Learning to Moto Camp – Part 1

By Steven Marshall / OKDualsport.com – Moore, Oklahoma.

Photo Credit, Steven Marshall

My past experiences with camping have gone less than desirable. So, anytime someone would invite me to go camping I would normally say, “You can sleep on the ground, I will find a Hilton Garden Inn and stay there.” But, I knew in the back of my head that my adventure riding would at some point involve camping. It truthfully wasn’t something I was looking forward to. Luckily for me, my first moto-camping trip was a place familiar to me: Lake Murray State Park close to Ardmore, Oklahoma, the town I was born and raised in. You may have vastly different experience, but I wanted to let you know about my first few camping trips and what I learned from them. This is an overview of my experiences; I plan to post more detailed post later on, so be sure to check back often.

Our Lake Maury Trip was a “basecamp” type setup in that we set up camp, then we rode, then we came back, then we rode some more… likely you get the picture. This type of camping has its advantages. For example, you don’t have to carry your gear with you off-road. The main disadvantage being that you are leaving your gear behind. Knowing that I would be leaving my gear behind, I used Tusk hard panniers (I’m not a fan of riding off-road with hard panniers because of the chance of breaking an ankle.) since they lock and can be chained to a tree. Inside of the hard panniers, I had all my camping gear packed as well as my Wolfman Monarch bags with what I needed for riding. Once at camp, I locked the tusk boxes up and simply attached my Wolfman soft luggage. Such a smooth transition from on-road to off-road made this trip fairly easy. I also had my medium Built duffel for clothes and such. What made trip awesome and the reason I will camp again was the amazing sunset that turned the day into night. Although we had all wanted more off road riding, this was a very fun trip indeed.

Photo Credit, Steven Marshall

My next trip was a multi-day trip on the “Oklahoma Adventure” and “K” trails in eastern Oklahoma. This required camping both at state parks and on the trail. Needing to have my gear with me the whole time, I decided to leave the Tusk panniers at home and use just the Wolfman luggage. If I would have known I would be taking this type of trip when I got my KLR, I would have likely bought the Wolfman Rocky Mountain bags originally. My original plan was to do more of the “basecamp” style trips for a year or two. Luckily, with the help of my large roll top duffel bag, I had enough room for my clothes and other gear needed for the trip. On this trip, I had two major concerns: one being bears and the other being bigfoot. Luckily, I didn’t encounter either. The only slight issue was having to stop to retighten the straps on all of my gear, and that wasn’t that bad. This was such a fun trip with great riding and good friends. The most difficult part was getting up in the morning and packing up to continue riding.

So how do the trips compare? Both trips had some great aspects to them. A base camping trip is wonderful if you are looking to do in-depth exploration of an area. I’m looking forward to doing this in the near future in Colorado. The “base” will a ski lodge and I will be getting to go on the many trails around. Not having to have the gear will make for a lighter load. This means that if you take a spill, it is easier to pick the bike up. It also means it is easier to charge things like camera batteries that require wall outlets; not to mention how much easier it is to edit photos not on the trail. However, base camping does have some drawbacks that become positives of trailside camping.

Photo Credit, Steven Marshall

Camping trailside does require you to do a bit more planning how you are going to pack. Space is at a premium. One of the things I learned in the process is that keeping your tent in the case it comes with may not be the best use of space as it isn’t as flexible and makes it a bulky item. More forethought is required as to the position of each item, not only for the space, but for getting to the item when you need it. For example, it is important to keep your toilet paper close to the top. You don’t want to be hunting for the toilet paper when you really, really have to “go.” The same goes for a first aid kit–having it at the ready is important. You also have to be considerate of weight; the more you bring, the more you have to pick up if the bike falls over. I learned this the hard way when my kickstand wasn’t set on as even ground as I thought. A few moments after I got off the bike, down it went. The biggest benefit of camping as part of your adventure is that you can cover more miles and explore more distance when you aren’t having to ride back to camp at the end of the day.


A few quick things I learned:

  • You can use dry-bags from Walmart as a waterproof liner.
  • That dry-bag can also be used to hang food in trees if you are riding in areas with bears.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray!
  • How useful baby wipes are!
  • Bring a paper map with you so that if your technology fails, you have a backup.
  • Sleeping on the hard ground may not be fun; having a mat is helpful.
  • Like most things, setting up a tent gets easier with practice.

A major upgrade!

If you’ve ever researched the DR650 you’ve undoubtedly read about its amazing power to weight ratio, great handling, incredibly comfortable seat and spectacular fuel range. Wait, no you haven’t. These traits do not exist on a stock DR650. The DR650 is a heavy dirt-bike that makes little more power than a stock 300cc Ninja, the seat feels like it’s made of wood, and I think they took inspiration from a thimble when they designed the gas tank.

What, then, is the draw of this machine? While it may not be a powerful race machine, a comfortable sport touring bike, or have the range of a big adventurer, it can be customized in a countless number of ways. Engine, carb, and exhaust mods can make it a hooligan’s dream machine. A new seat, some bar risers, a windshield, and a bigger tank and you’ve got a very respectable adventure bike.

This motorcycle is more than the sum of its parts. With a little tweaking, a little molding the DR650 can be anything you want it to be. And I’ve decided I want an adventure bike. I’ve (mostly) corrected the ergonomics, added luggage racks, and I have a plan for the tank and seat. But that doesn’t fix the problem that some call a safety issue, and others call a deplorable decision by the engineers at Suzuki; the suspension.

I’ve never spent any real time on a motorcycle that had ‘good’ suspension that was designed and tuned for me and the way I ride, so my solution was to have a professional revamp the DR’s suspension. Mike Connell (mikes-dirt-bike.com, Mustang Oklahoma) came highly recommended by a number of local riders. It just so happens that Mike’s shop is only about 15 minutes from where I work. Mike and I exchanged a few emails discussing what options he could offer and what options made the most sense for me and the way I ride. I explained that my main concerns were fork dive when braking, nearly uncontrollable bounce on whoops, and a need for better behavior off-road while loaded for camping. Mike provided a range of options that started with just a set of springs, progressing all the way towards what sounded like some very fancy goodies (Race Tech gold valve in the shock with an external rebound damping adjuster). Since I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to fully exercise the high-end setup, we decided on a set of Race Tech emulators for the forks, and an in-house custom re-valving job on the shock to go along with new higher rate springs both front and rear.

I dropped the bike off on Monday and didn’t expect it back until the middle of the following week, mostly due to the need to special order some parts. Needless to say I was suffering withdrawal symptoms by Wednsday. A friend and co-worked Steven let me borrow his KLX for an after-work ride on Wednsday, so that helped a bit. But there is nothing quite like your own bike. While we were out, sent an update email letting me know where in the process he was. This was an example of great customer service. Thursday afternoon, after suffering a few friendly reminders from motorcycle riding co-workers that they were going to ride after work and all weekend – without me – I received another email from Mike.

It was short and to the point, and I couldn’t believe my eyes: “Your bike is ready.” A whole 6 days early! We swapped a few more emails and decided that sometime on Friday (today!) I would stop by and pick up the bike. When I called to confirm I was headed that way Mike wanted to make sure I had brought some riding gear. Of course! After Mike set the sag for my weight (plus a bit more for luggage) we hit the road. Mike knew of a little dirt nearby where I could get a taste for how the bike would handle now that Mike had worked his magic.

Let me describe a few behaviors I was used to seeing with the stock suspension. When stopping for a stop sign or light the front end would dive, using maybe half of the available travel. Jumping on my pegs while moving felt like jumping in a bounce house. Whoops or bumps, or landing a jump caused the bike to bounce as if it were on a trampoline. Stock rebound damping on the rear shock was so bad that when I dropped the bike off Mike was sure I had a leak after he tested it.

I’ve only ridden the bike for a few miles since picking it up, and only over a few jumps, ruts, and bumps. But this is what I’ve noticed so far:

  1. With properly rated springs I have more suspension travel. This means the bike sits taller. The rear shock hardly moves when I get on now. Sag is set for me+luggage at the moment, so maybe it could come down a little. Time will tell.
  2. When pushing on the rear shock, trying to compress the forks, or even jumping on the pegs, everything about the suspension is slower, both compression and rebound. So this is what real damping is like?! I know there is a fine line where the various damping settings should be, but I don’t have enough experience yet to know if this is too little, too much, or just right. Because of how the DR suspension is setup, I don’t have any easy way to adjust this.
  3. The stock suspension did a great job of absorbing bumps, the problem was a lack of rebound damping which resulted in something of a catapult action in extreme landings or when me and the bike got a little out of shape. The few jumps I went over while out with Mike proved this is no longer an issue. The bike doesn’t absorb the landing forces from jumps so much as it just soaks them up. The bike just lands gently. It feels very odd, to be honest.
  4. Bumps are more harsh. I expected this and I don’t think it’ll be an issue once I get used to it. This is partially because of the increased spring rate (the springs are ‘harder’) and partially because the compression damping slows the springs down, they simply can’t absorb quick bumps fast enough. This should actually cause it to behave better at high speed and over whoops, I think? It is very difficult to have suspension that is great at everything (especially with the DR’s low tech forks), and I’ve opted for better off-road performance at the expense of comfort.

I’ve not had a chance to hit any whoops, or do any high speed off-road riding (that’s not something I do frequently, or well). I do hope to hit a new trail after work one day next week, if Steven will join me. That will likely be the next chance I have to put the new suspension through its paces.

At this point it is almost like learning to ride off road again, simply because the bike behaves so different. It’ll take some time before I really grasp what has been changed and the impact it’ll have on my riding. One thing is for sure, its a great excuse to go riding!

Oh, and it wheelies much easier now. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

-Daniel

What I Learned on the OAT / K-Trai

By Steven Marshall

Oklahoma City, OK – Getting ready for our Oklahoma Adventure Trail (OAT) / K-Trail trip, I was trying to think of what to do in any scenario, “if this happens I respond in this way” sort of thing. If you get to know me, you will learn that I don’t like risk and that I hate loss, so figuring out ways to minimize it is important to me. I fully understand that isn’t possible to plan everything out, but you can’t blame me for trying. I want to share a few things that I (or in some cases we) could improve on.

Sena headsets are great! Even with our Bluetooth pairing problems, having the Senas helped out significantly. A limitation worth noting is that not everyone in our group could connect. Bluetooth range was a limiting factor, but for the most part, it was very helpful, and I would recommend that you have them for your group adventures.

One of the negatives of the Senas was that we oftentimes didn’t mark our turns as well as we would have liked because we could just say “right” or “left”. This was a problem because  I was marking a turn for some riders who fell off the Sena chain. Even though I was motioning to them to turn right, they still stopped to see if everything was okay. Then they went on without following our agreed upon turn marking method.  Although it didn’t cause any real issues on our ride, it could have caused someone to get lost if we had a larger group or if there had been more space between us. I think one of the ways we could improve on this in the future would be to make sure we continue to mark turns even though we have the convenience of technology.

One of the issues I knew going into this ride was that my skid plate would cause me issues. I sadly didn’t have time to get the one that connected with my crash guards. Although the stock KLR650 plastic skid plate did okay. It is now destroyed. If you have a KLR and you plan or riding on Rocks. Be sure to get a better skid plate.

Sunscreen and bug spray, it seems simple, but even in august you should have some.  When I met my wife for dinner the first thing after saying “hi” was “your radiating heat.” Later I had noticed that a few bugs had bit me.  Don’t make my mistake, bring sunscreen and bug spray, you won’t regret it!

Hopefully you will learn from some of my camping mistakes. Keep an eye on OKDualSport for more tips, ride reports, and helpful information.

Customer service at Atomic-Moto.com – oh, and boots!

You might think that a post about getting a new pair of boots would be about the boots, right? Well, the boots are amazing, but not as amazing as the guys running my new favorite online motorcycle gear store.

For now, I’d like to say thanks to the crew over at atomic-moto.com. The Friday before our K-Trail trip I decided I needed some boots. A quick call around the city reveled that my desired boots were not available locally. To the web I went and I stumbled upon Atomic-Moto.com. They were in the US. Only four states away. It seemed prudent to give them a call and ensure it wasn’t a lie when the website said it had my size in stock.

I was speaking with a human in mere seconds. I explained that I was leaving for a trip in 4 business days and wanted a pair of Forma Terra boots. I was overjoyed to hear that my size (44EU) was indeed in stock, then dismayed to learn we had missed the Fedex cut off for the day by minutes. After discussing expedited shipping and associated charges it was suggested I opt for 2-day shipping and expect to receive them the day before the trip. A virtual swipe of the credit card and the boots were ordered.

A few minutes later I received the order confirmation and I figured I was done with that chore, and it was too late for buyers remorse. Besides, riding one of the most rocky trails in the state in cowboy boots was a recipe for disaster. I was wrong. In less than 30 minutes I had received a shipping notification. How was this possible? I’d like to think the person who processed my order slammed the phone down after our call, raced through the warehouse to find my boots and chased the Fedex truck down while wrapping the box in tape. In reality I think I just got lucky and Fedex was running behind.

Long story short, the boots arrived on Monday. I wore them around the house for about an hour over the next few days and took a ride through the neighborhood. Having never worn motocross boots I had no idea what to expect, but it seemed like they would do fine. I had considered doing a formal review on the boots in question, but then I realized it could be summed up in one sentence:

Over the course of 3 days of rough riding over pavement, rocks, sand, mud, and through deep water, the only time I thought about my boots was to think to myself about how great they felt and about how I hadn’t thought about them.

I can’t recommend the Forma Terra boots enough. They provide a bit more protection than the Adventure, but are a little less hiking-boot-ish. They also allow the addition of a shin pad that fits into the boot. The down side is you’ll need a bigger pant leg to fit over the boot. You can see a comparison video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue86PRL46BE

The Aftermath…

 “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” – Yvon Chouinard.
We’re back, and I’ve mostly recovered from my recent moto-adventure trip. I learned a lot from this trip, and I had an amazing time. I just spent 3 days in Eastern Oklahoma with my 7 closest motorcycle friends. We explored the Ouachita National Forest by way of a short section of the Oklahoma Adventure Trail (OAT), and part of the infamous K-Trail.
I feel I can call this trip an adventure from the get go because the plan started to unravel as soon as it was put into play. It was mostly minor things, staying on schedule, last minute changes to camping arrangements (which worked out for the best!), tool failure and minor breakdowns to name a few. But things escalated to include fractured ribs, flaring tempers, splintered groups and abandoned routes. Oh, and worst of all, a lack of hammock friendly trees!
Not to spoil the drama, but everyone is (or will be) fine, and I’m pretty sure we’re still all speaking with one another. The trip was Steven’s idea. He rides a 2014 KLR650, the quintessential Kawasaki adventure motorcycle. I ride a DR650, the KLR’s long in the tooth, a bit more basic, competition from Suzuki. We had been planning on joining a mutual friend on a K-Trail trip some weeks prior. That trip was canceled at the last minute, leaving both Steven and I craving for an adventure of our own making. This was the longest and most involved offroad trip I’ve ever been on.
Early on I felt it might be best to include a few others on the trip, purely for self preservation of course. My theory was thus: if I had to be carried out, or my bike hauled out of a ravine, I wanted as many people around to help as possible. Steven agreed, although I don’t know if he knew my motive. The hunt was on. As a new (dirt) rider (since July) I didn’t know many people in the community, so we needed to find people interested in joining a pair of novice riders on what could be a rather dangerous trip; and we needed to go through a short vetting process to ensure there were no unwelcome surprises. It worked!
We ended up with a bustling event page on Facebook with 6 confirmed riders from the OKC area. Steven and I on our newly acquired steeds, Joey (DR650), Buck (Super Tenere), Dale and Austin (DRZ400, KLR650). We met a number of times to ride and talk about the upcoming trip. We’ve gotten to know one another pretty well, and I consider them all to be friends. I also invited some family from the Bartlesville area to join us, Cory and Jon (DR650, DR200). Our group has everyone from the very new rider to the ex-motocross racer. We all bring something different to the group, and we seem to mesh quite well. This trip is just the beginning, I hope.
The trip started for me on Wednesday night. We were to meet nearly everyone at Robbers Cave state park by Thursday evening. After working late on Wednesday I decided I should finally get around to doing my final packing. This wasn’t the first time I had packed for this trip – there had been a few trial packing sessions and a few trial trips just to see how the load would ride and to see what I was missing. I climbed into bed at a normal time and went to work the next day. The original plan was to load my and Joey’s DRs into the bed of my pickup and rent a small UHaul trailer for the KLR. This didn’t work, since I’d have to have my tailgate down to haul the bikes. I had a backup plan of course. My DR managed to snag a ride with Buck’s Super Tenere, leaving plenty (hah!) of room for the KLR and DR in the back of the truck. The new plan was to meet Steven and Joey at Steven’s house in Moore to load the truck. I managed to arrive only 30 minutes late, with Joey arriving meer minutes later. Loading took about 3 times longer than I had expected. We met up with Buck about an hour later than planned. This of course delayed our arrival at the first stop in our adventure, Robbers Cave. Once we arrived we setup camp and I enjoyed a great night of hammock camping. You CAN stay warm in a hammock, even when its in the low 30s.
Friday finally arrived, and with it the previous day’s scheduling sins were wiped clean. We set about our task of breaking camp and unloading the bikes. Dale and Austin beat us to camp, arriving early on Thursday and exploring the area, so they were ready to hit the road fairly quick. We were expecting to meet the 9th rider, Damian, in Heavener at 9:30 and Cory and Jon later in the day, about 40 miles into the actual route. We were to be kickstands up at 8:30 to make Heavener by 9:30, and we were to hit the trail by 10am to make the Cory/Jon rendezvous.
Our 8:30am departure time came and went. Finally ready to go, a full 90 minutes behind schedule, we all saddled up only to be stopped dead in our tracks by a low Tenere battery. The Super Tenere, being a 1200cc twin, had such high compression that even with the help of an Eastern Oklahoma hill we couldn’t bump start it. We did leave a few nice skid marks in the campground. A quick jumpstart from Buck’s truck and we were off. By this time it was 10:30am and we were a full 2 hours behind schedule. I opted to skip the fuel stop in Wilburton to save a little time.
We made the expected time to Heavener, although it was a little cooler than I had expected. In addition to skipping the Wilburton fuel stop, I had also decided to skip the ‘street’ jacket to save some space. This turned out to be a chilling mistake. My Bilt Charger mesh armor (I find it difficult to call it a jacket, more like a shirt) and a knit shirt were doing their best to keep me from freezing. We arrived in Heavener only two hours behind schedule. At this point it seemed unlikely we would meet Cory and Jon at the point where the OAT crosses the Talimena Drive as planned. A quick call and I determined we’d have to try our best as they were about 3 hours away, and I had allotted 4hrs to cover the next 40 miles of trail. This was also the last fuel stop until evening in Octavia Oklahoma.
We pulled out of Heavener a little before noon, all in good spirits. There was a little light hearted (I think?) ribbing from some of the guys demanding an off-road route: “Where’s the dirt? If I wanted pavement I could have stayed home!”, but we eventually found pay dirt. Over the next few hours we rode the Oklahoma Adventure Trail, staying mostly to logging roads and trails, watching as some of the most beautiful sights our state has to offer passed by right outside our visors. To say some of these views were picturesque would be an understatement. That ViewOur trip was almost cut short when we found a barrier of dirt and rock blocking the logging road ahead. A quick glance at the GPS (GPSMap 78, it was flawless the entire weekend) showed no obvious (or simple) alternate path. A crumpled sign at the base of the mound was difficult to read, but I could make out the words “closed” and “all vehicles”. I’m fairly sure the sign said something along the lines of “This road is NOT closed to all vehicles, if you can get around the barrier”, but we’ll never know.
A quick “I’ll be right back” to whoever heard me on the Sena, a little throttle blip, and around the barrier I went. About a mile up the road I found the reason for the barrier – much of the road had collapsed. There was a section a few feet wide that looked plenty big enough to allow a few dual sport bikes to pass. I now understood why the barrier was there, but I’m not so sure my sign theory is correct. I turned around, expecting to make a quick run back to the rest of the group to get their opinion. But a few hundred yards up the path I saw the group refused to wait and had joined me. Without a word half the group was across the washed out road section. We continued on down the road with each bind corner revealing some new breathtaking scene before us. We crossed countless creeks and streams, and enjoyed feeling like we were the only people for miles around.
There were some water crossings that were more epic than others. One that comes to mind occurred at about mile 35 into the trek. We came across a large, wide creek with large river rock all around. On the far bank we could see what looked to be a prime camping area. If we had only arrived at this point a few hours later in the trip we would have camped next to the flowing water. It just so happened that we were about 5 miles from our rendezvous point.
In the last few miles of this section of the OAT we managed a long, winding, very enjoyable climb up to the Talimena Drive. If you’re not familiar with it, the Talimena Drive is a section of state Highway 1 that runs from Talihina Oklahoma to Mena Arkansas. It is a well maintained section of highway full of twisties, hills, dips, and great views. If you’ve got a car that is fun to drive, or anything with only two wheels, I encourage you to visit the Talimena Drive. Especially in Fall, as the leaves turn. Once we hit the drive, we headed East and parked in the nearby scenic turnoff. I had just enough time to pull off the helmet, gloves, and start dialing Cory when I spotted a KTM and DR200 coming towards us. A KTM? Who has a KTM? It was a few seconds before I realized the KTM was actually Cory’s DR650 with custom painted (KTM orange) hand guards, and a full set of hydro-dipped plastics. We managed to make the rendezvous, with almost perfect timing. It was 3 minutes past 3pm, and we had completed the first 40 miles of the route in about 3 hours, including a few long stops.
It would be the last time anything happened on-time, but by this point exact time didn’t matter. The days started running together for me, and I didn’t mind. With the addition of the two new riders we headed East on Highway 1. A few miles down the road we caught up with the Lenox Trail. This trail leads to Muse, Highway 69, and Highway 259 which leads to our one and only commercial fuel stop on the route. The Shell station in Octava also has a restaurant of sorts, which most of the group decided was worth patronizing. The chicken fried steak sandwich was pretty good, and the tater tots were perfect.
Fueled, both the body and bike, we headed back North on 259, planning on catching 69 East bound to our next stop, camp. The twisties on 259 were quite enjoyable, even with Joey’s bag added to my already 40lb load. Why did I have Joey’s bag? So Joey could carry the beer of course.
The plan that had been devised months before called for us to camp at the Big Cedar RV park. However, during a phone conversation with the operator of the park it was determined that they didn’t offer the amenities our mostly hammock camping constituency demanded – trees. Their $20 per tent fee didn’t exactly help the situation and it had been decided a few short days before the trip that we would gamble on finding a suitable camp site along the trail. A few miles East of Big Cedar we turned off Highway 69 and back onto gravel logging roads. We had food, fuel, and tired muscles. The day had started with a hunt for dirt, and with that desire mostly satisfied, now we had a new quarry: camp.
For nearly the entire trip, over 40 miles of trail, we had been surrounded by nearly perfectly straight trees towering over us. Our short highway jaunt had reminded us what the open road was like, but I, for one, was glad to be back among the trees. They almost welcomed me back. Our search for a campsite was surprisingly short. We passed a few nearly tree-less clearings along the gravel road we were traveling, and even spotted a promising spot near a creek. While stopped to discuss our options Jon mentioned a turn off that I had dismissed as it looked like it was just another road. He went back to give it a closer look and found what turned out to be our own little slice of heaven.
It could have been the soft pine needles covering the entire clearing, the perfectly spaced hammock friendly trees, the soft light filtering through the picturesque trees or the enticing single track trail that led out the back of the clearing that made the place perfect, but personally, I think the pre-made rock fire-ring and pre-cut firewood stacked nearby played a big role in our decision to declare this our camp site for the night. Most of us quickly started pitching tents and hanging hammocks, while others started the fire and broke out the still-cold beer. His chores done, Jon jumped on his DR200 and went to explore the trail that seemed to lead up the mountain through the back of our camp.
A few minutes later Jon returned and declared the trail the best he’d seen all day. Cory and I couldn’t let him have all the fun, so we hopped on our DRs and headed back up behind him. Filled with jumps, dips, and ice-slick pine needles the trail was lots of fun, although it was less than a half mile long before dead-ending. It turns out that a hill at nearly the end of the trail was about the only place to get cell coverage in the area, so those who didn’t ride the trail still ended up walking it. After returning to camp and enjoying the conversation (my part of which was mostly centered around suspension mods for my DR), beer, and fire until well after dark I decided to call it a night. I got up a few times that night, and each time I was rewarded with a beautiful moon peeking through the trees.
Saturday morning came much too early, but my thanks go to whoever got the fire going before I climbed out of my hammock. We were all a little slower and a little more sore than the previous morning. But we were in no hurry. After an MRE breakfast of sausage gravy and water I started breaking camp. I think everyone experienced the “It used to fit” phenomenon at some point. This is where, while at home, you can pack everything you need into one bag. But once you remove any item it is impossible to get it to all fit in the same bag again. Once everyone had convinced their luggage that it really was possible to carry everything we had brought, we were off again. The comfortable and almost friendly trails we enjoyed the day before very quickly turned to interesting, technical, and down right mean rocky trails and hill climbs.
The first few hill climbs claimed a few victims, both human and metal. A little trailside metal work with an appropriately sized rock fixed most of the damage. Protecting the innocent, I’ll omit their names for the time being. We pressed on, getting used to terrain that was more rock than dirt. Things had calmed down a bit and we were making good time. We had found a few large puddles that were crossed without incident. We eventually realized we were, without a doubt, on the K-Trail. At a hill I will forever call “Buck’s Hill” one of the un-named victims would be tested once again. It was on this hill that our group suffered our only real injury of the trip, fractured ribs. An inconvenient route for his tires, selected less by desire than by random chance, and judicious application of the throttle resulted in what I can only imagine was the majestic flight of a Yamaha. After climbing this monster of a hill, and waiting for some time for the next rider to crest it, Cory and I suspected a problem and headed back down. Its never a good sign when you spot an abandoned bike, nor when you spot a bike pointed across the trail instead of up it. We found both.
It was obvious Buck had fallen hard and was suffering because of it. We sat and waited for him to collect himself and make the decision to continue or turn back. We didn’t know at the time that his ribs were fractured, and the big concern was, I think, his shoulder. Thankfully most of us, including Buck, were wearing some form of body armor along with our kneepads, boots, and helmets. In this case there were nasty marks on both the helmet and the body armor. After some soul searching Buck decided the best course of action would be to backtrack the few miles needed to return to the 3 points monument and Highway 259. From there he would head to Honobia and meet us for lunch at the local diner. We were about 30 miles from the hunting lease that would be our quick access to the Honobia diner and the wonderful lunch awaiting us. We figured lunch was an hour or two away at most, and it was only about 11am.
I’m told the diner has the best burgers around. The sign out front sure makes them look good. I wouldn’t know because I ended up eating in Talihina that night for dinner. Not only did we miss lunch with Buck (we’re told he had the chicken fried steak), but we also missed dinner at the diner. Those 30 or so miles took us nearly 7 hours to cross and went from that horrible hill climb from hell (“Buck’s Hill”), a section of trail that wasn’t much easier to navigate (and it was almost flat and level!), to downhill sections that almost made me want to walk the bike down. Needless to say, Buck made the right call.
When Buck decided to return to Highway 259 and Honobia we sent Joey and Jon with him to make sure he got back to pavement without issue. Joey knew of a lookout with an amazing view near his lease, so the plan was made for the rest of the group to continue on and we would wait for Joey and Jon at the lookout. This would give the shutterbugs some time to grab some good photos. A few miles down the trail we found the famous fire tower. I’ve seen countless pictures and read many accounts of this tower, but no one ever mentions the view that awaits you if you follow the short trail behind the tower. I’ve seen lots of vistas from the Talimena Drive, but this put them all to shame. It was a very clear and sunny day and you could see for miles. The ridge that was home to the Talimena Drive was only about 10 miles away. It seemed so close you could touch it. Between us and the drive we could see Muse and and Whitesboro sprawled out in front of us. With a little effort you can approximate the view we saw in Google Maps. I could just imagine a lonely forester being stationed here with nothing but a hot coffee and the view to keep him company on a cold day. I can think of worse ways to spend my day.
I’m not sure how long we stayed at the tower, but it wasn’t long before we heard the buzz of a pair of thumpers coming up the trail. With no time to waste we loaded back up and hit the trail, with our group reduced to 7. The intercom was mostly quiet as we contemplated the recent events. Watching one of the most experienced and capable riders in the group go down hard reinforced the reality that we were in a place that could hurt us, even kill us. And help was more than just a phone call away. There was a surprising amount of water on the trail in this section. Being solid rock a few inches below the surface meant that there was more water than mud, which helped a lot, but we did have a few drops. I lost a gopro in a mud puddle in fact (on the last major puddle of the trip, the only time I dropped the bike all weekend). A few in the group found out the hard way their boots were not water proof. Between the added stress of the rocky trail, wet feet, physically and mentally exhausted riders, and the rush to make lunch with Buck (with a corresponding increase in “hangry” symptoms) tempers started to flare. Looking back I realize we should have stopped, regrouped and abandoned the idea of a hamburger lunch. A lunch break may have helped, and certainly would have allowed us to slow down and enjoy the ride more.
We finally made it to Joey’s lease, which was originally to be just a mid-trail fuel stop. We blew past the fuel, and flew across the lease trying to make it to the local restaurant before closing time so we could not only catch up with Buck, but also grab a bite to eat. We got stuck at the lease gate. A man in a UTV appeared from the Honobia side of the gate, with a key. While he unlocked the gate he informed us Buck had arrived at the diner, had enjoyed a chicken fried steak, and left a few hours before. Its no wonder, by now it was almost 6pm. By the time we arrived at the diner they had stopped cooking. Austin and Dale decided they had enough riding for the weekend and were going to head back to Robbers Cave and then home. Our group which was once 8 was now down to 5. A short while later Joey’s friends from the lease arrived with our fuel. My DR took nearly 3 gallons I’m sure. I wasn’t quite on reserve, but I couldn’t have been far from it. Joey’s DR was even more thirsty. Between the 10 gallons brought to us, and the extra fuel Joey and Dale were carrying we all topped off our tanks. Even the KLRs, which probably didn’t need it.
While taking votes as to what we would do next I learned I had missed another decision. Joey decided he was going to stay on the lease and ride with his friends the following day. Our group was down to 4. While discussing our camping options it became known that we were only 11 miles from Talihina. As soon as i heard that I made an executive decision, we were heading to Talihina. A few quick jabs on the GPS and the course was laid in. Pam’s Hateful Hussy in Talihina was 17 short minutes away. With no cell service I couldn’t check their hours, but I was banking on them not being closed by 7:30, our ETA. I hastily hit the road without much ceremony or patience. I would get that hamburger one way or another!
With the “Open!” sign flashing and crowd visible through the window it was obvious we were in luck. Over a great dinner we discussed our sleeping arrangements. Cory and I had been here before, we knew there was a very comfortable camping area at the Talimena State Park, and we knew there were plenty of trails behind the park to keep us busy the following morning. With no dissenters, the plan was made. Once we paid our tab we were off to the Talimena State Park camp ground. It was money well spent. There was yet another supply of pre-cut (and pre-split) fire wood, a fire ring, and a well maintained lawn to sleep on. Most of the more secluded (and hammock friendly) camp sites were already claimed, so we made camp near some guys who had a pair of dualsport bikes parked near their box trailer. The bikes looked familiar, and their roaring fire looked inviting. It was the same pair of guys we passed on the K-Trail just West of the fire tower. At the time we had all marveled at how clean the bikes were, it was as if they had just appeared on the k-trail. It turns out they HAD just appeared. We got to talking and there is a trail that leads from Muse almost directly to the tower.
After replicating their fire in our own fire ring, we made camp around the fire. For the first time in years I was not sleeping in my hammock. I forgot how annoying it was to slide around on a ground pad. Thanks to the borrowed thermarest ground pad from Joey I was still quite warm. At some point in the night Cory got up to stoke the fire. And I woke the next morning to Jon sleeping next to the fire. It seems they had problems staying warm in the tent. The next morning was rather uneventful, more MRE breakfast, and a slow round of breaking camp. Jon, Cory, and I decided to hit the single track type trails behind the camp ground. These trails were more tough than what we experienced on the k-trail – not because they were more rocky, but because they were tighter, more twisty, with more frequent (but not extreme) altitude changes. Being much more technical, and being exhausted from from the previous two days, I was glad we were on a short time table. In all the 45 minutes we spent on the trails felt like 2 hours.
We returned to camp and picked up Steven. We said our goodbyes (and thank yous) to the couple who operated the camp grounds and hit the road. The Talimena State park camp ground is, by far, my favorite camp ground in the area. Its easy to get to, easy to get out of, they have great and comfortable sites, have the great trails behind (that lead all over the state park), and they are cheap at $12 per site (2 tents per site). All the firewood you can use costs another $5.
The trip back to Robbers Cave took about an hour. We split from Cory and Jon at the Highway 1/Highway 2 exchange. They headed to Harthorn, Steven and I headed towards Wilburton. Loading the bikes took about 30 minutes, and the return trip to Oklahoma City another 3 and some change. Overall the trip was uneventful. The astute reader will note that we exited the K-Trail at the lease and never returned. We have another 20 miles or so of the K-Trail left to explore. I’m not sure if I’m willing to say the K-Trail beat us, but we sure didn’t conquer it. I think next time we’ll attack from the West. Besides, that extra 20 miles gives us reason to go back!
I learned a lot from this trip; I learned I’m a more capable rider than I though but I’ve got a lot more learning to do. I learned I can lead a group of people in a ride, but I’m not very good at it. I found myself dis-engaged with the rest of the group for long periods, leaving them to fend for themselves. I came to count on Dale to bring up the rear, knowing he could handle what really is the most important place in a group such as this, since he was forced to help pick up those who had fallen and make sure no-one got left behind. I learned we need to work on posting turns and maintaining good following distances. I also need to get better at reading others body language so I can more easily spot fatigue. I learned that even if you don’t think you’ll need it, and even if you want to get a good audio recording of your exhaust, you should always put the waterproof door on your GoPro camera. I learned the value of a good standalone GPS unit. I bought the GPSMap78 almost on a whim and I was afraid it would prove to have a screen that was too small and it turned out to be perfectly suited to the trip. There are many more lessons I’ve left out, but most importantly I’ve learned that there is more to learn and more to explore.
See you on the trails!
-Daniel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OKDualSportRider
P.S. If you want the GPX track of the ride, or the GPX track we followed, let me know.

Motorcycle Camping…I’m all in!

(First published on 2-27-2016, recently restored from backup.)

Part of this dual sport thing is taking longer rides. Rides that can’t be completed in one day.

A few months ago I went with some friends (also on DRs) to the Talimena State Park. The park is located in the Ouachita National Forest in Eastern Oklahoma. The area is well known for the Talimena Drive, a section of State Highway 1 that runs between Talihina Oklahoma and Mena Arkansas along a mountain ridge. There are lots of twists, turns, dips and views. I have hours of footage from the trip. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to posting some of it.

That trip was rather simple. We camped at the state park for a few days with the big attraction being the Talimena Drive. I loaded the bike with an old duffle bag and some straps.

Back from the Talimena Drive
Back from the Talimena Drive

A tarp covered my gear for the trip out of town, through what ended up being a downpour for the first half of the trip. Logistically speaking, it was a very easy trip to plan: figure out when to leave the city, figure out how to carry some very minimal (although bulky) camping gear, and hit the road.

I’m currently planning something a little more adventurous: A 150 mile trip through a whole different part of the Ouachita National Forest. We’ll be following part of the Oklahoma Adventure Trail (OAT) (From Heavner Oklahoma to just south of Big Ceder). We’ll then pick up the Western half of the K-Trail from where we leave the OAT and head West towards Clayton.

This trip will be far different from the last trip to the area – there will be no camp grounds, no local grocery store or dinner. We’ll hit the road in Heavner, and head South. The first day will have us following mountain ridges, and following trails that have seen few, if any, 4×4 vehicles, much less more road oriented cars and trucks. We will end the day within spitting distance of the only gas station in the area. Hopefully the small DR650 tank will have more than fumes left by then. The next day will show us what some call the dual sport version of the Talimena Drive, the real K-Trail.

This trip will require a new strategy for packing, a whole new level of planning, and a level of self reliance I’m not sure I’m used to. At best we’ll be a few hours walk from the nearest paved road. At worst…well, at worst an ambulance ride is hours away. We’re about a month away from this trip. The bike is nearly ready – all that is left is a new set of shoes for the DR, and maybe some safety gear for me. Stay tuned, more updates to follow.

-Daniel

Hamm…err… Farkle Time!

(This was originally posted on 1-16-2016 and was recently restored from a backup.)

Christmas came a little late for the DR in my life. But Santa sure delivered.

We’ve got a new set of handguards to replace the only-lasted-a-week trackside guards I installed a few months ago. Some aux lights so whenIMG_20160110_240146857_HDR my brother-in-law and his friends decide we need to ride all night long I’ll still be able to see the nasty rocks trying to sneak up on me. A Wolfman fender bag, some weld-on-peg enlarger gizmos, and a battery tender pigtail round out the goodies.

While installing these new toys I decided to get rid of the side stand switch. Rather than just remove it,
and jumper it like everyone else, I decided to turn it into an anti-theft switch. A quick flick of the switch and the bike will die every time you put it into gear. IMG_20160111_210458430_HDRIt won’t prevent someone from riding off with my bike, but it might slow them down enough to convince them it isn’t worth stealing. Just be sure you hide the switch well.

I didn’t get any Dirt in N OKCother pictures during any of the installs, so I’ll just give you a few result shots. The first one is my at my new favorite dirt hole in the middle of Oklahoma City. Come ride with me sometime and I’ll show you where it is.

The Acerbis hand-guards were VERY easy to install on my Pro Taper ATV IMG_20160110_240158441_HDRhigh bars. The stock levers have plenty of room, and the Acerbis locking bar end bolt system really seems to secure the bar. I’m very impressed. I don’t think the aluminum itself is any thicker or stronger than the Trackside guards, I do think the more rigid mounting will help them survive better. My trackside guards failed at the short bar swivel that allows the bar to angle down to match the rise of the bars.

There isn’t much to say about the Wolfman bag. Its well made, stays in place VERY well, and seems like it’ll hold plenty of tire change/repair goodies.

IMG_20160116_204617540_HDRI added a battery tender USB charge port gizmo from Amazon. It’ll cover my USB power needs until I can find a dashboard/handlebar mount solution I like.

 

Now for the most exciting farkle…the new lights.IMG_20160116_220652514_HDR At $19 for the lights and $9 for the brackets (from ProCycle.us) this farkle has a great return on investment. I wired up a few wiring harness bits to attach the new lights to the existing high-beam circuit. I was a little leery of doing this, but the Bartlesville DRs have been doing this for months with no issue. I decided to go with two independent lights so I could exaggerate the side-to-side flood effect, rather than go for a flood-spot combo 7″ bar. I now get great light coverage out to my periphery so lock to lock turns in the dark don’t seem like such a bad idea.

IMG_20160116_221525546_HDR
Stock low beam
IMG_20160116_221532823_HDR
Highbeam plus 36watts of LED goodness

The goal was to improve side to side visibility, and I think I succeeded. And you can really tell how yellow the stock light really is. The camera’s color correction tries to hide it in the first picture.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>I have yet to install the peg extenders. I’m thinking about cutting and re-welding the peg mounts at the same time. It just depends on when I can get access to a welder and if I trust my welds.

Where do you ride?

(This post was originally posted on 12-12-2015 and was restored from a backup.)

I live in Oklahoma City and I ride what amounts to a big dirt bike. Those two facts are at odds with one-another.

The DR is great. It’ll go everywhere I want, and then some. However, I’ve got to figure out where I can go.

Where do you ride a dirt bike in the middle of the city? I’ve spent hours
trying to answer that very question. Exploring N OKC DirtOklahoma City is more than just pot
holes and gravel roads disguised as city streets. I’ve scoured Google Maps satellite images looking for large areas of green or red. Most of the interesting areas are along the rivers that crisscross the city.

As I understand it, state law says that the river is owned by the state, and that the river is open for public use. However, that doesn’t include the ground along the river. Privately owned land along the river is just that, private.

The DR was just sleepy.
The DR was just sleepy.

You’ll find that most landowners have blocked access to the river, and I can’t blame them. In my search for dirt I’ve seen some of the messes that people leave along the river, not to mention the graffiti. Even public land along the river isn’t necessarily open for public use. We’re seeing more and more areas shut down by the city.

So far I’ve got a 40% success rate in finding a cool area and actually being able to get to it. While I enjoy the hunt, sometimes I’d just like to go play. Dirt in N OKCTo that end I’ve created a shared Google Map that we can use to share the interesting areas we’ve all found. Sharing these places does require that we all act responsibly. Ignoring Keep Out or No Trespassing signs won’t get us anywhere. And acting crazy in the areas without those things will just get them blocked off.

Dirt in OKC

How do YOU find new places to ride?

Welcome to OKDualSport’s blog!

Hello,

My name is Daniel. I recently re-joined the two wheeled population after a nearly 5 year hiatus. Like a little kid who sees a friend with a new toy, I just had to have a dual sport motorcycle after riding my brother-in-law’s DR650. After a few weeks of exhaustive research I decided he had made the best choice possible. A few phone calls and a few days of waiting later I had located a 2015 Suzuki DR650 to call my very own.

I’ll admit, the helmet-less ride home, on a seat made from what seemed like lumber, on a bike that was too tall for me to flat foot had me suffering from some uncertainty and possible buyer’s remorse.

That all changed after spending a day exploring the dirt, gravel, and mud in North East Oklahoma. Having never ridden an off-road motorcycle of any kind I had no idea how much it could be to just explore. I quickly realized I needed practice in sand and mud, and pretty much everything off-road.

That was only about 3 months ago. Since then I’ve tackled some single track, deep sand, my first tire change, and re-learning how to pack a bike for an overnight trip. I know enough about this to know I don’t know anything yet. I’m learning about motorcycle ergonomics like never before. Its not just about how comfy your seat is, its about making the bike comfortable while standing (new bars sure helped). This world is vastly different from my days of riding a 30 year old 4 cylinder street bike.

I’m in Oklahoma City, where I ride with a few new friends. I’m constantly on the lookout for new trails in the area. With family in the North East part of the state, a National Forest beckoning in the East, and what seems to be a great local community I’m looking forward to exploring everything dual sport and adventure riding has to offer in Oklahoma.

I plan on posting routes, thoughts, and some videos of my rides here. I’ve got a few crash videos up already.

Join me on my journey!

-Daniel

WordPress here I come…

I’ve heard about wordpress, but I’ve never really given my site’s platform much thought. Well, it seems times have changed. Thanks to some cost cutting at work I no longer get free Azure hosting. So I’ve resorted to..gasp..PAYING for hosting. We’re now running on DigitalOcean.com, for as little as $5/month. We’ll see if we can maintain that price point. On the upside, I got to learn how to use BIND, and we’re on a modern version of CentOS. Its good to be off a Windows box and back onto LAMP where I belong.

I’ll have to track down the blog backup I did a few days ago and see what it’ll take to restore it. In the meantime, go ride.

-Daniel