Archive for August, 2014

Writing and Riding with EagleRider

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Chris McIntyre

EagleRider President Chris McIntyre on the media tour a few years ago.

I’ve had a good bit to do with EagleRider over the years, the motorcycle rental and tour outfit, you know? They invited me on a media tour in California a few years ago, we rented a bike from them in Vancouver a couple years ago, and they used a photo of mine in a promo they did one time as well.

Back on that media tour I spoke a lot with Chris McIntyre, president of EagleRider, about doing some writing for them. Chris is a guy who generates ideas almost faster than he can spit them out and when he talked about sending me on some of the tours they lead to be the resident scribe I was all for it. Of course, the thing with people who have that many ideas is that only a very few of them actually come to pass.

It has been a while but this one has come to pass. No, I haven’t gone on any more EagleRider tours, at least not yet, but they have made the decision to put up a blog and have a variety of people from different parts of the country writing pieces for it regularly. I get to be one of those people. And going on some of the tours is very much a possibility for the future.

In fact, I’ve already written six pieces and turned them in. And I’ve already been paid for the first two. But nothing has been published yet. I haven’t been able to get the details nailed down so I’m not at all sure when the blog will launch–I believe it is going to be a blog–but you can bet I’ll put the information up here once I do have it and once these things start running.

Mostly I think it’s going to be pieces about terrific rides to go on. That’s what four of mine have been. My other two are tips about riding with a group and going for extended, long-distance rides. The kind of stuff I’ve done a heck of a lot of.

I’m really very interested, though, to see what everyone else is writing about. I know my friend Alisa Clickenger has also been taken on as a writer and I have to guess that she’ll be writing from the woman’s motorcyclist angle. I mean, she’s not exactly going to be doing regional stuff because at this moment she’s in Africa, and will be there for quite awhile yet. And then I’m also really interested to see who else they’re working with, who I’m rubbing shoulders with.

So I guess I’m just going to have to be patient until this thing starts rolling out. Meanwhile, I suppose I ought to start thinking about new story ideas to pitch. When you latch onto a good gig you definitely want to run with it.

Biker Quote for Today

The other 3-percent rule: If you want to have fun, ride with people who are 3-percent slower than you.

Rehabbing a ‘Habitat for ABATE’

Monday, August 25th, 2014
Habitat For ABATE

This old farmhouse will be the new home for the state ABATE office.

Change is afoot for ABATE of Colorado. The motorcycling advocacy and training organization will soon be moving into a new home and is also looking at significant changes in its financial structure.

First off, that run-down old farmhouse you see in the picture above will soon be the headquarters for the state organization. Owned by Larry Montgomery, resigning District 10 representative, it is being rehabbed in a couple of “barn-raising” weekends. With all the volunteer labor going into it, it is being referred to as “Habitat for ABATE,” a play on the Habitat for Humanity organization that builds homes for poor people. ABATE currently pays $2,500 a month for office space and Larry will be charging about $500 a month, with all the money ABATE puts into renovations counting toward rent. Thus, $6,000 put into renovation will cover the rent for a year.

ABATE is also considering cutting back publication of the “Spokesman,” its membership newsletter, to bi-monthly from monthly, saving about $1,500 for each of the six months not published by doing so.

Cost savings need no justification if they do not hinder an organization’s mission but in this case they are also needed. Membership has been declining and as of January 1, 2015, changes in the Colorado Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) program will have an additional impact on the group’s revenues. At that time the state intends to switch the way the program operates so that instead of paying money to the training organizations, MOST money will be rebated directly to students.

The MOST program was set up to use an extra fee tacked onto all motorcycle license renewals to help decrease the cost of rider training. The idea being that the more riders who receive training, the fewer accidents and fatalities. Significant recent changes in the way the MOST program is administered have not set well with the training organizations so the program that organizations such as ABATE were instrumental in creating is now falling more and more out of favor with these very organizations.

Meanwhile, according to ABATE State Coordinator Terry Howard, this latest change will mean that the price ABATE charges for its training courses will increase and with every increase she expects to see fewer numbers of students signing up. Specifically, it costs ABATE $253 per student to put on a Beginning Rider Course. ABATE currently charges $215 and MOST kicks in $35. After January 1, says Terry, ABATE will need to charge $253. The ultimate cost to the student will remain the same essentially but the higher up-front charge is expected to dissuade some percentage of potential sign-ups.

Biker Quote for Today

The 3-percent rule: If you want to go faster, ride with people who are 3-percent faster than you.

Listing Motorcycle Rentals in Colorado

Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Kevin Smith of Colorado Mountain Moto

Kevin Smith of Colorado Mountain Moto was one of the first rental folks I ever went riding with.

I’ve been in touch recently with Ron Coleman, who runs Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures, and I asked how business is doing in the motorcycle rental field here in Colorado considering that so many more companies have gotten started in the last few years. I said I hoped there was enough business that people don’t start folding left and right.

Ron’s reply was that business is good and he just figures that the market is growing and there’s room for everyone, at least everyone who is out there now.

That is so great. Before I ever bought my first bike my roommate and I decided one day to rent a bike just to see how much we might get into riding. We naively went to a nearby shop and found that there was nothing. No one rented bikes back then. What were we thinking?

Times have changed a little, haven’t they?

So I thought I’d do a run-down here of the rental places I know of here in Colorado. I’ll make note that I’m not going to go into the list of Harley dealerships because I think pretty nearly all of them do rentals. Just add them to the list of the others.

Of course there’s Ron with WDSMA. He used to run strictly Suzuki V-Stroms but now also has Suzuki DR 650s and a Yamaha Super Tenere. He used to have a BMW GS800 but I don’t see that mentioned on his site so maybe he got rid of that one.

Kevin Smith, with Colorado Mountain Moto, runs V-Stroms out of Gunnison and he also now has at least one Honda XR650L.

One of the newcomers is Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Adventures, owned by Paul and Marsha Minock. Unlike many of these folks, I don’t know them. Their website says they offer BMW F800GS and F700GS.

Colorado Motorcycle Adventures (do you start to see a theme in the names and the types of bikes rented?) is run by Scott Lee. I rode with him earlier this summer and had every intention of doing so again sometime soon but boy the summer is flying by in a hurry. Scott has a whole herd of bikes, from KTMs to BMWs to Triumphs and Kawasakis.

Ben Kriederman has been operating House of Motorrad for a few years now. He specializes in BMWs, as the name suggests, and recently opened a store in Boulder. I haven’t ridden with Ben but he did fix me up with some good gear for my V-Strom.

Colorado Sports Rent is run by Brad Pester. Brad rents a lot of recreation gear and dirt bikes are just a small part of his offering but they’re the only bikes he has. I spoke with one of his employees recently who told me they were considering getting a couple street bikes as well.

Another outfit that has a whole stable of different bikes is Colorado Tour Bike Rentals and Sales. They have a lot more road bikes than the others I’ve mentioned so far. I don’t know much else about these folks; I’ve never met or talked with them.

Of course along with all the Harley dealerships there is also EagleRider. EagleRider rents mostly Harleys but they do have other bikes as well. I’ve met the manager of the Denver location several times but can’t remember his name just now. I’ve also rented from EagleRider and was on a media tour with them once. Recently another EagleRider location opened Grand Junction.

Another one I really don’t know anything about is Extreme Rentals. They appear to have a number of Honda dirt bikes. is out in Durango and they rent KTM and BMW dual sport bikes.

The folks at San Juan Backcountry rent some dirt bikes plus ATVs and Jeeps.

And finally, there is ScooTours, a scooter rental outfit in Denver. This is run by David Howard. David and I went out scooting one day. I keep intending to touch in with him to see how business is going. Scooters are fun, you know. One of these days I’m going to buy one.

So those are the ones I know of. If you are aware of any rental outfits I haven’t listed please send me a note. It’s just amazing to me that all these companies have gotten going and they’re all staying in business. That’s just great.

Biker Quote for Today

A ride on a summer afternoon can border on the rapturous. The sheer volume and variety of stimuli is like a bath for my nervous system, an electrical massage for my brain, a systems check for my soul.

Even Harleys Go To St. Elmo

Monday, August 18th, 2014
Harleys At St. Elmo

You can ride your Harley up to St. Elmo.

We decided we wanted to go camping up past Mount Princeton Hot Springs and looking at the map we saw there was one campground way up there where they didn’t take reservations. Campground reservations are fine except when you want to go spur of the moment. Too often you get there and everything is reserved, even though no one is there at the moment and in some cases never show up. At least at this one campground we’d have a chance.

The trouble was, looking at the map it appeared that maybe the campground was not accessible from the main road, but only by going up a less-developed parallel road on the north side of the creek. The main road runs on the south side of the creek and it was not clear if there were bridges. So we took the less-developed road.

Yeah, “less-developed” only scratches the surface. This was an out-and-out dual-sport road. Very doable on the right bike but do not take your cruiser on this road.

We reached the campground and were lucky to get the very last site. And we then soon found out that indeed there were bridges, including one just about 100 yards down the road from the campground. Oh well, we got there.

It was a nice place to camp. Way back up there you’re not going to have a lot of traffic going by on the road, especially this road. If we had camped further down the canyon we would have had traffic going by all the time. So we spent a pleasant evening and night.

In the morning we figured to go out via the main road. We also knew that St. Elmo, said to be one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Colorado, was just a little further up the road, so we’d go there first.

Well, boy, were we surprised when we crossed the creek and made the turn and found ourselves almost instantly right in the heart of St. Elmo. We could have walked there.

So we walked around checking out St. Elmo. There was a sign right there for the turn-off to Tincup Pass. That would definitely be a road you would need a dual-sport bike on. But then we heard this familiar roar and what should come cruising into St. Elmo (on the main road) but two fully dressed Harleys.

All of this is just to say, if you don’t mind a little gravel, places like St. Elmo are accessible even on your street bike. My friend Dennis is pretty short but rides a big Harley and he won’t touch gravel–except the quarter mile he has to ride every time he goes to or from his own home. But with feet that barely reach the ground as it is, he will not ride gravel because he’s afraid of not being able to keep the bike up when he stops. One little pebble that rolls under your foot and it’s all over–that’s his thinking.

I’ll give it to Dennis that there’s some truth in what he says. I don’t accept it as a reason not to ever ride gravel, though. And if you’re not the sort to avoid all gravel at any cost, then I’m here telling you that you can do the road to St. Elmo. And it is a pretty cool little town, although I’m not sure why it’s called a ghost town when there are people living there. But it’s a lot of remarkably well-preserved really old buildings. Cruise on up and check it out sometime.

Biker Quote for Today

Ruts are like side-panel screws: just when you think you’re in the right groove, you get cross-threaded.

Tips for Two-Up Motorcycle Camping

Monday, August 11th, 2014
Tent with space for motorcycle

Thyrza sent this photo of the tent they use, which has room for their motorcycle.

I was discussing two-up motorcycle camping recently and got a response from Thyrza, who has done this a lot. She agreed to allow me to reprint what she sent me. Here it is:

So I found your website while searching for motorcycle rides in Colorado and noticed from some of the stories that people thinking camping 2-up without a trailer is difficult or impossible even. My husband and I live in Ohio and have traveled to Michigan, Maine, North Carolina, South Dakota and this year will be going to Colorado. We tent camp the entire time and ride 2-up. I thought I would share how we have made it work.

We ride a Honda VTX-1800 – it’s a large cruiser style bike so can easily handle the weight of anything we strap to it. We currently have soft bags so there isn’t a lot of room in them. However, we just bought new hard bags and are waiting for the paint job to be done. They will hold at least half as much more stuff as our current bags, so I’m quite excited to see what more I can take with us! We added small luggage racks to the tops of the bags so we could still strap on the sleeping bags.

First and foremost, compression/dry bags are your friend. We put his sleeping bag in a compression bag alone, and mine w/both of our small camp pillows, a sheet, and two hoodies in another (his bag is quite a bit bigger than mine). Each bag compresses down to just a little bigger than a lumpy basketball. We use bungee nets to strap one to the top of each saddle bag. The compression bags are also dry bags so they keep everything 100% dry – and we have been caught in more than one torrential downpour. We use our saddle bags for personal items – each of us gets one and whatever fits is what you get. Lucky for him I’m a light packer and reasonably low maintenance. We have a large bag on the back that we put all our “stuff” in. We love our JetBoil – it heats water in about 1 minute so you never have to go w/o coffee on a cold morning. We also bought the cooking pot and frying pan and they work great! Instead of a sleeping pad, we first used Big Agnes air mattresses, but got tired of having to manually blow them up. We just replaced them this year with new ones that inflate with a built-in foot pump. These each role up to about 6-7” around and about 11” long. They are bit bulkier than the Big Agnes but more comfortable. We also have a tank bag that we use for his camera, all our charging cords, and miscellaneous items that we want quick access too.

As far as rain gear, my husband is quite a safety freak, so he insists when traveling that we are in full gear. So we made sure that our coats and pants double as raingear, so one less thing to have to pack. I used to whine quite a bit about how ugly it looked (because it is after all, all about fashion), but after going w/o my jacket in 100+ degree heat riding into the Badlands 2 years ago and getting sun stroke/sick, I learned the value in keeping my jacket on. Gym shorts under the pants make them actually quite comfortable and less hot than bluejeans. Hard to believe, but true! And ladies, all the pockets in the jacket eliminates my need to haul a purse. Plus, when you ride into an unexpected rainstorm and there are no overpasses to hide under, it’s nice to stay dry w/o taking the time to get re-dressed.

Our biggest purchase was the tent… as you can see from the picture, the tent has a built-in garage for the bike! In the actual sleeping area, you can fit two people comfortably (husband is 6” and has no trouble end to end fitting), but there isn’t a lot of extra space. We store our gear in the vestibule area of the tent. We strap the tent onto the top of the tail bag with rock straps. And then to top it off, we have a small soft-side cooler bag (rectangular in shape and just tall enough for a short can of soda), that we strap on top of the tent. It’s a tight fit, but we make it work. Last year we found small folding chairs – they have 2 back legs and then you use your legs for the front and sort of rock back… comfortable, but hard to get into initially. Not something to sit in if you are drinking a lot! We connect these with straps to the D-rings on our tail bag and they tuck down between the bag and sleeping bag on each side. We got tired of having to sit on a picnic bench or the ground, so they were a good investment. (You can see the chair bag – it’s the red little bit sticking out on the left – the other one is on the other side.)

There isn’t a lot of extra space, and we really have to think twice about everything we take, but we manage and it’s a lot of fun! When we go on long trips, we take 3-4 day’s worth of clothing and just plan on doing laundry every so often. If someone wants brand names on any of the gear, I can dig the stuff out and get it.

The pink jacket is where I sit, and the yellow jacket is his seat. I joke that we won’t get hit by someone cause they can’t see us, but more because they’ll be laughing so hard! (I have gotten rid of the pink jacket and bought a nice conservative black one – got tired of looking like the Pink Power Ranger!)

Anyway – tent camping on a motorcycle without a trailer, riding 2-up is 100% doable! We have a great time! Our goal is to hit every state in the continental 48 – after Colorado this September, we’ll be at 25!! In just 5 years of traveling. Not too shabby!
So there you have it. It can be done, if you’re ready to be selective and resourceful. Thank you Thyrza. Here, below, is the other photo she sent showing the VTX loaded for camping.

VTX Loaded For Camping

The VTX loaded for two-up camping.

Biker Quote for Today

Trip Alert: Guanella Pass Under Heavy Construction

Thursday, August 7th, 2014
Guanella Pass

Guanella Pass is under construction again, this time completing the paving all the way to Grant in Park County.

I don’t know how it happened but the decision has finally been made to finish paving Guanella Pass all the way from Georgetown to Grant. From what I understand, Clear Creek County, on the Georgetown side was all for it and of course paved their side years ago. Park County, on the Grant side, however, just would not budge and so for all these years the road has started paved on the Georgetown side and turned to gravel further south. Park County has finally changed its tune.

This is already a wonderful motorcycle road if you don’t mind doing some gravel, and there are plenty of people who have ridden it. Once this paving project is completed it should be a real magnet for anyone who has not wanted to do it because of the gravel. Because it’s a really sweet ride.

So when will the job be completed? Apparently not until October 2015. And what that translates into is that I’d advise avoiding this road until then. The U.S. Forest Service has put up information about the construction and it’s going to be ugly.

First off, the road is completely closed twice a day Monday through Friday. That’s 8-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Even during other periods you are likely to encounter delays up to 30 minutes.

If you like to camp, the campgrounds along the construction area are now closed, which includes the one we went to recently when we decided to try two-up camping on the V-Strom. The campgrounds up near the top of the pass are still open.

I’m curious what effect this work will have on the wildlife in the area. We have seen bighorn sheep right alongside the road up through there. They’ll probably skedaddle for now but we hope they’ll return once it gets quiet again.

Once this job is done I’m going to have some work to do on this website. I don’t have a separate page for Guanella Pass as I do for so many other roads because I have focused pretty much on paved roads. So far I’ve only had a short bit about it on the Dirt Roads and Side Trips page. Once this one is paved it will absolutely rate its own page. That’s why this website will never be finished: things keep changing. That’s OK, I enjoy the work. And especially the research. Of course I’ll have to go ride it as soon as it reopens. Dirty job and all that, you know.

Biker Quote for Today

Regular maintenance is the key to reliability; irregular maintenance is the key to great exercise.

Comparing Concourses, Plus An Interceptor

Monday, August 4th, 2014
Jungle with the Concours and the Interceptor.

Jungle with the Concours and the Interceptor.

I had a very interesting opportunity a couple weeks back to ride a Kawasaki Concours that was not my own. What made it interesting was to see how two essentially identical bikes differ. And they do.

I was up in Eagle and went riding with my friends Willie and Jungle, on Jungle’s 2000 Concours. Mine is a 1999.

The very first thing I did when I bought my Connie was to have risers installed that raised and brought the grips back three inches. I was convinced at the time that this was essential to making the bike comfortable, rather than having an uncomfortable forward lean to the grips. Jungle’s Connie does not have risers. I noticed this immediately. And as we rode I quickly came to the conclusion that my thinking had been correct. It wasn’t long before my shoulder was aching pretty badly.

Another thing I noticed right away was that Jungle’s bike does not have highway pegs. I love my highway pegs. (And I’m glad to say that as of yesterday I now finally have highway pegs on my V-Strom.) I know that Jungle and Willie take long trips on the Concours and I just don’t understand how you can do that without highway pegs. I need to move my legs around. I guess Jungle just doesn’t have that need.

At our first stop, Jungle came over to me and asked with a bit of a grin if I had noticed anything about the bike. I knew exactly what he meant. This Concours has a growl to it that mine does not, and it has noticeably more power. His grin widened as he explained that he had advanced the timing about 5 degrees and that made all the difference. It’s a really simple thing to do, he told me, and he described the procedure. But you have to understand that Jungle is a mechanic by trade and what for him is simple is for me something I wouldn’t dream of attempting.

Anyway, although the extra power was fun, it seemed that this bike really sucked the gas down, much more quickly than mine. I’ve never been unsatisfied with the power my bike has so if the trade-off for even more power is lower gas mileage I’m happy to just stick with what I’ve got.

We rode from Eagle up to Steamboat Springs, had lunch there, and then headed back to Eagle. As I mentioned, my shoulder was really hurting me, so when, on the way back, Jungle pulled over and asked if I’d like to ride his Honda Interceptor I was interested but uncertain. This bike is a full-on sport bike with the typical crouched riding position with a serious forward lean. But I wanted to ride it and it wasn’t as if staying on the Concours was going to suddenly become comfortable.

What a difference! From the moment I got on the Interceptor and really leaned forward the pain went away. What a relief! And then, to add to that, I found that bike a joy to ride. Jungle is a go-fast kind of guy, and on the way up I had not been able to keep up with him. With him on the Concours–which he definitely rode fast–and me on the Interceptor I found that this sport bike made it really easy to go really fast. It wasn’t just that it had all this power, although it did, but that the steering and handling were so smooth and so sweet. The control was amazing. I finally really get what it is that the fans of these bikes love.

So we got back to Eagle in a hurry. Fun ride.

Biker Quote for Today

I ride a bullet. A 2-wheeled, multiple-explosion powered machine with enough moving parts to remove entire fingers. Surfaces hot enough to cook flesh. It propels me at neck-breaking, bone-snapping flesh-tearing speeds, over and through obstacles I can only see as blurs. It’s a sport that kills the careless, maims the best, and spits at the concept of mercy.