Lord have mercy, Day 2 in Moab would prove to be a body buster. If you’ve been to Moab, you’ll know that you don’t have to ride very long distances to put some hurt on your body. Day 2 found us riding a relatively short distance, but on some of the gnarlier stuff that Moab had to offer. The day was going to be John T, Brian, and myself. In a group of 2 or 3, you can really knock out some rides. Brian was only in town for a short time, so he was looking to get some riding in. I can’t blame him. When you drive 1300+ miles to a location to ride, you want to ride…..and ride….and ride.
First one must gear up for the ride:
So that is what we would do. What to do first though? First up was decided that we would ride a section none of us had ridden before. Close by, and some of the reviews said “if wet…..don’t attempt”. Silly jeepers can’t handle rocks apparently. We decided as well that we would ride Steelbender North to South, so that we’d be closer to more riding after the section was done. From what I recall of the beginning, the trail was a good mix of sand, and rocks. Some moderate obstacles were in along the way, but nothing that was unmanageable. This section of the ride, it was early, I was mildly tired, and thus resulted in me taking minimal pictures.
Somewhere along the way of Steelbender, Brian offered up his 500 to me. I was intrigued to try his bike for a couple reasons. One was that I wanted to see what I was missing with having the 350 instead of the 500. Two, Brian had some fancy re-valved forks on the bike. I want to say Pro-Action 3 way valving, but I may be wrong here. Three, Brian runs a steering damping (Scotts) and I run nothing on my 350. Anyways….I was glad I got to see the difference.
Power wise, there is a pretty easy comparison. The 500 has the power of the 350, but from 0 revs on up. I know it has more, but it was smooth, linear, and while it could rip your arms out, you didn’t have the feeling like it was constantly going to run away from you. The 350, you gotta be up in the Revs to be pulling all its power. On top of that, with the 13/48 gearing I was running, you could feel the slight lack in pep vs riding back at sea level at home. Suspension wise, while I felt that the re-valved forks were good, I didn’t think it’d be worth spending the money to get my forks reworked. If I were racing AA on a weekly basis, yeah the OEM fork valving needs help, but for the 99%…the stock valving is pretty darned good (spring rates aside). The steering damper is another thing, well I had no idea I was testing a bike with one. So in that regard, I didn’t notice any ill effects. Brian stated that he loves his, though only had it due to it being on the bike when he got it. Again, I suppose it could help, but the prices on those……
Bike testing aside, once back on the 350, I felt back at home, though down on power. I missed that, and realized that if I had to have 1 machine, that the 500 would for sure be it. We meandered along the trail, enjoying some nice overcast sky.
Brian and John discussing the trail thus far:The bulk of the trail looked like this:
That last pic is a bit of a lie. Yeah, just about everything in Moab is 2-track, since its all Jeep created (motorcycle specific areas excluded). What you just don’t get is how you go from a flowing sandy 2 track section, to knee high rock boulders in the middle of the trail, requiring instant clutch work with a healthy dose of body english to not go bashing your rims like a bowling ball into rock ledges.
Some of those rocky things behind me:
You can see John T coming down a bit of these rocks here:
As we worked our way to the end of Steelbender, it was apparent why going the opposite direction of us would have been a PITA. There’s one bad hill climb, that if wet, would be nearly impassible. At the end of the trail is a nice creek crossing, which had some depth to it due to recent rains. We had a small crowd (2 ladies walking their dogs), so we all did our best to not drown any bikes. Success was had, with us working our way West out of the area to intersect with 191 and decide our next course of action.
Enter…..Behind the Rocks:
We saw we were close to Behind The Rocks, and I secretly saw that it connected with the back entrance to Pritchett Canyon, so I was all for doing this. The pic above shows what is the first obstacle to get into Behind the Rocks. After Brian and myself worked our way up Guardian Hill….we pulled out the lawnchairs and watch John. This climb is one of those commit, and line selection. The added difficulty being that at the top, it’s all sand, which gets really kills your grip along the way. If you have a hard time with balancing….this one could prove difficult.
I snagged a quick video of “helping” John :lol3
Brian has some good video leading up to Guardian Hill, as well as all of our climbs up it. Sweet word these videos don’t do this place justice:
Looking back at that video….I see I was of 0 help with getting John and his bike up the hill. Woops :lol3. Behind the rocks though, would prove to be a great combination of sandy stuff where you can just rail the bike, combined with technical rocks, and some wicked climbs and descents. We found ourselves on a quick little off-shoot, which was a nice place to stop for a quick snack break. Good time for some of the peanutbutter balls my wife makes for me:
Then how can you NOT like stuff like this?
Along the way, you end up at an absolutely gnarly downhill. There is a go-around, but Brian and I felt we were up for the challenge. I missed taking some pics at the top, so I’ll do my best to describe it. This downhill had several lines to get down it. The main issue though with most of the lines is that at the end of each, there was a 4-5′ drop you had to do. I’m not one to shy away from such dangers, but figured I’d choose to most conservative approach of the available lines. Brian chose to be Mr. HotRod & do one where he jumps off at the end. My video….which he makes it look like you’re rolling off a curb at Starbucks:
Brian’s full video, you can get a bit better grasp of what you’re dealing with:
From here, you work your way down, around, and through the woods….to White Knuckle Hill we go. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but soon understood why it was called that. I began riding down, to realize that the route I’d chosen…..well, wasn’t the best. Luckily I was able to stop, reposition, and square of the direction I wanted to go. I did capture a nice pic while I scouted my lines:
As soon as I got down, I saw John & Brian scouting a much different route….one that appeared to have less ledges\etc.
At this point, we weren’t far from the end of Behind The Rocks, and were seeing the sign for Pritchett Canyon. It was decided we’d better eat a snack before heading on, as we’d been told that Pritchett Canyon is one of the hardest trails in the Moab area.
I suppose it’s possible that they could be right (trail goes down off that ledge…)
24 short hours later (needed a couple hours nap along the way) and we had made it. Sweet fancy Moab! It also seemed as though there was a car show going on. Lots of people, lots of cars, and lots of vehicles on the road that in Illinois would result in a whole lot of “Don’t Taze me BRO!” I managed to not get any pictures of said cars, though there is this:
John & I were staying at the KOA on the South side of town. Previously we had stayed at a campground on the North end of town, but this year we opted to go KOA since we didn’t have a trailer to sleep in, and John didn’t seem to hot on sleeping on the side of the road in tents (dunno why?)
2 Were comfy in these, 3 would have been a bit of a crowd, but doable.
With that, we drove into town, got groceries and let everything settle down. We had no fridge in the little cabin, so we made do with keeping a foam cooler full of ice. PB&J, Ham n Cheese, and some Ramen was all that was needed to fuel us. OK, probably more would have been better. Don’t worry, we ate out a few times. Some better than others.
Food didn’t really matter at this point, our goal was to figure out the next days riding. John & I were planning to meetup with a guy Brian who we’d ridden with in Moab last year. We were thinking of riding a trail called Fins n Things, since it was close by and figured it’d give us a chance to make sure the bikes were in good working order before venturing further off.
Saturday morning the plans veered slightly with John and myself meeting with Brian, Doc, Lacy, and Kenbob who were thinking they’d go off to ride Lockhart Basin. We’d ridden that twice last year, but it is a good rather mellow trail. It’s an out n back kind of thing which has you doing around 120 miles by the days end. Maybe more if you stop at the gas\restaurant out in Needles park.
Lockhart Basin starts with you going through town, and follow a nice twisty paved section of road to get to the start of gravel\off-road. Not even 5 miles into the ride, Kenbob is stopped on the side of the road with his Husky (italian) with the bike not starting. We were stopped right along the Colorado river, in the shade, with beautiful canyon walls all around us. Great for sight seeing…not so great for what turned out to be Kenbobs in tank fuel line burst.
Lacy decided he’d stay with Kenbob, pickup their truck and rescue him. Doc on his KTM 300, Brian on his 500, John and I on our 350’s decided we’d continue with the days ride. The ride as said above, a great way to get in the groove of Moab things. You go from road, to gravel, to 2 track, to rocks, and then mix that all up along the way with a dash of sand here and there. There’s also a few good views tossed in along the way as well.
Brian checks for cell reception (oddly available most of the time)
Yah, you gotta stop and take a few pics along the way. While riding, you have to balance between focusing on riding, and enjoying the incredible views.
John & Brian wolf down some snacks (its easy to under-eat on these rides)
I do my best to get some proper selfies in:
From here, we worked our way along the trail. About 10 miles from the Needles Outpost, there was a creek crossing, which was followed by about 10 miles of open gravel road. We took a poll and decided we were all cool with turning back there, and making out way towards home. I asked Doc how he was on fuel. He was rocking a KTM 2T, and while he had a larger than OEM tank, I know those 2T’s like fuel. He informed us he was running a Lectron carb now, and while he hadn’t actually tested range, he claimed better than stock MPG. You can guess where this is going, but we told him your call, and began making our way back.
As noted, the views here are “above average” to say the least, and leave you scratching your head at how in the hell does this happen.
Yah, I had to get a nice panoramic of the 350 on a more open section towards the end.
You could really get to enjoy some of these fast and open flowy sections. The 350 has somewhat short legs, but it’s nice to stretch out into 6th gear for a few, and feel a good breeze against you. Even with the temps being relatively cooler, it’s easy to warm up quickly, especially with all the gear you pile on.
All good things must come to an end, and 90 miles into the ride Doc was clear out of fuel. We had at least 20-30 miles to get back to town. I noted the excess fuel in my tank. Brian happened to have a couple empty water bottles in his pack as well as a small section of fuel hose. I offer up my fuel, and somehow find myself siphoning fuel for Doc. A mouth full of fuel later, and I managed to get around 1L of fuel for Doc. Again, he claimed this was enough, I was happy to be done ingesting gasoline, and buttoned everything back up to continue on back.
I know when you’re low on fuel, you can sometimes ride amazingly conservatively, resulting in phenomenal fuel mileage. That didn’t happen. Sure enough, 3 miles or so from town Doc runs out again. I decide this is BS and since I spent the last 20 minutes spitting out the taste of gasoline from my mouth, tell him we’ll use my tow strap for the remaining bit. I drop him off at the closest and fill up my tank.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but everyone afterwords asked me……”why did you siphon his gas?” As I said, I hadn’t thought about it, just mentally thought I didn’t want to leave someone on the trail. Looking back on how the whole situation went down, I developed a new rule. If you’re on a ride and take literally 0 precautions for fuel you may or may not need, sorry, but you’re SOL. I’d like to think I’m a helping person by nature, but yeah….sometimes we must learn lessons the hard way. Not sure if Doc learned any lessons, but I did. :lol3
We got back to camp, and I opened up a refreshing beverage and began taking some notes from the day. I knew if I didn’t take notes then…it’d never happen and I’d forget everything that went down.
John & I would meet a group of guys in town, at a crappy Mexican restaurant. It was so forgettable that I didn’t take any pictures and have blocked the guacamole out of my memory. I slept well that night. Good dry air and a tired body will do that for you.
Todays ride was a good warmup….tomorrow’s would be a body beater.
I’m having image issues, so please see images here:
As with last year, a trip to Moab, Utah was planned for early\mid Spring. This year however is absolutely terrible timing. Two days after I’m set to come back from the trip, I’ve got a trade show with my shop. I find out that we’ve also hired a sales & marketing intern, so this adds in the prep work needed for the trip. Oh yah……I’m also a couple months in on building a new house. I’m not swinging the hammers, but I still have the feeling of “I should just stay home”. Yet, I’m living in a basement, with my moto crap on borrowed space as well in my parents basement, so stick with the plan and get in some bucket list rides I missed last year.
The plan was to leave Thursday April 28th and get home Saturday May 7th. Factor in 24 hours of driving, which gives us roughly 7 days of riding, or something like that. Still fuzzy and all that. Last year there were 3 of us driving out together, meeting up with some guys from a local Meetup group. This year was just myself and John T, who I’m sure I pissed off plenty before the trip with my himhawing about saving pennies for the house, my current work load, and my consideration of selling my KTM 350, to which he kindly referred to as”the most fking incredible bike ever”. Other than that, our riding plans were “get there and ride”. I had some ulterior motives and longed to do 5 Miles of Hell, and the Kokopelli Trail with visiting Top of The World along the way. Aside from that, the plan was to ride a lot and get home with bodies & bikes in the same condition as when they left.
The cast of characters for this year:
Amazingly enough, we stuck rather well to the initial plan. John arrived at my parents place where I said goodbye to my wife and dog. We began loading up the back of my truck with Johns 350 (his bike is precious and needs a Rekluse and can’t get dirt on it :D), followed by piling in all our crap, ending with my 350 sitting neatly on the hitch hauler. All this was packed into my extended cab Chevy Colorado, which at this point had less than 5,000 miles on it. Why I suggested taking it is beyond me, but hey….it’s more fun than an F150 :lol3
All loaded up, we got out the door @ 5:32pm CST. Next stop….Moab!
To say I’m “between things” is an understatement. I’m in the process of building a house, which means I’m living in a basement. All my moto stuff is in another location….a basement at that. I’m also between things on what I’m doing with riding bikes. I’ve got my KTM 350, which was originally scooped up for racing & aggressive dual sport riding. For the past couple years it’s fulfilled that purpose, yet as of late, I’ve been doing more random day rides. While the 350 does these, and surprisingly well, you are left with a feeling of “this poor bike should be pulling wheelies in the dirt”. Enter the snagged bike….
A fine specimen at that. A 2013 R1200GS water cooled thingamabobber. The bike belongs to my mother, who has followed my fathers lead in taking to these fine Bavarian machines. Thankfully she is gracious enough to share the bike with me, which means I can blast out some miles, clear my head, and also put some perspective on what I’d like for my “next bike”…..cause it seems there is always a “next bike”.
So this past Sunday, weather was looking nice, I had some free time, and well…..I wanted to grab 3 or 4 more Rustic Roads up in Wisconsin. Or in this case…..Over in Wisconsin. The 4 RR’s I intended of riding were near the Illinois\Iowa\Wisconsin Border around 140 miles from home. The plan was simple. Take highway to get to the good stuff quickly. Ride good stuff till I tired, and then meander my way home. The arrow shows home & the 4 stars were the RR’s I wanted to hit.
By 7:30am, it was sidestand up and I was on my way. Normally, I need a quick pitstop around the 1 hour mark when I first start a ride. This time was different, with not needing to stop until a little over 2 hours in. I needed fuel, as well as a quick break. I filled up in South Wayne, WI (I’d stopped here before a few years ago on my nighthawk when I took a night trip to Dubuque, IA & back). This stop I believe is right off the Cheese Trail or something like that. By this point, I could tell the temps were rising. A refreshing feeling.
I was quickly back on the bike, as I had only about 30-40 miles until I hit the first Rustic Road #66. All the roads within 10-15 miles of here just became increasingly exciting. RR #66 itself proved to be quite exciting. All these areas bordering farm land and hills and valleys.
RR #66 actually meanders through a couple different offshoot roads. It’s not a continuous section. I took a section that which seemed most appealing, and rode it. In hindsight, I shoulda backtracked and rode it all, but figured…..ehhhh there will be more good stuff ahead. I will go back to Highway I out there. That was good stuff. Up next was RR #99.
About 15 minutes from the start of RR #99, the area began to ring a bell to me. It was in Dickeyville, WI that I realized I’d been here before when I did the TWAT ride with my buddy Jameson. I also realized at this point that something was acting up with my sinuses. I wouldn’t have minded riding out to #99 again, as it’s not far from the Mississippi River and was a fun area. However it was warming up, sinuses as I mentioned, and I wanted to meander my way North towards RR #70.
I found myself being directed down more open roads via the BMW GPS. I had my personal Garmin on me, but couldn’t mount it on the bike, so was having to follow the thing. Then I’d find myself accelerating quickly, resulting in missing some offshoot roads that just looked incredibly appealing. When I arrived at the next RR, I told myself to slow it down, smell the roses (or in this case cow crap), and enjoy the scenery. That which I did.
RR #70 proved to be quite enjoyable, turning to gravel, and allowed myself a spot to rest away from traffic (or so I thought), adjust my riding gear, and eat a quick snack.
I had just utilized the outdoor restrooms, and was mid selfie when a truck & trailer come flying over a nearby hill. I figured, ok, farms….one car most likely. Sure enough 5 minutes later, another car comes flying past. Good thing I took found the local restroom when I did. haha. RR #70 as noted before was gravel. I continued to remind myself that this bike is not mine, and to keep my cool.
I pushed myself to take random roads on my way to each Rustic Road, so that is what I did. I left RR #70 around 11:15. I managed to spend the next 45 minutes, making the 10 mile ride over to RR #75. Along the way, I took some more loose gravel roads. Oddly for me, I felt so out of my element. I even put the mighty R1200GS into “enduro” mode. While enduro mode loosens up the suspension, eases the traction control\asc\abs, it still doesn’t change the fact that you’re riding a 600# road bike, with road tires, on gravel. I really have a difficult time wrapping my head around it. Turns where I’d come in at 50, drop a gear or two, kick the bike sideways….I’m coming in at 10-15mph thinking “MOG THIS SHE’s GOING DOWN!!!”
Ok, so there’s some mild hyperbole here, but it does highlight for me some of that which I do, and don’t want in a bike. More on that later, as for now, I managed to spend some good time meandering to RR #75…..which itself was rather uneventful.
It was noon at this point, and I needed food. I could sense a headache we be coming on soon, and on top of that I could definitely tell my sinuses were well on their way to screw me up. I didn’t really know where I was gonna head, but found myself enjoying the roads that twisted their way East, which ended up dumping me over in Mineral Point, WI. I bopped into the old school downtown area, and saw a little placed called Gray Dog Deli. This looked like a refreshing place to stop, took a seat and ordered some feed.
Lunch (and possibly dessert), combined with some ice tea and out of the sun rejuvenated me to get ready for the ride home. This was somewhat uneventful, as I finished lunch at 1:30, I’d been riding since 7:30 and for 230 miles….and I had around 130 or so to get home. I moseyed my way Southwest towards Monroe, WI at which point I hopped on 81 into Beloit, following 43 to 12 on home.
Not the most glorious, but enjoyable nonetheless. The big GS really highlighted to me how well it is at eating up distance miles. Ironically, I set the cruise control right around 70 while on 43\12. The bike hummed along smoothly. I thought about how well the GS was on the street, yet on the fun stuff, I found myself riding much as I did on my Ducati Multistrada. It’s just far too comfortable at going Above The Law speeds (not that I’d know…..). It also had me not flowing enough through turns, and found me blasting past good looking offshoot roads. Possibly a factor of speed, dash gadgets, and who knows what else.
All that pondered, I can’t and won’t argue with a free bike ride. I was able to snag 3 more Rustic Roads, and enjoyed every bit of it. Next time….I’ll try to think less haha.