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Great Ride.

This last weekend the IMS crew had the great opportunity to participate in the Cal Poly Penguins Hi Mountain 125 in the hills of San Luis Obispo CA.  At the ride was the owner Scott Wright on a new Husky 501, Chris Hardin, manager, on a Husky 310 and I, Ethan Sullivan, blog writer and elementary school teacher, on the IMS Triumph Tiger 800XC.

The bikes at the IMS booth.

The bikes at the IMS booth.

I have owned the IMS Triumph Tiger for the last 9 months and the bike has always ran flawlessly.  As I was quickly approaching the 6,000 mile warranty service mark, I figured now is as good a time as ever to replace the old worn out TKC80 with a new one, and kill two birds with one stone.  This also gave me the peace of mind that the bike would have fresh oil, and completely checked out for what was going to be one of the tougher rides I have ever done on the bike.

The ride wasn’t until Sunday but for me it started a day earlier, with riding the bike down from Monterey to Pismo to the hotel I was staying in.  I had originally wanted to leave in the late morning, early afternoon, and cruise Highway 1 all the way down, much like I had done during Thanksgiving.  But as life and luck would have it, I was not able to leave until almost 6pm.  Since I didn’t want to get stuck on the 1 at night for to long, I decided to slab it down the 101.  Now, where as the 1 from Monterey to Pismo is a gorgeous, an amazing feat of engineering and breathtaking beauty, the 101 is a great study in efficiency and practicality.  It is almost arrow straight, carving it’s own way through the state of California, not following any route other then the one decided on by man.  This means that getting from Monterey to Pismo took just about two and a half hours, verses the three and a half along the 1.  As it was I arrived in Pismo just a few minutes after total darkness, (after a brief stop at Firestone Walker Brewery, the one main highlight of the 101).  I checked into my hotel, got some food, detached the Tourtech 45L hardball full of my stuff, and went to bed.

I was up early, geared up, and meet Chris and Scott at the Cal Poly University H1 parking lot at the IMS booth, showing off the new Rally Foot pegs (full review to come soon, but lets just say, they look awesome).  After parking the bikes to display the ADV 1 foot pegs we rubbed shoulders, walked around, meet some great people, and saw some really cool bikes.  They did a rider briefing, and raffle, and by 9am, we were off.


The ADV 1 pegs, ADV 2 under those, and new Rally Pegs on the very bottom.

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The beginning of the ride was pretty uneventful, just under 31 miles of on road riding to the first dirt.  I usually ride alone, not because I don’t like riding with people, just none of the people where I live now ride a motorcycle.  As a result I had a great time riding in the group.  There were a few times, in the tight, blind corner roads I was a little unnerved, riding that close to the other bikes, but over all it was great fun blasting along with other riders, together.

The first set of dirt we encountered was what I was expecting the majority of the dirt riding to be, nice dirt roads, a few dips and hills, pot holes and ruts, but over all nothing to super hard to do on a 500 pound ADV bike.  After all these are the types of roads I normally ride on when I off-road the IMS Tiger.  For this ride I had aired down the tires to around 22-24 PSI, which for a big ADV bike is pretty low, a far cry from the 14-16 PSI I used to run on my XR650R, and I left the rear Touratech Shock alone, set up for a 215 plus pound rider, and two fully loaded 45L panniers.  How did this effect the bike, how did she perform off road?  In a word, Flawlessly.  The bike did great, only let down by the lack of skill of the rider.  Yes, with a 50/50 tire (which the TKC80 is considered) the front end would push on hard pack, or gravel.  There are some times where you just can’t deny the laws of physics, a 500 pound bike with limited grip, will push.  But that was not the bike’s fault, but more a consequence of having to run street rubber for the high speed highway miles this bike does.  There were a few times that I crested a small hill, unable to see very far ahead due to the dust of another rider, and came upon a pot hole infested, rutted downhill that, had I known was there I would have slowed down for.  As it was, I trusted the Precision Concepts forks, and Touratech rear shock, and actually found my self gassing it down such hills, surprising even myself.  The bike ran over everything in it’s path, ate it, and burped it out.  I can see now why many people love these bikes.

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After some lovely dirt roads, we hit the asphalt again, only to transition again to some dirt roads.  After having our spark arrestors checked, and dealing with a lost license plate, we were off to the first Ranch.  Now in this area the GPS was of no use, we were going old school, with neon orange arrows marking the often very narrow single track.  This is where things got fun.  It was evident that the creators of this ride were making a true dual sport ride, not a ADV ride.  This was apparent by the A. lack of big ADV bikes that showed up (5 counting me) and B. the types of trails and hills that were set up to ride.

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As we entered the first Ranch things were good, narrow single track yes, but nothing that the IMS Tiger and I couldn’t handle, (remember the bike could do all of this, the rider…well not so much).  This was until the first of 3 major hills.  This was a hill that entered through a left hand turn through a gate, and up a 50-60 foot hill.  This normally would not be a big deal, except this hill was tough to just walk up, was about 6 inches of deep powdery silt, and was littered with fallen dual sports that had tried and failed to climb the hill on the first try, and the only way to get up it was the 12 inch wide trail, the rest was tree and branch lined making other line choices almost impossible.  This was the first of several tip overs.

I charged up the hill, confident that I could do this, just stay to the out side edge, on the virgin not as deep silt dirt, and modulate the clutch to prevent tire spin.  Unfortunately a XR650L had decided to take a nap right on my chosen line, so I cut left and almost immediately the back end tried to swap places with the front, I got sideways in a bad way, and went down.  With some help, I was able to get the bike upright, aimed it down the hill and went for run number two, this time with no sleeping XR in the way.  I charged up the hill, and soon discovered it didn’t matter what was in the way I did not possess the skill necessary for this amazing machine to do what it does best, conquer the dirt.  After dropping the bike again, I was able to get some more help, and with Scott coaching me and pushing, I got the bike to the top of the hill.

The quickly found out that it wasn’t the uphill that was the worst, but the downhill that really made you tighten up.  When you are riding a 300 pound XR650R, you think you got a heavy bike.  When that bike has custom Precision Concepts suspension, and a 680cc big bore kit with matching HRC cam, you think you got power.  Nothing is quite like the 100 horse and 500 pound off road beast that is the IMS Tiger 800XC.  This bike wanted to go faster then I wanted it to go.  With the loose silt everywhere and the ruts that forced you to go where they wanted, and with 500 pounds keeping you where it wanted, it was a different experience.  Yes, it would have been easier on my old 650R, but better, well, that is debatable.  I loved every minute of it, the bike, the ride, the people around me, all of it.

I finally found my personal limit on the Hill from Hell.  After an amazing steak, maracconi, and salad lunch,


we headed out, I got lost, and then was found (there is a metaphor in here Luke 15, Prodigal Son) and came upon the Hill from Hell.  It was a steep downhill to a right hand up hill to a left hand up hill, all in deep deep loose silt, that had been abused by probably over 100 riders by this point.  After looking at it, muttering “you got to be joking” a few times I finally had my turn.  After watching over half the field try and fail to make the hill after the first, second, and sometimes third try I knew I wasn’t going to make it first time either, but hope springs eternal and I went for it.  Trying a different line recommended by the Cal Poly Penguin spotter I charged straight down the hill, saying screw the turns I was just going straight up this hill.  I made it to the right hand turn, the first of the two turns, hit a dip and plowed into it like a bull.  Those laws of physics came into play and the bike stopped, but me being significantly lighter then the bike, didn’t.  I went head over tail smashing my helmet onto something incredibly hard, and landed on the ground, the bike simply fell over, ran for a second and then stopped.  I have never been hit so hard in my life.  I immediately stood up to save what was left of my dignity, and walked the few steps over to the bike to pick it up.  I almost immediately started to black out, my vision started to narrow to a black tunnel and I had to use the bike to steady myself.  But being a male I refused to acknowledge that I was swimming in a sea of almost solid black, and with some help hauled the bike upright.  Scott had already climbed the hill, with an ease of a seasoned Pro level rider, and was walking down the hill to check on me.  The fact that to me it looked like two Scotts were walking down the hill kind of told me that there was no way I was climbing that hill on anything other then my own two feet.  Giving the bike to Scott I got a chance to see what the Tiger could really do in the hands of a real rider.  Basically it looked like any ole Sunday ride in the dirt, the bike simply went up the hill.  The hill was still deep silt, the grass hid the many many pot holes, and the bike still weighed 500 pounds, but Precision Concepts and Touratech knew what they were doing when they did the suspension, and Triumph knew what they were doing when the built that engine, and the bike did what it was supposed to do and made that mountain into a little mole hill.

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Like the hill wasn't even there.  Scott Wright on the IMS Tiger.

Like the hill wasn’t even there. Scott Wright on the IMS Tiger.

After a long miserable hike up the hill, I mounted up and we finished the ride, there were a few more hills, all of which paled in comparison to the Hill from Hell, and I was able to ride up in the first try.  The downhills were still frightening, where I pulled over a few times to watch the much lighter KTM bikes skip down.  But finally it was over, and I have never been so glad and yet so sad to see pavement in my life.  In the end I had a blast.  The bike was perfect, yes it is a big heavy beast, yes I need much more time off road to learn how to ride the thing to it’s full potential.  But in the end I wouldn’t trade this bike, or that ride on that bike for anything.  It isn’t the ride that you win that sticks with you, trophies fade away and glory is eclipsed by another better rider, but it is the ride that you stuck it out and finished that matters.  “Coming in dead last with nobody but an old man and a flash light was the greatest victory I ever had.” said a rider to me once, and after this ride, waking up the next moring with bruises and aches I didn’t even know I had, I think I see what he meant.  It was more about the fact that I did it, on a bike I had never really tested on this hard of an off road course, that is what mattered.

Yeah, on a KTM 450EXC this ride would have been easier, or my old Baja Preped XR650R this ride would not have been nearly this hard, but it didn’t matter, what did matter was I did it.  I did it on a 500 pound, 90% street ridden ADV bike, and I could ride it home the next day, in comfort, and style, 160 miles.  This is what Adventure riding is all about, this is why these bikes are so popular.  It just makes sense, these bikes will get you there and get you home.  In the right hands with the right amount of forethought (in gear, suspension, and trail choice), these bikes can do it all, and do it with more comfort and style then any dual sport.

Not to sound like a paid advertisement, but I really can’t say enough about the suspension on this bike.  Precision Concepts once again did a great job, they took a soft, and heavy brake dive front end, and made it a work of art.  This floated over bumps, dips, pot holes, ruts, and rocks.  It didn’t miss a beat, didn’t wander, shake its head, or lose control ever, only the tires (being 50/50 dirt/road tires and the rider) letting them down.  As for Touratech, wow, just wow.  Yeah this shock is expensive, but anything this good will be.  At slow speeds the shock could have been softer, it was set up to handle me (215 plus pounds all geared up) and full panniers, but once you got the speeds up a little, to where the fun really happens, the rear shock just motored over everything, and asked for more.  It didn’t matter the terrain, the bike just moved over it like it was smooth asphalt, and made a hero out of a Average Joe.  Thanks again to the Cal Poly Penguins and all the sponsor that made this ride possible, and I will see you again next year.


The tie that binds us.

This ad always made me sad.  I get what they are saying, and I really actually like old Buells.  But it just doesn't seem right, we are a brotherhood.

This ad always made me sad. I get what they are saying, and I really actually like old Buells. But it just doesn’t seem right.

One of the great things about riding a motorcycle is the tie that all motorcyclist enjoy.  Yeah, I am one of those guys that waves, to every motorcycle rider I see, even if it is a guy on a scooter.  Why, because I love the fact that a perfect stranger and I have something so close in common.  Riding a motorcycle in modern times is not a necessity like it was in post war Europe or Japan, or as the cheapest means of transport like it was here in America.  Instead you ride a motorcycle now, because you love it.  You like to live life just a little bit different.  I am not saying all people who ride are hard core bad ass people.  I mean I am an elementary school teacher, but rather we live life by a different set of rules, and that unites us.  You can almost always count on a fellow motorcyclist stoping to help you out if you are stuck, you can always count on another rider giving you parts or gear, for free, just because you need it and they got it.  You can always count on at least one good story every time you stop and talk to someone.

Get out and ride, you will always have a good story to tell.

Get out and ride, you will always have a good story to tell.

I bring this up because just the other day I was getting on the IMS Triumph Tiger 800XC when a old man walks up to me and starts talking.  I needed to get home, it had been a long day and my wife had to deal with a 4 year old and a 2 year old for the last 12 hours alone, so you can see my hurry.  Well this particular old man had started the conversation by asking about the bike, saying he had seen me on the freeway and really wanted to talk to me about the bike and was glad that we ended up in the same place at the same time.  When I explained to him the bike, the engine, and all the add ons, his smile just kept getting bigger.  You see back when he was in college, one summer he bought a brand new, Triumph 650 Bonneville Twin Carb, and rode it from Pittsburgh up into Canada, along the Trans-Canadian Highway, down to LA in California.  Seeing me on this Triumph really brought back those memories, it was almost as if he had just gotten of the bike in LA all over again.  It was really something else to see this bond between the two of us.  We had never meet before, and probably never will meet again, but I had found in this old man, and he in I, an instant friendship that you just don’t get with other people.  Now, I have never done a ride like he mentioned, and it will probably never happen for me, but each time I swing a leg over that bike, each time I fire up that 800cc Triple and hear the purr of that exhaust, I am making memories that I will hold onto for a lifetime.  And one day I will be that old man, telling some young kid about how I used to have this hopped up Triumph and how I rode it everywhere, off road and on.  It will be at that point that I connect with a person  in a way that I just wont be able to connect with someone who doesn’t ride.  And that kid will do the same thing one day himself.

Funny, but I know you guys get it.

Funny, but I know you guys get it.

This kind of experience is something else, it is something that few understand, and it is something that I hope to pass on to generations to come.

Passing it on to my next generation

Passing it on to my next generation

So today, take the time and wave at a fellow rider, stop and talk for a minute, help them out on the side of the road, you never know when you will make a life long friend that you never had before.  So go make a friend and get out and ride.

Great IMS group ride, it is just more fun with a friend.

Great IMS group ride, it is just more fun with a friend.

What are you thankful for?

So Thanksgiving has passed now, and Christmas is coming along very soon.  It is a great time of year to sit and reflect on what we have to be thankful for.  Over here on the Central Coast the winter is pretty mild, we don’t have to pack our bikes up because of the snow, or convert them into snow mobile type machines.  Instead we are pretty lucky to get to ride all year long.  Now since I am a school teacher I was thankful to get the entire week of Thanksgiving off and took the opportunity to ride down Highway 1 from Monterey to Pismo Beach (while my wife took our daughters the faster way on the 101) to meet Scott Wright, the owner of IMS, for a Thanksgiving getaway with my family.  I of course was riding the IMS Triumph Tiger 800XC and was hoping to get some time at the Oceano Dunes, and was not disappointed.

First off the road riding section.  WOW, I am very thankful of the men and women that put countless hours of time into crafting what has got to be one of the most amazing stretches of road in California.  The most beautiful sections of road were from Monterey to about Cambria.  It was tight, twisty, forest, ocean, cliffs, and just all together amazing views and roads.  The opportunity to pass slower moving traffic is not as abundant as I would have liked, but it is times like that I still found something to be thankful for because it allowed me a chance to just really admire the views and enjoy the scenery.

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After about 3 and a half hours of amazing riding I arrived in Pismo.  Spending time with family is always something to be grateful for, and after an amazing dinner I followed Scott out to Oceano Dunes for some riding and a impromptu photo shoot.  The bike tracked great in the sand.  I didn’t go into any of the deep stuff out in the dunes, staying primarily on the compact wet stuff near the water.  I was very thankful for the GPR Steering Stabilizer as it helped in the few rough spots, or where the sand was a little softer.

GPR Stabilizer was a great help.

GPR Stabilizer was a great help.

Love the panniers.

Love the panniers.

Excellent Grip.

Excellent Grip.

Best view of the day.

Best view of the day.

The sand was perfect for riding.

The sand was perfect for riding.


End of the day rider and bike.


Beautiful sunset, just one more thing to be thankful for.

IMG_7192 IMG_7187End of the day, there is a lot to be thankful for.  Your adventure ride doesn’t have to be a 6 month tour to South America from Alaska, it can be something as simple as a ride down the coast for Thanksgiving, and a cruise on the beach.  Thankfulness is a frame of mind, don’t let other things get in the way, and if you have time, just get out and ride.

Dual Sport Adventure Riding   Part 2 of 2: The Build: The racer, KTM 500 EXC, and the easy-to-ride Honda CRF250L

The first of our two part series focused on Adventure Riding, an overview identifying the types of riding and bike selection recommendation based on two riders of opposing skill level.  For part two, we will continue to use both myself, Scott Wright, owner IMS Products and Chris Hardin, IMS Products General Manager, contrasting the differences between an experienced racer and an entry-level rider, respectively.

As we referenced in Part 1 of this blog, we will focus on excellent machines for each of our abilities, myself and Chris.  My weapon of choice and the model I’ve chosen to build out for my adventure riding is the KTM500EXC.  Chris Hardin, choose the Honda CRF250L, an excellent and reliable machine for any novice rider.  We have modified each bike, and in detail, will review our project and detail our build.  I hope by breaking down each model I can provide a platform that may be used as a guide for you for your bike build and next adventure.

The Build: KTM 500 EXC

In stock trim the KTM is well suited for me, although for those longer Adventure rides, even the KTM needs to be properly set up. First off, the KTM is good for maybe an 80-to 100-mile loop depending on how hard the bike is ridden. The stock tank on the KTM is only 2.2 gallons, and unless you wish to carry extra fuel on your back or strapped to your belt (which I don’t) jumping to a larger tank is one of the most important components of this build. I definitely wanted more fuel, but wanted to stay as near as possible to the OEM feel of the bike.  For this I chose the IMS 3.1 gallon tank, which extends fuel stops up to 50 miles and provides the added security of not running out in the middle of who knows where.

Now that I extended the ride between stops, I needed to make sure I was comfortable as I’m not 20 anymore!  When racing or hard-core trail riding, most of the time the rider is standing and having a comfy seat is not as much of an issue. Yet with Adventure riding, the pace is slowed down and the rider spends more time sitting. Because we have all done the butt dance to relieve the pain during an 8-hour ride, I opted to upgrade to a Seat Concepts dual sport/Adventure seat. The SC units are designed to reduce the pressure points of a long ride by creating a wider seat and using unique seat foam for added comfort.

 Since I will be putting this bike through the paces on a regular basis, a host of Enduro Engineering components were added for increased protection and to avoid potential problems on the trail. The stock handguards were swapped out for wrap-around guards with debris deflectors. An EE skid plate as well as rear disk guards were installed to protect the undercarriage and rear rotor. The stock radiator hoses were also replaced for more durable units from Samco.

With regard to performance, there were a few changes including the addition of a Yoshimura slip on exhaust with spark arrestor, which presented not only a better note but more low-end performance off idle. The suspension was also sent off to Precision Concepts. I wanted the bike set up for my weight and riding ability that garnered a plush ride for those long treks, yet could still handle more challenging terrain when it came time to have more fun and attack a trail with aggression. When setting up suspension for an Adventure ride, it is a good idea to consider the added weight if you plan on strapping on a lot of gear to the rear of the bike or even the possible 15-20 pounds you might be wearing as a backpack. Be sure to inform your suspension tuner of the possible added weight, it could affect the spring rates and settings. To also complement the suspension changes and riding ability, a GPR steering stabilizer was installed to calm down any twitchy feelings in the handlebar when the bike was put through the paces in fast, rough sections. The GPR units are adjustable so you can change the resistance depending on riding conditions.

Other changes will depend on the rider. For example, the stock EXC gearing is good for well over 100mph, but on tight trails even first gear can be too tall. Consider changing out at least the countershaft sprocket from a 14 to a 13 tooth. This is an easy change and does not require altering the chain length. This will split the gap and give the bike a comfortable road speed of up to 70mph and make negotiating tight trails easier. Dual Sport Adventure Riding

At this point the KTM has been elevated to the next level and should be ready for any Adventure. There might be a little fine tuning and setup to suit your exact needs but, for the most part, my outfitted KTM 500 EXC is easily ready for 100-300 miles per day.

The Build: Honda CRF250L

Because the performance difference and the intended use between the KTM and the Honda differ so much, the direction of the build was also altered slightly. The 250L is more of a recreational use, entry-level machine but that also means it will need some upgrades to become a true dual sport Adventure-level motorcycle. Even though Chris is considered a mid-level novice rider, he will still find the limits of the stock CRF fairly easy, and all of these factors were considered.

Dual Sport Adventure Riding

Like the KTM, extending the distance between stops is paramount. With an IMS 3.1 gallon tank installed, it ups the capacity by over 1 gallon. The fuel injected CRF250L gets very good mileage and with the IMS tank it should garner up to 200 miles between stops. The stock CRF seat is soft and comfy, but for long rides it is almost too soft. This is why Chris also upgraded the seat to a Seat Concepts  seat. The wider seat will help on long rides and it will give the bike a better feel because Chris will not be sitting in the seat, but on the seat.

Tuning the ergonomics is key on the CRF, trying to step up the gap between an entry-level bike and a full race bike will make all of the difference on a long ride. First we swapped out Chris’s stock foot-pegs for IMS Pro-Series foot-pegs offering a wider platform for comfort and grip on his boots. To increase strength and improve crash protection, the stock steel handlebar was replaced with a Renthal aluminum bar and grips. From there, Cycra ProBend CRM Enduro handguards went on to help shield some wind on the road and protect the controls during a spill. The sprockets were also upgraded to Renthal components with a 13-tooth countershaft sprocket and 42 teeth in the rear.

Tuning the suspension was more of a factor on the Honda than the KTM. The stock CRF250L suspension is set up from the factory very soft and works decent for fire roads, but even a novice like Chris will find it too soft once he starts hitting trails, dips, and g-outs.  Precision Concepts tuned the suspension to offer a smooth ride for the fire roads but with an overall firmer feel to better handle off-road conditions. These changes helped improve the overall handling of the 250L in more traditional off-road conditions.

Performance-wise, Chris swapped out the stock CRF250L muffler to a less restrictive Yoshimura slip on spark arrestor for added throttle response and it also helped shed a few pounds on the 300-plus pound motorcycle.

The changes to the CRF250L were just enough to improve the feel and help create an Adventure-worthy motorcycle. This is a great starter bike packed in with Honda durability and the low seat height is ideal for inseam-deficient riders.  

Additionally, all of the fluids in both bikes were replaced with tried and true Maxima products and every nut, bolt, and spoke was tightened, torqued or adjusted to the proper specs. Remember that just because you build it once, doesn’t mean the work is done. Double checking the essentials before you start every ride is very important. Tire air pressure, sprocket bolts, spokes, chain tension, oil and fluid levels, axle nuts, and anything and everything that can and will fall off should be given the once over. Another added note is that we have found balancing the wheels, especially on the KTM, can make a big difference if you plan on doing long stretches on pavement as the front wheel has a tendency to have a slight hop/vibration at higher speeds.

Choose your Weapon:

With two types of riders and abilities, we now Now we have two bikes ready for a dual sport or an Adventure ride; the KTM500EXC and the Honda CRF250L. Chris Hardin’s CRF250L is ideal for a beginner to novice-level rider and my KTM, armed for seasoned expert. 

I hope my blog was informative and helpful and welcome questions and comments adventure riding community.  Stay tuned for my next series which will cover proper riding gear for an adventure ride and future blogs covering what to pack for a multi-day outing, as well as some neat gear to stow your goodies on the bike. 

Life is an Adventure, enjoy the ride!

Dual Sporting Adventure: Bike Selection: The racer, KTM 500 EXC, and the easy-to-ride Honda CRF250L

As the owner of IMS Products and lifelong rider, my passion for ‘Adventure’ riding can be traced back to my days as a kid growing up in Huntington Beach, California.   Adventure riding was simply the fun I had taking off on my Schwinn Stingray and riding all day, whether with my best friends, or by myself—it wasn’t always about the destination, it wasDual Sport Ridingsimply the love of riding, exploring and finding cool new places.   That sense of adventure carried over to riding motorcycles, both on and off road, so these days I am spending my time on bikes capable of doing both.  I’m sure many of you reading this share this same passion, and thankfully it is a passion that can be filled regularly.  My name is Scott Wright, and I love Adventure Riding.

Attending events and races throughout the years, we are blessed to come across so many great riders and supporters of IMS.  We are often questioned about ‘what do you use on your bike’ or ‘what should I use for my’, ‘is it better to put money into my motor or suspension’; questions that all riders face and ones I hope to address with this, and forthcoming, blogs.  I will break down Adventure riding, needs and requirements, from my perspective as an expert-level off-road rider, Baja 1000 winner and a lifetime of racing experience as well as the perspective of Chris Hardin, IMS General Manager. Chris is an entry-level rider with the same amount of passion but vastly different needs for bike and set-up.  The contrast between us (experienced and novice) will be reflected in my recommendations throughout this blog. 

Adventure Riding

For this series we will be using dual sport bikes (single-cylinder) as our ‘adventure bikes’. I have broken down our take on adventure riding into a two-part series, the first part being an overview of two diametrically opposed bikes, the Honda CRF250L and the KTM500, the benefits of each model and how they best suit individually skill and type of riding each model prefers.  Part two of the series will identify in detail the model build for each bike and how they can be modified to best suit rider and riding conditions.

Dual Sport

The terms “adventure riding” and “dual sport” may seem similar, but they can be completely different concepts. Traditionally, a dual sport bike is a single-cylinder bike that is off-road/off-trail capable, but also street legal (KTM EXC) to help link off-road sections together. Modern adventure bikes are often thought of as a big twin-cylinder machine such as a GS BMW or KTM Adventure or SuperEnduro. The large adventure bikes are best suited for two-track trails, fire roads, and, if needed, long sections of tarmac. When properly outfitted, the larger bikes are often capable of carrying more supplies and camping gear. With that said, I feel true adventure riding is about the ‘Adventure’, not the bike. I want to feel that sense of discovery I had as a kid, and my ideal bike setup is going to be suited to doing so.

Entry vs Experienced:

Today more riders are taking the lighter, single-cylinder dual sport bikes and using them for long-distance Adventure riding. The lighter bikes are often easier to ride off-road and can take on tighter trails compared to full-sized twin or triple cylinder Adventure machines. Plus the cost between getting started on a single compared to a twin can be as much as $10-15K. With regard to dual sport bikes, the range is vast as well. At the entry level, several manufacturers offer machines such as the Honda CRF250L (featured in this story), yet Yamaha offers two bikes as well, the midlevel performance WR250R and the easier to ride, lower seat height XT250. At the entry level, Suzuki has the DR200SE and Kawasaki has the entry/midlevel KLX250S. Then when we are talking KTM, there is no real entry-level option, their bikes are performance driven, lighter than even the entry-level 200cc and 250cc machines. You can expect an elevated price tag well over the $9,000 mark. If you have years of experience riding, the KTM is a great option, yet if you’re just starting out, you might want to look at one of the less aggressive bikes for the first few years of riding. There are a few bikes that bridge the gap between the entry level machine and full performance so do your research to pick a bike that is best suited for your riding ability and intended Adventure.

Man and Machine

The best way to break down bike setup is to determine which motorcycle is best suited for a particular rider and their abilities. We can start with my personal favorite, the KTM 500EXC.  This bike is truly amazing!  Just walking by it in my garage commands my respect and appreciation, not to mention it begs me to lay down my laptop and put on my Klim gear.  It is pure performance and plenty capable of taking off-road or even to a grand prix race with very few changes to the showroom stock model. For some, it’s difficult to believe the EXC is a dual sport machine because of how well it works off-road. Yet KTM worked overtime to build a machine that is street legal, meets the DOT requirements to get a license plate in all 50 states and is a beast off-road. 

On the other side of the coin, Chris is a novice rider. As such, he chose the Honda CRF250L, it’s an easy-to-ride motorcycle with a lower seat height compared to the KTM and caters to the entry-to mid-level rider. It’s far from a competition machine, yet the smooth performance and stable handling make it ideal for what it was designed for.

Dual Sport

Final Word…for now

I have tried to clearly define the distinctions between types of riding, riders and machines.  The model offerings from OEMs, fortunately, is vast and there is model bound to fit your exact preferences and ability.  Part two of this blog will focus on the KTM500EXC and the Honda CRF250L and how myself and Chris modified each bike, in detail, and hope our build and experiences can be used as a guide for you  for your bike build and next adventure.

The 1%

After the ride to Colorado and back the IMS Triumph Tiger 800XC has been regulated to what 99% of all motorcycles do, commuter duty. Since the ride I have moved back to Monterey CA where I teach at a elementary school 21 miles away from home. In the last few months over 2,000 slab miles have been put on the bike, and I have learned a few things. One of them being, even though TKC80 tires are phenomenal in the dirt, and grip really well on the road, they suck on mileage. After the 2,000 some odd miles of commuter duty the tires are over half way gone. I learned that on the street I can almost drag the pegs with out any trouble in a fast corner. I learned that even though the bike may be advertised at 45mpg, 38mpg-40mpg in stop and go normal everyday traffic is what is really going to happen. I also learned that having a bike like this isn’t just about big adventures, but the 1% of the time that you get to really just ride, and that 1% is what it is all about.


Clean bike, no bags, looks kind of naked.

On Sunday I finally got a chance to do that. About 20 miles from my house, on Highway 1 is Bixby Bridge, the most photographed feature on the West Coast, and just north of the Bridge is a 11 mile dirt road called Old Coast Road. At one time this was the only way people could get from Big Sur to the Monterey Penninsula, and is now open to all street legal vehicles. I have ridden it before on a older IMS dual sported XR600R, with 90/10 street/dirt tires. But now I had the right bike, with the right tires, and all the time I needed to just enjoy it.

I usually have Touratech 45L bags on the bike, but for this ride I took them off, and I suited up in my full KLIM gear, and SIDI boots. I have not worn all this gear since the ride to Colorado and I forgot how nice it really was (I normally just wear the jacket when I commute). Since I was going to be meeting my wife after the ride, I had jeans on under the pants, and a normal shirt on under my KLIM Jersey and Jacket. The pants and jacket kept me warm during the cool morning fog here on the Central Coast, and when the sun came out they unzipped and ventilated really well. The TKC80 tires, even though the back was over half gone, still gripped really well, especially after I dropped the pressure from the high street pressure of 36-38psi down to about 18psi in the front, and 22psi in the rear. After that they stuck like glue, I could corner as hard as I was comfortable with and brake with confidence, even with ABS causing a few pucker moments in the loose stuff.


Start of the ride, lose, downhill, cars. Good combination.

The first part of the ride is a lose gravel downhill dry section. Since this road is a street legal vehicle road, you have to keep your eyes open for the random truck or SUV. Coming behind me at the beginning of the ride was a guy in a SUV following a little to close behind me. This did cause a little bit of a rush and I over cooked a corner and with the ABS almost slide into the ditch on the side of the road. After that I simply pulled over and let the SUV pass, aired down the tires, and just had a blast.


Beautiful Day.


Beginning of the good stuff. Those tracks in the middle were left by a kid on a CR250R, that got dropped off to ride.

As I moved deeper inland and further into the forest the ground got wetter and the grip just got better. I come from riding a dual sport XR650R, and to be honest once the Tiger got moving it felt almost the same. Only the sound of the engine was different. The power that the Tiger was addictive, the linear way that the power just came on and kept coming on, was amazing. There was a direct connection between your right hand and the rear tire, and how much you slide is completely up to you.


Messing around with my Panoramic setting on my iPhone Camera.


Recent rains means this little creek had some water in it finally.


Bike on a bridge.


Throwing roost like this was all to easy and actually very controllable. Who needs traction control?


With the recent rain we have had here on the coast, the plants can finally start to grow back.

One thing I love about Old Coast Road is that along the way you see that people have build and still live in houses hidden deep in the mountains. The area is absolutely beautiful, and with the recent rain, the plant life is amazing. Near the end of the ride I stopped at a point that over looks the ocean and Highway 1 to take a few pictures. During my little break, a small group of maybe a half a dozen riders on F800GS bikes came riding by. While I was there another guy stopped at the same point, in a brand new 1200GSA on it’s maiden voyage. He said he was taking a picture to send to a friend to make him jealous. This is when it hit me. Yeah 99% of these Adventure Bikes will spend 99% of their time on the road, commuting back and forth. Most of the guys who own one of these bikes is in a similar life situation as I am, kids, wife, regularly scheduled job, bills, the whole lot. We can’t just drop everything, travel from Alaska to South American and then on to Africa, up to Russia, Europe and back home. But it is the times like this when we get to ride with our buddies, or make our friends jealous, or just get away, it is these times, these 1% times, that make riding what it is. It is these times that help define this Adventure we call life.

Almost done.


F800GS rider.


Another F800GS rider.


Making his friend jealous on his brand new 1200GSA.

Dirty bike parked outside swanky Carmel Plaza Shopping Center in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA.

What Adventure is really all about.

Mini Update

IMG_4974IMG_4975 IMG_4976 IMG_4977 IMG_4978Ok so here are a few pics of the Owner of IMS Scott Wright and his 2014 BMW 1200GSA.  This was taken along Engineers Pass near Ouray Colorado.  More to come.  As you can see the KLIM gear still looks great after two days and 850 plus miles and then another many miles of dirt riding.  The bike (as all BMWs do) performed great even with the street type tires, the different traction control settings alone with the D-ESA helped a ton in making it a smooth ride in the dirt, but even without the GS series are just great ADV bikes.

Also as you can see in the first pic the new IMS ADV 1 foot pegs provide a great standing platform, allowing much more of your foot to be in contact with the peg, giving you more control and more comfort.


Update and Apology

Ok, so first the apology.  We knew where we were going would have no cell reception, but we thought it would have some internet, even if it was at a coffee shop or something, turns out we were wrong.  So, with that said, I am sorry for not updating this blog like I had wanted to.

Now the update, the second half of the ride from St. George, Utah to Ouray, Colorado was a blast, we hit Zion and Moab on the way and took so amazing photos.  The new IMS ADV 1 foot pegs really proved their worth considering every bike we took weighed north of 500 pounds (except the TE310).  Having the extra leverage from the wider and longer foot pegs really helped to maneuver the big bikes around and made even the novice and inexperienced on big bike riders feel much more at ease.  The panniers worked great, no locks burst open or got stuck and all of our stuff stayed put the entire time, and the fit and finish really held up to a good amount of abuse.  The Overland Jacket and Pants really came into their own on the off road rides, they allowed plenty of airflow in the hot weather we were in, and kept us from sweating to bad or dehydrating our selves.  The SIDI Armada boots did a great job, even though they are primarily geared more towards street riding (the Touring part of the Adventure/Touring segment) they still did very well in the dirt.  They provided good ankle support and shin protection while also giving the rider a full range of motion.  Now if you smack your foot hard on a rock you feel it, but nothing short of a full moto boot would be any better.  The helmets and googles did very well as well, providing protection and ventilation as well as a clear line of sight.

We did have a little to much fun out in the desert, and as a result we were a little late coming into Ouray, and the last 30 miles or so were on dirt roads in the dark.  As a result one of the guys had a accident, and ended up in a ditch.  The bike, a 2010 F800GS, survived with only a little damage, and the rider mounted back up .

In Ouray itself we got a chance to ride up and over Engineers pass.  I have heard that this ride can be tough, rocks, ice, snow, standing water, ect.  and the Triumph Tiger as well as the rest of the BMW bikes handled it great.  The Husky TE310 was really in its element, but considering every other bike there outweighed it by 200 pounds, it wasn’t really fair.

Now, my personal bike, the Triumph Tiger 800XC has been completely worked over in the suspension department.  The Touratech rear shock was amazing.  I came off of riding a Baja prepped XR650R dual sport to this bike, and lets just say, once the Tiger was moving I could have been back on my 650.  The same goes for the Precision Concepts Front Forks.  The stock front end is very soft, but with the suspension gurus working at Precision Concepts with all of their race know how, the front end was perfect.  The engine, very linear, and tons of power, was a little tricky to control at first at least for me.  I was used to the tractor like low end torque of the 650 single in my XR, but after a few miles of riding the Tiger I was able to adapt and was soon kicking out the rear end and powering out of corners like a real racer (at least in my mind).  All that to say the Tiger is a great ADV bike, very capable in the dirt, and a excellent almost sport bike like ride, on the street.

Now today is the day that we are heading back and I was able to get a few minutes of internet to write this, but since we are trying to do the entire ride back to Yucaipa in one day I don’t have a ton of time to post pics.  But I promise more will come in the next few days, until then happy and safe riding.

And We Are Off!

So yesterday was a big day, not only was it Father’s Day but it marked the start of the Two Day ride from Yucaipa to Ouray, CO.  Overall things went great.  No accidents, no dehydration, no problems.  The Klim Jackets and Pants did great.  Now nothing aside from true A/C is going to keep you from feeling hot in the 100 degree weather that we experienced riding through Barstow to Vegas.  But once you unzipped the jackets a few inches, and opened up all the vents, it did a really good job getting decent airflow regardless of the model (Overland, Traverse and Badlands Pro).  Our Camel Backs full of ice helped to keep us hydrated by providing a constant trickle of cold water and helped keep our backs cool as well.  The SIDI boots were incredibly comfortable, and the Gore Tec lining did as advertised, and keeper our feet dry and fairly sweat free.  The KLIM helmet did a great job.  An open face helmet at highway speed does have some drawbacks, namely wind noise and things hitting your face at 65mph plus hurts, but it did give you extra air flow to keep your head from sweating to much.  And a good set of headphones or ear plugs do wonders at reducing the wind noise.  Our Seat Concepts seats were worth every penny, after a 6 hour plus ride, those of us lucky enough to have the Seat Concepts seats felt a lot better then those that did not, and could have easily done a few more hours.

Lastly the new IMS ADV 1 foot pegs were great, they gave us a huge platform to move our feet around while seated, giving us the much needed room to move to avoid leg cramps and general discomfort, and the extra leverage they provided really did wonders in the dirt.  I leave you with a few snap shots of the ride, and not to worry, there will be plenty more to come.

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Gear part 2

Getting that box in the mail is always exciting, but when it contains Touratech Zaga Pro 45 liter bags, it is even better.  Thanks to Touratech for these Triumph Specific bags.  They are very well built, as are all items from Touratech, they will swallow a full helmet without a hitch, and give the bike a more aggressive, Adventure stature.  They are also locking, so you don’t have to worry about your valuables disappearing if you leave something in them, and they pivot open, making it very easy to get your items in and out.  On top of all of that, a KLIM set of goggles, neck warmer, and aggressor undershirt, just round out the package.  Once again thanks to all the companies that made it possible.

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