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.
So today I went for a ride, the first one since our daughter was born. For the last week we have been cooped up inside the house not going much of anywhere for any length of time and I was feeling it. So today, my wife and her sister went to the park, taking my niece and our oldest daughter along with the newborn. This gave me a few precious hours to hit the trails. So I threw on my riding gear (blue Moose jersey and pants, Answer boots, and a GMAX helmet, just in case anybody wants to know what I wear) and hopped on the XR and took off.
Now from my house to where I usually ride is only about a 5-10 minute ride. Today though I had some extra time so I decided to go a little further before hitting a different trail that connected to a huge network of other trails, my first mistake. You see, after 20 minutes of twisty mountain road I came to the trail head, and BAM there was a “Road Closed” sign. Not a big deal, the road workers here have a tendency to leave the signs up even after they are done. Not this time. Next to the sign were two workers and a cop. Further down the road was a HazMat truck and some more people. That was a major bummer as I had already wasted over 20 minutes of riding time just getting to a trail. I knew where another trail was, the problem was that I have only ever exited the trail where it ran into the paved road, never started the trail from that point. Because of this I missed the trail, by a good mile or more. I had to pull over, take out my phone, and look at a Map App to see where I was and the place I wanted to be. I finally found the trail head and took off.
After 40 minutes of road riding I had finally hit dirt. This turned out to be my second mistake. You see I had ridden the trail I was now on many times, and it is actually one of my favorite local trails. The problem was that I was now riding it backwards. What was usually a slightly up hill trail with twisty left and right hand bends, was now a slightly down hill trail with twisty right and left hand bends. It is really weird for my brain to know that I was on a trail I can ride but to be doing everything backwards. So what would have taken no time at all, now took twice as long and was not very fun. To top it off, during the last rain storm the trail had become extremely muddy and the 4×4 truck guys took advantage of this to go mudding. I have absolutely nothing against that, the trail is open to all street legal vehicles so bring it on. If I had a big truck I would be out there too, the problem is the ruts are still there when the mud dries. The ground is rock hard, with ruts everywhere, and I am going the opposite direction. All in all this was not a very good trail riding day. When I got to the end of the trail I saw this:
Yes, apparently I had just ridden down an active crime scene. That might help explain all of the cops I had seen on the way up. As I stood there confused as to why the tape was only on this end of the trail as well as trying to figure out a way to get around it without breaking the tape, I saw a big white van heading down the paved road that this trail ended at. On the side of the van it said San Bernardino Fire Department. As I was mentally preparing my flight or fight response, the driver of the van looked at me, and waved, and then kept on going. I quickly got around the tape and took off going the opposite direction of the van. As I headed back I saw HazMat trucks and tankers at various places on the road and was actually kind of glad that I hadn’t spent that much time in the dirt, since I had no idea what was going on. When I got home I used good old faithful Google to find out what had happened. Turns out a tanker truck carrying over 4,600 gallons of fuel had crashed and dumped most of its payload on to the road. (http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_23139067/highway-38-reopens-cleanup-goes)
Now this totally sucks, not because my riding areas have been shrunk, but because of the environmental damage. I hope that they get it cleaned up fast and not too much gets into the Santa Ana River. In the mean time I had better get used to riding some of my favorite trails backwards.
Yes, we get snow in southern california. Now it isn’t much and it isn’t often and it isn’t at the beach, but still we get some. Where most of the riding that I do is around 2,500+ foot elevation and the snow doesn’t really start till about 3,500 foot elevation it makes for some disappointing rides, where it starts off with nice tacky dirt and then after about a mile of great riding, BAM, snow and ice. So after a few months of this kind of riding, it finally cleared up so that I can get in a good ride. So off I went last Saturday to get in a quick ride. With my wife 38 weeks pregnant and a 2 year old at home I couldn’t be gone long but still in the end any ride is a good ride.
Now if you are a fan of our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/IMSproducts you will notice that most of the pictures are of a very specific bike, a 2003 XR650R. Now the reason for this is that this is the only bike that I own. We plan on including more bikes and locations in future entries but for now this is what we got to work with.
Now the bike is awesome, 680 big bore, HRC cam, derestricted intake and exhaust, Precision Concepts suspension, 3.2 gallon IMS dry break tank, BRP triple clamps, and Kenda Trackmaster II front tire and Kenda 270 rear tire with heavy duty tubes provided by MTA. And the best part is the bike is street legal. With these modification and my amateur riding level there is more then enough power and performance to get me into and out of trouble, and I love it.
Most of the trials around where I ride are in the Angelus Oaks/Big Bear area, if you have done the annual Big Bear Run then you know the stuff I am talking about. Today’s ride was a shorter more local ride but after not being able to ride for a while and with all the snow and melting snow the landscape was completely different. It could best be summed up in one word, ROCKS. Man they were everywhere, from marble size to bowling balls, I didn’t know there were even that many rocks period and they just got worse. I had decreased my normal riding pressure for dual sporting from 22 psi front and rear to 16 psi because the tires just wouldn’t grip. I know in rocks you want to run a little higher to avoid flats (and since I didn’t have any of my tools with me I should have left it) but the 270 is more of a street biased tire and the low psi helped. After dropping to the 16psi the bike was a different animal completely instead of sliding and slipping around the bike would grip, yes the street biased 270 was like a trials tire and in a straight line even with all the power I had on hand in the 680 motor it had a hard time breaking traction, it would even pull the front end up. I normally have a Trackmaster II on the rear as well, but I have been doing a lot more street commuting and I felt bad wearing out such an amazing tire on the asphalt. Plus anyone who has ridden a hot XR650R knows they go through rear tires like no bodies business. But the tubes supplied by MTA were awesome not only did it make it through 11 miles of rocks but they got me home doing 65mph+ on the street with out feeling like I was on a half flat tire.
Even though IMS offers two other tanks for the XR650R, both which are bigger at 4.6 and 7 gallons, I prefer the 3.2 for off road work since it is slimmer at the knees and when full doesn’t upset the balance of the bike. Back when I was commuting a lot more during the summer months I was running the bigger 4.6 gallon tank and when I do long dual sport rides I use that tank as well, but for sorter off road riding I prefer the smaller tank.
With all the changes that IMS is going to be making in the next few months in the social media arena I hope that those of you who read these blogs can get something out of them and the jumbled process that is my writing style. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions and keep your eyes peeled, there is much more exciting things to come.