – to work, provide for their families, go to school, and worship.

For some reason, our esteemed governor thought it was too dangerous to go to church, so churches were closed by state decree. Meanwhile, liquor stores and whore houses were deemed essential so they got to stay open with some restrictions. You read that correctly – churches were shut down by government mandate while whore houses were allowed to remain open.

One last shot from the Open Nevada rally. Notice the attack dog. Notice the deputies armed with fully automatic weapons. Because you know, peaceful citizens exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble make our governor feel scared.

More wildlife close to home. Found this garter snake on a walking trail near my home. I didn’t bother him, we were just crossing paths.

My son’s first time shooting an AR-15. Yes, I know we need to work on his shooting stance, lol… He actually did pretty good. We’ve since built him his own AR. It’s nicer than mine.

I got bored with the walking trails close to my house so I started looking for different routes. This is south of my home, at about the midpoint of a 5 mile loop. I like walking loops better than just walking out and back – a lot less boring.

My Chinese wife explaining to a Chinese news crew (out of San Francisco) why socialism and communism completely suck, why free markets are better, and what a tragedy it is that “Sniff” Biden and Heels-up Harris “won” the election.

Me and some friends with a group of very nice Vietnamese immigrants. These people had to live under communism, and came here to get away from communism. I also met people from mainland China and Taiwan who came here to get AWAY from communism – and the democrat party is working overtime to impose as much communism as they can on our Republic. OK, enough politics…

I closed out the year by going shooting with some friends. It was a place I haven’t been to before, and a lot closer to my house than my usual spot. We went pretty late in the afternoon, so we were still there as the sun was going down. It’s already behind the hill, but here is the last sunset of 2020. So beautiful and peaceful – especially after such a hectic year. Happy New Year, and may 2021 be a blessed year for you and yours.

Peace out,

My new rules for target shooting

Traget ShootingA few months ago I got the chance to go shooting on a Saturday with some friends. I love going shooting, so I was really looking forward to it. It was OK, but not as much fun as usual. The high price of ammo weighed heavily on my mind. I did get to shoot an AR15 (not mine) chambered in 450 Bushmaster, so at least it wasn’t a total bust. I also went shooting the next day, Sunday. Different group of friends, different place, a little better experience. Since then, ammo has gotten even harder to find and even more expensive. Based on that, I’ve made some personal rules for target shooting. More like suggestions I guess, because they’re just to help make target shooting more enjoyable for me. Maybe they’ll work for you too…

My personal rules for target shooting

I know, rules… part of the reason I go shooting is to get AWAY from all the rules we have to put up with every day. So wtf??? Like I said, these are personal rules that I’ve decided to follow to make my own shooting more enjoyable. Well, at least more affordable… The days when I can just go out and blast in the desert are gone – for a few reasons. If you watch the news at all, you can probably guess at some of those reasons. Others are more localized, like an extremely dry climate with lots of dead grass in the desert and high winds every afternoon. Add to that the places I go shooting are getting more crowded all the time it seems, so I’m thinking I need to make some changes to my shooting routine.

Rule 1 – don’t go alone

Of all the rules, I hate this one the most. For me, a lot of times going shooting is a way to get away from everything. Sometimes I don’t even shoot – I just walk around and take in the scenery. Or envision new training scenarios. Or just hunt for brass that others have left behind. In today’s world, going alone might not be such a great idea.

The area where I live has seen a huge influx of urban people moving to the suburbs and rural areas. Unfortunately, a lot of them bring their city attitudes with them. They’ll set up right next to where you’re shooting, their gun handling sucks (as in unsafe), and a lot of them have gang-style tats. A lot of them act like “respect” is something owed solely to them, and you’d better not “dis” them.

Around the time I went shooting with my friends, three men in Florida were beaten, shot, and murdered in Florida while they were fishing. In my neck of the desert, I stumbled across a group of John Brown Gun Club members out “practicing.” (If you don’t know why that’s concerning, try Googling JBGC or Redneck Revolt)

Rule 2 – make your shots count

I love plinking. Blasting dirt clods and plastic jugs is one of my favorite things to do. Heck, I even like doing mag dumps once in awhile. Not now though – ammo is too expensive and too hard to find. I pretty much always took targets with me before. Now I always do, and also I plan the kind of shooting I’m going to do.

Rule 3 – Pick up your brass

Even if you don’t reload, it’s a good idea to pick up your brass. Who knows, maybe some day you’ll start reloading. Even if you don’t, you can give it to a friend that does or recycle it and use the money to buy more ammo.

Rule 4 – Shoot something different

Before the current ammo shortage, I shot mostly 9mm and 5.56, with a little 308 thrown in the mix. Not any more – can’t afford it. I used to only shoot 22 long rifle for small game, but now it’s about all I shoot. It’s overpriced right now (about the same as I was paying for 9mm and 5.56 six months ago), but at least I can afford to shoot it. To keep my training as realistic as possible, I bought a 22 LR conversion kit for my AR-15 and a Glock 44 (same size as my G19). I’ve also rekindles my love affair with revolvers and bolt action rifles.

Rule 5 – Be ready to buy

Even today, you can occasionally find decently priced ammo (and reloading components) but you have to be ready to buy fast. A couple weeks ago, I found small rifle primers for sale. Just when I was getting ready to order, my wife asked me to look at something in the other room. When I got back to the PC a few minutes later, they were already sold out. Same thing happened the other day with a case of 5.56 ammo.

Rule 6 – Practice dry firing

If you’re into training, you can do a lot with dry firing. I know… when I was a kid we were taught that dry firing was harmful to the gun. That’s still true for 22’s, but most modern centerfire guns (both rifle and pistol) are perfectly safe to dryfire, with no risk to the gun. You can also do it in your house (double and triple check to make SURE it’s empty), so you also save on gas since you’re not driving to your shooting range.

Rule 7 – Don’t go shooting

This was a hard pill for me to swallow, but it is doable. I’ve taken up other outdoor hobbies. I found some nice walking routes around my house that mostly keep me out of the urban sprawl (that’s a whole nother post…). I bought a predador call and I’m learning how to call in coyotes. We have racoons in the area so I bought some traps. I’m in the process of cleaning and dying them. I also bought some snares that I’ve been trying to catch rabbits with (so far unsuccessfully).