The summer is upon us. Time to get out there on your two-wheels of choice, enjoy the wind in your face, and feel the freedom of the road and/or trail.
And there the tree laid, blocking our intended path… quite the unexpected surprise. Our bikes were barely warmed up, it had been less than 10 minutes since we left camp. The crisp June morning had us layered up but within a couple minutes of hand saws and dragging fallen timber, a bit of a sweat now accompanied us. I couldn’t have planned a better start to the Brush Creek Daytripper Rally, an opportunity for this random group of people to bond over some hard labor with the bikes resting on their kickstands. Usually at an ADV rally the bikes share in the effort but their chance would soon come.
There are many reasons we choose to ride a motorbike… freedom, travel, hanging out with friends in a shared activity, to get away from something, just damn fun… but everyone kicks a leg over for their own personal reasons. For me it is more than just having fun, it’s about meeting new and diverse people, challenging myself mentally and physically, learning new skills (riding and maintenance), exploration and adventure, and allowing my creative juices to flow in the various forms of storytelling, photography, videography, and route development.
This bike made me a better rider overnight...
There are many subgenres of motorbiking that cover a diverse selection of bikes and riding styles. On one end of the spectrum you have the street bikes: crazy custom choppers, twisty killing sport bikes, comfortable traveling baggers, the speed king/queen track racers, etc. Going towards the other end you have the dirty bikes: enduro madmen and madwomen, flat track sliders, dual sport wanderers, the single track loons, the various other 2-stroke powersporters, etc. Then you have the newer ADV style, short for Adventure. ADV attempts to live in the best of both worlds, merging aspects of street and dirt riding. Ride comfortably on hundreds of miles of interstate, drag a knee in the twistys, kick some gravel around, and venture into the wooded 2-tracks off the beaten path.
I regularly listen to music when on the bike with the help of my Sena Bluetooth system, but the cell phone has now taken place of the cassette and CD. Shuffling through the library takes no effort, pick an artist, a few albums, or shuffle the entire catalog. I argue that it is still worth the effort to take the time to hand pick specific songs for an overarching theme that you want to capture for your ADVenture. Whether it is an easy-going street ride matched with a selection of The Blues, a back country ADV fest with a Rock & Roll sound, or an off-road bonanza with a little Outlaw Country… set the mood and let the rhythm of the music sync with the rhythm of the terrain, the brap of the engine, and the recoil of the suspension.
The Mix Tape. A certain dedication was required along with an ear for melody. Putting together a selection of songs that flowed together and fit on both sides of that cassette took much time and effort…
To be fair, elderly comes down to a number, an implication of being feeble. It doesn’t really take into consideration a person’s state of mind or physical abilities. At 70.7 years old, Gabe may not have been the oldest to tackle the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR), but it was an accomplishment, nonetheless. Especially after our last trip down that way a few years earlier went haywire. Gabe took what looked to be your run-of-the-mill slow speed fall on a George Washington National Forest two-track and ended up with a broken tibia that needed a cadaver part, a plate, and a few screws… we shall call him FrankenGabe!
Route development could be considered an art form. It takes a bit of a creative mind and an adventurous spirit to patch together an enjoyable ride. Creating a route that follows the curves of the track, the elevation changes of the terrain, and through the beauty of our world can be done by just jumping on the bike or by careful and meticulous planning. For me, a little research before going out has proven to be well worth the effort. You come up to an interesting looking dirt road, but where does it go? I have taken it on a whim and found excellent terrain, but I have also found myself on someone’s front yard. When taking the time to do the homework, I already know that dead end doesn’t go anywhere. However, I do know taking the next intersection leads to an unmaintained dirt road following the ebb and flow of a creek, climbs to a ridge line, and brings you to a scenic vista.
Sometimes that creativeness and desire for adventure can get you into sticky situations…
And there the bike laid, stripped of all gear and Farkles. I heard the Wee call to me, “don’t leave me here alone in the woods!” In order for me to rescue it, I had to go rally the troops. The three of us could not muscle the bike the rest of the way up the hill by ourselves and luckily we didn’t have to… we were at an actual Rally. The 5th Annual Wailin’ Wayne Weekend (WWW) to be exact, based out of New Straitsville, Ohio nestled in the hills of the northern section of Wayne National Forest. Surely someone would be interested in pulling a well beaten 2005 Suzuki V-Strom DL650 out of the trails of Monday Creek.
It all started in 2011. A buddy that I worked with at The Ohio State University Medical Center had a Beemer and loved to share his riding stories with me, the non-rider. He would share magazine articles from BMW Owners News, RoadRUNNER, and the American Motorcyclist Magazine; the writings of Neil Peart (the drummer of Rush fame who was also an avid motorcycle rider and author) and Piet Boonstra (old school enduro rider and author); and any other motorcycle related article or book he could find to throw my way.
A few opening ramblings…
First off, I currently ride a well-worn Suzuki V-Strom 650. The Strom is the first motorbike I ever purchased, and all its scars prove it helped me learn how to ride (at least that’s what I tell myself!). My V-Strom model is the older generation, not the more off pavement-oriented XT models the OEM started producing in 2015. I will list some of the things I used to beef up my older Strom model from an excellent street-oriented ride to a true ADV beast. I’m sorry, I have to say it… The only gripe I have on the new models is why did they change the headlight configuration?! It was unique! Everyone could tell a V-Strom by the look in its eyes when it was coming at you, those tall, pointy, side-by-side, angry bug-like eyes. They changed them to an over-under configuration along with a new extended beak, which both look similar to a few other ADV bikes…but I digress, back to my initial subject.
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The Shinko 804 hit the murky water and time slowed to crawl. As each second passed I watched the tiny brown droplets dancing through the air. The initial speed of the 804 caused a small spread of spray but as our velocity reduced and the 805 rear tire entered the slop, large round globules followed. As each molecule of water reached peak arc, time itself stopped… the globules seemed weightless, as if I was riding on the surface of the moon. But earthly laws prevailed. What goes up, must come down. My trajectory through the brown mess pushed the water forward but as our momentums equalized… I think you get the point, I took a swamp water shower.
I am lucky enough to be an Ambassador for the Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR) organization. Backcountry Discovery Routes is a non-profit organization whose mission is to establish and preserve off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles. Through education, advocacy, and promotion of responsible motorcycle travel, BDR seeks to preserve backcountry motorcycling opportunities for generations to come.
22 Motorcycle Words and Phrases and My Take on Them…
Kane continues the ride through Asheville, North Carolina, the northern mountains of Georgia and South Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway, moto-camping in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest (sort-of), and the Back of the Dragon on Virginia State Route 16. The ride turned solo after Gabe’s leg injury in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest put him down for the count (see Appalachian Adventure Part 1 – Who Needs a Tibia Anyway?).
Six hours of sleep later, I am groggily packing and loading the bike. My motel neighbors’ are Harley riders and can’t help but inquire about my wildly different loaded down adventure bike (a 2005 Suzuki V-Strom 650 or as many know it, ‘The Wee’). It’s a cool, overcast morning as I point the bike south on US-220 to head towards Gabe’s broken leg in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Gabe is still waiting for surgery when I arrive, but is in good spirits (probably due to the pain meds). His bike is on the way to his son’s mother-in-law’s near Nellysford, VA and his kids are on the way from Columbus, OH.
The Sena conveys the pain as I hear my riding partner agonizing and see him writhing on the ground. We are in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains with no one around for miles. His muddied bike is on its side with the back wheel still spinning, the rider might be down but the Beemer is still itching to go. As I pull up to the scene… I’m getting ahead of myself here, let me take you back to the beginning.
My moto-camp loaded bike waited patiently in the garage as I cut loose from work early and sped home in excitement. I swear the Wee gave me a wink as the garage door opened. My work clothes were practically off as I ran in the door and in a fury my riding gear was on and I was ready to go. I shot my riding buddy Gabe a text somewhere in that madness to let him know it was time to hit the road. The Wee fired up like a champ and the engine warmed as I started up the US Topo Maps GPS tracker function on my old cell phone and loaded the route. He texted back his confirmation and we both set off to our rendezvous, a BK Lounge parking lot in Bellaire off the Ohio River. This was an ideal spot because it would take us both an hour and 45 minutes to get there which made for easy timing.
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