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Old 05-06-2012, 10:04 PM   #1
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Dirt roads on a cruiser

My ride - 2004 V-Star 650 Classic

I didn't quite know where to put this as it's not really meant for beasts as I'm talking cruisers. I didn't think it would go in Road Warriors as I'm talking about going somewhere off the pavement. I figured TPL sounded good, but mods should feel free to move it if they think it's better somewhere else

So, here's the deal. I'm moving to Price, Utah in the beginning of June. It's been a good run here in Las Vegas for the past seven and a half years, but I've got new priorities that need to be met. Priorities like a daughter who's due to be born in late August Yeah, that one was more than a little bit of a surprise to both my girlfriend and myself, but we're thrilled regardless of what plans have changed

I've visited Price a few times and I know there are miles upon miles of roads - paved and primitive - near there as well as around Utah (check out Signal's thread Endless Utah for an idea of what I'm talking about) which are absolutely gorgeous. There's plenty of pavement for me to ride and explore. My bike is made for stuff like that and I've put 9000+ miles on it in less than a year with a daily commute of about four miles round trip. Pavement is nothing new and it's great fun.

I also know, however, that there are probably more miles of well graded dirt roads out there as well. I've only had limited exposure to riding dirt - even well maintained dirt roads - but I know my bike won't spontaneously explode if the tires roll on something other than asphalt or concrete. What I don't know could fill a huge book, but I'm hoping people around here can help. Threads like Central and South America on a Road King, rtwdoug's various journeys, lots of old pictures, and new pictures like the ones from Kiwi Indian have inspired me to go exploring on my current bike in places tarmac has never been I'm not talking about taking it up sheep trails, down gnarly single track, or over flying triples - just dirt and gravel roads for now We'll see about river crossings and other adventures down the road depending on how things go from here

I'm currently running Bridgestone Spitfire tires front and rear at the moment and they've been great to me so far on the street. While I'd love to go to something a bit more aggressive, that's not really in the cards at the moment due to the expenses of moving, a child on the way, and having to find a new job. As long as I keep it fairly slow, stay out of loose sand, and stay out of the mud, I figure I should be OK. If anyone has suggestions for running the dirt roads with these tires, I'd be happy to hear them. I'd also be thrilled to hear suggestions for more aggressive tires in 130/90-16 for the front and 170/80-15 for the rear that would be able to support the weight of a 500+ pound bike with a 300+ pounds of rider, gear, etc. I was thinking about maybe getting something like a vintage tire from Coker as people rode those types of tires off road before there were real knobbies, right? I'm not planning on giving up riding and I'll have to replace the tires sometime!

I'm also thinking about what I might need to worry about maintenance wise with harder use of the bike. I figure I'll have to blow out the air cleaner more often and I'll probably have to pull off the front caliper for a regular cleaning, but is there anything else I need to worry about and check more often? Should I consider changing handlebars in the future? Should I avoid anything specific to keep from breaking the final drive? I really don't know what I don't know so I'm hoping people will think of answers to questions I can't think to ask.

Yes, I've thought about selling the V-Star and buying something else like a DR650, but I've got enough changes happening in my life that I don't want to add changing bikes to the equation, this one's paid for, and I happen to really like it It can't be that different than the old Harleys, Indians, BMWs, and Urals going down dirt and primitive roads in all those old pictures I've seen, right The power and weight can't be that different from those old bikes and I've got a shaft like the old BMWs and Urals, so I should be OK if I'm not too far off, especially if I leave the weight of the windshield and bags behind before heading off the pavement. I just want to ride as much as I can and have fun with the equipment I've got and can still afford to keep

I know this is a bit of a long post, so thanks for sticking around to the end and thanks in advance for all the advice as well
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Old 05-06-2012, 11:31 PM   #2
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One of the 2 guys riding with me this past weekend was on a 500lb+ Buell Ulysses, with street tires that aren't even as grooved/voided as your Spitfires. We rode pavement, gravel, sand, and grass. He went pretty much everywhere the other 2 of us went on DR650SEs (front sand knob and rear K761, and MT21 knobs front and rear), and the sand was BOTTOMLESS in some places. He was a bit more sedate than either of us DR650 riders, but I don't think he fell the whole day. Both of us fell on the DRs, one of us ending up in the ER.

With the appropriate air pressure, your tires could take you a lot of places. I would be more concerned about protection and ergonomics. Protect yourself and the bike from offroad damage. Crashbars, skidplate, case covers, thorax protection, decent shin/arch/ankle-protecting boots, and normal armored gear should protect quite a bit. If you don't want to put handguards on the bike, run your lever clamps loose enough for them to move with a good knock, instead of your levers breaking. I'd carry spare levers anyway, and some JB Quikweld for any case punctures.

Be careful out there.
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Old 05-07-2012, 01:35 AM   #3
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Thanks, Kommando - I'm glad to hear I'm not completely bonkers for thinking like this

I have some wind deflectors (see pic below), but I don't know how well they'd protect the levers. I may just have to get some spare levers and keep them handy. Maybe a set of vise grips. A skid plate may be in order, but that's going to need a bit of custom fabrication and welding. I'll definitely pick up some Quickweld for possible case punctures before I go off into the wilds of Utah

Wind deflectors for the grips on my bike

And before I go, I wanted to wish your friend a speedy recovery!
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:48 AM   #4
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It all depends on how many parts you are willing to have scratched up, broken, and replaced when - and it will happen - - you fall down. It happens on dirt/gravel roads even with dual sport and off road bikes. If it didn't they wouldn't have all the soft plastic and all.

By the way, the Ulysses is not a cruiser or regular road bike. It is an adventure bike with reasonable dirt/gravel road and trail capabilities. They also fall down as my brother found when riding his Ulysses while on a dual sport weekend.

The only plus you will find is with the feet out front setup you probably won't trap your leg under the bike when it does wash out the fat front or rear tire.

Personal opinion, once out there see what riding is like and trade off or sell the cruiser to get a KLR or the like if you find you will be doing more back road riding. It will be far more fun that way.
Ever get lost? You know, that good kind of lost - come to a dirt road intersection and you have no idea where you are or which way to turn? I like when that happens!

Mark - klx678
95 KLX650C w/Vulcan piston bigbore, Now an 09 KLX250S, selling my 90 Zephyr 550
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:33 AM   #5
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Save your money and when you swing it buy a DR or KLR.

Otherwise sell the cruiser and replace it with more versatile. I tried the "good tires" on a Tiger 1050 ,similar to a Ulysses and realized it was too heavy and ubstable with a 17" front wheel to feel comfortable on anthing worse than hard pack gravel.
Any day on a dirt road is a great day
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:39 AM   #6
Joined: Sep 2010
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What is the final drive on that bike?
Belts are sort of out for off road, but chains and shafts work ok.

Other then sand, its no problem riding a street bike in the dirt, as long as you have ground clearance.

Shinko makes some very inexpensive tires that seem to be good quality, might look at what they have for your bike.

And yes, if you get very crazy, the finish goes to hell quickly, rocks and sand blast the frame and exhaust, the dirt in your pants rubs the paint off the gas tank, rims get dents, grit gets in bearings and chains, brake pads wear out faster, etc. Water cooled bikes have radiators to worry about.

I was dirt riding (dual sporting) an old Triumph Daytona, light for a 500 twin, and while nothing broke on the bike, after 5 years it looked like hell.
But some bikes are meant to be used, I just repainted it, did the powder coat stuff on the frame, good as new.

Old bikes were more general purpose and had tires, ground clearance and suspension to allow dirt road fun, think old Triumphs, and a dirt bike was a Triumph with knobbies.
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:59 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by blk-betty View Post
Save your money and when you swing it buy a DR or KLR.

Otherwise sell the cruiser and replace it with more versatile. I tried the "good tires" on a Tiger 1050 ,similar to a Ulysses and realized it was too heavy and ubstable with a 17" front wheel to feel comfortable on anthing worse than hard pack gravel.
I'd have to agree with blk betty except for one little thing. Once you get a taste for gravel dirt you will seek out more of it.
You'll be amazed at the difference a dual sport will make. 50 mph+ on gravel.

Just the standard peg position verses forward position will be a huge benefit and will enable you to stand on the pegs easily. Actually the feet forward position will handicap you somewhat in that if you start to loose it you wont have time to "dab" a foot to save it. Higher ground clearance will mean less of a chance to hit the engine case.

Oh, the one little thing I didn't agree with you ask? Get an XR!

You can sell the cruiser, buy a 650 DS and have some extra cash for necessities for the little one. Oh and Congratulations to you and your girlfriend!
2004 XR650L

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Old 05-07-2012, 08:24 AM   #8
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Don't know if my 2 cents are worth 2 cents but you can have em anyway.

I've struggled with the same question for awhile. My wife and I rode Harleys and like exploring backroads a lot. Out in Colorado in 08 we took some of the easy & moderate rated trails in the Colorado jeep trails book. I forget the title. We had a blast but it was kinda hard on the bikes.

When we got home I bought an R1100GS & tried it for awhile. We now have a pair of Buells, A Uly & a SuperTT. This will probably get trashed by some but on gravel /moderate dirt roads they all act about the same to me. The Harley doesn't ride as smooth so maybe I go a little slower. They will all get me where I'm going. The Harley really seems easier to ride on gravel to me. The big downside is the weight. You have to be more cautious.

I think you should do whatever suites your situation and not worry too much. I think on this site there is a disconnect between a leisurely ride on dirt roads & off-road riding. If it's a road almost anything can get you there but you have to use your best judgement.

I think Kenda has a 130-16 that might work on the front. I have nothing on the rear. If it were me I would run my regular tires and air them down a little when you get on the gravel/dirt. you should carry a pump.

Good luck & have fun!

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Old 05-07-2012, 09:43 AM   #9
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Location: Wasatch Mtns, UT
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Originally Posted by ParrotheadJeff View Post
Dirt roads on a cruiser?
Don't worry about it, your bike will do just fine. Your logic is sound. Yes, once upon a time people would take their cruisers where ever they wished to go. A carefully ridden street bike can go one hell of a lot of places. You just have to go slower. Don't worry about the tires either. Just take it slow.

Don't listen to the naysayers that expound the myth that each road surface requires a different kind of bike, tires, suspension, and gloves. I am sure there are guys out there that likely have special smooth tarmac and special dirty riding panties. I'd suggest that you leave your panties at home, so your over sized steellies have room to sway as you ride about tearing up all the Utah back tracks on your cruiser. Bikes like yours have traversed nearly all parts of the globe as have tiny scooters. Listen to this utterly absurd quote from the prominent online motorcycle magazine...

"When we selected the G650GS, Versys and V-Strom 650, we weren't fooling ourselves into thinking one of the three might surface as a bike worthy of an around-the-world feat, we'll leave that to the likes of BMW's R1200GS or KTM's 990 Adventure."

There are people who read this kind of gibberish and then actually believe such drivel. I have taken a Chinese 150cc street bike with slick tires 5000km across Askai Chin and the Tibetian Plateau encountering everything from killer wash board, deep gravel, sand, swift river crossings, deep powder dust, mud and gnarly 4wd roads. Same with Enfields in the Indian Himal. It's no feat, everybody's doin'/ done it.

Just start with the easy stuff, like the dirt freeways through the San Rafael Swell. Go slow and get to learn the handling capabilities of your bike. Avoid anything a carefully driven Toyota Corolla could not easily handle. Eventually, with skill, you be able to take that bike anywhere a Suby Outback could go.

Just don't be afraid to scratch it!

My little bike named Boo at 5000m in far western Tibet. Notice the front tire pattern.

Indian Himalaya:Gangotri-Shimla-Manali-Pavarti-Spiti-Leh-Kargil-Padum-Sringhar-Daramsala (3 mo.--2x)
Kazakstan-Krygyzstan-Tajikistan-Xin Xiang to Lhasa, Tibet on China 219!-Nepal (7 months)
Santiago, Chile to Ushuia Argentina and up to Cusco, Peru (7 months)
Peruvian Andes (3 months)
N Chile - Medellin, Colombia (3 months) Cartegena, CO to N Chile (3 months)

glasswave screwed with this post 05-09-2012 at 03:18 PM
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Old 05-07-2012, 09:48 AM   #10
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When I bought my first KLR a good friend offered to follow me anywhere I wanted to go, and he did. If you've ever seen a Harley Road King ford an 18-inch deep creek with a soft gravel bottom, successfully, you may have been following us..

Certainly the hardware makes a difference, but so does the rider. Take it easy and have fun on whatever you ride, wherever you choose to ride it.

The road to Hell is paved...
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:05 AM   #11
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My opinion, if you dont get in a hurry you'll likely be fine. Deep sand or gravel sure wanted to dump the last cruiser I had though. It was hard work moving on dirt, you cant stand or even shift your weight around, it follows every rut and plows in turns.

Keep that in mind, bikes of the day did it because they had too, not because they had any advantage over new stuff. Still, play around with it, I wouldnt spend a load of money though, just save and keep your eye out for a 250/350 of some flavor cheap.

There will be some great riding there, both paved and dirt I bet
My Father was my maker. Poverty was my maker. Distrust was my maker. I have met them all my life.

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Old 05-07-2012, 10:27 AM   #12
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I've done it occasionally, but only because I was between adventure bikes...

It helps being a gorilla when the going gets a little rough. I managed not to drop it, but cleaning after was a PITA for sure....
If you're gonna dish it out make sure it tastes good.

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Old 05-07-2012, 10:36 AM   #13
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You'll probably be okay for most situations, excepting deeper gravel and sand. You will just have to take it easy. A lot of the hard packed dirt roads have wash-out spots, that are often filled with loose gravel. So, you could be tooling along on a great hard-packed road, and hit a section of deep, loose gravel. If you hit it going too fast, it will do wonders for your prayer life... well, short-term at least.

There are ENDLESS trails in Utah, especially where you're going to be relocating. I'm thinking once you get out here, you'll be "needing" a KLR or DR... both of which are plentiful and relatively cheap here.
2009 KLX 250S
If it ain't broke, take it apart and find out why!
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:44 AM   #14
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What rgoers says is true. At some point I would get a DR/KLR for exploring & keep the cruiser for crusin. Have fun with what you've got until then!

Her's a link to my smugmug page, please feel free to take a look. I don't take too many pics of the roads we're on but there may be a few.

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Old 05-07-2012, 01:23 PM   #15
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I'm at work right now, so I have to be quick, but I wanted to say THANKS for all the replies and I promise I'll get back with everyone once I get home tonight
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