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.