By John Basher
Photos by Tom Riles
Have you ever visited central New York in the fall? The weather patterns create a dichotomy. On one hand is a season so full of vibrant colors from the leaves changing, plus a final hint of warm weather in the air before the Empire state falls victim to old man winter. On the other hand, fall in New York can be cold, miserable, and downright dreary. I knew this, since 22 years of my life were spent either frolicking in the crisp leaves or sitting in front of the wood stove searching for heat. However, after spending the better part of two years out in sunny So. Cal. my body has grown accustomed to year-round warm weather, void of precipitation or frigid temperatures. So when I received the invite by Husqvarna to ride their new line of motocross and enduro bikes in the sleepy town of Deposit, New York, I figured that my chances were 50/50 in regards to riding in a muddy cold mess. Deep down in the depths of my soul I knew that worrying wouldn't change the forecast or turn a dreary day into a warm and dry stay in New York. And, just like any rider who has prepared for the mud, I brought along several sets of gear (especially extra gloves and goggles), trash bags, foam, and duct tape. I would be prepared for the rain, even if I did look like a walking garbage can.
Much to my chagrin (and expectations) the weather turned sour. Low clouds inhabited Deposit the day leading up to my arrival, and forecast predictions had rain on the radar for the three days of my stay. Without a break in the weather or hint of sunshine I would have to face harsh elements in the environment. I was going to be Marlow in Joseph Conrad's novel, "The Heart of Darkness," minus a boat, a delusional and insane person (Kurtz), and a setting in the African Congo. My battle with an external source was going to take place in New York. Yet upon my arrival I was upbeat and ready to feel the cold and moisture that was about to circulate through my body. I had gone soft living out West, there was no doubt about it, so I was looking forward to bundling up and feeling grizzly once again. If I were able to grow a beard beforehand then I most certainly would have entertained the opportunity. Unfortunately my ability to grow facial hair doesn't extend much further than my ability to sprout wings and fly away.
The moment I stepped foot off the plane, however, my dreamy idea of facing the cold head on wilted like a rose blossoming in winter. I shivered, my lungs were immediately pierced with frozen air, and I did all that I could not to suck on my thumb. I wanted to go home, but therein lies the irony. I was already home! My parents and the house I grew up in was only four hours away from my stay with Husqvarna. I thought to myself, Toughen up, John! And so I did by diving into my luggage and pulled out a winter jacket and beanie. Beat that, Mother Nature! My whole mindset of being tough and grizzly wasn't exactly working...at all.
Husqvarna sure knows how to throw a motorcycle introduction press function. They stowed the magazine editors away in rustic log cabins, filled the refrigerators chock full of beverages that were of the adult kind, and treated us like royalty. With their U.S. based office just outside of Philadelphia, Husqvarna personnel were aware that the weather was going to be a gamble. Still, they knew that by renting the Binghamton National track and creating a technical off-road loop to test out the enduro bikes, it was going to be a success. Scott Wynn, Rob Keith, and the rest of the Husqvarna crew did their homework and knew the way to my heart - new motorcycles, great food, and unique places to ride. The Husky guys also doubled as hilarious storytellers, so whenever I trembled from the cold I always warmed myself up from laughing from their outrageous tales.
The weather forecasters weren't wrong in their predictions. It rained and rained, and when I thought the clouds were empty it rained even more. Puddles turned into deep water holes and then into raging rivers. I might have been able to trade in my chest protector for paddles and a kayak, but I didn't want to. Why? Have you ever ridden in the pouring rain, through the mud and the muck, using tree foliage as coverage, and wheelying over deep puddles? It's an absolute blast, and once you come to the realization that you're going to be soaked to the bone it becomes even more fun. It's a foregone conclusion that you're going to fall (probably in the deepest darkest mud hole possible) and that the only part of your body that will stay dry is the crown of your head (and that's only if you don't sweat). Regardless of whether I wore a trash bag as a jacket or duct taped the tops of my boots, I was going to be waterlogged. However, I did stay dry for a good three minutes into each ride. After that I either fell in the mud or was intentionally splashed by Ryan Dudek from Cycle World. Good deal.
It is ironic that for 2006 Husqvarna changed from butterscotch yellow plastic to predominantly white with a little red thrown in for flair. Don't get me wrong, the new white plastic looks great, but after a quarter of a lap around the sloppy Binghamton track the new Husky bikes turned from white to a mire-inspired brown. It was quite interesting as well when the Husqvarna appointed photographer, Tom Riles, battled through the mud and rain to take pictures of the editors riding. Digital photography equipment is expensive and doesn't mix well with rain, but Tom was out braving the elements and capturing some great shots. Still it was cool to have pictures of myself drudging through the Binghamton National track. If there was anything that actually did stand out, it was the bright orange MXA helmet. The orange really stood out in front of the television cameras. Say what? That's right, the Speed Channel was on hand filming the press launch for "Two Wheel Tuesday." They braved the inclement weather and rolled video of the editors riding around in the mud and even interviewed us. Yours truly was interviewed, and I must say after seeing myself on TV I have a face for radio. Just kidding.
Overall the Husqvarna press launch was an amazing experience full of vivid memories that I will always remember. Imagine riding brand new bikes, getting pampered, having pictures taken of you, and even being on television! Now I know what it feels like to be a factory rider, and I must say that it's definitely the good life. The Husqvarna guys did an awesome job prepping the bikes, being charitable hosts, and kept me smiling even when I was soaked to the bone standing outside in 45-degree weather. As an added bonus, I was even given the opportunity to shoot skeet with Scott Wynn. Let me tell you, Scott knows how to shoot a clay pigeon out of the sky! Maybe Dick Cheney should take lessons from him. Thanks to everyone who made it possible at Husqvarna, including the West Branch Angler Resort where we resided for the three days. Same time, same place this fall?