Bonneville to Scrambler in 145 Easy Steps: Part 2 (of 3).

If you’re a regular follower of this blog you may have read Part 1 of this trilogy, and if you’re not, I recommend you go back and read that before continuing here. The main reason for that request is the need to get a bit of background on what was going on with the bike and why. Triumph Bonneville T100 Black on Jack MotoADVRThis particular episode is not going to reflect the consecutive order of the build, but it’s going to jump forward to the final build stages, and deal with the suspension work that was completed around April and June of this year. This culminated in an all-day wrenching session for both Drew and myself at my house in Indianapolis. We had been talking about various ideas on how to achieve what I was looking for, and what parts would be needed in order to arrive at what we perceived as the final stance of the bike. From the moment the build was conceived, it was going to be an aggressive green laner with faster steering than a Bonneville and a higher seat height to enable more ground clearance.

Triumph Scrambler Garage MotoADVRDrew’s Scrambler has the 270º crank and a few other notable differences from the more street dwelling Bonnie. The exhaust pipe and headlight are the most noticeable, but the off-the-shelf modifications for the Scrambler and Bonneville’s are in large part interchangeable because of the shared componentry and modular design philosophy Triumph’s team(s) have taken during the design phase of these bikes, and to expanding their product line with minimum amount of effort and cost, at least as far as the modern twins are concerned. That’s a lucky stroke for all of us owners because of the plethora of available parts.Bonnie Black 1 Andy Parker  Along with that comes the consequential pricing of those parts, which itself reflective of a marketplace with abundant competition. That’s right, the parts are relatively cheap, especially compared to pieces for other European machinery. The fact that a turn signal relocation bracket can be marketed for more than one bike in a lineup is advantageous to the after-market parts developer as much as it is to the model owner.

While discussing the pros and cons of the Bonnie vs the Scrambler, (or Scrambler vs the Bonnie, if you ask Drew), the two main topics for immediate improvement were the jetting and suspension for the Bonnie. Triumph Bonneville carbs MotoADVRArguably, the major characteristic of the Scrambler is the 270º-crank motor. It’s obviously a bit of a task to convert a motors firing spacing, but it’s not so difficult to wipe out a flat spot, make the engine more tractable through improving overall power and increasing throttle response in an engine which in a low state of tune out of the factory. Low end grunt and top end power can be helped if you lower the gearing a bit to let the bike rip away from lights for a standing start, (all while embarrassing bikes almost twice the volume -no names mentioned Here Dear, if you get my drift).

Having dealt pretty successfully with the fueling on the bike I was ready to tackle the bouncy bits. As already mentioned, I wasn’t about to pitch this bike against the Monster I owned, I wasn’t about to go totally nuts on it, but a good weight savings and improvement in handling through better suspension and a slight change in geometry were defo on the cards. No budget was assigned for this stage, but I had an idea I wanted to do it all for less than the cost of a pair of Ohlins shocks for the back of the bike, around $1300, give or take.

Two things figured in this decision: –

  1. Ohlins are great, but you pay a lot for some yellowish gold anodizing, and…
  2. The Bonnie frame really isn’t up to the task of getting the best out of that kind of investment.

Now we had to decide which brand we were going to employ, and what length the rear shocks were going to be. The OE Bonneville shocks are 340mm, the Thruxton and Scrambler’s are 365 or 370mm, depending on who you ask.  Straight off the showroom floor, one of the more common mods to the front is to put heavier oil in the forks and put a plastic spacer in the spring tube to add preload to the OE spring. This may also have the effect of giving it a bit more height on the front, which also compounds the slowness of the steering and makes the back shocks work even harder, which isn’t a good thing as they aren’t up to the task to start with! The simplest way to correct the geometry is to slide the forks up through the tree about 12mm (1/2 an inch) to compensate, but if you add length to the back you can leave the front stretched and gain height at both ends without trading off one end for the other, you get to enjoy the sacred cow of off-road bikes – added ground clearance. This is where we were going.

Bonnie Black Rear Shocks MotoADVRAfter quite a bit of research on various forums, and a few phone calls to people we regard as friends and experts in Triumph, and or suspension, I ended up having a pair of the Australian Gazzi Sport-Lite shocks built. We settled on a length of 365mm and sprung them for my, delicate, 196 pound frame. The length was arrived at with the decision to replace the fork springs with HyperPro Progressive Springs and 10W fork oil, and the request for more ground clearance. This meant the forks could be left at full length without pulling them up through the triple trees, and a rider with 30” inseam could easily flat-foot the bike with knees slightly bent.

What was even better was the price came in far enough under budget that a rear caliper relocation bracket was also ordered, and there was still enough change to almost cover the cost of an Acewell 2853 digital gauge.

On the actual day we chose to do the conversion, it was cool and dry. The garage was readied the day before and most of the tools were already on the bench awaiting Drew’s arrival. The build plan was discussed before we began. The order was to be as follows: –

  1. Place bike on stand and strap frame to stand.
  2. Remove front and rear wheel, and caliper bracket.
  3. Remove rear caliper from bracket.
  4. Remove rear shocks.
  5. Re-routing rear brake line.
  6. Place rear caliper on new bracket.
  7. Install new rear shocks.
  8. Re-install rear wheel with new caliper and bracket.
  9. Remove one front fork.
    1. Dis-assemble and drain fork.
    2. Inspect fork for damage.
    3. Re-Assemble with new springs and fill with measured amount of fresh fork oil.
    4. Replace each fork.
  10. Re-install front wheel.
  11. Take bike off stand.
  12. Static brake check.
  13. Test Ride.

Everything went pretty much as planned. All the new parts were checked a upon arrival, and again a few days before installation, and rechecked before they were installed. No fit issues presented themselves and it was pretty much an exercise in part swapping. The only task that required a bit of adaptivity was routing the rear brake line after moving the rear caliper from below to above the swingarm. It was obvious the banjo bolt needed to rotate 180º but there really wasn’t enough slack in the braided line to look like a factory fit without re-routing the line behind the frame under the battery box. The line and caliper were separated, and the end of the line wrapped to stop any fluid leaking out while the line was moved to its new home. This was an ideal opportunity to bleed the entire rear system and replace the fluid with new DOT4.

The forks were easy to take apart, and luckily the internals were still in factory configuration, – there had been no spacers added. Bonneville T100 Front Forks MotoADVRThey were inspected for damage and pitting, but nothing was found that hindered the re-assembly process. The only drama was figuring out who was going to hold the fork tube and who was going to replace the top nut on the fork leg.

I had ordered some preload adjusters that were guaranteed to fit, but guess what, they didn’t, so on went the original top nuts. That will be revisited at some point as some of the adjusters require trimming the spacer tube to retain factory length at full length. I’ve wondered if they fit without doing that, and if so, is there a need to add more fork oil? Things to try later, perhaps.

Test Ride Notes from Drew:

Bonnie Black MotoADVROnce Andy and I got the “Bon-bler” put together and jotted down some notes about suspension sag, he handed me the keys to take it out for a test ride. Andy’s Trumpet makes the 4th Bonneville I’ve taken for a spin, and the 3rd carbureted iteration. Andy’s comments about dialing in the fueling cannot be overstated, both in importance, and reward when done properly. Having owned two fuel injected 865 twins, I’m here to tell you, the convenience of EFI on cold mornings is great, but the “snatchy” throttle response is the price you pay for (mostly) fuss free winter starting.

I’ve told many people, I love the tractor-like character of the 270° Scrambler mill, but it’s simply not as “British” as the traditional 360° crank of the air cooled Bonnie. The sound alone is as iconic as the tank badges; it makes the bike. Moreover, as much as I love the Bonnie’s snore, the way the 360-crank puts down power is far superior on the road; the extra eight ponies aren’t too shabby either.

Per my comments above, out on the road the throttle response and fuel delivery was like butter. The new suspenders were exactly what the doctor ordered; unlike the harsh rear-end I have on my Scrambler, the new shocks on Andy’s Bonnie soak up all the flaws of the pavement while still composed enough to carve lines through the corners with precision and confidence. I’ve said elsewhere, I would shameless park a 360° crank Bonnie, just like Andy’s, next to my Scrambler as my road-fairing touring bike (yes I said touring); and I told Andy, his Bonnie is unquestionably the best I’ve ever ridden (on pavement).

To Be Continued…

Triumph T100 Bonnie Black Scrambled 1

Bonneville to Scrambler in 145 Easy Steps: Part I

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Updating the Moto Bucket List for 2019

And just like that, it was November. I’m not sure who’s running the weather these days, but there seemed to be hard shift from summer to winter here in the mid-west. Between that and the wife’s health, October riding all but went out the window (with one, caveat… stay tuned). As I’m hording the last couple hours of vacation time I have left, now seemed as good a time as any to update the Moto Bucket List considering I’ve checked off a couple major items this year (Ride 365 and the DBBB).

Looking back over the last year and a half or so, I’m amazed at how my taste in riding has evolved so heavily. Triumph Scrambler Field MotoADVRI said it before when describing the perfect ride, but now more than ever, the more remote, the less traveled, the better I like the road. At this point, the term “road” is even subjective. That statement alone had me considering removing select items from the bucket list as I feel certain destinations are much further in the future; simply because, like everyone else, I only have so many days off work each year. Despite that initial reaction, I’ve decided to leave those items in place, in the hopes that I can perhaps string a few of them together in one trip. That said, having checked off two more items from the list, it’s time to set new goals.

 

Route 66, New Mexico

Similar to comments above about time off, I skipped out on a family vacation this spring. Route 66 New Mexico Patch MotoADVRComing home from New Mexico, my nephew bought me a patch for Route 66 as a gift from the trip I missed. I caught a short section of Route 66 near Barstow driving a 5-ton truck in a former life, but I’ve never ridden it on a motorcycle. For that reason, I don’t think it’s fair to put such a patch on any of my motorcycle gear until I’ve “earned” it. Thus, I’m putting Route 66 (New Mexico) on the Moto Bucket List, on the “advice” of my 4-year-old nephew. I actually need a little help in this department, I know very little about New Mexico, or Route 66 for that matter, so I would love to hear from the readers regarding the best place to visit on Route 66 in the New Mexico area. I’m sure there’s a “to die for” diner (or dive) that is right up my alley; if you know such a place, please leave a comment below!

 

Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR)

MABDR-AlfonsePal-9

ridebdr.com Photo

It goes without saying I’m a member of several “adventure” groups on Facebook; early this year I started seeing posts about this new “Adventure Ride” nearby. Unbeknownst to me, Backcountry Discovery Routes (501c3) has put great effort into building various adventure routes together all over the country. Needless to say, these routes are easier to put together out west where the country is more sparsely populated, but they’ve finally published a new route here on the east coast. Starting right on the New York/Pennsylvania border, the MABDR runs south through the Keystone state, Maryland, West Virginia, and on through Virginia with a tiny section of Tennessee. Per my comments to Ted from the Motorcycle Men Podcast, in 2019 I want to focus on the KAT, but after tackling the best of the Bluegrass, the MABDR seems like the next logical, extended, off-road excursion.

 

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina

1280px-Mount_Mitchell_sign

Wikipedia Photo

While I’ve not yet had a chance to chronicle my trip to deal’s gap this year (or last year for that matter), it did include a day trip to Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina. It’s kind of silly thing, but I like seeing the highest points in each state. Ohio’s highest point is kind of a joke (Bellefontaine, not far from Dayton); Indiana’s is even more so, which I’ve actually yet to see, but I’m sure I’ll wander out past Greenville to pick that one up at some point. In this case, Mount Mitchell is not only the highest point in North Carolina, but also the highest point of the Appalachian Mountains. Somehow I have shockingly not visited this point in North Carolina, despite my annual pilgrimage to Deal’s Gap each fall. This goal is actually a bit deeper than usual; beyond wanting to ride to the highest point in North Carolina (and potentially each U.S. State), I am also working toward a plan for a long vacation with my dad. While he hasn’t set an official date yet, I expect my dad to hang it up and finally retire in the next two years or so. There’s no question that my taste for all-day riding began when I started joining my dad on rides to see my grandma in Kentucky. While I was overseas he spent a week on the road, riding from Dayton to see my aunt in Florida; he talks about that ride frequently, wanting to do it again before his riding days are over. I’ve casually been laying out destinations for such a ride, and I think the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, along with visiting Mount Mitchell is a good start.

 

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

mt-evans-colorado85

bwbacon.com photo

If you’re keeping up with the Moto Bucket List at all, it’s obvious I want to set goals and continue to expand how and where I ride. At last count, I’ve now ridden in 13 states, only one of which is west of the Mississippi River. As I have been steadily picking off the Appalachian states, I’ve started looking west for future destinations, specifically Colorado. The Centennial State is merely an Iron Butt ride from Dayton, so ideally I would be riding across the plains to visit some of the legendary mountain passes. While I’m at it, why not hit the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the tallest paved road in North America? Essentially an access road to Mount Evans, the scenic byway gains 7,000 feet in elevation, taking motorists up to 14,130 feet. I suspect I better plan in some time to acclimate beforehand…

 

North East 24 Hour Challenge

LizIsMoto Arcadia Bark Busters NE24 ChallengeClosing out 365 straight riding days (the streak continues for now), I mentioned the North East 24 Hour Challenge. Per all my comments about “extreme” motorcycling, I want to take off-road riding to the next level. After catching Steve Kamrad’s coverage of NE24 the last two years, this is unquestionably a rally I want to ride in. NE24 has classes for riders based on skill and age range, and riders can also sign-up as a team or join the “Iron Man (or Woman)” division. Starting at 10 AM, riders take on a wooded off-road course that makes about a 10 mile loop. Riders carry a “transponder” on the course, and in the end, the riders (or team) with the most laps around the course in 24, non-stop, hours win their class.

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Finishing the DBBB: Working the Moto Bucket List

 

Smoked. Heart pounding in my ears and gasping for air, my right hand clung to the brake lever to hold the front tire on a narrow section of solid soil, desperate to keep the bike from tumbling back down the hill, yet again…

 

6 Hours Earlier

Following the excitement of Red River Scramble and Conserve the Ride, summer started to get away from me as I crossed over day 365. Little Bikes Trailer DBBB MotoADVRHaving finally sorted out output shaft leak, I was ready to get back into the woods. Having started the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) in April of last year, my buddy Tom and I were both anxious to finally finish the full loop. Riding down to his place near Cincinnati, I parked the Scrambler in his garage as we decided to trailer two of his lighter bikes down to Kentucky to tackle the more gnarly trails, more specifically, the last outstanding section, Mountain Springs/Furnace-Pilot Road.

Following  the original game plan from last spring, we headed northwest out of Slade, running the DBBB loop counter-clockwise, starting with Spaas Creek Road just west of Red River Gorge. KLX250 TW200 Spaas Creek Road DBBB MotoADVRTom put me on his (daughter’s) TW200 while he took the reins to his new (to him) KLX250SF for their first off-road adventure. Rolling out of Slade, it was strange riding the pint-sized Yamaha, a bike that’s less than a third of the Scrambler’s displacement and right about half its weight. The “Tee-Dub” felt incredibly nimble on the street, albeit it was headed nowhere in a hurry. I’ve always wondered how awesome it has to be to “float” over all the mud with those big beach tires, finally pulling onto Spaas Creek I was about to find out.

 

 

As one would expect, Spaas Creek proved to be much easier on the TW, despite the exceptionally muddy conditions. Passing Hatton Ridge, and down Hawkins Branch, Pumpkin Hollow proved to be more of the same. Pumpkin Hollow Pond DBBB MotoADVRThe wet slimy clay was even more challenging than previous visits, however I rapidly discovered that the mighty Tee-Dub is the proverbial mountain goat of the dual sport world; it won’t set speed records, but it’s tenacious in limited traction conditions. I was especially thankful for the mild ride and nimble maneuvering of the TW as I came upon a particularly deep creek crossing on Pumpkin Hollow; a creek I’ve ran through at speed on other occasions had easily tripled in depth after the unseasonable rainfall we’ve had this year.

KLX250SF Chop Chestnut Road DBBB MotoADVRPassing the quarry that marks the beginning of Chop Chesnut Road, Tom and I made short work of the sandy trails on the lighter bikes before arriving at the infamous “stair case”. Considering we were riding more “appropriate” equipment, I suggested that we try riding up the “steps” with the KLX as it had the suspension to make that possible. While riding up the sandstone ledges, Tom commented over the intercom that he distinctively smelled gas for some reason. Stopping at the bottom, he stepped off the bike for me to make my own run on the steps when he saw gasoline gushing down the side of the bike. As we pushed the bike to the side of the trail, we realized there was a hole in the fuel line as the entire tank emptied into the sand before we could get the bike disassembled.

Fortunately the stock Kawasaki tool kit had the necessary equipment to remove the plastics and lift the tank to ascertain the culprit. Apparently after spending many years of its life in the garage, the fuel line had dry rotted and cracked, and naturally failed after being jostled by the finest Bluegrass backroads. As luck would have it, the Tee-Dub donated a short potion of its breather hose, and with the help of a sharp license plate, we patched the KLX back together. With a little splash of gas from a fuel bottle, we nursed the Kaw back to Slade to top off and head down to Mountain Springs to finish the last outstanding part of the loop.

 

 

Earlier this spring, I led Tom and my buddy Jeff down to the DBBB for a little Red River Scramble reconnaissance mission. Mountain Springs Road Ruts Tom WittAfter a very short distance down Mountain Springs Road, we discovered the conditions were extremely harsh for big bikes, especially the taller KTM 990 shod with more desert friendly skins, so we turned around and moved on to other trails (Fincastle and Big Andy Ridge Roads). Considering that previous visit also involved a short dirt nap for Rosie the Scrambler, I was thankful to have the Japanese Mountain Goat as my tour guide for my first trip down the most challenging trail on the DBBB (main loop).

Mountain Springs Road Abandoned House MotoADVRWith Mountain Springs Road behind us, Tom and I headed south through the more beginner friendly Fixer-Leeco and Hell Creek Roads before arriving at Old Fincastle Road. I proposed that we deviate from the DBBB main loop, and tackle Walker Creek Road, coincidentally “hard section 11” on the Kentucky Adventure Tour. I caught a YouTube video of two Africa Twins finishing this section a while back, I figured since we were on lighter bikes, we should give it a shot considering we’d just finished battling the worst of the DBBB.

Walker Creek Kudzu Tom WittAn old, disassembled, rail line, Walker Creek Road runs almost dead north from Fincastle to Kentucky Highway 715 in Rogers. Starting out with a string of endless mud puddles, “Hard 11” wasn’t particularly eventful for the first couple miles. Eventually emerging from the tree canopy, we were met with a trail completely overrun with Kudzu, making for a bizarre, unworldly, experience.

Nearing the northern terminus of Walker Creek, the trail gained significant elevation as we were met by a lofty rock ledge. KAT Hard 11 Rock Ledges TW200 Tom WittI managed to ramp the TW’s front wheel over the right side of the ledge with the help of a few tactically placed rocks but getting enough grip at the rear wheel to scramble up the shelf was another story. Trying to rock the bike, meanwhile not rolling back far enough to tumble into the ravine beyond was the task at hand. Ultimately it took a good shove from Tom to get the bike over the giant mantel. The KLX naturally scaled the same obstacle with less fanfare, but a few more yards up the trail the story would change completely. Met by a series of slightly shorter ledges, ranging from a foot to two feet in height, I attempted to ramp the Japanese mountain goat up the ledges with the help of the right side embankment. The slick stone, loose soil and clay proved to be a major obstacle considering the TW’s wheelbase and the short run of each of the “steps.” Again, it took a little pushing and pulling by both of us to get the bikes over each of the ledges.

At the base of the final “step”, there was another steep incline, cross-crossed by wheel-swollowing ruts with a series of mudholes sprinkled in. I walked the next hundred feet or so to scout out a good line and took a run at it with the T-dub. There was a lot of “dabbing” involved, hideous form, along with some choice four-letter words, but I got the micro-motorcycle parked on a nice level spot up the trail. Walker Creek Road Rock Ledges Tom WittThe KLX proved to be the more challenging bike to traverse the final stretch. Having already disturbed the ground on the limited “run-up”, the KLX would get halfway up the dirt mound before the rear end would slide out and drop you back into an unclimbable rut. After several attempts to ride up the clay-clad obstacle, Tom and I were both all but wasted. I took a few moments to catch my breath and look over the terrain one more time, before I decided to climb back on the KLX to make one last attempt on the final yards of Hard 11. Compared to the T-dub, it was even uglier. At this point I’m not entirely sure what level of wide-open throttle, pushing, and “body English” made it possible; all I knew is that I had to stay on the gas and manage to not throw myself off the mountain for the hundred or so feet that followed. That’s about the point I stalled the bike, just as I crested a hill onto a narrow dirt patch, perched above two water-filled ruts and a nasty drop-off a little further to the left.

Drew Dead in the Woods Tom WittAfter battling two bikes up a flight of Appalachian “stairs”, and muscling traction into the rear end of the KLX to make the climb, I was completely smoked. Head down over the tank, desperately gasping for air, I held the front brake with everything I had to keep from sliding back down the hill, yet again. Tom climbed up the hill to hold the KLX steady while I fired it up one last time. More flailing feet, whiskey throttle, wide-eyed desperation, and some fish-tailing was involved, but I somehow managed to thread the needle to cross the last few feet of Hard 11’s worst obstacles.

 

Two Weeks Later

Finishing the last section of the DBBB meant checking another item off the Moto Bucket List in 2018. Of course, riding the last section without the scrambler wasn’t quite the same. Fortunately, my buddy Bill was also looking at another chance to tackle some Kentucky clay a couple weeks later.

 

 


 

There’s no question, Hard 11 was the most challenging off-road riding I’ve ever done, even on a “little” bike. That said, the northwest sections of the DBBB were unquestionably the worst I had ever seen them that day on the Scrambler. With more water, bigger rocks, deeper ruts and sand… needless to say the wet summer turned trails that were once challenging to a novice adventure rider, into nearly insurmountable obstacles on the 500 pound pig (er… warthog). drew rosie creek arms center watermarkMountain Springs Road, bypass and all, tested the Scrambler (almost) right up to its absolute limits in ground clearance and suspension travel. I picked up that bike more that day than every day combined since I bought it. It was an incredible experience, but one that unquestionably highlighted the limitations of the machine. Rolling off the sand and onto the tarmac at the south end of Mountain Springs was a much bigger sense of accomplishment after battling the worst mud I’ve ever seen on my high-pipe-hipster-coffe-shop machine. The question now is, what’s next?

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Are Scramblers Just a Fad?

Two years ago last July, I made the jump to a “new” motorcycle, something I thought would become the best pathway to new adventures, be it on-road or off.

MotoADVR_SevenMileCreekBridge

Conventional wisdom suggests that the portly Triumph Bonneville, dressed in throw-back motocross décor, designed with a 270 degree firing order, was merely a styling exercise, and completely unsuited for off-road riding. It goes without saying that I tend to go against the grain, and have no problem questioning this conventional opinion; to me, the Triumph Scrambler has a lot more to offer riders than just “stunning good looks”. Undoubtedly, if you’ve spent any amount of time surfing around the website, you’ve found Rosie the Scrambler up to her axles is in muddy water; a sight that’s unfortunately not more common. In my eyes, the low seat height, low center of gravity, and flat torque band of the modern scrambler can be a selling point, the same as the flashy high pipes and retro styling, among other nuances of the “genre”.

The irony of finishing 365 consecutive days of riding almost two years to the day after bringing Rosie home wasn’t lost on me; it’s almost like the first 160-day streak had to end prematurely so that those two anniversaries would land on the same weekend.

Drew top of Spaas splash center watermark

I mentioned in my “reflections” of the past year in the saddle that I felt validation in the choice I made with respect to choosing the right machine for the job. The Scrambler tackled situations many motorcycles never see, and was yet a pleasure to ride every day, without fail. As the 365th day approached, I was actually penning a full-length article about scramblers as a whole, suggesting that too many have dismissed these bikes as a bandwagon fad, and not looking at the potential these motorcycles present.

Assuming you didn’t already catch it elsewhere, I wrote “Ode to the Scrambler” with Chris Cope for his website “The Motorcycle Obsession”.

Triumph Scrambler Hill MotoADVR

Likely unbeknownst to Chris, his website was a contributing factor to why I started Moto Adventurer way back when; his passion for all things two wheels is expressed in some of the best literary work you’ll find in print or on the web. He recently left the more traditional motorcycle journalist life, having worked full-time for a different moto-journalism outlet, he decided to strike out on his own as a full-time, independent, “moto-writer”. At any rate, please go take a look at “Ode to the Scrambler” and let me know what you think. While you’re over at TMO, poke around and see what else Chris has to offer.

“Ode to the Scrambler”

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Choosing the Right Dual-Sport Tires

If you’ve been tuning in as of late, I’m obviously gearing up for another motorcycle Rally; with that, the issue of tires always comes up. Karoo 3 Shinko 804 Triumph Scrambler MotoaDVRConsidering I attend about three to five major motorcycle events each year, I’m constantly fussing about how long tires will last and what the best tires will be for the next trip I go on. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that different tires are better at different jobs, and there’s nothing worse than spending a pile of cash on new rubber that you absolutely hate from the very first ride. Everyone undoubtedly has their own opinion on the best motorcycle tires, long-time readers know I’m no different, but I really want to focus on a few of the less discussed facets of adventure, or dual-sport tires.

 

Why are Dual Sport Tires Measured in Percentages?

Continental Trail Attack 2 rear MotoADVRAt some point customer X asked brand Y, “What kind of conditions are these new tires meant for?” As any good marketing person would do, they apparently came up with a short answer, “These are 80/20 tires, meant for 80% on-road, and 20% off-road riding.” The more time I spend taking inappropriate equipment to out of the way places, the less helpful I find these percentages. “So what you’re saying is, if I only spend 20% of my time off-road, these tires will still be awesome off-road right?” Well, not exactly…

My synopsis on how we got here is completely fictitious, but I suspect things played out that way to some degree. I also understand the need for a simple baseline or a general rule of thumb so to speak. Triumph Scrambler stack of tires MotoADVRThis percentage-based rating system offers a general idea of how focused a given tire is for asphalt versus dirt, longevity versus traction, and on-road handling versus off-road confidence. However, having run everything from 90/10 to 40/60 dual sport tires on the Scrambler, I’ve discovered that these percentages might “suggest” how road-fairing a given tire may be, but as far as off-road traction and longevity are concerned, there are numerous other factors that get lost through ambiguity. Thus, assuming you don’t burn through tires on a regular basis, I suggest you approach “adventure” tire buying a little differently.

In my opinion, adventure or dual-sport tires have an incredibly difficult job, they need to be confidence inspiring on the asphalt, gravel, dirt, sand, mud, while also maintaining indefinite tread life. As we all know, this is an impossibility; each of these conditions creates unique traction situations, often at odds with the others, and on any good adventure ride, it will invariably rain. Rating dual-sport tires by a percentage is a very black and white method for choosing a tire for your next adventure.04 April2 Personally, if I’m going to use a black and white, pass-fail method of rating dual-sport tires, I would start with, “Will these tires paddle through the mud?” Followed by, “Do these tires provide reliable traction on wet pavement?” Obviously, there are very few black and white solutions in life, so let’s pretend for a moment that the motorcycle gods have put me in charge of adventure tire classification, I think I would go with something more like a 4-tiered rating based on how a given tire handles on the dry asphalt, dry soil, wet pavement, and most importantly, mud. This too would be less than a perfect system, as it ignores longevity, and more importantly, off-road riding conditions range from packed gravel to wet sand, so there are a few more things to consider.

 

Where are You Riding?

It goes without saying, I love riding in Kentucky; one of the reasons I keep going back to the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) is the wide range of trail conditions you experience each time. Chop Chestnut Road KLX250SM MotoADVRWhile creek crossings and ruts evolve with storm activity, beyond the weather’s impact on the evolution of the trail, the soil types vary heavily from one mile to the next. One section of trail will be firm dirt interrupted by puddles and loose mud, while the next will be rocky, then sandstone ledges, and finally patches of hidden sand. Taking that further, the double-track trails in Kentucky are narrow, infrequently traveled, passing through dense foliage, with steep elevation changes (even if they’re short). Considering those conditions, the perpetual mud, and the frequency of my visits, I usually run the most aggressive set of knobbies I can get my hands on.

DCIM119GOPRO

On the other end of the spectrum, I also take day trips to Shawnee State Forest near Portsmouth, Ohio. Shawnee has miles and miles of gravel and dirt roads; most of which are relatively well-manicured and regularly trafficked. There are a couple sections that can get muddy from time to time, but the mud patches are typically brief, so tire selection is nowhere near as critical. I’ve had similar experience in Tennessee; most of the legal trails are well-maintained forest service roads, which, depending on skill level, means you could easily run street tires and get by just fine. Pennsylvania was somewhat the same, Boney Trail Framecam MotoADVRhowever considering the endless “baby-head” rocks protruding from the dirt, the terrain was firm, if not downright “boney”. There are obviously more challenging trails in both of these locations, and likely even more so when you move beyond Appalachia, so adjust your tire selection based on where you expect the greatest difficulty. If I spent most of my time riding at Shawnee, I would probably run 50/50s like the Avon Trekrider, or perhaps even something as street oriented at the Shinko 705.

 

How Sharp are Your Off-road Skills?

g0355154The importance of this question cannot be overstated. I’ve heard it from multiple outlets in the past, identifying your comfort level with the conditions is a massive part of selecting the best tire for the job. If you’re new to off-road riding, still adapting to the rear end being loose, and have concerns about getting stuck in the mud, I suggest you bring the gnarliest tire you can buy to the party. With only a couple gravel roads under my belt, a particular moment stands out in my mind: the handle bars swinging from lock to lock as I skated through the mud on Spaas Creek Road; riding on a set of 90/10 tires, I was not exactly having fun off-road.DCIM126GOPRO A few months later, I made the investment in a set of “adventure” knobby tires, and the experience changed dramatically. A good set of knobbies can cure a lot of ills in the skills department while you’re still learning the ropes. Aggressive off-road tires inspire confidence in bad conditions, and confidence reduces the stress of making it across the next obstacle, and ultimately enjoying a ride, instead of feeling like you’re being dragged along by your buddies. As you gain experience, you’ll start to master your machine, and know how to handle it in adverse conditions; then you can potentially downgrade your tire selection to something a little more road-oriented, perhaps a little cheaper, or a tire that lasts longer.

 

What Bike are You Riding?

So there you are, scrolling through tires on the web, trying to decide on the tire you want. Triumph Tiger 800 XCx Shawnee State Forest MotoADVRYou get on some motorcycle forum and ask for recommendations for the best adventure tire; three or four people insist it’s this tire or that. You decide to go with “mainstream advice”, only to discover that tire is absolutely horrifying in the rain and slides all over the mud. How could so many folks love this tire, yet you find it completely unreliable? The Heidenau K60 scout comes to mind. The K60 is a good, respectable tire; lots of long-haul adventure riders love that tire, while others scream about wet weather manners and mediocre off-road performance. So, when folks start yammering on about how much they love or hate tire “X”, the first thing I ask is, “What bike are you on?”

Case in point, a while back I ran the K60 Scout on the Scrambler. Admittedly, I can’t say I “loved” the K60, but it was a reliable tire; even if I found it unremarkable. Heidenau K60 Scout Rear Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRMy experience convinced a buddy of mine to buy a set for his Tiger 800. Turns out, the rear tire spun up on tar snakes every time it rained, and I witnessed his tires get “loaded” with mud and the front tire “push” multiple times. The Triumph Scrambler and the Tiger 800 XC run completely different tire sizes; meanwhile the two bikes also have dissimilar weight distribution and have diametrically different power delivery. Assuming the two bikes wore the same size shoes, the difference in weight and power delivery alone will affect how the tires heat up, and how the tires hook when it rains and in the sloppy stuff. My point is, be careful where you get advice about the best tires for your bike (pot, meet kettle); just because a given tire is a superstar on one bike, doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be a flop on another. This is especially true when you start comparing results between bikes like the BMW R1200GS and the Suzuki DR650; vastly different tire sizes and significantly different weights. If the loudest voice in the room is riding a different bike than you are, you may want to take their opinion with a grain a salt.

 

How Do You Like to Ride?

Do you blast around full-tilt or are you a casual adventurer? Do you scream on the dirt and ride lazy on the asphalt, or do you rip it on the tarmac and tour on the gravel? DCIM143GOPROPer my comments about off-road skills, you may not know the answer to this question just yet; however, once you’ve been down a few trails, and depending on who you ride with, you may discover you have one propensity over another. In my case, I typically put performance and value in front of longevity and price. I’m frugal when it comes to tires, as I buy a quite a few of them each season, but I won’t think twice about paying more for a tire that lasts longer and performs better than a (marginally) cheaper competitor. If you’re a casual rider that doesn’t pile on the miles and replaces tires maybe once a season, then splurge on the performance tires and enjoy the rides with confidence (or perhaps reckless abandon). If you’re a pragmatic hyper-miler that doesn’t grind the pegs at every opportunity, while seldom finding yourself in the mud, you’ll probably be happier if you put the priority on longevity, even if it costs you a little more.

Again, this isn’t black and white; in my case I usually choose the tire with the least amount of compromise. Motoz Tractionator Desert H-T Rear 2 MotoADVRFor me, that means the best wet traction on the tarmac I can get, without losing confidence in the mud. I like to ride the Scrambler near the limits of its capability (which isn’t saying much), but that also means my tire choices are somewhat limited, and I’m changing a rear tire every four to five thousand miles. If you have any sense about yourself, and a little throttle discipline, you can probably squeeze more miles out of a set of aggressive knobby tires depending on your bike. If you live to hoon around the trails and the backroads, you may want to learn to live with cheaper, or less competent tires, or come to grips with the fact you’ll be spooning on new tires every couple months.

 

How Far do You Need to Go?

Are you riding hours to the trails, putting the bike on a trailer, or packing the tent and living off the bike on a trans-continental tour? Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler Sunset MotoADVRThis is yet another compromise you’ll need to make, choosing a tire that has the longevity to last the full length of your trip, making an appointment to install a new tire mid-adventure, or humping the spare tire for the first leg of the journey until it’s finally needed. There’s a lot that can go into this; you may find that you want to run a slightly less off-road capable tire in favor of superior wear on the pavement, that way one set of tires will last through the entire trip. On the flip-side, let’s say you’re headed out west and you’re good at swapping your own tires; you may decide to throw a knobby rear tire on top of your luggage and run a street tire for the long sections of interstate, then swap the rear tire in a truck stop parking lot that last night before you hit the big trails, then just burn off what’s left of those knobbies riding the interstate on the way home.

Thus far, I’m generally not more than five hundred or so miles from home, and even on my extended motorcycle adventures, don’t typically cover more than 2,000 miles in a given trip. Karoo 3 New Tire Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRWhile I typically just install a new set tires before I leave for a big event, living here on the east coast generally means I could feasibly have a replacement tire shipped to wherever I’m staying, if not have it swapped at a local shop. Riding long trips out west or other remote destinations may make those decisions a bit more difficult. I’ll also add, if you’ve not run a given tire in the past, you may discover that tire doesn’t last nearly as long as you thought it would. That can make for a bad day, stuck in the mud out on the trail, with no plans for suitable replacement rubber. Like I said, there’s no easy answer to this type of trip planning, but it’s certainly one more thing to considering when picking a set of tires.

 

Mixing and Matching

While not as controversial as mounting a radial front and a bias-ply rear (or god forbid, a car tire), mixing and matching new with old, and especially different brands and models can be taboo for some motorcyclists. Triumph Tiger 800 Row MotoADVRThat said, you may find there are economic or performance advantages to running one model of tire on the rear and a different model on the front. I’ll pick on the K60 Scout again because it’s a popular tire and an easy target; I frequently see the Heidenau K60 rear mounted to any given bike, however it’s also common to find it paired with a different, often more aggressive, front tire. I’ve heard lots of folks say they don’t care for the K60 front tire because it’s too loud, or they don’t trust it in the rain. Others have said that considering how long knobby front tires last on the pavement (compared to a matching rear), they might as well run an aggressive tread pattern on the front wheel and change both tires at the same time as they’ll now wear out at about the same rate.

I’m no exception; my typical uber-off-road go-to setup has been the Shinko 804 front and Karoo 3 rear.06 June Both tires are particularly affordable in Scrambler sizes and perform well in the mud. I find the matching Shinko 805 rear doesn’t have the large, mud clearing gaps in Scrambler sizes compared to the wider “Tiger-sized” rear. At the same time, the Karoo 3 front tire is almost double the price of the 804 front, so I’ve not made the commitment to a matched set just yet (combined with the fact 19” Karoo 3s are radial). Knobby front tires on the Scrambler typically last double the mileage of most rear tires; more so for the street-oriented skins. I’ve typically run matching sets of Trekriders and 705s in the past, as they work well together; especially the Trekriders which are nearly a faultless tire. I have, however, debated mounting the Trekrider on the front with the 705 in the rear purely because I like a surefooted front end, but I’m becoming more comfortable with sliding the rear wheel. This whole idea may be witchcraft in your eyes, but if you’re open to experimentation, you might be pleasantly surprised (and sometimes the “Minister of War and Finance” will thank you).

 

Exceptions

Despite wanting a superior classification system for dual-sport tires, I’d say we’re unlikely to get something better from tire industry any time soon. Being stuck with this percentage based system, it would be wise to realize there will always be exceptions. Metzeler Karoo 3 Rear Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRTake the Metzeler Karoo 3 for example, I’ve seen the Karoo 3 marketed as a 70/30 tire; I’m here to tell you, those paddles churn through the mud better than any other tire I’ve run thus far. Inversely, Continental’s TKC70 is marketed as a 60/40 tire. I have not personally run the TKC70 on the Scrambler, and dare I say, “based on looks alone”, there’s simply no way you’re going to convince me that the TKC70 will dig the Rosie the Warthog out of a mud hole with the same tenacity of the Karoo 3. What I’m trying to say here is, regardless of how the distributors or manufacturers rate their tires, take a close look at the tread patterns and gaps between the lugs when evaluating the best tire for the riding you’re going to do. Deep channels and wide gaps between the blocks will clear mud and get you out of tight spots, “paddles” will often dig you out of a hole better, but staggered knob configurations will keep the rear end from sliding laterally (which paddles have a tendency to do).

Beyond how tread patterns vary from one model to another, you will also want to be mindful of how the tread fluctuates with tire size. Going back to the K60 Scout, the rear tire tread pattern is drastically different depending on tire width and rim size. Avon Trekrider Tread Compare MotoADVR130 scrambler-width tires have the typical ADV-chevron lugs, while the 140 includes a center strip for increased wear, and the 150 has an even larger integrated center strip; the center strip also differs between 17 and 18-inch rims. I already mentioned the difference between the 130 and 150 width Shinko 805s, the “paddle” tread blocks have significantly larger gaps on the wider tire. On the flipside, the 130/80-17 Karoo 3 has the tallest lugs with the largest gaps of all of the Karoo 3 tires I’ve seen; surprisingly taller than the more dirt oriented 140/80-18 tires on my buddy’s MZ Baghira 660. Front tires are no different, there’s almost always a massive difference between tread patterns on the more dirt worthy 21” tires versus the more road friendly 19” hoops. It’s unwise to take the retail website photos as the gospel, make sure you do a little extra surfing on the web to find images of the tire sizes you need for your motorcycle.


For some reason, tires seem to be this controversial subject among motorcyclists. I admit, you can create some negative handling issues when mixing and matching tires and straying too far from the factory recommended sizes (as I have done recently). Motoz Tractionator Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThat said, don’t get spooked by folks touting “absolutes” on social media site; things like “Never go cheap on tires!” What you ride, how you ride, and where you ride are likely completely different from those people (not to mention your budget). I’ve run expensive tires that simply did not perform as well as cheap tires; I’ve ran cheap tires that are decent, but not as good as a slightly more expensive tire. If you’re not exactly sure which tire you need for a given application, I recommend you buy “more” tire than you actually need. Taking the time to find a tire that needs to be replaced sooner than expected sucks, but it’s not as bad as being miserable on the trail for days because you don’t trust your bike. When “polling the crowd” for opinions, I recommend you make connections with reputable motorcyclists on bikes similar to yours, and use them for advice when shopping tires. Make sure you ask them these questions about where and how they like to ride, and how far they typically go. Sometimes you just have the bite the bullet and give a set of a tires a shot. It sucks when you realize you just blew $300 on a set of tires you hate, but the good news is that someone else might even buy those tires from you despite being “used”… but that’s a topic for another day.

 

Additional Resources:

Tried and True Dual Sport Tires: Shoe Shopping with Rosie the Scrambler

Tires: The Original Traction Control by Spurgeon Dunbar (Revzilla)

Adventure Motorcycle Tires / ADV Tyres by MOTOTREK

 

Posted in Maintenance & How-To, Random Blurbs | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Orange Fever

Breakfast was being served at home as I started talking to my fantabulous wife about what was going on regarding the bikes in the garage. “I am so bored of this conversation.” She says. “Every time you want a new bike you ask me to justify it for you, and I’m not going to do it anymore… But, if you want one, just go and buy it. I’m glad you want to talk to me, but just tell me what you’re getting with no explanations……please.” And there we have it. The culmination of the activities this past week.

Allow me to expand. It seems I recently came down with a nasty case of Orange Fever. “No”, it’s not the political or religious type, nor is it the type derived from a crazy obsession with a certain soccer team from The Netherlands.

Am I ok?

Well, yes, I am ok. Thanks for asking, and lucky for me I found the remedy in time, but more of that later.

So, what the beenoodles is it then? You are probably saying to yourselves – this is a bike-themed blog. Does it involve an orange bike?

Now, I know my ‘About Andy’ section lists an R1200GS, a Monster 1200S, and a Triumph as my current rides, but the R1200GS morphed into a K1600GT a few months ago, and the Monster is on the chopping block due to my aging knees and the motorcycling abuse I’ve put them through over three decades of riding. Anyone who knows me is aware of my frequent changes of motorcycle costume.

The whole saga seriously started about the time a KTM started appearing at our local club events. KTM 990 ADV MotoADVRIt is ridden by a lovable guy who was newish to the circle of friends, and who didn’t mind getting his 990 Adventure a bit muddy. Next up was a friend who I’ve known a decade or more who stumbled into owning a 990 SM, and lastly a Triumph/Honda owning friend (just because he rides a Honda there’s no need for any jokes about large chicks and mopeds if you don’t mind – both being fun to ride, but you don’t brag about it to your mates, if you know what I mean 😉 ) came around to asking what I thought of my GS because he was looking at a GSA. Ultimately he opted for the 1290 Super Adventure to replace the ‘Onda for long walks on beaches and fun times with his better half.

KTM 1290 Adventure left rear Rick SowrySo, a guy I respect for his riding gets one. A guy who’s probably got more miles under his belt than Drew and I combined at the moment, although a few years back we were probably in the same region for total miles covered, even if he probably does all his miles in North America, and mine covers 200,000 miles in the UK and around southern France and Spain.

What is it with these Austrian orange dirt bike derived things anyway? I better go and find out. It just so happens that the place I got my K1600GT had two used examples on the showroom floor, a 1290 Super Adventure and an 1190 Adventure R.

What a great looking bike the 1190 Adventure R is, and by all YouTube reviews, an epic off-roader. I arranged a test ride on both having fallen under the spell of the 1190 Adventure R just from the pictures and the YouTube reviews.

1190 Adventure R

Armed with my driving license and insurance card I go to take these bikes out for a spin.

First up is the discussion about seat height, and whether I need a step ladder to get on the 1190. I take a look around the bike. KTM 1190R gravel ADVExploreIt’s a 2015 model but is essentially still new as it only has 1034 miles on the clock. The fit and finish are really good, the colors and graphics are notable. It’s in fantastic shape. It tickles my fancy as much as I’d hoped. I may be in moto-lust. I decided to take my usual approach to get on tall bikes and take full advantage of the left side riders peg to climb on board. What immediately struck me was how light it feels when I stand it up. It does not feel like 518lbs, even with the 35-inch seat height. I’m on tiptoes if I put both feet down, but I am comfortable flat footing one side and pegging the other foot, I’ve done it before with my old Hypermotard 1100 Evo SP and I’m still happy to endure this routine daily if the need is there, and the reward large enough.

I turn the ignition key and wait for the controls to boot, then start the motor. It fires up readily and quickly settles into a steady beat. A quick blip on the throttle and the raspy sound of the engine tells me it’s eager to get going.

Once I’m out on the planned route, the height is no problem. KTM 1190R bridge ADVExploreThe 21-inch front steers predictably and the rear wheel, which also gets off-road sizing at 18 inches, make the washboard road surface easy to roll over. The brakes and clutch actions are two-finger strong and easy to operate (- mineral oil fluid for the clutch). I get onto a little straight with an unperfect surface and get on the throttle to see what this 145 hp motor actually goes like. It’s nuts, it’s absolutely (expletive) nuts. You give it gas and it leaps forward with quite a distinct noise from the exhaust, if you over fuel it, the rasp is joined by what can only be described as a pleasant clang at every spark, it’s a beautiful sound, and the bike adds to the forward momentum; it sends tingles down my spine. A fellow Englishman described his Super Duke GT as being bonkers, “It’s bonking bonkers mate” (nearly his exact words), “It just moves forward so bloody quickly…” and this coming from a former S1000XR owner. It certainly has some level of acceleration I’ve not experienced unless I’m sitting in First Class on a big Airbus. KTM 1190R creek ADVExploreIt’s not ‘baseball bat to the bottom of the spine’ snappy because it’s a totally speed x speed x speed kind of gain in forward motion, it gathers ferocity from when you open it up until you close the throttle, or you bang it off the limiter. Nuts. Truly nuts. The traction control works in such a way that you can feel the tire is about to spin-up, but it never does. It is quite impressive, even over less than perfect surfaces. The fueling is spot on for the bikes nature. It’s raw but not rough, it’s smooth but not slick. It manages to feel unbridled. You get the impression it’s just managing to keep things in check before they get totally out of hand. Along with the fully adjustable White Power suspension, it gives the bike the right character. The suspension makes the Ohlins on other bikes feel inferior. Really, it does. The bike is a road going, off-road hooligan tool. Don’t ride it unless you like riding a tiger’s tail. It’s epic. This bike might be my new all-time favorite, edging out the air-cooled Hypermotard 1100 by a hair or three.

 

1290 Super Adventure

For starters, the seat on the 1290 is an inch shorter than the 1190, so both feet on the ground is entirely possible. KTM 1290 Adventure Left Rick SowryThis particular bike is a 2016 and has 5,500 miles on it the odometer. It is fitted with the factory plastic hard luggage and has a whole host of electronic goodies the 1190 does not have. It has cruise control, electronically adjustable suspension, heated grips, and heated seats and the same riding modes of the 1190. It weighs 550 lbs gaining only 32 lbs but has a claimed 160 hp motor. It also wears 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels letting the rider choose from a wider range of more road-oriented rubber if that’s what they want, and let’s face it, they do.

Indeed, this bike is aimed fairly squarely at the GSA and the Multistrada markets rather than the hardcore dirt rider the 1190 Adventure R is looking to appease. The list of things this bike has as standard is very impressive for the price. To get all the goodies on either the GSA or the Multistrada you would have to select multiple packages or pick through the list of available accessories to get one as well equipped, and I dare say the price would jump significantly from their base prices around the $20,000 range to the mid 20’s whereas the KTM is around the $18,000 mark. Kudos to KTM for doing this, and please excuse me for not listing the whole shebang of prices and options the other two Euro 1200’s. I’d like to keep your attention a while longer….

And while all this added sophistication makes the 1290 Super Adventure much more refined, it’s also accompanied by a little blandness. KTM 1290 Adventure right front Rick SowryIt’s still fast as fandango, as we Brits like to say, but all the endearing qualities, that make the 1190 such a beast to ride have been sanitized and dulled a bit around the edges. The exhaust note is still there, but a bit quieter, the throttle response is a bit smoother, the suspension a bit plusher and the handling a bit tamer. It all adds up to a better road bike for bunging the better-half on the back and trekking to the other side of the continent in relative comfort, and all well within the capabilities of the bike, but it was the rawness of the 1190 that made it feel like you could push the bike to the absolute limits, even though the chances of that were slim, unless you’re a serious Dakar type. The 1290 lets you know it has everything well under control, so don’t try to be a Dick, Richard.

 

Decisions

Alright now we have a decision to make. I really like the 1190 but I need to go away and think about it for a day or two and come back and see if I really like it enough to say arrivederci to the Monster in my garage. Ducati Monster 1200 Andy ParkerI ride the Monster back home and stop in at the Ducati dealer on the way. A funny thing happens. A quick greeting by the shop crew upon arrival is followed by a longer conversation with the owner who chats about Iron Butt rides, what I’ve been up to, and where he’s going next, the Triple Nickel. We end up talking about my old Hypermotard and the virtues of the newish 939SP. I didn’t get along with the first water cooled 821 version while owning my 1100 so the opportunity to try the latest one is welcomed.

These demos are usually accompanied rides with two bikes and riders. This time we had a Multi 950 dressed up with enduro rubber (Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR’s) on spoked tubeless rims, accompany me on the Hypermotard 939SP. While the bikes were being readied another client was returning on a Monster 1200S along with the dealer rider on a Monster 821.

 

Hypermotard 939 SP

We headed out with me riding the Hypermotard following the rider on the Multistrada 950. Ducati Hypermotard 939 right Indy DucatiBoth of these bikes have the same motor (as does the new SuperSport) albeit in slightly different tune, with the Multi having a milder cam and revised fueling for more torque. We got onto some residential back roads and the pace got hotter quickly. The lead rider was riding like a gentleman on the Multi, smooth and rapid while I was doing my absolute best to ride like a hooligan on the Hyper. I would hold back when I knew we were coming into an interesting section and play catch up through the good bit. After about 10 minutes of me doing this, the lead bike pulls over to the side of the road at an intersection and the kickstand goes down as I pull in behind. I’m thinking he’s had enough of my antics and wants me to calm down a bit, so I’m preparing myself for a telling off when he asks if I can ride the Multi back to the shop so he can get on the Hyper for a while. Alright then I think, looks like it’s game on!

 

Multistrada 950

He pulls away as I’m getting settled into the seat on the Multi. Ducati Multistrada 950 MotoADVRIt takes a second to get acquainted with the LCD dash, so I give chase, and to my utter dismay, the Multi 950 is actually a better hooligan tool than the Hyper. The Hyper is quick, light, refined with uber good brakes and suspension, but again it’s a bike that seems to be missing the raw edge I’m looking for. The Multi, on the other hand, has it all, it is just like riding the 1190 KTM but with a fewer ponies. You can’t notice you don’t cover that extra 10 feet in the first two seconds that you cover on the KTM because you’re going more than fast enough. The seat is an inch shorter (a design feature intended to encourage less experienced owners to give it a try,) so my feet are firmly planted, and you sit ‘in’ the bike whereas you are ‘on’ the Hyper. It’s just like the 1190,  the bars are wide and in just the right position to enable you to stand up any time you want and provide lots of leverage making turning easier. Ducati Multistrada 950 Right Front Andy ParkerThe other similarities are the manual fully adjustable suspension, (Sachs and Showa), no cruise, no heated grips or seat, and no lean-angle ABS, but basic traction control and tubeless spoked wheels wearing street oriented Dual Sport tires. The Multi runs 19-inch front and 17-inch rear to match its primary function of a road bike. I was having a blast pitching it into tight turns, late braking and getting on the gas while leaning off but keeping the bike upright dirt bike style. It was asking for more, and just like the 1190 it felt like the bike has enough electronic aids to stop you getting into heaps of trouble at the same time letting you believe you are capable of reaching the bike’s limits. At no time does it get out of hand, the dynamics of the relationship between bike and rider are borne out of the way the bike transmits to the rider what is going on with the tires and suspension through the footpegs, seat, and handlebars. Ducati Multistrada 950 Right Andy ParkerYou have a feeling it will let you know when you’re pushing the limits, where the 1290 and the Hyper were so composed it made you uncertain how they would react when things got tricky. In short, they felt a bit wooden because of all the safety functions as opposed to the feeling of excitement you get from the slightly less refined Multi and 1190 packages. For me this was the way I wanted to feel when riding my ‘fun’ bike. I need to feel I can reach the limits of the bikes capabilities before mine, even if I really can’t.

We got back to the shop and I felt great. The other test rider who’d been out on the Monsters earlier was still there. We chatted about the 950. I told him about the 1190, the 1290, my old Hyper, my previous Multi and how much fun the 950 was. He shook my hand and thanked me for confirming his view. They sold at least two “Silk White” Multistrada 950’s with the tubeless spoked wheels right there. It was a good day. I no longer had Orange Fever, it was cured by a healthy dose of Porcelain.


In summary, I actually believe the 950 Multi is a better bike than the 1260 Multi. It is the bike the Multi should have been all along. It’s more Ducati than most of the recent crop of bikes to come out of the Italian factory, although they are all excellent bikes in their own right. Do yourself a favor, go ride one!

Ducati Multistrada 950 Left Andy Parker

 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

6 Reasons to Attend The Dragon Raid

Triumph Scrambler Deals Gap MotoADVR

The week after Labor Day will be here before we know it; for longtime Moto Adventurer followers, you know that’s my annual week-long vacation to Deal’s Gap for The Dragon Raid motorcycle rally. This year I’m hoping to see some new adventurous faces at the rally, so I’m going to threaten y’all with a good time. Don’t have plans the week of September 10th-16th? Awesome, let me give you a few reasons to make the trip to The Dragon Raid this year:

Tail of the Dragon

The rally is held just a few short miles from the infamous section of US-129, the “Tail of the Dragon”.

US129 Gravity Cavity MotoADVR

For those unfamiliar, US-129 has 318 in the 11 miles from Tabcat bridge to Deal’s Gap, hence the menacing name of the road and the subsequent title of the rally. As many folks will tell you, US-129 through Deal’s gap is a motorcycle “must ride”. That said, some would suggest that it has become overly commercialized in recent years, and it’s not exactly everyone’s flavor of riding. Fortunately, there are a number of other great (paved) roads in the area, namely the Cherohala Skyway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina Highway 281 (NC-281), and my personal favorite, NC-28. I’ve obviously covered all of these roads in detail in the past, my point is that there are some incredible sections of twisty pavement in the area; the phenomenal roads combined with the leaves just starting to change at upper elevations makes this rally is one of the best on the east coast.

You own a Triumph (or any motorcycle for that matter…)

Bald River Falls Bikes Dragon Raid MotoADVR

Way back before I was even riding a motorcycle, Triumph actually hosted “The Dragon Raid”. When Triumph North America dialed it back in 2007 (thereabouts), the local owners group in Dayton took over the reins; a trend that continues to today. While you’ll be sure to find a great number of Triumph owners in attendance, all other brands of motorcycles are highly encouraged to attend. Considering the locale, you’re also likely to find plenty of Ducati, BMW, and KTM owners mixed in the bunch.

Convenient Access to Green Lanes

While I catalog a number of my off-road adventures here on the blog, it goes without saying that my commute to and from the trails is pretty significant as a city slicker in Dayton, Ohio.

NC Creek Crossing MotoADVR

While much of the Tennessee, North Carolina area is known for its notorious paved roads, there are a great deal of off-road opportunities nearby. In the past two years I’ve expanded my off-road adventures at the Dragon Raid, and hope to do even more this year. Getting exposed to March Moto Madness in Tellico Plains this spring showed me how expansive the forest trail system is throughout Tennessee; I’m looking forward to putting the Scrambler on even more green lanes in the coming weeks.

The Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge

Unquestionably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed, anywhere; seriously. A rustic lodge tucked back in the Stecoah valley, the Iron Horse understands motorcyclists, and has built the pinnacle of lodging for riders of every stripe (and every budget).

MotoADVR_IronHorseLodge

Again, I’ve covered this in detail in the past, but the Iron Horse has accommodations for folks that want to camp, pull an RV, stay cheap in a bunk house, get a private room, or bundle the whole deal with a few friends and share an entire cabin. Campers will appreciate the cleanest shower house I’ve seen anywhere, and needless to say I’m quite happy with pampering myself in the Lone Star Cabin where I flop each year. The Iron Horse serves breakfast every morning, and typically dinner Thursday-Saturday the week of the Dragon Raid; you literally only need to leave to ride and get gas, that’s it. Assuming you decide you don’t want to brave the elements on a rainy day, the lodge has a movie theater, game room, a day room with a projector screen, and a second day room with a flat screen to watch sports, or you can just chill in a rocking chair on the back deck and listen to the rain.

Win Prizes

This year the Dragon Raid volunteers are giving away over $3000 in prizes; it’s incredible. Every year, money collected from registration and sponsorships is rolled into an event T-shirt, stickers, and ultimately a massive collection of door prizes combined with donations from all of the sponsors. In the past I’ve taken home no less than two motorcycle jackets, hats, chain lube, koozies, and an Iron Horse mason jar. Combined with those door prizes, the Dragon Raid team also raffles off several big ticket items. The big prizes are typically premium helmets, SENA communicator dual packs, and sometimes even a set of new tires.

Win a Motorcycle

Did I mention big ticket items? Yeah, how about taking home a new bike?

Dragon Raid Triumph Scrambler

If you’ve been tuning in recently, you’ve seen my buddy Andy talking about his Scrambled Bonneville project. He actually won that bike at the Dragon Raid last year; per his comments about spending $20 on a raffle ticket, that’s all you need to invest to get a chance to take home a new bike. This year the folks running the rally have also (finally) procured a proper British motorcycle to give away. This year’s prospective winner will be taking home gorgeous 2007 Triumph Scrambler. Rumor is, Scramblers are pretty reliable, versatile, machines. Not that I know anything about that, but it’s what I hear.

Mark your calendars, register at the Dragon Raid at the link below, and give the Iron Horse a call to setup your lodging arrangements. Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Cheers!

Dragon Raid Website: http://www.thedragonraid.com/

Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge website (accommodations): http://ironhorsenc.com/

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Ride Your Motorcycle Every Day: Reflections on 365 Days in the Saddle

“While not inevitable, between work, the fact I only own one motorcycle, and the impending weather in the coming weeks, failure this year is pretty likely. Despite that… it belongs on the Moto Bucket List, whether I make it this year or not.”

  • 365 days
  • 663 hours in the saddle
  • 23,027 miles
  • 94 degrees difference between the hottest and coldest rides
  • 16 new motorcycles ridden
  • 12 quarts of oil consumed (4 more are sitting in the closet right now)
  • 8 new tires installed (9 and 10 were installed on day 370)
  • 8 States Visited
  • 6 record low temperatures
  • 6 Dayton precipitation records broken
  • 5 motorcycle rallies
  • 2 valve adjustments
  • 2 nails in the rear tire

…and 1 more challenge checked off the Moto Bucket List

Sitting on about 160 consecutive days, I penned those words in the early days of December, 2017.

Triumph Scrambler Downtown MotoADVR

It would have been a lot more prophetic had I made such a statement publicly in the closing days of 2016, but I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t expect to see day 365. After day 270 back in April, rounding third and headed for home, I still had doubts. The weather was finally on the uptick, and despite not having a major mechanical issue after weathering the January deep freeze, I still had reservations about maintaining the machine as I stared down back-to-back off-road rallies. Thus, when an unassuming Tuesday morning came around in late July, I put on my helmet and went to work like any other day; Day 365 all but completely snuck up on me.

Why

As I sit here writing this, I took the time to go back and look over the preceding blog entries about logging time in the saddle.

Icon Raiden DKR Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

I remember talking about the first 90 days, where this whole ride everyday thing just kind of materialized. I’ve been asked, “where from here?” Which in turn stirred a bit of introspection as I asked myself, why would you ride a motorcycle under such absurd conditions? Milling it over, the best answer I can surmise is that I love riding a motorcycle so much, I just wanted to ride it every day; if nothing else, just to see what it’s like. Standing here, looking back at the journey to this moment, I don’t regret the choice.

Casualties

As 54,000 miles has come and gone on Rosie the Scrambler, things are starting to wear out as she starts to show her age. Fortunately, most of these items were expected, things like indicator bulbs, drive chains, and a new clutch cable.

Rosie The Scrambler Snow MotoADVR

However, just a couple days ago I spooned on a fresh new set of tires and found the bearing on the cush-drive that’s showing the first signs of failure; that, and the spacer seals on the front wheel look really bad. During my exploits on Fincastle Road, I also cracked the seat mounting bracket on the back end of the sub-frame. For folks that haven’t been following along on Instagram, I’ve also been dealing with a leak around the output shaft; while I think I have most of this solved, the saga continues as I fear I also need to replace the gasket behind the shifter shaft. There’s also no denying that the fasteners are showing a bit of corrosion, but to my surprise, Rosie doesn’t look half as bad as I feared she would after spending so many days on the salty roads in Dayton. Three years ago, if you told me all that patina is just “character”, I would have scoffed and laughed at you. Now however, I see those blemishes as a testament to what the bike has accomplished; and frankly, considering where Rosie’s been, she’s doing well.

Reflection

After the first riding streak ended in 160 days, I was disappointed, but more concerned with getting the bike repaired than I was about missing the goal. Naturally, I patched the bike back together on a completely random Tuesday in July, which meant day 365 would land on another random Tuesday… which is exactly how it felt when the day arrived.

DCIM101GOPROG0129920.

I got dressed, I put my lunch in the saddlebag and I rode to work. Aside from a nasty grease spill that tried to throw me off the road two miles from my driveway, somewhere around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base I passed mile number 10 and the deed was done. Obviously, I was excited, however this wasn’t a race, but a test of endurance; there was no finish line, and I was actually left more with the realization that the bar had just been raised. 10 miles or more, for 365 consecutive days… it was indeed possible to ride every day in Dayton, Ohio. Riding a motorcycle through the snow, sleet, torrential rain, and suffocated by the humid midwestern summer, “the end” nearly came as a surprise. I arrived at the office almost in disbelief as I had always feared the bike would fail before I lost the drive to keep pulling on my helmet each morning.

I chose the right bike for the job. Of 365 straight days, I rode the Scrambler for 363. We missed one day because I was in Seattle riding the Ural, and another after a late afternoon of test riding and wrenching on my cousin’s FZ1, having already logged my 10 miles that day.

Triumph Scrambler Sunset MotoADVR

Every day for an entire year, Rosie the Scrambler was always ready to travel. There are many other bikes that are up to this task, but I’m still firm on my choice. Per the stats above, I received a lot of opportunities to try out other motorcycles in the past year, but in the end, I was always happy to ride away on the Scrambler. Having completed this endeavor together, the bond between man and machine has now been irreversibly forged. I’ve ridden better bikes, and undoubtedly other bikes will come along, but considering what has transpired over the last year, and what’s likely to take place in 2019, I’m not sure we could ever part ways.

The Hardest Day

This winter was unforgiving, yet still not the worst I’ve seen. A few folks have suggested I’m crazy, but I think it’s just a matter of perspective; as the snowflakes started to fall in December, I started to look forward to riding in the snow.

FEB07 Heavy Snow Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

I didn’t want to slog it out for 10 miles in 6 inches of snow, but I wanted the experience so I was prepared for when it was really bad. I deliberately took the bike out into the unplowed snow so I knew what to expect if I was ever trapped in a bad situation. Like riding in the rain, what was once intimidating became fun (at least when it was on my terms). Winter started to feel endless through March, getting ready to take the bike out each day was sometimes tiring, purely because of the dreary weather, but I admit, I always enjoyed the ride. Until that one day…

Some of you will understand, and others may not realize what you’re missing. On an otherwise beautiful Saturday in late June, I had to say good bye to my best friend.

Delilah MotoADVR

Delilah, my crafty Belgian Malinois (mix) of fourteen years, had lived a long and unbelievable life, but her time had finally come. Like being a dog lover, riding a motorcycle is a passion that many don’t understand unless they’ve experienced it for themselves. Despite the persistent winter, I enjoyed each moment in the saddle… except that day. That day, riding was empty; for ten miles, I was simply going through the motions; numb. Being able to ride everyday was incredible, but I would give it all back to play “fetch” in the back yard one more time. Fortunately, life goes on, and the passion returned, but the memory of that day is permanent.

What’s Next Indeed…

Spooning on those tires last weekend, I noticed some glaring maintenance issues that need addressed. Per my comments above, I have an oil leak that I’ve been fighting for a couple weeks now.

Triumph Scrambler Output Shaft Seal MotoADVR

I have no doubt this is the result of harsh off-road conditions, not washing the bike (because I’m lazy), and skipping over the “lighter” details of the maintenance schedule (when they say re-torque bolts, they mean it). I need to replace that bearing, a couple bearing seals, a neutral switch, a throttle cable, service the headstock bearings, and change the fork oil. Honestly, once I get the parts in hand, that’s probably only a full day’s worth of work. On Instagram, I make jokes about “always wrenching”, which is now true, simply due to mileage, but the side effect is that turning wrenches is far less intimidating than ever before. However, before I can tackle the next challenge at full-tilt, these items need to be put to bed.

That said, all of this talk about maintenance brings up dreams of upgrades. Changing that fork oil means I need to first take the forks off the bike…

Ryan Wheatley MMM MotoADVR

Since I’m already halfway there, I might as well install the +30 mm travel kit for the front end, and then go ahead and spend the cash on a set of matching +30 mm rear shocks. The suspension set up I have now is pretty decent, for the road, but after Conserve The Ride this year, I have a new goal: Race the Scrambler at an actual off-road rally. After meeting characters like Steve Kamrad and Ryan Wheatley that off-road race their street bikes, meanwhile looking back at what the Scrambler has accomplished while completely outclassed in the Kentucky Clay, I think it’s time Rosie earned a real race number.

Many have said that I should continue the streak; which at the moment I am, in fact, doing. That said, the current record is like 16 years, I think it’s unlikely that I can reach that, given my current stable of motorcycles. In addition, while I’m proud of the streak, and also enduring the finer parts of Old Man Winter’s wrath… I’m anxious to raise the bar in the endurance category. While my Saddlesore 1000 didn’t fall in the last 365 days, I’m anxious to climb the next rung on the Iron Butt Association ladder.

DCIM130GOPRO

Moreover, while completing a 1500-mile endurance ride in 24 hours or less on Scrambler is a feat in itself, I admit I want to raise the stakes in that department as well. I want to ride a Bun Burner Gold on an unconventional motorcycle. I daydream about riding from Dayton to Key West on something like a Royal Enfield Himalayan, a 250cc Super Moto, or some other sort of unorthodox machine. I don’t have any opportunities in front of me right now, but I’m unquestionably searching for a way to make this happen.

Beyond distance, endurance, and racing, I want to take my off-road riding skills to the next level.

LizIsMoto Arcadia Bark Busters NE24 Challenge

I’m not exactly sure when or how, but I want to start night riding in places like the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway. I caught Steve Kamrad’s coverage of the Northeast 24-hour challenge; watching “Team Theft Recovery” endure rain and mud all through the night, I immediately thought that looked like a great time! I’ve wanted to put together a Kentucky off-road challenge of similar scale, perhaps this is the beginning of a new challenge for Red River Scramble.


Some folks say, “If I did something every day, I think I would get bored with it.” I’ve met folks that can’t eat fast food from a given place because they used to work there. I’ve now been on a motorcycle for 535 of the last 536 days… and I already can’t wait to ride again tomorrow. Maybe I should start considering some professional help… but where’s the fun in that?

Reflections on 90 Days in the Saddle

Reflections on 180 Days in the Saddle

Reflections on 270 Days in the Saddle

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Viking Cycle Bloodaxe Leather Jacket: First Impressions

A few weeks back I got my hands on a new leather Jacket from Viking Cycle out in California. It’s still very much humid Midwestern summer here in southern Ohio, but it has managed to cool off just enough to wear this jacket on a couple rides, including my recent Fat Bob Shootout. DCIM100GOPROG0138681.I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a leather jacket for spring and fall for a long time, however, because of the price difference between leather and textile I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger. Viking’s Bloodaxe Jacket comes with CE stamped armor in the shoulders and elbows, is made from milled buffalo leather, and is priced under the $150 mark; which completely overrides my previous comment about the price delta.

I’ve been looking to upgrade my video media talents over the last few months, so I decided this leather jacket demo would be a good opportunity to try out something new. Per my comments above, I’ve had the Bloodaxe jacket in hand for a few weeks, so I put together a short “first impressions” review as a Vlog on the Moto Adventurer YouTube channel. Take a couple minutes to watch the video, and let me know what you think. Is this something you’d like to see more of?

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Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway: An Adventure Guide

Following this year’s Red River Scramble, I’ve received a number of inquiries about adventure riding opportunities in eastern Kentucky. After several attempts, I finally finished up  Mountain Springs Road (Furnace-Pilot Road) this summer, and checked the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) off the Moto Bucket List. This part of Kentucky is where my folks are from, and I want to share the best of the Bluegrass with like minded off-roaders. Thus, I figured I would publish a guide so that riders of all skill levels can better navigate their way around the Byway.

If you read the official map from Carto Tracks (Found Here), the DBBB is a continuous loop and they recommend you head west from Slade until you intersect the route and run the loop counter-clockwise. DBBB Map Prioritized 11-3-18The closest gas stations are off Bert T. Combs Parkway right there in Slade, so I agree with their suggestion; however, in the interest of “ramping up” difficulty while still riding in a loop fashion, I’m going to suggest starting just a little further south. I have created a map overlay of the DBBB, highlighting the off-road sections with a number and difficulty color code. The following descriptions speak specifically to the off-road sections, not the paved portions of the route, and reference the section numbers shown on the map. Please keep in mind, my judgement of difficulty is relative to the other sections of the DBBB; depending on what bike you are riding and your level of off-road experience, your opinion regarding the difficulty of these sections may vary. In addition to that statement, trail conditions change constantly; I have seen Pumpkin Hollow and Fincastle road in very different states because of season and the changes in recent weather. Severe weather, combined with recent jeep traffic, can drastically change the level of difficulty of a given section; please plan accordingly.

DBBB Map PDF Download

DBBB GPX Download

 

Barker Branch Road (1)

Essentially a wide gravel highway between old oil properties, Barker Branch is an easy warm-up for folks that haven’t been off-road in a while. With large sweeping curves, the well packed gravel lets folks settle into their groove and enjoy a bit of the “clifty” scenery. This section is easily suitable for all bikes and skill levels; please note, like the entirety of the DBBB, this county road is open to two-way traffic, and you are very likely to encounter large trucks driving in the opposite direction.

Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Hard Packed Gravel
Hazards: Vehicle Traffic

 

Fixer-Leeco, Lairson, Fixer, and Cave Fork Road (2)

While I really enjoy the more technical sections of the DBBB, I feel safe saying that the Fixer-Leeco string is arguably the best “bang for buck” on the DBBB. With 8 miles of all but completely unbroken gravel and dirt, this leg is also the longest continuous off-road section the Byway. Mostly gravel over hard-packed sand, the section through Fixer includes some fairly weathered but well-travelled trail, including a handful of creek crossings through more old oil property. While I consider this section “easy” under dry conditions, some of the downhill sections can become heavily rutted following summer thunderstorms. Ultimately, Fixer is a great section for newer adventure riders looking to hone their off-road skills in ruts and water before stepping up to the intermediate challenges.

DCIM126GOPRO

Difficulty: Easy (Intermediate following heavy rain)
Terrain: dirt, gravel, hard-packed sand, active creek beds
Hazards: Vehicle traffic, creek crossings, and rutted trails follow heavy rainfall

 

 

Hell Creek Road (3)

A menacing name for what is an otherwise photogenic gravel road through the forest. Hell Creek Road is another well-manicured trail, which again means you need to be mindful of two way traffic, especially along the “clifty” sections. Aside from a mild creek crossing (“Hell creek”), this section is most notable for it’s photo opportunities under a couple of substantial cliff faces.

 

Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Hard Packed Gravel
Hazards: Vehicle traffic, creek crossing, no guard rails along steep ravines

 

 

Fincastle and Old Fincastle Road (4)

While only a little over 2 miles in length, Fincastle road offers “intermediate” adventure riders a chance to test their grit. Heading downhill from Shumaker Ridge, the weather rutted trail winds along the cliff-line until it reaches the creek crossing. Walker Creek has the potential to be deep depending on season, so choose your line carefully and test the level if necessary. Potentially adding insult to injury, be prepared for the landing on the far side of the creek to be muddy from other off-roaders. Following the creek crossing, continue east “up” the hill. I don’t use the term “up” lightly, once out of the creek the trail has a steep climb up to a rock shelter, including a hair pin in the midst of slick clay and loose rocks. Once at the rock shelter, there’s another good photo op at the base of the rock field, which is arguably the most difficult part of Fincastle road; folding shift pedals and a good skid plate are recommended…

 

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Terrain: Gravel, large loose rocks, boulders, clay
Hazards: UTV traffic, creek crossings, 300 foot uphill rock field, slick conditions after recent rain

 

 

 

 

Big Andy, Lower Devil Creek, and Sandy Ridge Road (5)

A sweeping gravel farm road; stay alert on Big Andy road for locals headed back into town. Once you pass a large assembly of old oil equipment, you start down Lower Devil Creek Road. The largest water crossing on the DBBB, you end up crossing Lower Devil Creek up to three times; depending on recent weather, these creek crossings can also be considerably deep. Once on the east side of Lower Devil Creek it’s a scenic creek-side dirt road until the uphill gravel on Sandy Ridge Road and on toward Campton.

 

Difficulty: Easy (Intermediate to advanced during high water conditions)
Terrain: Gravel, dirt
Hazards: Vehicle traffic, lengthy creek crossings

 

Spaas Creek Road (6)

Looking to improve your mud riding skills? Here’s your chance. Spaas Creek road was my first exposure to the DBBB, a road I vowed to conquer. About 5 miles in length, Spaas creek lures you in with a 2 mile stretch of pristine gravel forest road, before you’re abruptly thrown into a dark muddy creek valley. Of all of the sections of the DBBB, Spaas Creek is probably the most featured on YouTube, for good reason; with over 12 creek crossings, you’ll quickly discover the creek bed is firmer than the trail. While still a legal county road, vehicle traffic outside fellow DBBB adventurers is possible, but unlikely. Folks with lighter dual-sport bikes should enjoy the terrain thoroughly, heavier ADV riders would be wise to bring aggressive tires as the trail is typically quite damp regardless of season.

Spaas Creek Mud field Tom Witt

Difficulty: Advanced
Terrain: Gravel, dirt, mud, creek beds
Hazards: Deep mud puddles (“Jeep Pits”), deep ruts, creek crossings, deep mud

 

 

Pumpkin Hollow Road (7)

Out of the skillet and into the frying pan, after a short creek side run, Pumpkin Hollow takes you back over the ridgeline and into another creek valley following a steep hill-climb. From the mud on Spaas Creek, Pumpkin Hollow brings deeper ruts in the slick Kentucky clay. On the backside of the ridgeline it’s more clay, dirt, and creek runs. Again, heavier ADV bikes may struggle depending on recent rains and tire selection.

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Terrain: Dirt, clay, creek beds
Hazards: Steep incline, deep ruts, creek crossings

 

 

Chop Chestnut Road (8)

Passing the quarry you quickly transition from gravel to sand and sandstone ledges. A little over a mile in length, this section gives riders mild exposure to loose sand depending on recent rainfall, along with larger rock obstacles, including a significant skid-plate testing downhill “stair case“. “Jeep pits” can be somewhat of a problem depending on recent weather; be mindful that many of the puddles may be significantly deeper than they appear.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Terrain: Sand, Sandstone
Hazards: Unsuspecting deep sand, sick sandstone, deep puddles, sandstone “Staircase”

 

 

Furnace-Pilot Road (9)

As the pavement of Mountain Springs Road ends at what looks like a farm driveway, Furnace-Pilot road begins (ride east through the “gate” and past the barn and continue along the GPX route, this is a legal county road). About 2.5 miles in length, Furnace-Pilot road is the culmination of the previous three sections, the most challenging section of the DBBB. Combining the mud, clay, and sand, the trail provides plenty of excitement with a “loamy” soil that makes the depth of the mud especially deceiving. Despite the short off-road section, there are a number of elevation changes made more difficult by deep ruts made by Jeep traffic. In the valleys, riders must be very cautious circumventing some of the largest Jeep pits on the DBBB, as the mud is easily 3 feet deep in some locations. Novice off-road riders and heavy adventure bikes will likely experience extreme difficulty on this section.

Difficulty: Advanced
Terrain: Dirt, Mud, Clay, Loam
Hazards: Sizable Jeep pits, significant Jeep ruts, deep mud.

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned multiple times elsewhere, the DBBB is probably my absolute favorite place to ride. Considering the local topography, and vast differences in terrain, this short 100 mile loop offers a wide range of challenges for adventurers. Furnace-Pilot Scrambler Mudhole Tom WittWith regard to difficulty, between what I have seen in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the DBBB has the most difficult obstacles I have faced (with exception of log crossings). The difficult obstacles on the DBBB are arguably “shorter” than the obstacles I saw at Conserve The Ride, however the challenges in Kentucky are more technical or larger in scale while shorter in distance. I was worn out by Option 6 in Pennsylvania, but I have literally turned around more than once in Kentucky. With regard to time, the winner of this year’s Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt at Red River Scramble finished the DBBB in 5.5 hours on a CRF250L. I however, have yet to finish an entire trip around the loop in one day on a Triumph Scrambler, and to my knowledge, the riders on larger ADV bikes at Red River Scrambler this year, also did not finish the full loop. To quote the cliché, “Your mileage may vary”…

I want to reiterate that the DBBB has been successfully traversed by yours truly on a hipster-street-fairing-novelty bike. Judicious use of the throttle and brake will get you through most obstacles, and a gnarly set of knobbies will cure a lot of ills. That said, Mother Nature is unforgiving; trail conditions change day-to-day, and even hour-by-hour in some cases. Heavy Jeep traffic is easily more destructive than heavy rain, making spring trail conditions especially challenging from what I’ve seen. When out on the trail, I always recommend using the buddy system, pack a worthy tool kit, snacks, and lots of water; when in doubt, walk obstacles before riding them, and don’t be ashamed to bypass a section and save it for later. I want as many folks as possible to enjoy the DBBB, and come back with more friends tow the next time.

DBBB Map PDF Download

DBBB GPX Download

 

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