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Old 07-16-2012, 06:21 AM   #1
Bud Tugly OP
Gnarly old curmudgeon
Joined: Feb 2007
Location: Ishpeming, MI
Oddometer: 240
The ideal deep woods play bike

I live in the deep Michigan woods and would like to discuss the ideal play bike for these conditions, which are similar for many others in the northern Midwest, the north-east, much of eastern Canada, and the Appalachian area. The off-road riding offers a wealth of logging roads, power lines, twisty gravel back roads, and pure single track trails. There are lots of hills, mud,, sand, and fallen logs to contend with but relatively few wide open areas where you can wind a big powerful bike out to its potential.

First of all, light weight and great handling are going to trump raw power. A heavy and powerful bike is just too much of a handful under these conditions and you'll miss out on some of the most interesting trails, where you may have to lift over fallen logs or traverse deep muddy bogs to be able to get through. Even on the gravel sections speeds much more than 45 mph aren't going to be sustained for very long. While there are definitely hills, most of them are puny compared to the big mountains out west. So what's the ideal play bike for these conditions?

In my experience I'd put an absolute upper limit of 300 lbs. (including gear) for the bike and even less would be better. Secondly, any bike putting out 15-30 hp with good ground clearance will be adequate for the terrain and more than that just cause you to dig big ruts in the softer going.

IMO a 2 stroke in the 125-250 cc fits the criteria just about perfectly. A few 4 strokes come close as well but their extra weight makes most of them marginal at best. Once upon a time the big 4 Japanese brands plus other companies like Bultaco, Ossa, Montesa, Penton, Hodaka, and others marketed many street legal 2 stroke models in this category but most have disappeared. If you can get your hands on one of these old gems you might just have the perfect deep woods play bike.
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