Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bridger Mountains Ride

Hit the road yesterday at 230pm after going for a 30 mile road bicycle ride in the was to be a full day of two-wheeling! Even leaving the house I didn't know where I was going as I am always conflicted with so many good riding choices within about 20 minutes of riding. I had narrowed my choices to either exploring some trails up Little Bear Rd south of town, or heading north along the Bridgers up toward Flathead Pass Rd.

I ended up going north. I am still getting used to my XR600R, but we are fast becoming friends. It is so much lighter, more powerful, and better suspended than the KLR! It's road cruising speed is lower than the KLR though so I am learning to relax a little on my way to the dirt goodies....

It was a little hazy out but this view is across Gallatin Valley towards Belgrade with the Tobacco Root Mtns in the distance.

Looking north on Rocky Mtn Road. This is maybe 15 miles out of Bozeman. Glad I don't live in some big ass city where I would be an hour getting out of the suburbs....

This is the bottom of Flathead Pass Road, which leads right up through the Bridger Mountains. It is pretty tame at the bottom....

Further up the road deteriorates bigtime and becomes steep, rutted, rocky and pretty off-camber in spots. You wouldn't make it in a normal car.... It was pretty fun on XR though. I am still learning how to ride this bike as it is vastly different than the KLR. Incedentally, the first ride I did on my KLR 5 years ago when I bought it was to come up this same road! It was really rocky and loose in spots and the bike was skittering all around but I held it together and made it up fine. Big ruts at the top to navigate too. But the view is a great reward.

On top looking west back to the valley through the pass. The road gains some pretty serious elevation in a short distance.

There are all sorts of two tracks, trails, and roads in the National Forests around here. I took one from top of the pass and it climbed way way up the mountain to the north. This is looking south from a meadow straight across at Sacajawea Peak (9650ft), which is the one that is bare rock, no trees. There is a north facing couloir on Sac that is called the Great One, and it holds snow and is skiable way in to the summer....

Looking back down the way I came up again. After checking out my maps I headed east to try and find a trail that goes over to Fairy Lake Rd.

It only took me two or three dead ends before I got on the right trail! This is on the east side of the mountains and it is all old clearcuts and logging roads. Riding in the shadow of the rocky peaks is pretty intense. I had no idea where the trail went, and navigated by following some recent dirt bike tracks. The trail wound all around the contours of the shoulder of the mountains generally heading south.

In most places you could look out over the Shields Valley to the west and the Crazy Mountains. The trail was just and old logging road, not challenging at all, but it was still fun to explore something new and get more used to my new bike.

This time of year is beautiful in Montana as everything is lush and green with spring runoff. By the end of July everything is brown besides the pine trees....

But for now there is plenty of nice grass! This trail obviously doesn't get used much. I saw three kids up here and that was all. They had a quad, and two tiny dirtbikes that they were way too big for. Oh yeah, and they all only had goggles on, no helmets....probably from a nearby ranch. It's nice when this stuff is your backyard!

The trail eventually spit me out on the Fairy Lake Road which I was expecting. I decided to loop back down and around and get on the pavement for a few miles to get back to Flathead Pass road at the east end. It is a good few miles of pavement being the last twisties of Bridger Canyon Road as it comes out of the mountains. Whoohoo!

Back on the dirt. The space and scale of this area is pretty amazing. Views like this are just awesome! Big Sky Country all the way!

This is a typical scene for the rides I do. I feel fortunate to live in a place with so many cool dirt roads to explore. And there isn't ever anyone out here! A few ranchers is all I ever see. You need a big tank riding out here as you can go for a long time and not ever get to any towns. Flathead Pass is right by the top of the telephone pole in the photo above.

I am really not sure how I would deal with living anywhere else but Montana sometimes. In our crowded world, to have this sort of remoteness so close by to my home is pretty awesome. Sometimes it takes me a long time to do a ride because I have to stop so often because there are so many good pictures to take!

This is coming back down Flathead Pass road back to the Gallatin Valley. One of the kids on the minibikes I had seen earlier is in the picture in front of me bouncing his way along.

Looking back uphill from the same spot.

This is back in the valley on Bear Creek road, where a few weeks before I got in major trouble on the XR. I hit this section when it was wet and got way into the mud before I realized it. 20 minutes of sweating and cursing and clutch frying ensued before I made it back to solid ground. My bike probably had 50 extra pounds of mud stuck to it. Very Bad.

It is dry now and I took this and a few other roads back to within about 10 miles of home before I had to get on pavement.

Ride Time: 4 hours
Dirt: 75 miles
Pavement: 25 miles

I was pretty tired by the time I got home after my 2 hour bicycle ride in the morning. It was a good ride, with beautiful weather, and I explored some new terrain which is always my favorite. A successful day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bangtail Trail Ride

Last night Alex and I did the Bangtail Divide ATV trail....sweet trail....until the hill climb...
I was riding my XR600R and Alex on my KLR650.
I saw a hillclimb off to the side of the main trail...and jammed up it on the XR600. It was something I never would have attempted on the KLR, having learned the hard way. The XR charged right up the hill, no problem. As I was coming down, I was greeted with the spectacle of Alex rallying my KLR UP THE HILLCLIMB!!!! Needless to say, the KLR did not make it all the way up ...and did come to rest upside down on the slope. DOH!
We had to muscle the KLR back down the hill, and then my XR wouldn't start for a while, despite many kicks. I got pretty sweated up for a bit there.
I told Alex afterward that I hadn't even considered that he might try it on the KLR....but realized he hasn't ever ridden one much before and was therefor unaware of the limitations of said machine. Now he is fully aware of said limitations!
Luckily no injuries to man or bike resulted.
It was a great ride!
Forgot my camera though so no pics of the carnage.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Trail riding the XR600R at Pipestone

So I went and rode the XR at Pipestone yesterday....SO FUN! I am figuring out how to ride that thing a lot better already, like leaning way back when hitting whoops or big bumps so the back end doesn't kick way up....

Once it gets moving the bike just eats trail for an all terrain freight train!!! Obviously it is much better in the more open trails, above 25 mph or so. I rode a little singletrack on it, but it isn't the best there. The wider two track and roads out at Pipestone are a total blast though!

Tuesday night I plan on going out and doing Bangtail Divide. And linking it to Flathead pass....Any takers? I have done it on the KLR. Not sure about bikes bigger than that though....Tuesday is supposed to be sunny all day, and it will dry the mud out.

Alex, the KLR is yours if you want to ride it some more....we just gotta fix all the stuff that broke on Fridays Baja Training Run!!

BTW, on our Friday ride Alex rode my KLR through some gnarly shit faster than anyone I have ever seen .....with only minor consequences....broken shift lever, and blown head and taillights...

I did a major repair/reinforcement job on the shift lever, and you should be able to stand on the thing now.....

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

XR600R mod time!

Last night I got the 6 gal. tank installed, and adjusted and checked the valves with Alex's help. More to come, and I will do a full write up when this round is done. Tonight we have the Bozeman Uprising gathering at my house.....oh geeks and beers.....
This will be the 3rd meeting...should be fun. We watched the Erzberg Enduro movie. last time....tonight it might be Last Man Standing, or Dust to Glory.....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Let the mods begin

So I have a 6 gallon Acerbis gas tank sitting in my garage waiting to go on the XR600. It showed up today, and is essential eqiupment for backcountry exploration in Montana. In my opinion you need a 200 mile range to really get to the good stuff. I think this will give me 240+ miles.....

Coming soon is a new cockpit setup with Protaper fat bars, risers, grips, and adapters for the handguards.....
The setup it came with is too low for me when I stand up, and the stuff thats coming will give me an extra two inches I think.

The front fork did a wierd hopping thing on the pavement the other day on another test ride, and I backed out 2 clicks on the compression adjusters to see if it helps.

Waiting for the weekend for more riding. Hopefully Thursday and Friday will be spent getting the new parts on there, and then Sat and Sun out riding!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Bike!

1996 XR600R:
Baja Designs Dual Sport kit
FMF Megamax muffler
Acerbis handguards
Trailtech Endurance computer
Acerbis Front brake shield
Utah Cycle Sports skid plate
Scotts Sharkfin rear disc guard
Fresh Dunlop 606 tires

Friday I left work at noon, filled with anticipation about my soon-to-be new bike. Alex came by at 145 and we hit the road to Salt Lake City. The drive was fine, and we talked about motorcycle for almost the entire 6 hours! After meeting the seller in person, he informed me that he was frantically looking for the title and couldn't find it! This was pretty upsetting especially considering I had emailed him specifically asking him this one question "Do you have the title?" To which he had replied "Yes." Alex advised me to do a partial payment for the bike, with full payment pending reciept of a clear title. This arrangement worked, and hopefully this week said title will arrive via Fedex....

The bike was in good shape, very clean, with new tires, clean and lubed chain, clean air filter. Started right up, and ran fine in my down the block and back test ride. Wheels in good shape, swingarm and linkage was well lubed. Motor sounded good, shifted good, etc. He had a box of extras, and two extra dirt tires, and a stand.

We did a good bill of sale document and I gave him half the money and off we went back to Montana. We had got there to his house at 8:10pm and left at 9:15pm. I was so excited I drove all the back to Bozeman that night! A Red Bull in Pocatello carried me through till we got back to my house at 4am.

I could only sleep for 4 hours and woke up at 830 itching to go ride my new toy. After making a trip to the auto parts store for some supplies I did an oil change, and then checked the suspension settings. I used the manuals recommended baseline settings and adjusted the clickers on the fork and shock. After riding a KLR for years, I was excited just to have clickers to adjust! I looked over the bike, and checked a few other things, and then loaded up the truck to head to Pipestone, which is a big area of trails about an hour away from Bozeman.

I have ridden moutain bikes for years at Pipestone, and tooled around on the roads a little bit on the KLR. There is A LOT of miles of trails and roads here: 75 miles of trails, and at least that much of dirt roads. I was pretty stoked to ride out here on my new bike for a first ride. I got out there, got all my gear on, realized I forgot my gloves, and hit the trail.

Getting used to the XR600R was a joy. My dreams of riding a good desert bike, since watching Dust to Glory so many times, were coming true! Coming from the KLR650, having good suspension was the most dramatic thing I noticed, along with the light weight. The power felt much better too, tons of torque, and it seemed stronger throughout the entire rev range than the KLR does. This thing is FAST! I was getting wheelspin all over the place, which was a big difference too. I hit up the trails after a short dirt road stretch and was delighted at the speed I could ride this thing on them! Most of the trails at Pipestone are 4 wheeler width, and I had a great time bombing along....I did notice the ergos of the bars were not to my liking....I need about 2" more of rise I think, and the bars on there now have a wierd bend that I don't like. I had to hunch over a lot to ride standing up which wasn't cool.

Me and my new friend out on the trail. What a sweet bike!

Lower Pipestone area, with the trail winding into the distance. I saw three other bikes on the trails....a few quads on the road. I stuck to the lower area as it is more open and suited to faster riding. The upper area is mostly trees.

This was as fun as it looks! I was able to rally all this stuff, and had a big smile on the whole time. I think I made a good purchase!

I got on a singletrack early on and followed it for a mile or so but stopped when I saw it go up some steep tight rock section. I turned around and decided to stick to the two track until more familiar with my new rig. I have never really gotten to ride a real dirt bike, and I have a lot to learn.

I rode for almost two hours, and did about 37 miles. It was a great way to really get familiar with my new rig. I was pretty tired still from my minimal sleep, and headed home satisfied.

For the most part, after watching Dust to Glory about a hundred times, the bike behaved like I thought it might. Light, ridiculous power, great suspension, and FAST! I have been wanting to do big powerslides around dirt corners forever, and now I finally can....Woohoo! You could get in big trouble on this thing if you weren't paying attention. I have a six gallon Acerbis tank coming this week, and once I get it registered I will see how it does in on my normal kind of dual sport ride. This bike is going to let me link up my standard routes with all sorts of stuff that I wouldn't have touched on the KLR, which will enable some really great backcountry rides around Southwest Montana.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sureshot Lakes Ride, Last Sunday

Sunday afternoon left the house at 230pm and headed west with the vague intention of riding around near Revenue Flats.

View west from Revenue to the Tobacco Root Mtns. There were lots of clouds and spots of rainshowers around, and I just hoped I didn't hit any.

Cool rock formations at Revenue....there are bolted sport climbing routes out here and plenty of good bouldering.

View of the Madison Valley. Basically looking right at the backside of Lone Mtn area. The land is green with spring rains. Ennis Lake is in the distance.

After Revenue I headed up to Sureshot Lakes. I had never been up this road all the way and I figured I would see if it was melted out up high yet.

This just below the crest of the pass, and you can see the was snowing lightly on me at this point.
I think the thermometer said 37 degrees!

Just on the other side of the pass I ran into this scene. There was a lone dirt bike track leading off, and none coming back out. It was fresh, from today for sure. I walked down a ways and checked it out, and it seemed like this as far as I could see. While I was debating, I heard the telltale sound of a thumper in the forest....
A dude on a WR450 came thumping out of the distance. We chatted and he said it was like this for maybe a mile and then fine. I made sure the road did what I thought it did, which was connect down to Potosi and Pony. He said yes...and off we went our separate ways.

A few miles down his track took a left onto a way smaller road. I followed it through the woods. The shot above is pretty off camber trail surface...

As usual, the trail got smaller, more rocky, and way steeper! This seems to happen to me a lot. This is the view looking back, while I stopped to catch my breath from being totally gripped riding down this stuff. That is way off camber, and real steep, with lots of big rocks. I was making it down, but I don't think I would have made it back up if I needed never looks as bad as it was in pictures....It was sheer luck I didn't crash coming down this, between the wetness, mud, rocks, etc. I just slowly bumped down on the trusty KLR.

I was glad to get to the bottom of the steep stuff, and looking back up, that sign says "Primitive Road". Yup. Sure was!

Coming out on the Potosi side, in the South Willow Creek drainage, I believe. This road section was more fun!

This is looking at Pony, a sweet old mining town that is tucked right up in the Tobacco Roots. Less than 200 people live here now, mostly a ghost town. The Pony Bar is locally famous as being a great little place, and world famous after being featured in some big magazine years ago. I think it is only commercial entity in the town. And it isn't very commercial! The rain makes the dirt roads around here a total crapshoot in terms of surface conditions. Some are fine, where there is more clay it turns to total slick mud....Getting out on the main dirt road was sketchy with patches of total grease at pretty regular intervals. Mind you my rear tire is nearly devoid of center knobs as it is due to be replaced very soon...Some patches I rallied through, skating around..others I slowed way down and crawled through.

The dirt for this ride started about 30 minutes west of Bozeman on pavement. This is coming back into the Bozeman area, looking at the Bridgers capped with clouds. It was a 3 hour ride, 116 miles. I had been looking at that area on the map all winter, wanting to get up over that pass and down into Pony. I was surprised it was open yet, the guy I met up there said the snow was still too deep the previous weekend. I was pretty nervous on the rocky downhill section. That is one reason I am getting the new bike...something lighter and more able to handle that stuff. Lighter to pick up if I crash, lighter for me to hold up instead of dropping...etc. It will make that stuff more like fun rather than "oh sh#*, I hope I make it!"

I love these kinds of rides, where I have a loose plan, and find something new, and don't have problems. Especially when it gets intense, but nothing bad happens. It's a pretty good rush. I really like exploring anywhere around the area and finding new roads and trails. I am formulating some multi day routes, almost entirely dirt, that wind all over Southwest Montana. Like Bozeman to Centennial Valley, with maybe 10 miles of pavement the whole way. Anyone interested in doing some of these with me later this year, please let me know. Also I am very interested in doing the Continental Divide route through Montana as well.
Ride on!
L Train

Tuesday, June 9, 2009