Red River Scramble: Adventure Meetup in Red River Gorge

Early this year I was struck by the bug to do a significant amount of exploring in Red River Gorge this season. Hatton Ridge Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRObviously some of that has already come to fruition, and as a result I’ve received a lot of inquiries on Instagram about riding in Kentucky. Waiting for my calendar to free up a bit, I had originally planned on putting together a “Meetup” down that way next summer; however interest has been pretty remarkable among the Scrambler/ADV community. Thus, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and throw a date on the calendar.

Miguels Pizza MotoADVRSo… the weekend of July 22nd and 23rd I will be headed down to Red River Gorge to meet whoever shows up to “Scramble” their motorbikes. I will be at Miguel’s Pizza for “brunch” on Saturday morning, with plans to head out around noon to ride wherever folks want to ride. This is a completely grassroots event, so I have no idea how many people will show up, what bike’s they’ll have, or where they will want to ride. I figure folks can break off into various groups based on riding “taste” and “have at” whatever flavor of adventure suits their fancy.

Estill Furnace Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRIf you have a Scrambler, Adventure bike, or just a general interest in the “genre”, come on down to “The Gorge”. All makes and models of bikes are welcome, “Scrambler” is simply the theme. Red River Gorge has some of the best roads I know of (paved and unpaved), so I’m looking to share the experience with other riders that share my passion for the backroads.

RedRiverScrambleFlyerI have set up an event on Facebook (Red River Scramble Event) so folks can discuss plans for the weekend, lodging, and riding plans. I have also started a group on Rever (Red River Scramble Group) so folks can get access to local routes, both on and off road. Please head over to those links to mark your calendar and explore what options are available.

“Roll what you got”, we’ll see y’all in July.

Chimney Top Rock Pano MotoADVR

 

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The Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway: Triumph Scrambler Adventures

DCIM126GOPRO

While I originally had intentions of returning to the Indy Mad Max Run this year, I also had a long standing invite from a buddy of mine to get down to Kentucky to go ride some “adventure roads”. The weather wasn’t looking particularly good in Ohio and Indiana last weekend, so I decided I’d rather return to “The Mother Land”, especially after getting all the new goodies bolted on the Scrambler.

Triumph Scrambler Trailer MotoADVRWay back when, I borrowed a saying from a buddy of mine, “If you see my bike on trailer, call the police… because it’s stolen!” While I wish I could always live by that mantra… there are advantages to having a trailer. In this case, literally moments after I loaded Rosie onto my buddy’s trailer, the heavens opened up. Again, I’d prefer a scenic backroad to the Bluegrass State, but moments after driving onto the freeway, it looked like it was on the verge of hail, so the extra 2 hours of riding time would be a fair exchange for a trailer ride.
Once in Kentucky the skies started to clear and we even got a little sunlight before we set out. DCIM126GOPROAfter grabbing a quick sandwich, we decided to tackle as much of the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) possible before it got dark. Leaving from Slade and running counter-clockwise as the DBBB flier suggested, that put my arch nemesis, Spaas Creek Road, at the front of the line.

Spaas Creek Road

Considering all of the rain that the tri-state area had received in the previous weeks, I was significantly intimidated by the potentially deep ruts through the mud I expected to find on Spaas Creek. It was extremely dry last November, yet Spaas Creek road was still loaded with ruts and mud pits because of the shaded creek valley; DCIM126GOPROI expected much worse with the wet spring. Passing the last signs of civilization for the next few hours, it was merely a few mud puddles and a creek crossing before I found myself standing at the edge of the muddy, rut filled, quagmire that stopped me in my tracks back in November. Considering all of the new trinkets on the Scrambler, I hoped I would fare better than before, but after watching my buddy Tom, on his MZ 660 Baghira (a much more dirt worthy machine) slide up a rut sideways, I was debating an alternate route. After looking over the soupy mud bed, envisioning my scrambler laying half buried in the sludge, I decided it best to “bushwhack” my way past the muck and “live to fight another day”.
Spaas Creek Mud Field Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRPast the mud-hole-minefield, new obstacles continued in succession; while I didn’t keep count, I would say there are over a half dozen creek crossings down that road. In fact, I actually found that crossing the creek was easy, it was the mud pits dug by the four-by-fours that proved the most difficult. I watched Tom sink up to his knees several times as a rut hidden under the water got significantly deeper at the far end of the “puddle”. He kept saying “creek crossings… I can’t tell when it’s the creek and when it’s just a mud puddle” as most of the “puddles” were larger than the creek in most places.

Over the winter I caught a video including extended sections of the road that were actually in the creek, perhaps as long as 300 yards. Spaas Creek Road Triumph Scrambler MZ Baghira MotoADVRThe videos also showed some significantly high water, fortunately for us, the water level was quite low, despite all the recent rain, much to my relief. After a long stretch of riding up the creek bed, we passed a short waterfall and finally the turn that led to the final ascent out of the valley. At that point I was starting to feel a sense of relief and accomplishment, assuming it was a dry gravel road to the end, that feeling was short-lived.DCIM126GOPRO Halfway up the climb, I arrived at a “shelf” with another ominous, water filled, jeep rut, adjacent to a steep drop-off into the ravine on the right. I watched Tom take another deep “dunk” into the puddle which left me to “thread the needle” through the opposing rut while not falling to my death. Like a champ, Rosie delivered again and moments later, exhausted, were standing at the top of Spaas creek at Hatton Ridge road, a “mini” bucket list item completed.

 

Pumpkin Hollow Road

Having survived Spaas Creek in one piece, I was pumped to attack the next section. Until now, I’ve been unable to pin down precise pictures of Pumpkin Hollow Road, so I was unsure of the conditions.DCIM126GOPRO From what little I could see on satellite photos, I was under the impression it was at least mostly dry… or so I thought. Coming off the pavement of KY-713, we made a left on a double track gravel road that, if not for the large DBBB sign posted at the intersection, looked like an inconspicuous private driveway. “Out of the skillet and into the frying pan” as they say, I traded the creek and otherwise wet muck for loose dirt, stones, and steep inclines. The assent back over the ridge and into the gorge was of equal magnitude of the tail of Spaas Creek, but it was heavily rutted from the four-wheel-drive traffic.Pumpkin Hollow Rd Triumph Scrambler Stuck MotoADVR I goosed the Scrambler a bit to get through some of the loose gravel, trying to keep momentum as to not slip into a deep rocky rut, yet I rapidly found myself with one wheel stuck in each rut and the skid plate resting on the “hump”. Rosie sat there, “stuck”… mocking me… I naturally stepped off the saddle and took the obligatory photo. I slipped the clutch, wrestled, man handled, and bulldozed my way down and back up a ten yard section of the hill (and both ruts…) and finally made it to the summit where Tom sat waiting. One the far side of the ridge Pumpkin Hollow also takes a creek excursion through the woods as it approaches KY-599 where we returned to the tarmac.

 

Chop Chestnut Road

I’ll have to hand it to the “planners”, the DBBB just keeps throwing unique challenges at you, as no two roads are the same. DCIM126GOPROI assumed the rock quarry was going to be a dusty mess, but that mess was brief as we found the nearly abandoned north section of Chop Chestnut road. Once up on the ridge, the gravel roads faded away to “forest floor” double track. Meandering thought the woods I got the sudden feeling like my front tire was going flat, a new challenge I was not looking forward to tackling, but as it turns out, it was actually an inch thick layer of sand that was creeping up in various turns and gullies. I’ve heard a lot of riders say it, and I agree, sand sucks… However, the unique view of the ridgeline and the sandstone boulders made up for the goofy front end “feel”. DCIM126GOPROIt did however make some of the incline obstacles incredibly challenging; attempting to get up the face of a steep “hill” (essentially part of the sandstone mountain), I needed to carry some momentum to keep from sliding down the sandy slope; on top of that slope was obviously another thick patch of sand so I “nerfed” the turn a bit to keep from washing out the front end. That whole “look where you want to go” thing played its hand and I had an impromptu meeting with tree stump. Fortunately, the Scrambler’s 19” front wheel just coasted up the embankment without catastrophe; I backed down the slope and headed on my way. The sand beds began to disperse as were neared the intersection with KY-3354; but not before revealing a series of “steps” in the sandstone boulders. My buddy Tom took the left fork down the “steps” and immediately told me over the headset to take a look at the right fork before taking the Scrambler down a significant drop-off; fortunately, the right fork was mostly a downhill sandstone washboard.

 

Mountain Springs Road (Under Dispute)

After tackling the sand and boulders it was a short trek down the “hardball” toward Mountain Springs and Furnace-Pilot Road. In preparation to tackle this Moto-Bucket List ride, I have been keeping up with the DBBB on Facebook along with the Kentucky Adventure Tour (KAT) thread on ADV Rider as the two overlap in the north section. From what I’ve seen on both forums, there appears to be a dispute regarding public travel across Mountain Springs Road. Apparently a local land owner has a differing opinion on whether or not the road is public; a situation that is being debated in court… although the case has dubiously been delayed several times for whatever reason.

Mountain Springs Rd Closed Sign MotoADVRKnowing this, I full well expected to roll up on the before mentioned property to find a closed gate and a “dead end”. As it turns out the gate was open, but the land owner was just then “walking up” on horseback and informed us it was “private property”. We had a short, friendly, exchange; in a non-Appalachian accent, she also informed me that I would likely tear up my motorcycle if I went down that hill… Tom and I subsequently decided to roll back up the road and go around rather than escalate the existing tensions about the roadway.

As of this writing, last night the Estill County Court ruled that at least one section of the Mountain Springs road will remain open to public travel, however there is an additional court case regarding another section of the road.

Fixer Lecco Road – Fixer Road – Cave Fork Road

After the long detour around Patsey, we were finally back on the designated DBBB route and headed down Fixer Lecco Road.DCIM126GOPRO Needless to say I’ve been searching for off-road opportunities in the Red River Gorge area for some time now. During that research I discovered “The Narrows Road”, and learned about the former oil business west of the Natural Bridge area. The Narrows Road is unfortunately closed to motorized vehicles now, but Fixer Lecco Road runs through a very similar area (although not on top of a cliff). Fixer-Lecco Road and subsequently Fixer Road are again another flavor of Appalachian primitive roads, reminiscent of Shawnee State Forest in some ways. DCIM126GOPROFixer road included a large number of creek runs and creek crossings, perhaps not as numerous as Spaas Creek, but the water levels were indeed higher. Aside from the country view, the remnants of the oil industry also added to the experience in this area. It was also obvious there were many adjacent trails to the DBBB as we encountered a series of off-road “Side-by-sides” as we neared the junction with Kentucky Highway 11.


As we rolled back onto pavement around 6 PM, Tom and I decided to head back toward Slade as we didn’t have time to complete the last off-road section along Devil Creek. Chimney Top Rock Storms MotoADVRHowever, with a bit of daylight remaining, I suggested we take a detour up to Chimney Top Rock to get a good sunset view of the gorge before hanging it up for the day. I have obviously talked about riding up to Sky Bridge in the past, but after my recent off-road interests, I have begun exploring the gravel trail-access roads throughout the gorge. Off KY-715 (Sky Bridge Road), there’s a three mile gravel spur that takes you up to arguably one of the best views of Red River Gorge. Red River Gorge Halfmoonn Rock MotoADVRFollowing a short (1,000 yards) walk from the parking area, Chimney Top Rock offers a 270-degree view of Red River Gorge including Halfmoon Rock, Hanson’s Point, Pinch-Em Tight Gap, and the Red River. No sooner than Tom and I stepped off the bikes, we heard the ominous clap of thunder. I wasn’t going to ride all that way and miss the view, so we hustled out to the point for some obligatory photos (including some storm clouds) before getting back to the trailer.

 

In the end, I can’t consider this Moto-Bucket List item complete, with a name like “Devil Creek”, there’s undoubtedly more challenges in my path. That said, I was impressed time and time again by the Scrambler’s capability in some of the most adverse conditions. Undoubtedly, I owe a lot to a good set of knobby tires and suspension upgrades; but that aside, there’s no denying that Triumph has built a sturdy tractor. No sooner than I had cinched down the last ratchet strap, rain drops falling, I was already day dreaming about my next venture down unimproved Kentucky backroads.

Rever GPS Track

Spaas Creek Road Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

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Triumph Scrambler Project: Stage 2 Upgrades

Heidenau K60 Scout Rear Tire

After wearing out the Shinko 705 rear tire last fall, I decided to upgrade to the Heidenau K60 Scout. Heidenau K60 Scout Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRMy initial plan was to outfit the bike to ride gravel and dirt throughout the winter & spring, but as luck would have it, the winter was exceptionally warm, yet not warm enough to venture far enough south to do a whole lot of dual sport riding. I decided to upgrade to the 140 width rear tire so I could get the center strip for additional wear life (the stock 130 width only has the chevron tread pattern, no center strip). Along with the fact that the K60 Scout is a bit square compared to the other tires I’ve run up to this point, the wider rear tire does cause to the turn-in to be a bit sluggish, especially as it starts to square off with wear. I didn’t get a chance to truly test the tire in the mud, however I will say that the K60 was exceptional on dirt and gravel for what little bit I managed to do. I will also say that compared to the reviews I read, that actual wet and cold weather grip was far superior to what others have suggested.Triumph Scrambler Knobbies MotoADVR At around 5,500 miles I will say the tire does have respectable longevity (for a Scrambler tire), but it is a bit pricey at $175 and still isn’t getting the boasted mileage I’ve read online ( I suspect that the 150 width tire gets significantly more miles as it too has a different tread pattern). I am going to replace the tire a bit “early” as it has finally squared off to the point that the ride just isn’t “fun” anymore; that’s actually never happened to me prior to this tire. That said, I can see myself buying another K60 rear in the distant future, especially if I was going on some longer, truly 50/50, dual sport rides.

 

Triumph Tiger 800 Hand Guards

In my world, hand guards are a “must”, and were very high on the to-do list after bringing Rosie home. I went back and forth with several retailers about getting a set of “Bark Busters” mounted on the Scrambler, but apparently the factory “threaded” bars were a problem with most aftermarket hand guards. Tiger Hand Guards front Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRUnwilling to pay the extra $60-100 for a new set of bars, I dropped by Joe’s Cycle Shop to examine the Tiger hand guards. Several of the members of the Scrambler ADVrider thread have mounted the Tiger 1050 hand guards in the past, so I suspected that the 800 hand guards might also fit. After closer inspection, I decided to pull the trigger and modify as necessary to make them work. The problem with either set of hand guards is that the factory Scrambler bars are threaded for an M5x25mm bolt, whereas the Tiger (among other bikes) is threaded for an M6x40 bolt.Tiger Hand Guards left Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR I installed the Tiger 800 Hand guards with no issue, but initially left off the Tiger bar end weights (included with the guards) and used some cheap spacers from the hardware store to fill the gap while still using the standard M5 bolt. That all went swimmingly until the bolt backed out while riding off-road. Since I had to replace the bolt anyway, I splurged and ordered a package of M5x40mm bolts off the web for $7. That allowed me to install the factory end weights for more “hand-room” and even better looks. In the end the Tiger hand guards are a bit more expensive ($135) than other aftermarket brands, but from what I’ve heard they provide better “air protection”. Admittedly, they will not provide the same level of “crash” protection as the aluminum-backed aftermarket varieties, but I’m not as concerned about that at the moment.

 

Mustang Bonneville Sport-Touring Seat

As much as I liked the look and convenience of the Triumph solo seat (with luggage rack), it was unfortunately not up to the task of all day riding. Mustang Bonneville Sport Touring Seat Side MotoADVRDon’t get me wrong, it proved to be firmer, and therefore superior to the stock “ironing board”, but after about two hours, I was pretty much done with the solo seat (the stock seat lasted about an hour). Now, I did tolerate the seat for long days down to Kentucky and the Dragon Raid, but if I plan on completing the Saddle Sore 1000 this year, I knew I was going to need a new seat. I debated having the solo seat re-upholstered, or sent out to Russell Day-Long to be completely re-engineered, but considering the cost, hassle, and fear of the “unknown”, I decided to stick with something commercially available. Mustang Bonneville Sport Touring Seat Elevation MotoADVRAfter studying the different reviews online I decided that the Bonneville Sport-Touring seat from Mustang Seats was probably the best choice. Not long after having mounted the new seat I took a solo trip down through Red River Gorge and back. I can unquestionably say it has made a world of difference. I admit, there are days that I will still experience an odd “hot spot” on my left side, but I suspect it has something to do with how I’m sitting in the seat. If I stay in the “dished” portion of the saddle from the beginning of the ride, I seldom notice that issue. All-in-all, it’s been a solid investment for about $360.

 

Pyramid Plastics Fenda Extenda

Originally I had envisioned a motocross style “high” fender on my Scrambler project. Fenda Extenda Back Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRAfter my Red River Gorge adventure last November, it became evident that the oil cooler gets completely loaded with mud with just a bit of puddle splashing and trail riding. As a result, I did some various research online and it appeared that a fender extension would probably be the best solution for the problem. Obviously the standard fender configuration can lend itself to be overloaded with mud, howeverFenda Extenda front Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR I suspect it may be a while before Rosie the Scrambler finds herself in those situations, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. At any rate, for less than $40 delivered from the UK, a formed piece of plastic with a little epoxy and now I can happily say that the oil cooler stays mud free.

 

Shinko 804 Front Tire

The stock Trail Wing was nothing to write home about, but the Anakee 3 proved to be an excellent all-weather road tire. Shinko 804 front Triumph ScramblerUnfortunately, the Anakee loaded up with mud within seconds during my trip down Spaas Creek last November. Vowing to get across that road at least once, it was time to step up Rosie’s game, so I made the jump to some serious “Adventure” knobbies. Again, after browsing reviews, it appeared that the Shinko 804 “Adventure Trail” was equally capable compared to the “legendary” Continental TKC80 Twinduro. Considering how much I liked the Shinko 705, I figured a more aggressive Shinko was the way to go; the fact that the 804 is a shade cheaper than the TKCs didn’t hurt either. Thus far the front end “feel” in the gravel and dirt has been excellent in the few jaunts I’ve done off-road since February. Triumph Scrambler Anthony Road Mud MotoADVRThe on-road feel has been really good, along with respectable wet grip for being a true knobby tire. I admit that I now ride just a shade more “gingerly” as the knobby stopping power up front isn’t quite as firm as a street tire, especially in the rain. That said, the cornering ability on the 804 on dry pavement is quite surefooted, I would expect that you can ride almost flat out through the curves, just be cautious about grabbing a handful of front brake. I expect the true test of mud will happen in the coming months.

 

Joker Machine Serrated, Narrow Foot Pegs

Whilst riding down Spaas Creek Road, I decided that it would be best to circumvent a particularly treacherous looking mud hole. Joker Machine Pegs2 Triumph Scrambler MotoADVREverything was going swimmingly until my muddy boot slipped off the stock rubber peg; after which I was “scrambling” for real trying to keep Rosie right side up on the muddy embankment. At that point it was evident that I needed a good set of serrated pegs if I was going to keep up the dual sport riding. From what I can tell, the peg selection for the Scrambler is a bit limited. I was eyeing a very versatile set from SW-Motech, however it turns out that local vendors are currently on back-order and the company refuses to sell them to me direct from Germany; fortunately, Joker Machine came to the rescue. With about a thousand miles under their belt, I can definitely say they not only provide solid grip on the bottom of my adventure boots, they also make a small “platform” which is even more comfortable while standing. I admit that the serrations are a bit shorter than I’d like, meaning they can still be a bit slick if you’ve not planted your boot properly. Either way, they’re a huge improvement from where I started.

Triumph Scrambler Project

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Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway and the Kentucky Adventure Tour: Updating the Moto Bucket List

After checking the Big Muskie Bucket and Ohio Route 555 off the Moto Bucket list, I figure it’s time to put up some new goals. Considering the amount of time I’ve been spending in the Bluegrass state, along with my current thirst for off-road “Adventuring”, I figure there are two logical choices for new members of the list.

 

Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB)

smugshot_cdalejef_DBBBOfficially opened in spring of 2016, the DBBB is a (roughly) 100 mile loop around the Red River Gorge area of Eastern Kentucky. While parts of this route are paved, sections of the DBBB are extremely rugged, including a multitude of creek crossings among other dual sport and OHV obstacles. Incidentally, I actually rode a few short sections of this route while wandering through the gorge with my buddy in November of 2016. Per my comments about “Rugged”, while on Spaas Creek road we decided to turn back, fearing the road ahead may be blocked or impassable. Upon the discovery of the DBBB, it was evident that Spaas Creek does in fact connect from end to end, at which point I vowed that I would traverse that road in its entirety, along with the rest of the DBBB route that happens to be smack dab in the middle of my favorite riding area. Considering that the DBBB is still relatively new, I struggled to find decent images of the trails. Fortunately, through the help of Instagram, I linked up with a fellow Kentucky Adventurer, @cdalejef, to get some good muddy photos.

 

The Kentucky Adventure Tour (KAT)

@cdalejef_KAT1Incidentally, I stumbled across the DBBB while looking into the KAT on ADVrider. As it turns out, portions of the DBBB and KAT overlap in the northern parts of Red River Gorge. The KAT is a (roughly) 900 mile loop around eastern Kentucky, including the previously mentioned parts of Red River Gorge, Black Mountain (the highest point in Kentucky), Kentucky coal country, and even parts of Virginia and Tennessee. From what I have read, over half of the route is unpaved, and that amount is increasing with each passing month. Similar to the DBBB, “Overlanders” are scouting old, rural, public roads that are legally passable by motorcycle and adding additional sections to the route. Optional “Hard” sections are also available on the loop; it is suggested that these sections should only be attempted by experienced offroaders and typically require proper dirt-oriented machines. I’m hoping that a “dry run” through the DBBB prepares me for the challenges I will face on the KAT with Rosie the Scrambler. From my experience thus far, it’s all fun and games until water is involved. I suspect I may get to the DBBB this year, however it’s going to take about a week’s vacation to traverse the KAT in its entirety.

@cdalejef_KAT3

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The Triple Nickel and Big Muskie Bucket: Checking Items Off the Moto Bucket List

The Triple Nickel Ohio Route 555 Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRLast April I tagged along with my cousin when he went out to Columbus to take a look at a Scrambler he found on Craigslist. About five minutes after he sealed the deal and parked this “new to him” Scrambler in front of his apartment he asked me if I wanted to go ride “The Triple Nickel” sometime soon. Per my comments in December about setting goals, somehow I had not yet managed to get out to Ohio State Route 555, but with my cousin moving out of state in a few weeks, that invitation couldn’t wait any longer.

My normally cast iron ride schedule was rapidly foiled as I realized I’d left my debit card at dinner the night prior and I had to shuffle credit cards and cash back and forth with “The Boss” before leaving well past the intended “zero-eight-hundred” start time. Once under way, I was apparently so easily distracted by the back and forth chatter on the Sena headset that I also successfully missed a turn, despite running the route with my Garmin. I suspect this was actually foreshadowing…

Triumph Scrambler Sheetz MotoADVRAfter passing miles of cornfields on a series of unremarkable state routes, we finally arrived at Sheetz in Zanesville for gas and grub. My Brother-in-law raved about Sheetz from his time at Muskingum University; I have to say, it is as convenient and delicious as advertised… I look forward to future encounters!

DCIM123GOPRO

From Sheetz we were literally half a mile from the north entrance of Ohio Route 555 and finally getting into the exciting stretch of the trip. For those who haven’t looked over my Moto Bucket List already, Ohio State Route 555 is a 63 mile stretch of incredibly twisty rural two-lane that runs from Zanesville to US-50 along the Ohio River near Parkersburg, West Virginia. I heard about “The Triple Nickel” not long after obtaining my endorsement, and vowed that I would go ride this legendary Ohio road someday.

While this trip was undoubtedly about riding “The Nickel”, there was no way that I was going to make my way that far east without setting eyes on the Big Muskie Bucket the same day.DCIM123GOPRO Just a few miles into the gentle rolling hills of OH-555, we diverted over OH-669 to head toward Miner’s Memorial Park, resting place of the remnants of Big Muskie. This is naturally where the story gets interesting; I made up the route with Rever, and decided to export it to my GPS so I could get turn-by-turn instructions. For whatever reason, somewhere in the rural depths of OH-669, my Garmin was convinced that I had missed a prescribed turn and suggested I re-route. I swear I clicked “no”, but for whatever reason, the blue “magic carpet” was distinctly telling me to head the opposite direction. So, unable to recall the intimate details of the route, I followed the GPS, which naturally had all “avoidances” disabled. DCIM123GOPROAbout a half mile into the detour, the asphalt faded away in favor of county gravel. Both of us were unfazed thanks to our trusty British Scramblers, however the welcome site of an “off-road adventure” was somewhat tested after a few miles of undulating unimproved roads that wound along the hillsides. After several hair raising downhill moments on exceptionally loose gravel, my mind began to wonder if I had actually planned for this off-pavement excursion, or if my GPS had just led us astray. Despite the challenges, we continued to enjoy the views, which even included a covered bridge, hidden among the large swaths of wooded countryside.

Following several miles of varying degrees of gravel, we finally arrived at OH-37 and eventually OH-78, the road that would take us over to the Muskie Bucket. Again, the GPS sent me the wrong way, still looking for “shortest distance” to the gas station at the bottom of OH-555. After some otherwise enjoyable curves along OH-377, we got wise to what was going on and doubled back to OH-78 and finally on to Miner’s Memorial Park, just outside McConnellsville.

https://a.rever.co/embed/rides/383818

Big Muskie Bucket MotoADVRWhen I hear “coal”, I typically think West Virginia and Southeast Kentucky… but as it turns out, the largest drag-line earth mover ever built was actually here in Ohio. “Big Muskie”, completed in 1969, harvested 18 million tons of coal (via strip mine) from southeast Ohio until 1991. Technologically obsolete, and otherwise stalled because of regulations, Big Muskie was finally dismantled and sold for scrap in ‘99, save only the giant, 220 cubic yard, bucket. In Miner’s Memorial Park, the Big Muskie Bucket was left as a monument to the miners and their families for their service to the industry. Big Muskie Bucket Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThe bucket itself is unquestionably massive, but what really caught my eye were the chains. Laid out along the stacked stones, each link was nearly the size of a Scrambler… I couldn’t imagine how much each one weighed. From other photos I’d seen, I had dreams of pushing Rosie up into the bucket for a picture. However after examining the “teeth” up close, I have yet to discern how other riders got their bikes into the bucket. I snapped a shot of “Dual Scramblers” in front of the bucket just the same, and admired the view from the park hilltop.

 

DCIM123GOPRO

From Miner’s memorial park we were finally headed back over to the Triple Nickel along the planned route. Intersecting the heart of the legendary 555 twisties, I was rapidly reminded of the road hazards that I had been warned about. Winding through farmland along the rolling Appalachian foothills, “The Nickel” intersects with a large number or rural driveways, and otherwise backcountry topography that sheds gravel into the roadway when it rains. If the countless blind curves weren’t enough, finding endless patches of gravel in the apex of the frequently off-camber roadway is sure to keep you on your toes; or in my case, holding a quite bit in reserve. There’s no question that OH-555 is a “must-do” for motorcyclists in the Buckeye State, but it goes without saying it is not for the foolish or faint of heart.

Triumph Scrambler Ohio Route 555 MotoADVR

 

At the end of notorious 555 roller coaster we arrived at a service station in “Little Hocking” on US-50. Reflecting on the day, it was nice to have checked off, not only one, but two items from my bucket list; even better to have completed them so early in the riding season. Despite that, the moment seemed almost anti-climactic, overshadowed by the preceding off-road adventure. Perhaps it’s obvious where my heart is now; despite my unquestionable love for lonesome, twisty, rural roads, I’m apparently gravitating more to the unpaved variety. Along with that, I also have to mention that OH-78, OH-377, and even parts of OH-669 were also stellar roads. Per Lance Oliver’s recommendation, I expect I will venture out that way again, in search of more immaculately manicured asphalt… and unquestionably another series of unmaintained roads.

https://a.rever.co/embed/rides/384151

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Building a Motorcycle Tool Kit: Road Trip Preparation

STriumph Scrambler Shawnee Forest Road MotoADVRpring is finally in the air in these parts and I’ve already started to do a bit of off-roading locally and down at Shawnee State Forest. Some of my posts on Instagram have received several questions about what tools I keep on the bike for local and long trips, so I figured I’d compile a list and offer a few comments about why I have this or that.

 

The Daily Grind

Since I commute to work most days, I have to have some place to stash my lunch. In virtually every photo of the Rosie the Scrambler, and even the Speedmaster, you’ve probably noticed my Saddlemen tail bag. At 21 liters, the tail bag has enough room for my dress clothes, lunch box, and space for thermals or extra gloves if I need them. Along with the daily necessities, in the side pockets I typically keep the following items:

  • Micro-fiber towel
  • A spritz bottle of S100 special surfaces cleaner
  • Spanner for Hagon rear shocks
  • 6mm hex key (came with the bike)
  • Side stand pucks

Triumph Scrambler Tailbag Took Kit MotoADVRThe S100 and towel are obviously to clean the bug guts off my visor, and occasionally water spots off the mirrors and speedo (I’m obsessive-compulsive about that…). I don’t adjust the shocks a whole lot, but if I’m riding anywhere sporty I like to bump them up a notch, so it’s just easier to have the spanner on hand. Same goes for the Hex Key, most of the important bits on a Triumph can be removed with a hex key (like the seat). Anyone who’s ridden off-road with me will also attest to the fact I have a clown car full of side-stand pucks. I’ve collected them over several years at motorcycle events and I’ve just never taken them out of that pocket. In my riding jacket I also carry a set of ear plugs in a pill bottle key chain, and typically a tire pressure gauge in a waterproof pocket.

 

The Tool Kit

Leather Motorcycle Tool Roll MotoADVRFor long trips, or virtually any time I’m riding off-road, I load up a tool kit to handle a flat tire or other random failure that I might encounter. There are a number of tool kit recommendations out there; the Iron Butt Association (IBA), used to have a really lengthy recommended list, and I’m sure I’ve seen an even more in depth list on ADVrider.com at some point. I arrived at this list after identifying all of tools that I use when performing the 6,000 mile interval services on the bike, along with any tools I need to fix a flat tire in a jam.

Leather Motorcycle Tool Roll Layout MotoADVRThe main tool list:

  • Leather tool roll
  • Tire irons/spoons x2
  • Rim protectors
  • Valve core tool
  • Tube patch kit
  • 12 volt air compressor
  • 3/8” drive ratchet
  • 1/2” drive ratchet
  • Channel locks
  • Adjustable wrench (up to 1”)
  • Combination box wrenches (8, 10, & 12 mm)
  • Wire cutters
  • Combination screw driver
  • Metric hex key set (1.5-6 mm)
  • 3/8″ drive hex key sockets (5, 6, & 8 mm)
  • 3/8” drive sockets (8, 10, 12, 19 mm, & ½”)
  • 3/8” drive deep well sockets (10, 12, 14, & 18 mm)
  • 3/8” drive extension bar
  • 1/2” drive sockets (15/16”)
  • 3/8” to 1/2” drive adapter
  • “Midget” combination wrenches set (4-11 mm)
  • Torx sockets (T27 & T30)

 

Triumph Scrambler tool kit prep MotoADVRI will admit that this is actually a pretty Spartan list. There are some small redundancies with various sockets, but that’s mostly because you cannot reach certain bolts on the bike with or without an extension bar, at which point the deep well sockets are needed. I will typically throw in a bag of zip ties, electrical tape, a flashlight, my Leatherman multi-tool, and potentially spare inner tubes depending on how long the trip will beBattery Tender 12V SAE Adapter MotoADVR (like the Dragon Raid). On the same note, I will also switch out the daily tail bag for my Saddlemen BR3400 tail bag for the long trips; I also expect to see my new Biltwell EXFIL-80 in action later this year. I also use a Battery Tender 12V adapter in my tank bag that plugs into my SAE pig tail. The 12V adapter powers my Garmin GPS, charges my cell phone, or will run the air compressor if needed.

This list also has some deficiencies that I need to remedy in the near future, namely a more convenient bag; the leather tool roll is heavy and a bit old-school. It’s also a good idea to bring along a few extra fuses, a length of automotive wire (especially if you have an 80’s UJM…), spare headlight bulb(s), an oil filter wrench (strap or chain), and a pair of vice-grips.

Leather Motorcycle Tool Roll with Tools MotoADVRAs I mentioned to a buddy of mine in conversation recently, you can easily go nuts with a tool kit and prepare for every apocalyptic calamity imaginable. I’ve heard guys say they bring along spare brake and clutch levers, spare clutch cables, spare shift levers, along with the rest of the kitchen sink. That said, when you’re east of the Mississippi, access to a phone is typically only a few miles away, or in my case, I usually only need to limp the bike five to 10 miles down a dirt road to get close enough to civilization so I can flag down a passing vehicle. On the other hand, if you’re trekking up the Dalton Highway, yeah, you need to be prepared to repair a clutch basket right then and there.

Like I said, this is not the most comprehensive list, so what else is in your tool kit?

Shawnee State Forest Road 2 MotoADVR

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Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding: 13 Tips to Keep You Warm

triumph-scrambler-7-degrees-motoadvrDespite the fact that spring is technically around the corner, it snowed this week, and it’s not at all unheard of for Dayton to experience snow in April. That said, this topic has come up quite a bit in the past week; obviously quite a few guys in my circle of riding friends are chomping at the bit to get back out on that road. “Winter Riding” tips may be viewed as a little “late” considering that we’re on the verge of spring, but cold spring mornings apply to this theory just that same as winter afternoons.

Prepping the Rider

First off, you can absolutely run out and buy top of the line Klim gear or an Aerostich Roadcrafter. While I don’t have any of that stuff, I’m sure their street credit is likely founded; my method is more about making small purchases and combining them with your existing gear to extend your riding season, or worst case, get you out of a jam on short notice.

1. Layer up

Base layers are all the rage now from a lot of the moto-gear manufacturers.MotoADVR_RainierLiner3 I admit, I have invested in a dual material Triumph thermal, but for the longest time I’ve used polypropylene and/or micro-fiber long-johns under my riding jacket and pants. Obviously you need to make tactical decisions with your thermal layers; you need to keep the heat in, but also have the mobility to operate the motorcycle. Under 40°F I usually throw on a thermal layer between my jacket and T-shirt; under 32°F I usually go with a long sleeved shirt in lieu of the T-shirt; and under 25°F I start getting into apocalypse mode, which usually involves at least a sweatshirt.

2. Use your rain suit

Some of you are probably thinking, “I thought he said winter weather?” Cutting the wind is your number one priority, fortunately the wonderful water resistant qualities of your rain suit also work to block the wind. Nelson Rigg Rain Suit MotoADVRUsing a rain suit as a winter garment even gives you options, you can layer up with thermals under your motorcycle gear, and if you still get cold you can put your rain gear on over it. On the other hand, you can use your rain gear as an additional layer under your motorcycle gear. I personally prefer the latter because I hate the sound of my rain jacket fluttering in the wind (on top of the extra wind resistance), but folks with traditional textile gear may also prefer this method as mesh jackets are all but useless in winter.

3. Get a good set of Gore-Tex boots

SIDI Canyon Boots MotoADVRIf you have perused “The Gear” section of Moto Adventurer, you may have seen some of these items before. I have recently acquired a set of SIDI Canyon Boots; ultimately I bought these boots because I needed a good waterproof Adventure/Touring boot, however, considering their Gore-Tex waterproof nature, they also double as excellent cold weather boots. Needless to say, you don’t necessarily need “Adventure” boots, but a good set of waterproof boots will help you cut the cold air.

4. Wear a solid set rain gloves, and don’t forget the squeegee!

Are you detecting a theme here? Same story, winter weight gloves, and definitively waterproof.Winter Gloves Squeegee MotoADVR I have a cheap set of rain gloves I picked up at a local dealer a couple years ago; those go a long way when it’s above 40°F, but when things get close to freezing, you’re going to need some dedicated winter gloves, maybe even electric, but more on that in a minute. The other important piece here is the squeegee. Yes, I’m all about the squeegee; it’s super convenient in the rain, however the winter piece here is fog. On more than one occasion I have left the house at around 35°F and foggy. As I rode out of the humidity of the river valley, the temperature actually dropped and the fog literally froze to my face shield, which is where the squeegee comes in. Just be prepared.

5. Install a “Pinlock” or dual lens visor

Gmax 54S Helmet Dual Lens MotoADVRSegueing from my fog and squeegee comment, fog on the inside of the visor is another problem you need to be prepared for. When it’s 40°F, cracking the visor for additional airflow to clear the fog isn’t all that bad. However, once it’s sub-freezing, the frozen air stings pretty bad in your eyes; at those temperatures,  I don’t recommend cracking the shield above 10 MPH if you can avoid it. I had a Dual Lens visor for my GMax helmet that was 99.9% fog-proof, rain or cold weather. At some point here soon, I will be getting a Pinlock visor and insert for my new Scorpion EXO-AT950 helmet for all the same reasons.

6. Wear a neck gaiter or balaclava

From about 55°F and down, I wear my neck gaiter religiously (some readers probably already do this as well). Schampa Balaclava MotoADVRAs I started accumulating better gear and my cold weather riding tolerance increased, I also picked up a motorcycle specific balaclava. The neck gaiter is great, but I actually found that the skin under the helmet vents started to sting from the little bit of air that squeezed through. The Schampa “Pharoh” facemask is constructed with two materials, a comfort thermal layer over your head that is also covered by the helmet, and a wind breaking chin curtain to block the brisk air below the chin bar. It takes a little getting used to, but the full face coverage also helps keep the visor fogging down.

7. Wear Latex gloves in a pinch

A few weeks back I published “How cold is too cold to ride?” That day was pretty nuts, but it was one of a short list of days I actually put on a set of latex gloves before putting on my normal winter riding gloves. The latex helps lock in some of the body heat while not sacrificing a whole lot of flexibility and “feel”. This “trick” isn’t going to buy you a substantial amount of additional comfort, but when it’s 7°F outside, every bit counts.

8. When all else fails, buy heated gear

In my case, the extra money I’ve saved by not buying a ‘Stitch, I’ve invested in heated gear.Tour Master Synergy 2.0 Heated Gloves MotoADVR I will even go as far as to say that heated gear was an arm and a leg just a few years ago, but these days heated gloves are only a few dollars more than a lot of standard winter gloves currently for sale. I currently have a set of Tour Master Synergy 2.0 Heated Gloves along with a Tour Master heated vest. I admit, I have recently resorted to using the heated vest, and I stand by my previous opinion, the lack of heated sleeves makes no sense at all. I expect I will be upgrading to the heated jacket liner as soon as possible. For “cold blooded” folks, you can also invest in heated pants, and even resort to heated socks and boot insoles if you so choose.

9. Chap stick… seriously

I hate Chap Stick, with a passion. It’s all waxy and gross; can’t stand it. This one isn’t necessarily about staying warm, however, after a long morning in frigid temperatures, I know I’m desperate to do something about chapped lips. It’s gross, and a goofy topic to be discussed among “men”, but find some at a service station, and put it in your (exterior) winter jacket pocket; you can thank me later.

Preparing the Bike

Without going into a long spiel about the concerns of corrosion, T-CLOCS, tire grip, and air pressure, let’s assume you already understand the importance of those things, and focus on trying to stay warm. There are a few extra farkles you may want to invest in to extend your riding season.

10. Slide on some heated grips

This may sound very European, but I don’t understand why more motorcycles don’t have heated grips fitted as “standard”.motoadvr_oxfordheaterzgrips I have pretty much decided that heated grips are a “must” for every bike I own. I had a set of Bike Master heated grips fitted on the Speedmaster. Those were pretty decent down to about freezing, but fell short not long after. I now have Oxford Heaterz on my Scrambler, which are superb. Based on my current experience, heated grips are more effective, and get more use than heated gloves. Beyond prepping for extreme cold, you’ll find yourself wearing your summer gloves sooner in spring, just because you can turn up the heat a little. Just keep in mind your bike’s alternator capacity before plugging in every electric item you can buy; I suspect most modern machines can handle it, but I doubt your ’82 Nighthawk is prepared for that kind of draw.

11. Bolt on some hand guards or “Hippo Hands”

Hand guards are another “must” on my “winter motorcycle” (which is currently my only motorcycle…). Hand guards come in many shapes and sizes; from the off-road “Bark Busters” type, to the winter wind protection variety.Scrambler Tiger HandGuards MotoADVR Longtime followers of the blog will also recall my DIY piece on hand guards for the Speedmaster. Crafty folks can buy acrylic sheets from the hardware store and bend them to suit their needs; it’s not much for crash protection, but it will at least keep your hands warm. I’ve also heard lots of stories about folks cutting up bleach bottles and strapping them to their bars to stay warm. In my case, push is rapidly approaching shove, after my whole single digit excursion, I will probably be investing in a set of motorcycle “mitts”. A lot of folks call them “Hippo Hands”, but several brands make these mitts, including Bike Master. They’re pretty affordable, and from what I’ve heard, paired with heated grips your hands are downright cozy. If I’m going to attempt more single digit rides, a set of mitts may be the only way to get it done while keep my fingers intact.

12. Invest in a windshield or fairing

Triumph Speedmaster 13 inch Shield MotoADVRThis probably goes without saying; guys at the helm of a “Wing” are probably saying “Winter? What’s that?” However, for the rest of us mortals, wind management is a lot easier with a good shield. I’m somewhat of a hold-out in this department (I prefer the fly screen), a “good shield” is probably going to be one of the most expensive items you purchase to stay warm. I personally would rather have the heated gear, however if you’re cold blooded, you might want to put a little extra in the budget.

13. Clip on a throttle lock

Go-Cruise Throttle Lock MotoADVRSimilar to the comment about latex gloves, if you don’t have a throttle lock, get one. You may never ride long enough to use it on any normal day, but on a cold morning, having the ability to reach down and “grab the jugs” is invaluable. Throttle locks aren’t particularly complicated (or reliable) devices, but they’re cheap, and they’ll give your throttle hand a break long enough to give it a little warm up to tide you over until the next service station.

This is obviously not a completely comprehensive list of “sniffle” gear, but it covers the vast majority of Motorcycle accessories I use or plan to buy. I’ve told others, the biggest secret is having a positive attitude, layer up (in waterproof gear), and make routine stops. You’ll probably be surprised how much more comfortable you are with something as simple as heated grips, which, like most of these items, won’t break the bank.

What “tricks” do you use to stay warm?

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