Red River Scramble 2019: News and Updates

 

That last few weeks have been an amazing blend of work and fun. Needless to say, I love hosting this rally; it’s great seeing the looks on people faces as they roll in from a ride on some of my favorite roads. The next best thing is spending the weeks prior pre-riding those routes to see what kind of condition the roads are in; which is how I’ve spent the last three of four weekends. For the next couple weeks, it’s mostly paperwork, marketing, and e-mail blasts, so “keep your ears on”, and without further ado, I’ve got news!

Sponsors!

We have some really awesome stuff to give away at this year’s rally! Red River Scramble has been a grassroots effort, so I can’t thank our sponsors enough for making it such a great event! Please go over to the Sponsors page, take a look at their websites, follow them on social media, and obviously support their businesses so we can keep their support for future rallies!

 

Return of the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt

With 26 days to go until this year’s Red River Scramble, I’m excited to announce that thanks to REVER, the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt is back again for 2019. This year, rally attendees will have two full days to find the best hidden gems scattered across Kentucky. Oxford Products has set us up to give away some really awesome prizes for the top three winners, including luggage, heated grips, and a Montreal 3.0 riding jacket for the grand prize winner! Head over to REVER and join the event challenge (HERE). For full details on the Scavenger Hunt, check out the details on the rally event page HERE.

 

Event Schedule

I’ve also posted the tentative event schedule up on RedRiverScramble.com. Per tradition, I will ride down Thursday morning to meet folks at Miguel’s Pizza for lunch. Check-in at Lago Linda Hideaway is not until 2 PM so I’ll probably ride around a bit before dropping my stuff off at the campground. As dinner time comes around, I’ll be setting up a booth at the pavilion at Lago Linda for registration.

A couple things of note, Lago Linda’s office is open from 8 AM to 5 PM, so folks arriving late will want to call the office and make arrangements for late check-in. With that, I will close down registration at around 8 PM to hold a riders meeting. For folks that can’t make it into camp Thursday evening before 8, I will do late registration Friday morning and Friday evening. If folks know they’re going to have a tough time making time frame, drop me an e-mail or a message on Facebook or Instagram, and I’ll get you sorted out. Check out all the details on the schedule page HERE.

 

Maps & Navigation

As soon as I finish pre-riding the last two paved routes from Beattyville, all of the “recommended” routes will be finished, and I will update the “Where to Ride” page on RedRiverScramble.com. As of this moment, the ADV loops are done and updated on the GPX library, and the paper maps are complete. That’s right, “by popular demand”, I have created paper maps for download. I plan on printing a limited number for the event; while I would love to provide a map for everyone, 17” x 22” paper is not exactly cheap… For folks looking for more twisty pavement options this year, stay tuned to the “Where to Ride” page as I expect to add three new loops; for the adventure crowd, download the paper maps and GPX files and get ready to ride!

Paper Maps
GPX Library
REVER Group

 

Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway

Speaking of adventure riding; I’ve added quite a few adventure routes to the library this year. Considering the wide range in difficulty on the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB), I have re-baked the route in several flavors, that way riders of varying experience can enjoy sections of the trail based on their skill level. There are several ways to skin this cat, for folks that decide they just want to ride a loop that fits their skill level you’ll find the full “DBBB” loop, the “DBBB Intermediate Loop”, and the “DBBB Novice Loop” in the GPX library and on REVER. Be sure to check out the write-up on evaluating your adventure riding skills HERE.

However, if folks are feeling adventurous and/or are still not quite sure where they fall on the skill level scale, I’ve created the “DBBB with Options” Loop. Coinciding with my numbered description of each of the DBBB’s off-road section (HERE), I’ve dissected the DBBB to create “off-road options”. While not perfect, the idea is that each “option” increases in difficulty as you ride counter-clockwise around the loop. There is also a “DBBB Bypass” included in that GPX file (separate route on REVER), so riders can skip a given section and pick up the DBBB at the next option, or just enjoy the twisty pavement (and short gravel sections) as the bypass loop takes them back to Slade. (Note: You will need a GPS unit for this route)

 

The countdown has begun…

We’re inside of four weeks to go now, so I’m working hard on finalizing details, getting waivers and welcome letters printed, gathering prizes and trying to get all of this information published. I’ll be ordering the event “swag” here shortly, so if folks plan on attending, this is “last call” to get registered if you want to get an event sticker and so on! If you’ve got a buddy that’s been on the fence about attending, get them over to the registration page, and get them signed up. As always, stay tuned to the blog, and keep your eyes on your email, I have a few special things coming specifically for registered Red River Scramble attendees…

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14 Reasons to Start Adventure Riding

I’ve recently welcomed another rider into the “adventure” world. To his credit, he rode dirt bikes “back in the day”, but has been dedicated to street riding for many years now. After seeing all the crazy photos here on the website and social media feeds, he decided to once again venture off-road. Apparently, I’ve unconsciously been trying to excite folks into taking their motorcycle on a woods adventure, but today, I’m making that a conscious effort. Needless to say, I’m enamored with adventure riding, but beyond “because it’s fun”, here are 14 reasons why you can and should give adventure riding a shot.

 

Go anywhere

Back in 2016, I published “Putting more Adventure into Moto Adventurer“, after I brought home new (to me) Triumph Scrambler. Long-term followers of the site are no doubt familiar with Rosie’s accolades, but I bring up that story because it marked a clear transition from asphalt to dirt. Even today, there’s little I enjoy more than a lonely stretch of Appalachian twisties, but with the right attitude, when that pavement ends, I think you should keep riding. I’ll go further by saying that, with the right bike, you can arguably ride anywhere. This, of course, is a matter of taste, comfort, budget, and perhaps the right tires, but there are many ways to skin this cat, and this is easily why I enjoy adventure riding so much. There have been countless times when I’ve been out in the boonies and I spot a great photo opportunity, which frequently means leaving the safety of the tarmac; something that is now seldom a second thought. “Anywhere” again depends on those before mentioned factors, but it goes without saying, once you’ve left the asphalt, your riding opportunities essentially double.

 

Experience nature

I really enjoy a good hike, among other outdoor activities. Unfortunately, prime hiking weather is often prime motorcycling weather; adventure riding means I have the opportunity to do both. While I don’t often ride and then hike, it’s happened before. More than anything else, it’s nice to disappear into the woods, find a nice scenic spot next to a creek, shut down the engine, and just listen the birds singing. With that, a typical jaunt through my beloved Bluegrass means I have run-ins with deer, wild turkeys, guinea hens, and occasionally snakes crossing the trail. Considering gas stations and restaurants are seldom near the prime off-road locations, packing a sandwich and having a picnic on the trail is often standard operating procedure. With a good hammock, it’s even easier to turn this whole experience into an overnight affair.

 

The best scenery is seldom on a paved road

Here on the east coast, the powers that be have put a lot of effort into paving more roads as a convenience to tourists; but like I said about an impromptu creekside lunch, some of the best views are still found at the end of a dirt road. In many cases, the “road” itself is the view. While riding the Triple-Nickel last spring, my GPS led me astray which turned into an off-road adventure. That adventure led to a random covered bridge hidden in the forest. Last week while scouting routes for Red River Scramble, we encountered a waterfall over a rock shelter that was literally part of the trail. Aside from the likes of the Blue Ridge Parkway, paved roads seldom reveal such gems.

 

Riding off-road improves your street skills

As a guy who learned to ride on the pavement first, the sensation of the rear end of the motorcycle sliding out of line with the front wheel was especially unnerving. However, once you realize it’s all part of the process, and get comfortable with the rear wheel doing its thing, you suddenly have a new appreciation for a motorcycle’s capabilities on asphalt. You rapidly find yourself far less intimidated by limited traction conditions. “Sliding” is often a tactic used off-road to get the motorcycle into position for the next obstacle; worst case it’s something that happens and you learn how to manage it without incident (more on that in a moment). Again, once you’ve mastered that experience, you now know what to do in a bad situation on the tarmac. Most importantly, riding off-road will teach you how to look where you want to go, with a quickness; a critical street skill that at times, still evades veteran street riders.

 

Dirt is more forgiving

Beyond mastering traction by riding off-road, dirt is also far more forgiving (I should know). Riding dirt usually means that speeds are lower, so the penalties for mishaps are typically less severe. While not always the case, if you crash off-road, the landing is typically softer. Pavement is anything but soft but it’s also lined with a lot of fixed objects that are likely to inflict even more damage at speed. There are, of course, trees in the woods (by definition), but again, the speeds are typically lower, especially in situations where you’re pushing the limits of your riding capabilities, like creek crossings, rocks, and mud. I’ve been “tossed” far more off-road than I have on the pavement, most of the time while waddling through mud or tractoring up a hill. The tip-overs in the mud are far less eventful than a drop in the parking lot, typically with less damage to the bike to boot.

 

You never ride the same road twice

I have an equal appreciation for riding my favorite “go-to” roads, just like I enjoy spending entire days looking for new places to ride. Some folks get bored with the same old stuff and want to ride someplace new most of the time. That’s the beauty of off-road riding; the route doesn’t need to change, because mother nature changes the character of the riding surface with each passing day. I take a few trips to Shawnee State Forest every year, I’ve never seen the route the same way twice, often no more than two weeks apart. One week I’ll find mud on the trail in a spot I’ve never seen it before; the next trip I’ll find a gnarly rut from the previous day’s thunderstorm, you just never know.

 

“…avoid any Imperial entanglements.”

Everyone appreciates something different about motorcycling, for me, it’s often the closest I’ll ever get to being a fighter pilot. As such, that occasionally means my taste for “spirited” riding is at odds with the local constabulary… Fortunately, riding off-road typically means that posted speed limits are well… not posted, as few would attempt to ride at such speeds that would necessitate a “limit”. My off-road skills certainly fall into that category, as I seldom find myself exceeding my ability to apply the brakes on a loose surface. However, off-road riding can be the hooligan’s paradise as there’s typically no peace officer to be found; or anyone else for that matter. Needless to say, urbanites frown upon wheelies on the boulevard, but when riding off-road, the ability to lift the front wheel is praised, furthermore, it’s a necessary part of tackling certain obstacles; a skill one should master if they plan on diving deeper into the backwoods. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself… I’m obviously not condoning hooning around forest service roads and creating problems with the local park rangers. However, if you’re out on the trail in the middle of nowhere, the consequences are between you, mother nature, and perhaps your insurance company.

 

There’s no such thing as a boring dirt road

While ripping along the sweeping paved roads, at some point, backed up traffic, the risk of injury, or the threat of legal altercation typically trumps your interest in high-speed maneuvers. Thus, you finally accept the inevitable and settle into following some beat-up pickup around your favorite set of twisties. When riding off-road, you’re nearly always the fastest vehicle on the trail (if not the only vehicle), and most folks will wave you by. Related to my previous point about traffic laws, I can’t think of a single time I’ve found myself bored on the trail. More excitement can always be found at the twist of a throttle. If you get bored putting around the trail, just wick it up a few more notches. That boredom can rapidly transform into stark terror at the next bend (if not sooner).

 

Solitude

Which brings me to my next point, solitude on the rural backwater roads is what I love most about long rides through Appalachia. When you leave the pavement, those roads are even more remote, and often, a lot closer to home than such sparsely traveled paved roads. On a different note, folks concerned about the dangers that other drivers pose to motorcyclists, those complications are minimized the moment you leave the pavement, as few people have any interest in traveling on dirt roads. This perspective is obviously not for everyone, being alone and “off grid” without the ability to get help is not appealing to some. However, if you’re looking to turn off all the “noise” of urban life, see the “wild” and connect with nature, off-road riding again combines two of your passions at once.

 

Self-reliance

When discussing the best tool kit, many have suggested that the less kinesthetically inclined simply carry a cell phone and a credit card. Here on the east coast, that’s a pretty solid plan most of the time. Paved roads (typically) lead to somewhere, so someone will be along eventually, even if you can’t make a phone call. Off-road, however, that’s not always the case. Where I ride in Kentucky isn’t particularly remote, however many of those trails are places where only a 4-wheel drive could potentially retrieve a disabled, 500-pound motorcycle, and I doubt many tow truck drivers are interested in attempting it. That’s one of the reasons the kitchen sink is often packed on the back of the Scrambler; if I get a flat, break a lever, or have some other mechanical issue, I need to manage on my own until I can limp the bike back to some form of civilization. Again, this concept is not for everyone; certainly many among us have no interest in riding that far into the bush, but for the select few, the knowledge that you are your only safety net is part of the allure. For those that find themselves in the middle, I certainly recommend the buddy system; being stuck out in the woods with your closest friend is slightly less intimidating than negotiating with the local black bear all by your lonesome (this way you just need to be faster than your buddy). If nothing else, your buddy can usually help push the bike out of the mud, and in the best of circumstances, you can now split a tool kit between two bikes instead of hauling all the heavy stuff solo.

 

It doesn’t have to be as rugged as the internet would have you believe

Despite all these stories about being down in the holler, knee deep in the Kentucky clay, adventure riding doesn’t have to be the stuff you see on the internet. In the Instagram age, everyone is posting photos of ridiculously over-weight machinery traversing the gnarliest off-road trails. Most of us, however, are simply enjoying a scenic detour along the forest service roads. Shawnee State Forest is another classic example of this; most of the trails inside the forest are immaculate gravel roads that I would take a Harley down, no different than my CRF250L (albeit slower). I’ll always tell people, “don’t get hung up on finding the RIGHT bike, as the internet would have you believe” because you don’t have to take your motorcycle down rugged single track to enjoy an off-road adventure. I’ve certainly taken my Scrambler to places few others will go, but that had a lot to do with the fact it was the only bike I had, but mostly a testament to my own stubbornness. Most folks will have a lot more fun just enjoying the scenery at their local state parks and on unimproved county roads.

 

You don’t need a $20,000 bike to try it

Speaking of the Scrambler, it’s far cry from a BMW R1200GSA or KTM1090. If you ask three people what kind of bike you need for a given adventure, you’ll get four opinions and I about guarantee, one of them will be the “premium everything” option. Something of note, most street bikes have more suspension travel than my Scrambler, and it goes without saying that didn’t stop it. You should also know, that despite wanting the best adventure bike, or the most dirt-worthy thumper, a KLR 650 is arguably THE cheapest option for an “adventure” machine; but even then, any bike can do the job. There will always be more comfortable and more capable machines, not to mention limitless farkles to spend your money on. Find a bike that’s in your budget and go have an adventure. In time you’ll discover the limits of your comfort zone with respect to where you like to ride and the comfort and capabilities of your machine. Once you’ve figured that out, you can make choices about changing your given mount (don’t forget, two is better than one).

 

It doesn’t have to be for weeks at a time

I don’t know about you, but I have bills and therefore a job I have to be at five days a week. With obligations and limited vacation time, it’s tough to take a month off work and circumnavigate the country. Believe me, I want to, I just don’t have the means… yet. I imagine most of us are in the same boat, so don’t be discouraged from taking an “adventure” because you don’t have time to trailer out to Colorado and get lost in the woods. You might be surprised by how many gravel roads are scattered around your state, not to mention, most adventure rallies here on the east coast are within a day’s ride and are typically held over a weekend (I can think of at least one).

…or thousands of miles away

Charlie and Ewan’s “Long Way Round” was an epic adventure. Many of us would love to take months off work and tear off on a motorcycle adventure. Unfortunately… most of us have some hefty obligations, so that’s easier said than done. While I don’t necessarily think this keeps folks from picking up adventure riding, I want to reiterate that there are often remote and obscure trails to be found a lot closer to home than you might realize. Long-time Moto Adventurer subscribers are familiar with my endless adventure tales from eastern Kentucky; the vast majority of these rides are only day trips.

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Where Do You Park Your Cell Phone?

I count myself to be one of the lucky ones. I’m also a bit superstitious, an odd trait for an engineer I’ll grant you, but true nonetheless. I tend to believe there is no such thing as luck, good or bad, but as one of my old friends from West Virginia had a habit of saying “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all..’ Now, although I considered the man a friend during the time we worked together, he was actually the Journeyman under whom I completed the majority of my apprenticeship in the sheet metal business.

I came to the US from England to learn a trade after I’d earned my BEng. (Bachelor of Engineering) in Civil Engineering. I’d had a conversation with an uncle on my American side of the family a few years previously who ran a reasonably sized duct shop for a local union contractor. We figured if I got my degree and then finished an apprenticeship the timing aligned well enough to put me in a good place to take over from him when he retired in a decade and a half, the rest is history, as they say.

As it turned out the economy went south right after the 9-11 attack, and things went in a slightly different direction. Regardless, what had been indirectly reinforced when working with my sheet metal buddy, was that old-school planning was worth every minute of the time it took, and to be sure to be thorough when doing so. Also, always have a Plan ‘B’, expend as much energy and effort and prepare as carefully as Plan ‘A’, and work in a reasonable level of ‘fluff’ to allow some improvisation if needed. To be clear, I’m not in any way recommending you overthink a situation – just be sure you cover all the obvious bases, and see what pops up during planning and reviews, and don’t forget that another pair of eyes can provide very valuable insight. Dick (- for that was not his given name. Tom was the owner, and Harry was the state of his chin, but Dick) wasn’t the best planner, and so if it wasn’t for bad luck…You get the picture by now.

During my early riding years I’d been as all young riders are, brash and carefree. I’d had a couple of semi-serious wrecks over four or five years, which with undue pressure from the other half forced me to go seek some training, however, my biggie was not until my thirties, and it happened while I was driving a car. It involved a pretty nasty head injury necessitating a helicopter ride, a lot of second-hand blood, a week in and out of consciousness, and initially took three or four years to regain a marginal share of the mental dexterity I’d enjoyed previous to the wreck. With the advantage of hindsight and almost two decades, I’m relatively confident it actually took a good twelve years to fully recover the majority of my finer capabilities, and not have regular or semi-infrequent headaches as a symptom of the trauma.

I can draw a parallel to watching my son grow, not the headache part, but the development part. He has these growth spurts every few months, and seemingly on a different development path he has these jumps in ability, specifically related to gains in language and pronunciation. He’ll wake up one day and speak with a clarity way beyond what he had the day before. He’ll burst out with a whole new cluster of words all at once. It’s quite remarkable to see, and what’s even better than experiencing it is knowing that he is none the wiser for it, I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s always been that way. It was almost the same for me except that I could feel the difference. I likened it to looking through a slightly misty window, it all looks ok, but when the mist burns off, it’s so much clearer. That kept happening during the first decade after my wreck. I’d wake up every few months and know there had just been a busy night in my head – lots of connections had been reestablished, and as strange as it sounds I felt so much better because of it. As seasons went by the time between those episodes became longer and longer, and by the time I write this I don’t experience the same kind of events anymore, but like everyone (I hope!!) I just have those little epiphanies after a particular rough or stressful time that remind you it’s not worth sweating the small stuff. – Keep on keeping on, they say or to repeat an overused English expression, ‘Keep calm, and carry on.’ I prefer the later, it is more in keeping with my intent of not inducing anything other than confidence, through being completely un-phased by anything that’s contrary to my ideal.

Oh. My. God. – I’ve just used 750 words to set the tone for the next 400. Oh well, such as it is, we’ll just have to persevere, and make the best of it.

The point of all these forewords is to bring up the subject of cell phone holders on motorcycles. I see similar posts on forums all the time, and they generally take the form of these two following questions. –

“What’s the best type?” and “Where should I mount it?”.

Well, here’s my considered opinion – Keep your cell phone in an inside pocket close to your heart.

“Why?”

Well, let’s break it down.

  1. You don’t have to go looking for it if you are in a minor wreck.
  2. You have it on your body if you are in a more serious wreck and you are separated from the bike or are not able to get to the bike in case of obstacle or injury.
  3. You can call for help even if you are trapped.
  4. Because that’s the first place anyone will look if you are unresponsive, or can’t remember your name (this happens a lot with head injuries).
  5. If things are really bad, you can leave a recorded message for loved ones.
  6. Some jackets even have a specific waterproof document pocket with a different colored zipper to let the EMS know where to look.

That’s why.

I know if it wasn’t for the cop who was in the right place at the right time to call for the Care Flight after my accident I’d be in a much worse place than I am now.

I do not want anybody to be in a position where they cannot get help as quickly as is humanly possible when they are involved in a bad situation. So, doing what you can to aid in that goal is a top priority for me. I’ll ask you if it is for you too?

Now, I know people like the convenience provided by the GPS apps on the smartphone and like to be able to see the screen in front of them rather than just listen to the voice, I know I do on occasion, and I certainly like to use the music apps like Pandora, or iTunes to stream music through my headset. This can have the effect of reducing battery life quickly, and I am fully conversant with the argument of cost vs the cost of a Garmin or Tom-Tom, and/or the time saved by not having to plan a ride on a PC/Mac and then upload it to your chosen GPS. That’s why I’m kind of conflicted when I see the newer motorcycle specific apps that are appearing such as Rever, or CaliMoto that have the added functionality of planning routes on your computer in a web browser and being able to sync it to your phone automatically through the app or text message over wi-fi or 3/4G. I like the convenience and user-friendliness of it all, but I still believe it’s worth the peace of mind to keep that phone on my person at all times. In my view, it’s just another part of my ever expanding ATTGAT routine. Ride Safe friends.

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Harley Dirtster Project: Stage 1

For folks that made it to the Dragon Raid last fall, or the Garage Brewed Moto Show in January, you got a chance to see the Dirtster project in the flesh. As with Rosie the Scrambler and Andy’s Bonbler Project, I originally intended to document the Dirtster build months ago. Naturally, life happened, and the blog took the back seat for a few months there. Well, despite what Punxsutawney Phil says, it’s very much still winter here in Ohio, so here I am, finally circling back to “Ripley the Dirtster”.

Not long before penning the “planning” edition of this series, Jeff struck a deal on a 2003 Sportster XL883 he’d been keeping tabs on. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, we decided to pull the trigger on the Hugo Moto kit to land the key components for the build. There was a lot of beer involved, some pizza, and a few choice expletives, but in the two nights leading up to March Moto Madness, we successfully scrambled a Sportster.

The Hugo Moto World Tour Kit

Per comments above, if Jeff and I were going to scramble this Harley, we wanted a dirt machine that was more capable than my scrambler, while still “simple” in comparison to his KTM 990. Surfing the web, we studied multiple Sportster builds, the Carducci Sportster on ADV Rider, Burly Brand’s “Dirty Work“, and Biltwell’s “Frijole 883” to name a few. While there’s a vast sea of aftermarket parts available for the Sportster, it’s a little harder to find long-travel suspension and true “mid controls”. With that in mind, the bolt-on kit from Hugo Moto already included the critical components which made their kit the easiest route to dirt-fairing adventure machine for the former “bar hopper”.

So what’s in the kit? Jeff and I wanted the “Full Monty” from Hugo Moto, which included a suspension package with 7-inches of travel. Up front that meant a set of Andreani 39mm fork cartridges to drop into the stock Harley-Davidson fork tubes. There was a little grinding that had to happen to remove the stock fork innards, but that was pretty much the toughest part of the job to beef up the front end with fully adjustable front forks. On the back end, the “slammed” shocks were binned in lieu of a set of beefy EMC Twin Alu 2 Tri Tube 17.5-inch”rear shock absorbers. Again fully adjustable suspenders with 7-inches of travel, installation of the EMC bits was an easy bolt-on experience.

I think belt drive is still totally acceptable for most Scrambling duties, but when facing off against the finer parts of the Kentucky backcountry, the Hugo Chain Conversion kit was a must. To maintain the same gearing ratio as the stock belt/pulley system, Hugo’s conversion kit comes with a 22-tooth countershaft sprocket, a 520 chain, chain slider, and 51-tooth rear sprocket. Chains and sprockets obviously need wheels to turn, in the first generation Hugo Moto Kit, that was a set of Excel Takasago 18 and 21-inch Rims laced to Talon hubs. The new wheel set came with an adapter to attach the stock brake rotors and interface with the stock wheel spacers.

The foundation to the Hugo kit is actually their Peg Relocation Kit (PRK). While many refer to Sportster foot controls as “mids”, they’re still pretty far forward for aggressive off-road riding. The Hugo PRK puts your footing between the stock “mid” position and alternative Sportster rear-set options. The PRK comes with a shifter arm and all the linkage necessary to operate the shift lever from the rearward position. On the right side, the PRK relocates the rear brake reservoir assembly and re-uses the stock brake pedal. Once you have the PRK brackets bolted on to the case/frame, it’s just a matter of fitting the skid plate.

I often joke that a scrambler isn’t a scrambler without high pipes. Hugo Moto obviously shares my opinion, as they provide shotgun headers with hanger and heat shield with the kit. Our high-pipes were designed to use the stock Harley slip-ons. True to form, the Hugo kit also comes with fork boots, and a set of Biltwell 1-inch Tracker High handlebars to give the rider better leverage for off-road riding and complete the scrambler “look”.

 

More On Hugo Moto

When Jeff and I reached out to Hugo Moto, they were still very much in their infancy. It turns out we actually received the first kit that was shipped to a public. Like any small business, Hugo Moto has grown a lot over the past year; they’ve done a lot of market research, and have made various evolutions in their kits to better suit what customers are asking for. We bought the premium level “World Tour” kit last spring. Today Hugo Moto offers an a la carte menu for scrambling your Sportster. With exception of wheels, the parts listed above (or equivalent) are still available for your scrambler build (They also provide links to various wheel sources if you still want to upgrade your rims to more dirt friendly sizes). They now offer several different suspension options, along with accessories like luggage racks, high fender mounts, and seat risers. If you’re looking for a kit on par with the World Tour kit I described above, I suggest you take a peek at their HD2 Enduro kit; which was actually based on their 1200 Sporty that won the 2018 March Moto Madness hill climb. If you’re wanting to build your scrambler a piece at a time, or just make your bike a bit more gravel friendly, check out the different trim levels (stages) they offer for their “Scrambler Kit”.

 

Additional Bits

The Hugo Kit is a solid foundation; you can easily go from the parking lot of creek bed after a long day in the shop. That said, there are some stock Harley parts that would be better served elsewhere. The stock headlight on the 2003 Sporty is another anemic 5-3/4″ bowl akin to the feeble beam on my Triumph. That was rectified post-haste with an easy “drop-in” J.W. Speaker 8690 LED 5 headlight. I also hated the stock handgrips from go; I’m all about the stock H-D rubber grips for touring on the interstate, but on the trail, we needed something with “texture”. After checking out the grips on Andy’s Bonbler, we also picked up a set of black Renegade Grips from Biltwell. Considering the nature of woods riding, a set of Bark Busters was about a given; after some recent spills, it’s also nice to find your levers still intact after a crash landing. Keeping with that theme, the 883 doesn’t have quite the same punch as the plus size sporty, so we decided to beef up the low-end grunt with a few extra teeth on the rear sprocket.

 

How Does It Ride

Freshly minted, Friday morning at March Moto Madness I took “Ripley” up the hill for the first time. I was immediately amazed by the difference a 21-inch front wheel makes when carving through the dirt. The old carburated Harley mill is also content to lug around tight switchbacks and obstacles without protest. Having scrambled up the same hill on my Trumpet, there’s no denying that the extra 3-inches of suspension travel makes for a more comfortable ride.

Per my comments above, Ripley also followed her (half) sister Rosie down Deal’s Gap for the Dragon Raid last fall. Tropical Storm Gordon and Hurricane Florence dampened the riding opportunities, but we still managed to scramble the mountain byways and a few of the local forest roads. On the asphalt, a scrambled Sporty starts to live up to its name; with the extra ground clearance, I had blast throwing the bars down in the corners and riding The Tail of the Dragon on a beefy Harley super-moto. When the pavement ended, the big twin was still right at home hustling around the gravel roads between Robbinsville and Tellico Plains.

I’ve obviously hustled my portly Triumph through some trails where it has no business. The Harley is a much different beast than the otherwise low-slung Triumph. With the long-travel suspension, the Harley is taller, and with that, I admit the weight “feels” higher. In reality, the Sportster weight just over 460 pounds in running order; a good 40 pounds lighter than the Scrambler. The Harley, however, is narrower, and unquestionably more forgiving when crossing rocks, ledges, and pot-hole riddled fire roads.

Future Plans

Despite having the bike in running order for almost a year now, Jeff and I have unfortunately been tied up with a lot of extenuating circumstances. We had enough seat time to decide we needed a little more “punch” to handle the mud and steep grades of the DBBB, but haven’t had enough time to sit down and really hammer out the suspension settings to get things as plush as we want them. That gearing situation might be unnecessary if the 883 had a little carb work, or potentially an upgrade to a 1200 big bore kit; time will tell.

Along with considering the upgrade to 1200 cc’s, we’ve discussed the possibility of installing a Rekluse clutch. I took a short ride on the HD2 Enduro at MMM, There’s no denying it’s a lot easier to handle a big bike off-road when there’s less concern about stalling the bike, just as there’s no denying that the 1200 Sporty has more “oomph”. A Rekluse clutch is slick kit, but it’s not cheap, and in the end, might not be necessary for the riding we plan to do. Fuel is also a problem for the older 883, with the stock peanut tank, 100 miles is about max range. We could hunt down the larger sporty tank from the Super Low, but we’re still daydreaming about possibly figuring out how to mount an IMS, Safari, or Acerbis aftermarket tank to the Sporty frame. I’ve caught a few odd photos of that setup on Advrider, but I’ve yet to find any firm details on what fits.

Suspension and “propulsion” are obviously the big tickets items, but we have a few other odds and ends on our to-do list. I have considered taking Ripley to Conserve The Ride this spring; unless I suddenly decide to rent a trailer, that means we need to get a luggage mounting system sorted out. Stock Harley levers are also meant for more hamfisted inputs, something I don’t recommend when riding off-road; thus we’re shopping for the best lever alternatives without having to switch out the stock Harley switchgear. We obviously love the high-pipes, and the Hugo headers are tucked in pretty well compared to the British alternative. However, after seeing the HD2 Enduro in the flesh, we’re both pretty enamored with the idea of a 2-into-1 SuperTrapp replacing the traditional Harley slip-ons.

Assuming we aren’t bathed with another year of record-setting rainfall, and pending any more family emergencies, I’m hoping to spend more time getting the Dirtster dialed in this summer. I’ve been toying with the idea of shooting a DBBB “promo” bit for the MotoADVR YouTube channel, certainly, a mud-slathered Sportster will raise a few eyebrows. Stay tuned…

 

Posted in Harley Dirtster Project | 8 Comments

Mother Nature is Unforgiving: The Ride

Do you ever have those dreams where you’re falling? It’s a horrifying sensation. Right as that twilight feeling sets in, you suddenly feel like you’re slipping away; right then you’re jolted awake, wide-eyed and gasping for air. Since I was a kid, instead of falling, that dream was reliving a bicycle crash I had in the 7th grade. As an adult, that dream has transitioned into taking a spill on a motorcycle. For some reason, the front end of the bike just lets loose from the pavement. I try to steer out of the crash, to no avail, the bike is tipping and going down. I hit the ground, which in itself would be a dramatic event, but I’m still sliding. I think I’m about to stop, so I try to stand up, not knowing how fast I’m still moving. As my boots grip the pavement, I’m tossed onto my stomach, momentum still carrying me down the roadway. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a bright orange glow. As I look up, I see sparks like fireflies trailing the bike as the two of us slide for what seems like an eternity. In just that moment, the fear lets loose for just an instant, I’m captivated by the stream of yellow and orange, like sparklers on independence day. That feeling fades as fast as it arrived, realizing I’m watching my motorcycle skid down the street as I finally started to slow.

Normally that initial feeling of weightlessness is right about where you start to wake up. Certainly, that impending impact with the ground is that point where your eyelids snap open. That didn’t happen, because this was real. Headed to work, like any other day, the front wheel let loose, and down I went.

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

06:30 AM

That relentless sound of a blaring alarm clock rings in my ears as I slap the snooze button for the fifth time. Blurry eyed, the child in me finally agrees I need to get to work, so I grab my phone and turn off the alarm. I check the weather, 36°F and no significant chance of rain. Excellent, I need a good ride, and even the mundane commute to the office is a reward at this point in winter.

 

7:05 AM

Showered and lunch packed, I pull on a polo shirt I should have binned months ago, and then pile on the gear to get ready to ride.

 

7:15 AM

I put my lunch and dress pants in the pannier, pull on my winter gloves, boot up Rever, and push the bike out into the driveway. I look down, noticing the puddle in the driveway doesn’t have any ice on the surface.

 

7:16 AM

I pull out on to my street. Passing a car at the next intersection that looked like he was going to pull out behind and follow me. I watch in my mirror, he’s still sitting at the stop sign.

 

7:18 AM

I cross over the Dayton city line. The flooding is as bad as I’ve seen it before; my street has had standing water on or next to it for almost two straight years at this point.

 

7:19 AM

I slow down to go throw a particularly large puddle. Know how damp the edges will be, I take my time crossing to make sure the bike doesn’t slip on ice I can’t see. The tires have lots of grip, so I cross the puddle and speed up.

 

7:20 AM

After crossing another wet section of wet tarmac, I get ready to pick up the pace. That’s when it happens. The front starts to slip. I feel the slightest slip and then grip, for just a split second. Before I realize what’s happening, the front wheel is tipped beyond correction. I’m going down. Black ice.

 

7:24 AM

I survived the slide. I pick myself up of the ground again, this time without being thrown back down. I don’t remember any sounds of my helmet hitting touching the ground. I look over my gear; it’s tattered, but not that bad. My elbow hurts a little, but I need to make sure I’m not struck by a car coming around the bend.

 

7:25 AM

Checking myself out, I see the headlights in the distance. I flag down the car so he slows down. He rolls down the window to check on me; I tell him thanks, I’m good, have a phone and I’m only a short ride back home. When he passes I pick the bike up, pushing off to the side of the road. Watching for oncoming traffic, I pull my arm out of my jacket, seeing blood from a gash that apparently happened in the “scuffle”. I let out a deep sigh.

 

7:26 AM

I kick up the kickstand and thumb the starter button; Jerri the Warhawk fires to life. I ride back to the house, realizing I’m going to need to have my arm looked at. Worse, I need to tell the wife I just took a ride down the asphalt… on my backside… That’s probably going to be the most painful part of this whole experience… hopefully.

 

7:33 AM

I start pulling my gear off, inspecting my helmet, jacket, pants, and boots for holes and scratches. The hole in my right sleeve explains the gash in my elbow and the cold breeze I felt on the way back home. That freezing air sure left me with an eerie feeling, concerning that blood was pooling in my sleeve; fortunately, that was not the case. My pants have lost a couple zipper pulls and look really beat up, they were overdue for replacement anyway I suppose. The new TCX boots, however, are rock stars. The buckles have some serious road rash but the leather looks mostly unscathed.

 

10:34 AM

The nurse practitioner at Urgent Care sprays a little lidocaine on my elbow and starts plucking out a few small chips of asphalt and cuts away a few bits of dead skin. He cleans up the wound and tells me they don’t think stitches will be necessary; it’s just a deep gash. They take an X-ray; thankfully, nothing is broken.

 


When I was in the sandbox back in 2007, my buddy Sam would always say “If you’re gonna be dumb, you better be tough.” I can’t help laughing thinking about it. Falling hurts… sliding also hurts. My phone said 36 degrees at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; well above freezing. I assumed I would be fine, especially since I didn’t see any ice forming on water anywhere else. I live right on the river, where the humidity and temperatures are drastically different than elsewhere in the city. Worse, I knew full well my street through downtown is a scene out of Mad Max (“witness me!”)… and yet I went that way anyway; simply because I didn’t want to deal with traffic lights and other drivers. Stupid Hurts.

My gear saved my hide. Those Firstgear TPG Escape pants I wrote about so long ago held together, despite the fact I’ve been mending them from pipe-burns and off-road hooliganism for the better part of two years now. The Icon Raiden jacket was also solid. I was sliding on my back and obviously had no idea how fast I was going because I was on the D3O armored back pad. My elbow took the spill because I was too stubborn to exchange my jacket a second time for a size smaller. Had the jacket fit as it was intended, that D3O pad would have been in place, and prevented my boney extremity from kissing the tarmac. My Scorpion Exo-AT950 appears unscathed, how I don’t know, but needless to say, this event is the exact reason I put this crap on every morning.

And there it is, all of the statistics folks talk about. I was on my street, less than a mile from home, and I had an “off”. Also, like nearly half of all motorcycle accidents, this event was purely my own fault, “riding too fast for the conditions”. I’ve seen ice on my street under these conditions before but figured everything would be fine. So now, the next order of business will be to take care of me; let the adrenaline wear off and make sure there are no other hidden injuries. Thanks to a set of Zeta hand guards and a Giant Loop exhaust guard, with the exception of a bent set of handlebars and rashed pegs, Jerri is otherwise unharmed (mechanically). Those sparks would have been pretty… had it not been my new toy making them.

Having “Ride 365” under my belt, a few days ago I was asking myself, what’s the next challenge. The universe provides; and sometimes not in the way you want it to. I’ve had a low-speed slide in the past, needless to say, this was much more climactic. I’m arguably in better shape than I was following the first “off”, but I suspect this event will have a much deeper psychological impact than the first. I rode the bike back home, and I want to get back on the bike as soon as possible. I’m a firm believer you need to climb back on the horse and keep the demons at bay before they rise out of those dark places in your mind and wreak havoc with your resolve. Either way, it will be a matter of “learning to ride all over again”, rebuilding confidence, recognizing mistakes, moving on, and sharing the experience in the hopes I save others the pain.

Posted in Random Blurbs | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Garage Brewed Moto Show 2019

January, that cold grey month that blankets Ohio in frost and snow. The Christmas lights have been taken down, and for most folks, the motorcycle is tucked away in the garage, waiting for the spring melt. For those that do ride, it’s a brutal month of layering up and enduring the weather and the cursed road salt. Fortunately, there is a shining moment in one of the last weekends of January, the Garage Brewed Moto Show in Cincinnati.

What is Garage Brewed?

Hosted by Cincinnati Café Racer (CCR), Garage Brewed is a free public motorcycle show hosted at Rhinegiest Brewery. Bikes featured are the work of builders from small towns and big cities, from true backyard builders to professional customs. Garage Brewed is an invitation-only show, however, anyone can nominate a bike that they feel deserves to be showcased at Rhinegeist. This winter, volunteers from CCR pored over a hundred and thirty rare, vintage, and custom motorcycle nominations to put together a collection of sixty-three exceptional bikes for the viewing pleasure of event attendees. Each year, a unique crop of motorcycles is selected; thus providing visitors a different experience each January.

Rhinegeist Brewery

At 1910 Elm Street in Over The Rhine, Rhinegeist Brewery was born out of a dream to build a craft brewery, coincidentally on the former site of one of the largest breweries in Cincinnati history before it was closed under prohibition. In 2017, Rhinegeist became the second largest independent craft brewery in Ohio (by sales volume). During this year’s Garage Brewed, Rhinegeist had over twenty-five of their own draft beers on tap for visitors, as they let the Moto Show take over the majority of the brewery’s 250,000 square foot taproom.

The Show You Don’t Want to Miss

This year marked my second visit to Garage Brewed. As I’ve told many others, it’s a truly eclectic collection of motorcycles from across the country. I also have a great appreciation for the fact that many entrants are from right here in Cincinnati, including many vintage survivors that have been polished in the garage, but also a collection of one-of-a-kind custom machines. One of the best parts of the show is meeting new people that have traveled across states to show off their talent, while also catching up with old friends; all the while sharing a pint of some of Cincinnati’s finest craft beer.

Beyond the bikes, CCR puts on an incredible exhibition. Motorcycles are not simply lined up and roped off, they’re presented as members of the crowd. The bikes are up on kegs, hanging from pillars, and on platforms and the main stage for your perusal; often with the builder standing nearby if you have questions or to simply complement their work.

Ripley the Dirtster

If you keep up with the Moto Adventurer Events Calendar, I planned on attending Garage Brewed a long time ago. That said, this year was even more significant as Ripley, the Harley Dirtster Project, was also selected for this year’s show.

I’ve been sitting on a draft of “Stage 1” of the dirtster project for quite a while now, I’m actually hoping to turn that into a video this spring, so stay tuned. In the interim, the short story is, Jeff and I did indeed partner up with Hugo Moto to put together one of the first Sportster “Scrambler” kits. Ripley is the first public Hugo kit to leave the factory. That said, beyond wheels, pegs, and suspension, Jeff and I still did quite a bit more tinkering in the garage to get Ripley in the off-road ready condition she is today, but more on that later…

 

The Winners

Per my previous comments, each year a given selection of motorcycles are invited to a show, and will not be invited a second time. In keeping with the same mantra, each year a different set of judges are chosen to select the best bikes in each category.

Garage Custom

Pro Custom

Classic

Race Bike

Moped/Mini/Scooter

CCR member Garage Brewed Class

People’s Choice Award


This year I spent twelve straight hours standing in a brewery talking motorcycles with friends and strangers alike. Standing for twelve hours is a long time, but in reality, talking motorcycles with a top-notch craft brew in my hand is pretty close to heaven on earth in the snow-covered Midwestern winter. I also managed to convince a few non-riding family members to make the trip down to Cincinnati; despite not being motorcycle enthusiasts, they too had a great time exploring the brewery and enjoying the “artwork” littered throughout. I encourage everyone, motorcyclist of otherwise, to “keep your ears up” for the next year’s dates, and mark your calendars for Garage Brewed 2020.

*Big thanks to Bill DeVore and Jeff Pierce for sharing their photos of this year’s event!

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How to Measure Adventure Riding Skills

As the temperatures have dropped and the joy riding has slowed, I’ve spent the last few months consuming a lot of “adventure” riding media. I’ve also dedicated a lot of thought to reviewing “best practices” from various motorcycle events I’ve attended, both in preparation for Red River Scramble, while also in the hopes of helping other motorcyclists (including myself) improve their riding skills. Not all that different from road riding, I find that riding off-road with folks of comparable skill level (or those willing to ride at your level), plays a part in what makes a group ride enjoyable. There’s obviously a lot more to this, and a group doesn’t necessarily need to be composed of uniform skill levels, but it’s a good starting point when putting together a handful of strangers. My biggest concern being, novice riders are sometimes “sucked in” to riding beyond their abilities when following more advanced riders, potentially causing an injury, and in some cases, advanced riders get frustrated when waiting on “slower”, less experienced riders. As far as pavement is concerned, Lemmy over at Revzilla has covered the topic of group riding in great detail, and I recommend taking a few minutes and checking out that article. As far as adventure riding is concerned, for this year’s Red River Scramble I wanted to publish a guide for evaluating your skill level, along with highlighting trail difficulty. This also ties in with how I’ve graded the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway, and other trails around that area of Kentucky, but more on that in a moment.

Evaluating Your Skills

I caught a podcast on Adventure Rider Radio a few months ago that ultimately led to this blog post. Bret Tkacs from Puget Sound Safety Off-Road (PSSOR) put together this rating system based on his experience as an instructor. To properly evaluate your skill level, you need to look at the terrain features on a given route, and match that against how well you can safely navigate a given obstacle. Skill levels aren’t necessarily uniform grades, but more of a collection of skills for progressively more difficult trail conditions. For example, some riders might be very comfortable with water crossings, but tense up when riding thought sand or mud, and so on. PSSOR has a matrix that describes your skill competence on a given terrain feature:

Please note: This system is targeted at 600-1200cc Adventure bikes carrying light loads, riders on lighter dual-sport bikes can also use this as a guide, but these tasks are generally easier on smaller, more dirt-oriented bikes.

Riding within your Skill level means:

  • Not falling or having near misses
  • You don’t expect damage to the motorcycle because of terrain
  • Riding the given terrain is not tiring
  • Breaks are only needed for food, water, so on, not for resting
  • You’re capable of multi-tasking while riding (i.e. reading GPS, talking, etc.)

You’re transitioning into higher skill level if:

  • Tip overs, falls and near misses are infrequent
  • You don’t expect damage to the motorcycle because of terrain
  • You need modest breaks between obstacles but are not exhausted
  • You can multi-task if needed

You’re significantly outside your skill level if:

  • Falls and near misses are frequent
  • You crash or have frequent near crashes
  • You have or expect damage
  • You’re exhausted from riding
  • You’re unable to multi-task

Evaluating the Route

PSSOR rates a given route based on terrain features and inherent difficulty. If a stretch of the route contains two or more of these obstacles, it is given that rating.

Novice

  • Typically old or poorly-maintained paved roads and maintained dirt/gravel roads
  • Water crossings less than 2 inches deep
  • Sticks of small tree limbs
  • Modest inclines or declines (road-like grades)

Basic

  • Full lane or two-track
  • Graded dirt/gravel roads
  • Wide and shallow ruts and washboard
  • Packed sand
  • Minor water bars (weather ruts)
  • Slow-moving water crossings less than 4-inches deep
  • Obstacles/Ledges less than 4-inches high
  • Loose rock or gravel less than 3 inches deep
  • Patches of soft gravel, shallow sand, or surface mud

Intermediate

  • Dry, narrow single-track ruts
  • Shallow mud
  • Soft gravel deeper than 2-inches
  • Short sections of soft sand (less than 100 ft. long)
  • Water hazards with mud base or loose rocks
  • Water crossings up to 6-inches deep
  • Obstacles up to 6-inches

Advanced

  • Snow
  • Narrow Two-track switchbacks
  • Sections of loose rocks larger than 5-inches
  • Long sections of soft sand (beyond 100 feet)
  • Narrow, wet, single track ruts
  • Water crossings with loose base or rocks
  • Fast flowing water crossings greater than 7-inches
  • Modest flowing water crossings deeper than 9-inches
  • Deep soft gravel
  • Mud/sand requires checking to proceed
  • Mud that may need momentum to cross
  • Hill climbs with mud or loose rocks larger than 6-inches
  • Ledges/obstacles over 6-inches tall

Expert

  • Dirt bike like trails
  • Single-track with switchback sections
  • May be impassible unless ideal conditions
  • May need mechanical assistance (winch)
  • Narrow, off-camber sections
  • Fast moving water crossings
  • Water crossings deeper than 12 inches
  • Obstacles or ledges taller than the front axle
  • Deep soft sand
  • Sticky mud
  • Vertical drop offs or inclines

This guide is not about who’s better than who, it’s about having a “standard” for conversation purposes. That way folks know what to expect when they’ve been given a recommendation for a trail or perhaps when they’re trying to figure out how to put together a group. This is also the “abridged” version of the PSSOR guide, I highly recommend that you check out their page, and study the guide more closely. Moreover, I recommend you listen the Adventure Rider Radio Podcast for a better, in-depth description on how to best evaluate the terrain and how it compares to your comfort level when riding off-road.

How this translates to Red River Scramble

Beyond meeting new people, riding with old friends, and sampling some of the best Pizza in Kentucky, Red River Scramble is also about discovering the Bluegrass Backcountry, which at times is un-paved. While not required, I encourage adventurous riders to take their first excursion off the pavement and down the gravel roads of the Daniel Boone National Forest to see some of the best views of Red River Gorge while they’re in Kentucky. I obviously want to make people as comfortable as I possibly can in taking that first step, so I’m publishing this guide, and promoting PSSOR’s work.

Next, I’ve also taken the time to “rate” each unpaved section of the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway based on the obstacles you’ll encounter. Admittedly, I’ve combined PSSOR’s “Novice” and “Basic” terrain features into “Easy” for the sake of brevity. If you look at the map posted on the DBBB Guide I published a few months ago, you’ll find each section numbered and color coded based on difficulty, along with photographs or videos of each section. I plan on providing an abridged, text only, file for download and potentially paper copies for reference at the event in May, just to keep folks from wading in too deep by accident.

As always, these are recommended guidelines and considering weather, trail conditions can evolve by the hour. I also ask folks to leave comments below if they have additional pointers with regard to group riding, measuring your riding skills, or any recommendations on how to make group riding more enjoyable for everyone, be it on or off road.

Posted in Maintenance & How-To | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Being a regular reader of this esteemed blog, I’m figuring you’ve already read Parts 1 and 2 of this build trilogy and are settling in to digest the contents of the final piece. You are asking yourself “What happened between getting the jetting and gearing right-on, and getting the stance of the bike set-up by dialing in the suspension  for some intrepid green-laning?” – Well here goes.

At the end of this piece is the list of parts that were used in the make-over. Recall we are going from a nice example of a 9-year-old Bonneville Black, to a rip-roaring green lane scrambler now known affectionately as ‘The Bonbler’. Some of the parts that were originally on the bike have been upgraded or replaced due to a compatibility issue with another part added at a later date.

 

Feeling a measurably less-than-smug sense of self-satisfaction over getting the jetting and gearing sorted out the best I could, I started working on updating the parts of the bike that I thought needed attention. Some of these parts I considered required add-ons, like a tachometer, and some are whimsical ‘nice to haves’ that I consider to be tasteful upgrades, such as the Rizoma Action Turn Signals, or the Biltwell Renegade Oxblood Red Grips.

The less than smug feeling I was experiencing was due to a niggling feeling that I thought I could get the fueling better, but I was unsure how to accomplish this, or more accurately, apart from doing it all over again, where to start? …After all, the response was crisp when you opened the throttle anywhere in the rev range, it pulled hard from tick-over to redline with no glitches or soft spots and when you closed the throttle you could feel the power recede instantly and the engine braking was good, even the plugs were a nice dark biscuit color. I was unsure where the unsettling feeling was coming from, so I eventually moved on, hoping the reason would reveal itself in due time, which of course it finally did – but more of that later.

As I mentioned in Part 1, the first things to come off where the wheels so the tires could be replaced with some nice new Shinko 705’s. Knowing full well that was going to take a day or two to get done, I figured I’d dig right in and strip it right down to frame, engine, loom, brakes and suspension.

Here are the initial build lists.

Strip down List

  1. Remove Seat
  2. Remove Tank
  3. Remove Battery
  4. Remove Side Panels
  5. Remove Front Fender & Remove from Brace
  6. Remove Headlamp bowl
  7. Remove Front Turn Signals (label wiring)
  8. Remove Reflectors
  9. Remove Horn
  10. Remove Rectifier
  11. Remove Exhaust
  12. Remove Rear Fender (label wiring)
  13. Remove Front Wheel
  14. Remove Front Forks
  15. Remove Headlamp Brackets & Ignition switch
  16. Remove Gauge and Idiot lights
  17. Remove Rear Wheel, Shocks, & Caliper
  18. Remove SAI
  19. Remove Coil & Wires
  20. Take Wheels to fit tires
  21. Remove Mirrors
  22. Remove Handlebars
  23. Remove Fork Guards
  24. Remove Rear Pegs
  25. Remove Snorkel
  26. Remove Air Filter, Carbs and Rubbers

Re-assembly List

  1. Install SAI Removal Kit and Resistor
  2. Install Nology Coil & Hot Wires
  3. Install Biltwell Motobar Handlebars
  4. Install TTS Air Intake, & Dynojet Kit
  5. Install New Air Trumpets
  6. Install BB Gauge Bracket and Acewell Gauge
  7. Relocate Ignition Switch
  8. Relocate Rectifier & Horn
  9. Re-Install Front Forks
  10. Install Gaiters
  11. Install Headlamp Brackets
  12. Reinstall Headlamp Bowl
  13. Install Mini-Screen
  14. Install Turn Signals on Relocation Bracket and Tail Tidy
  15. Install Tail Tidy
  16. Install Front Turn Signal Bracket
  17. Install Exhaust
  18. Install Rack & Hardware
  19. Install Side Panels
  20. Install Bobbed Front Fender & Brace
  21. Install Wheels
  22. Install SAE Lead
  23. Install CTEK Lead
  24. Install Tank
  25. Install Battery & Test lights, indicators, start engine check dash lights
  26. Install Comfort Seat
  27. Install NB Oil Cooler and Sump Guards
  28. Install NB Blanking Plates for Rear Pegs

As you follow down through the Re-assembly List you can see how some items would be so easily replaced while other required planning or required other parts to be in place before they could be installed. The trick while doing the carb work was to keep the bike looking roadworthy for the test runs. I did not want to attract the wrong type of attention, if you get my meaning [“Let’s just say, we’d like to avoid any Imperial entanglements.” -Ed.]

While the wheels were off for new tires, I also had the rubber sealing strips and tubes replaced and had the spoke ends cleaned up. They were not in bad shape luckily, so the main task of dis-assembly could begin. It only took a total of four hours, one night after work, for the heavier stuff. The fiddlier secondary stripping down of all the parts like gauges, regulator and rectifier removal, ignition switch relocation, coils and SAI removal, air filter and funnel replacement took another couple of hours the following night. As part of the SAI removal, I decided to completely remove the little fan motor and replace it with a soldered resistor and use the freed-up space under the tank to move the coil further back or as the possible new location for the horn.

Pretty much all the parts that are marketed for these bikes are well developed, tried and tested items that essentially just plug-n-play and any accompanied wiring is usually terminated with OE connectors, but some of the cut-price alternatives show signs of wider manufacturing tolerances and sometimes require a bit of ‘bespoking’ to make them fit nicely.

Those of us who are on the OCD side of cautious keep a chest full of various JST’s, waterproof connectors and quick disconnects, just in case things aren’t as tidy as we’d like. I’d rather install a new set of connectors than have enough slack in the wire to loop it around, so I go through quite a few when I’m doing a job like this. I can almost laugh about it now (seriously, I’m close to being able to), but a few years back I ordered a set of lights and complete wiring kit for a CAN Bus bike. When it arrived, I didn’t like the way the light loom was built. It was a “Y” shape and supposed to be model specific, but it was too long in one place and just long enough in two others, while also requiring dis-assembly of both sides of the bike. I stripped it down and built my own using the switches, relay blocks, and connectors. My version split right at the front of the bike requiring only one side of the bike to be disassembled (and fit much better, even if I do say so myself) and there was just enough slack in the loom to tuck it away nice and tidily.

The engineer in me is always looking for improvements in functional and aesthetic design, especially if there’s an efficiency gain to be had in the process. In this case, the work was worth the effort for the space it saved under the seat, even if it was probably less than a wash by the time it was completely fitted and the bike was back together. Obviously universal parts vary immensely in user-friendliness, and this is often where a couple of days garage work can save you half an hour research on the forums. (See what I did there?) Rizoma makes some beautiful universal fit parts, but you need to be prepared to spend time perfecting the fit. On the other end of the spectrum, a well-known parts supplier sells wares that often require trimming or squaring to give even an average looking fit, and that’s not what we’re looking for here. The intent is to create a custom bike that looks like the original but has a focus on old school scrambling. We want a sleek looking make-over with tidy looking parts that appear to be part of the original design, they cannot look out of place. I don’t want a flashy look-at-me kind of bike, but a refined bike that people in the know recognize as having a high level of personal customization to help it do what the owner wants to do with it. (If that makes any sense?)

The decision to go with an all-in-one gauge that contains the speedo, tachometer, trip meter, idiot lights, and other measurables like temperature and fuel level was born out of a desire to add the tachometer, and to relocate the ignition key to the dash area. I’ve always been happier when I can see the key in front of me, and I really distrust the location on the side of the headlight bracket. The answer came one day when I found the Bonneville Bracket Ignition Relocation Single Gauge Mount for the earlier non-CVO Bonnies. I really didn’t want to pay for a new Triumph tachometer, or the money they were going for used on eBay. I’d bought a 2” LED Rev Counter and Battery Volt Meter I found a deal on and had formed up a template using thin aluminum as a mounting bracket to locate it on the riders’ side of the handlebar ala the current Scrambler models. This had been the result of some researching to figure out where to get the signal for the Tach. It turns out the wiring is already in place and terminates in the headlamp bucket. All I had to do was tap the running light for the 12v power source, ground the gauge, and pick up the signal to the Tachometer that appeared on other Bonneville models. Once mounted it was pretty cool, and I was about to get the bracket laser cut and formed when the OE speedo started acting up, it was starting to flick around a bit at the 70mph+ range, so with a bit more looking about and up pops an Acewell Gauge via a Dime City Cycle email. Things were looking interesting again as the size was close enough the OE gauge to work with the Bonneville Bracket mount, and voila, a nice off the shelf set up ready to roll.

Deciding on a seat was not an easy decision. I liked the Brat look of a thin narrow board-like seat, and lucky for me the bike came to me with the thin Triumph Comfort Seat. I didn’t realize how much I liked that particular seat until I bought a single seat with an integrated rear rack and rode that around for a couple of weeks. I’m blaming Drew for this diversion because his Scrambler looks really good with this setup and if I recall correctly, he did an Iron Butt Ride using that setup. It lasted about a fortnight (two weeks) on my bike before I swapped it back to the comfort seat. While I was playing on a forum one day, I saw a post about a long-forgotten mod that required a Vespa seat pin and a Kawasaki ZX6 seat latch. As you can tell, I went ahead and dropped $15 on a used seat latch and $6 on the Vespa part, and now I have a cable release for my comfortable seat.

After the little bits were taken care of, and I was settled into our new Indianapolis home, I got to work on the suspension set up. I gathered all the parts (as shown) and Drew and I took the best part of a Saturday getting the parts fitted, as detailed in Part 2. During this process, we were chatting about some of the fueling work I’d done on a Hypermotard using a product called an Electronic Jet Kit. This little magic box took the electronic signals from the o2 sensors and the ECU and fed them through an onboard chip containing a fuel bias map, it essentially modified the signal to the OE fuel pump and ejectors letting you tune the bike in a number of parameters without the need for a PC.

During this conversation I suddenly had an Aha-Moment. I realized that I was expecting the carb’ed Bonnie to feel like a well-tuned Fuel Injected bike, and anyone who’s in the know is well aware of the subtle differences between carb and FI bikes. I took the Bonbler out after Drew returned from one of our initial post-suspension work test-runs and realized the bike was actually pretty peachy the way it was. This impression was in no doubt due in part to Drew’s comment when he returned saying it was one of the best carb’ed Bonnies he’d ridden [One of the best Bonnevilles. Period. -Ed.].

 

I guess a new dog can teach an old dog a trick or two after all.

Not To Be Continued…

PS. The Bonbler is a real hoot to ride. It’s not uber powerful, but it’s predictable with enough attitude to rip it up in a fun way. The gearing is just right for getting up to speed quickly, the suspension is nice and firm with plenty of feedback to the rider, and the engine is smooth with a nice crisp throttle response. It’s the bike I wanted to build. I am happy the way it’s turned out. I think it’s going to be with me for a while, and if you’ve read my other blogs on here you’ll know that is a strong testament to the finished product [I mean, it is the longest standing bike in Andy’s possession right now… -Ed.]. Thanks for bearing with me. I hope there’s something in here you can take away for your own project(s).

Regards, and Ride Safe. – Andy

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Red River Scramble 2019 Updates

In case you missed the news just before Christmas, this year’s Red River Scramble will be held Thursday, May 16th through Sunday, May 19th (REGISTER HERE). You may have noticed that Moto Adventurer was a little quiet last fall, per my previous comments, a lot of “life” was happening, but at the same time I was standing up a new website for this year’s Bluegrass Adventure Rally. So, on with the news:

New Website!

Red River Scramble was so successful last year that I have now launched RedRiverScramble.com. On the new website you’ll find the event description, registration, optional routes, and additional links to Rever, maps, GPX Downloads and more. I will likely manage the news blasts here on Moto Adventurer and on Facebook, but I wanted to give the event its own site since it’s been so well received.

 

Changes for 2019

Between the feedback from the attendee survey, and my own experiences at last year’s Conserve the Ride, I have made a few changes to this year’s rally. First, we’ve added an extra day of riding, but most importantly, we’ve moved locations. This year, Red River Scramble will be held at Lago Linda Hideaway near Beattyville. This new location is about 20 miles south of Slade, offers more amenities, and has more capacity in the event we experience additional growth this year. Just like previous years, lodging arrangements are the attendee’s responsibility, so be sure to check out Lago Linda’s website (see link above).

Along with building the new website, I have almost doubled the GPX tracks available for both pavement and off-road riding. Moving south to a new campground offered opportunities to add new sections of twisty pavement to the event. In addition, by splicing up the DBBB and locating additional un-paved roads, I’ve put a lot of effort into creating skill level based dual-sport routes for GPX download. Lastly, I had a few requests for paper maps last year. With the help of the Kentucky DOT website and some creative photo-shopping, I’ve patched together local pavement and dual-sport maps that will be available for download.

 

More about Dual Sport Riding

First, if you’re only interested in pavement riding, don’t sweat, per my comments above, I’ve added even more miles to this year’s tracks, and honestly, you’ll struggle to find a boring road leaving Beattyville. However, if you’re looking for more trails, or looking to dip your toe in the dirt for the first time, I’ve expanded the selection and have taken deliberate steps to make route selection easier.

Per my comments last year, while not the only option, the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) is the big draw to the area. That said, the terrain conditions vary from novice to advanced difficulty depending on season and what section you’re riding. Thus, I have revamped the DBBB GPX tracks so that folks can ride the route in a loop that, for the most part, increases in difficulty as you go. That said, some folks want to stick to the “scenic” off-road riding, while others want to get a taste of the more advanced options. For scenic riders, I’ve built GPX tracks for both “Novice” and “Intermediate” off-road riders. Please keep in mind, I have built these routes with larger adventure bikes in mind, so if you’re an experienced rider, or have a lighter dual-sport bike, your opinion on my difficulty assessment may vary. Now, for advanced riders, I’ve built the DBBB “Extreme Loop” by combining the hardest sections of the DBBB with the “Hard” (marked RED) sections of the Kentucky Adventure Tour. Per my comments on the “Where to Ride” page, these tracks are intended for advanced riders only, and are likely to be extremely hazardous for large bikes and motorcycles without proper off-road tires.

Lastly, I received a few inquiries about dedicated single track last year. White Sulphur OHV Trail is just north of Frenchburg, not far from Slade, which offers 20-some miles of OHV trails that are limited to vehicles under 50 inches wide. I’m told that these trails are seldom traveled, I expect that will allow attendees to get their fix of exclusive off-road trails, along with views near Cave Run Lake. Be advised, you will need to pick up a permit from one of the local outlets ($7 one-day, or $15 3-day pass), but several are on the way north from Beattyville (See Permit Locations Here).

In addition to White Sulphur, Hollerwood Park is twenty minutes up the road from Lago Linda. Still in its infancy, Hollerwood is a brand new Multi-county OHV cooperative. For $30, a 30-day pass offers off-roaders access to 2,500 acres of Kentucky wilderness. Per my previous comments, Hollerwood is brand new, and is still in the process of publishing maps and marking trails. Adventurous, experienced riders are likely to enjoy exploring the hidden backcountry inside Hollerwood Park (including Townsend Cave), however less intrepid riders expecting a “guided tour” are likely to be discouraged by what they find.

Sponsors

I want to take every opportunity to thank our event sponsors. This has been a grassroots event since day one, and I want to stay true to its “meet for Pizza and ride out in search of adventure” beginnings. With that, sponsors have generously donated items for door prizes, and in exchange I ask that folks thank those sponsors, share photos of their products on social media, and tell them how much you appreciate their support. The Dragon Raid, Stephanie Smith Creative, Tirox Products, and Rever have already signed on to again support this years event. Upshift Online and Road ID have also joined the ranks this year, and hopefully there will be more to come. If you’re interested in sponsoring this years event, or have a suggestion for someone we should reach out to, hit us up with an e-mail and we can chat details.

 

Final Housekeeping Notes

As the event gets closer, I will publish an event schedule. I want to have at least one rider meeting so I can address safety, along with any questions people may have about finding the best routes for their taste in riding. I expect I will have registration Thursday evening, with late registration Friday, and perhaps Saturday morning for the last minute arrivals. I am also in the process finalizing details with Rever for another addition to the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt. As these things get settled I plan on publishing a short list of the GPX routes available, and a few tips on evaluating your off-road riding skills, that way if folks don’t have anyone to ride with, they can group up based on ability if they so choose. As always, I’m anxious to hear comments on things you’re looking forward to, or and feedback from your previous experiences at Red River Scramble or even other adventure rallies.

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What is the Future of Motorcycling?

Over the holidays I spent a lot of time thinking about the future of Moto Adventurer and where the blog, and subsequent social media outlets, are going from here. A lot of folks have asked if I was going to do more videos or perhaps start Vlogging (Video Blogging). I’ve struggled to get my head wrapped around the best way to use YouTube, but after a lot of back and forth with my buddy Flynch, and stumbling on an interesting format, I’ve decided to try something new up on the Moto Adventurer channel. Humor me and take a peak at the latest video, let me know what you think, and most importantly, post your opinion on the topic in the comment section on YouTube. For my traditional followers, don’t fret, I’ve included the “transcript” below as a regular blog post. Video is growing on me, but I too, still enjoy reading.

 

 

Over the past two years, we’ve seen Victory, Motus, and Alta close their doors; meanwhile Harley-Davidson is shutting down their Kansas City plant as part of a consolidation plan. Considering the endless stories about the Motor Company’s falling margins, it seems obvious that motorcycle sales have not been what they once were. Without spending hours going through the finite details, it’s fair to say sales are about half of what they were prior to the market crash in ’09. Until just recently, automotive sales have steadily climbed since the bottom fell out, while motorcycle sales have remained mostly stagnant. Stories of this “Doom and gloom” were quite the persistent theme in the motorcycle media for the last year or so. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time reading these articles, especially regarding Victory’s closure, and naturally couldn’t help asking myself, “What’s the future of motorcycling?”

I have to tell you, I don’t see myself as a person that normally subscribes to negative news. I think most of us have heard the expression “if it bleeds, it leads” in reference to the nightly news; a mantra that I believe has led to the sensationalized 24-hour news cycle, and sadly, I fear has led to a negative mob mentality that has arguably affected the social culture of this country. For that reason, I don’t subscribe to it, and generally tune-out the news outlets and their scare tactics. However, when it comes to motorcycles, it’s difficult to ignore these negative messages, considering the riding community’s small size. So, I ask the question, assuming this information is true, why are motorcycle sales declining?

 

Are Millennials to blame for declining sales?

Many of those before mentioned articles included no shortage of opinions from various members of the motorcycle community, from the familiar faces of the moto-media, to the CEO of Harley Davidson. Beyond the two-wheeled world, after downgrading the Motor Company’s financial outlook, analysts from Alliance Bernstein blamed Generation Y’s lack of interest in motorcycling as the cause of Harley’s decreased sales. This naturally spread like wildfire throughout the media, be it two-wheeled or otherwise. It is said that the Baby Boomer generation embraced motorcycling more than any other, and now that generation is simply aging out of the sport. Generation X appears to have been ignored in much of this commentary, overshadowed by the fact that the Millennials, AKA Generation Y, now outnumbers all other generations in the country. Again skeptical, I ask, are Millennial buying habits actually the reason the motorcycle market is shrinking? If that’s true, that Millennials are not adopting motorcycling like their predecessors, is this just a timing thing, or is it an interest problem?

 

Are the costs too high?

Exclusive of the generation gap, many have suggested that motorcycles simply cost too much. (On the blog) I’ve probably discussed the topic of motorcycle cost ad nauseum, but I will say that it’s hard to believe there’s not some sticker shock going on at the local motorcycle dealerships. For many, the staple “first motorcycle” of yore was arguably the Honda Rebel 250; which, in recent history was upgraded to the new Rebel 300 and will set you back about five grand or so out the door. That price range is easily “reliable used car” territory, possibly remodel the bathroom money, and unquestionably fix the car, buy diapers and groceries money. I’m not trying to suggest that the new Rebel 300 is overpriced, I’m simply agreeing with comments I’ve seen elsewhere, Americans have no shortage of places to spend their hard-earned money. Therein lies the rub, I’ve heard folks say they want to give motorcycling a try, but they simply can’t justify the cost. Are sales in a slump because new motorcycles cost too much, or is it a matter of return on investment? Or have Americans simply decided to spend their disposable income on cheaper leisure activities?

 

Are manufacturers not selling bikes people want?

Others have suggested that there are not enough appropriate motorcycles for first time riders available. Per my comment about the recent upgrade of the Honda Rebel, in the past 3 years it seems there’s been somewhat of a mad rush to expand the offerings in lower displacement ranges. That said, there’s also been a significant boom in the retro, scrambler, and adventure segments. I’ve read opinions that suggest these retro bikes are targeted at older riders that are looking to downsize and are captivated by the nostalgia of their youth; meanwhile the transformer like sport-naked and beaked adventure bike styling is modernized to fault. Which begs to question, are manufacturers simply not building motorcycles people want to buy?

 

Are motorcycles simply too dangerous?

Putting on my journalist hat on, I took to Facebook to interview my non-motorcycling friends.While I would ultimately like to write an article on this topic, I went ahead and asked my friends and family, “Why Don’t you ride a motorcycle?” The responses to this question were, of course, as unique as the individuals supplying the answers, but there’s no question that safety was a very common theme. Considering I’ve specifically written about motorcycle safety, my opinion on this topic is likely known by many; however, we cannot deny the non-riding community’s perception that motorcycles are less than safe. I’ll admit, my opinion about the dangers of motorcycles may be wrong, so with respect to the possible decline in the sport, I ask, “Is motorcycling simply too dangerous for most people?”


If you read my blog or regularly tune into the YouTube channel, my passion for everything two-wheels is evident. A motorcycle is my daily commuter as often as it is transportation to most social occasions. Long-time followers of Moto Adventurer obviously know that the motorcycle is my preferred means of travel and leisure, be it urban exploring, or the deep backcountry adventures. Motorcycling has put me in contact with some of THE MOST genuine people; and in many ways, helped me reintegrate to civilian life after my career in the military. While I don’t fear that motorcycles will suddenly be wiped from the landscape, there’s no denying that I do in fact believe that motorcycles are in the midst of a potentially major market shift; with cars not too far behind. As I’m obviously heavily invested in this… uh… “lifestyle” if you will, I want to help curb its possible demise, meanwhile, welcoming new members into such a rewarding community. If we’re going to promote the future of the sport, we first need to understand what’s actually happening by asking the right questions.

So again, I ask these questions: Is the Millennial generation responsible for declining motorcycle sales? Are manufacturers not selling bikes people want to buy? Has riding become too expensive compared to other leisure activities? Or has motorcycling simply become too dangerous?

Ultimately, I suspect that we will find truth behind each of these accusations, to some degree or another. The apparent decline of motorcycling is obviously a complex problem with a myriad of contributing factors. Which levies the final, and most important question, what do we need to change, as motorcyclists, manufacturers, and ultimately a culture to help grow the sport? Or in short, “What is the future of motorcycling?”

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