Archive for September, 2011

The Fall Color/Cemetery Dual-Sport Tour

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

V-Strom and F800GS at old cemetery above Central City

Had a terrific time with Ron Coleman of Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures today dual-sport riding in the hills west of Boulder and around Central City. He was on one of his V-Stroms and I was on his F800GS. Oh, and I dumped the thing twice. Details in due time.

Ron dubbed this the Fall Color/Cemetery Tour for very literal reasons. The aspen are at their peak of color about now and here’s an interesting thing you may not know: cruising around in the hills above Central City there are numerous old cemeteries, with gravestones dating back to the mid-1800s. They’re actually very picturesque, with some very ornate markers.

We headed out of Boulder going up Boulder Canyon but then turned off onto Magnolia Drive. This road climbs very steeply with numerous switchbacks that must have a road pitch of at least 15 percent. It was nice to be on a bike that was light and had great low-end torque. Up over a crest and the mountains to the west came into sight and the pavement ended. We wound our way along and then reached the Peak-to-Peak Highway just north of where the road up Coal Creek Canyon hits it.

Heading south on the Peak-to-Peak, we turned off just before reaching Black Hawk onto Apex Valley Road. Where Apex Valley Road appears to end, a hard left took us up Upper Apex Road and after awhile we came out into a clearing on a ridgetop where there were three cemeteries. What was surprising was that there were also some very new condos up there. Ron said he believes they were built to house casino workers when gambling was legalized in Black Hawk and Central City.

We headed down toward Central City but turned off on a gravel road that carried us along a ridge overlooking the town. At one point Ron stopped, took a hard right, and went down a badly washed out road that had softball-sized rocks and about 6 inches of sand. In retrospect, I should have made the commitment to do it and just gone for it. But I didn’t. I was very hesitant and lacking in confidence, and I high-sided. That bike flipped me like a rag doll but I landed totally unhurt and the bike was not damaged either. We got it back up and went on our way.

From Central City we took the parkway over to I-70 and on to Idaho Springs for lunch, where we met up with Jacque, a friend of Ron’s who I had ridden with before. She was on her F650GS. We continued west just to Fall River Road and then, after probably less than a mile on that road turned off onto the York Gulch road. This brought us to another old cemetery where, when I put my feet down to stop, I ended up just falling over because my feet didn’t make contact with the ground. Ron pointed out after we picked the bike back up that there was a rut right where my foot was expecting something solid. Once again, no injuries, no damage.

Following that road further we ended up right back at the other cemeteries above Central City and retraced our path down Upper Apex and Apex Valley Road, back to the Peak-to-Peak. We headed north but then turned east on South Beaver Creek Road, unpaved, which ran into CO 72 coming up Coal Creek Canyon. Took that road down to CO 93 at Rocky Flats and then on back to Boulder.

What a great day to be out in the mountains in the dirt. So good, in fact, that we’re going to do it again next week.

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Biker Quote for Today

Rule 1 of motorcycling: Get back on the bike. Sooner or later, you will.

Great Dual-Sport Gunnison Weekend

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Coming down off Carnero Pass

I went dual-sporting again this weekend with Kevin Smith over in the Gunnison area. Kevin lives over there and rents V-Stroms through his company, Colorado Mountain Moto. Last year we rode Cinnamon Pass. This year we rode Carnero Pass.

Never heard of Carnero Pass? Neither had I. But it’s the perfect example of what I keep saying, that I want to do a lot more dual-sport riding because I know there are a lot of fabulous roads in this state that I’ve never been on because they are not paved.

Oh, and just to make that last statement seem a little foolish, Kevin’s wife Janet rode with us–on her Ninja. Now, Kevin says this Ninja 500R is really more a standard than a sportbike, but still, we were on dual-sports and Janet was on her Ninja. It’s a matter of attitude. Some people say “A touring bike is whatever bike you’re on when you go touring.” I guess you can say that a dual-sport bike is any bike you’re on when you go dual-sporting. This is the bike Janet has so it’s the bike she rides wherever she wants to ride. This is not the first gravel mountain pass road she’s been on on that bike.

Now, I still wouldn’t have wanted to have been on that road with my Concours. But my CB750 is a different story. That bike just handles better on gravel than the Kawi. And if that Ninja could do this ride my CB could, too.

So where did we go? We headed east out of Gunnison just a few miles to where we turned off on CO 114, which runs down over North Cochetopa Pass to Saguache. We went over the pass but before we got as far as Saguache we turned off onto Saguache County Road 41G. This is the road that goes up over Carnero Pass. Carnero is almost as high as Slumgullion Pass, which we crossed later, but you’d never know it. I guess we had done most of our climbing coming up North Cochetopa, and so even though we down then a ways, it didn’t seem like that much further up to Carnero after we got off CO 114.

Coming down, though, we had a pretty good descent as we made out way toward Del Norte, where we finally reached the pavement again. In the interim we rode some very nice roads and saw some terrific scenery and just generally enjoyed a day out away from pretty nearly anyone else. We did go back to Gunnison via South Fork, Creede, and Lake City, though so that was all paved and populated. The aspens are turning, though not quite at their peak yet, and it was a beautiful autumn day, though it did get blustery in the afternoon. What a great day to be out on some great roads. I love living in Colorado. (You can read more about it and see pictures from the ride on Examiner, via that link immediately below.)

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Dual-sport riding out of Gunnison

Biker Quote for Today

The quickest way from Point A to Point B is not on a straight line, it’s on a motorcycle.

New Book of Colorado Rides Is Very Comprehensive

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The Complete Guide to Motorcycling Colorado contains colorful in-depth descriptions of 172 different rides that can be combined in a variety of ways to create the best trips for all riding styles and interests.”

Cover of The Complete Guide to Motorcycling ColoradoSo says the blurb that came with this new book from Whitehorse Press and of course, of all possible reviewers, I wanted to see what it’s all about. First off, what 172 rides could the author, Steve Farson, possibly have compiled? Here on the Passes and Canyons website I list 33 rides on my Great Roads page, and just a few more on my Dirt Roads and Side Trips page.

One thing I knew from the start is that he includes a lot of dirt roads. OK, that will certainly add to the number in a big way. There are a lot of great unpaved roads in this state that are wonderful for a dual-sport bike. You could do an entire book just on them. Also, it turns out, Farson breaks some segments out into individual rides that I lump together as a group. My Peak-to-Peak Highway and Adjoining Canyons page is a perfect example of that. That page includes the entire series of roads running from Estes Park down to U.S. 6 as well as Clear Creek Canyon and five others. So OK, now I’m starting to see how he reached that 172 number.

The bottom line there is that this book is comprehensive. And I can tell you from my own experience building this website, Steve Farson must have put an enormous amount of effort into compiling all this information. He doesn’t just show you the routes and give you an idea of what you’ll see, he also delves into history and tells you a lot about the areas. Along with current photos of these roads there are also numerous old black and whites from 100 years ago or more showing the then and now.

Farson breaks the state up into seven regions and addresses each individually. At the end is also a Colorado Statewide section that offers suggested routes linking together a bunch of the individual rides that he discusses separately. For instance, there are the Weekender Trip to the Northwest and Weekender Trip to the Southwest, both of which start in Buena Vista. He even breaks them down into suggestions for how to make these rides either one-nighters or two-nighters.

The sections for each region begins with a “Regional Overview” with a map showing all the routes highlighted. In the Southwest regional section, for instance, that’s nearly every road on the map because that whole part of the state is just that spectacular. It lists the “Rides in This Section” and then proceeds through them. Each ride gets at least one page and most cover two. Some extend to three pages and each has at least a map and one photo.

Next comes “Recommendations,” comprising groupings such as “Backroad Journeys,” “Especially Twisty Rides,” “Circling Tours” and “Linked Dirt-Road Adventures,” which are pretty much what the names imply. The section wraps up with “Favorite Rides,” which is broken down into categories such as “Most Scenic Spots,” “Best Cruising Journeys,” “Best Sporting Curves and Sweepers,” Best Dirt-Road Adventures,” Little-Known Gems,” and “Worthy Destinations.” Each of these is a simple listing of the rides with the ride number so you can turn to it.

What can I say? This is an impressive book. Yes, there are some dirt roads that are not included, but there’s no way you could include them all. And yes, he includes some roads that I don’t consider all that big a deal, such as Poncha Pass. But Farson uses that word “Complete” in the title, so you can’t fault him for including it. The one caution I would offer is on Guanella Pass, which the book does not mention is closed to through traffic. It has been closed for a couple years now and the last word I’ve heard is that they do not intend to reopen it. If you plan a trip with that as part of your route you’re going to be doing some significant backtracking.

Update: I just heard from Steve Farson and he gave me more current information on Guanella Pass than I had had before. Says Steve, “Guanella Pass opened this past spring. The work to stabilize the slope on the north side of the pass is complete. The work to pave the entire north side is almost complete (Oct 1 completion). In the meantime there are three hour windows on weekdays when they close the pass, then the rest of the time it is open, including weekends. It is quite something to ride the north side now. Almost park like. If Jim Gorden, owner of the Tumbling River Ranch on the Grant side finally relents, the south side of the pass down below Geneva Park might eventually be paved as well.” Thanks for the update Steve.

It’s a terrific reference book. I know that for myself, as I get more and more into dual-sport riding, I intend to use it to find some good dirt roads to ride. Use it hand in hand with this website and between the two of us I think you’ll find just about everything you’ll need to plan your Colorado trip.

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Biker Quote for Today

There’s no adventure in turning around.

English Motor Conclave Mostly Cars, Still Pretty Cool

Monday, September 19th, 2011

British Motoring Conclave

I got wind of this Colorado English Motoring Conclave 2011 from Jerry Pokorny, who has his share of Brit bikes. It was held over the weekend up in Arvada. Figured I’d go up and check it out.

First thing I’ll say is that while there were some nice bikes there, there weren’t nearly as many as I’d hoped. Second thing, there were a lot of very, very cool cars.

Not a whole lot to say about it. I’ll just give you some pictures.

British Motoring Conclave

British Motoring Conclave

British Motoring Conclave

British Motoring Conclave

British Motoring Conclave

British Motoring Conclave

British Motoring Conclave

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New tech on motorcycles not always a good thing

Biker Quote for Today

Ducati: Making mechanics out of riders since 1946.

Motorcycling Fact or Fiction?

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Motorcycle on Squaw Pass Road

I just want to pass along this information I saw in this month’s issue of ABATE of Colorado‘s Spokesman publication. It’s something they got from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, and has to do with the statistics that so often are used to justify “fixes” for problems. Here’s what the MRF put out.

Possible Errors? When errors, omissions or inaccuracies are discovered in reports or statistics, it calls into question the integrity of results. Additionally, small numbers can be easily skewed by slight or seemingly insignificant variations. Furthermore, numbers may be exploited if uncharacteristic highs or lows are used as a baseline. None of these discoveries are intended to argue against helmet use, but rather to demonstrate that suggesting a helmet law is not the solution to motorcycle safety. Individual states need to maintain the ability to determine what measures best address the needs and desires of their residents as suggested in the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS).

FACT Comparison of studies is complicated due to varying criteria, wherein one report references riders, it is unclear if that includes passengers or specifically operators. Other papers may refer to the numbers of persons, crashes or vehicles intermittently. This can be quite confusing as the numbers are usually very close and are frequently compared in error.

FACT A Minnesota motorcyclist survived a crash only to be struck by a car while standing on the road attempting to flag down a motorist for assistance. This was subsequently counted as a motorcycle fatality.

FACT A Pennsylvania taxi driver, with multiple suspensions,was responsible for about two percent of the state’s total motorcycle fatalities when he caused a crash with three motorcycles and killed five helmeted riders in a single incident.

FACT Motorcycle fatalities dropped by 10% in 2009 and preliminary reports indicate that 2010 numbers will be further reduced by at least 2%. The Motorcycle Industry Council advises that sales of replacement tires were up by 6.1% in 2010, suggesting an increase in motorcycle usage. A decrease in fatalities despite an increase in exposure would suggest that motorcycle safety and awareness programs, specifically rider education courses, have been successful.

FACT The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated over 120,000 airplane incidents, over 60,000 surface transportation incidents, and just 6 individual motorcycle incidents in their entire 44 year history — Apparently enough investigation to warrant adding mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists on their “top ten most wanted list.”

FACT According to preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association, states that have a mandatory adult helmet law had 6 fewer fatalities in 2010 than in 2009, while free choice states saw a reduction of 74. The state with the single largest decline in fatalities (Texas -60) is a choice state and a state which requires helmets on all riders tied for the greatest increase (New York +24).

FACT FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) continues to include “mopeds” in motorcycle crash statistics despite the fact that most states do not require registration of these vehicles. This practice skews the most respected method of measuring the effectiveness of motorcycle safety programs, which is the ratio of accidents, injuries and fatalities per 10,000 registrations.

For more information, contact Jeff Hennie, Motorcycle Riders Foundation, 202-546-0983, jeff@mrf.org

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Biker Quote for Today

She pulled out into his path. Classical modus deathus for a biker.

Hesitations With The Old Honda

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I love my 1980 Honda CB750 Custom. It’s the first bike I ever owned and I’ve had it for what seems like forever. I still ride it regularly and though my Kawi is a more dependable bike, the Honda is just more fun to ride. It’s that “dependable” part that’s getting to me, though.

Me on the CB in CaliforniaI rode the Honda today. And as I got on it and fired it up I had the same thought I always do anymore when I ride it: Am I going to get home today without any problems?

I can safely say now, after the fact, that I did indeed get home without any problems. But that’s the problem. Too often in recent years the answer to that question has been “No.” Last year it was out of commission for a lengthy period and in the last few years I’ve only put about 700 to 800 miles on it a year. Most of the time I ride the Kawi. Whereas I used to take the Honda everywhere (of course, it was the only bike I had), now when I plan to take a trip I always take the Kawi. First off, frankly, the Kawi is a better highway bike. But secondly, and also a big factor, I just don’t trust the Honda.

So why don’t I just get rid of it and get a newer bike? That’s pretty much what my mother said once when I told her one of our critters was sick. But no, it just doesn’t work that way. I love this bike. I wanted a bike for so many years and I finally got one. I got this one. And this bike has brought me more joy than I can begin to say.

OK. Fine. So what’s the big deal? Keep the bike, and keep riding it. But now we’re right back at the start. I really don’t enjoy wasting hours of my day waiting for the tow truck to arrive. I really don’t enjoy helping to ensure that my mechanic lives an affluent life while I scrape by. And I’m not equipped and I don’t have the time to do all my own repairs the way some folks say I should.

When you’re talking love for your kids you always think unconditional love. There’s nothing they could ever do that would cause you not to love them. But a motorcycle is not your kids. And sometimes, regret it though you may, the time comes to get rid of the bike. I know it will shock many of my friends to hear this–even my wife–but that day may be coming.

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Biker Quote for Today

I don’t think duct tape is gonna fix that.

How Quickly We Turn To Fall

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

It seems like only last week we were cooking through the hottest August on record in Colorado. Oh, wait. It was last week. And now here it is September and yesterday’s high was about 65 degrees. Is that cool enough for you?

Dual-sport riding in the mountains in the fallMore importantly, we know what that portends. It’s not going to be long and the leaves will be turning and there will be snow. The riding season anywhere higher than the prairie will be ended. Fortunately, the riding season on the prairie never ends, it just takes a hiatus now and then. But I ride 12 months out of the year, every year, no exceptions, and I know others who do the same. It would be different if I lived above 8,000 feet. Maybe even 7,000.

With that in mind I was interested in a piece put out yesterday by Lisa Petrocelli, the Albany Biker Culture Examiner, called “Season of the biker.” What she said was that, “An interesting thought occurred to me today – that the seasons of the year seem to last twice as long for bikers.”

Her gist was that winter, when we can’t ride, seems to last twice as long. And summer comes early and stays late because while others are resigning themselves to the seasons, we are claiming the warmth sooner and clinging to it later.

As Lisa says, “while most people around me (family members, co-workers) seem to be geared toward the coming season, the bikers around me are still at rest in the Summertime. Yes, we all know this is the last month of Summer, but it IS STILL SUMMER! I have seen absolutely no movement by the bikers in my world to even consider slowing down or start to think about storing their bikes for the winter.”

It is, of course, only early September right now and there is some great riding to be done in the next several weeks. Fall color rides are a great thing to do and there’s no better way to see it all than on a motorcycle. But I still need to get out and do some dual-sport riding. That’s something that does have a time factor on it.

I’ve been trying all summer to find time to get up to Gunnison and go riding with Kevin Smith, who runs Colorado Mountain Moto, and that time has not been found. I finally emailed Kevin the other day saying I’m ready to throw a dart at the calendar and just do it. Likewise, I’ve been planning to ride with Ron Coleman of Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures and Dan Patino of Go 2 Motorcycle Tours and it just hasn’t happened. I think it’s safe to say you can look forward to several dual-sport riding reports here in the very near future. If not, I’m going to be kicking myself hard.

It’s time to ride. Everything else can wait.

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Biker Quote for Today

When the sun shines two wheels always win.

Missing A Great Motorcycle Photo

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Buffalo herd overlook

That’s a great scenic shot of I-70 and the mountains, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great if there were also about 50 motorcycles cruising in formation up that road toward you? That’s the shot I didn’t get the other day. I’m so annoyed.

I had plans to ride out to meet the Ride With The Forty group that was coming in on Thursday on their way to Shanksville, PA. Alan Baumbach was with some Rocky Mountain HOG members who had gone to Green River, UT, to meet them and escort them through Colorado. I had asked Alan to call me to let me know when to expect them at Georgetown. Unfortunately, the day proved a bit chaotic on their end and Alan never had a chance to call.

I was sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring and when it started getting late I started getting antsy. I called Rocky Mountain Harley-Davidson to see if they had already arrived or when they were expected. I was told the folks there were looking for them to arrive around 4 or 4:30. If that were the case, they should be reaching Georgetown around 3 or 3:30, and looking at the time I saw that to meet them there at that time I should be leaving right now. So I did.

My route was up I-25 to 6th Avenue and out that way. Unfortunately, there was an accident on I-25 at about Alameda that backed traffic up all the way to University. I lost a lot of time there and was starting to worry that I would miss them. As I cruised up I-70 finally I was constantly looking to see them coming the other way. My original plan was to reach Georgetown before them, get pictures of them coming into Georgetown, getting gas, and then run ahead to the Buffalo Herd overlook and shoot them again. And then follow them to the dealership for more pictures and interviews.

Presumably running late as I was I was undecided about going to Georgetown. What I wanted most was the shots from the overlook. If I passed them going the other way between Georgetown and Idaho Springs I’d never get back to the overlook before them. So I rode only as far as Idaho Springs and then turned back to the overlook. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

I had intended to bring a book to read but had forgotten in my haste. So just sitting and waiting was incredibly boring. Plus, the later it grew the more convinced I became that my delay on I-25 had caused me to miss them. I figured while I was sitting up at the overlook, they were probably already at Rocky Mountain Harley-Davidson. This wouldn’t have been a problem for most people. Most people would have called the dealership and asked if they had arrived. But I don’t have a cell phone. Really. I’m one of those throwbacks who just doesn’t feel a desire to always be connected. But I sure wished I had one with me at that point.

Finally at 4:30 I gave it up. The boredom was too great, plus, I figured they must surely be at the dealership by now. So I headed on down there as well. But when I got there they had not arrived. And about 10 minutes later they did arrive. Considering that I had ridden pretty fast, while they were riding rather slowly, I figure that if I had waited another 5 minutes, probably 7 minutes tops, I would have been there when they came by and I would have gotten my picture. Rats! Maybe I could Photoshop about 50 motorcycles into that picture above. Rats. Rats! RATS!!

Or maybe I’ll think once more about (gasp!) getting a cell phone. Nah, that would be too easy. Just call me the neanderthal.

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Ride With The Forty continues to Shanksville

Biker Quote for Today

Always aim where you want it to go and never at people.

Celebrating Record Traffic

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Motorcycle on the road up Lookout Mountain

Periodically I have the pleasure of thanking you, the visitors to this blog and website, for your interest. This is one of those times.

Now, traffic can be good or bad. When you’re out on the road, heavy traffic sucks. When you’re running a website, however, more traffic is a good thing.

It’s Sept. 1 and that means the monthly web traffic numbers for August are in, and they are spectacular. I’ve been running this website for 5 years now and the biggest months of the year have always been either June or July. In June this year there were an all-time record number of unique visitors–the metric I follow–coming to the site: 13,966. Then July went on to surpass June, upping the record to 14,756.

I figured that was it, that would be the maximum for the year and the record until next year. I was so wrong.

As August progressed I watched an amazing thing unfold. August numbers were exceeding July. That has never happened before. And now the month has ended, and yes indeed, August 2011 now holds the record for the most unique visitors ever: 14,860. What’s more, August surely would have been the first month ever to exceed 15,000 except that there was one day when, as near as I can figure, my web host had issues and the site was apparently offline for half a day or more. All I know for sure is that the numbers that week went like this: 658, 495, 623, 146, 546, 428, 484. So, 146? What?

I look at these numbers and I think about all the people who have contacted me with questions and looking for suggestions as they plan their trips to Colorado, and I have to smile. Some time ago a friend remarked to me that he really didn’t understand why my website wasn’t successful, because it was a good site. Not successful? I think there are more than a few people out there who would dispute that characterization.

And it’s you who have made it the success that I personally consider it to be. It’s frustrating because I still have a lot more information I want to add to the site and I scarcely have time to do that. But I’ll keep plugging away at it bit by bit, working to make the site even better. And thank you for making it all worthwhile.

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Biker Quote for Today

Carpe the living shit out of the diem.