Archive for July, 2011

Reconsidering North Cochetopa Pass

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

This whole thing is a little confusing. I’ve always known the pass on CO 114 between Gunnison and Saguache as North Pass, but my friend John calls it North Cochetopa Pass. On top of the pass it uses that name on the sign. But I find it called by both names in various places. Go figure.

North Cochetopa PassEither way, I had been over it but when we rode over it yesterday I was very surprised to find it much nicer than I remember. Just as I remembered, it was a gentle climb through pine forests from Saguach, and no spectacular views. Nice, but I’ve never considered it worthy of giving it its own page here on this website.

What I had forgotten was going down on the Gunnison side. The road quickly descends from the heights and exits the pine forest to wind its way down a ranching canyon. You have brown hills rising on both sides and the bottom land is covered in meadows, hay fields, and pasture. The home of many happy horses and cows.

Then the canyon narrows. All of a sudden you’re riding some great twisties between towering rock canyon walls, with the narrow canyon bottom taken up equally by the river and the road. The canyon then opens up again, and later it gets tight and steep. One road sign tells it all: Trucker beware–tight turns next 8 miles.

The bottom line is that if you’re out this way it’s worth riding this pass. It’s an alternative to Monarch Pass, and while Monarch is more spectacular, if you’ve been over Monarch before and haven’t been on North Cochetopa, and particularly if you’re coming up from Alamosa, you can go wrong taking this road. Enjoy.

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OFMC ride hits the high spots, literally

Biker Quote for Today

Chrome don’t get ya home.

Cruising Colorado with the OFMC

Monday, July 25th, 2011

OFMC on the side of Grand Mesa

The OFMC is off on its annual trip and we’re mostly doing Colorado again. We have, however, dipped down into New Mexico, spending last night here in Chama and tonight outside of Espanola. Then it’s back to the home state.

It started like a river, with a stream that met other streams and grew. Four of us left Denver Friday morning, met up with a fifth in New Castle, and then were joined there by two more. Yesterday our eighth member met up with us here in Chama. We have taken some of the main roads everyone takes and we have gotten off on some smaller roads many of us never knew existed. For instance, did you know that behind the hills that New Castle and Rifle back up to there are roads connecting those communities? They’re country roads going through some nice country and they’re a great alternative to the interstate.

We also wanted to avoid U.S. 50 down from Delta through Montrose and on to Ridgway. That one-time two-lane road is now a four-lane expressway and no fun. So John led us on CO 348 which winds through the Olathe corn country. How that road came to be considered a highway I have no idea. It zigs and zags like a ragtag bunch of country roads someone, for a joke, decided to call a “highway.”

Saturday night in Telluride was a hopping place. The place we had reservations screwed up, despite John having called two days before to confirm his reservations, and had us down for one room for two nights. No, we needed two rooms for one night. So they opened up what we took to be a private condo in the place and three of us who had that room had one of the fanciest motel rooms we’ve ever had.

Yesterday it was on over Lizard Head Pass, through Durango and Pagosa Springs to where we turned south into New Mexico, to here. Today it’s back toward Antonito over Cumbres Pass and then we’ll head right back into New Mexico. We’re taking a roundabout route or else today’s ride would be only 75 miles and not all that interesting.

Time to go ride.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
On the road with the OFMC

Biker Quote for Today

Officially old enough for an Electra-couch.

Grand Prix Motorsports to Carry Zeros

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Zero Motorcycles at Fay Myers

I’ve been reading about how Zero Motorcycles was working to get their electric bikes into regular motorcycle dealerships, and I had presumed that here in Denver that would be Fay Myers. Surprisingly, no. Zero just announced that they will be available instead at Grand Prix Motorsports, over at 3105 West County Line Road, in Littleton.

The reason I was figuring Fay Myers is that Zero was in town recently offering demo rides and they were doing so at Fay Myers. Talking with one of the Zero guys at that time, he told me they were looking to get into dealerships and Fay Myers was high on their list. Then later I got a marketing call from someone at Fay Myers asking about my interest in Zero’s bikes.

Apparently those calls showed insufficient interest to lead Fay Myers to make the leap. But Grand Prix jumped in.

Moving into dealerships has got to be a good move for Zero. I read an interview awhile back with some honcho at Brammo, Zero’s main electric motorcycle competitor, who said their initial expectations had been changed. They started out thinking that having no-shift electrics would help lure in non-riders who would be less intimidated. That has proved to be a wrong assumption. Most people buying electrics already ride gas-powered bikes. So Brammo decided the best way to sell more electrics would be to make them as comparable to the gas bikes as possible, and they are now adding gearing to their bikes, rather than scooter-style twist and go.

It stands to reason then that if people who already ride are the ones buying the electrics, you need to sell the electrics at regular dealerships.

In a related story, I just saw a piece yesterday about a new charging system used by the Nissan Leaf (if I remember correctly) electric car that gives a full charge in 30 minutes. And there was a story in the Denver Post about some local outfit that believes they have technology to produce batteries that are a tenth the size and last 10 times as long as current ones. It is technological advancements like these that are going to make electric motorcycles a truly viable option in a much shorter time than most people think.

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Jon Kuo moves into 2nd place in overall points

Biker Quote for Today

Image is only for riders who stay on long, straight roads.

Exploring More Colorado Dirt

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Once again, Judy and I were up in the mountains this past weekend, in her new Subaru Forester, checking out some dirt roads. A dual-sport bike is really high on my wish list but until that happens we’re using her high-clearance, all-wheel-drive vehicle to scout out some roads that might make for some good riding eventually.

Dirt bike on Weston PassWe knew we were going to be coming from Aspen over Independence Pass, so looking at the map, Weston Pass presented itself as something to consider. This road runs over from a little south of Leadville to just a little south of Fairplay. It’s a short-cut that eliminates the drive down to Buena Vista and then back up over Antero Pass on U.S. 285. Of course, with roads like this one, the short-cut takes about twice as much time as the long way around, even though it’s probably one-quarter the distance.

So let me tell you now, Weston Pass would be great on a dual-sport bike. The ruts and potholes and rocks and all the rough stuff that held our speed down much of the time to around 5 mph would just be fun on a proper dirt bike or dual-sport. And in fact, we did see and talk with one guy going over the pass on his bike. That’s him in the picture. I didn’t get his name but it was good to talk with him because he reassured us our car would get over the pass OK. The eastern side of Weston Pass is easy but the western side, which is the side we went up, was very rough. We saw a sign down on the eastern side warning that the western side of the pass road was not maintained for low-clearance vehicles. They weren’t kidding about that.

In the meantime, if you do have a dual-sport, it’s a nice road, going through some terrific country. I have a strong feeling that the more we go out on these roads in this Subaru the more my “need” for a dual-sport is going to increase. And I know that a bike will go on roads that we wouldn’t dream of taking the Forester on, so that will open up even more possibilities. In the meantime, I’m going to have to depend on getting off in the dirt with my friends Ron Coleman, of Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures, and Kevin Smith of Colorado Mountain Moto. They rent dual-sport bikes so if you’re like me and don’t have your own that is an option.

Judy and I figure the next dirt road we want to check out is Boreas Pass, from Como there in South Park over to Breckenridge. Again, I doubt it’s particularly challenging on a bike, but we’ve never been over it so we’re going to go. And some day I will get that bike.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Repeal of peculiar helmet law vetoed

Biker Quote for Today

Loud Pipes Kill Trails

All Motorcycle Maps Are Not Created Equal

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

It was not a motorcycle trip but my wife, Judy, and I were out running around the mountains last weekend and had a chance to really compare some maps I had brought along. We were in her new Subaru Forester, which is an all-wheel-drive vehicle with high clearance, so we wanted to do some dirt, and take some roads we hadn’t been on before.

Motorcycle mapsI brought along three maps that I figured would be useful. One is the Colorado Motorcycle Skill Rating Map that was put together largely by ABATE of Colorado and the Motorcycle Roadracing Association for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Another was the Colorado Bicycling and Scenic Byways Map, also produced by CDOT. The third was the Butler Motorcycle Maps Colorado map.

With Judy playing navigator, I drove. We went over Ripple Creek Pass, on the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway, which runs from Yampa over to Meeker. Later we went partway back along that road to Buford and took the Buford to Newcastle Road. Then we drove the Colorado River Road from Dotsero to a little north of State Bridge on CO 131, and finally over the Trough Road, which runs from State Bridge to Kremmling. The first two are rough roads that you would not want to take a street bike on (though we have in fact ridden the Flat Tops Byway on street bikes–bad idea!), while the other two are just fine for street bikes.

All in all, we had a great time, saw some great scenery, and gathered a lot of information that will eventually end up in the Dirt Roads section of this website. What I hadn’t really thought about, though, was what a good test this was for the maps. They all three were helpful in their way, but the word from the navigator is very clear: The Butler Maps Colorado map is the best.

What that means, very simply, is that the one you pay money for is better than the two free ones. That stands to reason, and is appropriate, but of course was not something you could just assume. But we put them to the test and that’s the verdict. And let me make the point here as well that this is not a verdict biased by the fact that Butler advertises on this site. I’m not sure Judy is even aware of that. She just switched back and forth between the three again and again and at one point told me in no uncertain terms that I should tell everyone that the the Butler map was the best. So there you go. I’ve passed the word along.

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Piaggio MP3: A parallelogram of wheels

Biker Quote for Today

I’m slower than a dude riding one-handed on a DR350 while running a video camera. -Bk.Rd.Rnr

A Good Stop to Consider on the Colorado Motorcycle Tour

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Sparky and Rocky at Nine Mile Guest Ranch

A little over a year ago I got an email from Sparky Pappas asking about being included in my list of Biker-Friendly Motels and Hotels on the website. She added that “if you’re interested, we would give you a complimentary one-night stay so you can check us out and – we hope – add us to your listing.”

I replied that I would be happy to add them to the listing, that it’s offered as a service to the visitors to the site and I’m happy to add anyone who is actively seeking motorcyclists as guests. And I did add them, the Nine Mile Guest Ranch, to the listing.

Fast forward a year, and Judy and I were planning to be out that way this past weekend. I emailed Sparky to ask if the offer still stood. It did and we dropped by.

One of the key things that Sparky and Rocky (in the photo, above) have to offer that our group looks for in accommodations is the larger, group sort of rooms. If we can get a room or suite that has five beds we’re taking it. Dividing the whole group up by twos is a lot more expensive. At Nine Mile there are four cabins with a total of 13 beds. We have eight going on our trip in a couple weeks and two of those cabins could handle us all. The rates are $75 per night for two, plus an additional $15 for each extra person, so that would come to $26 per person for us. You’ll have a hard time doing better than that.

Plus, the place is beautiful. It’s north of Meeker about 9 miles on CO 13, headed toward Craig. It’s quiet, the cabins are clean and homey, and the quiet is amazing. You won’t get plush or luxury here but the bed we slept on was great. We had stayed the night before at the Sheraton in Steamboat Springs and I liked this bed better.

You will need to figure on running into Meeker for dinner, or else bring something that doesn’t require cooking beyond the microwave. There is a barbecue grill, however, so you can use that. And there are refrigerators.

One other thing you’ll want to be aware of is that Sparky and Rocky don’t take credit cards. Plan accordingly. And don’t depend on your GPS to help you find the place. I looked on Google Maps and it showed the location about four miles further north than it really is. Sparky told me of a group of bikers who said they were on their way and she watched as they rode on past, then back the other way, and they finally called to ask “Where are you?” GPS is wrong.

So there you go. We liked the place and would definitely stay there again. If your group is heading out that way and you’re looking for a place to bed down for the night you could do a lot worse than the Nine Mile Guest Ranch.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Taking a spin on a Triumph Tiger 800

Biker Quote for Today

We all share a tacit understanding that houses are just a support system for riding motorcycles. — Peter Egan

Be Prepared When You Go Demo Riding

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Triumph demo rides

Demo rides are a great way to try out different motorcycles, whether you’re looking to buy a new bike soon or just want to see what you like for whenever the time comes. Just don’t show up without proper gear.

Of course, the problem is that no two manufacturers seem to have exactly the same list of what they consider proper gear. Play it safe and go the ATGATT route. That way you’ll be covered (ha, ha–pun intended).

I went over to Foothills BMW yesterday to demo ride some Triumphs. It was a nice day and I didn’t feel the need to wear gloves, but they were in my pocket. When I saw the list of what Triumph was requiring, there they were on the list, gloves. Glad I had them.

I met up with my friend Randy there, and he had also come to ride some Triumphs. Randy had his helmet but he didn’t have a jacket or gloves. It never crossed his mind. Fortunately, one of the guys running the demos was just his size and loaned Randy his own jacket and gloves, so Randy got to ride.

There really is no consistency. You’d think all manufacturers would require a helmet at a minimum, but I’ve been to demo ride events where they were optional. Also, Triumph was requiring simply “no open toe shoes.” Sneakers were OK. That surprised me, considering I had just done this RiderCoach training recently where one paying student was turned away because he only had sneakers, not boots that fully covered his ankles.

Sometimes they want you to have a jacket or long-sleeve shirt at least. For the MSF rider courses that’s the requirement, though lord knows a long-sleeve shirt isn’t going to do you any more good in a get-off than a simple T-shirt. And other times I’ve seen just T-shirts to be OK.

The bottom line is that you just can’t tell. Better to go to the demo ride event with ALL your gear. Then if they don’t require it and you don’t want to wear it, don’t. But don’t put yourself in a position where you come all this way only to be turned away.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Focus on bringing in new motorcycle riders

Biker Quote for Today

Don’t run your fingers over my bike and I won’t run my bike over your fingers.

Fireworks in June at

Monday, July 4th, 2011

It took an extra year but I’m pleased to announce that this website just set an all-time record for visitor traffic. In June 2011 there were, according to Stat Counter, the tracking software I use, 13,966 unique visitors to the site. That surpasses the previous record, set in June 2009, or 13,302.

Screen shot of a page on the siteSo why do I say it took an extra year? If you’re a regular reader you may recall a couple posts I did a little over a year ago about the site getting hacked. That happened right during the period when traffic generally ramps up for the summer and for the first time since the site has existed the traffic numbers were down year over year for three months.

Before that, every May had been higher than the previous May; every June had been higher than the previous June. Et cetera. But last year, April, May, and June were down from the previous year, although they were still substantially higher than in those months two years earlier. It took until July for the effects of the hack to pass and July numbers were finally higher than the previous July.

Now, for the first time in two years, we’ve set a new record. Of course I’m pleased. I love it that this site I’ve built has proven so valuable to so many people. I frequently get emails from visitors seeking additional information and I’m always happy to provide what I can. Occasionally I meet someone who has been on the site. That’s a real thrill.

So welcome, and welcome back again and again. You’re the key in all this. If nobody was visiting the site there would be no purpose for operating it. Thank you!

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On the motorcycle scene with Diva Amy

Biker Quote for Today

Flags and handlebars should never touch the ground.