Ricardo and Warren are just tooling along, but forget them, check out the view. The wild lands of California – like much of America – confound European concepts of size and space. This is why most US dirt bikes end up with oversize fuel tanks.
There are a surprising number of hills in the desert, some big ones too. These are among Ricardo’s favourite playthings (as you’ll see). Nothing super-special about this one, but it does give you an idea of the kind of spotless skies you get in this region.
Dust is a constant in the desert, although it varies in density, in this sandy section it gets pretty thick. So when this is the plume that kicks up off two KTM 450XC-Ws, it makes you wonder what it must be like when the Barstow-Vegas desert race kicks off.
The hills are of course made of rock or they’d not be there at all. There are some pretty steep slopes about and here the best ploy is to scamper down them rather than deploy brakes and shred your tyres.
“Stop at the top chaps and I’ll get a photo of you riding the ridge.” Well that didn’t happen, they just rode off clearly intoxicated by the brilliant trail, so it’s just a landscape shot you see here, but you can see the trail and the incredible landscape. Quite something.
Ricardo knew his hills and here he is blasting to the top of one of them. You can see Ricardo by his dust trail, Warren is in the shot too: the little black dot at the foot of the climb. These were big climbs that were attacked in big gears with big throttle.
A close-up of Ricardo’s hill climbing technique, you can see by his wrist he’s on fully the gas, but otherwise he’s the picture of neat composed riding. Tidy.
LORD OF HIS DOMAIN
Ricardo surveys the desert while Warren takes a breather. The number boards: M denotes ‘Masters’ class (or Magnum as Ricardo prefers), 199 is Ricardo’s chosen number on account he’s a big Pastrana fan.
It’s worth taking a moment to study the prep that goes into Ricardo’s bikes. Rekluse clutches, Scotts steering dampers, FMF full systems, Cone Valve forks and Trax shocks, another had a full Öhlins setup – that’s just the start, there’s so much more you can’t see and is too much to detail. To a factory standard for sure.
Although not too humid, it was hot, so a break in the shade was welcome – if hard to find! Gotta say Warren and I stomped around a little before we settled, this looks like rattlesnake country to us – although we didn’t see any wildlife the whole ride.
We’re no Monty Don wannabes here at RUST, but we’re pretty sure this is a Joshua Tree (ask Bono perhaps?). Pretty cool, eh!
Ricardo doesn’t let you get bored on his rides, he puts variety into his trail and he took us through some great goat tracks that weaved through the rocks, with step-ups and ravines, so you got to working the bottom end power and your feet-up skills.
GRIN & BEAR IT
Ricardo’s smiling but check out his posture. While out of sight, blazing a trail across a flat section ahead of us, he suffered something of an endo. Warren came across him just getting up. He clearly landed heavy on his shoulder but we think he took a blow to the head as well. This actually gave him a challenge when it came to navigating out of the desert again when clearly not feeling himself. Low on water, with no food, low fuel and no idea where we were it kind of brought home the dangers of riding out here. Fortunately after something of a mini chook chase Ricardo regained his bearings. For sure that shoulder must have been sore for weeks to come.
TALES OF THE TAILGATE
Back at the truck, the shadows betraying the low sun (desert sunsets are cool!). Yes, it had been quite the ride. JB’s 350 there had been a hasty addition to the fleet and came with tubes. True to form he punctured the front about half an hour from the truck, so rode the last section perched over the rear mudguard, like you do…
Ricardo is about grandfather age (we didn’t ask). JB’s grandfather (Bert) wore a three-piece suit at all times, unless he was umpiring cricket, or on dress down Friday when he wore a cardigan to the whist drive. Ricardo meanwhile is wearing full A-stars, riding a race-prepped 450XC-W, clearing widowmaker climbs – times have changed, eh?
Thanks again to the wonderful Ricardo Barbosa for hosting us on this super-memorable trail ride, he is a top man. If you’re in LA do check out his shop 3Bros KTM at 1560 Superior Avenue, Costa Mesa www.3brosktm.com It’s a great store with amazing stock (the size of which us Europeans can only dream about).