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My 1st KLR Adventure Ride
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Write Up & Photos From My 1st Off Road Adventure
I embarked on my first adventure on my 2007 KLR650 on Saturday, May 30, 2009.
Other than riding it home after picking it up from the PO and a few short runs around town, this was going to be my first full day ride. And I planned to do half of it off road, something I've never done before.
With a new rear tire, a new DS helmet and lightly loaded with junk I thought I might need, I hit the road late in the morning. I started out Yosemite Blvd (Hwy 132) from Modesto.
I took it easy, no real rush. I had all day to ride , experiment and learn. The new rear shoe felt comfortable and stable on the street, even in the light twisties to be found in the foothills of Hwy132. I stopped at Roberts Ferry bridge for a quick photo op. Seems the thing to do on the maiden voyage.
I arrived in Coulterville where the Harley crowd was already parked and drinking in the town saloon. I did stop to buy a sandwich, chips and something to drink. But I packed it away so I could have lunch up in some lonely spot in the mountains away from everyone.
This is where I consider my new adventures to start. I headed up Dogtown Rd. I'd been up this small remote road once before on my Magna, and turned back when I ran into dirt. But not this time! When I reached the end of the pavement [PIC] [PIC] I just kept right on going (after stopping to take a few obligatory photos of course). My first real encounter with off (paved) road riding.
I picked this particular road to start on because I know it's relatively frequently traveled and in pretty good shape. Ranchers drive it in their cars to get from the ranch to church with the wife all the time. It's not exactly single track wilderness, but I was using it to get used to the feel of dirt and gravel under my bike.
I practiced stuff and even pushed myself on the KLR a little; fast starts, hard braking, easy take offs, downhill braking, tight turnarounds, etc. - just to get the feel of the bike and environment all while on a fairly simple road/trail. It all felt good and I was enjoying myself. [PIC]
Lets talk gates. In some parts of the Dogtown to Schilling roads it appears a number of ranches converge. Resulting in: pull up to the gate, get off, open gate, move KLR through, close gate, climb on KLR, proceed forward 200 yards to the next gate, get off, open gate, move KLR through, close gate, climb on KLR, proceed forward 200 yards, repeat, repeat, repeat… Okay, that got a little old really quick.
So in the middle of Gate World, I took the time to hop off (100 yards from 2 of the gates), find a nice spot under a tree and eat my lunch and sit in the quiet. Very pleasant.
Jumped back on the KLR and headed out again. Turns out there were only two more gates to go and them some nice open riding (with a few cattle crossings instead of gates).
I really enjoyed riding both the hard pack dirt and gravel sections. I was getting used to the sensations each transmits through the KLR to the rider so I was understanding better and becoming more comfortable.
Schilling Rd. dumped me off on Hwy 49 between Coulterville and Mariposa - often called the Little Dragon. This is one of my favorite roads to ride on my street bikes. It was time to asses the KLR in some real twisties. [PIC above Bagby] [PIC southern end Hwy 49]
Quick and stable. I didn't push like I would have on the Magna, but I was very pleased with the handling and performance of the KLR. Even the stock tires seemed to handle the tight twists well and gave me a good feeling of connectedness. KLR certainly works better in the twisties than the Magna would havndle the dirt/gravel. One slight disappointment - braking. Kinda wimpy, back and front.
Next stop, a BLM road on the back side of Lake McClure.
This road was not in the refined shape that Dogtown and Schilling were. Looser dirt, more rocks (not gravel, but rocks) and lots of ruts and minor washouts. I slowed down and became much more careful. Concentrated on riding and picking my path down the road. The dirt was fun, the washouts interesting and the dried ruts sucked. I don't like ruts.
You can see the Little Dragon across the canyon from the BLM road. [PIC] [PIC]
Spent time standing and sitting, learning what feels right and controlled. Did I mention dry ruts suck? Couple of times the dried hard ruts tried to have their way with me, but I didn't go down. [PIC] I followed the BLM road all the way down to the shoreline [PIC] on the back side of Lake McClure where I reached a "Restricted Area" [PIC]. Took some pics, drank some water, got back on the KLR and road the same BLM road back out. Ruts suck both directions. [PIC]
Next I road out Hunters Valley road. Starts out as a single lane paved access road to lots of private ranches and dwellings hidden in the hills near the lake. It ends up being a well graded dirt road that ends in locked gates and no trespassing signs long before it get down to the lakes shoreline. It was fun and I road it faster than the BLM and Dogtown. Not sure if it was better conditions or I'm already getting more comfy with off road.
So rather than taking Hunters Valley all the way back out, I turned off on Cottonwood Lane expecting it to be very similar to Hunters Valley Rd. I very quickly came to a gate and could see that Cottonwood would not be as refined as Hunters Valley (yea :-)
Just around the first bend was a dry creek crossing. No water but lots of fist sized and smaller river rocks used to line the bed of the crossing. Slowed way down, stood on the pegs and crossed carefully with no problems. Continued on down the ol' dirt road. [PIC]
Encounter a number of long horned cows along this new path, up close and personal. I worked on a dairy for a time, so cows don't bother me much, but those long horns can be a little intimidating standing in the road (even if they're not on bulls). Went slow and easy so as not to scare the prodigiously armed animals. Didn't want to be gored on accident.
About 10 miles down this road, I come to a fairly wide (30ft) [PIC], slow moving water crossing. Water crossing? I'm not ready for no water crossing. I don't have the experience for that! But…. here's the thoughts basically as they passed through my head as I attempted my crossing:
Photos with comments [PIC] [PIC]
- Go back and go out the other way
- I don't wanna ride all the way back just to avoid a little water. I ain't no pussy
- You don't have the skills and experience for this
- Shut up wuss
- Okay fine, stop, get off, look at the crossing, figure out a good path/line and then give it a try
- It's just like that last crossing, small rocks, but with like only 6 inches of water
- You can tell all that from 10 yards away and still moving? Check it out first!
- I'm just going for it
- I'm gonna ride the left track cause it looks smoother
- Hey this ain't to bad, see it's only 6 inches and the rocks seem stable
- Yea no sweat, just motoring across, but seems deeper than 6" now
- Crap - that huge jumping bullfrog scared me and caught my attention
- Your still moving look back at your path!!
- Did that rock just shift and drop the front wheel in a whole
- Oh yea it did and now I seem to be stopped and falling
- Feet down - ooohhh that's cold [PIC]
- Rocks, slippery, footing not good, sliding
- Waterproof street riding boot filling with water from the top
- Tires are slipping sideways on the slimy rocks, bike is falling on it's side
- Hold it, hold it, hold it - engine still running, tire spinning, keep it out of the water
- Wedges knees under it to hold engine out of the water, reach the kill switch, kill
- Pant pant, huff huff
- Lift - come on girly man, lift
- Pant pant, huff huff
- Why can't I lift it - oh, wheels slip up onto tall rocks
- Pull towards me, wheels drop into lower water again
- It's up: Pant pant, huff huff Pant pant, huff huff Pant pant, huff huff
- Okay now what
So I rested a minute and assessed the situation: I'm knee deep in the water, holding my shut off KLR that is hub deep in the water with me, I'm pretty sure that in my panic actions I didn't allow the important bits and pieces to submerge and suck in water, I think, I hope.
Well, I'm alone in the middle of nowhere, no ones around, I know I don't have cell service, I can't push it home, hell I probably can't even push it out of the water and up the bank. Only option is to start her up.
So I did. Started first try, sounded fine. Put her in first and walked the KLR out of the water. Shut her down and assessed damage.
And that's it. No other apparent damage (except of course to the cliché, pride). Tank is completely dry, so I'm pretty sure I don't have a water problem.
- The shifter rubber thingy is bent up and I think the shifter arm is bent in? or up? or something [PIC] [PIC]
- The round end thingy on the clutch lever seems to be broken off (and boy does my left pinky hurt)
- Some scratches on the left plastic side panel below the seat
I dry off some stuff. Move my wet wallet to my shirt pocket. Take a few photos. Climb back on the KLR and ride off in a pissy mood.
That lasted about 3 minutes until I started grinning like a fool inside my new (and unscathed helmet). This is exactly what I was looking for, adventure. I was a miffed at first about the new scratches and broken stuff on my new-to-me pristine 2007 Black KLR - but I'm already over it.
So I finished up Cottonwood Rd. and popped out (at another friggin' gate) onto a remote but well traveled paved road. I just toodled on home on my initiated by water, almost pristine KLR650 adventure machine with a big dumb grin and a satisfied feeling.
And that concludes my first KLR adventure.
Things I learned:
- Avoid roads with lots of gates if possible
- Avoid dry, deep ruts whenever possible - cause they suck
- Buy bash plate and engine guards ASAP, follow up with hand guards (may save me from broken pinkies)
- More storage for more tools and get out of trouble stuff (tool tube or Agristar thingy)
- People stare at motorcycles and riders that appear to be soaking wet and really dirty
- Water crossings - stop, look, make a plan (and maybe try a different route)
- I'm outta shape - to much huffing and puffing while standing in the water
- Think about getting that Spot tracking/help thingy if you're gonna ride alone
- I could really start liking this whole adventure riding thing
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