2 Tigers, 5 days, 4 corners
This is a ride report involving two Tiger 800 XC bikes, five days over Memorial Day weekend, in a trip in and around the four corners (NM, CO, UT). Ok, maybe it's only three corners since we didn't spend any time in AZ! :huh
This is not a trip about maximum mileage. We covered just over 900 miles. This is a trip about the bikes, the roads, and the sights we saw. This report should be short on words, and long on pictures. Dave, my husband (aka "BOFH") is a photojournalist-turned IT geek, and keeps a camera with him whenever we go out, and isn't afraid to use it. :wink:
These are the bikes, pretty much set up as we left. This was a "practice" ride for the Tigers... how do they perform on pavement? How do they perform off-pavement? How do they handle full luggage off pavement?
We had a 3-person MSR tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, clothes for each of us, cooking gear, tools, and a 2-day supply of dried/packable food. Extra gloves, hats, sunscreen, and spare pairs of shoes included. Panniers and mounts are from Jesse bags. The fit is great, and you don't really notice the bags once they are mounted and full of gear. No extra duffel bags were added. We were determined to do the ride using only our panniers and a tailbag.
Day 1: Home to Mesa Verde National Park, CO.
We left just before 9am, after dropping off our dogs at the boarding kennel and getting geared up and on the road. A quick trip through some twisty roads in Los Alamos, NM, and we hit our first dirt section-- FR126. Most of the road is paved and twisty, except for a short 10 mile stretch between Jemez Springs, NM and Cuba, NM. A road known to us, it can be silty and soft in the dry season, and muddy and greasy after a rain. Today, it was....different. Evidently, the road crews decided that FR126 needed some "help" before the big holiday weekend, so they had the road graders out. Gravel was fine, but there were a couple of "whoo- ha!" moments trying to get around the deep piles of dirt and rocks that the graders left behind. Funny, no pictures of that section.
But this is at the end of FR126-- aaaah, fun smooth dirt.
We took a quick gas and grub break in Cuba, NM, then headed north. We fought some vicious cross-winds on Rt. 550. The speed limit is 75mph, and the cross winds must have been at least 40-45mph. Makes for an exciting ride. Luckily, we were transferring to another dirt road section in a bit. This would be Largo Canon road. It sees a lot of truck traffic, but I'm sure we got a lot of WTF? from the truck drivers. Road had some sandy sections which would grab the front wheel of the Tiger and pull it aside. But not too bad overall, although the day started getting warm and we stopped a few times to shed layers of clothing.
Mind you, we are running stock tires on the Tiger 800 XC, with stock air pressure. We're going to run these tires until they are bald and then mount something more aggressive. :deal
Largo canyon was interesting, far beyond what you would think for the middle of Oil Country NM. Eventually we hit US 64 outside of Blanco, NM and after a quick jog west we turned off onto NM 575 which is on an Old Spanish Trail (so says my atlas anyway). 575 turned out to be partially "paved". In reality it was bombed out and was worse to ride in sections than Largo Canyon Rd. Big holes and moderate amounts of metal trash that made you worry about your tires. :yikes
We made a quick stop in Aztec and then ran up to Mesa Verde by way of Hesperus and Mancos.
First order of business, since it was late afternoon was to get camp setup.
We had to chase some wild life out of our camp site.
The next morning it would be time to see the sights.
Looks like you have a plate on the back your mounting the (Buell-Nice!)tailbag to. What is it? Homegrown?
Lori's walking the wolves so I'll do day 2.
Mesa Verde is drop dead beautiful. Mountains over there. Butte over here. Valley over that-a-way. Awesome views in every direction. We survived an overnight in the low 40's and woke up to a near cloudless day. After a quick breakfast we cruised down to the main visitor center to get tickets for the Cliff Palace and Balcony house tour. Then we rode down to the end of the mesa where the cliff dwellings are at.
Words can't do Mesa Verde justice so for the most part these pics will have to do:
Spruce Tree House:
We topped the day off with a nice dinner at the Far View Lodge's restaurant, the Metate Room.
We were more comfortable overnight since we were anticipating the mid-40 degree overnight temps this time. In the morning we broke camp then rolled over to the little cafe next to the Morefield store for a pancake breakfast. Then it was time to hit the highway. US 160 west dropped us into Cortez, CO and after a fuel stop and a quick jog south on US 491 we picked up County Road G going west through the southern end of the Canyon of the Ancients and hitting Utah north of Aneth.
Some sights from Cty. Rd G:
Sleeping Ute mountain:
After entering Utah we picked up Old Aneth road on our way over to Bluff.
At Bluff we took on gas again since on the next leg fuel opportunities would be few and far between. After gassing up it was time to hit the Valley of the Gods, an awesome, and frequently overlooked drive through the desert just north of Monument Valley.
The road is fantastic and the scenery is stunning. We leapfrogged another group of DS riders while in the valley and everybody seemed to be having an outstanding time.
The Tigers were performing great. They handled a 40 degree temperature swing and some serious elevation changes with no problems at all. Off road handling with our full load of gear and stock tires was limited only by the tires. The tires work OK but can't really handle sand, there's just not enough open tread. Otherwise, the bikes handled so well that the luggage was hardly noticeable.
I commented over in the Tiger thread about a noise that I thought might be the kickstand coming down partially and then being sucked back up by the spring. After this ride I am convinced that what we are hearing (both Lori and I hear it on occasion) is the chain slapping on the forward chain guard. Other than the moderately loud clack noise this appears to be harmless.
At the end of the Valley of the Gods road we hit UT 261 just below the Moki Dugway. Moki Dugway is a mining road that was carved into the side of the sandstone Utah cliffs north west of Mexican Hat. About a lane and a half wide this gravel section ascends the cliff through a series of crazy hairpins. Fun to ride and awesome to see.
From Moki Dugway we headed north to Natural Bridges National Monument. Here we did a quick trip around the ring road stopping to look at the three easily accessible natural bridges cut from the ancient sandstone.
After the quick tour we headed east on UT 95 to Blanding. The highlight of this section of 95 is the pass through Comb Ridge:
Arriving in Blanding we wanted to get a hotel room so that we could re-charge our portable electronic devices but securing a room was a near thing since the holiday weekend crowd had almost booked the town solid. After some phone recon work by Lori we were able to secure a decent enough room.
Nice catch on the Buell tailbag! I had it mounted on my Firebolt, and liked it so much that I wanted to keep it. With some clever strapping, it fits even better on the Tiger with the rear plate. Holds all my spare gloves, hat, water bottle, some tools, and my laptop while traveling.
Dave forgot to mention that it was a bit, um...CHILLY on the second day when we woke up in our tent at Mesa Verde. 10 degree F bag? Yeah, right. It was probably in the low 40's or high 30's that morning and we were cold!
At least we weren't like the campers next door. Got up, put on their parkas (yes, parkas) and proceeded to sit in their diesel truck with the heater running for half an hour!! :rofl
:lurk This is a trip that we want to do someday!
Best looking panniers I have seen on a Tiger so far, do they work as well as they look ?
what a great ride report
glad that both of you are helping to document it for us
are you going to CHANGE your NICKNAME on the forum now?
that KTM might no longer "work" :D
LOVE the TIGERS
can't wait to read and see more
thanks for sharing
You guys have put some miles on these bikes now maybe the chain has some slack in it and needs to be adjusted? They do at times stretch after the break in...from our experience especially with the continuous chains without a master link.:hmmmmm
While in the Hotel in Blanding we got online to check the weather forecast and things were starting to get weird. An approaching cold front was going to push the already high winds up to 55 mph gusts and the high terrain in Colorado was under a threat of overnight snow. The forecast for Monday was cold and overcast for Colorado with a chance of rain/snow depending on location. Planning ahead we reserved a room at the Iron Horse in Durango so we wouldn't have to camp in the weather. Still the wind was a concern.
Fortunately the winds were forecast to be coming from the south west and we would be going mostly east. We crossed our fingers that the parts where we were going south wouldn't be too bad.
We had a hot breakfast at the Old Timers in Blanding, stopped for gas, and then were rolling out of town by 8. We headed north up US 191 towards Monticello then turned right onto Montezuma Creek road. I had placed this road on the route blindly knowing nothing about it and it turned out to be one of the coolest roads on the route. The road descends into Montezuma Canyon and then follows the creek south through an amazing sandstone canyon.
A modern interpretation of the cliff dwelling:
For the most part the Canyon walls shielded us from the worst of the wind but every once in a while we would come around a bend in the canyon and highly focused wind would try to tear us off the bikes.
We turned off of Montezuma Creek Rd and onto Black Steer Canyon rd to head towards Hovenweep National Monument.
We hit pavement on Hovenweep road and headed over to Hovenweep National Monument. Hovenweep is a series of ancient masonry construction sites from the same culture as the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. At Hovenweep the structures are built on top of the cliffs along canyon walls (with the exception of the Cutthroat Castle group).
Pics of the Square Tower group:
While the Square Tower Group is accessible from the main visitor center to see the other sites you have to travel north on Hovenweep road and then turn off onto dirt roads. The road to the Hackberry and Holly groups is pretty good except for the dead end right at the Holly group which is fairly rocky.
The Holly Group:
The Cutthroat Castle group is even further north up the Hovenweep road from the turn off for the Hackberry/Holly group. The Cutthroat Castle road also had the ominous note that only high clearance vehicles were recommended past a certain point. After some easy dirt road we reached the "high" trail head for Cutthroat, ahead we could see a rocky one lane descent curving off to the left. Lori wasn't sure about continuing but I was certain that I didn't want to hike from high trail head, in gear, in high 70s to mid 80s temps.
After a short discussion we continued down the road which was moderately steep, narrow, and rock covered. It switched back and forth and up and down eventually stopping at a circle just above the Cutthroat Castle group.
Riding back out the Cutthroat Castle road:
We would follow the main road north around the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. While riding east on County road BB we could see road signs twisting and dancing in the wind that was currently at our backs. This did not bode well for in a few minutes we would join up with US 491 to head south to Cortez.
Sure enough as soon as we turned we hit the worst of the wind. The road went south east the wind came from the south west, putting it in our face but at an angle. Strait line winds were above 40 mph and gusts as high as 55 mph. We abandoned our usual stagger formation so that each of us could ride in the center of the lane. We needed all of the room we could get as the winds were quite treacherous.
Leaning into the wind and on the throttle to stay close to the 65 mph speed limit we would periodically ride into the shadow of buildings or places where the road cut through a small hill. In these spots the wind would stop or reverse throwing you across the lane only to hit you hard from the original direction seconds later.:eek1
We stopped in Cortez for lunch and a break from the wind. Then we headed east to Durango by way of US 160. The wind was mostly at our backs again and we could enjoy this section of road as it twisted through the hills. Durango was a nuthouse when we arrived as a massive annual bicycle race was underway. We altered our plans to ride through the historic district and headed straight to the hotel. Dinner would be at Sweeny's directly across US 550 from our hotel. Dinner was fabulous! I'm a huge fan of chicken parmigiana but I rarely order it on account of the fact that many restaurants phone it in by using frozen breaded chicken breasts which are almost always dry and rubbery. The dish as prepared by Sweeny's chef was everything a chicken parm should be; moist, tender with a crispy crust and balanced with cheeses, sauce and pasta. Mmmmmmm.
Actually we've been hearing this noise since the bikes were brand new. You don't hear it on the road or on smooth dirt. It raises it's head when traversing rough terrain and the suspension is working which is why I thought it might be the side stand at first. However I sometimes hear the noise in situations where there just aren't enough g forces to dislodge the side stand. Looking at the design of the chain slides on the forward end of the swing arm there are some sizable holes cast into the plastic and I think that this is amplifying the sound of the chain slapping into the guide as the suspension works in concert with throttle modulation.
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