The ramblings of an adv rider
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.
Picking up the story where I left off [The Swamp Water Shower story], the next morning was damp, cold, and overcast. With rain predicted to start later that morning, many of the WWW riders opted for road rides and a few more decided to call it a day, packing up and heading home. The weather was supposed to be cold and rainy most of Saturday and all-day Sunday, which meant those who did brave the elements would be breaking down camp in a mud fest.
My rally neighbor Tennessee Greg was game to test his newly learned skills on his GS from the previous day’s off-road ADV class. My other neighbor at the event, the 70-year-old Connecticut native Mike on his KTM 350 EXC, was also itching for another pass on Monday Creek. Mike was an extensive traveler, recently riding the TransAmerica Trail (TAT). He shared that story as well as many other adventures the previous night over a few cold ones. An interesting guy, I jumped at the chance to see him in action.
Our team of three headed up the trail right after our WWW leader Chad’s morning briefing. Greg got a great taste right off the bat and handled his big BMW1200 GS well. After a short jaunt we came to a forest service crossroad and decided to ride the gravel since a light rain had started to fall. After a few zigzags we ended up on the pavement and found a lull in the rain. The tarmac our two wheels rested upon ended up being OH-78, which just so happened to be a couple miles from a trailhead. After a quick discussion we decided to poke around the Long Ridge trails, which are part of Monday Creek but not connected to the Main Corridor (bottom right on the above picture).
A nice forest service road lead us up to the trail access and we decided to take the first entrance to the south. I stayed in the lead with Greg in the middle and Mike running sweep. The easy going start ended quickly as we came to a long steep downhill with a couple snakes thrown in for good measure. Balance and brake work kept the bike upright and helped me find the bottom. Greg struggled a bit, going faster than he wanted but made it down unscathed. Mike had the proper bike and skill, making it look easy. We came to another couple steep downhill sections, but Greg and I were properly warmed up to them by then.
Then out of nowhere we came to more of that yellow caution tape. This time, a 200-foot section of trail eroded away into a small creek that ran through the forested valley. As riders do, there was an ugly looking bypass with several small log hops and uneven terrain. Mike’s KTM would have no issue, I felt confident that I could manage the Wee through it with minimal drama, but we all agreed that it was not a good idea to push Greg’s freshman skills any further with that giant GS. Who knows if we would run into anything worse and after the last few skill testers, continuing forward could potentially get any one of us into trouble. Erring on the side of caution, we decided to pull a U-ey and headed back the way we came. A reluctant decision that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
On our minds as we pointed back north were those steep hills we would have to negotiate, particularly the last two. A light sprinkle had returned so without further delay we headed back towards the trailhead. The first couple went well but the steepness of the second to last one had Greg on the ground only three feet from the peak. After getting him upright he was able to complete the rest of the hill with a little spot. Mike followed suit, again making it look easy.
Now for the big one. My run at the monster had me lose momentum on the first uphill bend. Loose rocks and the quick rutty turn made the entry to the long steep section of the hill difficult. I made it about half way up before dropping the bike on another small bend. Right on the steepest part of the hill, I was able to work the bike forward but made little progress even with a spot from the boys. I had the clutch all the way out and was hammering the throttle but there was little power at the rear wheel, that is a problem. Eventually the bike stalled out and I couldn’t get it started again until I threw it into neutral. The bike fired up but as soon as I dropped the shifter into first the bike would give a lurch and the engine would die. Holy schnikes, that is a definite problem.
So we decide to give the Wee a breather and dragged it as close to the edge of the trail as we could, hoping that letting it sit for a while would help with the problem. Now to get that big Beemer out of the valley. After coaching him up, Greg gave it a couple sporting tries but couldn’t get more than a quarter of the way up. That initial rocky bend was just too much. After backing the GS down the hill, we let Mike shoot up with the KTM. Surprisingly, even he had a bit of a struggle with the smaller and more capable ride. We attempted to get the Wee moving again but with the same results.
One bike out, one stuck in the middle, and one hanging out at the bottom.
Mike suggested that I should give the Beemer a shot if Greg was comfortable with my attempt. My first time piloting a behemoth GS, Greg gave me a quick tutorial and we spun the bike around to line up my shot. My first attempt got me about a third of the way up, that darn initial turn. I was amazed at the weight distribution and nimbleness of the large 1200, it handled way better than I expected. Requesting another go from start, we finessed the bike back down the hill to line up shot number two. This time it felt smooth and I made it just over halfway up the hill before my concentration was broken by the sight of my poor Wee sitting there helpless. Not wanting to run it over I relaxed too much on the throttle and lost momentum, coming to a stop. The team rallied, using manpower along with some throttle work to move the bike up past the Wee. From there it was no problem to manage the rest of the ascent. It was an amazing introduction to the big GS!
And now we are back to the opening of this story. I decided to strip the Strom down of all accompaniments and head back to camp to personally grovel for help. We loaded my stuff on both of the other bikes and for the first time in my life I gave up the handlebars for a pillion seat. The 1200 was a comfortable ride as a passenger but I will be happy to never do that again, it was a strange feeling to not have control of the bike and be at the mercy of another person.
That ride out of the woods back to camp was rough, mentally. Ying and yang. Good and bad. The light and the dark. Depression and exhilaration. Am I just a fake, a fraud, a sham? Or is this just another bump in the road? The predicament was self-inflicted, and it had me question everything in that 15-minute ride. Getting into motorcycling and eventually into ADV and Dual Sport riding has been a fun and educational experience but not without its hardships, including the past two days of this trip. When the dust settled, and my mind ran through all the phases of perception, I figured it’s just simply a good day or a bad day… there is no such thing as luck, good or bad… the randomness of the universe. The universe is just out there, doing its thing. We are just one minuscule aspect of what is going on inside of the universe’s realm. Yes, we make decisions and those decisions can have effects on the universe, but the universe is not sitting around with its multiverse buddies thinking up of ways to mess with us. The last couple days had a couple bad spots but there have been far more good days. As I spoke about in a previous article, these bad spots must be taken as learning experiences. Take your knocks, learn something, dust yourself off, and get out there again. Fun – Adversity – Overcome – More Fun – Learn Something (about riding but also about yourself)!
Back at camp with a light but steady rain falling a couple of my riding partners from the previous day, Geza and Joel, were quick to be talked into helping me out. I received excuses from some of the other fellow rally patrons, but I don’t completely blame them, we don’t know each other. There is always at least one in the group anyways, even if the ADV community is generally extremely friendly, supportive, and generous.
Mike grabbed his car and trailer and we all piled in, except Joel. He really wanted an excuse to ride his ADV’d out V-Strom again! With tow straps in hand, Geza, Greg, Mike and I lead Joel back to the beaten and battered Wee. With a strap connecting the forks to Joel’s waist (Strongman competition style), two straps around the crash bars manned by me and Geza, along with Mike and Greg pushing, we dragged the bike to the top of the hill. A quick set of ratchet straps on the trailer and we were back to camp in no time. During the ride back to camp Mike made a comment about our decision to turn around and how much worse the situation could have been if we had pressed forward. Luckily the Wee gave out about an eighth of a mile from the access road, who knows how far we would have been from rescue if we kept going.
Now back at camp I had a short lull in the rain, so I quickly packed up everything and stuffed it all under my Nelson-Rigg bike cover to keep everything out of the rain. In between all the chaos I was also trying to figure out how to get the bike home with phone calls and text messages to the wife, my brother Kenny, and my favorite most best friend Gabe. In the long run Gabe pulled through and was able to find a vehicle and trailer to come to my rescue. Obviously I missed out on the night’s festivities including that slow race I wanted to win and a tasty pig roast but, it was a sigh of relief seeing Gabe show up with trailer in tow.
After thanking the Wee Strom Liberation Crew one last time, we set off for Gabe’s house with several fine IPA’s also in tow (to help drown my sorrows). In the morning we headed back to Youngstown to deliver my wounded Wee to its home in the garage. Gabe was a warrior and did a lot of traveling in the name of rescuing a friend over a two day period. A round trip from Columbus to New Straitsville followed by another round trip from Columbus to Youngstown tallied in at least 9 hours of total travel time for him in a 24-hour window.
As I ran through the WWW rally timeline with Gabe and our friends Barley and Hops, I did take into account the positives of the trip, which included excellent riding with great people along with an opportunity to challenge my skills and test some new equipment. This was a first true test for my TXC Comp EVO Michelin boots. I broke them in during a couple short warm-up rides before the rally and by the time I hit the trail with Geza, Matt, and Joel on Friday they started feeling great. They are big and heavy but provide ample protection. As big as they are, they felt comfortable when sitting or, as ADV’ing usually calls for, standing for long periods. The only time I really noticed the weight of the EVO’s was when I was walking around in between throttle sessions. The size did require me to completely readjust the gear shifter and brake lever on the Wee which luckily is a simple task. Never wearing a full dirt bike boot before they also required me to fine tweak the 4 buckles and the lining’s Velcro several times to get the right fit. Hot, sweaty feet are inevitable when you are working it on these bikes, but the ventilation system does help as much as it can for a pair of boots with significant protection.
The bottoms are layered with thick Michelin tire rubber, they gripped amazingly well on my Pivot Pegz and provided comfort while standing. The thick rubber has a tread pattern like a pair of sneakers and I had a concern about grip when dabbing. The couple times I had to dab the boot didn’t slip and felt great. After researching boot types I did find that many off-roaders prefer the smoother tread so that it is less likely to catch something on the ground which may cause injury. Conversely, there was a bit of slipping when I was trying to push and drag my ~450 pound Wee-Strom up that steep rocky hill. There is a choice when picking riding boots between comfort and protection and since I have broken my foot in more comfortable boots with less protection, I wanted to beef up. Higher protection is especially important since lower leg and foot injuries are common when riding the trails. No matter what, there is always a scenario where you need a feature that you don’t have or have a feature that you don’t need.
I am no mechanic but can handle minor issues with the help of my Haynes Manual, advice from fellow V-Strom enthusiasts (StromTroopers & V-Strom Riders International to name a couple), and the ever expanding knowledge provided by YouTube! With little mechanical background I had to leave the fixing of the Wee to the professionals. A couple months and a couple few hundred dollars later the Wee was back in action with a shiny new clutch.
Adventure & Dual Sport Motorcycling
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