What is the Perfect Motorcycle Ride?

Last weekend I rolled up to Ada, Ohio (think cornfields… lots of cornfields…), for the Run 4 Your Life (R4YL) ride. That event took me from Ada, over to Coshocton County (OH) and then on to Fayetteville, West Virginia. I knew from the get-go that the trip home from West Virginia was going to be a long one, and there was no way I was going to punish myself with a lengthy trip up US-35 so I laid out a series of nice rural Appalachian roads from Fayetteville, on to Morehead, Kentucky, and on home.

Tent Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

Sunday morning I rolled up my single-man tent and stuffed it along with my sleeping bag into the tail bag and got loaded up for the long trip home. I topped off the tank at the local Sheetz on the south end of Fayetteville, and after a couple breakfast burritos it was nine hours of backroad touring; all by my lonesome.

 

I was immediately treated by steep elevation changes, switchbacks, and blind curvesDCIM134GOPRO along West Virginia Highway 16 and even parts of US-60 before settling into wide sweepers and scenic views through the mountain valleys along the Kanawha River. I had just said that I was looking forward to getting back to West Virginia, and this was unquestionably why. The pavement around the New River Gorge area has been all but immaculate in my experience, and the curves rival those I have encountered around Deal’s Gap.

DCIM134GOPRO

From the more docile river bends of US-60 I moved on to a spirited section of West Virginia Highway 3 before moving on to US-119. Highway 3 was another splendid taste of bendy West Virginia two-lane, unfortunately short lived as I soon found myself on the four-lane stretch of US-119 for many miles. 119 is very reminiscent of US-25E through Tennessee, also posted with a 65 mph speed limit but lined with wall to wall Smoky Mountains for as far as the eye can see. What it doesn’t have in technicality, it makes up for with a majestic vista.

Zipping down US-119, Snapping a few photos with my GoPro and watching the mountains pass by in the distance I was hit with the thought, if there was such a thing as a perfect ride… what would it be?

That thought stuck with me for quite a while. After a gas stop in Chapmanville (WV), I soon found myself on US-52. I’m obviously familiar with 52 as it runs along the Ohio River near Cincinnati; while not as challenging as I’d like, 52 in the Mountaineer State is head and shoulders above the gentle bends south of the Queen City. Leaving West Virginia behind, I crossed the Big Sandy River into Louisa, Kentucky. While I was excited to revisit the luscious curves of the West Virginia mountain roads, I admit that I was equally excited about leaving civilization behind and exploring some of the most rural Kentucky two-lane I’ve seen on the map to date.

DCIM135GOPRO

Back in “The Motherland”, Kentucky Highway 3 twisted along Appalachian foothills as it delivered me to Kentucky Highway 1. While not the most remote Kentucky backroad I’ve traversed, I did find the highway numbering scheme a bit dubious considering how deep in the backwoods the “1st” highway seemed to feel. From the 1 it was a series of three digit highways (KY-486 & KY-409) and even a named road before I found myself at the junction of KY-32 in Newfoundland (KY).DCIM135GOPRO 32 seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place where I had seen that road sign before. Headed west toward Morehead (KY), 32 obviously received routine maintenance as the pavement was in (nearly) spotless condition. Splitting two creek valleys, and heavily reminiscent of KY-77 in Red River Gorge, KY-32 followed the crooked foothill ridgelines for thirteen miles as it wound like a vintage wooden rollercoaster into downtown Morehead.

After another gas stop I found myself headed northwest toward Flemingsburg, Kentucky. That’s when the light bulb went off, two fold. One, I finally recalled that KY-32 breaks off from KY-11 in Flemingsburg, meaning that the “adventure” was unfortunately drawing to a close. Two, noticing the unmistakable scratches on the asphalt from Amish horse and buggies, the “perfect ride” started to form in my mind.

KY-32 east of Morehead is one of the best roads I’ve ever ridden in Kentucky, I might go as far as to say I would rate it above KY-77 (aside from getting stuck behind that pickup truck…). WV-16 and 60 along the New River was also some of the best riding I’ve done since the Dragon Raid last year. Alas, I still don’t think this ride was the perfect ride.

 

DCIM134GOPRO

Nailing down perfection is tough business. Some folks prefer serene mountain vistas along the byways, while others enjoy desert highways with nothing but spectating cactus. I’m sure I’ve said it before, I find the best roads are those loaded with mile after mile of unsuspecting curves, with no cars anywhere in sight. Obviously this is the “real world”, but such roads aren’t completely out of the question; I’ve gone miles without seeing another soul before, it can happen again. If I had it my way, the perfect ride would, in all likelihood, find itself hidden under the Appalachian canopy somewhere. Mountainous, unquestionably, but not developed so much that the view overrides the technical contours of the road. That’s the key right there, technicality; I like the finest blend of asphalt, erratic curves, and irregular changes in elevation. I’ll also admit that while I enjoy speed, I find my preference for well-maintained asphalt fading in favor of remoteness; I’ll gladly endure more cracks in the pavement if that means the experience is more isolated.

Needless to say, there are as many flavors of preference and “perfection” as there are motorcyclists. So, what does your “perfect ride” look like?

 

Rever Route

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Red River Scramble: 160 Days in the Saddle

 

“How long are you going to keep this streak going Drew?”

 

“Until the bike fails, or I do…”

 

Saturday, July 22nd, Approximately 2:30 PM

I pulled up to the intersection of Chimney Top Rock Road and KY-715. I gently pressed down on the rear brake to avoid skidding in the gravel. Chimney Top Rock Road Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRA couple of the guys pulled over into the shade to get their gear settled how they wanted it while one of the guys went through the menus on his Street Scrambler to re-enable the ABS and traction control as we were getting back on to pavement for the rest of the day. I shut the bike off for a moment while everyone got settled. A couple minutes went by and everyone was finally ready to head out for an afternoon of twisty Kentucky two-lane. I turned the key, pulled in the clutch, and thumbed the starter.
“Click”
I thumbed the starter again.
“Click”

That’s weird, maybe I left the LED lights on for a bit while the guys were getting settled; I pushed the bike down the hill, popped the clutch and Rosie fired to life. I guess it was a really hot summer day…

 

27 Hours Earlier

I finished the last e-mail, shut down all my CAD software, and booked it home to get the bike packed for the big weekend.Triumph Scrambler Loaded Up MotoADVR I “pre-packed” all the stuff I needed for the big “Red River Scramble” weekend the night before, including a few “dry run” packing configurations, but wouldn’t you know it, nothing seemed to fit on the bike as planned. I fussed with stuffing my sleeping bag and the last odds and ends into my Biltwell EXFIL-80 tail bag and finally got the bike loaded to my liking.
After just a few short miles on the freeway, I peeled off onto a state route and just after passing through Lebanon I was finally blessed with the bliss of empty rural two-lane as I headed for the Ohio River. It had been a trying week, so I was looking forward to the solitude of long stretches of country roads, dotted with nothing but cattle and cornfields for as far as the eye could see.
That plan was going pretty well until I discovered yet another road closure on US-68 just north of Aberdeen (I swear half the bridges in Ohio are currently under construction…). Not long after turning onto the detour, I noticed I’d received a text from my buddy Jeff who left just a couple hours ahead of me; apparently he got a flat just north of Maysville. I tossed out my (complicated) plan for a new rural adventure through northern Kentucky and burned down to Maysville as fast as I could.
KTM 990 Adventure Flat Tire MotoADVRJeff is no stranger to wrenching and riding solo, so I wasn’t concerned about him handling the situation, but I figured a second set of hands wouldn’t hurt. Just as I was pulling up to the intersection in Flemingsburg, my phone rang. Jeff waved from the Taxi “cab” in front of me and let me know he was headed back to Maysville to swap a tube at a shop there. No problem, I could at least babysit his (almost) fully loaded bike on the roadside until he got back.
Two hours into “the weekend” and desperately clinging to what little shade I could find, I had a couple thoughts. One, when the plan goes awry, that’s when the “Adventure” begins (It’s all about attitude right?); and two, it’s absolutely sweltering out here… it’s going to be an interesting weekend.

Chimney Top Rock Sunset MotoADVR

 

Saturday Morning

Rose the Scrambler Miguels Pizza MotoADVRWith a new inner tube installed, Jeff and I got to the campground without a hitch, and even scored an upgrade to a “cabin” for the weekend (air conditioning in July… it matters…). We rolled up to Miguel’s Pizza a little before 9 AM to get ready for inbound guests to the gorge. This was the first time I’d ever had breakfast at Miguel’s so I was a bit confused about how to properly fill out my order sheet. The girl behind the counter was like “You want three standard breakfasts?” I told her, “Sorry, I thought that was three eggs.” At any rate, the standard breakfast is stellar, two eggs, a generous pile of home fries, along with thick, juicy, bacon served exactly how I like it for $7. A little Texas Pete sauce and I was in hog heaven.
Just before 10 AM the first few guys starting rolling in. It was a really interesting exchange, finally getting to meet people in person you’ve only chatted with via Instagram for months. Red River Scramble Motorcycle MotoADVRBefore long we had a Street Scrambler from Nashville, a Scrambler from North Carolina, a CB500x from Louisville, a couple Beemers and a KLR from Cincinnati, a Versys650 and DR650 from Maryland, and of course my buddy Jeff and his KTM 990 Adventure. We got a little bit of a late start, but considering this plan was hatched just a few weeks prior, I think folks were still good with shaking hands and mixing it up a bit before we finally headed out onto the “road”.

 

Two groups parted ways from Miguel’s to tackle their respective interests; I “led” the guys more interested in sticking to more manicured surfaces while the second group shed their camping gear and headed up to tackle the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway. Considering this was the first time most of these guys had been to the gorge, I felt it only proper they “scramble” up to Chimney Top and take in the sights.

 

Sometime After 3:00 PM Saturday

After taking in the gorgeous vista at Chimney Top Rock, and making the mandatory stop at Sky Bridge, we twisted down the rest of KY-715 and through Nada Tunnel headed toward a fuel stop. I let the car in front of me have a little extra space but I noticed it seemed a little darker in the tunnel than I remembered. I reached up to my helmet and confirmed, my inner sun visor was indeed up (everyone accidentally leaves their sunglasses on at least once in Nada Tunnel). I hit the switch for my auxiliary lights and they went off; I guess it wasn’t that. I hit the switch a second time, nothing happened. Pressed it again. Nothing. Auxiliary lights not working; that’s odd. Less than a mile down the road, the gas light came on, the engine lost power, and Rosie coasted to a stop.

 

5:58 PM

I’m that guy…

Have you ever been on one of those motorcycle rides where someone just can’t keep their bike running, and you have to keep stopping to fix something, scorching in the heat, shuffling through all your gear and tools. @Sub1Bros WalmartYeah… it was apparently my turn.
Fortunately, on the advice of my new buddy Tim, we parked in the shade behind the Jackson (Kentucky) Wal-Mart and swapped out the battery. After a few jump starts and skipping “the tour” down KY-1812, we booked it for Wally-World hoping a new battery would do the trick. I unhooked the myriad of electrical trinkets I had connected to the old battery (maybe that was the problem?), and dropped in the fresh cell; Rosie cranked right to life.

Fresh battery installed, we headed back into the much needed breeze for a “spirited” ride down KY-52 and up to “Big Andy Ridge Road”, KY-2016. As our group of five started to carve up the unmarked twisties, I complimented the guys on the intercom. I was exceptionally impressed with how well a group of otherwise strangers really “gelled” on what I view as respectably “technical” Kentucky backroads.

Not long after passing a wild turkey darting off the roadway, I noticed the fuel light come on again. That awkward feeling started to settle into my stomach. There was undoubtedly plenty of gas in the tank, but like clockwork, I started losing power, and the Scrambler coasted to a stop, about three-quarters the way up KY-2016.

 

8:00 PM

Another Jump start and we made it back to Miguel’s for dinner without incident. As everyone rolled in for Pizza and a healthy session of “lie swapping”, I learned I wasn’t the only victim of calamity. Versys 650 Oil Pan Damage MotoADVRApparently the Versys suffered a nearly deadly blow to the oil pan, courtesy of a sandstone “staircase” on Chop Chestnut Road; meanwhile, the 990 decided to shed a few pounds by dropping a piece of a clutch lever somewhere on the trail. Trying to find the source of my electrical gremlins, I spent a few minutes searching for a shorted or smashed wire under the seat of the Scrambler; all the while thankful that my issues were minor compared to patching an oil pan with JB Weld on the side of the trail.
From the sounds of it, everyone’s experience that day was “exciting” and unplanned, I couldn’t wait to see more of the photos as they appeared on Instagram in the coming days. It seemed to me that the sentiment was that everyone took it in stride and was looking forward to the more adventure in eastern Kentucky again next year.

 

Sunday Morning

Natural Bridge Campground Cabin MotoADVRRosie cranked right up for the short trip back over to Miguel’s for breakfast. Jeff and I joined my new buddy from North Carolina for another helping of Miguel’s breakfast before we all parted ways for the “long” ride home. Back at the campground, I loaded all my gear on the bike, put on my camelbak and donned my helmet for the ride home. I turned the key, pulled in the clutch, and thumbed that starter.

“Click.”

Jeff and I push started the bike twice; after firing and idling for a few brief moments, she sputtered and died both times. At that point, I called a buddy with a truck and waited.

Triumph Scrambler in Pickup MotoADVR

 

9:30 PM, Sunday Evening

After letting the battery sit on the tender for about an hour, I backed Rosie out of my driveway and pushed her a few feet up the hill. A good shove and several frantic “paddles”, I popped the bike into second gear and let out the clutch; the rear tire skidded for second, then the bike turned over, but never fired. Undaunted, I pushed Rosie back up the hill one more time. Once up to speed, I again let out the clutch, she chugged but never fired. I pushed her back onto the porch.

 

Day 161 and 7 miles short. I apparently outlasted the bike…

 

Reflections on 160 Days in the Saddle

Obviously I covered the first 90 days at length. It was hard admitting defeat that Sunday evening. Rosie The Scrambler MotoADVRA really good buddy (who also rescued me from Kentucky) even offered to let me ride his bike to keep the streak going. I regret that I waited until almost 10 PM to wave the white flag; sometimes that’s just how the chips fall. In the beginning, I admitted that I didn’t think 365 consecutive days was possible with just one bike (if at all). About two weeks ago I started to back off from that opinion as I had made it until almost August and things were getting easier. Lesson learned, one motorcycle is simply not enough…

MotoADVR_ScramblerTrailer

Looking back at the Calendar, I found it ironic that July 22nd was day 160, the same day I brought Rosie home from Louisville last year. In a 160 days of non-stop riding, Rosie, “The Bluegrass Belle”, covered over 15,000 miles, including over 13 trips to “The Motherland”; last weekend she apparently didn’t want to leave.

In that same time frame we checked off 3 rides from the Moto Bucket List, including an Iron Butt certification, completed an entire valve adjustment in one afternoon, and finally hosted “our” first “rally”. I can only hope the next 12 months are as exciting and she is equally reliable (considering the conditions).

 

Getting Rosie Back Into “Fighting” Shape

As soon as I found a second the following Monday, I planned on swapping out the Wal-Mart special with a hardy Duracell battery. I let the new battery charge up while I used the $60 Chinese battery to troubleshoot. I got the bike up and running long enough to put a good meter on the various connections. From what I could tell, I had 14 volts of power coming out of the Regulator/Rectifier, but I was still only getting 12 volts across the battery terminals.

Once I pulled the headlight bowl on Tuesday, I found a faulty connector between the main wiring harness and the rectifier. Per some advice from a very experienced friend (coincidentally the local RAT Pack “President”), I spliced the failed connection and found 13.8 volts at the battery while the bike was running. As of this writing, I still need to do a good, long, test run, but I’m fairly confident I have this situation sorted.

 

 

Tuesday, July 25th, 10:46 PM

Day 1… again…

DCIM134GOPRO

 

Planning for the Next Red River Scramble

Despite all of the headaches, I do hope that those in attendance will return again next year. Cliff Edge Sunset MotoADVRIt was ungodly hot this July, so much so, I was glad we landed the air conditioned “studio” versus the shiny new tent I actually bought for the event. Next year I’m thinking late spring to avoid the boiling temperatures. Right now I kind of have my mind set on the weekend before Memorial Day, but I need to look at a few calendars to make sure that doesn’t coincide with other major “adventure” events. Fall would be a spectacular time to go down and ride the gorge, but that is unfortunately the “busy” season and the lodging rates are the highest. I will also say that the traffic coincides with the increased rates; you probably won’t find that traffic off-road or even on the outskirt “loops” but if you’re hiking or riding through the gorge you’ll be fighting the crowds.

My plan for next year is to make Red River Scramble a Friday through Sunday event with a Thursday night meet and greet. I will probably design a T-shirt, and hopefully give away some door prizes and maybe some giveaways for “Best Scrambler”, “Dirtiest Bike”, and “Longest Distance Traveled”. I’m also going to try to nail down accommodations at a single location, whether it be a campground, motel, a lodge, or a mashup of cabins and camping. For those that attended, please leave some comments with ideas for next year, preference for lodging, and any other feedback you can think of (bring a multi-meter, good idea!). For folks that couldn’t attend this year, please feel free to comment below on when would be best for you next year, or any info on other events that I may want to avoid (scheduling conflicts are somewhat inevitable I guess).

 

 

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Red River Scramble: Where to Ride

Miguels Pizza Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThe Red River Scramble “Meetup” is just a few days away now. Per my comments, I’ll be at Miguel’s Pizza Saturday morning (7/22/17) for breakfast, from there I’ll direct folks to the type of riding they’re looking for, and I expect I’ll meet up with a few folks for a ride just after noon. In order to make things easier for first time visitors to the Gorge, I figured I would cover a few of the routes I’ve put together for the weekend. The following routes (and others) are posted on the Red River Scramble REVER group, and GPX Files are stored in a Google Drive Folder.

 

The Sky Bridge Loop

(GPX File and REVER Route)

SkyBridge MotoADVRFirst time visitors to Red River Gorge should not miss out on the opportunity to see one of nearly a hundred natural arches hidden around this part of Kentucky. While Natural Bridge is unquestionably one of the most popular tourist destinations in these parts, I recommend Sky Bridge to the motorcycle crowd. Natural Bridge is larger, and may arguably have a better view (arguably…), but if you’re dressed in motorcycle gear, the one mile hike to the top, or even the sky lift may be a bit warm. DCIM124GOPROSky Bridge on the other hand means you get a chance to take in a nice twisty ride around Kentucky Highways 15 and 715 and take a short walk out to the Sky Bridge to see majestic views of the gorge. Headed back down 715 you turn down 77 and take a trip through Nada Tunnel before heading back to the start point to meet up with other riders and head back out for another adventure.

 

Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB)

(GPX File and REVER Route)

Folks that are looking to dispense with the pleasantries and get on with the scrambling need look no further than the DBBB. Spaas Creek Road Triumph Scrambler MZ Baghira MotoADVRFrom my Moto Bucket List, the DBBB is a 100 mile dual-sport loop around Red River Gorge, about half of which is off road. Early this spring I tackled a little over half the DBBB and “proved” most of the attached GPX file. At the time, part of Furnace-Pilot road was closed, but I believe this GPX track is correct. However, I will need folks to run the southeast portion along Devil Pumpkin Hollow Rd Triumph Scrambler Stuck MotoADVRCreek and confirm if this track is as close as I think it is. I suspect that considering the limited time, it will be difficult to finish the entire loop in one afternoon, however riders with more off-road prowess than myself may get it done. I recommend heading north up KY-77 through the tunnel and then running the route counterclockwise, hitting Spaas Creek road first; that way you get through what I consider the harder (and most fun) sections before dark. For folks that want to tackle sections of the DBBB, but want to step up incrementally in difficulty, I have also built GPX tracks of the sections I have done, labeled “Easy”, “Medium”, and “Hard” (GPX Files found here).

 

Red River Gorge North Loop

(GPX file and REVER Route)

DCIM125GOPRO

If you’re looking to skip the tourist stuff and get straight to the canyon carving, this is a good start. Headed east out of Slade, KY-15 will take you over KY-746 where you can enjoy a fine “Kentucky two-lane” through rural backwoods farms, scattered forest, blind rises, sweeping s-turns, and unmarked curves. From 746 you’ll take a short jaunt across US-460 to KY-77, my favorite road in the gorge. KY-77 heads south from Frenchburg down into Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF) and through Red River Gorge. DCIM124GOPROUp on the “Tarr Ridge”, 77 flows along the ridge line with wide, banked, sweepers you can see through; those sweepers start to give way to blind rises and tighter curves until 77 drops into the gorge and under the tree canopy. Once inside the DBNF boundary, the curves get tighter and blinder as you twist your way past 715, along the cliff-line and through Nada Tunnel. If you’re only going to ride one paved road while you’re in the gorge, 77 is that road.

 

Red River Gorge Cliff and Hike Loop

(GPX file and REVER Route)

For folks that have packed their hiking boots and are looking for the ultimate scenic experience, I have combined the Sky Bridge loop with the gravel hiking trail access roads. Half Moon Rock Pano MotoADVRChimney Top Rock Road juts almost dead north out into the gorge from KY-715 before you get to the Sky Bridge. The parking area for Chimney Top Rock trail sits at the end of the 3.7 mile gravel road. From the parking area it’s about a 600 yard walk out to “the point” of Chimney Top Rock. From the observation area, you have a 270° unobstructed view of the gorge, including Half Moon Rock, Hanson’s Point, the Red River, KY-715, and parts of the Sheltowee Trace. Looking south from Chimney Top Rock, Half Moon Rock is an unmistakable rock formation; for folks looking for a novice climbing adventure, head back to the parking lot for your bike. Halfmoon Rock MotoADVRFrom the Chimney Top Rock parking area, ride slow about a half mile south until you see trash cans and a port-o-john to your left, there should be unmarked trail access to Half Moon Rock immediately to your right. From the road the trail goes about 650 yards until you get to the climb, from there look closely at the rocks for existing hand holds and footing for a short climb to a majestic, unobstructed, 360° view of the gorge. For folks that are looking for more deep woods hiking, be sure to take a ride up Tunnel Ridge Road, not far from the Slade gas station off KY-15. From Tunnel Ridge Road hikers have access to Gray’s Arch trail, D Boon Hut trail, and the Auxier Ridge trail.

 

Red River Gorge Southeast Loop

(GPX File and REVER Route)

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Road warriors that are looking for a grand tour of the bluegrass should load up the southeast loop. Again, headed east down KY-15 and on to KY-191 out beyond Campton, riders will arrive at Kentucky Highway 1812. I find there is a general rule of thumb in these parts, the more digits, the more rural the road, which typically leads to larger helpings of twisty pavement, 1812 is no exemption. Possessing no less than four hair-pin turns, 1812 starts out somewhat benign as it gently traces along creek beds and farms; as you progress south, 1812 winds deeper and deeper into the Appalachian foothills. Before long you find yourself riding up a steep elevation change which gives birth to twin switch backs; be warned, there’s a driveway hiding about mid-turn in that last one.

DCIM132GOPROOnce down from the top of 1812, riders can catch a bathroom break in Jackson at one of the local service stations. From there the route heads west across a scenic section KY-52 which runs parallel to an old rail line for several miles. Not far from Beattyville you turn north on KY-2016; easily my second favorite road in the area (others have suggested it is, in fact, the best). Twelve miles of (almost) completely unmarked Kentucky two-lane, KY-2016 slithers across “Big Andy” Ridge and has been referred to as a “roller coaster” by a few folks in my riding circle. Reminiscent of KY-746 in some ways, 2016 also runs along rural Kentucky farms and swaths of wooded areas, and is dotted with pump jacks and other oil industry equipment. From the top of 2016, KY-715 will take you west back to KY-11 and back into Slade.

 

Red River Gorge Southwest Loop

(GPX File and REVER Route)
Sightseers and history buffs should be sure to take the Southwest loop. Headed west on KY-15 riders will arrive at KY-1639 and subsequently KY-1057. Estill Furnace Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR1057 is arguably the quintessential Appalachian backroad; cutting through valleys and creek beds among rural farms, trailers, and Appalachian derelicts. Barely two entire lanes, riders should be on guard for nonsensical road contours, the occasional gravel washout, wild turkeys, and even dogs sleeping in the roadway. 1057 sweeps south into “Furnace Junction” where it meets KY-213; I rode through this area many times and had no idea I was actually rolling right by a 19th century Kentucky relic. At the corner of KY-213 and Billing’s Cemetery road rests the dilapidated ruins of the Estill Furnace, remnant of the Kentucky ironwork industry, one of three furnaces in a five mile radius of Furnace Junction (I can provide GPS coordinates for those interested in seeing others nearby). DCIM124GOPROKY-213 continues southwest in very similar fashion to KY-1057; be sure to slow down as you summit the ridge line and catch views of the adjacent cliffs to the west. At the bottom of KY-213 riders will meet the sporty end of KY-52 just out of Irvine. KY-52 headed east into Beattyville is arguably the fastest and most well-manicured road in the area. Along 52, riders will find some of the largest changes in elevation in the area, gorgeous vistas of the cliffs and foothills, and another smattering of bluegrass farms. KY-52 takes riders back into Beattyville where they can pick up KY-11 and swing back north to Slade.
While not included in the route, not long after turning onto KY-52, the before mentioned sightseers should take KY-975 (gravel) north up to the Fitchburg Furnace, one of the largest charcoal-fired furnaces ever built.

 

The Kentucky Adventure Tour

(GPX File)

While attendees will unquestionably not complete the entire ride in a weekend, off-road @cdalejef_KAT1and adventure enthusiasts should still check out the Kentucky Adventure Tour (KAT). The KAT is a 1,000 mile dual-sport route around eastern Kentucky including parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. The DBBB and the KAT overlap for a short section in the north, but the KAT has extra “bonus” (hard) sections that are easily within range of the Red River Gorge area. If folks have the vacation time, this weekend is as good a time as any to start out in Slade and tackle the KAT the following week. At a minimum, off-roaders should download the KAT GPS tracks from Adventure Rider so they have access to the hard sections.

 

Links:

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Scorpion EXO-AT950 Helmet: Long-term Review

Late last summer I decided it was about time to replace my aging GMax helmet. While it wasn’t particularly old, it was getting no shortage of use and then it managed to take a dive off the handlebars one day which pretty much sealed the deal. Scorpion Exo-AT950 Halfmoon Rock MotoADVRAs I mentioned, I was a big fan of the GMax GM54S; I really like modular helmets, and I don’t think I’ll ever own another helmet without an internal, drop-down, sun visor. While I don’t ride beyond the parking lot with the chin bar up, I like modular helmets because they make it easier to get “kitted up” in cold weather when I’m trying to don a helmet while wearing a neck gaiter. I’m also a huge proponent of the internal sun visor; while a lot of folks will fuss with carrying and swapping a smoked shield for sunny weather, I find tunnels and shaded valleys a bit challenging in low light and just prefer the convenience of built-in “sun glasses”. While I had been eyeing the Icon Variant for a really long time, it regrettably lacks the internal visor that I love so much. Fortunately, not long before deciding that the GMax was officially done, I stumbled on the new Scorpion EXO-AT950.

 

The Stat Sheet

If you haven’t already noticed from the photos, the EXO-AT950 is one of the newest additions to the “ADV” helmet scene with its Master Chief-like peak visor, while also one of the only modular adventure helmets that also includes the internal, drop-down sun visor. Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet NoPeak Visor MotoADVRThe helmet has a polycarbonate outer shell in sizes XS up to 3XL, clear polycarbonate visor, has an intermediate oval fitment, and weighs just under 4 pounds. The new Scorpion ADV lid has a dual selection chin vent and a peak “chimney” vent. The peak visor is actually removable, and Scorpion also includes a set of side shields that retain the outer visor in lieu of the peak visor assembly. The visor opening was also designed to be large enough to offer riders the alternative of wearing goggles with the clear visor up (or removed). MSRP for solid colors runs around $270, and for an additional $20 buyers can get silver, orange, and Hi-Viz Yellow; and now Scorpion has even launched the new “Battleflage” which was unfortunately not yet available when I bought mine.

 

The Perks

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet Left Inner Visor MotoADVRIt goes without saying, I’m a big fan of the modular design and the internal sun visor. While it’s not ambidextrous like the GMax, I have come to appreciate the simplicity and placement of the internal sun visor actuator on the left side of the helmet. It takes a bit to get used to, and very difficult to do with your right hand, but once adjusted, it takes very little effort to drop the sun visor and honestly it looks a little “cleaner”. I could also mount my GoPro to the top of the helmet now if I wanted to, something that was a little trickier on my old Gmax.

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet ThreeQuarter MotoADVRThe chin bar lock release button is probably the best I’ve used on a modular helmet. I found the release on the GMax to be a bit awkward as you had to pull the release down and lift the face of the helmet, whereas the Fulmer I had could almost be “knocked” open if you hit the chin bar with your wrist hard enough. Scorpion has successfully tucked away the red release button so that it’s not actuated by accident but also flows in a natural motion when you want to lift the face of the visor.

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet Front Left MotoADVRI love the AT950’s peak visor; I ride east to work in the morning and dead west to head home every day from the office, which usually means I’m staring dead into the sun for several weeks each year. The peak visor adds just a little extra shade to that commute, and it’s even better when the clear visor gets dusty from riding the trails. Folks should know, the peak visor does “drag” a little bit at high speeds, especially when you’re doing head checks for lane changes, and it also exacerbates buffeting on the freeway, so I take it off and install the side shields when I’m planning on spending more than half an hour on the highway.

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet Left Visor MotoADVR

The Field of view in this helmet is simply massive; I couldn’t get over that after wearing the GMax for so long. Ultimately this is a byproduct of the fact that you can raise the clear visor and wear goggles with this helmet. Most adventure helmets, like the Icon Variant, claim that you cannot wear the helmet with goggles, but in this case Scorpion offered that as an additional option. Admittedly, I have not tried that yet, but I appreciate the option, and unquestionably the generous peripheral view I have as a result.

Scorpion has an “EverClear” No-fog coating that is standard on the clear visor; I find “fog-proof” to be similar to “water resistant”, which usually means quite the opposite. Scorpion’s “EverClear” coating is actually quite effective in late spring, summer, and early fall, but I’ll touch on that in a moment.

Lastly, beyond function, the AT950 obviously looks the part of an “Adventure” helmet; while not quite as “Master Chief” as the Moto Vlogger favorite, the Icon Variant, the 950 is very reminiscent of motocross helmets, including flashy graphics, while offering the creature comforts of a touring helmet.

 

Meh…

Putting the helmet on for the first time, riders will find that the cheek pads are pretty tight. I have heard mixed reviews from other owners, some have said they contacted Scorpion and received a thinner set that were more agreeable, however my close friend received an even thicker set and was left to modifying the foam in the original set. I personally found them to break in just fine after a few hundred miles, but I’m also the “Average Joe”, at least in stature. Ultimately you want to make sure you check the sizing chart very closely; it sounds like the AT950 typically runs a shade small for most folks.

In addition to the slightly constricting cheek pads, I’ve found the ear “ports” to be a bit shallow compared my previous helmet. This causes some aggravation as the speakers for my Bluetooth communicator make contact with my ears in the Scorpion from time to time, whereas I never had that problem with my previous helmet.

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet Chin Vent MotoADVRWhile the vents are easy to manipulate with a gloved hand, at no point have I ever intentionally closed the chin vent. The peak vent moves so much air I can actually feel my hair (what little I have left) moving from the wind force. That said, The EXO-AT950 does not move quite as much air as my old GMax. On the flipside that lack of ventilation probably means less road noise, but considering I wear earplugs and use a Sena headset, that’s kind of a moot point. I’ll admit that I prefer a lot of airflow over my face when riding, so it may just be me, but at a minimum, I think the helmet could be improved by a little more ventilation to the visor.

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet FL Visor MotoADVROn the same note, I like to click the visor open one notch when riding in the summer to get a bit more air in the helmet. The first notch on the AT950 means that the visor is “cracked” almost a solid inch, maybe more. That’s a massive amount of air, and it’s shooting almost directly in your eyes, even with the internal sun visor down. I actually “notched” the teeth on the visor mechanism so I could reduce that opening just a hair (that may have adversely affected the rain seal).

Perhaps a petty gripe, but you need a coin or a really thin key to remove the screws from the peak visor to install the side shields. It’s not overly difficult, and I imagine it’s somewhat of an industry standard among other brands, but my old helmet had an internal, no-tools-necessary actuator to swap visors.

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Helmet front MotoADVRRelated to ventilation and despite the “no-fog” claim, the EverClear coating is simply not strong enough to stand up to Ohio winters (mind you, I’m a bit extreme). Again, it does a great job in warm weather, and even in the low 40’s it’s pretty decent, but below that, or any time it rains, the visor fogs up. Similar to my GMax helmet, I went ahead and spent a few extra bucks to get a dual pane visor; that proved to be well worth it, I recommend a pin-loc or dual pane visor to anyone that rides in the rain with this helmet. Scorpion also claims that the internal sun visor also has a no-fog coating. I would stop just short of saying that’s a flat out lie; while it’s possible that I received an early model or defective sun visor, I can easily fog up the internal visor at virtually any time. While I experienced that same issue with the GMax, I do feel that with the more restricted ventilation of the AT950, it’s much more noticeable, especially in winter.

Lastly, despite how much I love the drop-down sun visor, it’s simply not dark enough. There have been a few sunny days that I’ve reached up to drop the sun visor only to find it’s already down. Before headed out on my Iron Butt Ride, I made sure I had a set of sunglasses on the bike; I’ve yet to resort to that extreme, but Scorpion could probably make a few extra bucks by selling me a darker inner visor.

 

The Verdict

Chimney Top Rock Storms MotoADVR

Don’t get me wrong, my gripes are pretty minor, I absolutely love this helmet. Scorpion has done an excellent job at fit and finish, and I’m unquestionably a huge fan of the styling; it’s a shame I didn’t get my hands on the Battleflage graphics. My old GMax was a stellar budget helmet, and I recommend it to any new riders that are looking for the convenience of an internal sun visor, but it was undoubtedly a bit “clunky” and loud compared to the Scorpion. The AT950’s locking mechanisms, visor closure,Scorpion Exo-AT950 Red River Gorge MotoADVR and fitment is more precise, and just… better. While I could stand to have the inner visor a shade darker, the convenience of the removable peak visor kind of makes up for that. With the peak visor removed, it’s almost a completely different helmet on the highway, almost butter smooth, and it doesn’t look like something is “missing” like a lot of the other ADV helmets on the market with removable peak visors. Ultimately I think Scorpion has done a fantastic job with this helmet, I obviously love the looks, it’s functional, and considering the quality, it’s a really good deal under $300.

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The SaddleSore 1000: An Iron Butt Tour of Appalachia

2:30 AM: Eyes inexplicably snap open. Roll over, pray for last moments of sleep before the alarm goes off.
3:20 AM: Still awake, turn off pre-set alarm for 3:30. Go downstairs to get suited up for the day.
0410 SS1000 MotoADVR3:30 AM: Drink the first cup of caffeinated coffee I’ve had in two weeks. Sweet, delicious, caffeine…
3:35 AM: Load the tool kit on the bike, install the tank bag, and fill up my camelbak.
3:40 AM: look at outside temperature. Zip up all the vents on my gear; rip the zipper pull assembly completely off my favorite riding pants. Thinking, “This is not a good start to a really long day”.
3:45 AM: Skip checking tire pressure as I’m now running late. Crank up the bike, turn on Denali D4 LED Flamethrowers, head north to the meet point.
4:08 AM: Rosie isn’t fat enough to trigger the stop light at the end of the highway exit ramp; make a right turn followed by an immediate U-turn.
4:10 AM: Arrive at the Flying J truck stop in Vandalia, OH; check tire pressure as I’m now five minutes early.
4:17 AM: Buddy Rick pulls into the gas station. Get “Witness Paperwork” squared away. Talk strategies and get SENA communicators hooked up. Hit the john one last time.
0425 SS1000 MotoADVR4:38 AM: Top off the tank for the first time stamped receipt, gas pump says “See Cashier for Receipt”. Thinking, “Again… this isn’t a good start to a really long day”.
4:40 AM: Time stamped receipt in hand, head east on I-70 toward Columbus.
5:58 AM: 92 Miles down, filled up at truck stop in Millersport, OH (wherever that is). Had to pee already, vow to lay off the camelbak for a bit.
6:15 AM: Sunrise over Ohio farm country; the fog on the cornfields is gorgeous.DCIM129GOPRO

6:32 AM: Shattering my previous opinion of Interstate 70, it doesn’t suck once you get east of Zanesville, OH, it’s almost “pretty”.
6:54 AM: Didn’t lay off camel back, fortunately stopped to fill up at the first “corner” in Cambridge, OH. 148 Miles down; excited to get on I-77, as it definitely does not suck.
7:50 AM: Cross the state line into West, by God, Virginia. I love West Virginia, can’t wait to ride non-interstate roads in the mountaineer state again.

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8:31 AM: Another fuel stop, this time in Ripley, WV. 248 miles down, still comfortable and having a good time.
9:18 AM: Entering Charleston, WV; I’m really not a city guy, but Charleston is a beautiful city, the gold dome on the capitol building is impressive.

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9:33 AM: Toll booth attendants do not like it when motorcycles pull up double file. Sorry, here’s four dollars, you have yourself a nice day, thanks…
9:43 AM: I-77 is awesome, mountains and twisty pavement, I could do this all day.

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10:07 AM: More gas in Beckley, WV; 336 miles down.
11:04 AM: Enter East River Mountain Tunnel. Thinking, “Holy crap… this tunnel goes on forever…”.

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11:06 AM: Cross into Virginia, checked off another box, “Ride to a new state”.

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11:28 AM: Gas stop, Wytheville, VA; 411 miles down. Eat a Clif bar to avoid getting hangry. Rick shares a bag of beef jerky; really glad I brought this guy, obviously not his first rodeo. The Roads are wet and the clouds look heavy… really wish I wouldn’t have broken that zipper.
11:57 AM: Rosie uses her super power… it’s now raining.

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12:17 PM: Fortunately, rain didn’t last long; the low clouds in the Virginia Mountains are actually really beautiful.

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12:21 PM: Cross into North Carolina. I-77 starts to get a little “straighter”, ho hum…

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1:04 PM: Gas Stop in Statesville, NC. 504 miles, made it to the halfway point. Eat another Clif bar, fill out log sheet, and file receipts; same old spiel. Really getting into a rhythm at this point. Excited to get on I-40 headed west.
1:10 PM: Almost get on eastbound ramp… Rick reminds me we’re headed west. Fortunately someone is looking at the GPS.
2:45 PM: The Smoky Mountains are simply majestic, thinking, “I really need to move…”

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2:49 PM: Gas stop in Asheville, 598 miles down. Eat more beef jerky, despite still fighting a piece that has been stuck in my teeth since noon. Look at Radar… probably going to get wet again, hopefully not in the twisty section of I-40 along the Pigeon River.
3:30 PM: Stuck in traffic jam on I-40; which explains why Waze was telling me to take the exit 2 miles ago. Circumvent gridlock with a 6 mile detour on service streets. Waze is awesome.
4:04 PM: Found the rain again… in the twisty section… along the Pigeon River.

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4:05 PM: Probably should have closed all those jacket vents 2 miles ago, when it wasn’t raining.

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4:07 PM: Cars are terrified by curves combined with rain. Thinking, “Get out of my way! These Shinko 705’s are the bomb!”
4:10 PM: Out of the rain, green flag racing resumes. Set the day’s speed record.

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4:14 PM: Thinking, “is that the curvy tunnel that screws with you?”

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4:15 PM: Thinking, “look through the curve. LOOK THROUGH THE CURVE!”

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4:16 PM: Thinking, “I-40 is unquestionably the twistiest, most scenic highway I’ve ever been on”.

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4:18 PM: Cross the state line into Tennessee.

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4:33 PM: Pass a string of historical vehicles. Impressed with the quality of restoration on each of them. I should probably stick to motorcycles, I can’t afford that hobby either…

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5:00 PM: 718 miles down, gas stop in Knoxville, TN, the last “corner”. Realize receipt doesn’t list the business address. Buy a candy bar and a Gatorade inside, food receipt also has no address. Explain to attendant I need an address on a receipt, he looks at me like I have two heads. Step outside, the other attendant on break is laughing with my buddy Rick; she returns with new gas receipts with hand written address, names, and phone numbers as witnesses for our ride. Calamity averted; faith in southern hospitality restored.
5:59 PM: Soaking up more Smoky Mountain scenic views.

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6:00 PM: Monkey butt…
6:13 PM: Names of Appalachian road signs are hilarious (i.e. “Stinking Creek” and “Big Bone Lick”).

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6:24 PM: Riding over Jellico Mountain. Mini vans think they’re fast when they’re going downhill.

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6:28 PM: Cross into Kentucky, the end of gorgeous scenery nears.

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6:49 PM: Gas stop in Corbin, Kentucky, less than 200 miles to go. A little tired, but I see the end in sight; starting to get “pumped”.
7:26 PM: Say goodbye to the mountains as we pass Barea Kentucky.

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7:47 PM: Bored. Right on cue…
8:32 PM: Last gas stop in Sadieville, KY; 120 miles to go. Appreciative of so many people wishing us a safe ride at the gas station. Butt hurts, but ready to crush the “home stretch”.
2039 SS1000 MotoADVR8:54 PM: Watch the sunset over the Bluegrass state. Thinking, “it’s gonna get sporty through Cincinnati after dark on a Saturday night…”

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9:27 PM: Florence Y’all!

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9:39 PM: Cross into Ohio; 63 miles to go. The Cincy skyline is awesome at night.

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10:12 PM: The Ohio State Patrol is absolutely everywhere; we pass more cops in the last 30 miles than we’ve passed in lass 900.
2230 SS1000 MotoADVR10:25 PM: It’s official, Dayton drivers are the WORST! (Note: Keep right, except to pass)
10:31 PM: Receipt printed and tucked into my wallet. Rosie has done it, 1,033 miles in 17 hours and 52 minutes. “Complete and Iron Butt Ride” checked off the Moto Bucket List, now to go home, get some real food, and finally sleep. Thinking, “Who wants Waffle House?!?”

 
10:32 PM: Start planning 1,500 mile trip to Key West

2242 SS1000 MotoADVR

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Pardon My Tardiness…

That last few weeks have been pretty jam packed; work is obviously more of the same, but between family events over Memorial Day weekend and a charity event last weekend, I’ve struggled to sit down and put words on “paper”. I have a couple big things in the hopper right now and I want to make sure I do them justice; hopefully things will work out over the next few days and I can get some substantive content posted.
In the meantime, I’m going to drop this carrot on a string in front of you and hopefully you’ll linger around a while longer…

Posted in Random Blurbs | 2 Comments

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

Triumph Scrambler stack of tires MotoADVRLast week I spooned on the first actual “set” of new front and rear tires since I bought the Speedmaster new back in 2013. I’m a little… frugal, to say the least, so I typically run tires as long as they ride properly or reach the wear marks, whichever comes first. I have some big plans for the upcoming months, most of which involves long stretches of pavement, so I decided to pull the aggressive knobbies early and throw on some more roadworthy skins.

Muscling on new tires got me thinking, I’ve now purchased eight new tires since bringing Rosie home last July. I’ve run a little of everything from 95/5 street oriented tires to aggressive 50/50 (or better) off-road rubber. I figured now is as good a time as any to share some of the conclusions I’ve come to with these tires.

Bridgestone Trail Wing

Anyone familiar with Triumph’s modern classics line will probably recognize the stock Trail Wings mounted on the Scrambler. Bridgestone Trail Wing stock Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThese are the same tires that are also stock on the new Yamaha SCR950, V-Strom 650, DR650SE, and others. I have heard people refer to these tires as “Death Wings” among other less than flattering nicknames, but I admit, while they were unremarkable, I didn’t have any issues out of the stock tires. I unfortunately did not do any off-road riding in the time I had the Trail Wings mounted, but like many other 80/20ish tires, I suspect they’re decent on hard packed gravel and helpless in mud and lose dirt. On the road however, the Trail Wing held the line well, didn’t get squirrelly in the rain (at least on the Scrambler), and the “turn-in” was agreeable. I mention the turn-in because the steering behavior of the Scrambler seems to differ depending on your choice of front tire.

The rear (TW42) tire wore out in about 4,200 miles or so and was overall consistent despite the poor mileage.Bridgestone Trail Wing vs Shinko 705 MotoADVR The front (TW101) however, scalloped pretty bad after pushing the tire hard on the Tail of the Dragon. The vibrations from the imbalanced tire got so unnerving I decided to replace it at 7,500ish miles; I was worried the tire just wouldn’t get me home. Based on quality, I won’t say that I wouldn’t buy the another Trail Wing; the tires were fine, but considering what you pay for them, I feel there are simply better tires on the market.

  • TW101, 100/90-19 Front: 7,736 miles/$104 = 74.3 Miles/Dollar
  • TW42, 130/80-17 Rear:    4,241 miles/$138 = 30.7 Miles/Dollar

 

Continental Trail Attack 2

Continental Trail Attack 2 rear MotoADVRWhile I actually replaced the rear Trail Wing with a Shinko 705 I’m going cover that tire more in a moment as I just mounted a full set. Just prior to The Dragon Raid last year I decided to pull the rear tire and replace it with a fresh Trail Attack 2 (TA2) considering I had a 2,000 mile trip ahead of me. The TA2 seemed to be comparable to both the Shinko 705 and Trail Wing, if not perhaps a bit more road oriented. When I mounted the TA2, I was still waiting to mount any off-road “crash” protection so I didn’t expect to wander down many dirt roads, so again, road behavior was the deciding factor. Riding down “The Hellbender”, North Carolina highway 28, at speed in the rain, the TA2 never faltered. During my week at the Dragon Raid,Continental Trail Attack 2 vs 705 MotoDVR I flogged the Scrambler for all she had, and the TA2 delivered again and again. Similar to the Trail Wing, I assume the TA2 is all but helpless in any aggressive off-road conditions, but I can say that I had no issues navigating gravel trails.

In all weather conditions on-road, the TA2 is a great value tire. Weeks after the rally I finally pulled the TA2 after about 5,500 miles of abuse. If the situation ever arises again, I will have a tough time not choosing another TA2 for on-road only duty considering how well it gripped the road, rain or shine. Continental also ships these tires “pre-scrubbed” for lack of a better term, so they’re considerably “sticky” right out of the gate.

  • Trail Attack 2, 130/80-17 Rear: 5,574 miles/$103 = 54 Miles/Dollar

 

Michelin Anakee 3

Per my previous comments about the Trail Wing front tire, in a pinch, I had to replace the tire last minute during the Dragon Raid with an Anakee 3. I’d already heard some pretty good things about the Anakee 3 on ADV Rider, so while untimely (and expensive), I planned on giving the Anakee a shot anyway.

Michelin Anakee 3 Front new MotoADVRIn various forums and groups I have described the Anakee 3 as a “flawless on-road tire”. I stand behind that label, if you’re not going off-road, I can’t recommend a better “Adventure” tire for your bike. I “scrubbed in” a new front over about 50 miles from Wheeler’s Performance to Franklin, North Carolina, at which point it was pretty much full hooligan mode for the rest of the week, including the before mentioned trip down the Hellbender in the rain. Like the Trail Attack 2, the Anakee 3 holds the line steadfast in the lean, doesn’t bat an eyelash at wet conditions, and has some pretty impressive wear life. Now, that said, as far as the Scrambler is concerned, the Anakee 3 “turn-in” behavior is diametrically different than the Trail Wing. Overall, the Scrambler takes a little “coaxing” to lean into the curves. That coaxing requires a bit of extra effort with the Anakee 3 mounted, but it behaved just fine otherwise. I will go as far as to say, that stubborn turn-in actually made the bike more stable in high-speed curves like the Blue Ridge Parkway and The Skyway.

Michelin Anakee 3 Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThis winter I pulled the Anakee 3 early with about 9k miles so I could mount some aggressive knobbies. That Anakee was just past 50% wear from what I could tell, and was unquestionably the most evenly worn front tire I’ve ever seen. Despite the amazing mileage I got out of the ME888 on the Speedmaster, I always scalloped the front tire. I obviously did the same with the stock Trail Wings on the Scrambler, but despite all of the abuse, the Anakee looked fantastic. That great performance comes at a cost, the sidewall is incredibly stiff. I would not want to try to break a bead on an Anakee and patch a tube on the side of the road with a set of irons. These tires are also pretty pricey, however I will say among road tires, it’s probably worth what you pay.

  • Anakee 3, 100/90-19 front: 9,305 miles/$138 = $67 Miles/Dollar
    • Note: I pulled this tire with 40% or more tread left, I suspect you could get 14k miles out of this tire (~100 Miles/Dollar).

 

Heidenau K60 Scout

After I finished off the Trail Attack 2, I remounted the rest of the Shinko 705, but again, I’ll review the Shinko 705 in a moment. Heidenau K60 Scout vs Shinko 705 rear MotoADVRAfter the 705 rear was done, I bit the bullet and invested in a true “50/50” dual sport tire in preparation for more off-road riding. I had a buddy that went to Alaska and back on a set of Heidenau K60 Scouts; up until this point, I felt that all of the Scrambler tires were getting pathetic mileage compared to the tires on the Speedmaster, so I figured it was time to give the German’s a shot. After some back and forth on ADV Rider, I decided to bump the rear tire up one size to get the “center strip” tread pattern on the K60 Scout. The stock 130 width rear K60 has the typical “chevron” tread pattern, whereas the 140 and 150 width tires each have unique tread patterns including a large center strip for increased mileage.

I admit, mounting a Heidenau in December was a little concerning at first. Heidenau K60 Scout 140 rear MotoADVRWe’ve had some relatively mild winters in the past few years, so I suspected I would get some opportunities to go ride gravel in Shawnee Forest during the winter months, but the bike would probably spend some time parked. In addition, I was also a bit spooked by the somewhat “plastic” reputation of the K60; known for its longevity, many have claimed that the K60 is a bit untrustworthy in cold or wet conditions. While it did bite me the very first time I left the driveway (I’ll take responsibility for being foolish on brand new tires), the Scrambler did a really good job of keeping the rear tire warm and the K60 continued to impress me with dependable grip in adverse conditions.

On the other hand I was never crazy about the effect the 140 width and otherwise square profile had on steering behavior. Heidenau K60 Scout wear profile MotoADVREarly on, I realized that while I can still lean hard in the curves, there’s a “tipping point” where the bike wants to fall significantly faster as it reached the edge of the tire profile. Coupled with that, the 140 width made the turn-in even more lazy than normal. I will admit, the Anakee 3 didn’t help that, but it was still noticeable when I swapped out the front tire. The overall effect on steering is worsened by the fact that I found the K60 to “square-off” significantly sharper than most other motorcycle tires. I will take credit for a portion of that as I did a lot commuting to work more so than “joy riding”, considering it was winter in Ohio, but from what I’ve read, the squaring-off isn’t abnormal.

While I was a bit unimpressed with how the K60 affected on-road handling, the off-road prowess was quite the reverse. Shinko 804 and Heidenau K60 Scout Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRI found the K60 to be impressively reliable on gravel roads, even where the “marbles” were piled inches deep. Considering I was riding between January and April, I didn’t have many opportunities to ride a whole lot of gnarly stuff, so I’m still curious how well the K60 will handle mud like what I found on the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway. That said, while burning down gravel roads in Shawnee State Forest, I was impressed how well the rear tire hooked up and “bit in” through the curves. I assume that the square profile that I found annoying on the street did a superb job of gripping the soil off-road; hence the sacrifice of running a 50/50 tire. In addition to corner grip, I found that the K60 had impressive “braking” power, even with the center-strip tread pattern. The Scrambler is quite the pig off-road (hence the tusks…), so burning down a hill, covered in gravel, is a frightening endeavor; fortunately I could press the rear brake with surprisingly significant force before the rear wheel would finally lock up.

Despite the excellent off-road prowess, the on-road manners degraded more and more as the center of the tire squared off. Heidenau K60 Scout vs Metzeler Karoo 3 MotoADVRAround 5,000 miles it got to the point that freeway on-ramps were a bit treacherous as I felt like I was riding on a car tire. With the rear virtually square, the Scrambler really wanted to resist leaning into the turns; worse still, you could feel the “knobs” get squishy as the bike leaned over and the rear end would bounce around and sway with imperfections in the pavement. It finally got so bad around 5,500 miles I decided it just wasn’t “fun” anymore and replaced the tire. From new, the K60 has some significant tread depth, however I feel that the initial wear rate is extremely fast, Heidenau K60 Scout vs 705 MotoADVRalthough it does slow as the tire begins to square off. Disappointed by the overall wear life, I actually measured the tread depth and did a little “back of the napkin” calculation on how long the tire would actually last considering I pulled the tire off before it reached the wear marks. If my crude science is remotely correct, I assume a Scrambler rider could potentially run a K60 rear tire for around 7,000 miles before the center strip reached the wear marks. I imagine that if someone spent more time riding off-road, didn’t hoon around on the highway, and saved the heavy throttle hand for the twisties, a given rider could get more miles. That said, I still don’t think the 140 width K60, mounted on a Scrambler, will ever achieve the 10,000 mile reports I’ve heard from big ADV bikes running the 150 width tire. At the same time, those guys also gripe about wet weather behavior, a problem I never experienced. In the end, I would potentially run the K60 again, but it would have to be under very specific circumstances, like a long trip that involved both dirt and heavy highway miles.

  • Heidenau K60 Scout, 140/80-17 rear: 5,575 miles/$175 = 31.2 Miles/Dollar

**(If it lasted 7k miles, it would’ve been ~40 Miles/Dollar)

 

Shinko 804 Adventure Trail

As a treat to myself, I decided it was time to upgrade the front tire to match the more aggressive K60 rear. I’ve already covered  a few facets of the 804 in my Stage 2 Upgrades post, but it’s worth mentioning again. When shopping for a more aggressive front tire I admit that I shied away from the K60 Scout considering what so many had said about wet weather grip. While I can handle the fishtail (that actually never happened), I like to be sure that the front end “sticks” when the weather turns to crap. As I previously mentioned, the Continental TKC80 “Twinduro” was an early contender considering its street credit. I have seen several guys with Triumph Tigers running a TKC80 front and K60 rear. I will also admit that I was fascinated by the Karoo 3 tread pattern from the Tiger 800 XCx release videos with Bear Grylls, however I quickly discovered that the 19” Karoo 3 was almost double the cost of a TKC80. Along with the Karoo 3, I looked at similar tires like the Mitas E-07 and E-09, but most were still considerably pricey against the TKC and 804. I should also mention that in this case, I was much less concerned about overall mileage versus grip, both on and off road.Shinko 804 front Triumph Scrambler I wanted a knobby that I could trust taking to the office in the rain, just the same as crossing Spaas Creek Road. I figured if I could pin down a good front tire affordably, if I replace it the same time I replace the rear tire, no big deal. Considering my previous experience with the Shinko 705, I knew that Shinkos were pretty sticky out of the box, and the Shinko 804 knobby was just shade cheaper than the TKC; based on reviews, it seemed like the 804 was completely comparable to the TKC80 in reliability and overall grip.

With the help of some trusty zip ties, I spooned on the Shinko 804 in early March. At my earliest convenience I took the Scrambler down Anthony Road near Farmersville to get a feel for the bike in the dirt. Shinko 804 Twin Creek Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRGetting off-road, legally, in and around Dayton is difficult, Anthony Road is the last un-improved road I’m aware of in Montgomery County that doesn’t lead to a dead-end private drive. I was immediately impressed with how confidence inspiring the 804 was in the gravel. Mind you, I just removed a 99% road-only tire, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m scrambling a 500 pound (or more) street bike down a pot-hole ridden gravel county road… at speed. That early test obviously went well, and I further pushed the limits of the bike by taking it down an ATV trail, the adjacent creek bed, and then through the trails in Shawnee Forest later that day. In gravel the 804 is absolutely top notch for an ADV tire; but the true test was Spaas Creek road on the DBBB. Spaas Creek was absolutely terrifying with the Anakee 3 up front, sliding through the mud with the front forks going lock to lock was simply no fun at all. Spaas Creek Road Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThe 804 on the other hand was again confidence inspiring. There were several times in the mud on Spaas Creek, Pumpkin Hollow, and even the sand on Chop Chesnut Road where the Scrambler pushed the front end and the front tire started to skid. In all cases, seconds after feeling the “push”, the 804 hooked up and Rosie stayed upright. I’ll admit, the knobs on the TKC80 look more aggressive in depth and pattern, but the 804 got the job done.

As one can imagine, for such an aggressive adventure tire, there are some on-road sacrifices,Shinko 804 vs 705 front MotoADVR but not as bad as it could have been. I’ll admit, I never pushed the 804 as hard as I have any other front tire, rain or shine, but at no point did the 804 ever fade or skid on dry pavement (there was that one time…). I railed the 804 pretty hard through Kentucky for several consecutive weekends, and the 804 still held the line. That said, there were a few minor incidents where I made contact with paint on the dry roadway where I felt the front end slip a hair, and I will say that I felt the “hint” of a similar fade in the rain on at least one occasion, but that was a small price to pay for a reliable off-road tire. I will also add, the aggressive riding through the twisties came at a price;Shinko 804 tread scallop MotoADVR as I mentioned previously, I tend to scallop tires, the 804 was no exception. I will say, this isn’t all that surprising, to coax the scrambler into the lean, I tend to get my butt off the seat, so the bike is more upright and I have no doubt that pushes the front end though the turn, scuffing the tire. I will also say that it’s obvious that the 804 contact patch is significantly smaller than on-road tires, and any aggressive breaking (someone cuts you off in traffic) is going to accelerate the wear on the center knobs. That excessive wear started to cause some significant road noise on the highway around 5,000 miles or so.

Triumph Scrambler Anthony Road Mud MotoADVRContrary to the Anakee 3’s effect on steering, the 804 sharpened up the turn-in quite a bit. I had actually forgotten how nimble the front end was prior Anakee, that took a minute to get used to. Overall I was very happy with the way the front end handled with the 804, in all conditions, considering the flexibility that tire gave the Scrambler. I commuted, toured, and rode some of the gnarliest off-road routes I’ve ever seen with that tire, it was well worth what I paid for it, and I again pulled that tire early in preparation for another trip. It’s virtually guaranteed you will see the 804 on the Scrambler again, and at some point, I may even pair it with an 805 rear.

  • Shinko 804, 100/90-19 Front: 6,884 miles/$74 = 93 Miles/Dollar

 

Metzeler Karoo 3

Speaking of the Shinko 805, as the K60 scout neared the end of its life, I was shopping for a more affordable replacement. Considering the K60 is viewed as a “50/50” tire, I figured I really needed something like a “60/40” tire, but from what I can tell, there are really only three varieties of “Adventure” tires: “Road Only”, “Gravel Sometimes”, and lastly, “Tires that are actually more suited for dirt than your heavy ADV bike really is” (guilty as charged).K60 Scout vs Karoo 3 rear MotoADVR I really liked the Shinko 705, but it was simply not aggressive enough to handle the more technical off-road riding I like, but there doesn’t seem to be any other tire between the 705 and tires like the K60 Scout, Karoo 3, and Shinko 805. Left with no other alternative and considering how much I liked the 804, the 805 was an obvious front runner. The 805 would set me back about $95, which is pretty cheap for an ADV rear tire. I was a bit concerned with “lateral” handling on the 805 considering its big paddles, along with how it would handle the rain with such a small contact patch (similar to the 804), so I continued the search. As it turns out, the Karoo 3 in the 130 width is actually priced at $96 delivered; which is an absolute steal on a Metzeler from my perspective. I’m hoping this is a marketing strategy and not a near “close-out” price, but ultimately that price turned this debate into a two-horse race. After consulting with the folks over at Revzilla, I concluded that the Karoo 3 was probably the better choice of the two tires, considering the type of riding I wanted to do and the overall comparison in longevity.

Like the 804, another bag of zip ties and the Karoo 3 was on the Scrambler. Looking at the 130 width Karoo 3,Metzeler Karoo 3 rear Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR it’s an absolute tractor tire; I figured it would rumble like crazy, and was surprised by how smooth the ride actually was once above 10mph. After experiencing the “car tire effect” of the aging K60 scout, the Scrambler felt like a whole new bike again with a properly sized, round tire on the back. It turned out that I mounted the Karoo 3 just days before I left for a week in eastern Kentucky. I ended up putting around 1,200 miles on the bike that week, including a 5 hour day in the rain. I was immediately impressed with how well the bike tracked and cornered, especially in the rain, despite the overly aggressive tread pattern. Rosie The Scrambler MotoADVRA couple weeks later I embarked on my trip to the DBBB, where the Karoo 3 really shined. With the 804 up front to steer through the muck, the Karoo 3 was indeed a tractor tire. With the deep paddles in the back, the Scrambler could claw right out of the nasty stuff at low speeds. I will say, in contrast to the K60, I did find that the Karoo 3 does tend to “drift” a little more laterally in the gravel. I assume the rounded profile and large paddles simply “roll” over the big marbles, whereas the chevron blocks of the K60 dig in. That aside, the on-road manners are by far more agreeable, and the lateral slide off-road seemed to be less and less noticeable with increased wear.

Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I like the Karoo 3; it has one of the most aggressive tread patterns among 50/50 tires, yet it handles the pavement in an almost identical fashion to the Trail Attack II. DCIM125GOPROWhile I certainly didn’t push the Karoo 3 in the rain as hard as I did the Trail Attack, at no point was I worried that the rear end breaking loose at a stop or in a curve; and there were many opportunities for that to happen while wandering around Red River Gorge in the rain. I suspect that the Karoo 3 is probably way more aggressive than most Scrambler owners would ever need, myself included to some degree, but for the price of a rear tire, and the fact I pulled it a little early just after 4k miles, it strikes me as the best 50/50 compromise among ADV tires. Per my comments about swapping it out early, as 4k miles neared, I did begin to notice that the rear end was starting to vibrate a bit more at speed, similar to the “howl” of the scalloped 804 up front. From what I’ve read, that’s common among aggressive ADV tires as they wear unevenly when pushed hard on the pavement. I suspect I will eventually put both tires back on the Scrambler for “one last hurrah” before tossing them in the trash; I’m thinking that Karoo 3 probably has another thousand miles in it (and the 804 even more).

  • Metzeler Karoo 3, 130/80-17 Rear: 4,333 miles/$96 = 45 Miles/Dollar

 

Shinko 705 Trail Master

Bridgestone Trail Wing Front 705 rear Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRSaved the best for last? Maybe. As I mentioned, the first tire to replace the stock Trail Wing was actually the Shinko 705. As I am on the verge of some serious pavement riding, I decided to pull the aggressive 50/50 tires and put on a fresh set of “street” tires in preparation for the trip. Now that I have both front and rear tires mounted with over a thousand miles on them, I figured it’s better to review them as a set instead of just talking about the rear tire.

While I’ve seen the 705 marketed as an “80/20” dual sport tire, I will say that I feel that the 705 stands virtually alone between predominantly street oriented tires and the aggressive “50/50” shoes. Karoo 3 vs Shinko 705 MotoADVRWhat sets the 705 apart in my opinion is the tread pattern combined with the tread depth. I will say that there are tires like the Trail Wing that offer an aggressive pattern, but the tread depth is so shallow, there’s no hope of shedding any mud. The 705 is by no means in a class with the Karoo 3 or the K60, but I have already heard of a Scrambler shod with 705s traversing the Kentucky Adventure Trail, so needless to say the tire has enough wherewithal to tackle more aggressive terrain than most of the “80/20” ADV rubber. I took the 705 (rear) through the trails at Shawnee Forest last November; while that ride wasn’t particularly eventful, I will say that despite the extreme wear, I still felt like the rear tire hooked up drastically better than the Anakee up front.

Coming off the Trail Wing, the Shinko delivered the same ride quality I was familiar with from the stock tire. Shinko 705 Scrambler rear MotoADVRThe 705 maintained comparable (if not better) grip in adverse weather and aggressive riding in dry conditions. Considering I pulled the 705 early for a trip to the Dragon Raid, and then remounted that tire to finish it off later, I will also say that the soft Shinkos are very compliant when using irons. Unlike some of the harder sidewalls I’ve dealt with (Anakee 3, Karoo 3, and the K60), I was able to break the bead with just body weight and a long tire iron. I recognize that’s good and bad, but it’s noteworthy in the event you’re trying to patch a tube on the side of the road.

Having just mounted a whole new set of 705s on the Scrambler, I can say that the machine has been transformed all over again.Shinko 705 front Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR While the Karoo 3 is a jack of all trades tire, I was still a shade reluctant to push the bike to “maximum” in the curves for fear of a knob letting loose. With the 705 back on the bike, the proverbial “gloves are off” yet again. The 705 sticks like glue to dry pavement, virtually from “go”. I will mention that I upsized the front to a 110/80-19 as the 100/90 is not available in the 705 model, which has had a similar effect on the steering as the Anakee 3. I admit, the turn-in is a little sluggish again, however overall I feel that the bike is “planted” much better at speed with the larger front tire width. This setup is actually working out so well, I may consider sticking with that front tire size if it is available in other models when I replace the 705 later this year.

Shinko 705 Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThe set of 705s are on the Scrambler as I’m writing this, so I cannot comment on overall mileage for the front tire, or behavior in the rain. That said, last year I found the 705 rear to be a faultless street tire. I will say that it’s important to note that I was initially disappointed in the 4,000 miles of life I received out of the first Shinko I ran. However, after replacing that tire with several other models, I’ve come to the conclusion that the 705 is absolutely the best bang-for-buck dual sport tire you can buy.

  • Shinko 705, 130/80-17 rear: 4202 miles/$65 = 64.6 Miles/Dollar
  • Shinko 705, 110/80-19 front: $49, Mileage TBD
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