Utah/Colorado BDR - Tiger 800xc vs. WR250R
sunday, august 25, 2013 - utah bdr sections 6 & 5
good to be typing in another adv motorcycling report! i've been back from my 4-month/8-country south american trip since mid-june. it was easier than i thought to re-adjust to normal life in portland, but amazing how quickly you take up old patterns. we are creatures of habit. i poured the energy spent while in SA into re-exploring my city, and now here i am out on the bike again, having felt the need for some reflection on the time since i've been back.
northern utah 3 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
got a random email about a month ago from a guy on advrider (PDX Alamo) who followed my blog and wanted to pick my brain about SA - he is planning something similar. we set up a 'man date', and ended up deciding to do the utah and colorado backcountry discovery routes (bdr) together.
he's on a much smaller bike than my triumph tiger 800xc. he's riding a yamaha wr250r, which weighs 295 lbs 'wet' and has a 12" ground clearance. by contrast, my tiger's 'wet' weight is 470 lbs. and has an 8" clearance. we were both curious how the bikes would fair comparatively on a heavy 'off-road' route such as the utah and colorado bdr's. clearly i have an advantage on road at that weight and size, and he has an advantage off-road for the same reasons. but we wanted to see how they would play together.
we're already 2 days into the ride, so i'll spare you the rest of the verbosity for now. we packed up the bikes thursday afternoon and headed to boise, idaho. the next morning we drove to logan, utah, which was close to the start of the utah bdr. realizing we didn't have time to ride, we opted to head out early and attempt 2 sections of the ride in one day - about 9 hours saddle time.
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bike in the nissan, portland, oregon by porkandcorn, on Flickr
prepping 2, logan, utah by porkandcorn, on Flickr
we are riding the utah route 'backwards', so sections 6 and 5 made a nice day's first ride. the scenery was not epic or mind-blowing - i'm likely spoiled by many of the vistas i experienced in SA. but the roads were gorgeous. beautiful, old backcountry dirt sweeping through open, big country. aspen groves flanked us on either side as we climbed in elevation. sheer rock faces poked out of the trees on occasion.
northern utah by porkandcorn, on Flickr
northern utah 2 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
northern utah 4 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
the riding was not challenging, but it was fun. we decided to camp at strawberry reservoir at the end of the day. it was a wind-swept RV mecca, with $18 campsites and most importantly, gas. my accomplice only has 3 gallon tank, and he was running on fumes when we got there.
a beautiful sunset and calmer winds capped off a good start to the trip. it was hard to sleep with the excited of what lay ahead to the south in the subsequent sections.
Little did we know massive rain storms swept into the area, if you like tragedy and problems stand by. :lol3
Standing by :lol3
In. Enjoy the ride.
monday, august 26, 2013 - utah bdr section 4
monday, august 26, 2013 - utah bdr section 4, "the road to playdoh mountain"
yesterday was the most challenging off-road riding i've done in my life. for full disclosure, i'm not an experienced off-road rider, and i had the wrong tires on my bike. that said, nothing i encountered in 8 countries in south america was as difficult - it took everything i had. one word: clay. two words: clay sucks. this stuff is no joke. it is exactly like modelers clay when these roads get wet. the stuff clumps and dries quickly into very heavy cement-like chunks.
in the shit 2 , utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
clean wr250r, price, utah by porkandcorn, on Flickr
my riding partner at 200+ lbs. lighter, had a relatively easy time with it all. his wr250r just skipped over the deep pools of clay mud, only rarely getting bogged down. the porky tiger did not fair so well. on stages 5 & 6, there was nothing he could do that i couldn't. and if SE utah hadn't just got hammered with the torrential fallout from tropical storm ivo that is moving through here, i would have been fine too.
strawberry to price by porkandcorn, on Flickr
bad weather by porkandcorn, on Flickr
but the unfortunate combination of my tire selection (the treads are too close on the heidenau k60 scouts to quickly eject mud), and the show-stopping (meaning impractical) design of the triumph tiger 800xc's tire-hugging front fender, quickly stopped me in my tracks. it sheered off 2 of the attachments to the fender and broke off one of the shock guards, so i took a break and i put franken-fender back together by drilling 6 holes in the fender with my leatherman, stitching it together with zip ties, then locking it all together with rapid fix. worked great. i used plumbers metal tape and zip ties to re-connect the lower attachment points to the lower fork ends. we got through the worst of section 1 in about 3 hours of stopping, pushing, swearing, sweating, and impressive macgyver-like field repairs.
clogged fender, utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
useless triumph fender, , utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
rapid fix fender , utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
plumbers tape fix, , utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
completed fender repair, , utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
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in the rush to beat the impending rains, i superglued the bottle of glue activator to my right index finger. it proved useful for making the repairs! we had to cut away the bottle from the pad of my finger before we left, leaving a very nice plastic fingerprint guard behind!
don't try this at home 2, utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
very convenient, utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
at the top of this particular mountain, we had a brief stretch of dry, rocky dirt.
out of the worst of it, , utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
travis, adventurer, , utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
vista, utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
vista 3, utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
but we soon ran into section 2 of the worst that playdoh mountain decided to throw at us, and i saw a catastrophic brake-line snapping episode in my near future, so i removed the lines from their attachment to the fender. critically, triumph decided to attach the brake lines and ABS sensor line to the fender itself, as opposed to running them up higher in the frame and out of the way of the wheel. even with a touratech 20mm fender riser kit, the 1 1/2" inch of clearance between the front tire and the underside of the fender gets clogged up with this playdoh in about 2 wheel rotations. if you watch the videos, you'll see that the front wheel was not even moving at the bike struggled forward.
dirty boots, utah 149 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
in the shit, utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
the fender broke completely off shortly thereafter, because of this forward motion of the clay getting clogged in the gap. i decided to use the top of my touratech zega pro aluminum pannier as a mud guard for the radiator. using a couple of zipties and a ROKstrap (ROKstraps are worth their weight in gold), i fashion a descent guard. i still had the issue of the low-set brake lines - they sit in an inverse U-shape right over the tire. so i decided to pull both front brake calipers completely off the wheel and zip tie them to the tiger's engine guard.
broken triumph fender , utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
custom touratech radiator guard , utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
no front brakes , utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
space man , utah 081 by porkandcorn, on Flickr
with the fender off, the bike struggled, but i still got up to the top of mud mountain. amazing how much easier a motorcycle moves when it's front wheel can spin freely. and who needs front brakes - does anyone really use those anyway?
we made it down the road to the highway, skipping the southern-most final off-road portion of utbdr section 4. the goal was to get me to a town where i could buy and rig up a proper off-road fender, install some new brake lines that are not positioned over the wheel. finding the ATV store in price, utah is closed on mondays, the plan is for my riding partner to attempt section 3 of the utbdr alone (his decision) and me to ride the highway to moab, where i'll hopefully find the parts to get me back on the trail.
chatting with some ATV/dual-sport store owners this morning, there were mixed reviews about anyone trying to attempt these back country mountain roads on ANY machine. so we're going to see what happens mr. WR250R today, and i'll hopefully see him tonight in moab.
mud debris, price, utah by porkandcorn, on Flickr
Having fun yet?
Not quite sure I understand wanting to take off the calipers....... but yea that mud looks gnarly. Good luck.
monday, august 26, 2013 - utah bdr repair day
for me, today involved plowing 2 hours through driving rain from price, utah to moab, utah. i wound up at moab powersports center south of town. before i can get back on the backcountry routes i need 3 things - a higher-mounted front fender, longer front brake lines, and probably a new set of tires.
playing around with my fender in the parking lot, i decided i could modify the original triumph fender and hang it from the triple clamp assembly. one problem solved.
modified fender, moab, utah by porkandcorn, on Flickr
installed fender, moab, utah by porkandcorn, on Flickr
the fine folks at the moto store happened to have one brake line that i could use to replace the U-section that wraps over the top of the tire, so i've got an appointment at 9am tomorrow morning to swap that out. i'm on the fence about replacing the tires - i'd kind of like to see if i could make it through the rest of the utah and colorado routes with the heidenau's i have on the tiger, proving their worth as a truly multi-purpose road/off-road tire. i know they work in sand from my time in south america. they just simply don't work in mud - but frankly, no tire will change the fact that i'm on a 490 lb. bike.
my cohort spent the day riding section 3, and he's just arrived at the downtown moab hotel i've secured for the night. he showed up looking dirty, but not as bad as we both were yesterday. he hit some heavy sand and more mud, some washed out roads, but he said he had a great time. i asked "would the tiger have made it today?" the answer: "absolutely not."
hopefully we are past the worse of the muck, and things will dry out as we head south. who knows. not the best timing to hit these backcountry routes. in dry conditions, they would be amazing for either of our bikes. in these freakish flooding conditions, it's anybody's guess as to who can pass and who can't. i'm just taking it as it comes, and having fun getting my macgyver on messing with the bike. i'll try to get some photos of travis' ride up later.
Welcome to Utardia. :wave
Sounds like you have the right attitude. Have fun out there. :thumb
tuesday, august 27, 2013 - utah bdr abort
i had to make a very difficult decision this morning, and i'm not sure if i made the right call...
stages 6 & 5 were fun. the tiger and i almost got stuck in the wilderness during the stage 4 mud bath as the first of the heavy rains hit. the little yamaha almost got stuck in the muck during stage 3 as the rains continued to pound eastern utah. both bikers opted out of stages 2 and 1 - because of the record rainfall and the red clay, neither of us wanted to risk it.
after a trip to the ATV store this morning to work on the brake line, the ktm 990/store owner put the fear of god in me and basically suggested that it was fool-hearty to take the big bike into colorado from the south, given the 2+ inches that just dumped all over the southern rockies. that, on top of what would be about 700.00 to change all my front brake lines, install new nobby tires, and make changes to the beak of the bike to raise the macgyver'ed fender (the front wheel was hitting my makeshift fender on hard brakes and big bumps) led me to the decision to let PDX Alamo and his yamaha W250R out into the colorado wilderness alone.
i wasn't originally planning on riding the colorado routes, but it was still a tough decision - half of me feels like i abandoned my riding partner, and the other half feels like i set him free to explore unencumbered by a porky bike and nervous pilot. i felt like i was holding him back, and so i let him go, reverting to my original plans to head back west to party up the labor day weekend with friends.
i learned a lot in this short off-road adventure. heidenau k60 scout tires are great in everything - except mud and clay. i'm not even sure a true nobbie would get a 600 lb. bike (including gear) through that muck. and i also learned that a dual-sport bike is not a dirt bike. i'm still in love with my tiger, and have no regrets about my decision to purchase her over a year ago, but these bigger bikes have their limitations based on their weight. additionally, i learned that once you are defeated mentally, you are done for. i lost confidence in my bike's ability to handle the conditions, and even if i hadn't received discouraging advice from local riders, i basically had already checked out of the ride. as in the rest of life, one must accept his or her decisions, and the consequences of those decisions. as the russian science fiction author slavenenski lem said in his famous work solaris - "there are no answers, only decisions."
i feel a little bit disappointed in myself, like i gave up on a challenge. but i have nothing to prove to anyone and do not presume to be some epic, fearless moto adventurer. i feel somewhat better because i know my ex-riding partner will not have to dig my bike out of the muck every 5 minutes. and although it would have been fun to continue our 'man date' through the rockies, i feel like he'll have a better riding experience without me and the tiger in tow. i'm going to find a way to lighten my packing system, and re-attempt colorado next year when the weather is hopefully less soggy.
here's to PDX Alamo and his valient yamaha W250R, and their continued success through the COBDR!
Thanks for taking us along! :clap
Go PDX Go!
Will you be buying a KTM or a WR? :deal :lol3
'Gotta have the right tool for the job at hand
Just finished section 2 of the COBDR over California and cinnamon pass and it's dry as a bone no clay no mud. The most unbelievable ride to date . Little tough and wish I had changed out the stock gearing for the crazy vertical climbs. Man o man it's was incredible. Ill try and get pics up soon. Anyone who is looking for updates on the COBDR , head on out . Ill update as I hit the other sections.
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