Archive for July, 2013

First Ride Up Phantom Canyon

Monday, July 29th, 2013
V-Strom On Phantom Canyon Road

The V-Strom on Phantom Canyon Road.

I’ve known about the Phantom Canyon road for years but had never been on it until Saturday. Chalk up one more first on the V-Strom.

There are two roads leading up from Canon City to the Cripple Creek/Victor area. One is the Shelf Road, which I have been on before, and the other is the Phantom Canyon road.

On the last night out of this year’s OFMC ride we stayed in Canon City. Brett and Randy got going early wanting to get home to Denver as quickly as possible. John was heading back to Montrose, and Dennis, Friggs, Bill, and I weren’t in such a hurry to get home and decided to get there via Cripple Creek. As John headed west, Dennis, Bill, and Friggs headed north, following the pavement. I headed east and then north on the gravel.

The Phantom Canyon road is an old narrow-gauge rail bed so it is narrow and twisty and goes through some gorgeous country. At first it was very smooth, the sort of thing a street bike could handle easily, but up close to Victor it got rougher, particularly where the water runs across the road and eats trenches. It was nothing the V-Strom couldn’t handle with ease but again, a street bike could have done it. In fact, as I went up the canyon I encountered several bikes going down. The first were two dirt bikes, so of course they were fine. Then there was Can-Am Spyder and two trikes. With three wheels they were fine. And then there was a couple on a Harley. I’m sure as long as they took it easy and picked their path along they did just fine, too.

The canyon is very tight with steep walls at first, opening out later into something a bit more spacious. While the road does not show any “improvements” over the basic rail bed there are a few bridges that are clearly much more recent. And there are a couple railroad tunnels that give you an idea just how small those old trains must have been, because they would have been tight for two bigger motorcycles passing in opposite directions. In fact, much of the road is one lane and while a car and a bike could pass, two cars could not have. My biggest concern was not the road surface so much as the thought that a car might come fast around a blind curve and we might have an encounter. But that didn’t happen. A few cars going the other way were moving a bit fast on the more open stretches but on the tight curves it seemed everyone recognized that taking it slow was mandatory.

So this was the third time on this trip that I took the gravel while the other guys stayed on the asphalt. That totally works for me. I’m not keen on riding in such a big group to start with, and the reason I bought this dual-sport bike was to go places I would never go on a bike before. My wishes are now coming true.

Biker Quote for Today

Where a motorcycle takes you is more important than where you take it.

Kebler Pass on the V-Strom

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
V-Strom on Kebler Pass

V-Strom on Kebler Pass.

It’s not a challenge in any way but I’ve now ridden Kebler Pass on the V-Strom.

After spending the night at Powderhorn, at a ski condo, we ran over Grand Mesa and down to Cedaredge and turned east. At Hotchkiss all the other guys headed south through Crawford, to the north rim of the Black Canyon, over to Gunnison and up to Crested Butte. Me, I kept going at Hotchkiss, through Paonia, and turned off to ride Kebler Pass to CB.

I told these guys Kebler is a great gravel road but I had no idea just how great it would be at this time. My friend Kevin, in Gunnison, who I called once I got here, said they went hog wild with the mag chloride on Kebler this year and it’s practically paved. I would agree. Heck, there was even a guy on a bicycle. You don’t ride bicycles on really bad gravel roads.

Of course I’ve been on Kebler before, too, so the only thing noteworthy about this whole thing is that once again I’m getting out on unpaved roads–the reason I bought this dual-sport bike.

I did have a little trepidation heading for Kebler, however. Talking with a guy at a gas station at Cedaredge, he told me they had had a lot of rain lately and there had been mud slides and roads had been blocked. He thought Kebler Pass might be bad. He told me to take it easy because I might come around a curve to find a boulder lying in the road.

Then I pulled off at a station in Paonia and spoke to some guys there who were on dual-sports and they said they had just been over Kebler recently and it was the best they’d ever seen it. That was reassuring. And they were right.

So it wasn’t an adventure, but it was fun nevertheless. And of course it was gorgeous. Kebler Pass runs through some terrific country and if you haven’t been up there you owe yourself that treat. And if you’re on a Harley, do it anyway. You won’t find a gravel road in better condition.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you won’t ride down a gravel road.

Finally Getting Some Real Time on the V-Strom

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The V-Strom on the road to Pagoda.

There is no better way of getting truly familiar with a new motorcycle than living on one for a week. Today is Monday of our OFMC weeklong trip, having left on Friday, and I’m really getting to know this V-Strom that I bought two months ago.

The first thing that hit me was that I have got to get some highway pegs on this bike. After a few hours on the road I’m looking for a place to move my feet to in a different position, and where the heck are those highway pegs? I’ll probably need to put on a case guard–which won’t be a bad thing–and then attach some pegs to that. That’s what I did with my CB750 all those many years ago and that’s still how the bike is equipped today.

The second thing to hit me was that I need a throttle lock. Again, after a few hours, your hand is starting to protest against hanging onto this grip all this time. That one will be easy and cheap to address.

We headed out on Friday, meeting up in the Poudre and that gave me an opportunity to try out the bike’s capabilities a bit, too. I rode up the Buckhorn road, over through Stove Prairie to the Poudre, and was heading up the Poudre when I saw for an instant, a couple curves ahead of me, two bikes. Not just any two bikes, but two Harleys with suitcases mounted on top of the top bags at the rear. Nearly all these bloated OFMC biker types have those on their luxocruisers these days.

So I figured I needed to catch up and see if it was really who I thought it was. Now there were a couple cars between me and them but these are motorcycles, so even if the center line is yellow a quick flip of the wrist and two seconds later you’re ahead of the guy you used to be behind. And I was. So it was a pleasure to see that the V-Strom had that pep. And it had it in spades.

I caught up and it was indeed Brett and Jason and they recognized my jacket, even though the bike was unfamiliar, and pulled off. When we took off again I was in the lead and they said it was about 15 seconds before I was gone out of sight. This bike is so light and agile that I just blasted up the canyon and it was fun.

Nothing particular to report about Saturday, just a few passes and then a night in Dillon where one of our group is the sax player in the featured band at some summer festival they do in Dillon. We left there Sunday morning, headed up CO 9 along the Blue River to Kremmling, west over Gore Pass, up to U.S. 40, and then for them, to Craig and down to Meeker.

Not for me. I saw that a road heading south out of Hayden looped around through some little nothing town called Pagoda and met highway 13 coming down from Craig somewhere north of Meeker. And there were about–by my judgment–8 miles of gravel. I went that way. As it turned out, there were closer to 11 miles of gravel but no problem. I was riding a dual-sport bike and it likes gravel.

So I got to see more of Colorado that I’ve never seen before. In this case, high cliffs on both sides with a lush green valley down the middle with a few ranch houses, some hay fields, some cattle, some horses, and a stream meandering down the middle. Nothing special, just the typically beautiful thing that ranch valleys normally feature. Has anyone ever noticed that ranchers live in some of the most beautiful places imaginable?

My route was probably half the miles that everyone else rode but I got to Meeker about 10 minutes later than they did because I was going slow on the gravel and they were blasting on the asphalt. That suits me just fine. It was a really nice ride. I love how I have so many more options now.

Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re becoming addicted to riding when you find yourself gravitating to the center of the lane, only to remember that you are not sitting in the center of the vehicle!

OFMC Heads Out on Friday

Thursday, July 18th, 2013
the OFMC on the road

The OFMC on the road last year.

OK, I know I intended to tell about the road to Silt here but that’s going to have to wait. It’s time for the annual OFMC trip.

We leave on Friday. That’s tomorrow as this is published. There will be nine this year, at least at times. Everyone is leaving at different times, and in some cases different days.

Most of us are heading up on Friday to Poudre Canyon, where we’ll be staying at a lodge in the canyon. The next day we’ll ride several passes to get to Dillon, where Johnathon will be joining us after his band plays a gig there.

We’ll head up through Kremmling and over Gore Pass and ultimately to Meeker. Next day our destination will be Powder Horn ski area. I don’t even know where Powder Horn is.

From there we head to Crested Butte, then to Pagosa Springs, and then into New Mexico to Eagle Nest. This will be our only night out of Colorado.

After that it’s back into Colorado, to Canon City, and on Saturday some will head home while others stay out one last night at Cripple Creek.

What we’re doing here is trying to vary things a bit. We’ve been riding all around Colorado for so many years that it’s hard to go some place new. If you leave Denver and ride a reasonable time that puts you in a fairly consistent arc of possible destinations. So let’s try this: Make the first day a really short one. Then your next day’s arc hits some very different places. Then pick out some place we’ve never stayed before and that’s that day’s destination.

For instance, we’ve never stayed at Hot Sulphur Springs. We’re not staying there this time either, but some day we will. We’ll just make a point to. And as I said previously, I’m adding Vega State Park to the list of future destinations. As for this year, we’ve never stayed in Pagosa before. We’ve never stayed in Canon City, we’ve never stayed in Dillon, and we’ve sure never stayed at Powder Horn.

So it should be fun. I’ll tell you all about it.

Biker Quote for Today

People tell me I have a motorcycle problem. I tell them, I may have problems, but motorcycles are the solution.

Exploring Colorado Off the Pavement

Monday, July 15th, 2013
Mountain rising above the road behind us.

The view going the other way.

Off onto some new gravel again this weekend. This time taking Pitkin County Road 265 from where is comes off CO 133 on the southern side of McClure Pass.

I’ve been over McClure many times and on occasion have noticed this road heading west, with the sign saying Collbran. I figured it was time to see what was out there.

Right away the road runs up a wide ranching valley, with what looked like a mix of working ranches and some rich-folk “ranches” that are more retreats than anyone’s way of making a living. The gravel in through here was pretty good, well-maintained. That changed pretty abruptly when the ranches ended; the road got a lot rougher. Still, it’s the sort of thing a dual-sport bike is built for so no reason to hesitate. And it was somewhere along through here where, looking back, we had that great view of that mountain in the photo above.

The road began to climb and at times it was hard to be sure which gravel road to take. They all looked inviting but if you stopped and read the small print on the signs you could tell which was which. We went up through forests and could see a lot of the mountains around us and while none of it was the kind of scenery that leaves you awestruck, it was all pretty darn beautiful. This is backcountry Colorado that you’ll never see if you stick to the pavement.

Passing into Delta County the road becomes 74.4 Road, the funny way they number things out in the western part of the state, and comes down another ranching valley before meeting up with Highway 330E. North from here takes you to Silt or New Castle, depending on which turns you make, while left leads soon to pavement and on to a turn-off–paved–to Vega State Park. That was where we headed, to camp for the night.

No, we’d never heard of Vega State Park before but it’s a very pretty place. The park itself has campgrounds and cabins for rent and there is also a private lodge on the lake that has cabins. I’m definitely going to be pushing for the OFMC to make a night’s stop here on one of our summer rides. If you come from the Collbran side it’s all paved. I’m the only one of the group who likes doing gravel so pavement is important.

So as I say, there was nothing spectacular here but there was sure nothing that was ugly either. This is beautiful country. And I’ll tell you about the road to Silt the next time.

Biker Quote for Today

Why do I ride? Because this is out there and it never ends . . . and about 50 other reasons.

Guest Post: Can’t Miss Competitions in the United States

Thursday, July 11th, 2013
motorcycle racers ready to run

You don't have to be Valentino Rossi to enjoy getting out on the track and racing.

The following is a guest post from Simone.

If you can’t get enough speed on your motorcycle, than competition motorcycle racing could be for you. Live through professional riders! Luckily enough, there are a bunch of different racing styles and types to choose. From motocross to endurance to hare scrambles and more, there is bound to be something to fit your racing preference. Additionally, there exist a variety of rider associations that present yearly racing series and other events geared to the adventure-seekers and spectators just like you. Below are some of the featured annual competitions and races that, if you want to live through a motorcycle racer, you’ve simply got to check out! Maybe you’ll even try out yourself. But whatever you do, make sure to do your homework and stay in your appropriate racing class.

US Grand Prix National Championship Series – This sportbike racing competition is unique because it’s really two racing series in one. Comprised of the 125 Grand Prix National and 250 Grand Prix National Championships features extended length grand prix racing with timed qualifying. Riders in the USGPRU series compete for regional championships in the Eastern and Western regions across North America and the points earned there are carried over to the US National Championship. Additionally, this series splits its riders up so older racers (over 30) can compete against each other while the young-guns are left to compete with each other.

The East Coast Enduro Association has been a proud sponsor of endure and hare scrambles for upwards of forty-five years. Featuring courses in the beautiful mountains of Pennsylvania, the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and the surrounding areas, riders compete in different series to earn points towards the championship. Enduro racing is said to be one of the ‘easiest’ kinds of racing to start with because it takes place on dirt and doesn’t necessarily reach the same top speeds as sportbike racing.

The Race of Champions, brought to you by the American Sportbike Racing Association (ASRA) allows riders to compete on the famous Daytona International Speedway in a Team Challenge or separately in a winner-take-all championship sprint series. Open to any rider over the age of 16, this race is a great fall-time fixture in the lives of many sportbike racers for nearly thirty years.

Next comes the Action Sports Grand Prix Series at the Action Sports Moto Park in Ohio. This series is different because not only does it include off-highway motorcycle racing, it also includes ATV racing series and harescrambles. In order to be awarded the #1 plate, riders must earn the greatest amount of points in each class. These series points from the 8 AMA-sanctioned Grand Prix events will determine each class champion. In addition to holding the 8 events there are also 2 motocross practice days worked into the schedule.

We’re just scratching the surface of all the different types and series of motorcycle racing. Check out these events and start your own research of great competitions. And maybe get out there and compete in your first race as well!

Author bio: Simone is a writer for Competition Accessories, a leading online retailer of motorcycle apparel and more. Simone takes pride in her gear and loves taking twilight rides and discovering new locations.

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Biker Quote for Today

A biker without full-face protection should only ride as fast as the slowest hornet. — MediaWeasel

Finally Some Riding on the New Bike

Monday, July 8th, 2013
V-Strom at Red Rocks

The new bike in an exotic place, even if it is close to home.

I hate how this business of working 40 hours a week interferes with my riding time. I may have been broke most of the time while I was a full-time freelance but at least I got to ride plenty.

This weekend was looking like more of same. Saturday went by with every hour claimed and I was determined to get out on the V-Strom on Sunday. But Sunday came and every hour seemed to be claimed as well and I was getting pretty disheartened. And I said no.

I decided that no matter what else didn’t get done, I would ride. And I got on and off I went.

It wasn’t any kind of big deal ride. I had wanted to head up into the mountains and take some gravel road I’d never been on on a bike before, but I didn’t have that much time. Instead I just cruised west through town, doing what I could to dodge raindrops. I actually put my rain jacket on at one point but was pulling it off again five minutes later. Hot!

Made my way out to Golden and then turned south. At Morrison I decided to run over to Red Rocks and get some pictures. I wanted to be able to say “see what cool places I’ve been on my new bike.” Sure, Red Rocks is not exotic, unless you’ve never been there. Chances are someone will read this who has never been there and will look at that picture above and think, “Wow, that’s not exotic? What kind of incredible place do you live in?”

But I have an ambition now. On Adventure Riders they have a “Wee-Strom” thread (that’s for the 650cc V-Strom as opposed to the 1000cc V-Strom) with the title, “Let’s see your Vstrom OFFROAD!” On this thread a lot of guys have posted a lot of terrific shots of their bikes in some fabulous places. I want to add a bunch of my own photos to this thread. I just have to go shoot them first.

Anyway, I headed back home, having been out for two hours. It wasn’t much but I did ride the dang bike! I guess the first serious miles I’m going to get on it will be on the OFMC summer trip which is coming up very soon. None of the guys have seen the new bike yet. Time to do something about that.

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Biker Quote for Today

Everyday is a good day for a ride! But Sunday is perfect!

Always Looking

Thursday, July 4th, 2013
Cars and bikes on highway

At least when you ride in a group they're a lot more likely to be aware of you.

The following post is sponsored by CentralContracts.com.

I rode my Concours to work on Wednesday, and figuring that on the day before the holiday the traffic was likely to be light, I went up I-25 to 6th Avenue (the northern route).

Normally when I ride I don’t like taking that route because of all the stop and go you can run into on the highway, and that’s just murder on your clutch wrist. I prefer to go across on Hampden, which turns into freeway past Santa Fe, and then north on Kipling and then some winding through the neighborhoods to my destination (the southern route). It’s actually a mile or so shorter on that route, too, but it’s a little slower than the northern route.

Of course the other reason I avoid I-25 most of the time is that it is simply inevitable that someone in that jammed traffic will decide to pull into my lane, never bothering to turn their head to check and see if perhaps I’m there. I know better than to hang in someone’s blind spot normally, but when you’re on a packed superhighway there’s just no way to avoid it again and again the whole time.

So it was no surprise when this woman started coming my way. I laid on the horn–fortunately the Connie has a loud one–and I had to laugh seeing her swing sharply back into her own lane. Hopefully feeling quite chastised.

That never seems to happen when I’m in my car, but on the bike it is inevitable. Bikes just get hidden too easily in the blind spot. And people trust their mirrors too much.

For the rest of the ride, though, and for the ride home there were no other incidents. As a motorcyclist you have to pay extremely careful attention all the time in heavy traffic like that and you learn to read people and what they’re probably going to do. At the very least, you hypothesize that they’re going to do something and while they don’t always do it, when they do you’re ready.

And one thing I noticed this day was that there were several drivers who I firmly believed were intending to come my way but just before they made their move they saw me. They did what every driver ought to do. They were good drivers. You can’t avoid noticing the bad ones–they’re flagrantly putting your life in danger. But it’s easy not to notice the good ones. On this day I noticed the good ones.

In other words, they’re not all idiots out there. It just seems like it some times.

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Biker Quote for Today

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Side Stand by Hand?

Monday, July 1st, 2013
custom motorcycle

This custom bike has the side stand right about where you would expect it to be.

I just have to remark about something I saw this weekend. Maybe this is totally common and I’ve just never seen it. Maybe not. Maybe you know.

We were up in Cheyenne on Saturday where my nephew and his new wife were having a party for friends and relatives. They got married in an extremely small, private affair so this was their wedding party.

We were out in back and across the alley a guy rolled up on a custom bike. Sorry, I didn’t have time to get a photo. Anyway, he needed to get off the bike to open his garage door so once he was stopped he reached back with his hand and flipped the side stand down. I was like, what!?

He got the door up, remounted, and then reached back by hand and flipped the side stand up and rolled into the garage. What?

OK, I mean, considering the location of the side stand it would be pretty hard to reach it with your foot. And sitting so low and leaned back it was totally reachable with his hand. But I’ve never seen a bike with the side stand way the heck back there. Is this common for custom bikes?

I went digging through my pictures of custom bikes and came up with the one above, as an example. As you can see, this one has the side stand right by the foot peg. Normal. Move that thing back behind the belt, practically hanging off that rear fender, and that’s where this bike I saw had its stand.

Not a big deal, but worth a remark, I thought. Like I said, maybe it’s common on those sorts of bikes, and maybe I’ve just never paid attention. But it sure got my attention on Saturday.

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Biker Quote for Today

You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go.