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Renfro Valley Dual Sport – 2017 Edition

Hat’s off to the organizer’s of the 2017 Renfro Valley Dual Sport once again! I’ve only done this three years now, and each time, I’ve been amazed at how well they mark the route. If you pay attention, you could probably do the whole thing without a roll chart. It’s marked that well. The sign-up process is a breeze and flows quite smoothly. Make sure to get it on your calendar when they announce the 2018 dates. Typically, it is held the first weekend in May.

Day 1

I’d been talking up the dual sport all year long with some guys I normally ride with. Some had never done it before, and others hadn’t done it for many years. I was actually kinda worried that the group would be too big, but it all worked out just fine. In the end, there were five of us riding together on Saturday. Greg, Bo, Kyle, Travis and I all headed out on the route just before 9am. Ideally, 8:45am would have been a bit better but this crew is fairly quick and I didn’t expect us to have to wait very long on anyone.

The Crew

Just like in 2016, there was a fairly strong possibility of rain on Saturday. Argh! I’ve never ridden the event when it was even somewhat dry. Well the forecast gods made a good call as it started coming down about an hour or so into the route. Luckily, I’d suited up in my Klim Traverse jacket with the d3o pads in the shoulders and elbows. This setup over my regular riding layers was the ticket. The vent zippers on the Traverse made it easy adjust to the conditions they changed throughout the day.

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at?

We’d hit all of the Green Arrow (Hero) sections that morning and folks were getting stuck all over the place. None of the crew had any issues with the hills or ruts and we tractored up, over, and around everyone and made good time as well. About 3 miles from lunch, we came out onto a paved road. It was in the mid-40’s, pouring down rain, and we were all ready for some shelter and food. Especially Bo. Evidently he was in dire need of nourishment. Everyone was in much better spirits after a good lunch and some “so-so” hot coffee.

The Hungry Man!
The Hungry Man!

They had gas for sale at the Sand Gap Community Center where we had lunch for $4/gallon. A bit steep in price, but it meant you didn’t have to head over to the store and wait in line behind 50 bikes to get gas. The guys on smokers mixed their gas accordingly and shook it up in the supplied milk jugs. I’ll do that again next year!

Travis at Lunch
Travis at Lunch

The rain was subsiding a bit as we pulled out for the second half of the day. There was some great riding ahead but it was going to be wet and sloppy for sure. Trail conditions were deteriorating quickly as the crew moved forward. Some sections had water running down the ruts in the trails. When we got to the 2nd afternoon Hero section, Greg indicated that the potato salad at lunch was not working out very well. I think he was getting a little green. Not good, as we had over 40 miles left to go. He and Bo skipped that Hero section and promised to meet us at the junction.

The Court Jester
The Court Jester

In the end, Bo and Greg had to wait over 30 minutes for us. It was not good. This was the only section where I had to hit a hill twice. Travis, Kyle and I were challenged for sure! Tiring to say the least. Things were just plain sloppy and it was hard to keep forward motion at times. For the first time ever, my “WR250” got a little warm. I never remember this happening to the bike before. We stopped for about 4-5 minutes so it could cool off. Not good. Bo and Greg had made a good call not running that section.

Sloppy Conditions
Sloppy Conditions – But the Captain America Boots are Clean!

The next Hero section was the cool stuff at Big Hill. I rode that last year (in the rain) and it was OK, but this year it was wetter. Kyle was pumped to try it so we let him head his own way. I knew of one really steep downhill that I just wasn’t willing to tackle in these conditions. It just wasn’t wise, at least not for me. At this point we were less than 30 miles from the staging area and the rain was still coming down but you could see the clearing skies in the distance.

The Hungry Man!
The Hungry Man!

In a short while, we popped out onto the pavement and there was no precipitation. Excellent! A combination of pavement, gravel, quad trails, and jeep roads lead us to the final section of cool single track. Very, very nice to say the least. A wonderful way to wrap up the day. It flowed well and now that it wasn’t pouring, it was actually enjoyable! We came off the single track and dropped onto an old road that descended down a creek bed back to the final section of pavement. I’d say 4 miles later, and we were back at the staging area. It was nice to start loading up without the rain as an annoyance. Special thanks to Greg for being our leader for the day. I greatly appreciated not having to ride in the front for a change.

Our Fearless Leader!
Our Fearless Leader!

Bo, Kyle and Travis had other obligations so they headed back north. Charlie came by and said his shoulders were hammered from fighting the little Husky he was riding so he pointed his van northward to Indy. With the mass exodus underway, the plan was to seek out Jeff and John and see if we could tag along on Sunday.

Charlie in the Ky Woods
Charlie in the Ky Woods

Greg and I stayed for the evening. We got a good meal there in Mt. Vernon and went to our hotels to get some rest and recover for the following day. The forecast for Sunday promised to be awesome, cool in the morning with a high around 61 degrees and plenty of sunshine. Good deal!

Day 2

Onward! Woke up to a light coating of frost on Sunday morning with clear skies. Things were damp, no doubt about it, but at least the sun was shining. I met Greg at the staging area around 7:30am. He’d had a rough time with leg cramps that evening and throughout the night. I’ve dealt with that before and it is not fun. Makes me cringe to just think about it. Wisely, he headed north as well, not wanting to chance getting 40 miles in and have to deal with the leg cramps. Plus, he had a 5+ hour drive ahead of him. Smart decision.

So I got in touch with Jeff and John and they were fine with me tagging along. Their friend Justin was there too. He was a good rider for someone that had only been on a bike for 3 seasons. Being young and tough benefited him as well. He kept up a good pace and dealt with most obstacles very well.

John pulled up in his Sprinter beside the MotoVan and everyone got their gear on and bikes ready. A group of four is a good size for this type of outing. The first part of the day was a bit too much pavement for me but as soon as we turned onto some natural terrain I got really interested. The lack of precipitation made it much easier to take in the surroundings. Mountain laurel were in full bloom and the  ferns were popping out of the forest floor. Sandstone rocks and the associate reddish dirt were prevalent at certain elevations on the route. Neat stuff!

Unfortunately we encountered lots of bottlenecks on the route that morning. Some of the more challenging hills were making it tough on many of the riders. Luckily, our little crew was able to get around these sections with little effort and kept a great pace.

There was one particular Hero section that I really enjoyed. It traversed a hillside with sandstone cliffs towering on the ridge above. Evidently, this is part of the “Sand Springs” area where Travis rides frequently. Jeff said that he’d ridden there with Travis the year before. Some of that section had burned last fall and that made it easy to see through the trees. The steep hills and off-camber trail layout made it fun to navigate.

Just before lunch we went under I-75 and ended up in “downtown” Livingston, Kentucky at the local fire station. They were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and had all the fixins’ laid out to embellish them accordingly. Just like, Saturday, the fire fighters had gas available for purchase, but this time for $3 per gallon. Good deal. We all gassed up after eating and headed back out for some more fun.

We saw a couple groups that were bypassing the main route and taking the road back to the staging area. Boy they really missed some awesome riding. The Hero sections after lunch on Sunday were some of the best we encountered all weekend. So glad I stayed for Sunday this year!

Jeff, John, & Justin checking out the Sandstone
Jeff, John, & Justin checking out the Sandstone

My favorite landscape feature of the whole event was a sandstone outcropping that had eroded into a series of passages that were 30′-50′ deep. As we approach this area, I noted what looked like pea gravel on the trail. My first thought was, “How in the world did they haul this pea gravel into here?” Hmmmm. When the sandstone became visible you could literally see the little pieces of gravel embedded in the geologic structure. These little pieces had eroded away and washed down the hillside, thus the appearance that someone had spread the gravel on the trail.

The Route
The Route

Not too far on down the trail from the sandstone outcroppings we came upon an overlook. It wasn’t a natural overlook, but rather a sheer drop off into what was an old mine. You could see the large shafts from the edge and the old railway that serviced the mine many years ago.

Jeff & John at the Mine Overlook
Jeff & John at the Mine Overlook

When we reached the end of that trail and hit the gravel road, Jeff turned right off the route and we headed down to the mine shaft entrances. There you could see 3-shafts and it was then obvious that the railway actually went through the mountain via a tunnel that we’d just ridden over a few minutes beforehand. Justin and I followed Jeff and John into the mine shafts. Kinda eery.

In The Mine
In The Mine

I didn’t think about it at the time, but what if the vibration caused by our bike engines had made pieces of the roof come down? Not good. I might not go in there again. I’ll just wait outside and take pictures!

The route had one more Hero section and then some old road beds, quad trail, gravel and so forth before the end of day. We saw a dual set of train tunnels a few miles before the end and actually road down the gravel beside a railroad bed for about 1/2 mile. The sun was still shining, everyone’s bikes were in good working order, and no one got injured! A great way to end the day.

If it isn’t obvious, this is now permanently on my “To Do” riding list for every year. I certainly wished that I knew about this event many years ago. I recall folks not coming to KORHS races because they didn’t want to miss the dual sport. Now I understand! Don’t miss it next year!

See you on the trail!

Renfro Valley Dual Sport – 2016 Edition

I’d heard about this event for many years, but honestly, I didn’t have a good idea of what it was all about. I mean, it is called a “dual sport” how much fun can that be? In 2014, Jeff,  a riding buddy of mine, encouraged me to attend the Renfro Valley “Dual Sport” the next year. He’d told me all about his adventures on this ride and evidently, he hasn’t missed one yet! Later on, I spoke with 2 or 3 other riders about it and they too had only great things to say.

Jeff @ a Renfro Valley River Crossing (2012)
Jeff @ a Renfro Valley River Crossing (2012)

With all these great recommendations, we just had to sign up. Jesse and I went and Travis tagged along on his DRZ400 (he did very well on it). You can read about the 2015 experience in this blog post. We had a great time and promised to return in 2016. It was on my calendar!

My pre-registration information came in the mail a few weeks ago and I immediately filled out the form and sent them a check for Day 1. It is a 2 day event but we only did the first day in 2015. My plan for 2016 was to sign up for one day and then go back on day 2 if I felt like it was doable. Physically, that is . . . I guess mentally too.

I started watching the weekend forecast everyday during the week leading up to the event. This was probably a bad idea. The forecast was horrible in terms of precipitation but OK in terms of temperature. Riding in the rain isn’t miserable if it is warm enough. Also having the right gear makes it much more comfortable (another post on this is forthcoming).

On Friday, the forecast finally improved in that the rain was probably not going to start off until 11am or so. Hooray! Like Charlie said, “It is really easy to call it day when it is raining at the start.” I pulled out my High Sierra Motorcycle Club jersey and took a picture, and sent it to a few folks. I was going regardless of the forecast! Ride or Die. No Snivelers.

Ride or Die
Ride or Die

Several people I know had planned on coming to the event, but for one reason or another, all of them bailed. I knew Jeff would be there as would Charlie. Michael also indicated he’d be with Charlie’s group and Travis was going to bring Taylor and ride along with a crew he’d been to Colorado with. Therefore, I had several options for “tagging along” with some fellow riders. Philip will regret not going but he had final exam stuff to prepare for this year.

I arrived around 7:55 am and found a good place to park the Sprinter. As I put it in park, I noticed an older model (pre-2007) coming down the road with “KTM” on the front above the windshield. It was a 3500 that was all blacked out. After unloading a couple things I headed over to the sign up. On the walk over I spotted a 2014 parked by Jeff and there were at least three more in the gravel lot at the sign up area. I don’t remember seeing any there last year so that was pretty cool. The new thing? Maybe so, but none of their’s were 4×4!

The sign-up line was short. The number of riders was down from last year. The forecast had kept them at home. It was a quick process as I had pre-registered for the event. I ran into several people I knew on the way back to gear up and finish unloading. All were more than gracious to offer to let me ride with their group. Appreciated!

Good to see Jeff G. as always. It had been exactly one year since I’d seen him. He was going to ride sweep with Harvey and Marty. I just couldn’t handle being out that late on a rainy day. Many thanks to them for doing what they do!

In the end, the “Indy” group was my choice. It would be good to ride with both Charlie and Michael. I saw their group prepping to leave so I rode over there to wait. Didn’t want to hold them up. There were a couple stragglers in the group so Charlie and another rider took off and waved for me to come along. The way it worked out, this was our group. Charlie, “Little Dave”, and I were it. Just three of us, and I could tell within a few miles that we were evenly paced and moving along very well.

Little Dave & Charlie
Little Dave & Charlie

We stopped at the first marker for a “Hero Section” to take a break. As we sat there, 3 or 4 groups came by. They’d head down the road with the Green Arrow (Hero) and within 5-7 minutes they’b be back. Each group indicated that there weren’t any markers. Someone had said that they’d taken them down because of all the rain. Up until this point, it had not rained. But, then it began, as a light downpour. With so many groups not finding the arrows ahead we just chose to take the main route. Onward!

Our little group made very good time and ended up being some of the very first people to make to the lunch stop. There couldn’t have been a dozen other riders already eating at the Sandgap Community Park shelter house. A quick bite to eat, a trip to the restroom and back out on the loop. There were a couple of groups rolling into the parking area as we were leaving. And yes, it is still raining at this point.

Our first stop after lunch was about as far away from the staging area as we’d get all day. Yes, I’ve studied our tracks. There is a very large sandstone cliff overhang that the trail runs underneath. A perfect place to take a break on a rainy day! There is a small lake about 100′ straight down to the left of our bikes. Beautiful!

Sandstone Cliff
Sandstone Cliff

Moving on, we spent the next 15 miles or so on very old dirt roads, some gravel and about 4 miles of pavement. This lead us to our gas stop at the “Fill Ups” Gas Stop along US421. We had another reprieve from the rain under the awning as we gassed up and added some premix to our fuel tanks.

Charlie went in and asked for a trash bag. The clerk gave him one and he told him he’d use it as a raincoat. Some other riders were coming in the door as Charlie walked out and he told them, “The sales clerk is selling rain coats for one dollar!” Very good.

The Trash Bag Raincoat
The Trash Bag Raincoat

I had driven past this gas station many times on our way to Earl and Marcella’s property where we used to host the “Big Hill” hare scrambles for the Kentucky Off Road Hare Scramble Series. My knowledge of this area was excellent. I knew from last year that we’d be riding on that property just up the road.

About 5 miles after leaving the gas station we were stopped at a Green Arrow at the very edge of the property. I knew exactly where we were. Cool! The neat thing was that not a single person had ridden this advanced section. All of the tracks, and there were very few, lead forward on the main loop. This was some of the best single track trail we road all day. It was slick, and one of the downhills was a bit hairy, but being the first to traverse it made it even better!

Green Arrow at Big Hill Advanced Section
Green Arrow at Big Hill Advanced Section

At one point during the “Big Hill” advanced loop it comes out and crosses the road but when we came back on the road we found the green arrow, but couldn’t find the next turn. We rode around for 20 minutes trying to find some orange marker tape or another arrow. Finally, Little Dave found a piece of tape and we were back on course! Actually, we went back onto Earl’s property and picked up some of the old hare scramble course and then made our way up a logging road and back to some pavement. Once again, this was all in the rain. Relentless.

The adventure continued as we made our way past the “Three Links” community marker and two miles down the road to a gravel farm road where a sign said “Welcome Riders”.  We sure didn’t expect to see that. About 3/4 mile down the gravel road we saw a sign that said, “Lemonade, Sweet Tea, Sodas, and Beer!” Really? Hmmm. Just around the bend in a yet to be completed pole barn sat a family selling exactly what they advertised. They invited us to pull our bikes under the barn and take a break. I wasn’t interested in a beer at that time of day but the lemonade was sure good. There was a fire and everything. A good rest.

At this point, I had 86 miles on my odometer and Little Dave determined we had 20 or so to go based on the route sheet. The next few sections were getting really nasty. The dirt roads were essentially mud, the trails were slick and nasty with greasy roots and rocks, the gravel was heavy and wet, and of course the roads were slick if you pushed it with the knobbies on. Things were a bit more sketchy than earlier in the ride. Prudence was necessary.

We passed up the last “Green Arrow” section as they’d been told at the morning Rider’s Meeting to not ride it if it had rained. Something about high water (Did you see the picture of Jeff at the top?). It didn’t appear that anyone had gone that way and it looked like one bike was parked where the old gravel road started. I guess to turn people around?

The bad part about this whole ride to me is the first and last 6 miles or so of straight up pavement. The other paved sections are much shorter and those aren’t too bad on the “WR” but those two extended sections of blacktop are tiring. I’m just not comfortable riding on the road. Never will be. However, I do realize that those road sections are what it takes to get you to the good riding!

When I pulled back into the staging area my odometer said 09.49 miles. That means “109.49” as my digital odometer has only two characters before the decimal point. I’d never seen it do that before!

109.49 Miles
109.49 Miles

I loaded up quickly, jumped out of my wet and thoroughly nasty gear, dried off a bit and got into something dry. Nice. I ran over to tell Charlie and Little Dave goodbye. Good to ride with good folks. Like Charlie said, “It’s a small world!” They were staying for the next day. Adios! All I wanted to do was get home to take a shower and get a good beer. Back to the Sprinter and northward towards Osage Hill.

Ready for Clean Up!
Ready for Clean Up!

There is no doubt that I’ll be back next year. This is now a “must do” on my event list and I will encourage others to join in. The folks that host the event do a good job. They are a bit “old school” in terms of trail marking, and this pisses off a lot riders, but I totally understand. I’ve laid out a 12 mile hare scramble course, put up 500 arrows and 1/4 mile of marking tape and still been criticized for bad course markings. I can’t imagine marking 120 miles. Hats off to them for their efforts!

Don’t forget to add the 2017 Renfro Valley Dual Sport to your riding calendar!

See you on the trail!

Mail Order Weekend!

This year, an expanded Prince family made its southward pilgrimage for a Spring ride in the woods of South-Central, Kentucky. I say “expanded” as it was Ryan, Seth, and their father Greg. They’d been eyeing the first couple weekends of April and ended up that the first was nearly perfect. Greg said several times, “You couldn’t mail order a better day for riding!” We all concurred!

The weather was ideal on both Saturday and Sunday but the wind was whipping on Saturday afternoon (that’s another story). It was cool but also sunny which is certainly a great combination for trail riding! Ground conditions were slightly damp in the bottoms but dry on the ridges. Spring was just beginning to put on a show. The redbuds were on the upswing, the maples were pushing out deep red buds, the beeches and hickory were opening up and a variety of phlox, lilies, and violets were blooming on the south-facing slopes.

Blooming Redbud
Blooming Redbud

Unfortunately, I have no group photos to document our Spring event. However, I do have some video footage! Ryan wore the camera for a bit once Kyle got there but his had the small SD card so he didn’t get lots of footage. My camera had a bigger SD card however, my camera was not working well. Luckily, I did capture some decent footage, as did Ryan. Enjoy the clips and read on for an overview of our great outing!

They arrived before 1pm on Saturday and we were able to ride 26 miles that afternoon. The trails we rode were a good sampling of some of the best in these parts. We packed up and headed out around 4:15pm as they had to deal with a kick-starter issue and getting a spare tire for their trailer. They’d booked a room in Danville so there were lots of options for dinner and so forth.

Sunday morning’s rendezvous was at Cracker Barrel in Danville around 7:30am. The group grabbed a bite to eat and rolled on down to the Green River Valley. Kyle was to join us, but he was running about 50 minutes behind. That gave us ample time to gear up and make a little loop before he arrived. A warm up is always nice.

All was good as we rode back up to the parking area to find Kyle nearly ready to go. After some greetings, bike adjustments, and so forth we hit the trail ready for an adventure! Our loops on Sunday included the Razor’s Edge, Goat Trail, Cat Cave Hill, Pencil Ridge, and anything I could use to make a seamless loop. I made sure to stop at the best viewpoints and I tried to keep a decent pace that would keep my more “fast-paced” friends engaged.

The lunch break was brief and it allowed us all to chat a bit with Kyle. It was wonderful to have a such a great group of riders that really appreciate all the time and effort we’ve put into developing such a nice trail system. Riding with a group like that makes all of our efforts truly worthwhile. A special thanks to the landowners that make this all possible. It is sincerely appreciated!

The final loop of day ended back at the parking area with 37.40 miles on the odometer. We’d covered 64 miles in two days and I made sure to include some new trails that needed a bit more beating in along the off camber sections. All was good! Everyone was tired and they must have been dreading their northbound exodus to the land of cold, windy, and icy conditions. (I saw some photos on their phone. Brrrr!) Something tells me we’ll see them again next year or maybe this Fall. Onward!

See you on the trail!

Riding in the Snow!

When I was young, we’d ride each time it snowed. Sometimes it was just on a small plot of land next to our house, but we’d ride. I can remember my Father, my Uncle and me going around and around a large figure 8. Once you got the hang of it, you could drift around the corners. Good practice!

Sometime in the early 70’s we got a really big snow that shut down things for days. My Father rode his Suzuki TM-250 to a factory in town where he worked in Maintenance. I’d say he was one of the few people to show up for work!

Basically, riding in the snow teaches you a lot about traction, momentum, and weight distribution. Anyone that rides a dirt bike should try it at least once! Like David said after riding last week, “That was mucho fun!” He’d never ridden in the snow before and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Single Track in the Snow at David's Place
Single Track in the Snow at David’s Place

I’m nearly 50 and at this point, I’ve probably ridden in the snow less than two dozen times. Sure, we get snow in Kentucky, but its occurrence is rare and in most instances there isn’t enough on the ground to justify loading up and heading out.

Out West, now that is a totally different story. Their riding season is so short that they take to the snow in the winter. They talk about snowmobiles with turbos, throttles on both side of the handlebars, and “boondocking” in the back country. Dwayne, out near Tahoe has a KTM fitted with a Timbersled and Gary in South Dakota has knobbies with spikes that are just plain gnarly. Obviously, the snow doesn’t keep them inside over the winter!

Gary's Studded Rear Tire
Gary’s Studded Rear Tire

To this day, one of my most memorable snow riding experiences occurred down near Duganville (bet you don’t know where that is). It was in the early-90s and I had a 1991 Honda XR600. There must have been 18″ or more on the ground and I went down to my friend Bob’s to ride. We had an established loop that was about 7 miles long around his three properties. Well I made the whole loop. I put that XR600 in fourth gear and held it at about 3/4 throttle and went everywhere. Up and down every hill, across every creek, and through each “cedar tunnel” . . . it was a blast! The snow was so deep in most places that I could just step off the bike and it would stand up in the snow with no support. I have yet to ride another bike in the snow that was better than that XR. Period.

The XR600
The XR600

Finally it happened. We got some snow a little over a week ago. Actually, we got a lot for Central Kentucky. There was about 12″ at the house with larger drifts here and there. At the end of the road, the drifts were over 2 feet deep. That was on Friday, and on Sunday, Jesse and I went to ride down in Casey County.

For some reason I expected there to be less snow on the ground down that way but when I hit the Lincoln-Casey line the road went to hell. I was driving the Motovan and it was not in 4WD so I eased on down the road noticing that everything “covered” with snow. I’d say there was 17″-19″ of snow on the ground where we parked. Never a dull moment!

Motovan in the Snow
Motovan in the Snow

I had spent 50 minutes or so putting sheet metal screws in my tires on Saturday evening and it paid some dividends. Regardless, forward motion was slow at times and a bit hard on the bike. A big-bore . . . that is a big-bore four-stroke would probably be the best for “big snow” riding but the YZ went ever place I pointed it.

On the Ridge
On the Ridge

We only covered about 4 miles and 50% of that was just logging roads. Towards the end of the ride, we came down this one hill and the snow was piled up almost 3 feet deep! I almost went over the bars getting to the bottom of that one.

Taking a Break
Taking a Break

The next Friday evening was spent removing the screws I’d installed the weekend before. It was going to be in the mid-50’s on Saturday and at our house, the snow was 95% gone. Mistake. Should have left the screws intact. Every North-North West slope was still covered with at least 6″ of snow. In most places it was more. Totally unexpected. Luckily it was heavier and not as light and fluffy as the previous weekend. We got around well but it was tricky and a bit tiring (see video below).

Bottom line. If you own a dirt bike and it snows at least 6 inches where you live, get out and ride in it. You don’t need to go far, just get out. Don’t be a “fair-weather” rider. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn and fun will be had in the process!

See you on the trail!

My First Dual-Sport Event

Honestly, I was very apprehensive about this “Dual-Sport” thing as I am not comfortable at all riding on the road.  It scares me. I’ve laid it down going 50+ on a dirt road and can’t imagine hitting the pavement at any speed. But . . . I had been told that this event was closer to an Enduro than any other Dual-Sport event. So with that knowledge we made plans to attend.

The event was staged at Lake Linville in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, the County seat of Rockcastle County. It was a beautiful morning and the forecast called for perfect conditions. There was very little rain the week before so I figured the trails would be relatively dry for the first Saturday in May (Derby Day).

Unloading at Lake Linville
Unloading at Lake Linville

Unfortunately, we missed the Rider’s Meeting as we were trying to get our act together for the day. I had laid out what I thought was the perfect riding gear combo consisting of some Klim Dakar pants, a vented Klim Mojave jersey with my awesome Klim Dakar Pro Jersey layered on top. That Dakar Pro Jersey is so cool. It may be the most bullet-proof garment I’ve ever owned. This was topped off with some Klim Adventure gloves, Gaerne boots, and my trusty Arai VX-Pro 3 with the classic solid white color scheme. Onward!

At about 8:40, riders started leaving the staging area so we followed accordingly. I had my route sheet, the odometer was reset, and my GPS trip log was reset. Ready to go!

Well the first 6.9 miles were asphalt . . . hmmm . . . I’m thinking “What did I get myself into?” Then, we turned onto a gravel road. The gravel quickly deteriorated and at its end was a left onto some single track trail. Very nice. This section was laid out well along the contours of the hillside and emerged at the top of a hill on a gravel road. The last section was certainly more enjoyable than the first 6.9 miles.

There was a “Key” provided on the route sheet that provided two characters codes for each surface type (i.e., BT – Blacktop, DR – Dirt Road, TR – Trail, etc.) which proved to be useful. However, the variance in what was to be considered a Gravel Road was VERY wide. It might be fresh, 1.5″ deep gravel (very sketchy), well-packed gravel, or some washed-out road bed where gravel once existed many years ago. The later actually turned into a little single track trail as riders consistently picked the line of least resistance.

Point of Interest
Point of Interest

There were also “Advanced Sections” scattered here and there. Those were designated with a green Moose arrow rather than the standard issue orange. Those were the best trails we rode all day. If you took the wrong bike on those trails you’d be miserable for sure. Travis rode his DRZ-400’s’ decked out with gnarly knobby tires (IRC VE-33 on the rear) and showed up quite a few guys on pure dirt bikes!

In each of the advanced sections there were places where a bottle neck would develop. Some guy would “fail” at negotiating a hill or creek crossing and a bit of a backup would slow the pace. In most instances we waited very little or creeped around and up through the carnage. The smell of antifreeze (the smell of KTM’s) lingered at the top of every challenging hill as riders struggled and their buddies reached out to help their fallen comrades. Seriously, (most) everyone was very nice and courteous. Certainly a great group of riders!

None of us had any problems at all with the “obstacles” as Jesse employed his Rekluse and displacement to crawl up and over and Travis just attacked each one on that DRZ as it was his only option! Definitely glad I had my “WR” 250 one those sections.

On the Trail
On the Trail

So all of sudden, my odometer is saying that I’m going much faster than I am. Something is up. I slide my Trail Tech odometer out of the holder and back in real quickly. Still reading the same. When we finally come to a stop I see that it has switched to Km/hr and the battery light is flashing. Geez . . . I picked up the older of the odometers. Oh well. So I get a reading from Travis and start tracking it on my GPS. Now I’m doing math on the fly. I’m not an old school enduro rider, nor am I Bryan Bunch. A few stops, turns and so forth on the route sheet and I was done with keeping track of that info.

At one point we emerged on a familiar looking road. Travis asked if I knew where we were . . . Ah hah! We were on the road that goes back to the main trailhead for S-Tree! We continue along that road for a bit and arrive at the Sandgap Community Park. We’ve driven past here a dozen times over the years when riding at S-Tree. There were nearly 100 bikes there when we arrived and they were still rolling in. Lunch was provided as a part of the entry fee but the local Fire Department took donations in a fireman’s boot at the beginning of the lunch line. Good idea for the locals and the event promoter.

Lunch at Sandgap
Lunch at Sandgap

While heading to the end of lunch line, I came across Charlie Williams from Indy. He was pulling in on his GasGas as we wandered towards the shelter house. We chatted a bit and moved forward for some deserved nourishment and bench racing.

Travis was complaining about a certain rider that had left us behind on a trail ride a couple years ago and Jesse said, “Well he doesn’t have anything on Ross!” Charlie chimed in immediately and concurred, “Ross will do the same and he has the right tools to do it with!” If you’d ridden with Ross you would understand!

We saw several riders at lunch that were once KORHS racers. Many asked what had happened with the series. It is obvious that many folks appreciated what we did, but continuing at a loss is just not the way to go. I appreciated hearing all the good comments. I said farewell to Charlie and we headed on down the road to get some gas.

The gas station was a hoot! There were 45+ bikes there at any given moment for I’d say 20-25 minutes. Jeff was topping off the RMX, Travis fed the DRZ and Jesse’s WR300 had sucked down nearly 3 gallons so far! I saw just as many people there as I did at lunch.

The trails during the afternoon were just as good and from looking at the GPS I could see that we were starting to loop back around towards the staging area. The trail traversed some properties that we’d used for racing in the past and it was neat to suddenly realize that we were at that location!

At various points during the day I turned on my helmet camera. I tried to only use it on the best of trails but ended up getting some footage of paved and gravel roads. The plan was to get several 3-5 minute clips out on YouTube and I’m making progress with 4 posted for viewing thus far. Below is the first of the bunch. Make sure to click on the gear and watch it in HD.

Below are the links to the other 3 in this series:

https://youtu.be/8DyEVUYJutk
https://youtu.be/w7SyETywLJk
https://youtu.be/sE38EsagO8U

The afternoon trails provided more great scenery, had some tricky creek beds, and were laid out to wrap up the event in a good way. The promotors did a great job for sure! At the end of the day, Travis’ odometer said 116 miles and my calculations using the GPS and my odometer reading before it gave out was also right at 116 miles. Other folks said they got 125 miles so I’m not sure if we missed a section or what. Regardless, it was a good time!

My regret at this point is that  I did not go back on Sunday. I hadn’t made plans to do so but will next year for sure! Marty said the percentage of trail vs. gravel vs. road is about the same but it is only 80 rather than 125 miles. Jeff said it was well worth the time and highly-recommended by many of the riders that had gone with him in the past.

My plan is to go again next year! Who’s going with me?

See you on the trail!

Just before Spring had Sprung . . .

About two weekends before the leaves fully emerged, some friends came down from Indiana for some non-flat land riding in the Kentucky woods. They picked the perfect day as the weather was awesome. The sky was blue, the temps were cool, and the ground conditions were unseasonably dry for April in the Commonwealth.

Ready to Ride!
Ready to Ride!

We arrived at our riding venue around 9:15 and were on the trail shortly thereafter. The ride began with a nice 12+ mile loop that included a lot of our well maintained single track and provided good opportunities for some rest stops with nice views. Things were just starting to green up and the Dogwoods and Red Buds were in full display.

A Spring View from the Overlook
A Spring View from the Overlook Trail

Some new acreage was appended to our riding area recently and we’d been busy cutting new trails all winter long. We knew that once Spring had sprung, the briars would be too much to deal with. The results of our efforts included a nice new switchback hill, some winding trails along and down off a knob, fresh single track through a new growth area, and a sketchy goat trail that requires caution if the conditions are wet. Our visitors were treated with getting to ride all of the above!

Great Spring Riding Conditions
Great Spring Riding Conditions

The afternoon riding included much of our older established trails and in order to make a good loop we did ride a bit of the morning loop backwards. But like someone said, “Riding it backwards is like riding another trail!”

On the Trail
On the Trail

Everyone was having a great time as we kept things moving and covered as much ground as possible. In the end, we’d clocked over 30 miles of classic Kentucky woods riding. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to ride where we do. It is not something that should be taken for granted.

See you on the trail!

Motoz Mountain Hybrid: Test #1

Well there seems to be lots of buzz surrounding the new MotoZ Mountain Hybrid tire. The sales guy at bike show promises wonderful traction in all conditions, notes the DOT rating, and the 18″ form factor with some nice rim protection. Slavens has a good video on it as well but I haven’t seen any test results.

At just under $100 per tire, the MotoZ appears to be a great deal. Most good trials tires will run you $130+ . . . however . . . when you consider the milage you’ll get it is certainly worth it. So, I ordered one from Slavens and had just over a week from when I placed the order. Not bad considering it was coming from Colorado.

For the first time that I’ve seen, my tire was delivered in a box. Yes, a big flat cardboard box. It also had the paper work shrink wrapped around the tire but that was in the box with the receipt and so forth. Nice box.

One thing I noted is that the box was heavy. After opening it up I was shocked at how wide it really was. And rounded, not flat in terms of its profile. It is definitely as heavy as my IRC VE-33 and the carcass is very tough. Also, I think the knobs are just as tall as the VE-33 but rectangular and distributed across the tire in a trials tire-like pattern.

Motoz Mountain Hybrid
Motoz Mountain Hybrid (far right)

The next evening I spooned it onto a spare rim and for the first time in over 5 years I installed a tube, not Tire Balls, in my tire. It was a relatively quick process that I did just before dinner. When airing it up it literally “popped” onto the rim. That sounded good! You could see the excellent rim protection. But, it seemed really “hard” when compared to the other trials tires in the garage. So, I set the air pressure at 8psi and called it a night.

The weekend rolls around and I am anxious to give it a try. Mid-20s the night before means the ground will be frozen until about 11am or so. After that, the ground conditions will get just plain muddy and nasty. That should be a good test as we typically remove our trials tires after the first good freeze and run a knobby until June or so.

I was the first to get suited up the day of our ride so I headed out for a short loop. It was a still a bit hard and didn’t squat like I wanted it to but considering the frozen ground, it performed no worse than a knobby. After about 1 mile I headed back and let a little air out of the tire. Probably down to 6psi at this point.

Shortly thereafter we all left the truck for a good loop. The Motoz Mountain Hybrid was doing good on most everything that was not totally frozen. The knobs were staying clean and it hooked up in some muddy ruts where I expected it would struggle. Most of the rocks and roots were slick with a fine layer of ice or they were just plain wet. Surprisingly, it did well in those situations.

At about 5.1 miles into the ride we came to a frozen and rocky uphill where there was not a good way to carry your speed past halfway up. Unfortunately, I slid over into the rut and had to crawl up hill over rocks and roots and some frozen ground. Not too stylish, but I made it up. Now waiting on the rest of the crew.

The interesting thing is that all 3 Yamaha YZ’s ended up making it to the top, but not the KTM 250XC . . . The orange bike made it on the fourth attempt as we joked about putting some Yamaha stickers on this bike. More to come on this . . .

While waiting at the top I noticed the tire as low. It was now squatting and an 8″ section was off the bead. Not good! I got the little hand pump out of my Klim Nac Pac and grabbed the valve stem. Hmmm . . . it was loose, spinning in the rim. Obviously torn from the tube. Actually, not all is lost . . .

I’d thrown another wheel in the bed of the truck that morning, complete with a barely worn IRC VE-33 loaded full of Tire Balls at about 8psi. The rest of the crew forged onward to complete a good loop and I headed back down the hill and took the path of least resistance back to the truck. Some tools from the backpack (and the stand I now require to be able to step up into the truck without ripping the crotch out of my pants) were all I needed to complete a wheel-swap in less than 4 minutes.

After waiting around for a bit, the crew arrived back at the barn. Everyone ate lunch and we grabbed some more water. During that timeframe, Jesse applied a Yamaha Sticker to the back of Kyle’s helmet . . . you know, the KTM rider that didn’t make it up the first gnarly uphill? Well both Smith and Dean were having a ball getting photos of Kyle’s helmet and specifically the Yamaha sticker. Their tag-team approach acquired some good photos and video!! See below!

Yamaha Sticker on KTM Rider's Helmet (1)
Yamaha Sticker on KTM Rider’s Helmet (1)
Yamaha Sticker on KTM Rider's Helmet (2)
Yamaha Sticker on KTM Rider’s Helmet (2)

So at the end of the day we’d netted about 23 miles of good riding, enjoyed the great mid-winter weather, and had some good times! Better than sitting on the couch all day!

I know it is cold and nasty, but you need to get out and ride!

See you on the trail!

 

The Row 4 (and 62) Report

A group of us made the commitment to race the Sandlapper National Enduro down near Columbia, South Carolina three months ago. We’d been to that race back in 2011 and made the (nearly fatal) mistake of getting on row 87. It was a miserable experience, but Bo, the Sheriff, and I survived the whole ordeal. The sand whoops would swallow a bike and stumps were everywhere.

But hey . . . we had a plan for 2014!! Get on an early row and maybe there wouldn’t be a bunch of sand whoops. So, on sign up evening I made it all happen and got Earl, Bo, David, and Sam on the same row. Jesse called just 5 minutes after I’d signed us up and said he wanted to go too. I quickly got back on the site and requested the row in front of us. I had requested row 7 and 6 for Jesse but we ended up with 4 and Jesse was placed on row 62. Oh well . . . it was not for lack of effort on my part.

Row 4
Row 4

Once again, the weather promised to be great compared to the Bluegrass State and whole crew was looking forward to the trek down South. However, just like the last enduro, Jesse was unable to attend due to work-related commitments. So, the week before the race Mr. Kyle Miller gave me a call and I laid the offer right in his lap. “Do you want to go the National Enduro next week Wildman?” . . . first there was a bit of a pause . . . then a fairly positive “Yes” emerged. He was on the hook to ride in Jesse’s spot. Could Jesse Smith (alias) obtain another Vet B Class win??

Onward! Everyone was excited. David and Sam really liked the Black Coal Enduro last year and Bo was anxious to head south for some warm weather riding. I knew that Kyle would keep things interesting for us and Earl was glad to not be going it alone! It is good when things are good!

We all left at different times on Saturday and Earl was the first to arrive at the venue. My truckload showed up about 30 minutes later. David and Sam were running behind and didn’t make it to the course, but at the end of the day we all sat down for dinner together at the Applebee’s is Lexington, South Carolina in front of our hotel. It is always good when a group can sit down together for a meal. Good conversation about the day ahead!

KYWR at the Sandlapper
KYWR at the Sandlapper

The next day began early but it worked out well and we arrived at the race with just a little over an hour before our 9:04 key time. I don’t like being rushed but overall, everything I “needed” was ready to go. Kyle helped with sandwiches for lunch and our gear as he had almost an hour to wait after we took off. The group headed for the line and Kyle tagged along to grab a couple photos. Shown (left to right) below are Bo, David, KYWR, and Sam on the line for the first test.

The Row 4 Line Up
The Row 4 Line Up

 

Into the Jungle . . .

It is just plain hot and sticky here in the Commonwealth. The iron weed is blooming and 8 foot tall, the wild black berries grew an extra foot this year with all the rain, and for some reason the bugs are out in force. All those factors combined make for a somewhat miserable riding experience.

Regardless of the situation, we ventured out last week to check out the course at the Sawmill. Wow! It was like a different world out there. A jungle for sure! The heavy rains we’ve had over the past four months have caused all plant matter to grow profusely. We normally have a lush understory here in Kentucky, but this year it is extra thick.

In the Kentucky Jungle
In the Kentucky Jungle

We came to sections where the entire trail was simply covered. A weave of thorny vines, black berries, and some tough young hickory branches will cease your forward motion. At the end of the ride we’d only gone about 15 miles but geez! I was beat and starting to think about taking a shower to get rid of that itchy feeling from all the weeds, pollen, and bugs.

The good part about all this is that I did get out and ride. It was cooler when we started in the morning but by 1:00pm it was steamy in the jungle. At least I didn’t sit at home and “think” about going riding.

Get out and ride!

See you on the trail!

The 123 Mile Thanksgiving Holiday!

My Thanksgiving Holiday was a good one this year. We had a great dinner at home on Wednesday with just the immediate family. I cooked the entire traditional dinner and it was judged by my family to be the best they had this year. On Thanksgiving Day we went to Kim’s parents for dinner with her family. It was a good time. I learned that my bow and arrow skills are lacking. But that is another story . . .

On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Roger and I rode for a while and got in about 27 miles. Good riding! We covered some new territory and I hit every goat trail except one. Always a good time! The ground was actually very dry but the thick cover of leaves made things a bit sketchy at times. We couldn’t have asked for better weather and riding any day is always great!

Deciduous Leaves Covering the Ground
Deciduous Leaves Covering the Ground

We also planned to ride the day after Thanksgiving as well. But this time, down at Red Bird. I hadn’t been for several months now but it was time to check it out. Four of us headed out at 9:30AM and it was only about 38 degrees and cloudy. The trail was once again covered with leaves and we were the first crew out that morning from the trailhead.