Musings from the Saddle: Reflections on 2018

Reflection

With only a couple days left in the year, I can’t help but to look back the events of 2018. Revzilla has their annual report card, Chris Cope has his quarterly “State of the Motorcycle Obsession”, I’m apparently no different.

KAT Hard 11 Rock Ledges TW200 Tom Witt

At the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, beyond maintaining the Moto Bucket list, at the end of each year I like to take time to refine my goals for the coming “riding season”. While I still missed out on taking a big trip to the Southernmost Point this year, I was surprised to find that I accomplished a lot more than I thought I would. If you’ve been tuned in as of late, I spoke at length about finally finishing the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) in August. With that, I imagine by now you’ve undoubtedly caught the recap of riding 365 straight days. That saga actually continued on for 468 days, but I’ll delve more into that in a minute. While the story was unfortunately lost in the flurry of spring riding commitments, in April I finally made it out to Illinois for the final Moonshine Lunch Run.

Moonshine Store MotoADVR

The weather was less than ideal, but it was another one of those things I just wanted to do. The crowd wasn’t as large as past years (for obvious reasons), but I still met a really awesome group of dedicated long-distance riders from New York and New England. The second weekend in April, that ride into the Land of Lincoln for a Moonburger checked the first box for a new state visited for 2018; rapidly followed by Pennsylvania for Conserve the Ride in June. Unfortunately I’ve still failed to recap the highlights from this year’s Dragon Raid, but take my word for it that during that week a buddy and I ventured down to the highest point in South Carolina, checking off the third new state for the year.

Perspective

While obscure at the time, I was curious if riding every single day would have lasting effects. Realization and comprehension of those effects wouldn’t come until the streak ended in November when my wife fell extremely ill and was hospitalized.

Rosie The Scrambler Snow MotoADVR

Pacing in her hospital room, I had plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of the universe, among other things. In the realm of motorcycles, the definitions of what is easy, and what is hard had shifted in my mind. Like riding a motorcycle for the first time, exposure to new things, and taking new risks, were rewarded with new skills, and a new perspective on the sport. Things previously thought to be impossible were indeed possible; barriers had been removed, and (some) preconceived notions about motorcycles in general had been dissolved. Unfortunately, a victim of the internet age, the realization that things were less black and white than ever before, started to make me feel isolated from fellow motorcyclists. Having experienced a major evolution in both skill and mindset, my eyes were opened to both possibilities, and renewed understanding that each of us has a unique taste, in both machines and leisure. Certainly this has always been the case to some degree, however, having crossed such a substantial boundary, the possibilities seemed endless.

lift rosie

Having lost all context, terms like “beginner motorcycle”, “under-powered”, and the suggestion that every problem must be solved by spending more money, now sounded absurd. Long-term readers know that I’m predisposed to disregard conventional wisdom from to time to time; but now more than ever before, I find it difficult to accept that “bigger is always better”, price is an indicator of quality, and having the latest and greatest is what will make you happy. While certainly not irreversible, motorcycles have now been forged as both tools and avocation, a utilitarian mode of transportation while a superior means of adventure, and even an avenue to enlightenment in my eyes.

Tail of the Dragon Triumph Scrambler 129Photos

On a lighter note, I’m happy to report I’ve continued to learn a great deal about the skills required to operate a motorcycle over the past year. Around September of last year, I started practicing trail-braking techniques on the Scrambler. Rosie is a far cry from a sport bike, and my morning commute is less than a racetrack, but I rapidly grew to understand the advantages of loading the front suspension while entering the turn, versus realizing too late that I’d drifted into a corner too hot. On the other hand, literally, with the arrival of the CRF250L, I’ve realized the serious deficiency in my clutch technique. The Scrambler has immense power compared to the pint-sized Honda (60 HP vs 18).

Drew stand rear right foot off

As a result, I’d gotten lazy with the clutch, and wanted to tractor the bike in situations where “finesse” would have been a lot smoother. That’s on my list of things to perfect in 2019, but I cannot deny I’ve already started to understand how valuable the smallest amount of clutch control can be when the rear end steps out in the mud. Completing 365 straight days of riding not only showed me what I was capable of, but also made me realize how much more you can learn about riding, and how that journey is endless. I can’t say it enough, each skill builds on the previous skill, and refinement of the fundamentals exponentially improves the new skills. Riding in the dirt made riding in the snow possible; riding in the snow drew attention to my lacking off-road skills, and the cycle repeats.

What’s on Tap for 2019

Again, per my comments on updating the Moto Bucket List, the Kentucky Adventure Tour is my biggest goal for 2019. I’ve obviously ridden a portion of the main loop by tackling the DBBB on multiple occasions, but my intention is now to spend a week in the Kentucky backcountry exploring more of the unpaved byways. Before that happens, we’re all in store for another installment of Red River Scramble this May. Not long after Conserve The Ride, I had already begun working more routes for next year’s rally. While the Kentucky Adventure Tour is the “big ticket” item for 2019, I can’t deny how rewarding it feels to expose new visitors to the best of the Bluegrass State (more on this soon).

Triumph Tiger 800 XCx Shawnee State Forest MotoADVR

That sentiment actually goes a bit further. Beyond inviting everyone on the inter-webs to enjoy Pizza in Red River Gorge, I’m toying with the idea of putting together some local rides to Shawnee State Forest to help expose novice adventure riders to some of the easier local trails. I’ve had a lot of conversations on local adventure forums about various riding locations, and it goes without saying I want to expose as many folks to the thrill of adventure riding as possible.


Two years ago, if you asked me what I wanted to do next year, I’d have said “ride more.” 2017 was actually the record year for mileage, but I’m here to tell you, while I love riding as often as I can, riding every single day helps you appreciate the good roads. Next year I want to be choosier about riding the fun roads, exploring new places, and experiencing more “Zen” from the saddle. Triumph Scrambler Kentucky Bluegrass MotoADVRDon’t get me wrong, I’ll still be riding to work, as often as possible for that matter, but I want to expand my exposure to the remote backroads, just as I want to keep visiting new states. With that, like I said back in August of last year, I want start planning a few days of riding, not so much a destination. This year’s Dragon Raid meant riding through not one, but two tropical storms in one week. Weather in eastern Kentucky was downright stellar, while in North Carolina I spent most days dodging rain as Hurricane Florence played havoc with the seasonal weather as it approached the coast. I’ve too often been hell-bent on the “destination”, and at times forgotten to appreciate the moment. Next year I want to take a week’s vacation, and ride wherever the wind takes me; be it Bluegrass dirt, Amish country, or perhaps the Rockies.

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Welche Für Dich?

Andy sent this draft over my way a couple days ago. I loved the premise from the get-go, but considering I’ve not properly introduced him to the Moto Adventurer fan base, I wanted to “set the stage” before he got into the philosophical details of motorcycle ownership. The first time I met Andy (that I can recall), was in the parking lot of the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge at the 2014 Dragon Raid. Andy was backing out into the lot, headed out for a ride with a group of guys that I now ride with regularly. I was immediately taken aback by the ungodly racket emitting from the nether regions of his ride. Ducati HyperMotard 14 Dragon Andy ParkerI looked over at the stranger and asked, “Is something wrong with that thing?” He lifted the visor on his helmet and in the thick British accent he said: “Eh, it’s short a few marbles but it should be okay.” Unbeknownst to me, that curious sound was the distinct clatter of the Ducati dry clutch. That first year, I met Andy on his Hypermotard, in 2015 that bike evolved into a Multistrada, and in 2016 that bike morphed into- …well, you get the idea. There’s no denying that there’s been some horse-trading going on in Andy’s stable from year to year, but despite appearances, I think you’ll find that’s heavily influenced by a much deeper emotional connection between man and machine- …but he also puts it better than I do:

 

Welche für dich? – Interesting title, right? To me it sounds like a sheep shaggers appendage… Welsh Fur Di… Alas, I’ve no idea how it should be pronounced, but I do kind of speak a second language… I am fluent in Sarcasm, which in itself, like revenge, is best served cold, and the drier the better, IMHO. My humour [“humor” for us colonials -ed.] such as it is, is often confusing to people, and I have to wield it with extreme caution. I’m told people can’t tell if I’m joking or not, so to avoid offending someone, I let it out slowly…

Where am I going with this? Well I’m going to a place that’s dark and littered with remnants of previous desires. Triumph Sprint Dragon Andy ParkerThe place that most of us visit at some time or another. The place that tells us that if we just have this one thing, life will be so much better because of it. Now, I’ve been happily married for getting on about eight years, and I’m thankful every day for my wife’s patience when it comes to motorcycles. Something I may have mentioned previously (Orange Fever, I think), I used to joke with my old flames that I’m getting a new ride, “is it you or the bike that’s being replaced?” As a result of this approach, I can happily report that motorcycles do indeed keep me poor, but shit, I’ve had a few that were absolute stunners (usually Italian), some not so much (Yam YZF750-R), and a few dogs (Zephyr 550), but that’s par for the course I suppose.

Back in 2015, I was bimbling around Middle Tennessee on a well sorted Triumph Tiger Explorer I’d bought a few years earlier when living in Dayton, OH. Ducati Daivel Devils Tower Andy ParkerThis bike was my all-rounder if for no other reason than it was the only motorcycle I had at that time. A year before I had an early model Ducati Diavel that had seen some of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia, as well as the tri-state around Southwest Ohio. Although the Diavel was a surprisingly good tourer for a cruiser, it was getting a bit tedious replacing the $400 rear tire every 4,000 miles, and the front every 6,000. At 14,000 miles I’d replaced six tires in 16 months. It was time to get a more long-distance oriented bike if I was going to get back into touring again, and I wanted to.

I knew what it was like to Sport Tour, I’d had a couple of Sprint 1050 ST’s, but I knew the riding position was too forward for my lower back. Triumph Explorer Dragon 2Up Andy ParkerI for one was glad the ADV trend was gaining momentum and there were lots of upright models capable of day-long rides. The 1050 Tiger had been a contender to replace the first 1050 Sprint ST, but alas that model was not being imported by 2015, so the obvious Triumph was the big Tiger Explorer, especially because it pumped out 135 HP, and had a clean worry-free shaft drive. Over the first six months of ownership, the TEx had seen some additions to make it more tour-worthy; a pair of Rox bar risers, an MRA touring screen, and a full set of Jesse Odyssey II luggage. The bike had done a few local day rides and been to Deal’s Gap twice, both times two up with my wife, and after 12,000 miles the rear suspension was all but shagged. Ducati Hypermotard Cincy Andy ParkerTriumph wouldn’t entertain any kind of claim as it was out of warranty, so some research was conducted, a few calls made, and it was decided that a complete suspension makeover was the order of the day. I wasn’t concerned about being bike-less for the month it was going to take to rework the Triumph because a few months before I’d bought a ‘fun’ bike to hammer around on. I’d found a deal on a 3,000 mile 2012 Hypermotard 1100 EVO SP. I’d been having fun getting it to bang out 100 HP and lift the front with not more than a light twist of the wrist, but now that was done my attention turned back to the Triumph’s suspension.

Triumph Explorer Pikes Peak Andy ParkerOn a recommendation from a friend, I began talking to Jeff Favorite at Ted Porters Beemer Shop about what was going on with the TEx. Over the course of a month or two the conversations started homing in on a plan, and while we weren’t 100% sure what the fix was, we had a pretty good place to start. We had decided on a fully adjustable Wilber’s HPA shock to replace the battered Triumph unit, and he was going to rework the front forks. This meant removing the forks and sending them to Jeff in CA where he would install some progressive springs with a different spring profile than the OE ones, and the damping rate and oil level would be optimized which should sort out the understeer and was also going to help with odd tire wear a lot of owners had reported.

Ducati MultiStrada 1200 Andy ParkerStrangely enough Jeff had ignited my curiosity in the BMW R1200 GS. I wasn’t sure why, but I  wanted to try one. The Triumph was better on paper, and when I say better, I mean lighter, and had more power, and I was also in the process of trading my Hypermotard Evo for an ex-Demo, 145HP,  Multistrada 1200S, and was probably going to replace the Triumph as the go-to Tourer if the suspension change didn’t work out, so what was the point? Hmmmm…

By the time I got ready to do all the work on the TEx I had moved and had been living in Triumph Explorer Continental Divide Andy ParkerTennessee for close to seven months and was about to embark on a two-week tour with a friend on a Tiger 800, leaving the Ozark RAT Raid out of Harrison, Arkansas. The plan was to get out to Colorado Springs in a couple of days, stay in Gunnison, CO, then head to Moab for a few days, drop south and head back through New Mexico and Texas. The TEx was loaded and rode like a completely different bike. It steered quickly, put the power down much better due to the improved rear shock, and the front end felt much more planted; it really was quite good to ride.

It just so happened that while out in Moab we did a bit of dirt roading. We were traveling along a track in the desert heading for Red Cliffs moving at 15-25mph in 80 degree heat when the TEX started to overheat. The fans wouldn’t come on. I pulled over and to let it cool while I swapped the relays about to see if that was the problem. It turned out that both fans had seized and even after working them lose they still wouldn’t turn on so we hobbled back to the Adventure Motel. Luckily the wind speed over 30 mph kept it cool enough to ride normally.

A few months later I was out riding in Tennessee and needed to get the TEx serviced. BMW R1200GS Andy ParkerThe donuts at the local Triumph dealership were as stale as the atmosphere in the service area, so I stopped in at the local BMW/Ducati dealer to talk to the service guy, who I’d met previously when he serviced my Multistrada. He was busy with a customer, so I went to find the sales guy who was also busy but handed me the keys to their demo R1200 GS asking me if I’d like to take it out for 20 minutes while he dealt with his customer. Now then, even though I wasn’t considering one, I was still curious. I also had two friends who both owned BMW R11/1200 RT’s and they always seemed less fatigued at the end of our days riding than I was on any of the Triumph’s I owned, and they swore by the boxer motor. They even went so far as to say that part of the reason they felt better at the end of the day was the rhythm of the engine, it was almost relaxing.

BMW R1200GS Utah Andy ParkerThe GS was odd to start with. The pull on the motor as you revved it reminded me of a Guzzi I’d been on twenty years before. It felt like a cross between the Triumph and the Ducati; as smooth as the triple but felt just like the Italian L-twin. After five miles of riding the GS I knew I was going to buy it. The bike was so balanced and handled so well, it was a revelation. The brakes were good, the electronics were cool, it did everything really well. I was absolutely amazed at what a competent bike the GS was. I traded the TEx right then and there. I now owned a 2014 Multistrada 1200 S and a 2015 Triple Black R1200 GS. I knew the GS was going to be the Tourer.

Ducati Monster 1200 Dragon Andy ParkerOver the next two years we covered 15,000 miles together while I only racked up another 5,000 on the Multi before a Monster 1200 S found its way into my garage shortly thereafter. Blame was placed firmly on the Natchez Trace which was 5 miles from my doorstep. Although I did ride the whole of the Trace on the Multi four weeks after moving to Tennessee, the Monster was more at home on the constant radius switchbacks. That year I also found myself in possession of a 2008 Triumph Bonneville. I had three twins at home. A parallel twin, an ‘L’ twin, and a boxer. Life was good!

Ducati Multistrada 950 Left Andy ParkerAnother house move later and we were in Indianapolis. The Monster was out of place in Indiana, where the nearest corner without a stop sign was 45 minutes away; it got replaced by a baby 950 Multi.

The GS had done a couple Iron butt rides including a Bun Burner 1500 on the way back from Moab, and had seen both the Pacific and the Atlantic. I was happy with it, until I rode an R1200 RT and a K1600 GT off the BMW demo truck. I longed for another Sport Tourer. BMW R1200GS Utah Andy ParkerAs one of my friends points out, 700 pounds and “Sport” don’t really go together, but the K1600 GT is a real mover. I liked the relaxed riding position and the smooth turbine-like engine. It’s got the characteristics that I wanted to live with except one, it has a weight problem.  It’s no fun to move around the garage and it steers slowly at walking pace. But it is a missile that will pull from two-grand in sixth to the limiter with no fuss, and it has an addictive scream from the exhaust over 5,000 RPM. It handles predictably just like any other heavy sport BMW K1600GT Andy Parkerbike when you hustle it along and it will cruise all day at 90 with no complaints from bike or rider. Hell, you can go through the whole tank of fuel without the need to stop, time after time. I rode the 812 miles from New Orleans to home in Indianapolis in 12 hours stopping only three times and didn’t think twice about how I felt after I parked it in the garage. In fact, I just emptied the top box, side bags and did my washing before cooking dinner. The ride was like a non-event, it just happened to occur that same day.

However, like the Diavel, the K1600 abused tires; I’d owned the bike six months and was on my second set. They wore out at the same rate and barely lasted 5,000 miles. All-in-all I put 10,500 miles on the bike between May and November and had not managed to convince myself that this was the bike I wanted. A couple weeks ago I found myself going for another ride on a newer R1200 RT. I bit my lip and bought it.

It has the same fabulous motor as the GS, albeit with revised gear ratios for 2018 that give it more bottom end and a higher cruising speed for a given RPM.BMW R1200RT Barn Andy Parker The RT and the GS share the same electronics, along with the same engine and drive train, the same frame and features, just different exhaust, bodywork and suspension. The RT also has heated grips and seats, keyless ride, quick-shifter, hill assist start, Electronically Adjustable Suspension, Dynamic Ride modes and audio integration through the GPS. It’s more comfortable and has better wind protection than the K1600 GT, and it handles like a bike that’s 200 pounds lighter (oddly enough). I rode it back from Pennsylvania in 40°F weather wearing summer gloves and my heated liner on  low. You sit in a little bubble of clean air and with the suspension dialed in correctly (you can do it on the fly through the dashboard and Wunder-Wheel) side-winds are just inconveniences that must be endured during foul weather. When it’s raining, you only get wet when you’re sitting still, or moving in slow traffic. I’m just as amazed to ride it again as the first time I rode the GS. I’m smitten. It’s no wonder they sell so many of them. They really are the “Real Thing”.

I guess the point of this is that there are a number of bikes that I’ve owned over the years that still resonate with me decades after they were superseded by something I deemed more desirable at the time. BMW R1200RT Barn Wide Andy ParkerIf I lie down in a quiet space, close my eyes, clear my mind of all the important and the superfluous I can bring the memory of riding them right into mind and feel the bike’s soul touching my being. I can hear the sound of the exhaust and the engine, feel the pulses and vibrations while picturing the road ahead, all the time feeling what it was like to be in that moment and knowing exactly what is needed to keep the feeling present. Just like the ‘94 900SS, and the 750 F1 Santa Monica that I adored before it, the RT will be one of those bikes I think about decades from now, I know it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stable Expands to Two

Sometime around August of 2015, a buddy was following me through my favorite stretch of twisties around Oregonia. At the next stop he told me, “I’m pretty sure you’re getting every last ounce of capability out of that Speedmaster.” Shortly thereafter, I brought home Rosie the Scrambler and Lola left the building.

Just a few weeks back, something like Thursday at The Dragon Raid, my buddy Tom and I were ripping down the Cherohala Skyway; over the intercom he mentions something about me approaching maximum performance of the Scrambler. I laughed and said “Don’t say that man… Last time someone told me that, I bought a new bike…”

 

So I bought a new bike…

Honda CRF250L Barn Sunrise MotoADVR
Don’t worry, Rosie isn’t going anywhere. A few months ago I had some back and forth with a friend about riding her CRF250L. Considering some of the messes I get myself into on the Scrambler, I didn’t feel comfortable taking her bike into the bush, regardless of its capability. Life happens as we all know, and she decided it was time to let it go. Folks in recent days were asking me when I was going to bring home another bike. I admit, I was looking to make a deal on a second bike come spring of 2019; specifically, something more “sport touring” as I am working toward doing some more long-distance riding, like Colorado and finally doing that Bun Burner Gold. My answer to those folks was basically that, I was looking at something like an FJR or the Tiger 1050, but I wouldn’t turn down a small dual-sport if the right deal crossed my path. So there it was, an offer I couldn’t refuse, a new to me, 2014 Honda CRF250L.

 

Why the Honda?

Honda CRF250L Triumph Scrambler Stable MotoADVRCompared to the competition, the Honda’s engine is lackadaisical, its suspension is unimpressive, but it goes 80 mph, can pick up the front wheel (with a little coaxing), and only needs an oil change every 8,000 miles. It’s almost 200 pounds lighter than the Scrambler, has double the suspension travel, and has traditional 21 and 18-inch dirt bike wheels. It’s not the performance machine that the WR250R would be, but typical of my taste in motorcycles, it’s a stone ax, the jack of all trades and master of none. That and well, a Honda.

 

The Journey Begins

A 250 dual-sport is not something I would consider a project bike; out of the box, the CRF250L is a great commuter and a decent lightweight adventure machine.CRF250L Tusk Shift Pedal MotoADVR “Jerri”, the new bike, however came with a few extras, including hand guards, luggage rack, replacement plastics with Flying Tiger graphics (I know what you’re thinking, pretty legit selling point on her part wasn’t it?), and seat concepts seat. The Shinko 705s (which I’ve discussed at length) are great commuter tires, but I’m anxious to get this bike into the Kentucky backwoods, so a more aggressive set of skins was the first order of business. That and a folding shift lever; why Honda sells a 250 dual-sport with a non-folding shift lever is completely beyond me.

With the arrival of a bike that can take me to work, the same as it can carry me to the Bluegrass, I can finally split miles between two bikes and focus on some overdue maintenance items on the Scrambler.Honda CRF250L Anothony Road MotoADVR Per my recent comments, I have my eyes on the Kentucky Adventure Tour (KAT) as my top priority next year. While I know it’s completely doable on the Scrambler, I don’t want to turn down the opportunity to attack some of the hard sections, and there’s no doubt I’ll be more rested and cover more miles on the Honda than I would on the Scrambler. From here I can set up the Scrambler for the faster “adventure” rides like Shawnee State Forest and the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route, while at the same time gear up to finally ride to Key West and in the hopes of finishing a BBG on a Scrambler (Rosie would be the first).

If Jerri is going to take on the daily commute, especially through the Ohio winter, heated grips will be a requirement. Honda CRF250L Creek MotoADVRjpgI’ve always said I won’t own a motorcycle without heated grips, I don’t suspect that’s going to change anytime soon. Bar risers are going to be a must for aggressive off-road riding; it’s doable in stock form, but it’s definitely more comfortable for putting around from the seat, versus standing at the moment. The two-gallon tank is pretty reasonable considering the CRF250L easily gets fuel mileage in the upper 50s if you’re not running flat out (which you will on the highway), but I also see a 3-gallon Acerbis tank in her future (about $250 for an extra gallon of gas). From there’s it’s mostly just a skid plate, and the right luggage setup so I can live off the bike for 6 days in the Kentucky wilderness.

Unfortunately, “life” has taken the front seat quite a bit since Jerri’s arrival. I’ve done a little “urban off-roading” around the neighborhood, but I’ve yet to test the new Honda in anything serious. I had big dreams of hitting the DBBB one last time before the first snow fell deep freeze sets in; the sun is rapidly setting on that idea. 70-degree days are not unheard of in December, so we’ll see if things settle down long enough for Jerri to show off her skills in 2018.

Honda CRF250L Fall Colors MotoADVR

 

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Bonneville to Scrambler in 145 Easy Steps: Part 2 (of 3).

If you’re a regular follower of this blog you may have read Part 1 of this trilogy, and if you’re not, I recommend you go back and read that before continuing here. The main reason for that request is the need to get a bit of background on what was going on with the bike and why. Triumph Bonneville T100 Black on Jack MotoADVRThis particular episode is not going to reflect the consecutive order of the build, but it’s going to jump forward to the final build stages, and deal with the suspension work that was completed around April and June of this year. This culminated in an all-day wrenching session for both Drew and myself at my house in Indianapolis. We had been talking about various ideas on how to achieve what I was looking for, and what parts would be needed in order to arrive at what we perceived as the final stance of the bike. From the moment the build was conceived, it was going to be an aggressive green laner with faster steering than a Bonneville and a higher seat height to enable more ground clearance.

Triumph Scrambler Garage MotoADVRDrew’s Scrambler has the 270º crank and a few other notable differences from the more street dwelling Bonnie. The exhaust pipe and headlight are the most noticeable, but the off-the-shelf modifications for the Scrambler and Bonneville’s are in large part interchangeable because of the shared componentry and modular design philosophy Triumph’s team(s) have taken during the design phase of these bikes, and to expanding their product line with minimum amount of effort and cost, at least as far as the modern twins are concerned. That’s a lucky stroke for all of us owners because of the plethora of available parts.Bonnie Black 1 Andy Parker  Along with that comes the consequential pricing of those parts, which itself reflective of a marketplace with abundant competition. That’s right, the parts are relatively cheap, especially compared to pieces for other European machinery. The fact that a turn signal relocation bracket can be marketed for more than one bike in a lineup is advantageous to the after-market parts developer as much as it is to the model owner.

While discussing the pros and cons of the Bonnie vs the Scrambler, (or Scrambler vs the Bonnie, if you ask Drew), the two main topics for immediate improvement were the jetting and suspension for the Bonnie. Triumph Bonneville carbs MotoADVRArguably, the major characteristic of the Scrambler is the 270º-crank motor. It’s obviously a bit of a task to convert a motors firing spacing, but it’s not so difficult to wipe out a flat spot, make the engine more tractable through improving overall power and increasing throttle response in an engine which in a low state of tune out of the factory. Low end grunt and top end power can be helped if you lower the gearing a bit to let the bike rip away from lights for a standing start, (all while embarrassing bikes almost twice the volume -no names mentioned Here Dear, if you get my drift).

Having dealt pretty successfully with the fueling on the bike I was ready to tackle the bouncy bits. As already mentioned, I wasn’t about to pitch this bike against the Monster I owned, I wasn’t about to go totally nuts on it, but a good weight savings and improvement in handling through better suspension and a slight change in geometry were defo on the cards. No budget was assigned for this stage, but I had an idea I wanted to do it all for less than the cost of a pair of Ohlins shocks for the back of the bike, around $1300, give or take.

Two things figured in this decision: –

  1. Ohlins are great, but you pay a lot for some yellowish gold anodizing, and…
  2. The Bonnie frame really isn’t up to the task of getting the best out of that kind of investment.

Now we had to decide which brand we were going to employ, and what length the rear shocks were going to be. The OE Bonneville shocks are 340mm, the Thruxton and Scrambler’s are 365 or 370mm, depending on who you ask.  Straight off the showroom floor, one of the more common mods to the front is to put heavier oil in the forks and put a plastic spacer in the spring tube to add preload to the OE spring. This may also have the effect of giving it a bit more height on the front, which also compounds the slowness of the steering and makes the back shocks work even harder, which isn’t a good thing as they aren’t up to the task to start with! The simplest way to correct the geometry is to slide the forks up through the tree about 12mm (1/2 an inch) to compensate, but if you add length to the back you can leave the front stretched and gain height at both ends without trading off one end for the other, you get to enjoy the sacred cow of off-road bikes – added ground clearance. This is where we were going.

Bonnie Black Rear Shocks MotoADVRAfter quite a bit of research on various forums, and a few phone calls to people we regard as friends and experts in Triumph, and or suspension, I ended up having a pair of the Australian Gazzi Sport-Lite shocks built. We settled on a length of 365mm and sprung them for my, delicate, 196 pound frame. The length was arrived at with the decision to replace the fork springs with HyperPro Progressive Springs and 10W fork oil, and the request for more ground clearance. This meant the forks could be left at full length without pulling them up through the triple trees, and a rider with 30” inseam could easily flat-foot the bike with knees slightly bent.

What was even better was the price came in far enough under budget that a rear caliper relocation bracket was also ordered, and there was still enough change to almost cover the cost of an Acewell 2853 digital gauge.

On the actual day we chose to do the conversion, it was cool and dry. The garage was readied the day before and most of the tools were already on the bench awaiting Drew’s arrival. The build plan was discussed before we began. The order was to be as follows: –

  1. Place bike on stand and strap frame to stand.
  2. Remove front and rear wheel, and caliper bracket.
  3. Remove rear caliper from bracket.
  4. Remove rear shocks.
  5. Re-routing rear brake line.
  6. Place rear caliper on new bracket.
  7. Install new rear shocks.
  8. Re-install rear wheel with new caliper and bracket.
  9. Remove one front fork.
    1. Dis-assemble and drain fork.
    2. Inspect fork for damage.
    3. Re-Assemble with new springs and fill with measured amount of fresh fork oil.
    4. Replace each fork.
  10. Re-install front wheel.
  11. Take bike off stand.
  12. Static brake check.
  13. Test Ride.

Everything went pretty much as planned. All the new parts were checked a upon arrival, and again a few days before installation, and rechecked before they were installed. No fit issues presented themselves and it was pretty much an exercise in part swapping. The only task that required a bit of adaptivity was routing the rear brake line after moving the rear caliper from below to above the swingarm. It was obvious the banjo bolt needed to rotate 180º but there really wasn’t enough slack in the braided line to look like a factory fit without re-routing the line behind the frame under the battery box. The line and caliper were separated, and the end of the line wrapped to stop any fluid leaking out while the line was moved to its new home. This was an ideal opportunity to bleed the entire rear system and replace the fluid with new DOT4.

The forks were easy to take apart, and luckily the internals were still in factory configuration, – there had been no spacers added. Bonneville T100 Front Forks MotoADVRThey were inspected for damage and pitting, but nothing was found that hindered the re-assembly process. The only drama was figuring out who was going to hold the fork tube and who was going to replace the top nut on the fork leg.

I had ordered some preload adjusters that were guaranteed to fit, but guess what, they didn’t, so on went the original top nuts. That will be revisited at some point as some of the adjusters require trimming the spacer tube to retain factory length at full length. I’ve wondered if they fit without doing that, and if so, is there a need to add more fork oil? Things to try later, perhaps.

Test Ride Notes from Drew:

Bonnie Black MotoADVROnce Andy and I got the “Bon-bler” put together and jotted down some notes about suspension sag, he handed me the keys to take it out for a test ride. Andy’s Trumpet makes the 4th Bonneville I’ve taken for a spin, and the 3rd carbureted iteration. Andy’s comments about dialing in the fueling cannot be overstated, both in importance, and reward when done properly. Having owned two fuel injected 865 twins, I’m here to tell you, the convenience of EFI on cold mornings is great, but the “snatchy” throttle response is the price you pay for (mostly) fuss free winter starting.

I’ve told many people, I love the tractor-like character of the 270° Scrambler mill, but it’s simply not as “British” as the traditional 360° crank of the air cooled Bonnie. The sound alone is as iconic as the tank badges; it makes the bike. Moreover, as much as I love the Bonnie’s snore, the way the 360-crank puts down power is far superior on the road; the extra eight ponies aren’t too shabby either.

Per my comments above, out on the road the throttle response and fuel delivery was like butter. The new suspenders were exactly what the doctor ordered; unlike the harsh rear-end I have on my Scrambler, the new shocks on Andy’s Bonnie soak up all the flaws of the pavement while still composed enough to carve lines through the corners with precision and confidence. I’ve said elsewhere, I would shameless park a 360° crank Bonnie, just like Andy’s, next to my Scrambler as my road-fairing touring bike (yes I said touring); and I told Andy, his Bonnie is unquestionably the best I’ve ever ridden (on pavement).

To Be Continued…

Triumph T100 Bonnie Black Scrambled 1

Bonneville to Scrambler in 145 Easy Steps: Part I

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Updating the Moto Bucket List for 2019

And just like that, it was November. I’m not sure who’s running the weather these days, but there seemed to be hard shift from summer to winter here in the mid-west. Between that and the wife’s health, October riding all but went out the window (with one, caveat… stay tuned). As I’m hording the last couple hours of vacation time I have left, now seemed as good a time as any to update the Moto Bucket List considering I’ve checked off a couple major items this year (Ride 365 and the DBBB).

Looking back over the last year and a half or so, I’m amazed at how my taste in riding has evolved so heavily. Triumph Scrambler Field MotoADVRI said it before when describing the perfect ride, but now more than ever, the more remote, the less traveled, the better I like the road. At this point, the term “road” is even subjective. That statement alone had me considering removing select items from the bucket list as I feel certain destinations are much further in the future; simply because, like everyone else, I only have so many days off work each year. Despite that initial reaction, I’ve decided to leave those items in place, in the hopes that I can perhaps string a few of them together in one trip. That said, having checked off two more items from the list, it’s time to set new goals.

 

Route 66, New Mexico

Similar to comments above about time off, I skipped out on a family vacation this spring. Route 66 New Mexico Patch MotoADVRComing home from New Mexico, my nephew bought me a patch for Route 66 as a gift from the trip I missed. I caught a short section of Route 66 near Barstow driving a 5-ton truck in a former life, but I’ve never ridden it on a motorcycle. For that reason, I don’t think it’s fair to put such a patch on any of my motorcycle gear until I’ve “earned” it. Thus, I’m putting Route 66 (New Mexico) on the Moto Bucket List, on the “advice” of my 4-year-old nephew. I actually need a little help in this department, I know very little about New Mexico, or Route 66 for that matter, so I would love to hear from the readers regarding the best place to visit on Route 66 in the New Mexico area. I’m sure there’s a “to die for” diner (or dive) that is right up my alley; if you know such a place, please leave a comment below!

 

Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR)

MABDR-AlfonsePal-9

ridebdr.com Photo

It goes without saying I’m a member of several “adventure” groups on Facebook; early this year I started seeing posts about this new “Adventure Ride” nearby. Unbeknownst to me, Backcountry Discovery Routes (501c3) has put great effort into building various adventure routes together all over the country. Needless to say, these routes are easier to put together out west where the country is more sparsely populated, but they’ve finally published a new route here on the east coast. Starting right on the New York/Pennsylvania border, the MABDR runs south through the Keystone state, Maryland, West Virginia, and on through Virginia with a tiny section of Tennessee. Per my comments to Ted from the Motorcycle Men Podcast, in 2019 I want to focus on the KAT, but after tackling the best of the Bluegrass, the MABDR seems like the next logical, extended, off-road excursion.

 

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina

1280px-Mount_Mitchell_sign

Wikipedia Photo

While I’ve not yet had a chance to chronicle my trip to deal’s gap this year (or last year for that matter), it did include a day trip to Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina. It’s kind of silly thing, but I like seeing the highest points in each state. Ohio’s highest point is kind of a joke (Bellefontaine, not far from Dayton); Indiana’s is even more so, which I’ve actually yet to see, but I’m sure I’ll wander out past Greenville to pick that one up at some point. In this case, Mount Mitchell is not only the highest point in North Carolina, but also the highest point of the Appalachian Mountains. Somehow I have shockingly not visited this point in North Carolina, despite my annual pilgrimage to Deal’s Gap each fall. This goal is actually a bit deeper than usual; beyond wanting to ride to the highest point in North Carolina (and potentially each U.S. State), I am also working toward a plan for a long vacation with my dad. While he hasn’t set an official date yet, I expect my dad to hang it up and finally retire in the next two years or so. There’s no question that my taste for all-day riding began when I started joining my dad on rides to see my grandma in Kentucky. While I was overseas he spent a week on the road, riding from Dayton to see my aunt in Florida; he talks about that ride frequently, wanting to do it again before his riding days are over. I’ve casually been laying out destinations for such a ride, and I think the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, along with visiting Mount Mitchell is a good start.

 

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

mt-evans-colorado85

bwbacon.com photo

If you’re keeping up with the Moto Bucket List at all, it’s obvious I want to set goals and continue to expand how and where I ride. At last count, I’ve now ridden in 13 states, only one of which is west of the Mississippi River. As I have been steadily picking off the Appalachian states, I’ve started looking west for future destinations, specifically Colorado. The Centennial State is merely an Iron Butt ride from Dayton, so ideally I would be riding across the plains to visit some of the legendary mountain passes. While I’m at it, why not hit the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the tallest paved road in North America? Essentially an access road to Mount Evans, the scenic byway gains 7,000 feet in elevation, taking motorists up to 14,130 feet. I suspect I better plan in some time to acclimate beforehand…

 

North East 24 Hour Challenge

LizIsMoto Arcadia Bark Busters NE24 ChallengeClosing out 365 straight riding days (the streak continues for now), I mentioned the North East 24 Hour Challenge. Per all my comments about “extreme” motorcycling, I want to take off-road riding to the next level. After catching Steve Kamrad’s coverage of NE24 the last two years, this is unquestionably a rally I want to ride in. NE24 has classes for riders based on skill and age range, and riders can also sign-up as a team or join the “Iron Man (or Woman)” division. Starting at 10 AM, riders take on a wooded off-road course that makes about a 10 mile loop. Riders carry a “transponder” on the course, and in the end, the riders (or team) with the most laps around the course in 24, non-stop, hours win their class.

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Finishing the DBBB: Working the Moto Bucket List

 

Smoked. Heart pounding in my ears and gasping for air, my right hand clung to the brake lever to hold the front tire on a narrow section of solid soil, desperate to keep the bike from tumbling back down the hill, yet again…

 

6 Hours Earlier

Following the excitement of Red River Scramble and Conserve the Ride, summer started to get away from me as I crossed over day 365. Little Bikes Trailer DBBB MotoADVRHaving finally sorted out output shaft leak, I was ready to get back into the woods. Having started the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) in April of last year, my buddy Tom and I were both anxious to finally finish the full loop. Riding down to his place near Cincinnati, I parked the Scrambler in his garage as we decided to trailer two of his lighter bikes down to Kentucky to tackle the more gnarly trails, more specifically, the last outstanding section, Mountain Springs/Furnace-Pilot Road.

Following  the original game plan from last spring, we headed northwest out of Slade, running the DBBB loop counter-clockwise, starting with Spaas Creek Road just west of Red River Gorge. KLX250 TW200 Spaas Creek Road DBBB MotoADVRTom put me on his (daughter’s) TW200 while he took the reins to his new (to him) KLX250SF for their first off-road adventure. Rolling out of Slade, it was strange riding the pint-sized Yamaha, a bike that’s less than a third of the Scrambler’s displacement and right about half its weight. The “Tee-Dub” felt incredibly nimble on the street, albeit it was headed nowhere in a hurry. I’ve always wondered how awesome it has to be to “float” over all the mud with those big beach tires, finally pulling onto Spaas Creek I was about to find out.

 

 

As one would expect, Spaas Creek proved to be much easier on the TW, despite the exceptionally muddy conditions. Passing Hatton Ridge, and down Hawkins Branch, Pumpkin Hollow proved to be more of the same. Pumpkin Hollow Pond DBBB MotoADVRThe wet slimy clay was even more challenging than previous visits, however, I rapidly discovered that the mighty Tee-Dub is the proverbial mountain goat of the dual sport world; it won’t set speed records, but it’s tenacious in limited traction conditions. I was especially thankful for the mild ride and nimble maneuvering of the TW as I came upon a particularly deep creek crossing on Pumpkin Hollow; a creek I’ve ran through at speed on other occasions had easily tripled in depth after the unseasonable rainfall we’ve had this year.

KLX250SF Chop Chestnut Road DBBB MotoADVRPassing the quarry that marks the beginning of Chop Chesnut Road, Tom and I made short work of the sandy trails on the lighter bikes before arriving at the infamous “stair case”. Considering we were riding more “appropriate” equipment, I suggested that we try riding up the “steps” with the KLX as it had the suspension to make that possible. While riding up the sandstone ledges, Tom commented over the intercom that he distinctively smelled gas for some reason. Stopping at the bottom, he stepped off the bike for me to make my own run on the steps when he saw gasoline gushing down the side of the bike. As we pushed the bike to the side of the trail, we realized there was a hole in the fuel line as the entire tank emptied into the sand before we could get the bike disassembled.

Fortunately, the stock Kawasaki tool kit had the necessary equipment to remove the plastics and lift the tank to ascertain the culprit. Apparently, after spending many years of its life in the garage, the fuel line had dry rotted and cracked, and naturally failed after being jostled by the finest Bluegrass backroads. As luck would have it, the Tee-Dub donated a short portion of its breather hose, and with the help of a sharp license plate, we patched the KLX back together. With a little splash of gas from a fuel bottle, we nursed the Kaw back to Slade to top off and head down to Mountain Springs to finish the last outstanding part of the loop.

 

 

Earlier this spring, I led Tom and my buddy Jeff down to the DBBB for a little Red River Scramble reconnaissance mission. Mountain Springs Road Ruts Tom WittAfter a very short distance down Mountain Springs Road, we discovered the conditions were extremely harsh for big bikes, especially the taller KTM 990 shod with more desert-friendly skins, so we turned around and moved on to other trails (Fincastle and Big Andy Ridge Roads). Considering that previous visit also involved a short dirt nap for Rosie the Scrambler, I was thankful to have the Japanese Mountain Goat as my tour guide for my first trip down the most challenging trail on the DBBB (main loop).

Mountain Springs Road Abandoned House MotoADVRWith Mountain Springs Road behind us, Tom and I headed south through the more beginner friendly Fixer-Leeco and Hell Creek Roads before arriving at Old Fincastle Road. I proposed that we deviate from the DBBB main loop, and tackle Walker Creek Road, coincidentally “hard section 11” on the Kentucky Adventure Tour. I caught a YouTube video of two Africa Twins finishing this section a while back, I figured since we were on lighter bikes, we should give it a shot considering we’d just finished battling the worst of the DBBB.

Walker Creek Kudzu Tom WittAn old, disassembled, rail line, Walker Creek Road runs almost dead north from Fincastle to Kentucky Highway 715 in Rogers. Starting out with a string of endless mud puddles, “Hard 11” wasn’t particularly eventful for the first couple miles. Eventually emerging from the tree canopy, we were met with a trail completely overrun with Kudzu, making for a bizarre, unworldly, experience.

Nearing the northern terminus of Walker Creek, the trail gained significant elevation as we were met by a lofty rock ledge. KAT Hard 11 Rock Ledges TW200 Tom WittI managed to ramp the TW’s front wheel over the right side of the ledge with the help of a few tactically placed rocks but getting enough grip at the rear wheel to scramble up the shelf was another story. Trying to rock the bike, meanwhile not rolling back far enough to tumble into the ravine beyond was the task at hand. Ultimately it took a good shove from Tom to get the bike over the giant mantel. The KLX naturally scaled the same obstacle with less fanfare, but a few more yards up the trail the story would change completely. Met by a series of slightly shorter ledges, ranging from a foot to two feet in height, I attempted to ramp the Japanese mountain goat up the ledges with the help of the right side embankment. The slick stone, loose soil and clay proved to be a major obstacle considering the TW’s wheelbase and the short run of each of the “steps.” Again, it took a little pushing and pulling by both of us to get the bikes over each of the ledges.

At the base of the final “step”, there was another steep incline, cross-crossed by wheel-swallowing ruts with a series of mudholes sprinkled in. I walked the next hundred feet or so to scout out a good line and took a run at it with the T-dub. There was a lot of “dabbing” involved, hideous form, along with some choice four-letter words, but I got the micro-motorcycle parked on a nice level spot up the trail. Walker Creek Road Rock Ledges Tom WittThe KLX proved to be the more challenging bike to traverse the final stretch. Having already disturbed the ground on the limited “run-up”, the KLX would get halfway up the dirt mound before the rear end would slide out and drop you back into an unclimbable rut. After several attempts to ride up the clay-clad obstacle, Tom and I were both all but wasted. I took a few moments to catch my breath and look over the terrain one more time before I decided to climb back on the KLX to make one last attempt on the final yards of Hard 11. Compared to the T-dub, it was even uglier. At this point, I’m not entirely sure what level of wide-open throttle, pushing, and “body English” made it possible; all I knew is that I had to stay on the gas and manage to not throw myself off the mountain for the hundred or so feet that followed. That’s about the point I stalled the bike, just as I crested a hill onto a narrow dirt patch, perched above two water-filled ruts and a nasty drop-off a little further to the left.

Drew Dead in the Woods Tom WittAfter battling two bikes up a flight of Appalachian “stairs”, and muscling traction into the rear end of the KLX to make the climb, I was completely smoked. Head down over the tank, desperately gasping for air, I held the front brake with everything I had to keep from sliding back down the hill, yet again. Tom climbed up the hill to hold the KLX steady while I fired it up one last time. More flailing feet, whiskey throttle, wide-eyed desperation, and some fish-tailing was involved, but I somehow managed to thread the needle to cross the last few feet of Hard 11’s worst obstacles.

 

Two Weeks Later

Finishing the last section of the DBBB meant checking another item off the Moto Bucket List in 2018. Of course, riding the last section without the scrambler wasn’t quite the same. Fortunately, my buddy Bill was also looking at another chance to tackle some Kentucky clay a couple weeks later.

 

 


 

There’s no question, Hard 11 was the most challenging off-road riding I’ve ever done, even on a “little” bike. That said, the northwest sections of the DBBB were unquestionably the worst I had ever seen them that day on the Scrambler. With more water, bigger rocks, deeper ruts and sand… needless to say the wet summer turned trails that were once challenging to a novice adventure rider, into nearly insurmountable obstacles on the 500 pound pig (er… warthog). drew rosie creek arms center watermarkMountain Springs Road, bypass and all, tested the Scrambler (almost) right up to its absolute limits in ground clearance and suspension travel. I picked up that bike more that day than every day combined since I bought it. It was an incredible experience, but one that unquestionably highlighted the limitations of the machine. Rolling off the sand and onto the tarmac at the south end of Mountain Springs was a much bigger sense of accomplishment after battling the worst mud I’ve ever seen on my high-pipe-hipster-coffe-shop machine. The question now is, what’s next?

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Are Scramblers Just a Fad?

Two years ago last July, I made the jump to a “new” motorcycle, something I thought would become the best pathway to new adventures, be it on-road or off.

MotoADVR_SevenMileCreekBridge

Conventional wisdom suggests that the portly Triumph Bonneville, dressed in throw-back motocross décor, designed with a 270 degree firing order, was merely a styling exercise, and completely unsuited for off-road riding. It goes without saying that I tend to go against the grain, and have no problem questioning this conventional opinion; to me, the Triumph Scrambler has a lot more to offer riders than just “stunning good looks”. Undoubtedly, if you’ve spent any amount of time surfing around the website, you’ve found Rosie the Scrambler up to her axles is in muddy water; a sight that’s unfortunately not more common. In my eyes, the low seat height, low center of gravity, and flat torque band of the modern scrambler can be a selling point, the same as the flashy high pipes and retro styling, among other nuances of the “genre”.

The irony of finishing 365 consecutive days of riding almost two years to the day after bringing Rosie home wasn’t lost on me; it’s almost like the first 160-day streak had to end prematurely so that those two anniversaries would land on the same weekend.

Drew top of Spaas splash center watermark

I mentioned in my “reflections” of the past year in the saddle that I felt validation in the choice I made with respect to choosing the right machine for the job. The Scrambler tackled situations many motorcycles never see, and was yet a pleasure to ride every day, without fail. As the 365th day approached, I was actually penning a full-length article about scramblers as a whole, suggesting that too many have dismissed these bikes as a bandwagon fad, and not looking at the potential these motorcycles present.

Assuming you didn’t already catch it elsewhere, I wrote “Ode to the Scrambler” with Chris Cope for his website “The Motorcycle Obsession”.

Triumph Scrambler Hill MotoADVR

Likely unbeknownst to Chris, his website was a contributing factor to why I started Moto Adventurer way back when; his passion for all things two wheels is expressed in some of the best literary work you’ll find in print or on the web. He recently left the more traditional motorcycle journalist life, having worked full-time for a different moto-journalism outlet, he decided to strike out on his own as a full-time, independent, “moto-writer”. At any rate, please go take a look at “Ode to the Scrambler” and let me know what you think. While you’re over at TMO, poke around and see what else Chris has to offer.

“Ode to the Scrambler”

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Choosing the Right Dual-Sport Tires

If you’ve been tuning in as of late, I’m obviously gearing up for another motorcycle Rally; with that, the issue of tires always comes up. Karoo 3 Shinko 804 Triumph Scrambler MotoaDVRConsidering I attend about three to five major motorcycle events each year, I’m constantly fussing about how long tires will last and what the best tires will be for the next trip I go on. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that different tires are better at different jobs, and there’s nothing worse than spending a pile of cash on new rubber that you absolutely hate from the very first ride. Everyone undoubtedly has their own opinion on the best motorcycle tires, long-time readers know I’m no different, but I really want to focus on a few of the less discussed facets of adventure, or dual-sport tires.

 

Why are Dual Sport Tires Measured in Percentages?

Continental Trail Attack 2 rear MotoADVRAt some point customer X asked brand Y, “What kind of conditions are these new tires meant for?” As any good marketing person would do, they apparently came up with a short answer, “These are 80/20 tires, meant for 80% on-road, and 20% off-road riding.” The more time I spend taking inappropriate equipment to out of the way places, the less helpful I find these percentages. “So what you’re saying is, if I only spend 20% of my time off-road, these tires will still be awesome off-road right?” Well, not exactly…

My synopsis on how we got here is completely fictitious, but I suspect things played out that way to some degree. I also understand the need for a simple baseline or a general rule of thumb so to speak. Triumph Scrambler stack of tires MotoADVRThis percentage-based rating system offers a general idea of how focused a given tire is for asphalt versus dirt, longevity versus traction, and on-road handling versus off-road confidence. However, having run everything from 90/10 to 40/60 dual sport tires on the Scrambler, I’ve discovered that these percentages might “suggest” how road-fairing a given tire may be, but as far as off-road traction and longevity are concerned, there are numerous other factors that get lost through ambiguity. Thus, assuming you don’t burn through tires on a regular basis, I suggest you approach “adventure” tire buying a little differently.

In my opinion, adventure or dual-sport tires have an incredibly difficult job, they need to be confidence inspiring on the asphalt, gravel, dirt, sand, mud, while also maintaining indefinite tread life. As we all know, this is an impossibility; each of these conditions creates unique traction situations, often at odds with the others, and on any good adventure ride, it will invariably rain. Rating dual-sport tires by a percentage is a very black and white method for choosing a tire for your next adventure.04 April2 Personally, if I’m going to use a black and white, pass-fail method of rating dual-sport tires, I would start with, “Will these tires paddle through the mud?” Followed by, “Do these tires provide reliable traction on wet pavement?” Obviously, there are very few black and white solutions in life, so let’s pretend for a moment that the motorcycle gods have put me in charge of adventure tire classification, I think I would go with something more like a 4-tiered rating based on how a given tire handles on the dry asphalt, dry soil, wet pavement, and most importantly, mud. This too would be less than a perfect system, as it ignores longevity, and more importantly, off-road riding conditions range from packed gravel to wet sand, so there are a few more things to consider.

 

Where are You Riding?

It goes without saying, I love riding in Kentucky; one of the reasons I keep going back to the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) is the wide range of trail conditions you experience each time. Chop Chestnut Road KLX250SM MotoADVRWhile creek crossings and ruts evolve with storm activity, beyond the weather’s impact on the evolution of the trail, the soil types vary heavily from one mile to the next. One section of trail will be firm dirt interrupted by puddles and loose mud, while the next will be rocky, then sandstone ledges, and finally patches of hidden sand. Taking that further, the double-track trails in Kentucky are narrow, infrequently traveled, passing through dense foliage, with steep elevation changes (even if they’re short). Considering those conditions, the perpetual mud, and the frequency of my visits, I usually run the most aggressive set of knobbies I can get my hands on.

DCIM119GOPRO

On the other end of the spectrum, I also take day trips to Shawnee State Forest near Portsmouth, Ohio. Shawnee has miles and miles of gravel and dirt roads; most of which are relatively well-manicured and regularly trafficked. There are a couple sections that can get muddy from time to time, but the mud patches are typically brief, so tire selection is nowhere near as critical. I’ve had similar experience in Tennessee; most of the legal trails are well-maintained forest service roads, which, depending on skill level, means you could easily run street tires and get by just fine. Pennsylvania was somewhat the same, Boney Trail Framecam MotoADVRhowever considering the endless “baby-head” rocks protruding from the dirt, the terrain was firm, if not downright “boney”. There are obviously more challenging trails in both of these locations, and likely even more so when you move beyond Appalachia, so adjust your tire selection based on where you expect the greatest difficulty. If I spent most of my time riding at Shawnee, I would probably run 50/50s like the Avon Trekrider, or perhaps even something as street oriented at the Shinko 705.

 

How Sharp are Your Off-road Skills?

g0355154The importance of this question cannot be overstated. I’ve heard it from multiple outlets in the past, identifying your comfort level with the conditions is a massive part of selecting the best tire for the job. If you’re new to off-road riding, still adapting to the rear end being loose, and have concerns about getting stuck in the mud, I suggest you bring the gnarliest tire you can buy to the party. With only a couple gravel roads under my belt, a particular moment stands out in my mind: the handle bars swinging from lock to lock as I skated through the mud on Spaas Creek Road; riding on a set of 90/10 tires, I was not exactly having fun off-road.DCIM126GOPRO A few months later, I made the investment in a set of “adventure” knobby tires, and the experience changed dramatically. A good set of knobbies can cure a lot of ills in the skills department while you’re still learning the ropes. Aggressive off-road tires inspire confidence in bad conditions, and confidence reduces the stress of making it across the next obstacle, and ultimately enjoying a ride, instead of feeling like you’re being dragged along by your buddies. As you gain experience, you’ll start to master your machine, and know how to handle it in adverse conditions; then you can potentially downgrade your tire selection to something a little more road-oriented, perhaps a little cheaper, or a tire that lasts longer.

 

What Bike are You Riding?

So there you are, scrolling through tires on the web, trying to decide on the tire you want. Triumph Tiger 800 XCx Shawnee State Forest MotoADVRYou get on some motorcycle forum and ask for recommendations for the best adventure tire; three or four people insist it’s this tire or that. You decide to go with “mainstream advice”, only to discover that tire is absolutely horrifying in the rain and slides all over the mud. How could so many folks love this tire, yet you find it completely unreliable? The Heidenau K60 scout comes to mind. The K60 is a good, respectable tire; lots of long-haul adventure riders love that tire, while others scream about wet weather manners and mediocre off-road performance. So, when folks start yammering on about how much they love or hate tire “X”, the first thing I ask is, “What bike are you on?”

Case in point, a while back I ran the K60 Scout on the Scrambler. Admittedly, I can’t say I “loved” the K60, but it was a reliable tire; even if I found it unremarkable. Heidenau K60 Scout Rear Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRMy experience convinced a buddy of mine to buy a set for his Tiger 800. Turns out, the rear tire spun up on tar snakes every time it rained, and I witnessed his tires get “loaded” with mud and the front tire “push” multiple times. The Triumph Scrambler and the Tiger 800 XC run completely different tire sizes; meanwhile the two bikes also have dissimilar weight distribution and have diametrically different power delivery. Assuming the two bikes wore the same size shoes, the difference in weight and power delivery alone will affect how the tires heat up, and how the tires hook when it rains and in the sloppy stuff. My point is, be careful where you get advice about the best tires for your bike (pot, meet kettle); just because a given tire is a superstar on one bike, doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be a flop on another. This is especially true when you start comparing results between bikes like the BMW R1200GS and the Suzuki DR650; vastly different tire sizes and significantly different weights. If the loudest voice in the room is riding a different bike than you are, you may want to take their opinion with a grain a salt.

 

How Do You Like to Ride?

Do you blast around full-tilt or are you a casual adventurer? Do you scream on the dirt and ride lazy on the asphalt, or do you rip it on the tarmac and tour on the gravel? DCIM143GOPROPer my comments about off-road skills, you may not know the answer to this question just yet; however, once you’ve been down a few trails, and depending on who you ride with, you may discover you have one propensity over another. In my case, I typically put performance and value in front of longevity and price. I’m frugal when it comes to tires, as I buy a quite a few of them each season, but I won’t think twice about paying more for a tire that lasts longer and performs better than a (marginally) cheaper competitor. If you’re a casual rider that doesn’t pile on the miles and replaces tires maybe once a season, then splurge on the performance tires and enjoy the rides with confidence (or perhaps reckless abandon). If you’re a pragmatic hyper-miler that doesn’t grind the pegs at every opportunity, while seldom finding yourself in the mud, you’ll probably be happier if you put the priority on longevity, even if it costs you a little more.

Again, this isn’t black and white; in my case I usually choose the tire with the least amount of compromise. Motoz Tractionator Desert H-T Rear 2 MotoADVRFor me, that means the best wet traction on the tarmac I can get, without losing confidence in the mud. I like to ride the Scrambler near the limits of its capability (which isn’t saying much), but that also means my tire choices are somewhat limited, and I’m changing a rear tire every four to five thousand miles. If you have any sense about yourself, and a little throttle discipline, you can probably squeeze more miles out of a set of aggressive knobby tires depending on your bike. If you live to hoon around the trails and the backroads, you may want to learn to live with cheaper, or less competent tires, or come to grips with the fact you’ll be spooning on new tires every couple months.

 

How Far do You Need to Go?

Are you riding hours to the trails, putting the bike on a trailer, or packing the tent and living off the bike on a trans-continental tour? Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler Sunset MotoADVRThis is yet another compromise you’ll need to make, choosing a tire that has the longevity to last the full length of your trip, making an appointment to install a new tire mid-adventure, or humping the spare tire for the first leg of the journey until it’s finally needed. There’s a lot that can go into this; you may find that you want to run a slightly less off-road capable tire in favor of superior wear on the pavement, that way one set of tires will last through the entire trip. On the flip-side, let’s say you’re headed out west and you’re good at swapping your own tires; you may decide to throw a knobby rear tire on top of your luggage and run a street tire for the long sections of interstate, then swap the rear tire in a truck stop parking lot that last night before you hit the big trails, then just burn off what’s left of those knobbies riding the interstate on the way home.

Thus far, I’m generally not more than five hundred or so miles from home, and even on my extended motorcycle adventures, don’t typically cover more than 2,000 miles in a given trip. Karoo 3 New Tire Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRWhile I typically just install a new set tires before I leave for a big event, living here on the east coast generally means I could feasibly have a replacement tire shipped to wherever I’m staying, if not have it swapped at a local shop. Riding long trips out west or other remote destinations may make those decisions a bit more difficult. I’ll also add, if you’ve not run a given tire in the past, you may discover that tire doesn’t last nearly as long as you thought it would. That can make for a bad day, stuck in the mud out on the trail, with no plans for suitable replacement rubber. Like I said, there’s no easy answer to this type of trip planning, but it’s certainly one more thing to considering when picking a set of tires.

 

Mixing and Matching

While not as controversial as mounting a radial front and a bias-ply rear (or god forbid, a car tire), mixing and matching new with old, and especially different brands and models can be taboo for some motorcyclists. Triumph Tiger 800 Row MotoADVRThat said, you may find there are economic or performance advantages to running one model of tire on the rear and a different model on the front. I’ll pick on the K60 Scout again because it’s a popular tire and an easy target; I frequently see the Heidenau K60 rear mounted to any given bike, however it’s also common to find it paired with a different, often more aggressive, front tire. I’ve heard lots of folks say they don’t care for the K60 front tire because it’s too loud, or they don’t trust it in the rain. Others have said that considering how long knobby front tires last on the pavement (compared to a matching rear), they might as well run an aggressive tread pattern on the front wheel and change both tires at the same time as they’ll now wear out at about the same rate.

I’m no exception; my typical uber-off-road go-to setup has been the Shinko 804 front and Karoo 3 rear.06 June Both tires are particularly affordable in Scrambler sizes and perform well in the mud. I find the matching Shinko 805 rear doesn’t have the large, mud clearing gaps in Scrambler sizes compared to the wider “Tiger-sized” rear. At the same time, the Karoo 3 front tire is almost double the price of the 804 front, so I’ve not made the commitment to a matched set just yet (combined with the fact 19” Karoo 3s are radial). Knobby front tires on the Scrambler typically last double the mileage of most rear tires; more so for the street-oriented skins. I’ve typically run matching sets of Trekriders and 705s in the past, as they work well together; especially the Trekriders which are nearly a faultless tire. I have, however, debated mounting the Trekrider on the front with the 705 in the rear purely because I like a surefooted front end, but I’m becoming more comfortable with sliding the rear wheel. This whole idea may be witchcraft in your eyes, but if you’re open to experimentation, you might be pleasantly surprised (and sometimes the “Minister of War and Finance” will thank you).

 

Exceptions

Despite wanting a superior classification system for dual-sport tires, I’d say we’re unlikely to get something better from tire industry any time soon. Being stuck with this percentage based system, it would be wise to realize there will always be exceptions. Metzeler Karoo 3 Rear Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRTake the Metzeler Karoo 3 for example, I’ve seen the Karoo 3 marketed as a 70/30 tire; I’m here to tell you, those paddles churn through the mud better than any other tire I’ve run thus far. Inversely, Continental’s TKC70 is marketed as a 60/40 tire. I have not personally run the TKC70 on the Scrambler, and dare I say, “based on looks alone”, there’s simply no way you’re going to convince me that the TKC70 will dig the Rosie the Warthog out of a mud hole with the same tenacity of the Karoo 3. What I’m trying to say here is, regardless of how the distributors or manufacturers rate their tires, take a close look at the tread patterns and gaps between the lugs when evaluating the best tire for the riding you’re going to do. Deep channels and wide gaps between the blocks will clear mud and get you out of tight spots, “paddles” will often dig you out of a hole better, but staggered knob configurations will keep the rear end from sliding laterally (which paddles have a tendency to do).

Beyond how tread patterns vary from one model to another, you will also want to be mindful of how the tread fluctuates with tire size. Going back to the K60 Scout, the rear tire tread pattern is drastically different depending on tire width and rim size. Avon Trekrider Tread Compare MotoADVR130 scrambler-width tires have the typical ADV-chevron lugs, while the 140 includes a center strip for increased wear, and the 150 has an even larger integrated center strip; the center strip also differs between 17 and 18-inch rims. I already mentioned the difference between the 130 and 150 width Shinko 805s, the “paddle” tread blocks have significantly larger gaps on the wider tire. On the flipside, the 130/80-17 Karoo 3 has the tallest lugs with the largest gaps of all of the Karoo 3 tires I’ve seen; surprisingly taller than the more dirt oriented 140/80-18 tires on my buddy’s MZ Baghira 660. Front tires are no different, there’s almost always a massive difference between tread patterns on the more dirt worthy 21” tires versus the more road friendly 19” hoops. It’s unwise to take the retail website photos as the gospel, make sure you do a little extra surfing on the web to find images of the tire sizes you need for your motorcycle.


For some reason, tires seem to be this controversial subject among motorcyclists. I admit, you can create some negative handling issues when mixing and matching tires and straying too far from the factory recommended sizes (as I have done recently). Motoz Tractionator Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThat said, don’t get spooked by folks touting “absolutes” on social media site; things like “Never go cheap on tires!” What you ride, how you ride, and where you ride are likely completely different from those people (not to mention your budget). I’ve run expensive tires that simply did not perform as well as cheap tires; I’ve ran cheap tires that are decent, but not as good as a slightly more expensive tire. If you’re not exactly sure which tire you need for a given application, I recommend you buy “more” tire than you actually need. Taking the time to find a tire that needs to be replaced sooner than expected sucks, but it’s not as bad as being miserable on the trail for days because you don’t trust your bike. When “polling the crowd” for opinions, I recommend you make connections with reputable motorcyclists on bikes similar to yours, and use them for advice when shopping tires. Make sure you ask them these questions about where and how they like to ride, and how far they typically go. Sometimes you just have the bite the bullet and give a set of a tires a shot. It sucks when you realize you just blew $300 on a set of tires you hate, but the good news is that someone else might even buy those tires from you despite being “used”… but that’s a topic for another day.

 

Additional Resources:

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

Tires: The Original Traction Control by Spurgeon Dunbar (Revzilla)

Adventure Motorcycle Tires / ADV Tyres by MOTOTREK

 

Posted in Maintenance & How-To, Random Blurbs | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Orange Fever

Breakfast was being served at home as I started talking to my fantabulous wife about what was going on regarding the bikes in the garage. “I am so bored of this conversation.” She says. “Every time you want a new bike you ask me to justify it for you, and I’m not going to do it anymore… But, if you want one, just go and buy it. I’m glad you want to talk to me, but just tell me what you’re getting with no explanations……please.” And there we have it. The culmination of the activities this past week.

Allow me to expand. It seems I recently came down with a nasty case of Orange Fever. “No”, it’s not the political or religious type, nor is it the type derived from a crazy obsession with a certain soccer team from The Netherlands.

Am I ok?

Well, yes, I am ok. Thanks for asking, and lucky for me I found the remedy in time, but more of that later.

So, what the beenoodles is it then? You are probably saying to yourselves – this is a bike-themed blog. Does it involve an orange bike?

Now, I know my ‘About Andy’ section lists an R1200GS, a Monster 1200S, and a Triumph as my current rides, but the R1200GS morphed into a K1600GT a few months ago, and the Monster is on the chopping block due to my aging knees and the motorcycling abuse I’ve put them through over three decades of riding. Anyone who knows me is aware of my frequent changes of motorcycle costume.

The whole saga seriously started about the time a KTM started appearing at our local club events. KTM 990 ADV MotoADVRIt is ridden by a lovable guy who was newish to the circle of friends, and who didn’t mind getting his 990 Adventure a bit muddy. Next up was a friend who I’ve known a decade or more who stumbled into owning a 990 SM, and lastly a Triumph/Honda owning friend (just because he rides a Honda there’s no need for any jokes about large chicks and mopeds if you don’t mind – both being fun to ride, but you don’t brag about it to your mates, if you know what I mean 😉 ) came around to asking what I thought of my GS because he was looking at a GSA. Ultimately he opted for the 1290 Super Adventure to replace the ‘Onda for long walks on beaches and fun times with his better half.

KTM 1290 Adventure left rear Rick SowrySo, a guy I respect for his riding gets one. A guy who’s probably got more miles under his belt than Drew and I combined at the moment, although a few years back we were probably in the same region for total miles covered, even if he probably does all his miles in North America, and mine covers 200,000 miles in the UK and around southern France and Spain.

What is it with these Austrian orange dirt bike derived things anyway? I better go and find out. It just so happens that the place I got my K1600GT had two used examples on the showroom floor, a 1290 Super Adventure and an 1190 Adventure R.

What a great looking bike the 1190 Adventure R is, and by all YouTube reviews, an epic off-roader. I arranged a test ride on both having fallen under the spell of the 1190 Adventure R just from the pictures and the YouTube reviews.

1190 Adventure R

Armed with my driving license and insurance card I go to take these bikes out for a spin.

First up is the discussion about seat height, and whether I need a step ladder to get on the 1190. I take a look around the bike. KTM 1190R gravel ADVExploreIt’s a 2015 model but is essentially still new as it only has 1034 miles on the clock. The fit and finish are really good, the colors and graphics are notable. It’s in fantastic shape. It tickles my fancy as much as I’d hoped. I may be in moto-lust. I decided to take my usual approach to get on tall bikes and take full advantage of the left side riders peg to climb on board. What immediately struck me was how light it feels when I stand it up. It does not feel like 518lbs, even with the 35-inch seat height. I’m on tiptoes if I put both feet down, but I am comfortable flat footing one side and pegging the other foot, I’ve done it before with my old Hypermotard 1100 Evo SP and I’m still happy to endure this routine daily if the need is there, and the reward large enough.

I turn the ignition key and wait for the controls to boot, then start the motor. It fires up readily and quickly settles into a steady beat. A quick blip on the throttle and the raspy sound of the engine tells me it’s eager to get going.

Once I’m out on the planned route, the height is no problem. KTM 1190R bridge ADVExploreThe 21-inch front steers predictably and the rear wheel, which also gets off-road sizing at 18 inches, make the washboard road surface easy to roll over. The brakes and clutch actions are two-finger strong and easy to operate (- mineral oil fluid for the clutch). I get onto a little straight with an unperfect surface and get on the throttle to see what this 145 hp motor actually goes like. It’s nuts, it’s absolutely (expletive) nuts. You give it gas and it leaps forward with quite a distinct noise from the exhaust, if you over fuel it, the rasp is joined by what can only be described as a pleasant clang at every spark, it’s a beautiful sound, and the bike adds to the forward momentum; it sends tingles down my spine. A fellow Englishman described his Super Duke GT as being bonkers, “It’s bonking bonkers mate” (nearly his exact words), “It just moves forward so bloody quickly…” and this coming from a former S1000XR owner. It certainly has some level of acceleration I’ve not experienced unless I’m sitting in First Class on a big Airbus. KTM 1190R creek ADVExploreIt’s not ‘baseball bat to the bottom of the spine’ snappy because it’s a totally speed x speed x speed kind of gain in forward motion, it gathers ferocity from when you open it up until you close the throttle, or you bang it off the limiter. Nuts. Truly nuts. The traction control works in such a way that you can feel the tire is about to spin-up, but it never does. It is quite impressive, even over less than perfect surfaces. The fueling is spot on for the bikes nature. It’s raw but not rough, it’s smooth but not slick. It manages to feel unbridled. You get the impression it’s just managing to keep things in check before they get totally out of hand. Along with the fully adjustable White Power suspension, it gives the bike the right character. The suspension makes the Ohlins on other bikes feel inferior. Really, it does. The bike is a road going, off-road hooligan tool. Don’t ride it unless you like riding a tiger’s tail. It’s epic. This bike might be my new all-time favorite, edging out the air-cooled Hypermotard 1100 by a hair or three.

 

1290 Super Adventure

For starters, the seat on the 1290 is an inch shorter than the 1190, so both feet on the ground is entirely possible. KTM 1290 Adventure Left Rick SowryThis particular bike is a 2016 and has 5,500 miles on it the odometer. It is fitted with the factory plastic hard luggage and has a whole host of electronic goodies the 1190 does not have. It has cruise control, electronically adjustable suspension, heated grips, and heated seats and the same riding modes of the 1190. It weighs 550 lbs gaining only 32 lbs but has a claimed 160 hp motor. It also wears 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels letting the rider choose from a wider range of more road-oriented rubber if that’s what they want, and let’s face it, they do.

Indeed, this bike is aimed fairly squarely at the GSA and the Multistrada markets rather than the hardcore dirt rider the 1190 Adventure R is looking to appease. The list of things this bike has as standard is very impressive for the price. To get all the goodies on either the GSA or the Multistrada you would have to select multiple packages or pick through the list of available accessories to get one as well equipped, and I dare say the price would jump significantly from their base prices around the $20,000 range to the mid 20’s whereas the KTM is around the $18,000 mark. Kudos to KTM for doing this, and please excuse me for not listing the whole shebang of prices and options the other two Euro 1200’s. I’d like to keep your attention a while longer….

And while all this added sophistication makes the 1290 Super Adventure much more refined, it’s also accompanied by a little blandness. KTM 1290 Adventure right front Rick SowryIt’s still fast as fandango, as we Brits like to say, but all the endearing qualities, that make the 1190 such a beast to ride have been sanitized and dulled a bit around the edges. The exhaust note is still there, but a bit quieter, the throttle response is a bit smoother, the suspension a bit plusher and the handling a bit tamer. It all adds up to a better road bike for bunging the better-half on the back and trekking to the other side of the continent in relative comfort, and all well within the capabilities of the bike, but it was the rawness of the 1190 that made it feel like you could push the bike to the absolute limits, even though the chances of that were slim, unless you’re a serious Dakar type. The 1290 lets you know it has everything well under control, so don’t try to be a Dick, Richard.

 

Decisions

Alright now we have a decision to make. I really like the 1190 but I need to go away and think about it for a day or two and come back and see if I really like it enough to say arrivederci to the Monster in my garage. Ducati Monster 1200 Andy ParkerI ride the Monster back home and stop in at the Ducati dealer on the way. A funny thing happens. A quick greeting by the shop crew upon arrival is followed by a longer conversation with the owner who chats about Iron Butt rides, what I’ve been up to, and where he’s going next, the Triple Nickel. We end up talking about my old Hypermotard and the virtues of the newish 939SP. I didn’t get along with the first water cooled 821 version while owning my 1100 so the opportunity to try the latest one is welcomed.

These demos are usually accompanied rides with two bikes and riders. This time we had a Multi 950 dressed up with enduro rubber (Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR’s) on spoked tubeless rims, accompany me on the Hypermotard 939SP. While the bikes were being readied another client was returning on a Monster 1200S along with the dealer rider on a Monster 821.

 

Hypermotard 939 SP

We headed out with me riding the Hypermotard following the rider on the Multistrada 950. Ducati Hypermotard 939 right Indy DucatiBoth of these bikes have the same motor (as does the new SuperSport) albeit in slightly different tune, with the Multi having a milder cam and revised fueling for more torque. We got onto some residential back roads and the pace got hotter quickly. The lead rider was riding like a gentleman on the Multi, smooth and rapid while I was doing my absolute best to ride like a hooligan on the Hyper. I would hold back when I knew we were coming into an interesting section and play catch up through the good bit. After about 10 minutes of me doing this, the lead bike pulls over to the side of the road at an intersection and the kickstand goes down as I pull in behind. I’m thinking he’s had enough of my antics and wants me to calm down a bit, so I’m preparing myself for a telling off when he asks if I can ride the Multi back to the shop so he can get on the Hyper for a while. Alright then I think, looks like it’s game on!

 

Multistrada 950

He pulls away as I’m getting settled into the seat on the Multi. Ducati Multistrada 950 MotoADVRIt takes a second to get acquainted with the LCD dash, so I give chase, and to my utter dismay, the Multi 950 is actually a better hooligan tool than the Hyper. The Hyper is quick, light, refined with uber good brakes and suspension, but again it’s a bike that seems to be missing the raw edge I’m looking for. The Multi, on the other hand, has it all, it is just like riding the 1190 KTM but with a fewer ponies. You can’t notice you don’t cover that extra 10 feet in the first two seconds that you cover on the KTM because you’re going more than fast enough. The seat is an inch shorter (a design feature intended to encourage less experienced owners to give it a try,) so my feet are firmly planted, and you sit ‘in’ the bike whereas you are ‘on’ the Hyper. It’s just like the 1190,  the bars are wide and in just the right position to enable you to stand up any time you want and provide lots of leverage making turning easier. Ducati Multistrada 950 Right Front Andy ParkerThe other similarities are the manual fully adjustable suspension, (Sachs and Showa), no cruise, no heated grips or seat, and no lean-angle ABS, but basic traction control and tubeless spoked wheels wearing street oriented Dual Sport tires. The Multi runs 19-inch front and 17-inch rear to match its primary function of a road bike. I was having a blast pitching it into tight turns, late braking and getting on the gas while leaning off but keeping the bike upright dirt bike style. It was asking for more, and just like the 1190 it felt like the bike has enough electronic aids to stop you getting into heaps of trouble at the same time letting you believe you are capable of reaching the bike’s limits. At no time does it get out of hand, the dynamics of the relationship between bike and rider are borne out of the way the bike transmits to the rider what is going on with the tires and suspension through the footpegs, seat, and handlebars. Ducati Multistrada 950 Right Andy ParkerYou have a feeling it will let you know when you’re pushing the limits, where the 1290 and the Hyper were so composed it made you uncertain how they would react when things got tricky. In short, they felt a bit wooden because of all the safety functions as opposed to the feeling of excitement you get from the slightly less refined Multi and 1190 packages. For me this was the way I wanted to feel when riding my ‘fun’ bike. I need to feel I can reach the limits of the bikes capabilities before mine, even if I really can’t.

We got back to the shop and I felt great. The other test rider who’d been out on the Monsters earlier was still there. We chatted about the 950. I told him about the 1190, the 1290, my old Hyper, my previous Multi and how much fun the 950 was. He shook my hand and thanked me for confirming his view. They sold at least two “Silk White” Multistrada 950’s with the tubeless spoked wheels right there. It was a good day. I no longer had Orange Fever, it was cured by a healthy dose of Porcelain.


In summary, I actually believe the 950 Multi is a better bike than the 1260 Multi. It is the bike the Multi should have been all along. It’s more Ducati than most of the recent crop of bikes to come out of the Italian factory, although they are all excellent bikes in their own right. Do yourself a favor, go ride one!

Ducati Multistrada 950 Left Andy Parker

 

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6 Reasons to Attend The Dragon Raid

Triumph Scrambler Deals Gap MotoADVR

The week after Labor Day will be here before we know it; for longtime Moto Adventurer followers, you know that’s my annual week-long vacation to Deal’s Gap for The Dragon Raid motorcycle rally. This year I’m hoping to see some new adventurous faces at the rally, so I’m going to threaten y’all with a good time. Don’t have plans the week of September 10th-16th? Awesome, let me give you a few reasons to make the trip to The Dragon Raid this year:

Tail of the Dragon

The rally is held just a few short miles from the infamous section of US-129, the “Tail of the Dragon”.

US129 Gravity Cavity MotoADVR

For those unfamiliar, US-129 has 318 in the 11 miles from Tabcat bridge to Deal’s Gap, hence the menacing name of the road and the subsequent title of the rally. As many folks will tell you, US-129 through Deal’s gap is a motorcycle “must ride”. That said, some would suggest that it has become overly commercialized in recent years, and it’s not exactly everyone’s flavor of riding. Fortunately, there are a number of other great (paved) roads in the area, namely the Cherohala Skyway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina Highway 281 (NC-281), and my personal favorite, NC-28. I’ve obviously covered all of these roads in detail in the past, my point is that there are some incredible sections of twisty pavement in the area; the phenomenal roads combined with the leaves just starting to change at upper elevations makes this rally is one of the best on the east coast.

You own a Triumph (or any motorcycle for that matter…)

Bald River Falls Bikes Dragon Raid MotoADVR

Way back before I was even riding a motorcycle, Triumph actually hosted “The Dragon Raid”. When Triumph North America dialed it back in 2007 (thereabouts), the local owners group in Dayton took over the reins; a trend that continues to today. While you’ll be sure to find a great number of Triumph owners in attendance, all other brands of motorcycles are highly encouraged to attend. Considering the locale, you’re also likely to find plenty of Ducati, BMW, and KTM owners mixed in the bunch.

Convenient Access to Green Lanes

While I catalog a number of my off-road adventures here on the blog, it goes without saying that my commute to and from the trails is pretty significant as a city slicker in Dayton, Ohio.

NC Creek Crossing MotoADVR

While much of the Tennessee, North Carolina area is known for its notorious paved roads, there are a great deal of off-road opportunities nearby. In the past two years I’ve expanded my off-road adventures at the Dragon Raid, and hope to do even more this year. Getting exposed to March Moto Madness in Tellico Plains this spring showed me how expansive the forest trail system is throughout Tennessee; I’m looking forward to putting the Scrambler on even more green lanes in the coming weeks.

The Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge

Unquestionably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed, anywhere; seriously. A rustic lodge tucked back in the Stecoah valley, the Iron Horse understands motorcyclists, and has built the pinnacle of lodging for riders of every stripe (and every budget).

MotoADVR_IronHorseLodge

Again, I’ve covered this in detail in the past, but the Iron Horse has accommodations for folks that want to camp, pull an RV, stay cheap in a bunk house, get a private room, or bundle the whole deal with a few friends and share an entire cabin. Campers will appreciate the cleanest shower house I’ve seen anywhere, and needless to say I’m quite happy with pampering myself in the Lone Star Cabin where I flop each year. The Iron Horse serves breakfast every morning, and typically dinner Thursday-Saturday the week of the Dragon Raid; you literally only need to leave to ride and get gas, that’s it. Assuming you decide you don’t want to brave the elements on a rainy day, the lodge has a movie theater, game room, a day room with a projector screen, and a second day room with a flat screen to watch sports, or you can just chill in a rocking chair on the back deck and listen to the rain.

Win Prizes

This year the Dragon Raid volunteers are giving away over $3000 in prizes; it’s incredible. Every year, money collected from registration and sponsorships is rolled into an event T-shirt, stickers, and ultimately a massive collection of door prizes combined with donations from all of the sponsors. In the past I’ve taken home no less than two motorcycle jackets, hats, chain lube, koozies, and an Iron Horse mason jar. Combined with those door prizes, the Dragon Raid team also raffles off several big ticket items. The big prizes are typically premium helmets, SENA communicator dual packs, and sometimes even a set of new tires.

Win a Motorcycle

Did I mention big ticket items? Yeah, how about taking home a new bike?

Dragon Raid Triumph Scrambler

If you’ve been tuning in recently, you’ve seen my buddy Andy talking about his Scrambled Bonneville project. He actually won that bike at the Dragon Raid last year; per his comments about spending $20 on a raffle ticket, that’s all you need to invest to get a chance to take home a new bike. This year the folks running the rally have also (finally) procured a proper British motorcycle to give away. This year’s prospective winner will be taking home gorgeous 2007 Triumph Scrambler. Rumor is, Scramblers are pretty reliable, versatile, machines. Not that I know anything about that, but it’s what I hear.

Mark your calendars, register at the Dragon Raid at the link below, and give the Iron Horse a call to setup your lodging arrangements. Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Cheers!

Dragon Raid Website: http://www.thedragonraid.com/

Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge website (accommodations): http://ironhorsenc.com/

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