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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Here are the initial build lists.

Strip down List

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

Re-assembly List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Not To Be Continued…

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

Regards, and Ride Safe. – Andy

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Red River Scramble 2019 Updates

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

New Website!

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

 

Changes for 2019

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

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

 

More about Dual Sport Riding

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

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

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

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

Sponsors

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

 

Final Housekeeping Notes

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

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What is the Future of Motorcycling?

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

 

 

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

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

 

Are Millennials to blame for declining sales?

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

 

Are the costs too high?

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

 

Are manufacturers not selling bikes people want?

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

 

Are motorcycles simply too dangerous?

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


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

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

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

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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

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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

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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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