Joined: Jul 2012
Location: Calgary, AB
950 Adventure x 7000 kms x 7 days
This is a short ride report of my endurance run on a 2005 KTM 950 Adventure - posting it here because it is bike-centric and so probably more of interest to fellow Orange Crushers. Two weeks ago I rode 7000 km in 7 days, including a day off in the middle, so 6 days on the road. Average running time was about 11-12 hours per day. Route was from Calgary, AB to Indianapolis, IN. On the way down I went across through Nebraska, on the way back I took more northern path through South Dakota.
Many asked why would I want to do this. Well, I just recently purchased the bike and before heading out on a trip to either Alaska or down to South America I wanted to find out if there were any mechanical weak spots in the bike (which there were...), and if there were any mechanical weak spots in me! I also wanted to test out my gear, and figure out what was essential and what wasn't. Both bike and rider managed to cross the finish line so I would call it a success. It was an intense ride, my first real venture into long-distance bike trips. It started because I needed to be in Indianapolis for work for a day, and wanted to use this as an excuse to ride. When I mentioned to people that I wanted to do this they said I was crazy and so after a while I had to do it!
Anyway the ride went like this:
Day 1) Fortunately it wasn't raining when I pulled out of the house at about 8 a.m., and the trip from Calgary down to the border, as well as the crossing into the US, went smoothly. Heading into Montana the weather started; everything from torrential downpours to hail to intermittent sunny periods. The landscape of Montana can be pretty incredible but with all the different patches of weather it made for some spectacular views. Learned three things about my gear choice, all positive. The Black Diamond Glissade gloves, which received great reviews online as being truly waterproof yet still having a thin palm for good throttle and lever feel did their job, in combination with the heated grips. You might notice in the video that I am wearing a CAN AM, RPM riding suit which was actually targeted to Spyder riders (those 3 wheelers with 2 wheels upfront). I got because it was inexpensive yet it looked pretty well designed. It kept me completely dry and warm through five hours of heavy rain, so it might look a little wrong but it certainly performed well. First night was in the Alamo motel, Sheridan Wyoming, excellent place for bikers as you can park right in front of your window.
Day 2) Some of the most challenging riding I've ever done. This was a few weeks ago, when the tornadoes were going through Oklahoma and area, and the wind just north of there was intense, so strong at points that it was better to keep moving, leaning at an angle than to try and stop, because I'd just be blown over. Even the locals said they were really strong. Battling through the Badlands, again with a fair share of rain, was a great challenge. One thing that was starting to dawn on me was I was pretty much the only rider out...hours would go by and I would see no one else. And when I finally came across another bike it was, as you might guess, a KLR! I gained new respect for KLR riders, the only other people crazy enough to be out. I was also surprised I didn't see any BMW GS's like I thought I would. The other learning experience was that the MT90 rear tire I hated so much off road (where I usually ride) was actually excellent on the wet and windy highway. Up front I had a TKC80, brand new, which also stuck pretty well. Covering ground I made it to York, Nebraska.
Day 3) Last outbound day was into Indy, some stifling speed limits. My Garmin Montana had screwed up the day before, some of the home made local trail maps I had on it seemed to cause the City Navigator map to freeze up. Re-indexed the files without them and all was fine. I've had a lot of GPS units, and the Montana got full marks. I glad I got it working, because with all the rain, I found a new glitch on the bike. Although I blame our pet rabbit, the speedometer sending wire was chewed (maybe worn) down to the copper - I had meant to fix it (or at least tape it up) before I left but forgot. So whenever it rained my speedo stopped working. Judging gas stations and distance travelled was by GPS only. At any rate the Montana got me to the target and an ice cold beer at my friends house in Indianapolis at night in the rain, so full marks.
Day 4) No rest for the weary, full day of work, 6:30am - 10pm.
Day 5) Checked the tire pressure before leaving, and used my new Slime compressor to top them up. Worked great, would recommend it for a portable unit. For my course back I was going to play it by ear...one of the great things about riding like this across the plains was that you can actually see the weather for a great distance. Following the clear patches, I wound up heading back to Montana via South Dakota. With the sun finally out, I had some really enjoyable riding. Until about Des Moines. The first thing I noticed was the chain was sounding louder - did a quick check and sure enough it was loose, even though it was fine in the morning. Dug out the tools in a gas station and tightened it, but I knew this was the start of that rapid chain degeneration that happens when it starts stretching really fast, but if I took it easy I figured it would make it home. Unfortunately though, while concentrating on the chain, I realized I couldn't shift into neutral very easily anymore, then I couldn't disengage the clutch at all. Sure enough, the clutch slave cylinder had started leaking. Right at the end of the day, after 700 miles of riding, I pulled over to see what was going on and figured it out. Of course I didn't bring any clutch fluid (I know better now..) and so although I could start it in neutral, couldn't getting into gear and keep running. I wound up pushing the bike a mile or so to get off the highway and out of the way of traffic. Fortunately there was a Wal-Mart a few miles away, walked there and got some mineral oil, and with constant refilling got to a motel in Sioux City, IA. My first KTM triathlon - ride 700 miles, push your bike a mile, walk with your gear 2 miles.
Day 6) Got an early start for a long, difficult day. I wanted to make it home, rather than trying to find a shop with a new slave cylinder in stock. I found I could pump up the slave cylinder while I rode, and combined with sifting clutchless, it wasn't too bad. It was finally clear out, almost hot, a welcome change to be wearing lighter gear. In the times that I was in 6th and just cruising, a really nice ride. Stuck to the interstate...there were nicer roads but if something else flew apart I didn't want too long a walk. Got it to a motel near Billings MT, and called it good for the day.
Day 7) So something that was hot when I parked cooled down overnight, and when I pulled out in the morning a hammering sound was coming from somewhere at the back of the transmission, either the clutch or the front sprocket. I figured the abuse I did the the clutch toasted it, and my plates were going to fly apart at any minute. I was seriously considering U-Haul at this point, but figured out if I slip the clutch (when it was working) I could move forward and didn't hear the bang. So holding the clutch in just a bit I rode like that all the way home. I don't know how many of you have ridden it, but going up through Montana to Canada there are some pretty deserted stretches there, lots of miles from anything. But I figured if I want to do this in Alaska (or Kazakhstan), Montana really shouldn't bother me. Crossing into Canada many hours later was a relief - shipping things (including myself) is a lot easier without an international border to go through. Ironically, driving into Calgary reminded me of the Long Way Round, in that it was probably the most dangerous part of the trip, the drivers here are just blind to motorcycles. Anyway the family had a finish line on the driveway and it felt like I completed the Dakar!
Autopsy report - It seems the thumping sound on the last day was not the clutch but several seized links in the chain; put a new 16/45 set of sprockets on and a DID 525 ZVMX chain and all is good. Carrying an O-ring for the slave (or a spare) probably would have saved grief; my new Oberon unit is on now and works great. As far as clutch damage through this all, perhaps some, because now when the bike is hot it inches forward even with the clutch pulled in, where as it didn't do this before. Other than that I agree with the inmates that the stock seat needs work, going to look into more comfortable options for that. Physically the ride was fine, except on the last day having to hold the clutch in a bit all the time meant I couldn't take my right hand off the throttle for a rest from the vibrations, and the numbness is still there 2 weeks later. Also, I had posted about this in a tire thread but I'll mention it here - I started with a 3/4 worn MT90 on the rear and after 7000 km it was just wearing the last of the blocks off in the center, so perfect timing on that. The TKC in the front was worn but that funky wear pattern with the outside blocks wearing at a different rate wasn't starting yet. As far as other bikes out there, insane KLR riders are now brethren in my eyes. The warm weather brought out tons (literally) of the intergalactic battle cruiser class Goldwings and Harleys, but I only saw one other KTM 950 Adventure and no GS's, which I found odd.
I also learned that mounting the GoPro on the side of your helmet is non-ideal in tornado strength winds, and generally sucks at high speed. But hey, KTM riders don't need a stinkin' mount for their GoPro - they just hand hold it at 80 mph with no safety strap! Here is a short clip to get the feel of the ride; I didn't record much with all the weather and mechanical concerns. Thanks for reading!