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

 

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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

Posted in Random Blurbs, Ride Reports | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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. Considering I have not finished Mountain Springs Road (Furnace-Pilot Road), I’ve not yet checked the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) off the Moto Bucket List. However, considering I’ve now ridden 98% of the route multiple times, 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 PrioritizedThe 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 hardpacked 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

 

KY-613 (6)

613 follows the Red River from the steel bridge on KY-77 toward Indian Creek Road and Finally Spaas Creek. KY-613 DBBB MotoADVRThis section was mostly gravel until very recently, and as I write this, I fear it may have been completely paved. In previous experience, with exceptions of intermittent changes between pavement gravel and back to pavement, this section is arguably the easiest section of the DBBB, just be cognizant of inattentive drivers coming the opposite direction. If it has been paved, as I fear it has, this should just be a scenic sweeping ride along the river.

Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Gravel (Last I saw it)
Hazards: Vehicle traffic

 

Spaas Creek Road (7)

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 (8)

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 (9)

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 (10)

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.

Furnace-Pilot Jeep Pits MotoADVRDifficulty: 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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Bonneville to Scrambler in 145 Easy Steps: Part I

Almost a year ago, I found myself the proud owner of a 2008 Triumph Bonneville Black that’s seen about 34,000 miles pass under its wheels. Bonnie Black 3 Andy ParkerAs a 10-year-old, the bike was in excellent shape, and still in near-stock condition. Almost the same as when it rolled off the showroom floor, but with a few minor modifications. The two mods I was told about were a new speedometer at 7,800 miles, (the current one showed 26, xxx), and the conversion to LED “idiot” lights. Another change which was easy to spot was a pair of heavy bar-end weights, and the final visual change was the comfort seat. A change that was only detected after a ride was the 19-tooth counter sprocket at the front of the chain drive. Other than that, the Bonnie looked like a new bike.

Bonnie Black 7 Andy ParkerThe moment I rode it I knew it was going to have to up its game a bit. Like all Bonnevilles, the handlebars are weird; they cant your wrists at an odd angle and leave you with a feeling of not being completely in control of where the bike is going. The throttle is very forgiving and a bit ‘fluffy’ in terms of engine response, and there’s a black hole in the rev range just about where you’d expect things to get a bit more exciting (well as exciting as they are likely to get anyway, this is a Bonneville we’re talking about after all), and the suspension is strictly a cost saving exercise so the handing suffers as a result.

Thinking back to conversations in pubs thirty years ago about British motorcycles (which were long out of production) there was much talk about how the T120 Bonneville was a speed machine, a bike that was light and handled pretty well, it could propel you up to 100mph with very little in the way of modifications needed to make it happen. It was the preferred bike for the working-class Rocker back in the sixties and seventies and earned its brass on numerous rides from the Ace Café around the North and South Circular which skirts Central London; a fast rider could do the trip and hit the ton while doing so. It was the tool to have wherever the lads gathered to talk bikes and race on the streets.

The modern equivalent still retains the same engine configuration and even attempts to copy the look of the old unit twin that shares its name; Bonnie Black 1 Andy Parkerit does however, have the benefit of modern engineering and components. It still resembles the old bike, it shares some of the beautiful lines of the original tank shape and side panels, it has period foot pegs, levers, turn signals, fenders, chrome headlight and spoked wheels. For those who are not the wiser, it looks like a late sixties to mid-seventies motorcycle. Any Bonnie owner will tell you of the conversations at fuel stops and parking lots somewhere, that a guy will come up and ask “What year is that?” and go on about how they used to have one. To all intents and purposes the modern Bonneville is the bike that every rider wanted fifty years ago. Hell, if the old ones were anything as good as the new one we’d all be riding British steel today – The big four would never have got a foot hold and the UJM would never have been developed.

The question I had to answer was “What am I going to do this bike to sharpen it up… a lot?” First of all, do I want a Café Racer, a Tracker, a Scrambler, a Brat, or a Motard look? A few days and nights perusing the interweb and the answer was pretty clear in my mind. Although I already had two bikes, a new Monster 1200S, and a newish liquid cooled boxer, the R1200GS, a third motorcycle wouldn’t be too many and could easily find a home between the other two. Bonnie Black 2 Andy ParkerThe monster was used for ripping up and down the Natchez Trace and riding too fast on any twisty road I could find around Middle Tennessee. The GS was my long haul mule that also let me get away with mild road off-road diversions on forest roads and nature trails. However, the GS was too heavy for serious mud, deep water or rock-strewn trails, so the question really was about “What’s the real use this new bike is going to see?” It was never going to be able to out-perform the Monster in any of its strong areas like power, handling, braking, ride quality, or even the aggressive good looks of the Italian superbike, so there was no point trying to go Café Racer when the 1200 was at home. I thought about just keeping the Bonnie as-is but ditching the Secondary Air Injection and investing in better pipes, a jet kit, free flowing filter, better handlebars, and some proper suspenders to make it a bit sportier, but if I was going to do all work it might as well have a theme.

Having ridden the GS along the Tennessee Dirt Devil and around Land-Of-The-Lakes a few times where the surfaces vary from hard packed dirt to gravel to muddy patches, puddles, dirt strewn with pea gravel and even some shallow river crossings, I learned the bike was very capable but I would need more dirt oriented tires to really get up some speed and the confidence to slide the back around and hop the front over bigger rocks. Ultimately I was not prepared to do that given the BMW’s primary job of hauling me out west or as the last trip, up to Maine.

I needed an old-style trail bike; so I started off with the intent to create just that, a hybrid Scrambler/Commuter that had a responsive throttle, enough power and gearing to rip away from lights or spin up the back wheel on dirt, and still be authentic to the styling cues of the modern Bonnie. I sat down and drew up a list of things I’d like to upgrade, remove, replace, or modify. It turned into about three strings of lists that were pretty much all dependent on a previous step to get the max return on the investment. Take the Air and Fuel system as an example; if I wanted a more responsive throttle I needed to change the jetting, which meant I probably needed a new air filter, and a new snorkel, and that meant if I was going to do that I might as well do a new pipe at the same time. Then there was the Tail Tidy; that meant new turn signals, and a new rear light, which led to a front turn signal relocation bracket, an R&R and Horn relocation bracket, and an Ignition Switch relocation bracket which in turn led to a new gauge bracket with integrated Ignition Switch, and new headlamp brackets. Bonnie Black MotoADVRThe shortest list was new tires, new bobbed front fender, sump guard, and fork gaiters. At the end of the list compilation with the cost of the suspension upgrade at the rear, and the progressive springs in the forks, the list for the build was over the actual value of the bike, that being close to around $4,000. Luckily the bike had only cost me $100 in raffle tickets, $1.13 in TN taxes and $29 in title fees. I started searching for parts and looking at websites regarding jetting on the 865 motors. The build list would have been significantly more if I had bought all the parts needed but I had a good stash of parts from a previous Bonnie I’d briefly owned, and a whole host of parts I’d bought for other projects and not used.

Within a month I’d decided things weren’t getting done whilst internet browsing, so I dug in and started with some basics. I got the bike up on the stand and took off the front and rear wheels to have Shinko 705’s fitted. I pulled off the seat, the tank, the side panels, fenders, and finally the carbs. They were nice and clean. I’d ordered a Dynojet kit, a Sprint air filter, a pair of carb boots, a TTS air funnel, and I’d decided to go with the TEC 2-1 Desert High Pipe, which also meant new side panels were needed. The rectifier and horn were relocated, and the new turn signals fitted with the Tail Tidy.

After three attempts at pilot and main jet combinations and DynoJet springs I couldn’t get the bike to perform well. I went back to Square one. Bonnie Black 4 Andy ParkerSome more fiddling and reading of tried and tested combinations and I arrived at 2.75 turns out for the air screw, OE pilot jets, OE springs and needles, with a DynoJet 112 main jet (Keihlin equiv 122.5). The bike idled nicely on and off choke, pulled hard up to redline with no flat spot on either partial or full open throttle, and the engine braking improved, it backfired occasionally, and ripped forward again as soon as you got on it. The plugs are a nice color and it sounds awesome with baffles in (although they are drilled a bit…), but without the baffles you’re saying, ‘What did you say?” a lot.

To Be Continued…

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2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob: The Softail-Dyna Throwdown

 

Dyna Fat Bob RF MotoADVR

Way, way back in my early riding days, a guy I worked with told me to go take a ride and handed me the keys to his motorcycle, a 2008 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob. That bike was the very first Harley I ever rode. Since then, I’ve spent quite a bit of time on multiple Sportster platforms, along with a few test rides on the Twin-Cam Softail and touring models, but I’ve simply missed any opportunities to ride another Dyna.

Late last year Harley dropped down nine new models powered by the new Milwaukee Eight power plant. Subsequently, Harley also dropped the bomb on some of the rank-and-file faithful, binning the lauded Dyna frame in favor of an all new Softail chassis. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob right MotoADVRLooking over the new 2018 models, I was immediately drawn to the Fat Bob. I full well understand that the stat sheet is completely uncoupled from what makes a good motorcycle; however, based on all the trimmings I could see via the interwebs, this new Fat Bob seemed poised to be a contributing force of change in the realm of American made motorcycles.

But what about the Fat Bob of yore; the first Harley I ever rode? Aside from robust torque coming out of the basement, my memory of that ride is unfortunately pretty fuzzy at this point. There’s no question my taste in riding has evolved considerably since then and I have to admit, I really don’t have a dog in this Dyna-versus-Softail fight. However, considering the internet commentary about “Dyna betrayal”, I want to know how these two bikes compare. As it turns out, Powder Keg Harley-Davidson happened to have both flavors of the Fat Bob in stock and offered me a test ride session.

2015 Dyna Fat Bob

Dyna Fat Bob Powder Keg HD MotoADVRThrowing a leg over the familiar Twin-Cam Fat Bob, I found it difficult to not compare the Fat Bob to my old Speedmaster. Yes, very dissimilar engines and of course the details are different, but there’s no denying that the basic blueprint of the bikes is the same. The overall seating position certainly feels familiar to me, the swept drag bars and feet forward position was also reminiscent of my former Triumph mount.

Out on the road, I settled into the saddle and realized it was surprisingly comfortable considering I typically prefer a more neutral seating position these days. Dyna Fat Bob seat MotoADVRIt took me a minute to get acclimated to a new set of forward controls, but after a few stop signs I managed to find the pegs consistently. Getting more comfortable through a few of the curves, I will say that the seat on the Dyna felt head and shoulders above my old ride, as far as tooling around town is concerned. I really liked how you sit more in the saddle along with a back pad that keeps you from sliding off the bike under hard acceleration.

Late last fall I took the new Road Glide, fitted with the Milwaukee Eight, for a test ride. Immediately after, I took the previous generation 103 Twin-Cam Heritage Softail for a spin. Dyna 103 Twin Cam MotoADVRThe difference between the two engines, let alone the bikes, was virtually night and day. I feared that experience might overshadow my impression of the Dyna Fat Bob. Quite the contrary; for whatever reason the 103 in this 2015 Fat Bob felt more stout compared to the ‘16 Heritage I took for a spin. I suspect the aftermarket Vance and Hines pipes didn’t hurt the performance specs, all I know is that this Fat Bob had plenty of giddy-up. Just leaving the parking lot I was impressed by the stereotypical Harley-Davidson pull from idle.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a rubber mounted Harley; the vibration wasn’t quite as jarring as I expected it to be. It was quite evident at stop lights (even more so from the frame-mounted camera), but from the rider perspective, it felt more docile out on the road. I did find it a bit annoying at low RPM, but it mostly disappears when you start to spin it up in the curves.

Dyna 103 Primary MotoADVRShifting through the gears, the Twin-Cam transmission was smooth and predictable. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Twin-Cam without the authoritative “clunk!” of gear engagement with each shift. As the riding got sporty, transitions were easy without missed shifts or false neutrals. Speaking of neutral, the 103 actually likes to find neutral when asked, unlike a lot of other bikes I’ve ridden; my Scrambler is no exception (even after 50k miles).

 

Somewhere in the early evolution of my riding career I felt like the big twin Harley clutch pull required excessive effort. I will say, on an old Sportster, that is true, however the lever action on the 103 Fat Bob is virtually the same as my Scrambler. The lever, however, is unquestionably sized to handle the most ham-fisted among us.

After years on the Speedmaster, I feared the classic twin shocks on the Dyna would be of similar caliber. Dyna Fat Bob RR qtr MotoADVRThe MoCo’s shocks weren’t so bad, a bit harsher than I’d like, but better than I expected; easily better than the Speedmaster’s shocks on its best day. The front forks would naturally receive the same scrutiny; front end dive, while present, was reasonable considering the heavier bike and aggressive maneuverability (for its class). Ultimately, I was impressed how hard I could pull the lever under hard braking; the springs were stiffer than I expected, a testament to the Fat Bob’s rank in the Dyna lineup.

Dyna Fat Bob front brakes MotoADVRSpeaking of that brake lever pull, dual front disk on a bike with forward controls was a welcome addition for me. I believe the dual front disk exacerbated the front-end dive, but lever input required was very minimal. I actually felt like I had more brakes than I had tire (three-year-old stock Dunlops). I suspect with alternate tire selection and progressive springs the Dyna Fat Bob has the potential to be quite sporty, stocky front tire and all.

The rear brake on the other hand… that’s different story. I’m not sure what description is most accurate, but I suppose “wooden” will suffice. Pulling up to several stoplights I kept asking myself if I should put more input to the rear brake pedal… “Never mind… I locked it up just now”. Right or wrong, I tend to use a little rear brake headed into the curves to trim the line up a little tighter on a bulky cruiser. I was pretty timid about putting much pressure on the Dyna’s rear brake, for fear of locking it up mid-turn and dealing with the calamity that would follow.

Dyna Fat Bob controls MotoADVRPutting the Fat Bob through its paces along the hairpins outside Kings Mills, I also found the Fat Bob’s lean angle better than I anticipated. Riding the Heritage Softail last fall, the floor boards touched down on the pavement alarmingly early; comparably, the Dyna was much more apt to carve a clean line around the hair-pins with effort akin to my former Trumpet. It was nice being able to throw the Fat Bob through the corners a bit harder; but I was still a bit timid pushing the envelope on the bigger cruiser.


After 7 years and many miles on different motorcycles, I expected the ride characteristics of the namesake “fat” front tire to irritate me; especially after so much time riding with the larger hoops on dual-sport bikes. Dyna Fat Bob FR qtr MotoADVRI’ve been curious as of late, what’s with the popularity of the fat front tire, particularly on cruisers? To my surprise, I really didn’t find anything to fuss about out on the road. As a guy who doesn’t know better, it felt to me like the bike had better resistance from tracking imperfections in the roadway; quite contrary to the skinny spoked wheel on my trusty Scrambler. While at the same time, the turn-in was not as crisp as I would expect from modern adventure bikes, but the chunky fat tire held the line well, even when higher demands were asked of it.

Pulling back into the lot, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed myself after giving up cruisers back in 2016. Having been on several Harleys in recent months, the Dyna Fat Bob managed to stir the soul a little; a much more playful machine than I expect it to be.

 

2018 Softail Fat Bob

Forget everything I just told you… well… most of it.

2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob RR side MotoADVR

By definition, one of my gripes about cruisers is forward controls; insult to injury, I often find it cumbersome to manipulate the brake and shift pedals accurately when the pace hastens. What if you could have the best of both worlds? Forward controls with levers that are properly positioned for sufficient tomfoolery. Dropping into the saddle on the Softail Fat Bob, I was immediately impressed by the ergonomics. At 5’10” and 185 pounds, the Fat Bob fits like it was designed specifically for me. I’m in the bike, securely, closer to the bars, in total control of the machine. If I close my eyes, everything is within reach. The controls, intuitively placed. Yes, this Fat Bob has forward controls, yet they behave more like “mids” as the placement is higher and closer to the rider than the preceding Dyna.

2018-Harley-Davidson-Fat-Bob-Neighborhood-MotoADVR.jpgLetting the clutch out, putting my feet up on the pegs, as I left the parking lot I was struck by the commanding feeling provided by the wide bars. My hand placement on the bars felt natural and this new Softail Fat Bob felt even more nimble from go. Similar to the bars, it is unmistakable, my feet felt closer to the seat than former cruisers I’ve ridden; again, instilling confidence to maneuver the machine rather than just glide and participate. Turning onto the main roads, rolling on the throttle, wow… That engine…

How does one best describe the Milwaukee Eight to someone that rides a Twin-Cam? More power… Everywhere. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Milwaukee Eight MotoADVRThere’s no question, the most outstanding difference between the Dyna Fat Bob and the new Softail is the power plant. The Milwaukee Eight mill is rev-happy, begs to be flogged, and pulls steady to the red line. Exactly what I want from a twin cylinder engine. Beyond power, there’s also a big difference in the engine character. Similar to the outgoing Softails, the new Fat Bob’s M8 mill is hard mounted and counter balanced. However, as advertised, the M8 V-twin vibration is still present; offering depth and personality to the engine, without being offensive.

2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob 107 Primary MotoADVRPicking up the gear shifter with my toe, the M8 transmission, like its predecessor, is again authoritative, yet with more refinement and precision. The new gearbox is equally smooth, meanwhile “deliberate” in its execution. Impressed by the Milwaukee Eight’s torque band, I purposely short shifted the bike a few times; lugging the engine. Regardless of speed, the M8 pulls confidently in all the gears except 6th. That’s reassuring as a bike that feels so aggressive on the backroads also has a tall 6th gear to keep you comfortable on the expressway.

While I was impressed by the feeling of dual front disc on the preceding Fat Bob, I found the new Softail’s front binders even more exceptional. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob RR Qtr MotoADVRI spent most of the test ride using no more than two fingers on the brake lever; inducing confidence sufficient to do quite a bit of trail braking through the curves, simultaneously on the brakes and the throttle. On the back end, the rear brake actually had feedback and range; quite the contrast to its predecessor. That range wasn’t especially plentiful, but predictable and most importantly, usable. I did manage to lock it up (deliberately) approaching a stop sign; it behaved as expected (or better) for a heavy weight cruiser. I didn’t notice until reviewing my test ride photos, this new Fat Bob has a floating rear rotor, unlike the fixed rotor on the outgoing model. I admit, it’s unlikely this is the cause for such improved function, but I suspect it’s still a contributing factor.

It’s tough to speak intelligently about the suspension on the new Fat Bob, or at least in an entertaining way. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Front Brakes MotoADVRA new chassis with a rear mono-shock and upside down from forks… let’s suffice to say, it’s just better. The bike feels less disturbed by potholes, manhole covers, and other imperfections on the roadway; while it’s simultaneously more confidence inspiring when things get twisty. The rear end feels a shade more plush, yet doesn’t wallow through the curves. The front end, softer than the Dyna front forks, dives a little harder under braking, but is more adept at handling the same urban road challenges while somehow also permitting a more spirited pace.

With the revision of the Softail frame, new rear shock, wide bars, and upside down front forks, the steering is crisp and accurate. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Controls MotoADVRThe Fat Bob lures you into the curves with haste, where it incessantly begs for more winding backroads. I will also note the steering input on this new Fat Bob is much different than almost any bike I’ve ridden on before. This bike will not fall into the corners; the tip-in is instinctive, requiring minimal effort, and maintaining lean attitude is natural. What’s different is that once the bike has leaned over and begins to track through the corner, as you push the bars further, they demand a little more effort to increase the lean;2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Right Bank MotoADVR the bike actually wants to stand back up as you approach the maximum lean angle. I don’t consider this a flaw, I just find it an interesting characteristic of the bike’s handling; something I assume is attributed to a more aggressive rake and the combination of a wider front tire. I found the clutch pull to be on par with the Fat Bob of yore. I love to shift gears, especially when riding gets energetic; I like to keep the needle in the heart of the power band. After hitting the best local twisties, I wasn’t at all taxed after spirited riding on this more capable Fat Bob.

 

 

Fit and finish is also notably better; I agree it’s tough to improve on Harley-Davidson’s reputation for finished quality, but it has been done. Again, more precision and attention to detail, yet tastefully, and in conjunction with modern technology. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob broadside MotoADVRIt goes without question that I love the subdued paint and overall blacked out treatment. While I feel the subdued styling has grown in popularity, in this case it’s a tasteful evolution of both the Fat Bob and Harley-Davidson as a whole. Obviously, Harley has been doing the “blacked out” dark custom series for some time, but the entire Softail lineup is more subdued than previous generations of Harley-Davidsons. The latest iteration of the Fat Bob has also corrected the “bobbed” rear fender that I hated on the post-2013 taillight setup. What looked like a modern art afterthought, the former slash-cut rear fender seemed at odds with the otherwise classic look of the muscular Harley cruiser. The new Softail nails the “bobbed” motif by exposing the rear tire, concealing the rear brake light, while tastefully incorporating the (DOT required) rear fender.

 

The Verdict

To the Dyna faithful, I’m sorry, this new Softail Fat Bob is simply better than its predecessor… in every way. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Powder Keg HD MotoADVRStock bike to stock bike, I might give you a little leeway by saying the factory front springs are a hair firmer on the outgoing model; so the front-end dive feels a bit more noticeable. On the flip-side, I’ll make the argument that the front binders are better, and the new front end is more compliant for city riding where the asphalt is often less than ideal (especially here, well north of the Mason-Dixon Line). In a world where the factory pipes are often ditched from the jugs back, a few dollars for a new set of springs is small price to pay for a machine this refined.

I admit, I may have some beef about the rear jug’s head cover and its close proximity to my thigh. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Right Head Cover MotoADVRDespite the advancements in the Milwaukee Eight mill, that engine still gets pretty warm in your nether regions when you’re crawling up the tank when the riding intensity clicks up a notch. That said, for the average Joe, that’s probably a rare occasion, and Harley has made “deflectors” for the touring models in the past; it’s only a matter of time before an aftermarket solution is available. This situation is actually caused by the size reduction of the fuel tank; something else I might nitpick. Personally, I would rather have the extra gas, however I will accept argument that the range is comparable to outgoing models and the target audience doesn’t insist on additional range. I will also concede, the narrow fuel tank does let you tuck in pretty tight on this bike when you start hustling along the bendy tarmac. Which I expect I would be doing a lot of, if this new Fat Bob came home to live with me.

Personally, I find the most important factor in this comparison is how the different bikes feel, and which one puts the bigger smile on your face. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob left Bank MotoADVRThe Softail Fat Bob with its new Milwaukee Eight is a real gas. Much more lively than its predecessor, the new Softail chassis requires so little effort to maneuver. I can’t get over how it just lures you into bends, as I was continuously surprised by how fast I was approaching the next curve, and yet felt confident negotiating the corners at speed. Looking back at the 103 Twin-Cam, the M8 engine character feels slightly more mechanical, but as a whole, the entire machine is just more “precise”, leaving the Dyna feeling lethargic and dated by comparison. The Dyna was a fun bike to ride, but the Softail Fat Bob had me giggling in my helmet from the moment I left the parking lot.

 

Why you should consider a Softail Fat Bob

When considering the purchase of a new motorcycle, there are unquestionably those that have removed Harley-Davidson from their list because they only offer “cruisers”. I will contend that if you look at the stat sheet, that might be a true statement. However, per other public comments I’ve made, the Motor Company has made significant strides in recent years to blur the lines between “Cruiser” and “Standard”; first with the 2016 Roadster, and now with the Fat Bob.

2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob RF Qtr MotoADVRWith quasi-forward controls, the Fat Bob may fall into the category of cruiser, but I will argue that these forward controls are the most commanding of any I’ve experienced. Yes, if you insist on a sport bike or sport naked, this bike is (probably) not for you. However, if you’re turning away from a life of clip-ons and triple digits, I think you may be surprised by what you’ll find at your local Harley Dealer.

On the other side of the spectrum, shoppers on touring bikes that simply don’t ride long distance anymore and want to take advantage of a chassis with a little more poke, the Fat Bob should be on your list. As part of the Softail line, there will be alternative bolt-on luggage solutions for those less frequent long trips you do take, while offering a more lively alternative for your morning commute and weekend adventures.

It goes without saying, with the modern advancements of the new chassis, more modern strokes were utilized in the styling. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Headlight Powder Keg MotoADVRI understand that the face of the new Fat Bob is probably a bit… polarizing for some; especially the rank and file Harley enthusiast. Fear not, I also took a short spin on the new Sport Glide while out and about with the Fat Bob; I will tell you, it too is more energetic than its Twin-Cam ancestors. If aesthetics takes priority over raw performance in your world, I recommend you consider the Low Rider, Softail Slim, or perhaps the Heritage Classic (with the 114 of course).

To the Dyna faithful, the “Soft-Tail” moniker is a misnomer. The MoCo failed to call me when evaluating names for this new line of motorcycles, and I agree with other comments I’ve heard; 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob reflection MotoADVRperhaps a different title would have been prudent for this redesigned chassis. What was once the “low and slow” classic relaxed staple of the Milwaukee fleet, now includes several rowdy siblings. Certainly there is little argument between new versus used, however if you’re completely distraught about the fact you can’t purchase a new Dyna, I suggest you book a test ride and see for yourself before you pass judgement. If I’m wrong, I anxiously await your argument in the comment section below.

 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Conserve The Ride 2018: New Friends and New Adventure

3:53 PM, Saturday, June 9th

CTR Tailbag empty overlook MotoADVR

I pull into a gorgeous overlook on the side of the mountain as we wait for Bryan to catch up. I take a knee and snap a photo. Walking around the Scrambler I notice my tail bag has flopped over the side of the bike, wide open. It’s now empty with exception of my electrical tools. “Hmm… lost my rain jacket… certainly Rosie won’t curse me for the ride home tomorrow”

07:00 AM, Sunday June 10th

Squinting, head pounding, I wake to the sound of rain beating on the tent like I’ve never experienced before… Like clockwork, Rosie is the Rainmaker.

Friday, June 8th

16:50 PM

I Roll into Woodward Cave Campground in search of the registration table that’s supposed to close in 10 minutes.

16:52 PM

Recognize Steve Kamrad, ask him where I can find the registration booth. He gives me a funny look, then spots the snorting warthog and realizes he’s talking to @MotoADVR. I realize this same thing happened to me at March Moto Madness, apparently I should take more selfies…

16:58 PM

Get signed in for the rally, grab my event T-shirt, sticker, and register in the “Intermediate” group.

18:15 PM

Join rider meeting hosted by Jeremy, president of Alt Rider. He covers a lot of good tips for all levels of adventure riders.

19:20 PM

Get hot chow, break bread with new (awesome) people, drink free beer from the keg. Still have no idea who I’m riding with tomorrow…

Saturday, June 9th

06:45 AM

Head hurts… should have drank more water.

07:30 AM

Morning rider meeting; meet up with Matt and Bryan from Gear Patrol. Join their intermediate” group.

07:45 AM

Get my crap on and get ready to ride.

07:46 AM

Bike is dead… “not this again.

07:55 AM

Lemmy gives me a push.

07:56 AM

Lemmy gives me another push, tells me to throw my weight down on the back wheel when I let the clutch out.

7:57 AM

Bike is now running. Note to self, don’t stall while riding off-road today… no pressure.

9:26 AM

Pennsylvania Amish country is gorgeous!

CTR Opt 1 Overlook Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

9:29 AM

Navigation seems to be going well.

CTR Navigation MotoADVR

9:32 AM

Oh, Hello Option 3, how did I miss Option 2?

9:33 AM

Fall in behind Steve, Spurgeon, and the REV’IT women’s team headed into Option 3

9:46 AM

This “wide” single-track-esque shale trail thing is awesome!

10:02 AM

Stop at a bend on option 4, met by significant log. Fortunately there’s a ramp.

10:03 AM

See big adventure bike get stuck on log.

CTR Opt 4 KTM stuck on log

10:04 AM

Can’t wuss out in front of the Rev’It girls… Flog the warthog and go for it.

10:07 AM

After feeling like a hero, Jeremy and Lemmy blast past me on the trail.

10:47 AM

Skip option 5, speed down the main loop for option 6.

11:20 AM

Bridge out. Make U-turn.

11:47 AM

Wow this main loop is long…

11:58 AM

Find Option 6, let’s do this!

CTR Opt 6 boney trail 2 MotoADVR

12:16 PM

At the rider’s meeting someone described the trails in Pennsylvania as “Boney”. Yeah… that’s pretty accurate.

Boney Trail Framecam MotoADVR

12:30 PM

Running late for lunch, we better hustle.

12:41 PM

See a KTM on the side of the road. Ask the dude if he’s good; get the universal thumbs down.

12:42 PM

Turn the bikes around to help; Brian (The Dude) says it’s like his second flat today.

12:45 PM

Pull my patch kit out of the world’s largest Scrambler tool tube; Jeremy from Alt Rider rolls up.

12:50 PM

Jeremy helps swap a new tube while I patch the now “spare” punctured tube and we sacrifice a 3rd tube to keep the steel belts from puncturing yet another tube.

12:54 PM

Jeremy spoons on tires faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.

1:27 PM

I think lunch was Mexican, I only remember the chocolate cake brownies (I left Lemmy the crumbs).

2:01 PM

Back on the main loop, skip option 7 and take press photos of the Husqvarna 701.

Husqvarna 701 woods MotoADVR

2:15 PM

Debate feasibility of “adventuring” to and from the DBBB with before mentioned Husky.

2:19 PM

Still on main trail, “Wait… where’s Bryan?” “Matt, did he run out of gas?”

2:21 PM

Brian Rolls up. “Oh, bug in the helmet, yeah that sucks…”

2:49 PM

Option 8, hey, I think we went the wrong way.

2:54 PM

Okay, Option 8 for real this time; mud… oh yeah, now we’re talking!

Puddle Splash Framecam MotoADVR

2:59 PM

BMW F650 does me a favor and locates the boulder in a rut.

3:01 PM

Inform Gunner (BMW rider), we can’t break the golden rule of adventure riding: if everyone is okay, take photos before picking up the motorcycle.

3:07 PM

This is my favorite option!

3:12 PM

Stop to help Bryan adjust the controls on his bars.

3:38 PM

Back on the main loop for some sweet flat-track riding.

3:53 PM

Lost Bryan in rearview mirror again, stop at nice overlook.

CTR Tailbag empty overlook MotoADVR

3:54 PM

Bryan rolls up moments later after digging yet another bug out of his goggles.

3:55 PM

Notice tail bag is lopped over the back of the Scrambler.

3:56 PM

Sigh as remember not closing the tail bag after helping Bryan on option 8. Assume my rain gear, air compressor and jumper cables are scattered across the trail.

4:16 PM

Run option 8 backwards in search of stuff.

4:27 PM

Ride past the scene of the crime… nothing to be found. “The ride home is sure gonna be an adventure…”

4:34 PM

Spot Matt and Bryan getting set up at the end of the trail for a photo.

4:35 PM

Hit mud puddle harder than any puddle Rosie has hit before.

4:36 PM

Water blasts up my riding pants getting stuck in the rain gutter just long enough to empty directly into my boots.

4:37 PM

Worth it.

4:49 PM

Running late now after looking for gear, burn it down the main loop for camp.

CTR Tree lines MotoADVR

5:01 PM

Stop at tent. Drop off (what’s left of) my crap. A guy walks up carrying my rain gloves and jumper cables. It’ll suck without my rain jacket, but I at least someone found my rain gloves!

6:10 PM

Grab my bottle of Bulleit Rye and head over to Bryan and Matt for a celebratory drink.

6:15 PM

We meet up with the Steve, the Rev’It women’s team, and the Revzilla crew and discuss the finer parts of the day’s ride.

6:32 PM

After the previous day’s carnage, talk to Steve about how his Tiger is holding up.

6:34 PM

Someone points out that Steve’s forks look bent.

Revzilla Crew MotoADVR

6:36 PM

Despite the aftermarket accessories (zip-tied dash board, “streamlined” windscreen, rally paint, and cracked frame)… I offer Steve $100 for his Tiger 800.

6:37 PM

Somehow end up riding said Tiger to “test” the front end.

6:42 PM

Return from test ride. Drop Steve’s Tiger on the ground (cheap aftermarket kickstand spring). Offer Steve $120 for his “Race Bike”.

~7:30 PM

Get dinner; enjoy free beer from the keg.

~9:30 PM

Jeremy proceeds to pour out my beer, hands me a drink.

~9:31 PM

I’m going to regret this later…

~10:30 PM

Light cigar and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow adventurers.

11:59 PM

Stumble back to my tent. Feel a light sprinkle begin to fall.

Sunday, June 10th

7:00 AM

Woken by to the sound of rain pouring down… head throbbing. “Rosie is like a Marvel Superhero… if Deadpool was a superhero…”

7:10 AM

An hour before breakfast is served, start packing everything in the tent. Slam 2 Gatorades, glad I had the forethought to set those out last night.

8:10 AM

Eat breakfast under the campground shelter. Wane off hangover. Procrastinate… waiting to see if rain slows down. (It doesn’t)

8:45 AM

Andy offers me a rain jacket. I accept out of desperation; seriously concerned about experiencing hypothermia on the ride home.

9:10 AM

Walk back to shelter, about to drag tent beneath shelter to finish packing the bike.

9:16 AM

Notice my rain jacket and air compressor sitting on a table.

9:30 AM

Thank Andy for using his good karma to signal a gift from the motorcycle gods; return his jacket.

10:46 AM

Finally head west into the monsoon.

Rainy Ride Home MotoADVR

11:01 AM

Take it easy to Amish country, it’s harder to dodge horse manure in the rain.

CTR Ride Home MotoADVR

12:15 PM

Highway disappears a few times between the rain and fog along I-99 through the mountains.

12:44 PM

Stop at a gas station for some coffee and hope the rain clears out a little.

2:48 PM

Finally get a little sunshine on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.

Greater Pittsburgh train bridge MotoADVR

4:14 PM

Sick of the interstate, and now getting rained on again near the Ohio border.

5:19 PM

Exhausted. I Pull into a Sheetz near Cambridge, Ohio, for gas and rest. I kick down the side-stand, and slowly climb off the scrambler. I notice oil spattered all over the back half of the frame and saturating the transmission case. “…over 320 days in the saddle. I hope this isn’t the deal-breaker…”

Triumph Scrambler Oil Leak MotoADVR

8:21 PM

Finally roll into the driveway after 9 hours and 434 miles. Rosie is still bleeding on the frame, but the oil level is still within spec. “Looks like I have something to do next weekend…”

Reflections on Conserve The Ride

Conserve the Ride is an amazing event, a “must do” for aspiring adventure riders here on the east coast.

Gear Patrol Enterage MotoADVR

Having just held Red River Scramble in Kentucky the weekend prior, the similar passion among attendees at the two rallies was impressive. Per comments I’ve made elsewhere, the adventure community is full of the nicest motorcyclists you would ever meet; each with their own unique thirst for off-road adventure, and all willing to give you the shirt off their back to get you back on the road when calamity strikes. In my case that was literally about to take place when I lost my gear. In a strange coincidence, it was Brian, the guy I helped with a flat right before lunch, that actually found my gear and returned it to me.

Conserve the Ride is set up in a way that it welcomes first time off-road adventurers to Appalachia with a well-manicured, scenic, gravel route through Bald Eagle State Park, while still offering more challenging optional off-road sections to more advanced riders.

CTR Main Loop Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

Each of the options dumps riders back onto the main loop, that way if riders realize they need a break or have had their fill of “adventure” for one day, they can take the difficulty down a few notches and make is back to camp safely. Per Jeremy’s comments at the rider meeting, it’s not necessarily that the challenges have surpassed the skill level, it’s mostly that riders get exhausted and start making poor decisions in latter portions of the ride. With the “main loop” system, riders can take a break when they need to, or they can just stick to the main loop and enjoy the Pennsylvania mountain vistas and some really nice winding gravel roads.

I also want to thank Alt Rider and especially the Seven Mountain Conservation Corps (SMCC) for making this event possible.

Option 3 ATV Gate MotoADVR

The SMCC is a 501C3 Non-profit that works with the local Department of Natural Resources to keep these trails open for the enjoyment of motorcyclists. Access to trails is a problem that I’m all too familiar with, as I’m sure many motorcyclists here on the east coast are as well. On Saturday night, Alt Rider auctions off some really hot gear to support the SMCC’s mission. Considering the cause, the new relationships that have been forged, and the incredible riding, there’s no doubt the Conserve The Ride will be on my event calendar again next year.

Oh, and for those not keeping up on Instagram, Rosie unfortunately still has a leak, despite my efforts to get it fixed. More parts are on order, but we’re limping along, still riding every day.

 

Steve Kamrad’s recount of Conserve The Ride

Lemmy’s Conserve The Race

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