Triumph Dragon Raid 2016: Preview

Back to back motorcycle trips certainly hasn’t helped my writing. It has (hopefully) provided me with some new photos and video, and probably a few decent stories.

This year’s Dragon Raid started out on the wrong foot, with me melting a penny sized hole in my all-season riding pants on the “high-pipe” of the Scrambler at the very first gas station. From there, aside from having a really good time, it was a series of unplanned events, including an acquaintance “leaving the roadway” near a curve, riding home in the dark (repeatedly), an unscheduled tire change, and the search for gasoline. Ultimately, this year’s big motorcycle “vacation” felt more like one long episode, versus distinct rides and destinations, so bear with me while I cut video, edit photos, and try to organize this “adventure” into some sort of coherent tirade… I mean story.


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Destination Red River Gorge: Moto-Camping and New Roads

Ferris said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Those words are ringing quite true at the moment. The new bike has been awesome, but between changing jobs and general “life” I’ve been neglecting the blog. Hopefully I can make it up to y’all with some photos and video of one of my favorite places.

motoadvr_scramblerpackedEarly this spring my cousin actually bought a Scrambler I’d been watching on Craigslist all winter. That actually worked out for me, as I got a chance to ride one and find out if it would be the bike for me (we know how that worked out). At any rate, from that moment he’d been asking me to join him on a moto-camping weekend at some savory motorcycle riding destination. Per my previous comments, schedules were not jiving for the longest time, but for Labor Day we did land a short weekend trip down to Red River Gorge.


Per my usual protocol, we picked up KY-36 into Frenchburg and on to KY-77 into the Gorge. 77 is one of my favorites, and a must-ride from KY-460 down through Nada Tunnel to KY-11. From 77 we set up camp at a campground in Slade and then set out to see some of the local destinations. Being Labor Day weekend, Natural Bridge was absolutely nuts, so we skipped across to KY-715 and on to Sky Bridge. If I hadn’t mentioned it before, Natural Bridge is also a “must-do” but I still feel that Sky Bridge is the better motorcycle destination, and it’ll save you $13 bucks since you won’t need to take the skylift to the views (you could hike, but over a mile up a mountain in armored gear, well sucks…). 715 was also a zoo as it’s the main thoroughfare through the gorge, but ample twisties and cool mountain air under the canopy made it worthwhile.



The next morning my cousin and I set out to ride some new roads a bit south of the gorge (hoping to avoid the traffic).

KY-1639, KY-1057, & KY-213

Headed west out of Slade we took a less-traveled southerly route toward KY-52 by picking up KY-1639. 1639 winds through foot hills like many other state routes near the gorge; another “barely” two-lane road sweeps by farms through the valley as you link up with KY-1057 headed up the mountain. KY-1057 was more of the same with more elevation changes and then more scenic views as you merge onto KY-213.






From KY-213 we picked up KY-52 headed east into Beattyville. KY-52 is very well maintained, and nearly free of gravel washouts and debris that plagues a lot of the blind curves on many of the backroads. 52 allows for a more spirited pace, yet be mindful of the steep downhill grade as you approach Beattyville, especially considering that a decreasing radius turn may be around the very next bend.





After a short break in Beattyville, we continued down KY-52 for a short jaunt in search of KY-2016. I had actually ridden KY-52 last October, so 2016 turned out to be a real surprise. 2016 is a 13 mile stretch from St. Helens to Rogers, Kentucky. 2016 is reminiscent of KY-77 in many ways; sweeping, unmarked, curves along local farms, and loaded with blind turns. That said, KY-2016 appears to be less populated with travelers and is almost narrow enough to considered one-and-a-half lane. While I didn’t have to stop for a Deer like KY-213, there was a flock of wild turkeys scurrying across the road.





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Destination State Route 763: Twisty Roads in Southwest Ohio


At this point of the year I’m gearing up for my big trip to Deal’s Gap for the annual Triumph Rally, but there are a few decent roads to be found here at home. Once you’ve spent time riding in places like West Virginia, Tennessee, and virtually everywhere in Appalachia, it’s tough to find roads that compare in terms of technical riding conditions and view considering all the flat farmland. Last year I had big plans to get down OH-763 on my way to see my Grandma in Kentucky. As usual, “Road Closed” signs be damned, I went on by, only to find a local bridge to be out completely. Bike pointed (excessively) downhill, my dad and I turned back. Fortunately, despite some technical difficulties this summer, I did finally make it down to the river to check out this local riding destination. Last weekend I put together a full day’s ride from Waynesville (Ohio) to Augusta (Kentucky), but the highlight was definitely 763.



Ohio Route 763 runs through Brown County between OH-41 in Aberdeen to OH-125 near Decatur. Across the roughly 13 mile stretch you’ll find series of tight, unmarked, curves in rapid succession, including several elevation changes. Throughout the string, you’ll find good open sweepers along farms through the valleys, often followed by another uphill technical section under the tree canopy. First timers should definitely be on the lookout for gravel “washout” from rural driveways and embankments, along with the constant threat of unmarked, low speed curves. There is not a great deal of traffic along the roadway (at least for the 3 visits I’ve made this July and August), but riders should be cognizant of the threat of slow moving vehicles arriving on several of the secondary road intersections.


There are undoubtedly better roads in Ohio, but in the last 4 years, I’ve yet to find a more technical section of roadway south of I-70 and west of Chillicothe.

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Breaking in the Scrambler… or maybe it’s breaking me in?

Three weeks and now there’s 2,000 new miles on the Scrambler’s odometer. I’m still impressed by how the Speedmaster and the Scram share the same engine but behave completely different. I imagine after a year or so I’ll start putting some thoughts to “paper” about the long-term performance and character of the new machine.



At any rate, dirt and all-weather was a new goal of mine with the “new ride”, so I’ve been taking advantage of dirt and gravel roads wherever I can find them. I’m still pretty timid about high speed turns on gravel , but I’m getting more comfortable riding while standing (on dirt; I love riding while standing up on pavement!), and leaning the bike around the dusty turns. Still a lot of learning to do, but it’s addicting, that’s for certain.



As I’ve mentioned before, the local Triumph RATs play a bit of “moto tag” locally, a game I enjoy thoroughly because it always offers you and excuse to put miles on the bike. I put in about a hundred miles today, chasing bridges and whatnot across at least two counties. Figured I’d drop a few photos on this, now, rainy afternoon.


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Singing in the Rain…

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m terrified of riding in the rain… but close. One of my goals with “the new bike” is to ride, rain or shine, whenever possible. The “rubber met the road”, as they say, yesterday on my way home.


I stand firm, if you want to conquer your fear of riding in the rain… you must ride in the rain.



With the right gear, mid-controls, good rubber, and a positive attitude, things are going well so far!

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Triumph Scrambler Project: Planning

MotoADVR_ScramblerHempleBridgeRight up until the last minute, I actually thought I was going to lean toward the tiger, but as I mentioned, in the end it just wasn’t meant to be. That’s not to say I’m disappointed, I knew going in that the Scrambler would do the job, and do it with “soul”, it just meant putting in a little extra work and throwing a little more money at it over time… enter the Scrambler Project.


Short-term Goals

There’s no denying that a stock Triumph Scrambler is a street bike. Not unlike the other Triumph modern classics and cruisers, it also comes shod with some pretty “budget” suspension. If I plan on turning this street bike into an adventure machine… a suspension upgrade is certainly high on the “to-do” list. For folks that haven’t heard me talk about it before, the folks at Canyon Motorcycles in California have a setup with Works Suspension to give the Scrambler (exclusively) a full 6” travel, front and rear, suspension upgrade. That’s going to be on the order of about $1,250 plus installation, but that’ll make for a good project in January.


MotoADVR_ScramblerEngineBarsAside from the “big ticket” suspension upgrade, engine protection is an absolute must. Triumph does fortunately make a (relatively) sturdy set of engine guards for the Scram, but based on what I’ve read (there’s a cult following on, a minor modification may be in order to make them truly hardy enough to stand up to dirt riding. I’ve debated working on my fabrication skills with the help of a knowledgeable friend, but I may leave that for later down the road once I’ve got a few more dirt road miles under my belt (which is about 2 miles as of today…).


MotoADVR_DualScramblersHaving ridden the Speedmaster for such a long time, let me tell you, the stock headlight sucks… and the Scrambler’s isn’t impressing me thus far. With the goal of “rain or shine” in mind, visibility is also near the top of the list. From what I’ve seen thus far, I have healthy list of Denali products in mind to bolt onto the new Scram. If all goes well, I hope to have a two-wheeled zombie apocalypse assault vehicle; mounted with Denali D4 auxiliary lights and possibly the Dual DR1 headlight replacement kit.


MotoADVR_ScramblerTrailerThe old-school Triumph Bonneville summer screen was included with the bike when I bought it. That was a nice freebie, but frankly it looked horrid on the Scrambler, and I felt like I was riding behind a barn door! As of now I’m going to hold on to it for a few and decide if I prefer a new flyscreen (buy or build, that is the question…) and sell the summer screen, or keep it for a really, really, long haul. I expect this year’s Dragon Raid will probably help me figure that out.


MotoADVR_ScramblerSpitfireLuggage is a whole new conversation now; considering my Mad Maxian goals, aesthetics be damned at this point. That high pipe on the right side does add unique challenges, fortunately there are a few, relatively affordable, aftermarket racks available. Per my comments about ADVrider, there are some very impressive luggage solutions that folks have come up with, so it’s really a matter of build, buy, or both at this point. In the long run I think I want to have the option of hard cases (maybe some sweet ammo cans!?!?) and soft luggage. Thus far I’ve seen that the Kreiga Overlander 60 setup is ideal as it lets you mix and match 15 Liter dry bags with RotopaX fuel cans to extend the range (I found out about them in a good adventure story). I have big dreams of taking this bike to Alaska at some point; fuel and storage will be a “must”.


Heated grips are pretty much a given. I had Bike Master heated grips on the Speedmaster which were great until about freezing, at which point they couldn’t quite keep up. I’m hoping what I’ve read about Oxford Heaterz rings true and I can get a wee bit deeper in the cold range. At any rate, installing aftermarket heated grips is pretty easy, so it’s just a matter of putting them in the budget and spending an hour installing them.


MotoADVR_1050guardsOnScramblerAlong with heated grips, I also want to address the hand guards issue. A buddy actually lent me his hand guards off his Tiger 1050 for a few; I may draw them up and take a stab at having a custom set 3D printed, but we’ll see how that shakes out. There are actually a lot of affordable retail options out there, including turn signals, so I could potentially see myself getting lazy and going that route, but I expect I won’t get to hungry for that project until after it snows a few times.


I was actually impressed with the reach to the handle bars from day one, mostly that I can comfortably ride standing up (mandatory requirement for the “new” bike). That said, on the freeway the riding position does get a bit tiring, thus I’m going to hunt down a set of 1” bar risers. There are many solutions available commercially, including ROX risers that would permit pivoting the bars back a bit as well. This is a pretty small change, but a necessary part of the project.


Long-term vision

My end goal is obviously to build a low budget “Adventure” bike. The Scrambler is also a “classy” platform to build my Mad Max war machine… so there are some small aesthetic and some otherwise pricey items I would also want to bolt on long-term. MotoADVR_MadMaxBikeAt some point the rear fender needs to go; props to Rosie’s previous owner, the Lucas tail light replacement with solid indicators was a nice upgrade, but I’m looking to shed weight in the long run. I may also decide replace the stock mirrors with some lower profile bar end mirrors, at least for the summer; however I admit the longer I ride the Scrambler, the more that the taller mirrors are growing on me. Despite putting nearly 50k on the Speedmaster mill, I never fussed with new pipes or other engine upgrades; the Scrambler did fortunately came with Triumph Off-road Pipes (which sound fantastic), and long-term I can definitely see myself removing the air injection, and possibly upgrading to an Arrow exhaust. At minimum, the exhaust needs to find itself “de-chromed”; that’s happening one way or another. In line with making this Scram a dirt worthy steed, the rear brake caliper needs to find its way up on top of the swing arm, instead of hanging down in harm’s way as it is now. On the same note I also want to get some serrated pegs mounted; the rubber clad pegs are comfortable on the freeway, but I’ve already slipped off of them once in the rain. Really long term I’d like to fit some lighter weight allow rims. Spoked wheels are a plus for the dirt, but having replaced a tube already, I’ve discovered these rims are bloody heavy. A tubeless spoked rim would really be choice!MotoADVR_TwistedThrottleCustomT100

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Putting more “Adventure” into Moto Adventurer

MotoADVR_ScramblerTrailerThe day finally arrived. I asked for a few favors, stopped by the bank, and I bought a new motorcycle. I was on the fence for quite a while, but when the chips were down, I knew I wanted a multipurpose machine, and I needed a long term view on what would be the best tool for the job considering I have a one-horse stable. The Tiger 800 XCx (or XRx) would have done the job marvelously but that meant a commitment on my part that I was simply not okay with. Moreover, I have an unrelenting rebellious streak that answers “you can’t do that on a Scrambler…” with “watch me!”; so on Friday, Rosie followed me home.


MotoADVR_ScramblerGrass15,000 annual miles means changing the oil at least twice and a valve clearance check. Obviously with a little practice, that task can be accomplished on the Tiger 800, but I already know the maintenance requirements, have all the tools, and trust the 865 mill. I’ve heard horror stories about the time needed to complete simple maintenance tasks on the Tiger (i.e. air filter change), which may just be hearsay, but I frankly don’t want to fart around with wrenching when I know I can be riding. In the end, the sheer stature of the challenge at hand (make a Scrambler dirt worthy), my concerns about reliability, and flat-out passion for the 865 twin carried the day, and 3 days in, I regret nothing.


MotoADVR_ScramblerRosieIf I hadn’t mentioned already, my cousin bought a Scrambler (not all that different from mine) this spring so I had a chance to ride it. My initial impression was that it was similar to my Speedmaster, but rode like a Bonneville, which is exactly  what I was looking for. First day on the road (Saturday), the Scrambler brought torque in spades. Not all that different from the FZ-07 (obviously heavier…), the Scrambler does NOT have the top end power of a triple (or a four for that matter), but it packs a hearty kick in the ass through the twisties; so much so my face still hurts from grinning ear to ear all weekend.


MotoADVR_RosieFtAncientAgain, the Scrambler is by no means a sport bike, but the ground clearance is by far superior to the Speedmaster, so it’ll jump the curb and it leans over just the same. I can’t hang with supersports or enduros by and means, but I have a thing for underdogs, so the challenge of “keeping up” suits me just fine. One of my favorite movie lines is “I don’t care what anything was designed to do, I care about what it can do!” (Apollo 13). I assume it’s two years in the “sandbox” but I get guilty pleasure out of doing more with less; glutton for punishment I suppose.

How does that saying go; “Adventure is taking inappropriate equipment to out-of-the-way places”?

It may be all wander lust… be here goes!





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