Ducati Scrambler: First Impressions of the 1100 Sport and 800 Cafe Racer

Long-time Moto Adventurer followers are already familiar with my fascination with Red Headed Italian Supermodels. Beyond the desmodromic brand’s reputation and (at least partial) responsibility for getting me on a motorcycle, Ducati now has an entire line of motorcycles under the “Scrambler” moniker. I’ve been trying to get out to Ducati of Indy for a demo ride for over a year now; unfortunately, schedules have just not meshed up for whatever reason. As it turns out, my buddy Andy, recently moved back north and stopped in for a demo ride on Ducati’s newest Scramblers. Here’s Andy’s report:

Let’s start with the newbie, the Scrambler 1100 comes in three models, the Scrambler 1100, the 1100 Special, and the 1100 Sport; of the three, I chose to demo the 1100 Sport. The 1100 Sport is fitted with three ride modes, Active, Journey, and City. The Sport is also shipped with premium Ohlins suspension, both front and rear, where the other 1100 stable mates are fitted with a Kayaba rear shock and Marzocchi forks. Ducati Scrambler 800 Cafe Racer Right Andy ParkerThe colors and the suspension are the most visible changes to the other models, and while there are other differences between the three, I feel the suspension is likely to have the largest impact. I’m not going to list all the specs here, this is just an initial impression of how the bike rides after a 30-mile mix of highway, backroads, and urban two lanes, you should have no problem looking up the specs for yourself to decide which of these premium motorcycles is for you (see Ducati Scrambler specs here). What I feel is important about a motorcycle isn’t all about the numbers and the technical specifications as much as how the bike makes you feel when you ride it and how badly you want to get back on when you’ve finished your trip.

My initial impression on the road, the Scrambler 1100 engine is really smooth compared to the last 1100 air-cooled Ducati I rode, Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Left Andy Parkerthe 2012 Hypermotard 1100 Evo SP that graced a corner of my garage a couple of years back (and is sorely missed on occasion). That bike still had the traditional dry clutch and although it was much better than older versions, it was still a bit grabby at times; there is none of that at all with this new Scrambler motor. In fairness, the 2012 Hypermotard was intended as more of a track bike than a commuter or weekend tourer so you’d expect a few rough edges. That wouldn’t be an issue racing but for daily use, as the Scrambler 1100 will primarily be used for, a level of “refinedness” should be expected; not to mention the six or so extra years of development that has since gone into the engine. I imagine the elevated smoothness of the engine and transmission can mostly be attributed to the wet clutch, but also better fuel mapping, and in general, the continuing evolution of the brand really does show through in the character of the bike. Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Rear Andy ParkerAlthough I need to confirm this, it feels as if the flywheel is a little heavier than previous 1100’s especially the Evo SP and Monster (which also benefited from a wet clutch). This impression is derived from the feeling the motor gives you as you either roll-on the throttle or just snap it open, it tends to gain momentum rather than instantly lurch forward; it’s not slow by any means, just a very pleasing change in forward momentum both in Active or Journey mode, it’s a controlled acceleration that is predictable, the feeling you expect from a well sorted engine. If you don’t know any better, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a three or four-cylinder bike if it wasn’t for the brilliant exhaust note. It really does sound like the real Ducati of old, even fitted with on the OEM cans. I bet you could increase the authenticity of the vintage sound with a less restrictive air filter and tail pipe, and some playing with the mapping.

The smooth engine is complimented by an easy clutch action, so light that it really takes no pressure to operate the lever, meaning the span can be adjusted for much smaller hands than my 2XL versions. The disengagement is achieved with a small pull and gears can be changed with very little movement. The six-speed gearbox is precise and provides excellent feedback with nothing even short of anything other than perfect transitions up and down the gearbox, even neutral was hit first time going up and going down to a standstill. Just a small blip is all it takes to slide into a lower gear when slowing for a stop sign or reducing speed for an upcoming curve. Words like ‘buttery smooth’ and ‘easy to ride’ frequently came to mind while I was curving through the roads north of Indy.

I did notice there is a smoother throttle response in Journey Mode with a little more forgiveness to a clumsy grab of too much throttle, it’s also noticeably more relaxed than the Active mode. Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Right Andy ParkerI have to confess, I didn’t try the City mode with reduced horsepower but if it’s anything like the Urban mode on my current ride, the 2017 Monster 1200S, the step down isn’t felt until the throttle is more than half way open and your objective is rapid acceleration, it’s simply smoother. It’s more of an aid to provide the power in the right way, I imagine it’s like Journey mode in its power delivery, smooth, relaxed and responsive rather than the urgent response of Active mode which also changes the ABS setting from 3 in Journey to 2 in Active (lower numbers indicate less electronic intrusion). I assume it increases another number in City to a 4 or 5 level of intervention.

For a larger brother to the 800 Scrambler (and subsequent 400 cc “Scrambler Sixty2”) this is a nice step up in terms of size as the bike is just as well balanced and predictable as the smaller kin. Sure, it’s also a step up in power but it feels like the 1100 is meant to be for bigger folks and the 800 for average Giovani’s because although the extra power is noticeable, the bike’s ride is very much the same, and they are very close on the road. As the old saying goes, ‘a fast guy on an average bike will always be quicker than an average guy on a fast bike’, and this seems to be true here.

For the return leg of our little trip, we switched mounts and I took over the controls of the Scrambler 800 Café Racer. Ducati Scrambler 800 Cafe Racer Rightfrontqtr Andy ParkerWhere-as the 1100 is in the mold of the original Ducati Scrambler, the Café Racer has a revised riding position. This is achieved by changing out both the handlebars and going to a smaller 17-inch front wheel. The other Scramblers are fitted with 18-inch fronts and 17-inch rears, apart from the Desert Sled which sits a little higher and has a 19-inch front rim. The Café Racer’s dual seventeens give the bike a feeling of slightly faster steering with a ride that’s no less stable.

As the 800 Café Racer is slightly smaller than the 1100, you’d expect it to be a bit lighter, where it delivers, Ducati Scrambler 800 Cafe Racer Right Pose Andy Parkerbut it’s also a different bike to sit on. This bike has more of an old school lean forward than a true Café Racer position. The difference in the weight wasn’t really noticeable at standstill (454lbs for the 1100 and 414lbs for the Café Racer), sure there was just a bit more of a pull to get the 1100 off the side-stand but I’m wondering how much of the difference was due to the bars rather than the extra 40 pounds; I’ve always felt low bars made you feel the weight more. The 1100 and the other 800s have a pretty upright riding position that give a good command of the road ahead and makes it easy to look around while you’re travelling, while the Café Racer’s position is more forward, it doesn’t take away from that ability to see all around you in any way. The mirrors on Ducati’s are very good these days, and the bike is still very comfortable, much more so that the head-down, arse-up position of the more glittery race reps that everyone used to hanker for.

Just like the bigger 1100, the Café Racer’s suspension is spot on – not too firm, Ducati Scrambler 800 Cafe Racer Rightquarter Andy Parkerbut certainly not plush; it feels sporty, properly sprung and quite confidence inspiring. It’s a great match for the engine characteristics. Overall, they are both well sorted, torquey bikes with great road manners and easy to operate controls that are easy to reach and in the right place. The 800 has the same round retro style gauge cluster with little lights around the circumference to show turn signal direction, high beam and other warning lights but lacks the extra obround gauge the 1100 has overlaying the main gauge. After all, there’s more info to relay on the 1100, with all the ride modes and traction control data you need to know.

Both of these bikes are more than capable of performing all kinds of daily activities in comfort, although for my old bones the more upright 1100 had more space for me to move around when certain body parts feel like they’re likely to get a wee bit uncomfortable. I imagine the other 800’s and 400 for that matter have the same casual upright riding position that’s roomy and relatively relaxed but keeps you engaged. The seats are soft enough to keep you in place but not so soft that any hard spots were noticed in an hour or so of riding; I’m guessing they’re good for a few hours between fuel stops, burger joints, coffee shops, and sightseeing.

Of course, there are lots of options to bolt on these machines to customize them in a number of ways, whether it’s for touring comfort, off-roading, urban commuting, or you’re just looking for a little bit of individuality, and that’s on top of the wide range of bikes that are the Scrambler family.

Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport and 800 Cafe Racer Andy ParkerThese machines are a pleasure to ride, and my intuition tells me they’re a pleasure to own and will meet your needs and grow with you as your capability and skills increase if you are a relatively new rider, where a more experienced rider will still find them more than capable of hauling you around with a level of aplomb only found in sport bikes of just ten years ago. You can throw them around and they respond with a rewarding riding experience, or you can bimble about picking up groceries as cool as you can be. They are easy to live with (you can’t say that about every Italian) and I wouldn’t mind either one (or both) in my garage.

I also want to note, a big thanks goes to Bill Carr, Matt Carr, and Dave Jenkins for the opportunity to ride these fabulous bikes. You should certainly go see them at Indy Ducati, and know they’re passionate about the brand and are truly good people to deal with.

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Red River Scramble: Last Minute Housekeeping

I’ve spent the past couple days folding welcome letters, gathering up door prizes, and “stuffing” welcome packets in preparation for this weekend. Needless to say I’m excited to show off “The Motherland” to everyone that shows up to the event, while also looking forward to a little adventure riding myself. I wanted to touch base (again) on a few topics as we’re in the final hours before folks start rolling toward Red River Gorge.

Registration

If you’ve not already registered, please do so as soon as possible (Registration HERE). Per my Event Schedule comments, after grabbing Miguel’s Pizza for lunch on Friday, I want to do a little riding, and then I’ll head back to the campground to get set up for everyone’s arrival.

Natural Bridge Campground Cabin MotoADVR

Assuming it’s not raining, I’ll have a table set out at my cabin. Please stop by and see me, I’ll have a welcome packet, a door prize ticket, a bottle of Ale-8 (while supplies last), and some event paperwork I need to go over with attendees. In the event of rain, I’ll be at the main campground shelter where you check-in with the campground manager to get your campsite (assuming you’re camping).

Cabin/Campground check-in

Per my previous comments about lodging check-in, attendees are responsible for their own camping/lodging arrangements. If you’re staying on the campground, you’re good to check in at the campground shelter after 12 PM, however folks renting a cabin from Natural Bridge Cabin Company will need to wait until at least 3 PM to get their key. This includes cabins that are physically on the Natural Bridge Campground. Speaking of which, if folks have reserved cabins at the campground, be advised, the Natural Bridge Cabin Company rental office is down the street on KY-11; you can find it on google, however the marker is actually a few hundred yards south of where the actual building is located. The cabin rental office the northern most building in that strip, the sign is very small, so slow down and take your time finding it (MAP).

Safety

Speaking of “taking your time”, for first time visitors to the gorge, I want to reiterate, this is absolutely my favorite place to ride.

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The unique geographical location has given birth to a extraordinary combination of exceptional roads and scenery. Due to the rural nature of the area, these roads also evolve, sometimes by the hour. Hard rains can bring down trees, wash gravel and mud out into the roadway, and if you don’t encounter a dog sleeping in the middle of the road at some point during your stay, I’ll be shocked; and that’s just the paved roads I’m talking about.

Ultimately I want everyone to have a good time and return to visit, not only next year, but as often as possible. At the same time I want folks to keep their “eyes and ears up”; I see conditions change every time I visit, especially off-road. I highly recommend “the buddy system” for everyone, especially off-roaders. I understand that the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt is scored individually, but if you’re adventuring into the unknown, please take precautions, keep your wits about you, and bring a friend along if at all possible.

Thanks to our Sponsors

I want to give a big shout-out to this year’s sponsors. These folks have stepped up to support this “Bluegrass Adventure Rally” idea and we have a lot of great prizes to give away this year. I want to give them a big thanks for making this rally that much better, and ask that folks go to their websites and check out their products. If you buy something (and you should), tell them you found them at Red River Scramble. Also, please check out their social media outlets, like, follow, and when you post photos of the event, tag them when applicable.

Photos

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With regard to photos, I’m here to tell you, every time I come home from a visit to the gorge, I realize I missed a great photo op (fortunately my buddy’s still catch me doing dumb stuff from time to time). Take as many photos as possible while you’re in Kentucky, be it this weekend or any visit. Put those photos up on social media, and tell folks how amazing it is. If you’re attending the event this weekend, please be sure to hashtag #RedRiverScramble in the your photos and tell your friends what they’re missing.

Now I need to pack this stuff up and get the bike ready to roll. We’re in the final countdown now folks, see you Friday!

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Ask Moto Adventurer: What’s a Good Learner Bike?

On Monday I received a text from a good friend of mine. Turns out, a guy he works with wants to take up motorcycling. Naturally, as a great ambassador of the “sport”, my buddy wants to help facilitate this process and set his friend up for success. Thus, the text said “Keep your lids peeled for a good learner bike under $3k, must have ABS.”

 

I troll Craig’s List pretty regularly; I’m here to tell you, $3,000 buys a lot of motorcycle these days, especially for your “first” motorcycle. On the flip-side, because we live in America, the requirement for ABS will narrow the field, considerably (because, ‘Merica…). “Conventional Wisdom” probably suggests that one buy a Rebel 250, which I almost guarantee lacks ABS, and the crowd will also likely say “You’ll outgrow it in a year”.CBR250 CL Ad I’m typically of the mentality that any mature male can usually handle just about any bike as a first motorcycle; of course, maturity is the key point there, but stature also plays a role. I’m also of the mindset that it usually makes more sense to buy the first bike on the cheap, that way you can spend some dough on quality gear, and start saving for the inevitable “upgrade”. That’s also not a hard and fast rule; some folks know what they want, or ride in manner where “any” bike will do, and that works too.

 

If it were me, I would probably pick a bike that’s in the 250 to 500 cc range. Ninja 300 CL adThese days there’s a myriad of bikes that were “learners” not that long ago. Locally, I see many listings for CBR250s with ABS right now, including a 2012 CBR250R. I don’t think that’s a bad plan, the CBR250 of today is “less budget” than the go-to Ninja 250 of yore. I do agree, depending on stature, I could see that bike being “outgrown” relatively quickly, depending on your taste and who you ride with. I also found a 2015 Kawasaki Ninja 300 in the same search, again, a far cry from the “entry level” 250 of yesteryear. I think those are fair options, but if it were me, CB500x CL adI would probably spring for the CB500X I found in Lexington. I’ve been chatting with a buddy about his CB500X since I saw it in person last year; if I could find a good deal on one (in fact, this one might work), I would feasibly consider it as a second bike for myself. Easily a great commuter bike, the CB500X offers “room to grow” with its 500 parallel twin, while also the “reputation” of Honda reliability and tempered “power” for a new rider, assuming one can handle the seat height (31.8 inches). A CB500F would be another good option, but I of course couldn’t find one of those for sale right now.

 

The longer I ride, the more I think I have a fringe taste in motorcycles, so I’d like to know what you the readers suggest. Knowing what you know now, based on your own experience, let’s imagine for a moment that you’re buying your very first bike with three grand in your pocket and insist on a bike with ABS, what would you choose?

Posted in Ask Moto Adventurer, Maintenance & How-To | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Red River Scramble Schedule of Events

This year’s Red River Scramble is only a couple weeks away so I wanted to publish a general itinerary for how things are going to play out over the weekend of June 1st – 3rd.

 

Friday, June 1st:

Rose the Scrambler Miguels Pizza MotoADVRFriday morning will be a travel day for most folks including myself. It will take about 4 hours for me to arrive in Red River Gorge, which will shape up nicely as I plan on stopping at Miguel’s Pizza for lunch around noon. Campers at Natural Bridge Campground can also start checking in at noon and head over to Miguel’s just after dropping off their gear at their campsite.

Check-in for cabin rentals doesn’t start until 3 PM, so I plan on riding some of the twisty bits around Red River Gorge and maybe doing a little sightseeing until about dinner time. I’ll probably grab some grub to cook over the fire at the grocery store in Campton or Stanton, then head back to Slade to pick up the key to my cabin between 5 or 6.

Registration/Sign-in will begin around 7 PM at my cabin* (2nd east most cabin at Natural Bridge Campground; Natural Bridge Campground Cabin MotoADVRlook for the warthog) and continue on until 9 PM. I will have a “welcome packet” for attendees, including details for Saturday’s “Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt” hosted by Rever. I’m going to build a fire outside the cabin; attendees are invited to grab snacks and their preferred beverage and gather around the fire to meet fellow riders. Ale-8 has also graciously donated several flats of soda for this year’s event, those will also be available both evenings for all attendees (while supplies last).

*In the event of inclement weather I will move “Sign-in” to the campground shelter

 

Saturday, June 2nd

Saturday is the big ride day. As I’ve previously mentioned, this is a self-guided rally; maps are available on Rever and GPX files are posted here on Moto Adventurer under “where to ride”. Again, Kentucky has a lot to offer for all motorcyclists, if you’re not sure where you want to go, stop by and let me know what kind of riding you like to do and I’ll try to point you in the right direction, be it scenic, twisty, or dirt.

Bourbon Ironworks Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

Rever will activate the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt Challenge at 8 AM; attendees will have from 8 AM to 5 PM to pass by as many designated landmarks as possible. Designated locations can be found in the registration packet and on-screen inside the Rever app. See more details HERE.

Around 5 or 6 PM I’m going to make my way back to the campground to start another campfire at my cabin, grab some chow and get prepared to hand out door prizes along with prizes for the winners of the scavenger hunt. I will start pulling tickets for door prizes at 7 PM outside my cabin* (must be present to win). Once all of the door prizes have been handed I out, I will consult the standings on the Rever Challenge board and award the prizes to the top three finishers. Afterward, folks are welcome to stay and mingle, share “war stories” about the day’s travels, and enjoy their preferred beverages.

*In the event of inclement weather I will move the evening festivities to the campground shelter

 

Sunday, June 3rd

I assume Sunday will be the trip home for most attendees, unless perhaps a few folks decide to continue on to tackle the Kentucky Adventure Tour. Check-out time for Cabin rentals is 11 AM, however campers can stay until 2 PM.

 

Schedule Recap:

Friday
12 PM – 1 PM: Miguel’s Pizza (MAP)
12 PM – 10 PM: Camper’s Check in at Natural Bridge Campground (MAP)
1 PM – 6 PM: Ride (pre-planned routes)
3 PM – 10 PM: Cabin Check-in at Natural Bridge Cabin Company (MAP)
7 PM – 9 PM: RRS Event Registration/Sign-in and campfire at Campground (MAP)
*Registration at the campground shelter if its raining

Saturday
~7 AM – 9 AM: Questions and last minute registrations (My Cabin MAP)
8 AM – 5 PM: Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt (Rever Page)
8 AM – 5 PM: Ride, hike, & adventure (optional routes)
7 PM – 9 PM: Campfire, door prizes, and scavenger hunt winners (MAP)
*Evening gathering at the campground shelter if its raining

Sunday
Wake-up – 11 AM: Check-out for Cabin rentals
Wake-up – 2 PM: Check-out for Campers
ALL DAY: Have a safe ride home!

 

Prizes Courtesy of our Sponsors!

 

 

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Red River Scramble: The Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt

Sky Bridge RRG MotoADVRBeyond just holding an Appalachian motorcycle rally (Red River Scramble), I wanted to add a little flavor of competition to this year’s event. Considering most of the roads around Red River Gorge are public, it’s going to take a few years and relationships to work up to some sort of “race” or time trial event; however, in the spirit the “touring” there are no shortage of amazing roads and historic landmarks to see throughout the state, which led to an idea… The Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt.

 

What’s “The Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt”?

Considering the amount of time I spend in Kentucky, I want to share the roads and scenery with all in attendance. Nada Tunnel Scrambler MotoADVRTo sweeten the deal, I picked some of the best roads and landmarks and funneled them into a Scavenger Hunt hosted by Rever. At this year’s Red River Scramble, attendees will have the option to login to Rever and record their rides and potentially earn points for riding certain roads and visiting certain “points of interest” on Saturday June 2nd. Later that evening at the campground, I’ll hand out prizes to the top three finishers in attendance.

 

How does this scavenger hunt work?

DBNF Sign Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

When you “sign-in” Friday night I’ll provide a list, including GPS coordinates, for all 64 Points Of Interest (POI). At that point, assuming you haven’t already, it would probably be a good idea to download Rever and join the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt Challenge. Saturday morning at 8 AM Rever will “turn on” the challenge, after which, riders need only to record their ride with Rever, and then start gaining points until the challenge “closes” at 5 PM. During that time attendees are free to ride wherever and however they choose, POIs will show up on the map, or attendees can pick routes ahead of time based on the list provided the night before. Covered Bridge Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRRiders don’t even need to stop at the POIs, Rever will record the points once participants pass within the “geo-fence” of the landmark. Once the challenge ends at 5 PM, riders will have until 7 PM to get back to Natural Bridge Campground (MAP), at which point I will begin handing out door prizes and then ultimately challenge prizes for the top three finishers of the scavenger hunt. Winners must be present to win, so please plan accordingly and leave sufficient time to grab dinner and return to the campground.

 

What’s Rever?

Rever is a free map and ride recording application for your smartphone. See more details at https://rever.co and from my previous write-ups HERE.

 

Why would I want to join this scavenger hunt challenge?

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Put simply, all I’m asking you to do is download Rever on your cell phone, and go enjoy the kind of riding you like to do. Rever will do all the leg work, all you need to do is look at the map for POIs that might be along your chosen route, and ride past them; you don’t even need to stop (in most cases). If you string together the most valuable points, you have a shot at winning a prize. Ride your motorcycle, try out Rever, maybe win a prize; it’s that easy.

 

What are the “Points of Interest”?

Filled with twisty backroads, along with some of the most scenic Appalachian vistas, Kentucky also has a rich history spanning back to the revolutionary war. Rever Challenge MapFrom Red River Gorge, to the Ohio River, to the tallest point in the state I’ve selected 64 key locations that attendees may choose to visit. Considering this is an adventure rally, I’ve selected points of interest that span from pristine asphalt sweepers, to challenging dirt road trails, to covered bridges, and even bourbon distilleries. The idea being that participants in the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt have the ability to choose what kind of riding they want to do, and seek out potential destinations on the way. It should also be noted that many of these POIs are on or very near several of the pre-planned routes listed on the “Where To Ride” page.

 

Won’t street riders be able to collect more points than trail riders?

That would be true if all the points were of equal value, however the points are weighted based on distance and difficulty. DBBB Fincastle Road MotoADVROff-road riding is slower, and arguably more difficult in places, so certain POIs are worth more points than others. Also, while there are many points around Red River Gorge, those locations are close to camp and therefore not worth as much as those further away. I have run several scenarios and have gone to great lengths to “level the playing field” between off-roaders, long-distance riders, canyon carvers, history buffs, hikers, and sightseers. The intention is that anyone can win this challenge, regardless of how they define “adventure”.

 

What are the Rules?

  • Register for Red River Scramble
  • Check-in Friday night from 7-9 PM at Natural Bridge Campground for the POI list
  • Download REVER to your smartphone
  • Join the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt Challenge (HERE)
  • Record your ride(s) from 8 AM to 5 PM Saturday, June 2nd
  • Attempt to find as many of the landmarks (POIs) as possible during the challenge (Rever will tell you when you gain points)
  • Return to Natural Bridge Campground before 7 PM (to be eligible for prizes)
  • While riding with others is highly encouraged (especially off-road or hiking), the scavenger hunt is individually scored on Rever and there can only be 3 winners selected. (In the event of a tie, the host reserves the right to choose a method of tie-breaking.)

 

What are the prizes?

 

Are there any hints or strategies?

Per my previous comments, many of these points are on or nearby the pre-planned routes I’ve put together (the largest selection of routes are on the event Rever Group HERE). Bourbon Distillery Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRRiders that decide to enjoy these routes will have a good time while still gaining points, but to get the most points, folks will want to look closely at the Rever challenge map and adjust course slightly to pick up additional points to win. Folks may also want to consult their maps the night before and look at possible destinations from the list of POIs that might have higher point values. The idea is that anyone can win, regardless of the type of riding they like to do, just do a little “extra” exploring, and you’ll have the chance to pick up a few more points than your fellow adventurers. I also cannot confirm or deny that any photos seen on this post might potentially be POIs…

 

Additional details of note

  • Considering that your cell phone is recording your route, you need to make sure you have a method of keeping your phone charged. A USB port or “power pack” would be a good investment if your phone isn’t known for holding an all-day charge (especially while your GPS is active).
  • This is a “Rain or Shine” event, so you’ll also want to make sure your cell phone is sufficiently protected from the elements.
  • Cell phone reception in certain parts of Kentucky, especially inside Red River Gorge, can be “spotty” at times. Rever will record your GPS locations, regardless of cell reception, and will upload to the challenge as long as riders return to cellular reception before 7 PM. DCIM101GOPROG0255382.In the event you’re looking to return to cell reception in remote sections of Kentucky, look for higher ground or the next “town”. Limited Wi-Fi is also available at Miguel’s Pizza and Natural Bridge Campground, among other public places throughout the area. Note: ending or “saving” a ride goes smoother if you end a ride while still connected to the internet; the gas stations in Slade would be a good place to do that before returning to the campground.
  • Rever is a free app for your phone, however maps require internet service to load for free members. Pre-planned Routes will load as long as you have access to the internet (cell network or Wi-Fi), and the “blue line” and POIs will stay on the map, even when the map is blank because of limited service. “Premium” Rever members will have access to downloadable maps to maintain visibility of adjacent roads, however it is NOT REQUIRED for challenge participants to pay for Rever premium ($5.00/month). Hint: browse the Rever route map while still connected to the internet so that important sections are saved in your phone’s “cache”, this will make navigating smoother if you pass through cellular dead zones.
  • Challenge participants are permitted to use any means of navigation they choose. However, it is critical that participants login to Rever, join the Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt Challenge (Rever Challenge page), and record their ride using Rever to gather points towards the challenge.
  • The vast majority of the POIs are easily accessible from the roadway. However, there are a small handful of higher value POIs that are actually on hiking trails inside Daniel Boone National Forest where motor vehicles are prohibited. Hiking Trail RRG MotoADVRDo not, under any circumstances, operate a motor vehicle in prohibited areas. I added these locations purely because of the scenic views inside Red River Gorge, and as an additional option for the more outdoorsy attendees. In the event you want to pursue these points, its important that you take your cell phone with you on the hike to record the points. Note: most of these points are 350 yards or less from the parking area.
  • Chimney Top Rock Warning Sign MotoADVRSafety and enjoyment are obviously the primary concerns during this event. We want all attendees to have a good time in Kentucky and return as often as possible. Please obey all traffic laws, be courteous of private property, and follow all rules and regulations throughout the National Forest. Also, please take tons of photos of your visit!
  • To see the POIs on your Rever map while riding you’ll need to enable “Challenge” points in your map view in the Rever app; see below:

 

This is obviously the first year for this “Scavenger Hunt” challenge, so please have fun and give it a shot. I’m looking forward to hearing feedback following the challenge about how things went so I can improve both the rally and this challenge next year.

Ale8 HalfmoonRock MotoADVR

 

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Avon Trekrider: Long-term Tire Review

As of late, Rosie the Scrambler has been wearing some pretty aggressive off-road shoes; that choice in rubber has also led to yours truly pulling out the tire spoons more often. The real insult to injury is the fact that I’m forced to practice a bit more throttle restraint in adverse weather conditions as grip, while usually good, is still obviously limited. What if I could have the best of both worlds, while only sacrificing a little off-road prowess compared to knobbies? Enter the Avon Trekrider AV84 and AV85.

 

Avon Trekrider Delivered MotoADVR

I heard news early last year that Avon was releasing a new tire. Considering Avon is British, and I own a British bike, I’ve found they’re often the brand of choice in my riding circle. The only problem for me being that, until just recently, Avon hasn’t offered a more off-road oriented tire for big bikes. When I heard news that this new tire was actually a 50/50 dual sport tire, needless to say, it grabbed my attention. Lo and behold, right at the cusp of spring, a set of Trekriders arrived on my porch, just in time for my birthday.

 

Improving on the popular Trailrider, the Trekrider tread pattern mirrors the same chevron configuration of similar 50/50 tires, but with more distinct, mostly unbroken blocks. Spooning on a fresh new set of Trekriders turned out to be one the easiest set of tires I’ve installed. The sidewalls are compliant and pliable (not bad for an afternoon in late February); I would equate them to installing a set of Shinko 705s that I’ve run in the past. Running my hand across the tread while balancing the wheels, the “stickiness” was quite evident straight away; I was anxious to hit a long stretch of twisties the following morning.

 

On-Road

As a birthday treat to myself, I decided to take trip to northern Kentucky to visit a few covered bridges for the Trekriders maiden voyage. Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler Covered Bridge MotoADVRWithin moments of crossing into the Bluegrass State, the road manners of these British shoes became evident. The Scrambler carved through the corners with a surefootedness I’ve not felt since the Anakee 3. I often run “a size up” on the front wheel, so the initial turn in takes a hair more effort than the stock size (I’ve mentioned this before), but what I lose on the initial tip in, I gain in high-speed stability and overall cornering grip. In fewer words, with the Trekrider, I leaned the bike into the turn and it effortlessly held the line until I stood it up at the exit; just the way I like it. Looking closer at the shape of the tire, the source of these superior road manners is clear, similar to some of the 80/20 tires on the market, the Trekrider has a more aggressive, rounded profile compared to more angular competing dual sport tires.

This spring has been pretty brutal in the weather department.Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler rain front MotoADVR Per my recent comments, when it wasn’t snowing, it was raining; in fact, record rainfall for the last three months. Fortunately, I’m told the British know a thing or two about rain; the rainy commute proved to be where the Trekrider really shined. Despite riding like an idiot in conditions I ought to know better, the Avons relentlessly gripped the tarmac. Hard braking, hard acceleration, steep lean angles (…not quite peg grinding), road spray on the highway, and downpours on the backroads, I couldn’t break a tire loose; the Trekriders simply don’t flinch.

 

Off-Road

These new Avon shoes also had the pleasure of escorting me to March Moto Madness in Tennessee this spring. Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler dirt frontOn the local fire roads, dirt trails, and water crossings, I was very happy with the Trekrider’s grip. Despite having what I would consider large contact patches for ADV tires, the grooves between the chevrons are large enough to hook up predictably on the gravel. The front wheel also tracked well on both the gravel and the loose dirt, considering the aggressive tire profile, I was actually really impressed with the front end bite, even without lowering tire pressure. I admit, mud can pose a bit of a challenge on a big bike for the uninitiated; without sufficient wheel spin, the tread gaps can have a harder time self-cleaning. Now, this opinion is formed after slogging through Tennessee clay, so results may vary (depending on bike, wheels sizes, and skill); ultimately if you pick a good line and maintain speed, these tires will get you through the wet stuff.

 

Side Notes

Some folks might suggest that the front tire is a little “noisy” when riding on the highway. I did notice that the front tire did have a particular “whir”, however after running knobbies for most of the last twelve months, I personally feel the Avons are considerably quiet by comparison. I generally don’t complain about road noise for dual sport tires more aggressive than 80/20; it comes with the territory and ear plugs are just good “riding sense”.

It should also be known that, like most dual sport tires, the Trekriders are constructed with single rubber compound. That in itself is not a bad thing, these tires are arguably the “stickiest” set of shoes I’ve ever put on the Scrambler. I mention this because long distance and ham-fisted riders will potentially put a hurting on that rear tire if they don’t practice a little throttle-discipline.

 

The Verdict

Having run several tires in and around the 50/50 range, I feel confident saying that the Trekrider is quite literally the antithesis of the Heidenau K60 Scout. With these Avons mounted on the Scrambler, the tire gave up absolutely nothing in on-road performance, be it grip or confidence, and yet still handled respectably off-road. Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler Shawnee MotoADVRWhile friends have complained about wet weather performance of the K60 Scout, the Trekrider was absolutely fearless in the rain. In dry conditions, when the pavement got twisty, the bike cornered like it was on rails; these tires always asked for more, unquestionably the fastest tires I’ve ever ran. Off-road the Trekriders were fun and predictable; I was continually impressed by how confidence inspiring they were in the dirt and gravel, despite what I thought appeared to be a more road biased profile with absolutely irreproachable road manners. As 50/50 tire, they’re obviously not as surefooted in the more difficult terrain as a full on knobby, but that’s also to be expected considering this is a 50/50 tire; and yet the Trekrider makes zero on-road performance compromises.

 

Who’s the target audience for these tires?

Taking a glance at the available sizes, this tire is targeted at the middle weight adventure bikes and heavier dual sports wearing 21 or 19 inch front and 17 or 18 inch rear wheels, along with “standard” motorcycles sporting the 19/17 wheel combo. I assume based on successful sales, Avon may expand the line to accommodate a larger range sizes in the future.

While dual sport tires are often rated by percentage of street versus dirt, after spending so much time on a variety of tires, I will say that even inside of that classification, certain tread patterns are better than others for various jobs. Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler Rain Rear MotoADVRIf a given rider has ran 50/50 tires in the past and has been unhappy with the road manners or wet weather performance, the Trekrider is unquestionably a leading contender. Off-road I found the Trekrider to be on par and at times better than the comparable K60 Scout. However, riders that value longevity over road manners and wet grip may have a harder time seeing the longevity of the K60. Inversely, as the K60 wears, it tends to square off like a car tire, making curves a bit unnerving as the bike “falls into the corner” and the rider can feel the knobs flex under the weight of the bike. The Trekrider on the other hand maintains its round profile much better with age and doesn’t sacrifice confidence or grip. At the same time, the Trekrider is also cheaper than the longer range competition in some sizes, so it really comes down to miles per dollar, not just gross range.

I will also add, I’ve read comments on social media platforms from various motorcycle owners shopping for a more aggressive “looking” tires, Avon Trekrider Dirt rear MotoADVRbut yet they don’t intend to go off-road. While I don’t personally subscribe to this line of thinking, I will say that the Trekrider offers the best option in that department considering its faultless on-road performance. I certainly don’t want that comment to overshadow anyone’s perspective on the Trekrider, it’s a great off-road tire, especially compared to the competitors in it class, it’s simply that its performance on the pavement is so much better than theirs; a testament to this tire’s flexibility.

Avon Trekrider Triumph Scrambler Sunset right MotoADVR

Posted in Gear and Safety, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why Do You Ride a Motorcycle?

DCIM140GOPROThanks to a tip from The Motorcycle Obsession, I caught this interesting interview with Harley Davidson’s CEO from a few days ago. Regardless of how you may feel about Harley Davidson, CEO Matt Levatich said something that struck a chord with me, “Why do you ride a motorcycle?”

Discussing Harley’s plans to put more riders on the road, this question was embedded in a point discussing the “five-whys” of decision making. So I stopped and thought about it, why do I ride a motorcycle?

 

Having just spent a entire day wandering around northern Kentucky looking at covered bridges, the “feeling” is pretty fresh in my mind. DCIM104GOPROG0944951.I’ve often told people that I feel like riding a motorcycle is the closest thing I’ll ever experience to being a fighter pilot. “The feeling”, that’s easily the first response, but it’s probably tough for the non-rider to relate to. What does it feel like to ride a motorcycle? Some might say “the wind in your hair”, “the sun on your face”, for me it’s the acceleration of the engine, torque pushing you into the seat, horsepower “holding” you there, the suspension compressing as the bike carves through the corners. Occasionally there’s a flavor stark terror sprinkled in when you encounter things like gravel mid-turn or crest a blind rise; while frightening, I admit I actually enjoy those moments too. It makes you feel “alive”, it’s “thrilling”.

 

The thrill… Yeah, there’s no doubt that’s addicting. Prior to my off-road excursions, those that have ridden with me will tell you that I want nothing more than one section of technical twisties followed by another. That has not changed in recent days, however I have found an almost equal motivator, solitude. 20170407_193809I spoke to that when describing “The perfect ride”; riding all by your lonesome on sparsely populated byways is a unique feeling, especially when you’re a city dweller. As much as I find it to be a cliched buzz-word, “independence” comes to mind, but I think I prefer “self-reliance”, and if nothing else, it certainly fits my definition of “adventure”.

 

20170409_152308

Adventure takes on a new definition when the Scrambler leaves the pavement. While seldom solo, overlanding a 500 pound pig presents challenges; it’s a thinking game as much as it’s a test of skills and occasionally muscle. “Challenging”, that seems fitting; riding a motorcycle engages each appendage and all of your senses. Few activities in today’s world can say that. However, beyond the challenges and the thrills, riding off-road combines the solace of solitude with a distinct connection with nature. I’ve ridden Shawnee State Forest and the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway multiple times; 20170419_165705yet each time unique because of the effects of nature. Trails evolve, even disappear depending on recent weather conditions. Wildlife is as much a factor in the ride as the trail itself; I’ve been swarmed by bugs, chased by dogs, and even witnessed a deer strike while riding off-road. When the challenges of managing the machine and the wildlife assault takes respite, I’ve found some of the most majestic views from saddle. Solemn moments spent watching the sun go down in the mountains are irreplaceable memories, all made possible by a motorcycle.

 

Challenge, solitude, and adventure are easily the first words that come to mind when explaining my love of motorcycles. Why do ride a motorcycle?

 

Posted in Moto Philosophy | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Ride Every Day: Reflections on 270 Days in the Saddle

“…I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”

 

FEB05 Snow Tread

Endless Winter

With snow spitting from the sky just days ago, I began thinking about the distance I’ve covered in the last 90 days. Bill Murray’s immortal words from Groundhog Day rapidly came to mind. While I discussed the worst days of January in my previous write-up about 180 days in the saddle, the last 90 have kind of run together.

 

 

I unquestionably dealt with more snow and frigid temperatures back in January. That said, the heaviest snow we received this winter actually occurred in early February.MAR10 Snow on Daffodils MotoADVR  While I think it was only about 6 inches of snow (northerners please proceed to laugh hysterically), Daytonians have obviously forgotten how to drive in winter weather after experiencing such mild winters over the past couple years. That particular morning, cars were stacked up for half a mile in front of my office. Last time I checked, you need momentum to get up a snowy incline (not that I would know anything about that). At any rate, the last 3 months have involved a lot of snow, not so much in volume, but unquestionably in frequency.

 

 

7:30 AM, Wednesday, February 28th

The typical morning commute…

 

When it Rains it Pours

 

While snow accumulation wasn’t particularly of note, we did in fact receive record rainfall in February, March, and April (almost 3 inches in 1 day in April). FEB26 Kentucky Flooding MotoADVRAs I saw temperatures rising right around my birthday, I decided I was overdue for a trip down to the bluegrass state as a treat to myself. The high was only going to be mid-50s but I decided to brave the morning cold so I could go see a few covered bridges I hadn’t yet visited in northern Kentucky. Naturally, I ignored the fact that the Ohio River was above flood stage; a fact I rapidly discovered as I neared Cabin Creek Covered Bridge just east of Maysville. I watched a truck ford a section that was probably over 100 yards long. I dared not attempt it myself, considering I wasn’t familiar with the path of the road in order to stay on it and not sink into the obscured culvert.

 

 

FEB26 Goddard Covered Bridge MotoADVR

 

The saturation of the Gem City continued in early April. Days of endless rain brought the Great Miami River to flood stage unlike any time I’ve ever seen before. Various avenues around town were closed due to high water, including my street and several main thoroughfares nearby. Weeks later, local roadways are still littered with gravel, sand and silt, making every ride an “adventure”.

 

Always Wrenching

Electrical gremlins, one of my bigger fears in completing this challenge, did come to fruition right after my first big ride to Kentucky this year. On the return trip, as I neared my house I noticed my turn signals were acting a little funny.FEB27 Tail Light Fail MotoADVR The next day I poked around on the bike for a bit in the cold, noticing that if I activated the left indicator, all four lights would blink. After unplugging the rear brake light assembly, the front lights functioned properly. I pulled the stock tail light assembly out of the basement and plugged it in to see how it functioned. Naturally everything worked fine, so I swapped out the aftermarket unit and put the bike back together.

Things went swimmingly for several days, but shortly thereafter I noticed that my heated grips were throwing up the “bike not running” warning light. Mosfet Rectifier Installation Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRI found this a little odd considering I was riding, so I suspected I may have a faulty grip controller; it didn’t seem out of question, it’s been in a lot of weather since it was installed almost 2 years ago. That suspicion was proven false when I found the battery dead just a few days later. Per my comments about recent Scrambler upgrades, tearing into the wiring again, I discovered a short out of the rectifier bundle and decided to ditch the stock rectifier in lieu of a MOSFET unit. Thus far that seems to be working out quite well; I admit I’m not entirely sure if all of these incidents are related, but electrical gremlins preceded by wet encounters seems to be a common theme (“It’s a Triumph Mate!”).

Thus far, the unplanned maintenance events have been manageable;FEB13 New Chain MotoADVR I hope that trend continues, not just through the summer, but frankly, indefinitely. Riding every day has naturally driven a lot routine maintenance as well. While I did change a tire last February, between March Moto Madness and to spite Old Man Winter, this year I’ve actually swapped two sets of tires since January. Looking back at my maintenance records from this time last year, I was forced to cut off a heavily abused chain much sooner than expected, but it appears I did an oil change only 30 days earlier than last year. I also find it interesting that I’m actually down about 1,000 miles versus 2017, including my trip to Tennessee; I suppose that’s a testament to the ever persistent winter.

 

Tenacity

A few folks in my riding circle have said “you picked a hell of a year to ride every single day.” That is definitely the case, however I’ll be the first to admit, I remember far worse winters.APR10 Morning Sunrise MotoADVR While it’s not completely out of the question, I think the likelihood of 6 inches of snow falling this April is not very good. I’m not upset about that, because I honestly thought I would have spent more time riding in the snow than I have, and I’m thankful for that. I do admit, I’m pretty run down from piling on all the gear day after day in preparation for another battle with the elements. The rain has been punishing this spring, and I don’t expect that to end anytime soon; but it’s still better than temperatures in the teens with snow and salt scattered across the local streets. I’ve seen two 60°F days this weekend, including my second covered bridge adventure into the Bluegrass state. Hopefully that’s the light at the end of the tunnel. With weather trending up (hopefully for real this time…) and my sights on Pennsylvania in mid-June, I suspect the next 95 days will have equally interesting challenges.

Reflections on 90 Days in the Saddle

Reflections on 160 Days in the Saddle

Reflections on 180 Days in the Saddle

APR20 Cabin Creek Covered Bridge MotoADVR

Posted in Random Blurbs, Ride Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Triumph Scrambler Project: Stage 3 Upgrades

Triumph Scrambler Stage 3 MotoADVRIt’s been a while since I did an in-depth update on the status of Rosie the Scrambler. Things have fell by the wayside considering my workload at the “day job”, trying to document the Dirtster Project, and getting ready for rallies this spring. Per my previous comments about “rally planning”, I have some lofty goals, but I have finally accomplished most of the short term items, with a few wild cards on the horizon.

Left Side Pannier

I’ve actually received a myriad of questions about my pannier mount set up and I apologize that I’ve not published anything about it before now. Pannier Rack PMR Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRLast spring I was desperately trying to add storage space to the Scrambler without breaking the bank. I found a company called Precision Motorcycle Racks that sells pannier racks for the Triumph Bonneville line individually; this is important as I only needed a left side rack. The rack was cheap, like $50, so I was somewhat concerned about the hardiness of the construction. The pannier rack bolts onto the existing stud for the top of the shock mount and includes a bracket to secure to the back of the left passenger peg. With the rack installed, I beat on it pretty hard to see how sturdy it was; considering the price, I was impressed with the quality (more on that in a minute).Pannier Rack Tail of the Dragon Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR With the rack in place, it was a matter of selecting a suitable pannier to hang on it. Originally I had plans to sling a cheap ammo can off the side. I admit, I still want to do that, but considering the price, weight, capacity, and concern about sturdiness, I decided to pick up a waterproof softbag instead. The soft-bag also offers the option to mount it on the pillion seat if I didn’t want to use the pannier rack, something the ammo can doesn’t do as easily. Ultimately I selected the Kriega OS-18 dry bag as the pannier of choice. Long term I want to get a matching set of Kriega bags for both the left and right sides, so I figured having an extra compatible bag would be a good start. Pannier Rack Top view MotoADVRKriega does sell a mating attachment “board” that can be fitted to your luggage rack. I’m cheap, so despite getting better hardware, $75 seemed like a lot to spend on a plastic plate and some screws. Instead, I pulled an old cutting board out of a drawer in the kitchen and went to work with a “speed-saw” (like a drill bit, but used for lateral cuts). I cut slots in the cutting board to match the attachment straps on the bag, and then drilled holes to align with half-inch-diameter “Adel” clamps (cushioned wire clamps) I used to mount the board on the pannier rack. I painted the board black and bought 5 screws and nylon lock-nuts at the hardware store to mount the board to the clamps. Now the dry bag can fastened to the pannier rack when I want it, or I can ride “blank” when I don’t need the extra storage.

Noticing the space between the rack and the rear fender, I realized I could mount a fuel bottle on the backside of the rack. Pannier Rack Tool Tube Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRAt one point I had a Wolfman canvas fuel bottle holder and a 3” tool tube mounted behind the rack, but when I relocated the brake caliper, I had to make room (more on that later). This whole setup has worked really well, and has all been accomplished under $200, something that’s hard to say for modern motorcycle luggage systems. That said, I admit I want to improve on the setup. When scrambling the highly technical stuff, I want to ride “lighter”, however I still need tools in case of a breakdown or flat tire, along with rain gear depending on the conditions. Because of this, I would like to beef up the rack a little bit and make it possible to mount more tool tubes to the rack when I’m not using the pannier. That will probably mean making an investment in a slightly more robust rack, and likely a larger mounting surface; but for now this is getting the job done.

 

Tool Tube

PVC Tool Tube MotoADVR

While I admit touring solo was an early driver for upgrading the tool kit, riding off-road has really hardened that stance. That task gets a little tricky as I want to carry the weight closer to the center of gravity, and certainly not on the left side pannier as the tools are a bit heavy. I’ll accept that a light tool kit might be more advisable, but per usual, I’m taking on a lot of different scenarios with one weapon; sacrifices are being made. At any rate, traditional tool tubes will set you back about $15, and with enough space, you can bolt up two or three of them and accomplish the same task. Real-estate obviously comes at a premium on the Scrambler, so I needed a better waterproof solution. Ultimately I dropped by the hardware store and started looking at 4” PVC pipe. PVC Tool Tube Installed Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRI bought a 3 foot section of 4” pipe, two threaded ends and 2 threaded caps to seal the deal. I used a coping saw to cut the main pipe down to a reasonable length to fit on the pillion seat (or luggage rack), and used gorilla glue to fasten the end caps (you can also use PVC cement). Now with a hideous piece of $30 white plastic fastened to the back of the bike, I lathered it in all of the motorcycle stickers I had laying around and now I’m all set for the road. The new tool tube holds all the normal tools I use to work on the Scrambler, with exception of my multi-meter and air compressor.

 

E-tool Shovel Mount

E-tool Mount Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRI talked about this in the lead up to all of these upgrades; it doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense, but I want the option to have my entrenchment tool on the trail. Thanks to a Christmas gift from a friend, I now have the ability to mount my trusty “Army field shovel” to the side of the bike. It may not get used a whole lot… but if nothing else, it will certainly be a conversation piece. This mount is really simple, I saw the setup that Ural is using on their sidecars, and did the same. Considering that the mounts were a gift ($15 on grainer or amazon), I drilled a couple holes and spent a couple bucks on screws and nylon lock-nuts; done deal.

 

Rear Brake Relocation

This was arguably the most important modification I wanted to make before I dove too deep into off-road riding. For about $100, per my comments, you can buy a bracket from various outlets; ultimately I chose the Motone bracket. Mounting the bracket itself is actually quite easy; I frequently remove the rear caliper prior to removing the rear wheel of the bike, so I’m quite familiar with manipulating the caliper mounting bracket. The brake line however is another story. Rear Break Relocation Bracket Motone Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRPer my comments about fussing with the California Emissions Canister, there are challenges in finding the best routing method. I actually rode the bike for a couple days with the caliper relocated and the break line riding between the charcoal canister and the swing arm, but I just wasn’t happy with the tight quarters so I decided to remove the canister. With the canister removed, the route is pretty obvious; the brake line makes a 90° bend from the brake master cylinder, under the swingarm, through the inside of the swingarm, then up to the top of the brake caliper. I admit, I’m still a little unhappy with the existing path of the brake line. I recognize the likelihood of something hitting or “slicing” the brake line between the wheel and the swing arm isn’t particularly high; however something about it just seems like a bad plan. Ultimately I suspect I will go visit Spiegler Performance and have a custom brake line made to fit the path better (~$100 or less I assume). Perhaps I’ll spend the extra $65 and upgrade the front at the same time; maybe leave a little extra room for a 30mm travel upgrade and taller par risers.

 

Spiegler Banjo Bleeder Bolt

If installing the brake caliper relocation bracket wasn’t challenging enough, no thanks to the brake line constraints, bleeding the brakes after disconnecting the brake line was worse. With the brake caliper now relocated to the top of the swing arm, the stock bleeder valve was no longer the highest point of the brake system. I’d put a $25 “Bleeder Banjo Bolt” on my Scrambler project Pinterest board a long time ago, so I stopped into Spiegler to pick one up after work one day. Installation is a simple bolt replacement, you just need to make sure you torque the banjo bolt to spec and take it easy on the bleeder bolt; after that it’s business as usual.

 

17 Tooth Front Sprocket

Similar to relocation of the rear brake, I was pretty convinced I needed to shift the gearing a little lower for the nasty off-road challenges. I stand firm that the Scrambler is a tractor, but it’s still a street oriented piece of agricultural equipment; the torque band is down low, but I think first gear could still stand to be a bit lower after slipping the clutch up Pumpkin Hollow Road a few months ago. Installing the 17T primary sprocket was easy. When I had a feeling the last of the winter salt was finally washed off the roads in late February, I decided it was time to replace the chain (big assumption on my part, snow is somehow still in the forecast here this week…). Considering the chain was already coming off, I took that as a window to swap out the stock 18T sprocket for the 17T. Normally I would buy a chain and sprocket kit when replacing the chain, but in this case, I figured the rear sprocket was virtually unworn, so I was just going to replace a chain and sub in front new front sprocket.

How the bike feels is a much larger issue than installation; thousands of miles later, I’m still on the fence. 17 tooth Sprocket Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRThe 17 tooth sprocket makes the bike wind through the gears much smoother and much more quickly than the 18T. The bike “feels” a lot faster and acceleration “seems faster” on the odometer. Dropping to a 17T sprocket, I expected that the bike would potentially loft the front wheel, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, but it certainly does feel like it will get to “The Ton” a lot faster. Much of this is speculation as a result of the current state of tune of the “Butt Dyno”; also, I can empirically tell you that the speedometer is now 5 MPH slow when traveling at 80 MPH (Speedo indicated versus GPS measured). On the same note, “Cruising” in a 70 MPH zone now means that the engine is turning between 4500-5000 RPMS depending on grade and actual speed. Trying to stay ahead of interstate traffic on the way to March Moto Madness through Kentucky was pretty brutal; 5000 RPMs for hours on end was really draining.

 

With the 17 tooth front sprocket, the bike is an absolute gas in the twisties. The gearing just feels right, and the bike wants to squirt out of the corners. The off-road performance feels equally better. I admit I’ve not been in an excessive amount of mud since the change, but the gearing has worked very well for creek crossings and steep hills. Despite how awesome the bike has been from 0-65 mph; the buzziness at interstate commuting speeds is taxing. As a result, I’ve just re-installed the 18T sprocket. Despite being partially worn, I’ve ordered extra lock-washers so I can switch back and forth between the 17 and 18 tooth sprockets between on-road and off-road events; I definitely want to make sure I have it installed for Conserve The Ride in June, despite the 600 mile journey it will be to Pennsylvania.

 

Skid Plate Extension

Skid Plate extension Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRPer my write-up about “rallying up” for 2018, I wanted to extend the skid plate so that the thin-skinned oil filter didn’t become a victim of a rock strike. I’m a big fan of the “KISS” principle (“Keep It Simple Stupid” for those unfamiliar); my approach to the skid plate was no different. If I could find a piece of aluminum of similar dimensions and thickness, drill a couple holes in it, and use existing hardware, I’d be happy. I found such a piece of aluminum in a scrap bin at work one day. Things went exactly as planned. I might even paint it black… maybe…

 

Crash Bar Reinforcement

I’m going to warn you, this is ugly. Per my comments from the very beginning of the Scrambler Project, the crash bars need a little help. I knew I just needed to put a length of pipe in the gap between the two crash bar sections. Cutting a length of pipe the same size with a hacksaw was the easy part (okay, not easy, but conceptually…), finding a suitable bracket to hold it in place however… not so easy. I settled on a set of conduit “joints” as temporary solution. These pieces are metal, and they’ll hold the pipe in place, but it’s still ugly as all sin, and there are certainly better solutions. Without removing, cutting, drilling, or welding the existing crash bars, this is the best solution as stop-gap measure (no pun intended). Ultimately I may decide to remove the bars and craft a permanent solution.

 

Dart Flyscreen

I’ve wanted a Dart Flyscreen for my bike since just after I bought the Speedmaster five years ago. Dart Flyscreen Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRSome things worked out my way, and I mounted a classic Dart screen on the Scrambler just weeks after posting my “Rally” plans last December. Installation is again pretty easy, especially as I basically copied their design with my own garage brewed screen; just remove the bolts from the “headlight ears”, install the brackets, and then install the screen to the brackets with the provided fasteners and bushings. Dart’s quality is absolutely top notch; the hardware, fasteners, and screen are easily better than OEM quality is some respects.

On the road I’ve been very happy with the Dart. I’m often asked if a flyscreen really makes any difference, to which my reply is typically “more than you think”. For those unfamiliar, I obviously appreciate the “naked”, “classic” look of the Triumph twins, among other bikes (I.e. the XSR 900), and I don’t want a big windshield to detract from that. Triumph Scrambler Sunset MotoADVRWhile the utility of a large screen cannot be overstated, especially on long distance rides, I simply prefer the more engaged experience in the wind. The flyscreen knocks down the wind blast just a bit, especially across the chest and shoulders, making the highway rides a lot more comfortable. To my surprise, my garage brewed screen seemed to move the airflow up a little higher than the new Dart, however I haven’t adjusted the angle on the screen yet to offer final judgement in that respect. Either way, the Dart is of much better quality, and has already done a hell of job under pretty poor conditions.

 

Rear Brake-fluid Reservoir Cover

This is completely cosmetic; in a departure from my mostly functional perspective on things, I have never liked the flat aluminum rear brake reservoir cover. The bike is black, the frame is black, even the seat is black… and the break reservoir is flat aluminum. I scuffed it with 220 grit sand paper and spray painted it black. Now it matches the bike, and when I scuff it with my boot, I can do the same thing again.

 

Oil Filler Cap

From the very first oil change I did on the Speedmaster way back in 2013, I’ve hated the oil filler cap on these bikes. Assuming you’ve never heard me mention before, I love the 865 cc Triumph mill; it just ticks a lot of boxes for me. Oil Filler Cap Triumph Speedmaster MotoADVRThat damn oil filler cap however… “is bloody rubbish.” It’s all shiny and chrome, which is fabulous until you decide to change the oil for the first time. After which it’s marred from use, which only gets worse after each service. Moreover, if your bike ever sees water of any variety, that wonderful chrome bit, now marred from whatever tool you used to remove it, is rusting in the weather.

Along with all of the other items on my lengthy Pinterest wish list, I’ve had a replacement oil filler cap on that board almost since go. Oil Filler Cap marred Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRAfter I had significant trouble removing the cap for the 42,000 mile service a few days ago, I bit the bullet and purchased a replacement. I chose the Joker Machine cap considering it offers me the ability to safety wire the oil cap in place. The likelihood of that necessity isn’t particularly good, however at some point I’ve debated taking the scrambler to a track day, and that may be useful at that time. Until then, I have the convenience of removing the oil cap with a wrench, hex key, or a screw driver, depending on what’s available to me. That and well, it’s black… as it should be.

 

Rectifier Replacement

On day 230 of the riding streak, I went to start the bike and got the dreaded “Click…. Click… Click…” of a dead battery. I charged up the bike and rode 10 miles to keep the streak going, after which I started pulling the bike apart to ascertain what was going on. Whilst riding on days just prior, I noticed that my Oxford heated grips were throwing up the “engine is not running” warning light, threatening to turn off the grips to save the battery; I obviously knew otherwise, as I was actively riding!

Pulling apart the headlight bowl, yet again, I noticed some of the wire splices looked funny. Mosfet Rectifier Installation Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRUpon closer inspection I found that some of the splices had melted together and grounded the hot wire from the rectifier. That was the last nail in the coffin for the stock rectifier. Admittedly, the stock regulator/rectifier was not positively identified as the culprit, however after enough internet research and finding melted wires in the leads from the rectifier no less than twice, I took it on good advice from the Triumph forums, that it was time to upgrade to a MOSFET rectifier (Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor).

 

Mosfet Rectifier Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

After searching the web for various options, I decided to make the investment on a unit from Rick’s Motorsport. The Rick’s MOSFET unit is more toward the upper end of the price spectrum, but had the most positive reviews and is provided with a connector that mates to the OEM main wiring bundle. That OEM connector was obviously damaged in the first go-round last July, so there was a extra little electrical work on my part, but for the most part it’s a quick bolt-in replacement for most folks.

Mosfet Rectifier Installed Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRAfter installation, the new MOSFET regulator/rectifier had better output voltage; I will go as far as to say that even the heated grips “felt” warmer, and seemed to warm up faster as a result of the change. Hopefully the advice on the web is true, that the MOSFET will run cooler and more efficiently. I’ve done about 2,500 miles since the replacement, so far so good.

 

Posted in Triumph Scrambler Project | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

March Moto Madness: Scrambler Adventures

Friday, March 23rd

02:54 AM

I woke to the sound of my own teeth chattering. I’m not entirely sure when and for how long I actually slept. Hands exhausted from holding my sleeping bag closed with a death grip, I frantically fumbled to put on my already frigid riding gear in the dark. Shivering from the frozen surfaces of my armored gear, I stuffed myself back into my sleeping bag, hoping the extra layers would be enough to weather the rest of the night.

 

Thursday, March 22nd

08:45 AM

MMM Bound MotoADVRAfter rummaging through the house to get my gear set, transfer routes to my GPS, and set up my latest SPOT messages, I finally loaded the bike for the long ride south. I had originally planned a scenic route through the bluegrass state, but with a 7 AM temperature of 22°F, I decided perhaps it better to delay and conserve a little energy. It started getting late and apparently 26°F was about as good as it was going to get so I set out for the 400 mile trek to Tellico Plains, Tennessee, for March Moto Madness.

10:19 AM

Snowy Pine Trees Triumph Scrambler MotoADVRHaving combated the cold for the last 110 miles through Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, I needed a break. Pulling to the side of the road I couldn’t help but be captivated by the heavy snow that blanketed most of Kentucky the previous day. Topping off at the local Love’s station, I scarfed down a sausage biscuit and selfishly clutched a cup a coffee hoping to absorb whatever warmth there was to be had as the temperature finally rose to about freezing.

 

1:26 PM

After 4 grueling hours on the highway, I finally ducked off I-75 in Corbin, Kentucky, to do a little sightseeing.

About seven years ago, I did some rafting just down river from Cumberland Falls. Since attaining my motorcycle endorsement, I’ve had a return trip to Cumberland Falls on the Moto Bucket List. At 125 feet wide and dropping 68 feet, with an average flow rate of over 5,000 cubic feet per second, Cumberland Falls is the second largest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, and the 2nd place on earth where you can see a Moonbow with regularity (only place in the western Hemisphere, Victoria Falls in Africa being the other… “with regularity”).

 

1:55 PM

After snapping photos and video of the falls from all angles, along with letting the temperature rise a little, it was on to the backroads for the rest of the journey to the campground in Tellico Plains. KY-700 leaving Cumberland Falls was a welcome taste of solemn bluegrass pavement before finding myself on US-27 for the vast majority of the last leg.

 

5:25 PM

Winding down the hill into the valley toward the campground, off in the distance I caught the shape of what I, at first, thought was just a bunch of grey clouds. After my eyes focused, I realized that the grey shapes in the distance were actually the peaks along the Cherohala Skyway, covered in snow (more on that later).

 

5:45 PM

The mountains are calling.Appalachian Mountains Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

 

 

18:05

I met up with my buddy Jeff along with Jason and Nico from Hugo Moto. It’s beer-thirty.

Dualing Scrambler MotoADVR

 

Friday, March 23rd

7:45 AM

Finally stirred by the “Ring-da-ta-ting-ting-ting” sounds of two-strokes firing up, I reluctantly emerged from my tent after a frigid, sleepless night. Unzipping the tent’s rain-fly, I found more frost on the inside of my tent than the outside.

“29°F… Coffee… I need coffee…”

 

11:14 AM

After grabbing a pancake and sausage breakfast, huddling around the fire, and otherwise loitering around the campground in search of warmth, I finally got my crap in order to take a ride. Having seen bikes of all shapes and sizes pass by, I figured I would check out the local trails.

Triumph Scrambler Dirt Trail MotoADVR

 

12:01 PM

I take the Dirtster, “Ripley”,  for the first (serious) off-road run.

 

 

12:45 PM

Jason and “Chinnie” want to take a ride out to some local trails to take some photos of the latest World Tour Kit build (HD2 Enduro). Despite being exhausted, I came to Tennessee to ride trails; they let me tag along.

 

13:46 PM

I get schooled off-road.

 

16:40 PM

After chasing two Harleys down local forest service roads, back at the campground I get my second wind. I tackle the local trails a little harder and test the new Avon Trekriders in more dirt and mud.

 

Saturday, March 24th

07:45 (ish) AM

It’s a cold, rainy, morning. I’m again in no hurry to go anywhere. I debate when to get dressed to ride over coffee and breakfast burritos while again huddled next to the fire.

 

12:03 PM

Waiting for the weather to break, Jeff and I decide to drive to lunch; we see the most eccentric bike in the parking lot.Honda RAT Bike MotoADVR

 

2:09 PM

With a short window between passing storms, I decided to head over to Bald River Falls for a photo.

Bald River Falls Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

 

3:01 PM

Arriving at Bald River falls a lot sooner than expected, I felt froggy enough to tackle a little bit of “Gravel-Hala” (North River Road) solo. Oh yeah… about that snow…

3:24 PM

Finding the forest service road into Robbinsville closed, I decided to get up on the Cherohala Skyway and beat it back to the campground before I got rained on. Naturally I find the Skyway lined with snow and fog. It’s not the notorious pea-soup mess I’ve heard stories about, but instead proves to be the quiet solace of solitude I enjoy so much.

 

16:24 PM

I get back to camp just in time to watch Jason from Hugo Moto participate in the heavy-weight hill climb. Turns out he’s one of only a few that made it to the top and I catch his first run-off attempt.

MMM Heavyweight Hillclimb MotoADVR

 

16:34 PM

Despite the “sketchy” first run, he made it to the top on his last two attempts, and it’s down to him and one BMW R1200GS for the win.

 

16:36 PM

The 1200 GS loses traction and takes a dirt nap… twice…

To his credit, the BMW rider was incredible, it was like watching moto-ballet, I have no idea how that bike ever made it up that hill. Nonetheless, a Harley wins the heavy-weight hill climb event… at a GS rally.

 

4:50 PM

BMW guys want to see this “Enduro” Harley up close

Harley inlieu of BMW MotoADVR

 

9:58 PM

I’m huddled under a pop-up tent holding a beer and trying to keep a cigar lit despite the (second) heaviest rain I’ve ever encountered while camping. That’ll make for a long night…

 

Sunday, March 25th

7:30 AM

Miraculously, the tent is still dry; apparently I learned something in the Army… Time to pack and go home… it’s going to be a muddy mess…

 

9:30 AM

I shake hands with Jeff and the guys from Hugo Moto, and start the long ride back to Dayton. The temperature hovers around the 40°F, and with my late start, that means spending more hours on the highway…

 

1:25 PM

Fed up with the interstate, I drop off onto the side roads in London, Kentucky, looking for the tail end of KY-89. With no specific route planned, neither my GPS nor Waze seem to want to take me to the starting point of 89 near Livingston. Despite my best attempts to manage two navigation devices without touchscreen gloves and otherwise trapped by hand mitts, the GPS directions seems to be sending me in a more “fun” direction.

DCIM101GOPROG0325914.

 

1:41 PM

Apparently the GPS knows me better than I realized; cresting a hill I’m confronted with a creek crossing that I dare not attempt solo (if at all…).

DCIM101GOPROG0305668.

 

2:11 PM

I finally hit KY-89; 47 miles of twisties, sweepers, and Appalachian bliss.

 

 

18:48 PM

Over a thousand miles later, I pull back into the driveway. Exhausted and coated with mud, sand, and road grime, it was an incredible un-planned adventure.

Rosie The Scrambler Home MotoADVR

 

Commentary on March Moto Madness

March Moto Madness MotoADVRI’ve never seen so many off-road enthusiasts in one place before. This year’s event had attendance somewhere around 700 people if I understand correctly. There were trucks, RVs, campers, trailers, jeeps, and tents of every variety packed into this campground. Every morning was a symphony of two-stroke dirt bikes and twin-cylinder adventure mammoths firing to life as folks set out for the day’s ride. Just an eclectic crowd of “adventurous” motorcyclists; I didn’t meet a stranger the entire weekend.

March Moto Madness Rally Sticker MotoADVRPer my previous comments, I knew I was going to attend the event way back before Christmas, but that was about the extent of my plans. Leaving the house Thursday morning, my extremely detailed route went right out the window, after which I was flying by the seat of my pants until I returned home on Sunday. As the perpetual planner, it was an odd feeling. The weather was “less than ideal” (it sucked… pretty bad), so I just went with it. Between that, the diverse crowd, the good company, and the endless miles of twisty Appalachian solitude, it was one of the best motorcycle trips I’ve ever been on.

 

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