Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway: An Adventure Guide

Following Red River Scramble 2018, I’ve received a number of inquiries about adventure riding opportunities in eastern Kentucky. After several attempts, I finally finished up  Mountain Springs Road (Furnace-Pilot Road) this summer, and checked the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) off the Moto Bucket List. This part of Kentucky is where my folks are from, and I want to share the best of the Bluegrass with like minded off-roaders. Thus, I figured I would publish a guide so that riders of all skill levels can better navigate their way around the Byway.

If you read the official map from Carto Tracks (Found Here), the DBBB is a continuous loop and they recommend you head west from Slade until you intersect the route and run the loop counter-clockwise. DBBB Map Prioritized 11-3-18The closest gas stations are off Bert T. Combs Parkway right there in Slade, so I agree with their suggestion; however, in the interest of “ramping up” difficulty while still riding in a loop fashion, I’m going to suggest starting just a little further south. I have created a map overlay of the DBBB, highlighting the off-road sections with a number and difficulty color code. The following descriptions speak specifically to the off-road sections, not the paved portions of the route, and reference the section numbers shown on the map. Please keep in mind, my judgement of difficulty is relative to the other sections of the DBBB; depending on what bike you are riding and your level of off-road experience, your opinion regarding the difficulty of these sections may vary. In addition to that statement, trail conditions change constantly; I have seen Pumpkin Hollow and Fincastle road in very different states because of season and the changes in recent weather. Severe weather, combined with recent jeep traffic, can drastically change the level of difficulty of a given section; please plan accordingly.

DBBB Map PDF Download

DBBB GPX Download

 

Barker Branch Road (1)

Essentially a wide gravel highway between old oil properties, Barker Branch is an easy warm-up for folks that haven’t been off-road in a while. With large sweeping curves, the well packed gravel lets folks settle into their groove and enjoy a bit of the “clifty” scenery. This section is easily suitable for all bikes and skill levels; please note, like the entirety of the DBBB, this county road is open to two-way traffic, and you are very likely to encounter large trucks driving in the opposite direction.

Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Hard Packed Gravel
Hazards: Vehicle Traffic

 

Fixer-Leeco, Lairson, Fixer, and Cave Fork Road (2)

While I really enjoy the more technical sections of the DBBB, I feel safe saying that the Fixer-Leeco string is arguably the best “bang for buck” on the DBBB. With 8 miles of all but completely unbroken gravel and dirt, this leg is also the longest continuous off-road section the Byway. Mostly gravel over hard-packed sand, the section through Fixer includes some fairly weathered but well-travelled trail, including a handful of creek crossings through more old oil property. While I consider this section “easy” under dry conditions, some of the downhill sections can become heavily rutted following summer thunderstorms. Ultimately, Fixer is a great section for newer adventure riders looking to hone their off-road skills in ruts and water before stepping up to the intermediate challenges.

DCIM126GOPRO

Difficulty: Easy (Intermediate following heavy rain)
Terrain: dirt, gravel, hard-packed sand, active creek beds
Hazards: Vehicle traffic, creek crossings, and rutted trails follow heavy rainfall

 

 

Hell Creek Road (3)

A menacing name for what is an otherwise photogenic gravel road through the forest. Hell Creek Road is another well-manicured trail, which again means you need to be mindful of two way traffic, especially along the “clifty” sections. Aside from a mild creek crossing (“Hell creek”), this section is most notable for it’s photo opportunities under a couple of substantial cliff faces.

 

Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Hard Packed Gravel
Hazards: Vehicle traffic, creek crossing, no guard rails along steep ravines

 

 

Fincastle and Old Fincastle Road (4)

While only a little over 2 miles in length, Fincastle road offers “intermediate” adventure riders a chance to test their grit. Heading downhill from Shumaker Ridge, the weather rutted trail winds along the cliff-line until it reaches the creek crossing. Walker Creek has the potential to be deep depending on season, so choose your line carefully and test the level if necessary. Potentially adding insult to injury, be prepared for the landing on the far side of the creek to be muddy from other off-roaders. Following the creek crossing, continue east “up” the hill. I don’t use the term “up” lightly, once out of the creek the trail has a steep climb up to a rock shelter, including a hair pin in the midst of slick clay and loose rocks. Once at the rock shelter, there’s another good photo op at the base of the rock field, which is arguably the most difficult part of Fincastle road; folding shift pedals and a good skid plate are recommended…

 

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Terrain: Gravel, large loose rocks, boulders, clay
Hazards: UTV traffic, creek crossings, 300 foot uphill rock field, slick conditions after recent rain

 

 

 

 

Big Andy, Lower Devil Creek, and Sandy Ridge Road (5)

A sweeping gravel farm road; stay alert on Big Andy road for locals headed back into town. Once you pass a large assembly of old oil equipment, you start down Lower Devil Creek Road. The largest water crossing on the DBBB, you end up crossing Lower Devil Creek up to three times; depending on recent weather, these creek crossings can also be considerably deep. Once on the east side of Lower Devil Creek it’s a scenic creek-side dirt road until the uphill gravel on Sandy Ridge Road and on toward Campton.

 

Difficulty: Easy (Intermediate to advanced during high water conditions)
Terrain: Gravel, dirt
Hazards: Vehicle traffic, lengthy creek crossings

 

Spaas Creek Road (6)

Looking to improve your mud riding skills? Here’s your chance. Spaas Creek road was my first exposure to the DBBB, a road I vowed to conquer. About 5 miles in length, Spaas creek lures you in with a 2 mile stretch of pristine gravel forest road, before you’re abruptly thrown into a dark muddy creek valley. Of all of the sections of the DBBB, Spaas Creek is probably the most featured on YouTube, for good reason; with over 12 creek crossings, you’ll quickly discover the creek bed is firmer than the trail. While still a legal county road, vehicle traffic outside fellow DBBB adventurers is possible, but unlikely. Folks with lighter dual-sport bikes should enjoy the terrain thoroughly, heavier ADV riders would be wise to bring aggressive tires as the trail is typically quite damp regardless of season.

Spaas Creek Mud field Tom Witt

Difficulty: Advanced
Terrain: Gravel, dirt, mud, creek beds
Hazards: Deep mud puddles (“Jeep Pits”), deep ruts, creek crossings, deep mud

 

 

Pumpkin Hollow Road (7)

Out of the skillet and into the frying pan, after a short creek side run, Pumpkin Hollow takes you back over the ridgeline and into another creek valley following a steep hill-climb. From the mud on Spaas Creek, Pumpkin Hollow brings deeper ruts in the slick Kentucky clay. On the backside of the ridgeline it’s more clay, dirt, and creek runs. Again, heavier ADV bikes may struggle depending on recent rains and tire selection.

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Terrain: Dirt, clay, creek beds
Hazards: Steep incline, deep ruts, creek crossings

 

 

Chop Chestnut Road (8)

Passing the quarry you quickly transition from gravel to sand and sandstone ledges. A little over a mile in length, this section gives riders mild exposure to loose sand depending on recent rainfall, along with larger rock obstacles, including a significant skid-plate testing downhill “stair case“. “Jeep pits” can be somewhat of a problem depending on recent weather; be mindful that many of the puddles may be significantly deeper than they appear.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Terrain: Sand, Sandstone
Hazards: Unsuspecting deep sand, sick sandstone, deep puddles, sandstone “Staircase”

 

 

Furnace-Pilot Road (9)

As the pavement of Mountain Springs Road ends at what looks like a farm driveway, Furnace-Pilot road begins (ride east through the “gate” and past the barn and continue along the GPX route, this is a legal county road). About 2.5 miles in length, Furnace-Pilot road is the culmination of the previous three sections, the most challenging section of the DBBB. Combining the mud, clay, and sand, the trail provides plenty of excitement with a “loamy” soil that makes the depth of the mud especially deceiving. Despite the short off-road section, there are a number of elevation changes made more difficult by deep ruts made by Jeep traffic. In the valleys, riders must be very cautious circumventing some of the largest Jeep pits on the DBBB, as the mud is easily 3 feet deep in some locations. Novice off-road riders and heavy adventure bikes will likely experience extreme difficulty on this section.

Difficulty: Advanced
Terrain: Dirt, Mud, Clay, Loam
Hazards: Sizable Jeep pits, significant Jeep ruts, deep mud.

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned multiple times elsewhere, the DBBB is probably my absolute favorite place to ride. Considering the local topography, and vast differences in terrain, this short 100 mile loop offers a wide range of challenges for adventurers. Furnace-Pilot Scrambler Mudhole Tom WittWith regard to difficulty, between what I have seen in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the DBBB has the most difficult obstacles I have faced (with exception of log crossings). The difficult obstacles on the DBBB are arguably “shorter” than the obstacles I saw at Conserve The Ride, however the challenges in Kentucky are more technical or larger in scale while shorter in distance. I was worn out by Option 6 in Pennsylvania, but I have literally turned around more than once in Kentucky. With regard to time, the winner of this year’s Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt at Red River Scramble finished the DBBB in 5.5 hours on a CRF250L. I however, have yet to finish an entire trip around the loop in one day on a Triumph Scrambler, and to my knowledge, the riders on larger ADV bikes at Red River Scrambler this year, also did not finish the full loop. To quote the cliché, “Your mileage may vary”…

I want to reiterate that the DBBB has been successfully traversed by yours truly on a hipster-street-fairing-novelty bike. Judicious use of the throttle and brake will get you through most obstacles, and a gnarly set of knobbies will cure a lot of ills. That said, Mother Nature is unforgiving; trail conditions change day-to-day, and even hour-by-hour in some cases. Heavy Jeep traffic is easily more destructive than heavy rain, making spring trail conditions especially challenging from what I’ve seen. When out on the trail, I always recommend using the buddy system, pack a worthy tool kit, snacks, and lots of water; when in doubt, walk obstacles before riding them, and don’t be ashamed to bypass a section and save it for later. I want as many folks as possible to enjoy the DBBB, and come back with more friends tow the next time.

DBBB Map PDF Download

DBBB GPX Download

 

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Bonneville to Scrambler in 145 Easy Steps: Part I

Almost a year ago, I found myself the proud owner of a 2008 Triumph Bonneville Black that’s seen about 34,000 miles pass under its wheels. Bonnie Black 3 Andy ParkerAs a 10-year-old, the bike was in excellent shape, and still in near-stock condition. Almost the same as when it rolled off the showroom floor, but with a few minor modifications. The two mods I was told about were a new speedometer at 7,800 miles, (the current one showed 26, xxx), and the conversion to LED “idiot” lights. Another change which was easy to spot was a pair of heavy bar-end weights, and the final visual change was the comfort seat. A change that was only detected after a ride was the 19-tooth counter sprocket at the front of the chain drive. Other than that, the Bonnie looked like a new bike.

Bonnie Black 7 Andy ParkerThe moment I rode it I knew it was going to have to up its game a bit. Like all Bonnevilles, the handlebars are weird; they cant your wrists at an odd angle and leave you with a feeling of not being completely in control of where the bike is going. The throttle is very forgiving and a bit ‘fluffy’ in terms of engine response, and there’s a black hole in the rev range just about where you’d expect things to get a bit more exciting (well as exciting as they are likely to get anyway, this is a Bonneville we’re talking about after all), and the suspension is strictly a cost saving exercise so the handing suffers as a result.

Thinking back to conversations in pubs thirty years ago about British motorcycles (which were long out of production) there was much talk about how the T120 Bonneville was a speed machine, a bike that was light and handled pretty well, it could propel you up to 100mph with very little in the way of modifications needed to make it happen. It was the preferred bike for the working-class Rocker back in the sixties and seventies and earned its brass on numerous rides from the Ace Café around the North and South Circular which skirts Central London; a fast rider could do the trip and hit the ton while doing so. It was the tool to have wherever the lads gathered to talk bikes and race on the streets.

The modern equivalent still retains the same engine configuration and even attempts to copy the look of the old unit twin that shares its name; Bonnie Black 1 Andy Parkerit does however, have the benefit of modern engineering and components. It still resembles the old bike, it shares some of the beautiful lines of the original tank shape and side panels, it has period foot pegs, levers, turn signals, fenders, chrome headlight and spoked wheels. For those who are not the wiser, it looks like a late sixties to mid-seventies motorcycle. Any Bonnie owner will tell you of the conversations at fuel stops and parking lots somewhere, that a guy will come up and ask “What year is that?” and go on about how they used to have one. To all intents and purposes the modern Bonneville is the bike that every rider wanted fifty years ago. Hell, if the old ones were anything as good as the new one we’d all be riding British steel today – The big four would never have got a foot hold and the UJM would never have been developed.

The question I had to answer was “What am I going to do this bike to sharpen it up… a lot?” First of all, do I want a Café Racer, a Tracker, a Scrambler, a Brat, or a Motard look? A few days and nights perusing the interweb and the answer was pretty clear in my mind. Although I already had two bikes, a new Monster 1200S, and a newish liquid cooled boxer, the R1200GS, a third motorcycle wouldn’t be too many and could easily find a home between the other two. Bonnie Black 2 Andy ParkerThe monster was used for ripping up and down the Natchez Trace and riding too fast on any twisty road I could find around Middle Tennessee. The GS was my long haul mule that also let me get away with mild road off-road diversions on forest roads and nature trails. However, the GS was too heavy for serious mud, deep water or rock-strewn trails, so the question really was about “What’s the real use this new bike is going to see?” It was never going to be able to out-perform the Monster in any of its strong areas like power, handling, braking, ride quality, or even the aggressive good looks of the Italian superbike, so there was no point trying to go Café Racer when the 1200 was at home. I thought about just keeping the Bonnie as-is but ditching the Secondary Air Injection and investing in better pipes, a jet kit, free flowing filter, better handlebars, and some proper suspenders to make it a bit sportier, but if I was going to do all work it might as well have a theme.

Having ridden the GS along the Tennessee Dirt Devil and around Land-Of-The-Lakes a few times where the surfaces vary from hard packed dirt to gravel to muddy patches, puddles, dirt strewn with pea gravel and even some shallow river crossings, I learned the bike was very capable but I would need more dirt oriented tires to really get up some speed and the confidence to slide the back around and hop the front over bigger rocks. Ultimately I was not prepared to do that given the BMW’s primary job of hauling me out west or as the last trip, up to Maine.

I needed an old-style trail bike; so I started off with the intent to create just that, a hybrid Scrambler/Commuter that had a responsive throttle, enough power and gearing to rip away from lights or spin up the back wheel on dirt, and still be authentic to the styling cues of the modern Bonnie. I sat down and drew up a list of things I’d like to upgrade, remove, replace, or modify. It turned into about three strings of lists that were pretty much all dependent on a previous step to get the max return on the investment. Take the Air and Fuel system as an example; if I wanted a more responsive throttle I needed to change the jetting, which meant I probably needed a new air filter, and a new snorkel, and that meant if I was going to do that I might as well do a new pipe at the same time. Then there was the Tail Tidy; that meant new turn signals, and a new rear light, which led to a front turn signal relocation bracket, an R&R and Horn relocation bracket, and an Ignition Switch relocation bracket which in turn led to a new gauge bracket with integrated Ignition Switch, and new headlamp brackets. Bonnie Black MotoADVRThe shortest list was new tires, new bobbed front fender, sump guard, and fork gaiters. At the end of the list compilation with the cost of the suspension upgrade at the rear, and the progressive springs in the forks, the list for the build was over the actual value of the bike, that being close to around $4,000. Luckily the bike had only cost me $100 in raffle tickets, $1.13 in TN taxes and $29 in title fees. I started searching for parts and looking at websites regarding jetting on the 865 motors. The build list would have been significantly more if I had bought all the parts needed but I had a good stash of parts from a previous Bonnie I’d briefly owned, and a whole host of parts I’d bought for other projects and not used.

Within a month I’d decided things weren’t getting done whilst internet browsing, so I dug in and started with some basics. I got the bike up on the stand and took off the front and rear wheels to have Shinko 705’s fitted. I pulled off the seat, the tank, the side panels, fenders, and finally the carbs. They were nice and clean. I’d ordered a Dynojet kit, a Sprint air filter, a pair of carb boots, a TTS air funnel, and I’d decided to go with the TEC 2-1 Desert High Pipe, which also meant new side panels were needed. The rectifier and horn were relocated, and the new turn signals fitted with the Tail Tidy.

After three attempts at pilot and main jet combinations and DynoJet springs I couldn’t get the bike to perform well. I went back to Square one. Bonnie Black 4 Andy ParkerSome more fiddling and reading of tried and tested combinations and I arrived at 2.75 turns out for the air screw, OE pilot jets, OE springs and needles, with a DynoJet 112 main jet (Keihlin equiv 122.5). The bike idled nicely on and off choke, pulled hard up to redline with no flat spot on either partial or full open throttle, and the engine braking improved, it backfired occasionally, and ripped forward again as soon as you got on it. The plugs are a nice color and it sounds awesome with baffles in (although they are drilled a bit…), but without the baffles you’re saying, ‘What did you say?” a lot.

To Be Continued…

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2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob: The Softail-Dyna Throwdown

 

Dyna Fat Bob RF MotoADVR

Way, way back in my early riding days, a guy I worked with told me to go take a ride and handed me the keys to his motorcycle, a 2008 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob. That bike was the very first Harley I ever rode. Since then, I’ve spent quite a bit of time on multiple Sportster platforms, along with a few test rides on the Twin-Cam Softail and touring models, but I’ve simply missed any opportunities to ride another Dyna.

Late last year Harley dropped down nine new models powered by the new Milwaukee Eight power plant. Subsequently, Harley also dropped the bomb on some of the rank-and-file faithful, binning the lauded Dyna frame in favor of an all new Softail chassis. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob right MotoADVRLooking over the new 2018 models, I was immediately drawn to the Fat Bob. I full well understand that the stat sheet is completely uncoupled from what makes a good motorcycle; however, based on all the trimmings I could see via the interwebs, this new Fat Bob seemed poised to be a contributing force of change in the realm of American made motorcycles.

But what about the Fat Bob of yore; the first Harley I ever rode? Aside from robust torque coming out of the basement, my memory of that ride is unfortunately pretty fuzzy at this point. There’s no question my taste in riding has evolved considerably since then and I have to admit, I really don’t have a dog in this Dyna-versus-Softail fight. However, considering the internet commentary about “Dyna betrayal”, I want to know how these two bikes compare. As it turns out, Powder Keg Harley-Davidson happened to have both flavors of the Fat Bob in stock and offered me a test ride session.

2015 Dyna Fat Bob

Dyna Fat Bob Powder Keg HD MotoADVRThrowing a leg over the familiar Twin-Cam Fat Bob, I found it difficult to not compare the Fat Bob to my old Speedmaster. Yes, very dissimilar engines and of course the details are different, but there’s no denying that the basic blueprint of the bikes is the same. The overall seating position certainly feels familiar to me, the swept drag bars and feet forward position was also reminiscent of my former Triumph mount.

Out on the road, I settled into the saddle and realized it was surprisingly comfortable considering I typically prefer a more neutral seating position these days. Dyna Fat Bob seat MotoADVRIt took me a minute to get acclimated to a new set of forward controls, but after a few stop signs I managed to find the pegs consistently. Getting more comfortable through a few of the curves, I will say that the seat on the Dyna felt head and shoulders above my old ride, as far as tooling around town is concerned. I really liked how you sit more in the saddle along with a back pad that keeps you from sliding off the bike under hard acceleration.

Late last fall I took the new Road Glide, fitted with the Milwaukee Eight, for a test ride. Immediately after, I took the previous generation 103 Twin-Cam Heritage Softail for a spin. Dyna 103 Twin Cam MotoADVRThe difference between the two engines, let alone the bikes, was virtually night and day. I feared that experience might overshadow my impression of the Dyna Fat Bob. Quite the contrary; for whatever reason the 103 in this 2015 Fat Bob felt more stout compared to the ‘16 Heritage I took for a spin. I suspect the aftermarket Vance and Hines pipes didn’t hurt the performance specs, all I know is that this Fat Bob had plenty of giddy-up. Just leaving the parking lot I was impressed by the stereotypical Harley-Davidson pull from idle.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a rubber mounted Harley; the vibration wasn’t quite as jarring as I expected it to be. It was quite evident at stop lights (even more so from the frame-mounted camera), but from the rider perspective, it felt more docile out on the road. I did find it a bit annoying at low RPM, but it mostly disappears when you start to spin it up in the curves.

Dyna 103 Primary MotoADVRShifting through the gears, the Twin-Cam transmission was smooth and predictable. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Twin-Cam without the authoritative “clunk!” of gear engagement with each shift. As the riding got sporty, transitions were easy without missed shifts or false neutrals. Speaking of neutral, the 103 actually likes to find neutral when asked, unlike a lot of other bikes I’ve ridden; my Scrambler is no exception (even after 50k miles).

 

Somewhere in the early evolution of my riding career I felt like the big twin Harley clutch pull required excessive effort. I will say, on an old Sportster, that is true, however the lever action on the 103 Fat Bob is virtually the same as my Scrambler. The lever, however, is unquestionably sized to handle the most ham-fisted among us.

After years on the Speedmaster, I feared the classic twin shocks on the Dyna would be of similar caliber. Dyna Fat Bob RR qtr MotoADVRThe MoCo’s shocks weren’t so bad, a bit harsher than I’d like, but better than I expected; easily better than the Speedmaster’s shocks on its best day. The front forks would naturally receive the same scrutiny; front end dive, while present, was reasonable considering the heavier bike and aggressive maneuverability (for its class). Ultimately, I was impressed how hard I could pull the lever under hard braking; the springs were stiffer than I expected, a testament to the Fat Bob’s rank in the Dyna lineup.

Dyna Fat Bob front brakes MotoADVRSpeaking of that brake lever pull, dual front disk on a bike with forward controls was a welcome addition for me. I believe the dual front disk exacerbated the front-end dive, but lever input required was very minimal. I actually felt like I had more brakes than I had tire (three-year-old stock Dunlops). I suspect with alternate tire selection and progressive springs the Dyna Fat Bob has the potential to be quite sporty, stocky front tire and all.

The rear brake on the other hand… that’s different story. I’m not sure what description is most accurate, but I suppose “wooden” will suffice. Pulling up to several stoplights I kept asking myself if I should put more input to the rear brake pedal… “Never mind… I locked it up just now”. Right or wrong, I tend to use a little rear brake headed into the curves to trim the line up a little tighter on a bulky cruiser. I was pretty timid about putting much pressure on the Dyna’s rear brake, for fear of locking it up mid-turn and dealing with the calamity that would follow.

Dyna Fat Bob controls MotoADVRPutting the Fat Bob through its paces along the hairpins outside Kings Mills, I also found the Fat Bob’s lean angle better than I anticipated. Riding the Heritage Softail last fall, the floor boards touched down on the pavement alarmingly early; comparably, the Dyna was much more apt to carve a clean line around the hair-pins with effort akin to my former Trumpet. It was nice being able to throw the Fat Bob through the corners a bit harder; but I was still a bit timid pushing the envelope on the bigger cruiser.


After 7 years and many miles on different motorcycles, I expected the ride characteristics of the namesake “fat” front tire to irritate me; especially after so much time riding with the larger hoops on dual-sport bikes. Dyna Fat Bob FR qtr MotoADVRI’ve been curious as of late, what’s with the popularity of the fat front tire, particularly on cruisers? To my surprise, I really didn’t find anything to fuss about out on the road. As a guy who doesn’t know better, it felt to me like the bike had better resistance from tracking imperfections in the roadway; quite contrary to the skinny spoked wheel on my trusty Scrambler. While at the same time, the turn-in was not as crisp as I would expect from modern adventure bikes, but the chunky fat tire held the line well, even when higher demands were asked of it.

Pulling back into the lot, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed myself after giving up cruisers back in 2016. Having been on several Harleys in recent months, the Dyna Fat Bob managed to stir the soul a little; a much more playful machine than I expect it to be.

 

2018 Softail Fat Bob

Forget everything I just told you… well… most of it.

2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob RR side MotoADVR

By definition, one of my gripes about cruisers is forward controls; insult to injury, I often find it cumbersome to manipulate the brake and shift pedals accurately when the pace hastens. What if you could have the best of both worlds? Forward controls with levers that are properly positioned for sufficient tomfoolery. Dropping into the saddle on the Softail Fat Bob, I was immediately impressed by the ergonomics. At 5’10” and 185 pounds, the Fat Bob fits like it was designed specifically for me. I’m in the bike, securely, closer to the bars, in total control of the machine. If I close my eyes, everything is within reach. The controls, intuitively placed. Yes, this Fat Bob has forward controls, yet they behave more like “mids” as the placement is higher and closer to the rider than the preceding Dyna.

2018-Harley-Davidson-Fat-Bob-Neighborhood-MotoADVR.jpgLetting the clutch out, putting my feet up on the pegs, as I left the parking lot I was struck by the commanding feeling provided by the wide bars. My hand placement on the bars felt natural and this new Softail Fat Bob felt even more nimble from go. Similar to the bars, it is unmistakable, my feet felt closer to the seat than former cruisers I’ve ridden; again, instilling confidence to maneuver the machine rather than just glide and participate. Turning onto the main roads, rolling on the throttle, wow… That engine…

How does one best describe the Milwaukee Eight to someone that rides a Twin-Cam? More power… Everywhere. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Milwaukee Eight MotoADVRThere’s no question, the most outstanding difference between the Dyna Fat Bob and the new Softail is the power plant. The Milwaukee Eight mill is rev-happy, begs to be flogged, and pulls steady to the red line. Exactly what I want from a twin cylinder engine. Beyond power, there’s also a big difference in the engine character. Similar to the outgoing Softails, the new Fat Bob’s M8 mill is hard mounted and counter balanced. However, as advertised, the M8 V-twin vibration is still present; offering depth and personality to the engine, without being offensive.

2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob 107 Primary MotoADVRPicking up the gear shifter with my toe, the M8 transmission, like its predecessor, is again authoritative, yet with more refinement and precision. The new gearbox is equally smooth, meanwhile “deliberate” in its execution. Impressed by the Milwaukee Eight’s torque band, I purposely short shifted the bike a few times; lugging the engine. Regardless of speed, the M8 pulls confidently in all the gears except 6th. That’s reassuring as a bike that feels so aggressive on the backroads also has a tall 6th gear to keep you comfortable on the expressway.

While I was impressed by the feeling of dual front disc on the preceding Fat Bob, I found the new Softail’s front binders even more exceptional. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob RR Qtr MotoADVRI spent most of the test ride using no more than two fingers on the brake lever; inducing confidence sufficient to do quite a bit of trail braking through the curves, simultaneously on the brakes and the throttle. On the back end, the rear brake actually had feedback and range; quite the contrast to its predecessor. That range wasn’t especially plentiful, but predictable and most importantly, usable. I did manage to lock it up (deliberately) approaching a stop sign; it behaved as expected (or better) for a heavy weight cruiser. I didn’t notice until reviewing my test ride photos, this new Fat Bob has a floating rear rotor, unlike the fixed rotor on the outgoing model. I admit, it’s unlikely this is the cause for such improved function, but I suspect it’s still a contributing factor.

It’s tough to speak intelligently about the suspension on the new Fat Bob, or at least in an entertaining way. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Front Brakes MotoADVRA new chassis with a rear mono-shock and upside down from forks… let’s suffice to say, it’s just better. The bike feels less disturbed by potholes, manhole covers, and other imperfections on the roadway; while it’s simultaneously more confidence inspiring when things get twisty. The rear end feels a shade more plush, yet doesn’t wallow through the curves. The front end, softer than the Dyna front forks, dives a little harder under braking, but is more adept at handling the same urban road challenges while somehow also permitting a more spirited pace.

With the revision of the Softail frame, new rear shock, wide bars, and upside down front forks, the steering is crisp and accurate. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Controls MotoADVRThe Fat Bob lures you into the curves with haste, where it incessantly begs for more winding backroads. I will also note the steering input on this new Fat Bob is much different than almost any bike I’ve ridden on before. This bike will not fall into the corners; the tip-in is instinctive, requiring minimal effort, and maintaining lean attitude is natural. What’s different is that once the bike has leaned over and begins to track through the corner, as you push the bars further, they demand a little more effort to increase the lean;2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Right Bank MotoADVR the bike actually wants to stand back up as you approach the maximum lean angle. I don’t consider this a flaw, I just find it an interesting characteristic of the bike’s handling; something I assume is attributed to a more aggressive rake and the combination of a wider front tire. I found the clutch pull to be on par with the Fat Bob of yore. I love to shift gears, especially when riding gets energetic; I like to keep the needle in the heart of the power band. After hitting the best local twisties, I wasn’t at all taxed after spirited riding on this more capable Fat Bob.

 

 

Fit and finish is also notably better; I agree it’s tough to improve on Harley-Davidson’s reputation for finished quality, but it has been done. Again, more precision and attention to detail, yet tastefully, and in conjunction with modern technology. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob broadside MotoADVRIt goes without question that I love the subdued paint and overall blacked out treatment. While I feel the subdued styling has grown in popularity, in this case it’s a tasteful evolution of both the Fat Bob and Harley-Davidson as a whole. Obviously, Harley has been doing the “blacked out” dark custom series for some time, but the entire Softail lineup is more subdued than previous generations of Harley-Davidsons. The latest iteration of the Fat Bob has also corrected the “bobbed” rear fender that I hated on the post-2013 taillight setup. What looked like a modern art afterthought, the former slash-cut rear fender seemed at odds with the otherwise classic look of the muscular Harley cruiser. The new Softail nails the “bobbed” motif by exposing the rear tire, concealing the rear brake light, while tastefully incorporating the (DOT required) rear fender.

 

The Verdict

To the Dyna faithful, I’m sorry, this new Softail Fat Bob is simply better than its predecessor… in every way. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Powder Keg HD MotoADVRStock bike to stock bike, I might give you a little leeway by saying the factory front springs are a hair firmer on the outgoing model; so the front-end dive feels a bit more noticeable. On the flip-side, I’ll make the argument that the front binders are better, and the new front end is more compliant for city riding where the asphalt is often less than ideal (especially here, well north of the Mason-Dixon Line). In a world where the factory pipes are often ditched from the jugs back, a few dollars for a new set of springs is small price to pay for a machine this refined.

I admit, I may have some beef about the rear jug’s head cover and its close proximity to my thigh. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Right Head Cover MotoADVRDespite the advancements in the Milwaukee Eight mill, that engine still gets pretty warm in your nether regions when you’re crawling up the tank when the riding intensity clicks up a notch. That said, for the average Joe, that’s probably a rare occasion, and Harley has made “deflectors” for the touring models in the past; it’s only a matter of time before an aftermarket solution is available. This situation is actually caused by the size reduction of the fuel tank; something else I might nitpick. Personally, I would rather have the extra gas, however I will accept argument that the range is comparable to outgoing models and the target audience doesn’t insist on additional range. I will also concede, the narrow fuel tank does let you tuck in pretty tight on this bike when you start hustling along the bendy tarmac. Which I expect I would be doing a lot of, if this new Fat Bob came home to live with me.

Personally, I find the most important factor in this comparison is how the different bikes feel, and which one puts the bigger smile on your face. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob left Bank MotoADVRThe Softail Fat Bob with its new Milwaukee Eight is a real gas. Much more lively than its predecessor, the new Softail chassis requires so little effort to maneuver. I can’t get over how it just lures you into bends, as I was continuously surprised by how fast I was approaching the next curve, and yet felt confident negotiating the corners at speed. Looking back at the 103 Twin-Cam, the M8 engine character feels slightly more mechanical, but as a whole, the entire machine is just more “precise”, leaving the Dyna feeling lethargic and dated by comparison. The Dyna was a fun bike to ride, but the Softail Fat Bob had me giggling in my helmet from the moment I left the parking lot.

 

Why you should consider a Softail Fat Bob

When considering the purchase of a new motorcycle, there are unquestionably those that have removed Harley-Davidson from their list because they only offer “cruisers”. I will contend that if you look at the stat sheet, that might be a true statement. However, per other public comments I’ve made, the Motor Company has made significant strides in recent years to blur the lines between “Cruiser” and “Standard”; first with the 2016 Roadster, and now with the Fat Bob.

2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob RF Qtr MotoADVRWith quasi-forward controls, the Fat Bob may fall into the category of cruiser, but I will argue that these forward controls are the most commanding of any I’ve experienced. Yes, if you insist on a sport bike or sport naked, this bike is (probably) not for you. However, if you’re turning away from a life of clip-ons and triple digits, I think you may be surprised by what you’ll find at your local Harley Dealer.

On the other side of the spectrum, shoppers on touring bikes that simply don’t ride long distance anymore and want to take advantage of a chassis with a little more poke, the Fat Bob should be on your list. As part of the Softail line, there will be alternative bolt-on luggage solutions for those less frequent long trips you do take, while offering a more lively alternative for your morning commute and weekend adventures.

It goes without saying, with the modern advancements of the new chassis, more modern strokes were utilized in the styling. 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob Headlight Powder Keg MotoADVRI understand that the face of the new Fat Bob is probably a bit… polarizing for some; especially the rank and file Harley enthusiast. Fear not, I also took a short spin on the new Sport Glide while out and about with the Fat Bob; I will tell you, it too is more energetic than its Twin-Cam ancestors. If aesthetics takes priority over raw performance in your world, I recommend you consider the Low Rider, Softail Slim, or perhaps the Heritage Classic (with the 114 of course).

To the Dyna faithful, the “Soft-Tail” moniker is a misnomer. The MoCo failed to call me when evaluating names for this new line of motorcycles, and I agree with other comments I’ve heard; 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob reflection MotoADVRperhaps a different title would have been prudent for this redesigned chassis. What was once the “low and slow” classic relaxed staple of the Milwaukee fleet, now includes several rowdy siblings. Certainly there is little argument between new versus used, however if you’re completely distraught about the fact you can’t purchase a new Dyna, I suggest you book a test ride and see for yourself before you pass judgement. If I’m wrong, I anxiously await your argument in the comment section below.

 

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Conserve The Ride 2018: New Friends and New Adventure

3:53 PM, Saturday, June 9th

CTR Tailbag empty overlook MotoADVR

I pull into a gorgeous overlook on the side of the mountain as we wait for Bryan to catch up. I take a knee and snap a photo. Walking around the Scrambler I notice my tail bag has flopped over the side of the bike, wide open. It’s now empty with exception of my electrical tools. “Hmm… lost my rain jacket… certainly Rosie won’t curse me for the ride home tomorrow”

07:00 AM, Sunday June 10th

Squinting, head pounding, I wake to the sound of rain beating on the tent like I’ve never experienced before… Like clockwork, Rosie is the Rainmaker.

Friday, June 8th

16:50 PM

I Roll into Woodward Cave Campground in search of the registration table that’s supposed to close in 10 minutes.

16:52 PM

Recognize Steve Kamrad, ask him where I can find the registration booth. He gives me a funny look, then spots the snorting warthog and realizes he’s talking to @MotoADVR. I realize this same thing happened to me at March Moto Madness, apparently I should take more selfies…

16:58 PM

Get signed in for the rally, grab my event T-shirt, sticker, and register in the “Intermediate” group.

18:15 PM

Join rider meeting hosted by Jeremy, president of Alt Rider. He covers a lot of good tips for all levels of adventure riders.

19:20 PM

Get hot chow, break bread with new (awesome) people, drink free beer from the keg. Still have no idea who I’m riding with tomorrow…

Saturday, June 9th

06:45 AM

Head hurts… should have drank more water.

07:30 AM

Morning rider meeting; meet up with Matt and Bryan from Gear Patrol. Join their intermediate” group.

07:45 AM

Get my crap on and get ready to ride.

07:46 AM

Bike is dead… “not this again.

07:55 AM

Lemmy gives me a push.

07:56 AM

Lemmy gives me another push, tells me to throw my weight down on the back wheel when I let the clutch out.

7:57 AM

Bike is now running. Note to self, don’t stall while riding off-road today… no pressure.

9:26 AM

Pennsylvania Amish country is gorgeous!

CTR Opt 1 Overlook Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

9:29 AM

Navigation seems to be going well.

CTR Navigation MotoADVR

9:32 AM

Oh, Hello Option 3, how did I miss Option 2?

9:33 AM

Fall in behind Steve, Spurgeon, and the REV’IT women’s team headed into Option 3

9:46 AM

This “wide” single-track-esque shale trail thing is awesome!

10:02 AM

Stop at a bend on option 4, met by significant log. Fortunately there’s a ramp.

10:03 AM

See big adventure bike get stuck on log.

CTR Opt 4 KTM stuck on log

10:04 AM

Can’t wuss out in front of the Rev’It girls… Flog the warthog and go for it.

10:07 AM

After feeling like a hero, Jeremy and Lemmy blast past me on the trail.

10:47 AM

Skip option 5, speed down the main loop for option 6.

11:20 AM

Bridge out. Make U-turn.

11:47 AM

Wow this main loop is long…

11:58 AM

Find Option 6, let’s do this!

CTR Opt 6 boney trail 2 MotoADVR

12:16 PM

At the rider’s meeting someone described the trails in Pennsylvania as “Boney”. Yeah… that’s pretty accurate.

Boney Trail Framecam MotoADVR

12:30 PM

Running late for lunch, we better hustle.

12:41 PM

See a KTM on the side of the road. Ask the dude if he’s good; get the universal thumbs down.

12:42 PM

Turn the bikes around to help; Brian (The Dude) says it’s like his second flat today.

12:45 PM

Pull my patch kit out of the world’s largest Scrambler tool tube; Jeremy from Alt Rider rolls up.

12:50 PM

Jeremy helps swap a new tube while I patch the now “spare” punctured tube and we sacrifice a 3rd tube to keep the steel belts from puncturing yet another tube.

12:54 PM

Jeremy spoons on tires faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.

1:27 PM

I think lunch was Mexican, I only remember the chocolate cake brownies (I left Lemmy the crumbs).

2:01 PM

Back on the main loop, skip option 7 and take press photos of the Husqvarna 701.

Husqvarna 701 woods MotoADVR

2:15 PM

Debate feasibility of “adventuring” to and from the DBBB with before mentioned Husky.

2:19 PM

Still on main trail, “Wait… where’s Bryan?” “Matt, did he run out of gas?”

2:21 PM

Brian Rolls up. “Oh, bug in the helmet, yeah that sucks…”

2:49 PM

Option 8, hey, I think we went the wrong way.

2:54 PM

Okay, Option 8 for real this time; mud… oh yeah, now we’re talking!

Puddle Splash Framecam MotoADVR

2:59 PM

BMW F650 does me a favor and locates the boulder in a rut.

3:01 PM

Inform Gunner (BMW rider), we can’t break the golden rule of adventure riding: if everyone is okay, take photos before picking up the motorcycle.

3:07 PM

This is my favorite option!

3:12 PM

Stop to help Bryan adjust the controls on his bars.

3:38 PM

Back on the main loop for some sweet flat-track riding.

3:53 PM

Lost Bryan in rearview mirror again, stop at nice overlook.

CTR Tailbag empty overlook MotoADVR

3:54 PM

Bryan rolls up moments later after digging yet another bug out of his goggles.

3:55 PM

Notice tail bag is lopped over the back of the Scrambler.

3:56 PM

Sigh as remember not closing the tail bag after helping Bryan on option 8. Assume my rain gear, air compressor and jumper cables are scattered across the trail.

4:16 PM

Run option 8 backwards in search of stuff.

4:27 PM

Ride past the scene of the crime… nothing to be found. “The ride home is sure gonna be an adventure…”

4:34 PM

Spot Matt and Bryan getting set up at the end of the trail for a photo.

4:35 PM

Hit mud puddle harder than any puddle Rosie has hit before.

4:36 PM

Water blasts up my riding pants getting stuck in the rain gutter just long enough to empty directly into my boots.

4:37 PM

Worth it.

4:49 PM

Running late now after looking for gear, burn it down the main loop for camp.

CTR Tree lines MotoADVR

5:01 PM

Stop at tent. Drop off (what’s left of) my crap. A guy walks up carrying my rain gloves and jumper cables. It’ll suck without my rain jacket, but I at least someone found my rain gloves!

6:10 PM

Grab my bottle of Bulleit Rye and head over to Bryan and Matt for a celebratory drink.

6:15 PM

We meet up with the Steve, the Rev’It women’s team, and the Revzilla crew and discuss the finer parts of the day’s ride.

6:32 PM

After the previous day’s carnage, talk to Steve about how his Tiger is holding up.

6:34 PM

Someone points out that Steve’s forks look bent.

Revzilla Crew MotoADVR

6:36 PM

Despite the aftermarket accessories (zip-tied dash board, “streamlined” windscreen, rally paint, and cracked frame)… I offer Steve $100 for his Tiger 800.

6:37 PM

Somehow end up riding said Tiger to “test” the front end.

6:42 PM

Return from test ride. Drop Steve’s Tiger on the ground (cheap aftermarket kickstand spring). Offer Steve $120 for his “Race Bike”.

~7:30 PM

Get dinner; enjoy free beer from the keg.

~9:30 PM

Jeremy proceeds to pour out my beer, hands me a drink.

~9:31 PM

I’m going to regret this later…

~10:30 PM

Light cigar and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow adventurers.

11:59 PM

Stumble back to my tent. Feel a light sprinkle begin to fall.

Sunday, June 10th

7:00 AM

Woken by to the sound of rain pouring down… head throbbing. “Rosie is like a Marvel Superhero… if Deadpool was a superhero…”

7:10 AM

An hour before breakfast is served, start packing everything in the tent. Slam 2 Gatorades, glad I had the forethought to set those out last night.

8:10 AM

Eat breakfast under the campground shelter. Wane off hangover. Procrastinate… waiting to see if rain slows down. (It doesn’t)

8:45 AM

Andy offers me a rain jacket. I accept out of desperation; seriously concerned about experiencing hypothermia on the ride home.

9:10 AM

Walk back to shelter, about to drag tent beneath shelter to finish packing the bike.

9:16 AM

Notice my rain jacket and air compressor sitting on a table.

9:30 AM

Thank Andy for using his good karma to signal a gift from the motorcycle gods; return his jacket.

10:46 AM

Finally head west into the monsoon.

Rainy Ride Home MotoADVR

11:01 AM

Take it easy to Amish country, it’s harder to dodge horse manure in the rain.

CTR Ride Home MotoADVR

12:15 PM

Highway disappears a few times between the rain and fog along I-99 through the mountains.

12:44 PM

Stop at a gas station for some coffee and hope the rain clears out a little.

2:48 PM

Finally get a little sunshine on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.

Greater Pittsburgh train bridge MotoADVR

4:14 PM

Sick of the interstate, and now getting rained on again near the Ohio border.

5:19 PM

Exhausted. I Pull into a Sheetz near Cambridge, Ohio, for gas and rest. I kick down the side-stand, and slowly climb off the scrambler. I notice oil spattered all over the back half of the frame and saturating the transmission case. “…over 320 days in the saddle. I hope this isn’t the deal-breaker…”

Triumph Scrambler Oil Leak MotoADVR

8:21 PM

Finally roll into the driveway after 9 hours and 434 miles. Rosie is still bleeding on the frame, but the oil level is still within spec. “Looks like I have something to do next weekend…”

Reflections on Conserve The Ride

Conserve the Ride is an amazing event, a “must do” for aspiring adventure riders here on the east coast.

Gear Patrol Enterage MotoADVR

Having just held Red River Scramble in Kentucky the weekend prior, the similar passion among attendees at the two rallies was impressive. Per comments I’ve made elsewhere, the adventure community is full of the nicest motorcyclists you would ever meet; each with their own unique thirst for off-road adventure, and all willing to give you the shirt off their back to get you back on the road when calamity strikes. In my case that was literally about to take place when I lost my gear. In a strange coincidence, it was Brian, the guy I helped with a flat right before lunch, that actually found my gear and returned it to me.

Conserve the Ride is set up in a way that it welcomes first time off-road adventurers to Appalachia with a well-manicured, scenic, gravel route through Bald Eagle State Park, while still offering more challenging optional off-road sections to more advanced riders.

CTR Main Loop Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

Each of the options dumps riders back onto the main loop, that way if riders realize they need a break or have had their fill of “adventure” for one day, they can take the difficulty down a few notches and make is back to camp safely. Per Jeremy’s comments at the rider meeting, it’s not necessarily that the challenges have surpassed the skill level, it’s mostly that riders get exhausted and start making poor decisions in latter portions of the ride. With the “main loop” system, riders can take a break when they need to, or they can just stick to the main loop and enjoy the Pennsylvania mountain vistas and some really nice winding gravel roads.

I also want to thank Alt Rider and especially the Seven Mountain Conservation Corps (SMCC) for making this event possible.

Option 3 ATV Gate MotoADVR

The SMCC is a 501C3 Non-profit that works with the local Department of Natural Resources to keep these trails open for the enjoyment of motorcyclists. Access to trails is a problem that I’m all too familiar with, as I’m sure many motorcyclists here on the east coast are as well. On Saturday night, Alt Rider auctions off some really hot gear to support the SMCC’s mission. Considering the cause, the new relationships that have been forged, and the incredible riding, there’s no doubt the Conserve The Ride will be on my event calendar again next year.

Oh, and for those not keeping up on Instagram, Rosie unfortunately still has a leak, despite my efforts to get it fixed. More parts are on order, but we’re limping along, still riding every day.

 

Steve Kamrad’s recount of Conserve The Ride

Lemmy’s Conserve The Race

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Conserve The Ride 2018: The Road to Pennsylvania

Exhausted. I kicked down the side-stand, and slowly climbed off the scrambler. I looked down to examine the oil spattered all over the back half of the frame and saturating the transmission case. Standing in the parking lot of the filling station, I thought to myself, “…over 320 days in the saddle. I hope this isn’t the deal-breaker…”

Triumph Scrambler Oil Leak MotoADVR.jpg

60 hours earlier… Friday, June 8th

03:45 AM

Alarm goes off, I grab my gear strewn about the couch, turn on my SPOT tracker; mount up on the Scrambler.

05:10 AM

Blasting east down US-35 under the cover of darkness… bored to death.

05:45 AM

Grab gas in Chillicothe, along with a sandwich and some cold coffee.

Chillicothe Gas station Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

05:47 AM

Drop cold coffee in parking lot… glass shatters next to Scrambler…

06:06 AM

Head east on US-50 toward WV; Rosie uses her super power…

US-50-OH-Rain-MotoADVR.jpg

06:57 AM

Ride through rain off and on; finally arrive in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

WV-Border-Crossing-MotoADVR

09:33 AM

Find the glorious West Virginia mountain twisties on US-50. Man I love it here…

US-50-WV-Triumph-Scrambler-MotoADVR.jpg

 

10:49 AM

Stop off US-219 near the Maryland border. Hike up to Hoye Crest (Backbone Mountain), the highest point in Maryland; first time I’ve ever walked into a new state.

 

10:58 AM

Hiked about a half mile up the trail, starting to sweat. Regret wearing my jacket up the hill. Pass a hiker, ask if I’m about halfway there.

11:48 AM

Cross into Maryland on the Scrambler; another new state I’ve ridden to this year; check that off the bucket list.

 

11:58 AM

Finally drop off the US routes for some of the Maryland backroads.

12:16 PM

Wow, Maryland has beautiful rolling hills and gorgeous sweepers.

Maryland-Backrounds-MotoADVR.jpg

12:25 PM

“Holy shit a county lawn tractor…” as the rear tire is skidding…

12:58 PM

Finally reach Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Border Triumph Scrambler MotoADVR

1:18 PM

Stop at Mount Davis, the highest point in the keystone state. Find it interesting that Maryland’s highest point is actually taller than the tallest peak in Pennsylvania.

Mt Davis PA Highpoint MotoADVR

1:25 PM

Notice someone familiar starting up the stairs as I’m climbing down the fire tower. Apparently that hiker from Maryland had the same idea I did. (Strange coincidence… it won’t be the last this weekend)

2:07 PM

US-219 aint so bad, these Pennsylvania mountains remind me of Tennessee.

3:15 PM

I-99 is also surprisingly scenic, not quite I-40, but again, reminiscent of US-25E jammed into I-77.

4:30 PM

Pennsylvania Amish country is gorgeous, I could get used to this.

Pennsylvania Countryside MotoADVR

4:51 PM

Finally arrive at Woodward Campground after 12 hours and 538 miles on the road.

Triumph Scrambler CTR Camp MotoADVR

To be continued…

 

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Red River Scramble 2018: The Recap

Miguels Pizza Cherry Ale 8 MotoADVR

It’s been difficult to put “words on paper” to describe this year’s Red River Scramble; the support from the motorcycle touring and adventure community was overwhelming. Red River Scramble Saturday Party wide JSPI set out to offer a venue for motorcyclists to discover the best of eastern Kentucky, and by the sounds of it, attendees did much more exploring than I anticipated. While I spent most of my time pointing folks toward destinations that fit the kind of riding they desired, Saturday afternoon I did enjoy a few hours of gravel and slippery Kentucky clay along the southern portions of the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB). However, this event wasn’t about where I rode, it was about introducing new people to the majestic views and local byways. Looking at the REVER tracks and clicking through photos on Facebook and Instagram, this year’s attendees covered an incredible amount of real-estate in the few hours they were on site.

 

The Stats

Over 90 event registrations
Including riders from 6 six states
Riding motorcycles from 11 different brands
Composed of over 35 unique models
Shockingly, the Triumph Scrambler was highly represented (5)…
Closely followed by the Africa Twin (4), while both were eclipsed by (8) KLRs in attendance

 

Landmarks Visited

  • Nada TunnelFitchburg Furnace Rob Edwards
  • Sky Bridge
  • Natural Bridge
  • Grey’s Arch
  • Courthouse Rock
  • Chimney Top Rock
  • Halfmoon Rock
  • Black Mountain
  • Cottage furnace
  • Buckhorn Log Cathedral Greg BodenburgFitchburg Furnace
  • Camp Wildcat
  • Woodford Reserve
  • Buckhorn Log Cathedral
  • Hall’s on the River
  • Miguel’s Pizza
  • Red River Rock house
  • Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway
  • …and more I’m sure that I’ve missed

 

The Bluegrass Scavenger Hunt

Speaking of exploring, I was really impressed by participants in this year’s scavenger hunt. I deliberately chose points of interest that would suit a variety of riding tastes; MZ660 Baghira Fincastle Road MotoADVRto my surprise, the top finishers chose to visit a very diverse selection of those destinations. I figured I would see some high-mileage road riders competing against a history buff and maybe an off-road rider. Instead, each of the top finishers spent time riding off-road, hiking, and picked up a few extra points on pavement along the way. In the end, the grand prize winner carried the day with 87 points. Looking over his route, he finished the entirety of the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway in five and a half hours. After which, he parked his bike at the end of Tunnel Ridge Road and hiked five miles round-trip out to Courthouse Rock on the north end of Red River Gorge and still managed to hustle back to camp before 7 PM. The runners-up had similar stories, touring and hiking in Red River Gorge before lunch (Gray’s Arch), and then riding select portions of the DBBB in the afternoon. I do hope that this adventurous spirit catches fire with this year’s attendees so that next year even more folks sign on to try their hand at the scavenger hunt.

 

Another Thanks to our Sponsors

Per my comments at the Saturday night gathering, we owe a big thanks to this year’s sponsors. If you attended the event, please look up these folks and tell them you appreciate their support; if you won a prize, take photos of that prize and tag them on social media and tell everyone how awesome it is. I’m ecstatic to have the list of sponsors that we did the year, and hope to welcome them back in 2019.

RRS Event Banner SMALL

Planning for 2019

Despite turning right around from Red River Scramble and heading out to Pennsylvania for Conserve the Ride the following weekend (more on that soon), Fincastle Road Triumph Scrambler Red River Scramble Tom WittI’ve already started planning for next year’s event. I am looking over the calendar for similar motorcycle events taking place in the spring, but as of this moment, I have my eye on the weekend before Memorial Day weekend next year. Winter is so unpredictable in this part of the country, it was unseasonably cold just a few short weeks prior to this year’s “Scramble”, but thanks to Tropical Storm Alberto, I would say it was almost unseasonably warm this year. I personally like “good sleeping weather”, so I’m looking for comfortable camping conditions for those inclined; that and lodging is typically a shade cheaper on the front end of Memorial Day.

I’m also tossing around a few changes for next year. First off, I want to expand the rally to an additional day, making it a Thursday thru Sunday affair. Red River Scramble Saturday Party JSPI would also like to have some sort of “dinner” to coincide with the Saturday night gathering and door prize giveaway; like burgers and hotdogs or something to that effect. I unquestionably want to get group photo next year, that way folks can show off their bikes and anyone that skipped out can see what they missed. I’ve debated about having some type of “awards” to give away. Something like “muddiest bike”, “furthest distance traveled”, or the people’s choice award for “best scrambler”; and by “best scrambler”, that doesn’t necessary mean motorcycle model, but perhaps something like best run up Fincastle Road or “most bizarre adventure machine”.

Based on some of the feedback I’ve received, I also plan on upgrading the navigation options for next year. Door Prize Giveaway JSPWhile there were countless options available, I think some folks were still struggling to choose something they felt appropriate for their riding level. Next year I plan on re-baking the GPX files with a clearer “difficulty” label and setting up a “main loop” dual sport route with optional hard sections. I would really like to get a hold of some paper maps; however, it’s surprisingly challenging this day and age to do so affordably. I too appreciate the utility of old-fashioned paper, but more importantly I want the ability to literally point at a map and highlight places that riders will want to ride or potentially avoid.

 

Red River Scramble Survey

I’m of the mindset that you should continuously improve, so I’m asking for your help to make next year’s rally even better. If you made it to Kentucky this year, please click the link below for the 10-question survey and let me know how things went. If you didn’t make it this year, but plan to attend next year, I still want your input. Again, please click the survey link below; I’ve included N/A as an option for questions specifically related to this year.

Red River Scramble Survey

 

Again, I want to thank everyone to made the journey to eastern Kentucky; I hope you enjoyed your stay, and also hope you return often. I also want to thank folks for sharing so many photos of this year’s event. For those that couldn’t make it this year, we look forward to seeing you next spring!

 

Chimney Top Rock end of day MotoADVR

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VUZ Dry Tank Backpack: Long-term Gear Review

Way back in my college days,DCIM100GOPROG0131538. I used to commute almost an hour to campus after work. At the time, I was still lugging around my laptop in and old backpack I bought when I headed overseas the first time back in ’03. After upgrading to the Speedmaster in ’13, I gave up the backpack thing for quite a while, but when offered the opportunity to try out the new waterproof backpack from VUZ Moto, I took them up on their offer.

The Details

The VUZ Moto Dry Tank Backpack is made from waterproof TPU tarpaulin and has 5.8 gallons for storage capacity. VUZ Backpack Out of Box MotoADVRThe backpack includes two outer pockets in addition to the main compartment; on top near the carrying handle there’s an easy access pocket for your wallet, keys, and spare change, along with a larger cavity on the back face where you can store paperwork or traditional road maps. The rear pocket also includes a clear plastic “window” where you can place your smart phone if you wish to use it for navigation. Say what? Yeah, if it wasn’t evident already, the backpack doubles as a tank bag; the shoulder straps unbuckle so you can tuck them behind the back pad and then fold out a set of magnetic “wings” to attach the backpack to your tank (assuming it’s metal). The main storage compartment also includes a padded sleeve for up to 15” laptops.

Beyond storage, VUZ Moto has put in the effort to mind the details; water-resistant zippers are paired with the tarpaulin material to protect your precious cargo from the elements. Along with the shoulder straps, there’s a chest buckle that’s not only adjustable, but includes an elastic portion to keep the strap “snug” so it doesn’t flap in the wind at high speeds when it’s not cinched down all the way. If 22 liters of storage isn’t enough, VUZ also includes a six-point cargo net that fastens to D-rings on the back side of the bag so you can pile on even more stuff. To help increase visibility on those late night commutes across town, reflective panels are positioned on the shoulder straps. Lastly, VUZ also includes a conveniently located (post-ride) bottle opener on left shoulder strap.

Function

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Like I said, I gave up the whole backpack commuter thing when I got a luggage rack on the cruiser (I’m a big fan of tail bags). However in this case, timing worked out pretty well as I found myself commuting across town several days a week during the workday over this past winter. Per my recent comments, we had record rainfall this spring, with the VUZ backpack, I didn’t have to worry about my work laptop getting wet when riding back and forth between the vendor and my office. Speaking of which, I probably stretched that “15” laptop capacity to the absolute limit; VUZ Backpack Laptop in Sleeve MotoADVR MotoADVRfortunately, the laptop sleeve can actually be partially removed from the bag so you can easily push your computer all the way down in the sleeve and then fold the sleeve back into the bag. Using the bag for work meant filling it with the before mentioned engineering laptop, the corresponding (gigantic) power supply, mouse, headset, a thick engineering notebook, my lunchbox, and naturally all the sniffle gear I could shove in the bag to stay warm on the ride home from farm country. Humping around a big laptop in the bag does put a lot of stress on the shoulder straps; the chest strap fortunately helps distribute that load a bit, and despite being “stuffed” to capacity, neither the shoulder straps or the carrying handle show sign of wear after weeks of being overloaded.

“Dry bags” are kind of a thing these days, and there’s no question I’m a fan. That said, most of the modern dry bags are the black (or rally yellow) “trash bag like” roll tops that are completely about function. DCIM100GOPROG0131461.VUZ on the other hand has offered a more aesthetically pleasing image as the “canvas denim” look breaks up the utilitarian aspect of the tarpaulin, you don’t realize what material it’s made out of until you put your hands on it. This is the first all-weather backpack I’ve had the luxury of using on the motorcycle; back in the before mentioned college days, I used to wrap my laptop in a big trash bag in case I got rained on; with the VUZ bag, I just push the computer in the bag and go. I have pretty extensive experience with water-resistance zippers from my riding gear, and like those, these zipper on the VUZ bag is indeed 99% waterproof. VUZ Tank Backpack Top Harley Sportster MotoADVRWhen riding in the rain I never experienced a problem with the contents getting wet. That said, from day one I did due diligence to test the limits; just like a any new “waterproof” gear I get my hands on, I filled up the backpack with anything I could find and tossed it in the shower. With heavy, direct, water pressure, a few “frog-stranglers” did slip past the zipper; I assume you would have to be standing still in a serious downpour to experience similar conditions. In the next iteration of bags, VUZ may want to add a flap or “rain gutter” to the zipper (or perhaps a roll-top) to remove any lingering fear that your stuff might get wet.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t use this bag as a tank bag very often. Because of the “knee pads” on the Scrambler tank,VUZ Tank Backpack Harley Sportster MotoADVR it was difficult to position the bag in a way where the magnets could contact the tank in a fashion where I could still maneuver the bars and have sight of all my various “dashboard” gadgetry. Not long before writing this, I tossed the backpack on the Dirtster’s tank and took a ride. Without all the bar mounted GPS and cell phone junk, the bag sat on the Harley peanut tank a bit better. However, I did notice that the bag still didn’t grip the tank as confidently as I would like. DCIM101GOPROG0192114.I suspect that the soft “back pad” puts full responsibility on the magnets to hold it still, and there’s no doubt the wider bag and skinny tank didn’t help the situation. The problem with tank bags is usually the fear of scratching the tank; VUZ has specifically addressed this issue with this bag by providing that softer back-pad I mentioned (an upgrade from their previous model). I expect that this will be less of a problem on some bikes versus others, but I would probably advise VUZ to bump up the magnet strength a bit with any future upgrades.

 

Final Impressions

While I sometimes find riding with a backpack tiring, there’s no denying I appreciate the VUZ bag for its utility. DCIM100GOPROG0071187.On the morning commute it’s convenient to just toss in my lunchbox, throw on the backpack and not fuss with a saddle bag, then walk straight into the office when I get there. Backpacks, even motorcycle backpacks are a dime a dozen, however I feel safe saying that water-resistance backpacks are more rare and worth the expense. Priced at $90, I think VUZ is chiefly up against comparable Oxford and Nelson Rigg backpacks; both competitors also offer additional features (including buckled roll tops), however the cheaper Oxford is basically a dry bag with shoulder straps, while both lack the laptop sleeve and tank bag conversion of the VUZ, and are unquestionably aimed at the more utilitarian ADV crowd. The VUZ dry backpack bridges the gap between casual rider, commuter, and adventure enthusiast, offering utility in conjunction with creature comforts at a fair price (that also keeps your homework dry).

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Posted in Gear and Safety | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

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.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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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Posted in Events | Tagged | 4 Comments

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