Friday, July 31, 2009

Headwaters Relay

This past weekend I ran my KLR650 all over Southwest Montana running as support for the
Headwaters Relay which Stephanie and a bunch of my friends ran in!
This is a ridiculous 232 mile relay running race.....crazy....nearly all on dirt.....
It was a cool thing to be a part of and ran over many roads I have been on, and many new ones as well.....
I will post a report soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Garnet Peak Ride Report

Alex: Lincoln and I had been wrenching on his XR during the week, and over the course of replacing the steering head bearings and drinking beers, we decided that an exploratory ride around little bear and up to Garnet Peak was needed.

The rear tire on the 625 was completely shot. Almost a slick, so I trucked down to Nate at the Bike Shack, and picked up a sweet Pirellio Scorpion Pro XC. Big knobbies. Unfortunately while putting on the new tire, I realized I had a broken spoke. Nobody in town had spares, but Lincoln has a welder! With great skill, he put a nice bead of weld on the top of the spoke where it had broken off, and five minutes before the Saturday ride, I laced in the repaired spoke, and rode off!

Alex: Lincoln, Allen and I rode the access road up to Trail 417, which Lincoln believed was the other end of a nice trail he had ridden during the week. It had some pretty nice elevation changes, and wound up and around the mountian. A few loose boulder hill-climbs, and some off-camber technical section requiring some minimal moves. Mostly 2nd gear stuff, with some really tight turns requiring a shift down to 1st.

Alex: We had been riding about 45 minutes at this point through some tight rocky stuff. We stopped at this little outcropping, and Lincoln was uncharacteristically further behind us. When he got off, he said "Man, I need to take lessons or something! I'm horrible at this stuff!". As he was sitting there taking off his gear, I noticed that his rear tire looked a little... flexible. "I think you have a flat, bro..". %!&#@!

LTrain: So, flat tire. Used my long-dormant drystack stone wall building skills to work up a nice work stand, and got to it.
I was wondering why there seemed to be so much inner tube in the tire, and it turned out the previous owner had wrapped an extra cut up tube around the real tube as a pinch protector I guess. It was like 20 pounds of inner tube I pulled out of the tire! On top of that, we got to do it twice cuz the first tube got pinched on the install, neccessitating a 2nd try with a 2nd tube. That one worked, and off we went. I was sweated up pretty good though from all the tire wrangling...

Alex: After Lincolns tire was fixed, and we discovered that Trail 417 seemed to dead-end, we headed down the mountian, to start the climb up Garnet Peak. The trail up was pretty popular with hikers, and it felt weird to see other people on the trails. We came around the corner to a couple of horses too. We immediately shut the bikes off and let them pass. A cool dog came up to me with a stick and kept wanting me to play fetch with him. I eventually had to start the moto, throw the stick and take off so he wouldn't follow me!

Alex: The ride up was pretty smooth and flowing. 2nd and 3rd gear stuff, with an occasional 4th gear straight. There was a couple moderate inclines with rock gardens in the middle of them which kept things interesting. Some turns had some banking too, so we could rip off them effectively sling-shotting you around the corner and into the next. Lots of hooting and metal horns we're thrown.

Alex: At the top, what a view! We could see 191 (Gallatin Gateway) carving next to the Gallatin river between the mountains, and the huge valley off in the distance. It was pretty cool too look out where we started some 40-50 miles away, and see the mountians we climbed to get here.

Three "non-trail bikes" on some killer trails, overlookin

LTrain: Last stop: Korner Klub!!! MMMMMMM BURGER TIME!!!

Alex: The new rear tire on the KTM really made the bike completely different. How sweet it is to have traction! Unfortunately I think I roosted Lincoln a few times. Every time I go out on this bike, I like it more and more. We learn little things about eachother each time, and I get more comfortable with her.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Great News From Maine....

I always keep tabs on the news in Maine, my home state. And once in while there is some pretty great stuff:

Dude Run Over at a Mud Run...

Giant Brawl at Cod Fish Races....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pic of the Day

Up off Little Bear Road in the Gallatins....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System,
it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything." Charles Kuralt

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bangtail Divide Trail to Flathead Pass Ride

Sunday AM we all left the Panda Pump gas station and headed up Jackson Creek to get on the Bangtail Divide trail. Unfortunately Alex had a little issue with the access road.

Lincoln: So Alex, what happened to your arm?

Allen had a first aid kit and patched up our boy pretty good.

"Ummm.....honey? Yeah, so, well....I kinda crashed....."

The scene of the crime.

Allen and I continued while Alex headed homeward sans shifter. We hit the trailhead and right away I run off the downhill edge of the trail at a corner and get stuck in between the embankment and a bush. Grunting and cursing followed as I hauled the XR backwards out of my predicament. It was pretty low speed and there was no damage and I got back on it. The trail is ATV wide most of the time and only a couple of tough spots, otherwise once you are up top it is pretty smooth sailing and fun. Open meadows with views higher mountain ranges in all directions.

We stopped here for lunch break and talked about how we had both done a lot of mountain biking in the past and found many of the skills transferrable to riding motorcycles off road. The brain circuits for picking lines and steering and reacting and planning are all the same. I still find it hard to deal with clutching and shifting and throttle and braking all at once when the trail gets intense though. I kind of panic sometimes and only can do like two of them at once. On a mtn bike you are coasting a lot more and don't ever need to downshift unless going uphill. Also, shifting is clutchless, you just motion instead of two. I am still learning on the moto but trying to practice as much as I can!!!

The wildflowers are out in force and it is beautiful up there! After the meadow sections it shoots into the woods for a really fun section of wider buffed out singletrack that twists and turns nicely.

View of Saddle Peak, and Bridger Bowl. That's where the goods are in the winter....New chairlift up the drainage off Saddle, and about a 20 minute hike to sick powder fields!

Allen had an issue with his shifter as well, it was cracked at the mounting collar and he needed to tighten it up every 10 or 15 miles....

We came down off Bangtail Divide on Skunk Creek Road to Brackett Creek to Flathead Pass. This is the pass looking West. I did this a few weeks ago as well.

Allen ran out of gas twice and had to tip his bike way on it's side to get gas from the other side of the tank to slosh over to the petcock side....before we made it to the gas station back in Bozeman. He was pretty happy to make it!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The importance of washing your bike

Talk about washing your bike (especially if its a dirtbike) and some people may look at you funny. "But its got -dirt- in the name! Why would I bother?" Just because its built to ride in the dirt, does not mean all the components are meant to live in dirt.

After our Gravelly range ride, I washed the bike, bars to wheels. I pulled off the skid-plate and noticed that there was a section of caked mud and dirt that -still- looked wet, after four days. It could only be an oil leak. After some troubleshooting, I tracked it down to a bolt behind the countershaft sprocket. Hard to get to, and hard to see (unless your looking for it).

The bolt had backed out, and was rubbing against the countershaft sprocket, slowly wearing away the head, and in the process bending it pretty good. Not only does this bolt hold on an important part (clutch slave cylinder), but it also holds back oil. Could have spelt disaster if the bolt finally worked its way out hundreds of miles from home, or worse yet, jammed into the countershaft sprocket, and ripped out a portion of the case.

I have long since given up with getting the OEM bolts from dealers. Not only are they ridiculously expensive, but in the time it takes you to explain to the parks clerk which one it is, you might as well had sorted through a box of bolts at the hardware store. I picked up an M6x16 bolt at Home Depot. Below are the two bolts. Original on the right, new one on the left:

As you can see from the picture, the original bolt head is shorter than the new bolt, to clear the countershaft sprocket. (Some of the wear is visible, but you can still see the grade 8 stamp in the bolt cap). At this point I could have simply ground down the bolt head enough to clear, but then I'd have spent a bit of time trying to clear out the allen hole to accept a 5mm wrench with a file. Not my idea of a fun Saturday evening. So I chucked it up in the lathe instead.

Couple of quick passes with minimal cutting fluid, and it was done. A nice even flat cut, and still plenty enough of the 5mm allen key left to get good purchase on, and not strip out. The original is on the left, the new bolt is on the right:

I generously applied some Loctite 243 to the bolt, and re-assembled everything. The countershaft sprocket cleared with plenty of room, and the loctite should keep it from spinning out again. Just in time for "Dirt Church" tommorow afternoon with Lincoln and the rest of the dirty-birds! Moto-diasater avoided!

Friday Night Little Bear Trail...

Went for a quick ride Friday night up Little Bear Road, Oh yeah: on the way to the trails we came out Cottonwood Road to 191 and discovered there is a 4 wheeler trail on the side of the road all the way down to Little Bear Road! Fun!

Up Little Bear we explored a trail we found that went clear up to the top of the mountains. It climbed up and up winding around the mountainside on an old logging road track. It was a pretty fun little doubletrack with some fun waterbar jumps and great views.

It was about an hour from the house to this point. From the top we had a great view overlooking Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley. The sun was low and the light was really great. I was riding a little timidly as I had a cyst removed from my shoulder on Tuesday and have fresh stitches in there.....But Alex was roosting up a storm! He really likes that KTM 625 it looked like!

After a hectic workweek it instantly clears my head to be out jamming along in the woods using full attention to navigate the trail. There is no room left for stress or worry or thinking about problems. Only the flow of riding....

View of the trail up top. This kind of stuff is pretty fun on these bikes. We went a little farther up than this but the trail got pretty sketchy, getting narrower with a big dropoff right at the outside edge, and big rocks in the trail surface. I pulled the plug with my shoulder making me hesitant to get into anything too rough and we headed for home. It is so great to live in a place like this where a 25 mile ride from the house gets you on top of a mountain watching the sun go down over the Northern Rockies. Welcome to Big Sky Country!

We are going to do a big ride on Sunday and get some more people along. We will leave from Bozeman this time and see where we end up out there....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gravelly Road Ride

Alex: At 8:00am, I get the call I was waiting for. I can tell over the phone
that Lincoln is excited for the ride too. The plan? An all-day moto adventure over the Gravelly Mountain range, just outside Ennis, Montana. On dirt.

Sunday Alex showed up at my place, and we loaded my XR600R into his truck next to his new KTM 625 sxc for a trip down to Ennis to ride the Gravelly Range Road. He had picked the bike up on Friday and was super stoked to go ride it for the first time in it's natural environment: the DIRT! Brad also showed up and he followed us down on his super modified Darth Vader Black DR650.

After fueling up bikes, truck and ourselves we arrived at a nice fishing access lot and unloaded. After some celebratory wheelies by Alex in the parking lot we buzzed on down the road for a few miles of pavement before the dirt. It was a beautiful sunny day, maybe 75.

Alex: We unloaded at a fishing access parking lot, and geared up for the ride.
Boots, goggles, gloves, jackets and pads. I fired up the 625 and ripped a wheelie in the parking lot in a vain attempt to lower my excitement and keep myself objective. This did not work at all, and I became more excited. We rode the 5 miles of tarmac to the dirt road, and stopped at the entrance. In front of us, a long winding dirt road up the side of a mountain, with waterbars and other gleaming moto-road accessories. With a wave Lincoln said "Meet you at the top!" It was all I needed, and I rocketed through the gears on the 625 and up the hill, bounding off waterbars whenever possible.

Lincoln: We hit the dirt and wound our way to the bottom of a long hill that dissappeared up into the trees. This was the beginning of the real ride, as said hill has numerous waterbars and starts to get rugged. I told Alex to hit it, and he did, roaring off in a hail of gravel and dust! I was close behind and he rocketed up the hill, jumping the waterbars and dissappearing into the woods.

Alex hammering the new bike!

Alex: I was surprised by the power on the 625. My previous KTM had rip-your-arms-out-of-their-sockets power that would put you into a different zip code without some throttle discipline. The 625 had smooth, usable power, but not in heaps and gobs like the RFS bike I had previously owned. However, it did feel 'planted', and secure ripping on the dirt-roads, and you could really let it hang out around corners. The brakes (despite the added weight of a 5-gallon gas tank) proved excellent as well.

The excitement in the crew was high, and there was much whooping and hollering at stops. We took a chance on a little rutted out side trail, and came across a spectacular view of the valley and mountains. More whooping and jeering, and we took our first stop for the day, enjoying the view. After a number of pictures, some water and cigarettes, we moved back onto the main road.

Lincoln: After our break we hit it again and rallied across the open meadows on top of the Gravelly Mountains. This road is really pretty amazing. There were a few cars out as it was July 4th Weekend, but there was plenty of room for everyone. We jammed along, testing the limits of speed, traction, and braking, and had a grand old time of it!

Alex: While I'm sure there is some inferred speed limit on these dirt roads, there is none posted, which leads us to believe it defaults to the Montana standard of "Safe and Prudent". "Safe and Prudent" to us seems to be "As fast as you can without riding off the side of the mountian", so thats what we did. The downside of these access roads, is that they are frequented often by cars. I couldn't help but think to myself "How fun is this, if cars are doing it too?"

This type of thinking led us to our first adventure. We found a sign with a number that pointed to a seldom-used trail, marked only by matted grass from ATV's. We followed it for awhile, and then it seemed to peter out to nothing. In an attempt to find it again, we ended up on top of a hill with another spectacular view, which we made our second stop of the day. When we scanned the horizon, we saw what looked to be some sort of marker at the top of an even taller hill. "I think we're going to have to go see what that is", I remarked to my fellow riders. It didn't take much convincing, and we soon blazed our own trail to the top.

Lincoln and Brad at the Overlook

Lincoln: After finding our way up this hill we had a great view of Black Butte and the whole area. At this point I noticed there were some T-storms off to the West moving towards us....

Alex: We had talked about finding a nice place to enjoy a small lunch, and could think of no other. Over jerky, pizza, cheese-its and some beers, we debated our next move. Ominous clouds
we're forming the traditional afternoon Montana thunderstorm in the direction we had planned to head, so we decided to take trail 413 (marked as a primitive road) and miss the inclimate weather.

Lincoln: At the very top of this hill we found a cairn and a old log stuck in it with some rusty plates with what I think was section coordinates punched in them. This was our lunch spot.

Lincoln: This here is one happy KTM owner! Alex was riding pretty well and seemed to enjoy his new rig thoroughly. He is a recent transplant from the East Coast and I did my best to blow his mind with this ride.....Welcome To MONTANA!

Wanting to explore a little more challenging terrain we headed for a trail we found on the map. I had reservations about the clouds and the rain falling out of them, but said F-it and twisted the throttle. It was a good ATV trail, pretty eroded in spots, and really fun. I still think about how much more awesome my XR is on stuff like this than the KLR was.

Alex: The trail was fantastic. Whoops, and ruts, ups and downs, across
meadows, and around snow drifts still melting. I found my second surprise from the KTM for that day, on that trail. Many folks have said that the 625 is just too big and heavy for tight trail riding, yet I had absolutely no problems bobbing around the tighter trails, and some technical sections. It handled great, and the power was plentiful for the trail. If it wasn't for the bigger tank, and the "LC4" stencil on the motor, I'd have thought I was on my old 520.

Lincoln: We reached a crux point with a "stream crossing to steep off camber embankment" move, which put Brad in the dirt, rider side down! Doh! After renegotiating his DR up the bank, we took a breather. And it started to rain. I reconned ahead while Alex and Brad sought cover in the trees. Trail looked easier ahead and I came back to wait out the rain.

Alex: While everyone was catching their breath, it started to rain lightly, and a thunderclap echoed in the distance.
"Uh-oh" remarked Lincoln.

Those ominous clouds that we had seen before? Sensing our change of direction they had bee-lined right for our position. We looked at the cove and quickly decided that if it was going to pour, it would be better to be in some sort of natural shelter, and prone on the top of a barren hill on the bikes.

Lincoln: After a lot of waiting and no sign of abatement of rainfall, we decided to press ahead. Now, those of you who have ridden in the Montana high country when it is wet know exactly why I was hesitant to head out into the boondocks....Rain turns the grass and soil to a slick mess, that is near impossible to ride. We stymied in our forward progress by a huge hill climb and had no choice but to backtrack. In doing so, all the little hills we came DOWN on our way out, became barely rideable trying to go UP on the way back. Much cursing, falling over, spinning out, skidding, overheating, sweating and general misery promptly followed. Alex and I celebrated summiting the worst climb. I ended up having to push my bike under power up the hill....Alex rode the whole way after failing on attempt number one.

Alex: We came to a small hillclimb that proved to be the first big challenge. I watched Lincoln rally up it, and make it more than halfway up to the first shelf before finally getting stuck and having to push-ride the bike up the rest of the way, with a trail of mud roosting off the back. I followed behind Brad up, and as soon as my tires hit the sodden earth, I knew I had made a big mistake. He reached zero-traction seconds before I did, and next thing I knew, I was wheeling backwards to avoid having him hit me. The front wheel skidded sideways, and flung me off. Ouch. I was not expecting to drop the bike on its first run out.

I rode the bike back down to the flat and level and looked at the climb as objectively as I could. The main trail was essentially un-rideable. Taking that route would just be a matter of luck and a lot of pushing. To the left there was a rocky, grassy section that was steeper, but might offer more traction. I gunned it in second gear, gaining as much speed over the grassy bog as I could, and rocketed up the hill. A couple of off-camber rocks almost threw me off, but I stayed on and reached the top. Phew!

Lincoln: The ride out was super slow first gear clutch slipping foolishness. We all fell down, our bikes were covered in mud, and the ride quickly turned NOT FUN. We just wanted to get back to the road.
Lincoln: Finally we made it out back to the main road. We took a good break and of course, IT STOPPED RAINING! Of course. After de-mudding my bike the best I could with a broken stick of sagebrush, we hit the road, all cold and soaked. I was the only one who had a rainjacket by the way, but I was plenty wet inside it just from sweating so much....

Alex: We fought, and fought down tiny hills, through huge ruts and slippery sections. I flipped the bike on its side for the second time, and even the seemingly crash-invulnerable Lincoln took his turn with the shiny side town. When we finally reached the section of the trail that had the smallest amount of gravel on it, you could hear the sigh of relief over the sound of the engines. Lincoln once remarked to me that dirt-biking was like a ritual, putting on gear and armor and doing battle with nature, and when we finally reached the main fire road again, its exactly how we felt.

Brad and Lincoln coming out of the trail.

Lincoln: Despite all expressing our wishes to take it easy after our ordeal, Alex and I ended up riding out even faster than the way in, and I pretty much felt like I was racing Baja or something. It was awesome. Sliding corners, barely staying on the road, sweet! Then, the sun came back! Even better!

Alex is loving the 625!

Alex: Halfway back, the sun finally peeked out, and boosted everyones spirits almost instantly. Where before we we're almost putting around the dirt roads, we now ripped around them with legs out, and rear ends sliding around. We stopped right before the
final descent and let the sun warm our backs, soaked gloves and hands.

We stopped before the descent back to the start, and soaked up some solar BTU's. The views up here are pretty much ridiculous.

Lincoln: I am really glad I got a new bike. This ride was the one where I finally got comfortable with the XR and was able to really ride it like it wants to be ridden.....FAST! After getting back to normal temperature in the fingers, we headed down, sad to leave the dirt road Shangri-La that is the Gravelly Range. Git out of the way you cows!

Alex: All in all, it was some of the most exciting hours of motorcycling I've ever done. While I have ridden in mud and the wet many times before, never have I ridden in anything so challenging. Simple climbs and descents turned into 15 minute ordeals where the only objective was to get down without totally eating shit and falling off the mountain. Likewise, I've never been on such amazing trails (in the dry), with stream crossings, and uphill climbs.

Lincoln's patented "Steering with the rear wheel" technique on his XR.

Lincoln: And of course we still have saloons in Montana....this is the Claim Jumper in Ennis....a great place to end a ride. We had a great day of true adventuring out in the rain and mud, but no one got hurt and we had way more sun than rain, so it was a fine ride in the end. See you next weekend!