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.
Luckily the facilities at the 5th Annual Wailin’ Wayne Weekend (WWW) Rally had proper showers that could be used to remove any remaining swamp water slop from my person. The bike, well that’s another story, actually this story. Continuing on…
My normal riding partners were not able to attend the Rally, so I decided to go it alone with my valiant steed, the Suzuki V-Strom DL650, knowing that I would make a few new friends. ADV rallies are full of great people and the love of riding motorbikes in the woods makes for easy camaraderie. The goal was to make it to the Rally when they opened the gates on Thursday to tackle the first scheduled 2-hour trail ride. A storm hanging out over northeast Ohio delayed my start but luckily, I found blue skies once south of Canton.
From Zanesville I jumped on the twisty Triple Nickel, one of Ohio’s Windy 9. This was a welcome change from the interstate and gave me the chance to hit the northern end of state route 555 from Zanesville to Burr Oak State Park. I’ve traveled the southern section from the Ohio River up to Burr Oak and looked forward to seeing what the remaining slithering tarmac snake had to offer. As a whole, the Triple Nickel is a contender for one of the best motorcycle roads on the East Coast with 62 miles of twisty elevation changes, rapid successions of turns, blind curves, off-camber bends, pavement that seems to following ancient animal migration routes (random turns at weird places), decreasing radius arcs, peg scraping lean angles… a road riders dream and challenge of skills.
After the Nickel, a few rut filled and muddy forest service roads through Burr Oak and into Wayne brought me into Begley’s Campground, the home of WWW. I picked my camping spot and set up the tent after a quick registration. After wandering around the grounds, I geared up to hit the throttle for a quick ride and ended up tagging along with a few people I randomly met on the trail. Our short jaunt had us taking a quick dive on the northern part of Monday Creek's Corridor Trail before jumping off on a rough, normally closed access trail. The short route led us down to the pavement where we made haste on the twisty tarmac back towards camp.
I met Geza, one of my new neighbors for the weekend, after returning from the trail. A BMW 1200 GS as his noble steed, he also galloped through the same storm as me on his way down from Cleveland. Greg, my drinking buddy for the night, also had a 1200 as his weapon of choice that he trailered up from Tennessee for the long weekend. Greg was new to the ADV circuit and his shiny new GS was going to run through the paces of the off-road training class that was set up for the next morning. After mingling at dinner, I met Joel from Grand Rapids, Michigan with his completely tricked out 2018 V-Strom 650. Always great to find another Wee fan who likes to tackle the trails.
The rally guests gathered on Friday morning as our WWW leader Chad gave us the trail conditions and coordinated rides. Some of my new acquaintances had mentioned that they didn’t want to ride with a big group, so I rounded up Geza and Joel. Matt, a Clevelander I had a couple conversations with earlier, and his 800GS rounded out our team.
I could tell the new team was slightly reluctant to venture out on the trail since we had only just met. Obviously, we had never ridden together before but with a little faith, we threw up the kickstands and headed up the New Straitsville Connector to the Main Corridor. Geza and I had Sena Bluetooth intercoms, so we agreed to ride lead and sweep. Geza lumbered that giant GS buffalo like a champ with Matt’s 800 Beemer right on his heels. Our pack saved the best for last with two Wee’s dominating the ebb and flow of Wayne. I was pleasantly surprised with the trail system’s varied terrain from easier going forest service-style dirt to rocky climbs and descents to rutty and messy tracks through some of southeast Ohio’s best forests.
Riding sweep gave me the opportunity to watch a few great riders work those big ADV bikes out on Monday Creek’s Main Corridor. I have to say I was impressed with Joel’s aftermarket suspension on his new V-Strom as he just seemed to flow over every obstacle. When both wheels left the ground, their return from the sky was just as smooth as silk. I followed his footsteps and my old factory suspension was giving me a beating. His smooth transitions from jump to landing were a stark contrast to my suspension bottoming out, but I just couldn’t help myself!
Once past the Monday Creek Trailhead we headed towards Snake Hollow, a more interesting route right off the bat. Geza and I questioned if we were going the right way but decided to just keep going to “see what happens”. The track went from bad to worse (or good to great from our perspective). The muddy 2-track turned into a creek which, as we continued forward, found to be overflow from a man-made looking swamp. Negotiating a couple deep water crossovers kept us on our toes with Geza almost taking a bath on one of them.
As I mentioned in the opening, the adolescent in me decided to kick it up a notch and at one of those deep spots and I ended up taking a swamp water shower. Continuing forward, we escaped the swamp and headed into an open area next to one of the helipads. After exchanging a few smiles, we pushed forward. Falling back in line I noticed my bike slightly struggling when I twisted the throttle, but it only lasted a flicker of a moment.
The trail led us back under the canopy and straight into a line of police tape! Rumor had it that there was a truck stuck in these trails and we found it! The talk from the water cooler was that some local was running from the fuzz and happened to escape by veering off into the Monday Creek trails. The evaders daring 4-wheeled escape ended quickly, succumbing to the unforgivable terrain of Wayne. A temporary go-around had us carving our way in between the trees and back to the trail before a sharp uphill turn. I watched as the three of them picked their way through the wooded detour and disappear around the bend. My bike struggled through the woods and when I made the turn up the hill, the Wee sputtered and stalled out. I fired it back up without issue but when I tried to get moving back up the hill, I had limited power.
So, I eased the bike back down the hill and off the trail overlooking the broken-down truck. I poked around a bit and didn’t see any obvious things out of place, including using the end of a zip tie to ensure the bottom spark plug drain hole was clear. Eventually the boys returned after they realized I was no longer behind them. The bike would run and with the flatter terrain behind us, I felt confident that I would make it back to the last pavement intersection. I suggested they keep going on without me and I would head back but they all wanted to keep the team together. “We came in together, we should ride out together.” How’s that for a group of guys that just met?!
Since I was the wounded duck, we decided I should ride second behind Geza and off we went. If I kept the throttle running higher than usual and slipped the clutch a bit, the bike moved along pretty well. The ride back to pavement included heading back through the swamp but luckily it was mostly flat. Once past the major water obstacles I was able to get the bike moving a bit faster, but it was still struggling. On a couple straightaways the bike felt like it was going to shoot out from under me, once the RPMs hit about 3700 the sputter went away causing the bike to take off like a rocket. I was able to get the speed up consistently once we hit pavement and by the time we made it to our impromptu lunch stop at the Mine Tavern in Nelsonville, the annoying sputter was gone and I had full power.
Decision time… ride the blacktop snake back to camp or jump back on the trail? I felt good about the Wee, it ran fine after I ramped up the RPMs and speed for a while. I just assumed that some of that swamp water made it into a nook and/or cranny that it wasn’t supposed to, with our lunch time detour flushing and drying it out. The team was OK with potentially towing me out of the terrain we already went through, so we made haste back towards the Monday Creek Trailhead. Completely swapping positions, I ran in front followed by Joel, Matt, and Geza taking over sweep. The plan was to run the Main Corridor back to camp.
Ready to explore a bit we decided to take our chances on what we guessed was an access point to the Main Corridor off Carbon Hill Buchtel Road, just south of the Monday Creek Trailhead. The two-track access road came to a “T” at a set of powerlines. We shot north following the lines past another swamp and into a long patch of tall grass. Shortly after bouncing around the uneven terrain, Joel and I had enough. We came to find out Matt’s 800 decided it had enough as well and laid down for a nap. Joel and I turned around and headed back towards the pavement with Matt and Geza catching up shortly.
Back on the official trails I decided it was time to pick the pace up a notch compared to our morning’s southerly jaunt. With Joel on my six we rode those motorbikes like we stole ‘em! The return north was exhilarating, throwing the ADVs around like a couple MTBs. Matt even commented on our spirited pace saying it looked like a race between the Stroms. After the scare earlier in the day the bike performed great on the return trip.
Hanging out with the other WWW patrons over dinner we shared stories of the day’s festivities. I ended up skipping the obstacle race that evening due to a solo trip on the easy rated New Straitsville Loop, taking the long way for a supply run to the local Dollar General, but it sounded like a great time. My plan was to tackle the slow race the next evening, even if the weatherman’s 100% rain prediction decided to show up.
Remember the opening when my new tires defied the space-time continuum? Those Shinko 804/805 Adventure Trail Tires I slapped on before the trip felt great on the trail and on the twisty pavement of the Triple Nickel. It took some getting used to the grip pattern which has lateral blocks with little to prevent side to side movement. The first few times I hammered the throttle on a bend the back end easily broke loose, causing a little bit of the pucker effect. Once I recalibrated my throttle hand, I couldn’t slide that sucker enough! Most reviews I read stated as much but the main concern from them was longevity. What would you expect when the price tag on those suckers are so low? If you don’t mind getting your tires changed more often (or if you change them yourself like I do), then I’d say these Shinko’s are worth the money and effort if you plan on being off-pavement for a lot of your riding. So far I have a few thousand miles on the set and they have handled well on everything from superslab to trail, just take 'er easy on wet pavement.
The party’s not over yet! Stay tuned for part two of Wailin’ Wayne Weekend 2018 and the Death of a Clutch.
Have Fun, Take Chances…
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