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.
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.
End 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What an exciting weekend. June 21-22-23 was the Big Bear Run Dual Sport Ride. This is a very well known ride inside the state of California and luckily for me is only about an hours drive from where I live. Big Bear is a pretty cool place to begin with, it is in the mountains, surrounded by trees, a beautiful lake, great weather, skiing in the winter, downhill mountain biking in the summer, and the best part, over a thousand miles of Dual Sport trails that are pretty much open all year round. Because of this it attracts all kinds of off roading, from jeeps to mountain bikes to dual sports and adventure bikes. Since the 1980’s the Big Bear Trail Riders club has been hosting this event including a easy and a hard loop. The hard loop is so tough that just finishing it awards you a plaque to take home.
The easy loop on the other hand isn’t so easy. It is funny how different people’s ideas of what is easy and what is hard are very different. This year’s ride also included hard sections of the easy route you could take if you were feeling adventurous or just wanted a little extra challenge without fear of breaking your bike, or your self.
So this year I, along with the GM of IMS, got a chance to participate in this event. I had heard that even the easy loop was pretty challenging and not being an expert off-road rider, I was a little cautious and took extra steps in preparing for the ride. I normally ride with a Kenda 270 rear tire and a Kenda Track Master front, provided for us by MTA, with some STI heavy duty tubes. This is a great 70/30 on road/off road combination. The 270 is a hard enough compound to withstand the brutal power of my 650 (bored to a 680, HRC cam, high compression, full exhaust, you get the picture) on asphalt and still provide a pretty good level of grip along with being very predictable in how it reacts on the dirt, all while lasting a long time. The Track Master in front is grippy in the dirt, grippy on the asphalt and long wearing as well, way better then the matching 270 I used to run. For this ride I was advised that the current rear tire I had wouldn’t probably be enough, and with my riding skill I figured as much. See when I say the 270 is predictable in the dirt what I mean is it predictably slides a lot. Now I like to rear wheel steer a little so this isn’t bad, and most of the trails I ride are two track or fire roads, and I don’t need a high level of grip, so this tires work great, but for this ride I needed more. Once again MTA stepped up and provided us with brand new Kenda Track Master tires front and rear and ultra heavy duty tubes. Now I admit I am not very good at changing tires, and even after watching a million Youtube videos on how to change Dirt Bike tires I still am not great at it, but it was worth the effort. On a spare rear wheel I had I removed a old worn out tire and replaced it with the new Track Master and STI Tube, and oil change, wash, and chain lube later I was ready. (The front tire still has over 80% tread left so I kept it the same).
The day of the event the GM and I loaded our bikes in his truck and drove up to Big Bear, getting there around 6:30am. We unloaded, got the GPS tracks, geared up and hit the trails by 7am. After only a few miles I understood the need for my new tires, it was a rocky, tough, sandy, loose, hard, soft, combination of dirt. I did not want a pinch flat so I started the day, on the recommendation of the owner of IMS, with about 22 psi in both tires, and even at that “high” of pressure those tires would grip. After a few miles my confidence was up, and the tubes were doing good, so I dropped the psi down to about 16 and nailed it. Let me tell you, when I was finally able to relax, and calm down and realized that even though this was tough I still could do it, I had a blast. The scenery was amazing, the trails were well thought out and planned, and the multiple bikes that passed me were amazing. There was everything, from other dual sported XR650R’s to two stroke 250’s, and everything inbetween. Also a lot of KTMs… I mean a lot. Probably 3 out of every 5 bikes was a KTM, not that that is a bad thing, it isn’t, it was just funny, but with them and Husky being the only real makers of a large variety of dual sport bikes it makes sense.
After only completing half of the easy route the GM and I decided, now that it was Noon and we had started at 7am, we were done. Getting off the tracks and stuck in a dried up sandy creek bed for over an hour might have contributed to the length we were out there.
Some of the highlights of the trip would probably be the above mentioned Creek incident. You see, sometimes GPS tracks are a little hard to read. Because of this the GM and I might have taken a wrong turn and ended up in a very deep, very sandy dried up Creek Bed. This one incident taught me a lot about teamwork and how hard it can be to move a 300 pound dirt bike buried in sand. It also taught me the benefit of having a light bike, the GM’s bike is a TE310 much lighter then my XR. Luckily this happened in the beginning of the ride, so we were still fresh and the weather wasn’t too hot. Near the end was probably the other major highlight for me, we encountered a hill, and not just any hill, a pretty steep, rocky, and long hill. Now for the hard loop guys it was probably just a slight incline but to us mere mortals, it was tough. So tough in fact that most of the people we saw approach it turned back and found a different route. The GM of IMS had more guts than I did and attempted it twice, but eventually we turned back.
Looking at the GPS the GM was able to find an alternate route, that even though it wasn’t as tough as the hill, was still quite a challenge. The best part was the 20-30 yards of uphill bowling ball size rock section that we had to go through. At this point I was glad for the heavy bike I had, the weight kept the bike from deflecting too much, and the torque allowed me to chug up and over the rocks in a higher gear, instead of just spinning the rear wheel. And once again, the tires and tubes provided by MTA gripped and I didn’t get a single flat.
Overall this was one of the best rides I had ever done. Even though I didn’t do the hard sections of the easy route, there was still enough challenging sections to keep me on my toes and help me improve, mixed with some high speed gravel roads to really let the XR stretch her legs. I got a chance to meet some really cool guys, like Jeffery Glasset, who was still in high school and completed the hard loop as the 8th finisher, and his custom WR250R tank his dad made. As well as Ken “Iron Man” Kosiorek The Baja Turtle, he had done 12 solo Baja Races (five 250’s, five 500, and two 1000’s) all with IMS tanks on one of his three XR650R’s.
The entire event was well organized and everyone had a great time. The food was good, the prizes were nice, and the people were super friendly. I look forward to doing this ride for many more years, and highly recommend it to anyone who can make it.