|05-24-2012, 04:30 AM||#1|
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Ohio - hyuck!
the Reliability Run
Hey, all you world travelers. Anyone going to be reasonably near to eastern Ohio over the weekend of June 2nd-3rd? If so, consider heading over to the Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club's Spring Classic meet. This nice little Brit-bike get together offers a wonderful time, set in a beautiful campground. But best of all, it features the Reliability Run!
It's actually a Dual-Sport ride, but we call it that due in part to the near 30-year history of the ride, plus the fact that it's geared toward vintage bikes. Don't let that throw you though, as it's still a great, challenging ride, with the bonus of being navigable on ADV bikes. In fact, check the story following for my first-experience on the ride, aboard a 1981 Yamaha SR500 street bike! Note, while the story was originally written for the Penton Owners Group with which I am affiliated, it's a good read regardless, and hopefully will encourage you to attend and participate.
Go to www.OVBSAOC.com for more information, and we hope to see you there!
The OVBSAOC Reliability Run
“Are you going to the BSA meet this weekend?” asked Al Buehner. “Sure!” I responded. The Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club’s twice-yearly meets, held at the group’s club grounds near Toronto, Ohio, are always high on my list of priority events for the year.
“If that’s the case,” Al went on, “what do you think about the riding the Reliability Run?” “The what?” “Oh, there’s nothing to it.” my friend continued, “They just run us up and down some back roads. All you need is something that’s street-legal.” Of course, to Mr. Buehner, “something street legal” would be along the lines of his 175 Jackpiner, equipped with an Enduro Kit. I really should have known.
However, I always enjoy attending this Brit-bike get together, as it represents the right kind of laid-back, low-key, casual event, which you just kind of drift in and out of. No pressure, no stress, merely a fun way to get a nice ride in, enjoy the company of some neat folks, and see a bunch of cool, old bikes.
Actually, this year was going to be a little different for me, as I planned to compete in my first-ever Trials event. The OVBSAOC hosts a round of the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Trials Series at both of their two meets each year, and I had been wanting to take a shot at this feet-up sport for a long time. So, I figured I’d just roll one more bike into the truck and get in a little more riding.
I arrived at Cable’s Creek Campground, home of the club, early on Saturday morning, just as the place was coming to life. The CCC is a beautiful place, located in a picture-postcard-pretty valley, right alongside of a clear-running stream, several miles west of the Ohio River. Lots of folks were already there, as the meet had gotten started mid-week, and followed the International BSA meet, held two weeks prior in Massachusetts.
Al had just pulled in, and was really excited. Actually, that’s a given, because anyone who knows Mr. Buehner at all is aware of just how much he loves the sport of motorcycling. I never saw anyone who gets a bigger kick out of being around bikes as Al.
Combining work with pleasure, Al came prepared to do some business, as he had parked in the swap meet area and now began unloading tables and parts. It was when I pitched in to help him that I noticed his Jackpiner was in the van. “You’re gonna ride that in the Reliability Run?” I asked. “Sure!” Al said. “It’s street legal.” I noticed a twinkle in Al’s eye when he said this, and his mustache was twitching. That’s when I began to get a little suspicious. It was that mustache-twitching thing.
We then wandered over to sign-up, and were provided some details of the event. Quoting from the official OVBSAOC program, “Reliability Run – 9 trophies for this event, but not for the faint of heart. A 40+ mile ride over a mix of paved, dirt, and unimproved roads.” (So far, so good.) “No deer trails, however, but some mud and water here and there.” (Uh-oh.) I re-read the program details several times as we walked back to our trucks, then watched as Al rolled out his Penton, and started climbing into his off-road gear. It was at this point that I began to have some real concerns because you see, given Al’s (ahem) description of the event, I had brought along a street bike to ride. Yep. “Molly”, my 1981 Yamaha SR500 single was my mount for what was supposed to be an easy back-road jaunt. Yeah, Molly, with her cheapo, vintage (and near-bald) tires, turn signals and mirrors sprouting everywhere, and totally blown-out rear shocks, was now expected to go off-roading. Yikes!
“Aw, quit yer whinnin’.” Al said. “Look across the street. What do you see?” I followed Al’s pointing (and very pointy) finger and saw an old motorcycle. A very old motorcycle. A very, very old motorcycle. “That my friend, is an original, unrestored, stock, 1918 Indian, and he’s riding this event, so what do you have to be concerned about?” Unbelievable, but true, this amazing antique of a motorcycle was gearing up in preparation to ride.
So Al did have a point, but it was still with mixed emotions that I lined up with the rest of the entrants. Looking around, there was indeed a real mixed bag of machines around me, all getting ready to hit the trail. There was a whole bunch of old, British single and twin-cylinder bikes, many of them looking no more off-road worthy than Molly. I also saw friend-of-POG and BMW specialist, Bruce Williams, sitting on his 60’s-era BMW twin, which he has fitted out as a BMW ISDT replica. Bruce looked very calm however, and had a relaxed smile on his face. Hmmm. I also spotted a Zundapp, and a Ural sidecar rig, and what looked like a WWII-surplus thingie of some sort. Wow, what a bizarre gang of bikes. I had never experienced anything like it before.
Then there came the sound of a two stroke at high revs, and POG president, Paul Danik, suddenly appeared, astride his ISDT-veteran Penton 125 Six-Day, the very bike on which he competed in the 1973 Berkshire Six Day Trial. Paul slid to a stop, and a crowd immediately gathered around the bike, ooh-ing and aah-ing all over it. Paul answered numerous questions, while his Six-Day basked in the attention. I considered suggesting an 11th hour bike-trade with Paul, but figured I didn’t have enough cash on me for a reasonable bribe, so I dropped the idea.
Soon enough, our “minute” came up, and Paul, Al, and I were waved off. Actually, considering the rather loose timing schedule of the event, we weren’t too worried about exactly when we left. You see, although the run follows a 24 mph speed average, and times were being kept, we had no route charts, none of the turns were marked with mileage, and so exact timekeeping by the participants would be pretty tough.
However, that’s not really the point in this event, as it’s mainly for fun. Good thing too, ‘cause we three each had our own challenges. For one thing, the only course markers are red dots painted on the road, and Paul happens to be colorblind, so he’d have to be watchin’ the road real close for marked turns. Al was running an odometer, but it was the old-style and not instantly resettable to zero. Al didn’t feel like spinning the knob for 15 minutes and so left on 833 miles. My handicap was, of course, fear of the course, and what it might inflict on poor Molly.
As soon as we cleared the campgrounds, Paul took off like a rocket, and just how fast are those little 125’s geared for? Al was up on the pegs, lookin’ for a trail and throwing a ton o’ dust in the air, so I pushed past him and got up by Paul. We soon turned onto a gravel road, which climbed out of the valley, but about half way up the hill, Paul slowed so suddenly that I nearly ran him over. He fumbled with the fuel valve for a minute before the bike refired, and Paul told us later that the fuel line had come off. I had wondered about the strong premix smell in the air while I was following him.
Onward we went, and just as I was beginning to hope that the whole “trails and mud and water” thing was a hoax, there were some dots on the road next to a gate leading into a field. Paul did indeed miss the dots, and although I chased him for a while, blowing Molly’s horn, he went boogying down the road to who- knows-where. Finally, I turned around and honked it back to the turn, where Al was waiting. What a nice guy (actually, I think he was just waiting to see me crash).
We turned into the field and the first thing I did was hit a big hole, hidden by deep grass, and nearly clobbered the big, metal gate we were skirting. Good start. It was then across the field, with Molly’s front forks bottoming out on virtually every hit. Oh well, at least she kept going straight, and her old four-stroke engine just puts out buckets of torque. Al hung back, obviously still waiting to see me go arse-over-tincups, but I nonetheless managed to find my way over hill and dale and eventually we came out onto another road section.
This wasn’t going to be too bad after all, I thought. That field was a cruise. After all it was nice and dry, and, . . . oh, there’s another turn marker. Hmmm, this looks like a real trail, and friends, it sure was. I wisely waved Al by as we began a serious descent down a rutted two-track, laced with big, sharp edged rocks. At this point I began seriously to fear for Molly’s tubeless tires. One hard hit on a rock and we could have popped a bead, and then I’d a had a heck of a time getting outta there.
However, despite my concerns for preservation on behalf of both Molly and myself, the old instincts began to take over. I was really starting to push it, especially when I saw slower riders ahead. Molly and I bashed our way past them, and so what if the guys were riding 60’s-era BSA twins. We were still passing ‘em! Yahoo! Of course, Paul went tearing by at this point, as he had apparently found his way back onto the course, and was now making up some serious time.
We eventually worked our way down to the bottom of the valley, and the trail began to crisscross a pretty respectable-sized stream. Molly just kept thumping along, and I was amazed at how much traction her old “rim-savers” were providing. Of course, a very steady throttle hand was critical, but we just kept fording the stream crossings, and moving right along.
We also continued to pass other riders, including Bruce Williams on his big, BMW twin, although Molly hiccupped and died (for no good reason whatsoever) just as we slipped by Bruce, then had to do it all over again after kicking Molly a good 13 times before she finally refired.
I was starting to really get into the ride, as I hadn’t done any kind of off-road riding for some ten years (egad, can it really have been that long?), and all the fun of it was coming back to me. I then came upon a pair of riders stopped at one of the stream crossings. One was a young lady, riding a CSR305 Kawasaki street bike (made me feel pretty bad about being such a whinner), while her male friend was on a 60’s Honda CL90. Zowee! They were “dead in the water” so to speak, but the lady waved me on, saying they were ok.
Just as I was becoming real proud of myself for makin’ it down the trail at a respectable pace, that WWII thingie I mentioned earlier went flying past like I was standing still. Turns out the gent piloting the low-flying Spitfire, or Hurricane, or whatever it was, was in fact Bob Wark, who gained fame within the Penton Owners Group for having created the KTM Duke sidecar rig that Bob Kent rides. Anyway, Bob Wark’s machine is in fact a WWII-surplus BSA, and let’s just say that Mr. Wark has enough years on me to justify me callin’ him “sir”. Regardless, he was flat gettin’ it down that trail.
Amazingly, Molly and I made it through that section of mud, creek crossings, and ruts, without crashing, and once more came out onto another road section. I wicked it up at this point, hoping to make up some time, but nonetheless didn’t expect to see anything more of either Al or Paul. However, just as I crested a rise, there went Al, going in the opposite direction. I looked him right in the eyes, and his response was a wave so casual, I thought possibly I mistakenly identified the rider as Al, and that there must be another guy out here on these back roads, with a 28” waist, wearin’ full off-road gear, and riding a vintage Penton Jackpiner. Yeah, sure.
I concluded that one of us must to be going in the wrong direction, and since Molly had a full head of steam built up, we just kept truckin’ down the road. Finally, we came upon some more dots, which I promptly blew by - a process I had performed about 10 times so far in the run. Hey, spotting those dots was harder than it sounds, considering that we were also dodging traffic, trying to make time, and watch out for the po-lice. Actually, with Molly’s full complement of street-legal equipment, we had less to fear than Paul on his ISDT Six-Day, for example, or the guy with the Indian. I mean, that old v-twin was running no plate, no mirrors, no rear light of any kind, and a gas lamp for a headlight, for cryin’ out loud.
Even though we were back out on pavement, this was still some of the best riding I had ever done in my life – on road or off. The wife and I frequent this area on our street bikes, and I’m always on the lookout for roads like this, but these were better by far than any I’ve managed to find. Along this time, I came up beside Dave Kirk, one of the BSA club members. Dave was riding one of those huge and fabulous late-model, BMW G/S twins. I slowed to holler hello, and noticed that Dave had a large clump of greenery stuffed in behind the windshield of the Beemer. Either the two of them had performed a very well-timed back flip while crossing a field of wild flowers, or Dave is just a nature lover.
Either way, he grinned, pointed ahead of him, and yelled, “That’s amazing!” I looked ahead, and saw that Dave was running about 50 yards aft of the rider piloting the 1918 Indian. The old machine was really moving down the road, too. I gassed it then, and eased on up past the incredible, old v-twin, giving a big-ol’ thumb-up over my shoulder.
More great secondary roads followed, then we once more left the pavement and followed a fantastically scenic dirt road, downward, until we were running parallel to a river. This section, as had most of the run, was virtually devoid of traffic. I did however at one point come upon a pickup headed in the opposite direction. Because of the scarcity of route markers, and with the old dirt biker’s inherent fear of being somewhere I shouldn’t be, I slowed cautiously. The pickup driver, however, pulled to the side and waved me by. I passed by slowly so as not to unnecessarily dust the guy, and gave him a big return wave and a hearty “thanks”.
Next, we passed through a great big, but thoroughly manageable mudhole, and I found myself laughing out loud, such was the tremendously good time I was having. The day was gorgeous, my little Molly-bike was running like a champ, and we were enjoying some of the best durn trails and back roads I had ever been on in my life. How can it have been ten years since I had done this? Time is so merciless. It never lets up, and never gives us a break, which is all the more reason to make time for totally fun events such as what the BSA group has provided.
The dirt road terminated at a landowners fence, and we ran right out his driveway. Even without looking back, I could tell that the route we had just taken was normally off limits, and it is obviously only a result of the BSA club securing permission for access to some of these routes. Climbing back up out of the valley on a tarred dirt road, I was really watching my P’s and Q’s, but somehow and someway, Molly’s square-edged tires kept providing grip.
By now, the distance we had run was creeping close to 40 miles, and I sadly realized we had to be nearing the end. Back out on the pavement, I eased past another old BSA single, and considered that these guys had to have made some serious time in order to have stayed ahead of me for this long. Then, just as I thought I was the only one doing any passing, I heard some thumper-sounds behind me and realized some faster riders were coming through.
I waved them by, and the first guy past was riding a late-model Honda XL650R. Well, that’s just cheating, I said to myself. However, the second bike by was a 1975 Honda XL350, piloted by “Wild” Bill Manganese (sorry if I butchered Bill’s last name), with his daughter riding passenger! Considering that I was moving along pretty good, these guys were amazing! The three of us swapped back and forth a few times, as we took turns missing the course dots. However, once we got onto another hilly, slippery, gravel road, those guys were gone!
Nearing the finish of the ride, I knew there had to be at least one more good trail section, and I wasn’t disappointed. Veering onto what at first looked like somebody’s driveway, instead turned out to be a big downhill, filled with more rocks and ruts. Thank goodness for the overall dry conditions, or Molly and I would have been in serious trouble for sure. As it was, we clanked and clunked our way to the bottom, the bike staying amazingly straight. And as for me, I was surprisingly still fresh – maybe it was pure adrenalin, but I had no arm pump, had retained my grip, and experienced only a slight case of leg cramps – from working the back brake so much!
Eventually, the trail dumped us out onto pavement, which I recognized as the creekside road, which ran to the clubgrounds. A few twisty turns later, and we were all done. A check of Molly’s odometer showed an even 45 miles. What a run! I found a number of the participants already gathered at the finish, bench racing and reliving their experiences of the event. I joined them, as did the other riders as they continued to filter in.
Later, we all gathered for the awards presentations. The young lady on the CSR Kawasaki, as well as her partner, who had participated on the Honda CL90, both won awards. She, the Hard Luck award, for a dnf – brought about from a crash, which reportedly tore the oil filter off her bike, and he for the smallest-displacement bike in the run. In the lightweight class, our own Al Buehner nailed down second place in the lightweight class – despite (by his own admission) spending some time heading off in the wrong direction. Al happily accepted the trophy, and explained that it was his first ever, in off-road competition.
In the heavyweight class, Dave Kirk on his big G/S BMW got second place, but in an amazing performance, and against seeming impossible odds, Andy Tarnik – also known within the BSA club as “The Amazing Andy”, on his 1918 Indian, took first place!
Both before and after the event, I kept hearing that the Reliability Run is the OVBSA club’s best-kept secret, and as a lucky participant, I can say for sure that it definitely is. If you are looking for a non-serious event, which is some of the most fun you can have on a motorcycle, this is a ride you must participate in. In fact, the Ohio Valley BSA Owner’s Club’s two meets, one held in early June, the other in late August, should not be missed.
While not big events, they are nonetheless, well-attended, very well organized, very family friendly, fun, active, and interesting. And did I mention inexpensive? I paid five bucks to get in, and three bucks for entry into the Reliability Run, as well as any other rides I cared to participate in. The campground is a beautiful place, quiet at night for camping, and bustling during the day without being overwhelming. There are lots of rides scheduled in addition to the Reliability Run, such as Breakfast Runs, Dinner Runs, Lucas Night Runs, and of course the Vintage Trials, which happens to hold the distinction of one of the most challenging courses on the MAVTA circuit. Take it from me, I know!
Many, many thanks to the entire OVBSA club, but especially to Clark Francy, and his son Matt, who laid out the Reliability Run course, as well as performing numerous other duties. Fellow POG’ers, mark your calendars and mount up your enduro kits. Bring your Pentons out and ride this event. It is fun, fun, fun, pure fun. Make it a weekend event for you and your family. You’ll not regret it. I’ll certainly be there. However, poor Molly doesn’t deserve to be thrashed like that again. Nosiree, I’ve got plans, which include a Mint 400 I just got running. Let’s see, I’m gonna need to mount up the lights, and get a horn and a mirror, and . . . .
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