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2015 - The Motorcycle Show Vancouver

Contributed by Trevor Marc Hughes 
All photos by Trevor Marc Hughes

It’s the scope of the displays that is most exciting. It also is what is most intimidating.

Where do you start? Will you be able to take it all in?
 

Walking into Tradex is something like seeing gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. It’s difficult not to start bounding along like an excited ten-year-old, zipping back and forth from booth to booth, hungry to find out what’s new and interesting for motorcycling in 2015.

First, my enthusiasm was curbed by the lack of something. As I approached the incredible new designs of Victory Motorcycles in the Polaris display, I discovered a distinct lack of an Indian Scout.
“There are no B.C. dealers yet,” Terry Fetter of Victoria’s Action Motorcycles explained to me.

It would seem the cost of building up sales momentum for the new Indian models is too much west of the Rockies.

“It’s just not worth displaying four Indian Scouts right now,” Fetter tells me.

It would seem it’s going to be awhile before I’ll be sitting on an Indian Scout at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show.

I tempered my disappointment with a visit to Ireland. Celtic Rider is just one of the many motorcycle touring companies at the show, a list which includes Compass Expeditions, Edelweiss Bike Travel and Renedian Adventures. I speak with Connor about who chooses to ride Ireland.

“About 95% of our clientele are women,” he tells me.

With tourism growing in Ireland, so it would seem is motorcycle touring. Each tour package comes with an “orientation” for those who are used to riding on the right side of the road.

“Riding on the left is not a big deal,” he informs me.

Further left down this great hall is a sea of orange. KTM has a display featuring what would not be the last of this sort of bike I would see at the show: the introductory motorcycle. The KTM 390 Duke looks a tight, durable little machine. And with an MSRP of $5499 and a dry weight of a little over 300 pounds, it’s an affordable bit of orange.

 
What’s new with Suzuki? Well, as one rep put it: there’s the compact GSX-S750, a streetfighter influenced by supersport models like the GSX-R750, or for the ADV crowd, there’s a revamping of the DL-650. The Suzuki V-Strom 650X features spoke wheels and a “beak” out front. Does that look like another large adventure bike we know? It comes in “Candy Daring Red” and “Metallic Mat Fibroin Grey”.

The Yamaha section is the most impressive for me, with the large red symbol hanging from the ceiling. What’s also red, and new, is a YZF-R3. I watch as several nervous young lady visitors try to straddle it. And I think that’s what Yamaha may be thinking with this new lightweight sportbike: find the new and upcoming riders. It looks like an R6, but the 321cc engine will be easier to handle for those just being introduced to motorcycling.


I speak with Clinton Smout, who writes a column for Motorcycle Mojo and appears on “Motorcycle Experience” with Dave Hatch, as we both eye the R3. He tells me his eighteen-year-old son is entering the motorcycling market and if he is thinking about getting an R6, he would tell him to think twice and consider an R3. Good fatherly advice there. At an MSRP of $4999 the R3’s a little easier on a young adult’s budget too. He points over to the new ADV option from Yamaha, the FJ-09, billed as a sport-touring model taking after the FZ-09. It’s not an off-road capable bike, but it certainly seems Yamaha’s trying to corner the ADV lifestyle market with this one.



Harley-Davidson dominates much of one end of a hall, but its bikes are looking smaller. The introduction of Street 500 and 750 models seems to indicate that the iconic American manufacturer is trying to corner that beginning motorcyclist market too. Over to the right, the Tron-like whir of an electric motorcycle can be heard. This is not a light-cycle. It’s a visitor trying out Project Livewire, a surprising new initiative, but still only in the late prototype stage. But it’ll be interesting to see
what is developed in an electric bike model for the motorcycle market to be seen at next year’s show.




Of course there are many other bikes to mention: Ducati’s 821cc slimmed down and much more affordable Monster, the increasingly “rough road capable” Honda  CB500X looking to rival other sport touring models in its class, the more rider-friendly yet torquey BMW S1000RR, and, of course, the eagerly anticipated Kawasaki Ninja H2, cordoned off behind restraint straps as though its 1000cc supercharged engine is about to break free from its cage.





These are all impressive. But I choose to round off my visit to the 2015 Vancouver Motorcycle Show by meeting some of the adventurers that take motorcycles to their limits, live to tell the tale and write about it. Jeremy Kroeker wrote “Motorcycle Therapy”, a true story about his adventure on a KLR650 into Central America. His new book “Through Dust And Darkness” has done well critically. He tells me it’s not easy being an author, but he’s happy for the success of the latest book, which chronicles his motorcycle travels through the Middle East. A down-to-earth guy, he signs a copy for me on the spot.


 
Just as I’m about to leave, closing warnings booming over the loudspeakers, I see Rene Cormier. I met him the year before. His book “The University of Gravel Roads” is one of the best motorcycling circumnavigation tales I’ve read and now he heads Renedian Adventures, his own company that launches motorcycle expeditions all over southwest Africa. He spends half the year in Canada, the rest in Africa. He always has a smile and a handshake, and is someone I think would be great
company while traveling by motorcycle.

 
So, if I were to find overall themes that emerge from this year’s show, they’d have to be a trend towards manufacturers seeking to dominate the beginner motorcyclist market and continued growth, and fusing styles, in adventure motorcycles. Next year though, electric motorcycles, and the discussion they create, could be more of a focus. The show sure does what it’s billed to do though…make me excited for the upcoming riding season.

Links:

The Motorcycle Show Vancouver - http://www.vancouvermotorcycleshow.ca/
Renedian Adventures - http://www.renedian.com/
Jeremy Kroeker - http://www.motorcycletherapy.com/



2011 Atlantic Motorcycle And ATV show slideshow

The 2011 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show looked like a successful one to my eyes.  It was a little quiet on Friday but then most people are still at work after all.  On Saturday the Moncton Coliseum was a busy place with tons of men, women, and children of all ages checking out all the latest motorcycles and getting some deals on motorcycle gear.

There was excellent manufacturer representation and a few surprises too.  Royal Enfield Canada had a display and several bikes. MV Agusta Canada was there too.  We had a chat with the guys at the MV booth.  If you want an MV Agusta you'd better act fast.  They're only bringing in around a hundred to Canada this year. You can buy one by going to their website and reserving one.  A big deposit should help smooth things along as well. Their eventual plan is to work on establishing a dealer network but for now the bikes are being distributed by Motovan.

As usual Clinton Smout was there offering kids free 30 minute lessons. He runs Canadian Motorcycle Training Services (CMTS in Ontario and has introduced tens of thousands of people to motorcycling.   A super nice guy who always seems to have a smile on his face I might add.  Good on Yamaha for supporting him.  This summer he's going to be adding some on-road training at Horseshoe Valley Resort. They can even deliver the licensing exam at the end of the training.  Nice!

Another interesting person at the show was Rene Cormier - author of "The University of Gravel Roads" was there.  He's an infectiously avid adventurer with a 5 year around the world (154,000 km'!) trip under his belt; he now offers motorcycle tours in Africa. We'll be reading his book and offering some insight on it soon.  But having thumbed through it already... I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it. Check out his site and his book - HERE.  After a short chat with him I'm ready to start saving my pennies for a trip to Africa.

Some other standouts in terms of motorcycles would be the Honda CBR 250R. I predict it'll be a big seller.  Fit and finish is excellent and it looks more expensive than it is.  250cc is big enough that it's capable of handling any Canadian road or highway with ease.  Having it built in Thailand and offering it as a global bike has allowed Honda to get the pricing right too. It undercuts the MSRP of the Kawasaki 250R by $500. The Kawasaki 250R is $4,999 while the CBR 250R is $4,499 without ABS or you get it with ABS for $4,999.  Yup, ABS - for $500.  Smart move by Honda to offer that on this class of motorcycle. If you're in the market for a 250 you could also look at the Suzuki TU250 - a classically styled single which is said to have a MSRP of  $5,299. Might want to re-think that price point Suzuki. I don't see them flying out the door at that price.

The guys from Atlantic Motoplex had a big presence at the show with five brands under their banner they were busy.  Of particular interest to me were some of the Triumphs - the new 800cc adventure model to be exact. They weren't sure it was going to arrive in time for the show.  Well, it did; albeit without any brochures but it looks a lot like a BMW F800 GS. Except a little cheaper we're told and with more power than the beemer.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Ducati had a Diavel Carbon there which is their new muscle cruiser for lack of a better category of description. I have to say, I'm a bit surprised that when I sat on it, it feels pretty good.  The airbox is massive and creates a really imposing front end.  There's some really cool touches such as retractable passenger pegs that when not in use tuck away out of sight. Given the power this bike has and the weight advantage it's got over other cruisers its size this should be an exciting bike.

And now - on to the pictures.  We'll be adding more soon so do check back!


Chasing Rally Dreams - Part II


Words by: Mike Buehler
Photo's by: Mike Buehler

So now my bike was on Trevor’s truck and I’d yet to see it actually running, we figured the fuel pump was acting up from sitting for two years: I had confidence. Trevor was going ship it to a shop in San Marcos, California where Don Retundo would pick it up  to take to Nevada. I was flying down to Las Vegas on April 13th to meet it for Rally School starting the next day in the desert. But first I had to go back to work for a few weeks. From there I was chatting with Ronnie Lindley of Power Performance Perfection in San Marcos to see how his once over of my bike was going? Turns out it was a gummed up carburetor that was the culprit so Ronnie took it out and cleaned it up as well as doing an oil change. He was nice enough to fire it up over the phone so I could hear it. Music to my ears! My only downside on that hitch was that the phone system wouldn’t let me connect to Klim headquarters, I’d been talking to them about getting a new Adventure suit for the training and for more adventures to come, but by the time Nate did get back to my emails they were all gone to dealers and the next production run isn’t scheduled until December. Damn! I’m hoping he’s working on an alternative for me, otherwise I’m going to need to rethink new riding duds.

Work was really nice and booked me home after two and a half weeks so I had a 3 day buffer for weather to make my flight; there are plenty of foggy days offshore that prevent the helicopters from flying. My flight was booked and my boss JB DelRizzo was joining me on this training course too so I really didn’t want to get stuck out in the middle of the North Atlantic. Lucky for me I got in on time and spent a whole three days at home before we flew to Vegas. Time enough to fit in one little training ride to get a feel for my new Leatt brace. In my little tipovers in the snow and bog I didn’t even notice it, but it does take getting used to riding on the street and doing shoulder checks.

Three days goes by very quickly when you’ve been away for a couple of weeks and you have a million things to do before you leave. I was charging batteries for my GPS and camera as well as trying to remember all of the other odds and ends I was going to need. Spare gloves? Check. Helmet? Check. Jacket? Check. Riding socks? Check. And on it went, good thing I’d had the presence of mind to write down what I’d sent ahead in the box so I didn’t double up or forget something else. Turns out I forgot my second set of batteries for the GPS and the charger anyway, oh well.




JB and I met at the airport and suddenly we were off; excitement and trepidation in equal measures. Yup, I was going rally riding on my own rally bike, equals excitement. But we were meeting a bunch of unknowns who probably ride a whole lot better than us not to mention Jonah Street was going to be there; he did finish 7th overall in the Dakar this year after all. We were scared of terrain unlike anything we’d ever ridden and of holding everyone else up, equals trepidation. We still traipsed along through the airports, helmets in hand as carryon.

Las Vegas, blight upon the wallets of millions and sucking out the water from lands many miles away. It can be a bit overwhelming and it’s scary to think what the long term consequences of their water debt are going to be. My third time there and I’ve yet to gamble as much as a dime, despite there being slot machines in every place to step into.

We grabbed our rental car and went to find our hotel, then we took the shuttle to the strip to find some food and a beer.


We arrived a day early and had plenty of time to do a little shopping. JB wanted some new gear and I wanted new goggles, we were both under orders to buy something nice for our girls too. In the morning our first stop was at the RAT office there to say hi. Now that it's been sold the new logo is in effect.

On our way across town to the KTM shop JB spotted a sign advertising Ducati, Triumph and Aprillia. I pulled a U-turn to see if they had any GoPro Hero HD cameras. When we went in were we in luck for cameras but they also had some serious machinery to look at. I’ve never seen a Bimota in person and they had 2! These bikes are ultra bling handmade machines.

Gus took us for a tour around the shop and out back where we saw some more fun stuff and met “Irish Mike” the hotshot mechanic who works on most of the real exotics, like this Tesi 2D.

Other rare and wonderful stuff like this little Vertemati, and the Desmosedici RR that he started up for us. That owner was in for about $50K worth of new bodywork from a tipover! But it really needs to be heard to be believed and to appreciate what a real GP bike is made of.



Now where was I? Oh yeah, JB had his Leatt brace and I had my goggles and video camera, it was time to commit some time to the girls in our lives. Not really knowing our way around and not really knowing what we were looking for we went for the one stop shopping at the Outlet Mall where we were mostly successful in our respective quests.

Finally it was time to head west to catch up with Don at the bivouac, but enroute he called to say he was running late. No problem, we’d just go past it to Pahrump for a beer to kill some time.

It didn’t look like much of anything as far as towns are concerned but we managed to find this little gem: welcome to the Silver Saloon. The beer was cold and it was happy hour which provided local draft pints for a dollar, yes I did say ONE dollar for a full pint! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a beer that cheap. Neither of us were tempted by the lottery machines set in the bar either. I didn’t ask the barmaid, who was originally from British Columbia, to see the photo album of vintage pics but I should have, it looked like it might have been interesting.


When we stepped out the sun was starting to set so we booked it back to find Cathedral Canyon Road to the bivouac, I only missed it once due to misread directions from my navigator. The odd looking rock in the directions was easy to spot.

When we rolled up Don was already pretty much set up and our bikes were sitting out in the twilight, mine started right up so I went for a little spin close by. First impressions were really good and the ergonomics felt just fine as far as fit went too. Not hard to see why it’s called “SuperPlushSuspension” either. Of course as soon as JB hopped on for a spin it stalled and we couldn’t start it, hmmmm. Maybe no fuel? I added some gas and we put it on the charger before heading out for another little toodle around.




When the sun went down I had a look at my HID and then it was time to park the bikes and get to know Don a little better over a few beers. If you’re a fan of Obama’s and aren’t ready for a long debate don’t mention politics around Don; I started the ball rolling then bailed out to leave JB to fend for himself, like any friend would.

We headed off to bed at a reasonable hour and barely woke to hear two different vans roll in sometime in the wee hours. When we awoke, Charlie, Phil and Robb had joined the bivouac. Don was getting breakfast starting with coffee for the gang. Charlie runs the show and Robb and Phil were going to fill the roll of instructor for the weekend.

Charlie was running with 4 bikes: his old XR650 that Marcus John from Singapore was going to use, Phil’s 450, Jonah’s 690 from this year’s Dakar and a sweet new WR 450 that was just built for Neil, the South African who was flying in from Lima. Takes all kinds.


Robb had his 450 with him, and it too looked like a stellar build for this countryside





We spent most of the morning unloading bikes, setting up camp, and tinkering. I got my GPS mounted and set to show heading. I’d brought a few decals to personalize it a bit while I think about my own paint scheme and to add to the ridetherock and advrider annals. Charlie was showing off the stylie billet masts he’s got for sale for roadbook mounting to your bars too.



Did I mention that Neil’s new bike looks pretty trick? Here it is all shiny and new before he was there to start beating it up. Renazco gets good business from Charlie and was well represented. I’m now the proud owner of 2 bikes with  the Renazco treatment and I can attest to the comfort and quality.


Well it was getting past time to get out for a ride wasn’t it? We started out into the badlands where JB and I were a little out of our depth in the soft soil and JB’s bike stalled and wouldn’t restart, time to header back to camp for a few quick adjustments including raising my shifter lever so I could get my toe under it. I also gave my helmet mounted camera its first tryout.

Once we were rolling again we pointed towards some easier terrain that was flatter and only occasionally crossed with washes. Phil tipped me off to get good at lofting/unweighting the front wheel to clear washes at speed. I was pretty close to making it over a steep sided one that popped up out of nowhere when I was doing 40 or 50 km/h, the front wheel cleared and then I think I was bucked by the back wheel as the front wheel simultaneously dug into a compression. The result was the first batch of paint missing from the right side of the fairing, the first dent in the Leo Vince pipe and when I got back on to follow the crowd I realized I’d tweaked the steering pretty far to the right. I was moving along hoping they’d stop again before long so I could get them bars back on the straight and narrow. It was a bit of a bummer to put it down that early into the weekend but it also meant that the first one was out of the way too. We kept riding and I tried to practice glancing at my ICO, heading and roadbook while riding.

There had been rain the week before and as a result I’d see patches of colour from time to time. During our stops I looked around to see what I could see, there were some pretty little flowers to add to my collection of flower pics. And the inevitable sharp, pointy cacti waiting to poke holes in you if you weren’t careful; not hard to see why the instructors recommended to always wear a jacket and not just jerseys. Plenty of stuff I had no idea about.



Looking out over the landscape could fool you into believing that the land is flat–it’s definitely not. There are plenty of hidden gems scattered throughout such as washes, holes, sand, and badlands               


By the time we got back to camp there were more people around including a couple of families of Eastern Europeans who drove their RV’s down from Chicago. This crowd has apparently been coming down to train and ride with these guys twice a year for the last 3 years and it shows when they’re out on the trail. Nice bunch of guys who are planning to enter the Dakar for 2011 if I heard correctly. They were riding a couple of factory bikes that they picked up somewhere, and one of them rides a quad and could be seen roaming around with his wee children on board.




I wandered around to see what else was in camp, Dirk Kessler was the Canadian living in San Francisco who entered the Dakar in 2010 and was part of the 50% that didn’t make it through stage 3, and the brutal soft sand filled river bed; Dirk had a serious knee injury to boot. This was the bike he was riding.


Neil took his new bike out for a little spin and you could see the grin on his face right through his helmet.


Then we ate some supper prepared by Don and started to get to know each other, here are Robb, Phil and Dave. Neil, Phil, Dave and Seth are planning to ride the Dos Sertoes Rally in Brazil this August. It’s the second largest motorsports rally in size after the Dakar. I’m sporting one of their t-shirts that finally showed up. Good luck guys! JB took a shot at getting a cactus needle out of his hand, no luck this time but it came out by itself in two parts separately 3 days later, yummy.


After dark Neil was poking around with his bike with Scott and Darren looking on while Marcus and Dirk worked on the XR. Plenty of tale swapping around the fire over a couple of beers too. Don’s trailer is a sweet rig and where he used to work for them it’s totally outfitted with Snap On tools, nice! Scott Whitney was the guy who wrote all of the roadbooks. He’s done a fabulous job of putting good routes together to maximize the training value. These are high quality roadbooks with all the traits of a Dakar roadbook to aid in people learning the French directions. “TDSRP-tout droit sur route principale” for example.



Jonah Street and Mike Shirley had rolled in during the night as well as Seth which pretty much completed the contingent for this year’s session, give Jonah a call if you  need any concrete work done in Washington.

The morning brought the real start of rally school with a lesson in roadbook reading and preparation given, by Charlie. We had pre event studying to do so we were expected to know most of the symbols and the French translations for the letter codes. He explained where the numbers and symbols were on the roadbook and how you put them all together to figure out where you were and where you were going; these training ones even had map coordinates for your GPS as a cheater for when you really needed some help to figure out where the hell you went wrong.  The basics go like this: in the left column is the running mileage tracked by means of your ICO, the big numbers are running total and the little number underneath is the mileage between tulips. The center column is the tulip or symbol of what you’re looking for. It could be the track with a turn or a landmark like a building and there might be extra info like the lines of a wash or a patch of vegetation. The last column has the CAP heading or bearing in digital for direction and there may be more information in a letter code. In French G would be gauche meaning left, TDSPP would be tout droit sur piste principale, straight on main route, and a + or – before a V would be plus ou moin visible, meaning more visible or less visible. There’s a whole long lexicon of them to learn and some of them are really important to know so you don’t ride into something that could kill you at speed.

Don wasn’t impressed with the use of his RV as a white board. We all glued the sheets together to make the roll and did our own marking based on whatever we thought would work best for ourselves, there’s Mike Shirley showing his personal marking style.






Once those details were done, we’d marked our roadbooks and everyone had loaded them, all the bikes were lined up for a photo op. I think JB took the best photo of them all but here’s what I got.




Did you catch the sidecar rig? That’s Scott’s “HogWild Racing” machine, a Vrod powered offroad sidecar racing machine. He is a bit of a rocket scientist and it shows both here and on his roadbooks. I hear riding “monkey” is pretty wild and I wanted to give it a shot but I was slow in getting to the new bivouac at Dumont Dunes and missed out. Pretty crazy machinery that’s been to the Dakar to boot.




Well now it was time to get finish getting dressed and move out on our first route of training, I was paired up with Seth and Phil I think, and we went off to start route 1 of 6. I was slow off the start for sure trying to figure out the details, but Phil did a great job of adding tips along the way; then it was just Phil and me as Seth took off on his merry way. As it went Phil had a pretty large getoff and bent the crap out of his nav gear and mount so he sent me on my way where I soon caught JB who was also having trouble with his roadbook; we tagged along together to finish back at camp. Neither JB nor I were worried about time so we took a break to get some paper out of his jammed roadbook then took off to give route 2 a go. To tell how slow we were there were guys finishing route 3 already, but in our defense I think they’d ridden them before.


We didn’t have much to report from route 1 besides some slightly missed turns that only really matter if you’re trying to be efficient and not miss time. We stopped somewhere along the way and I looked at the ground to see 100’s of these bugs running around, they were about an inch long but I have no idea what they were, and I never saw any more of them.


If I’d remembered the camera that rode in my pocket more I would have taken more photo’s. As it was I was trying to shoot video from my new helmet can and had varying degrees of success with that. Besides, when we stopped it was rarely for longer than what it took to reset ICO’s and for JB to hand crank his roadbook along. We were doing just fine on route 2 too before we got a little mixed up by the directions given in the roadbook being thrown off by how many times it said to go uphill and downhill on the PP or “piste principale” and we ended up going back to the top of the ridge we’d just come over then wandered around a bit looking for the wash we were being told to go down on a bearing headed back towards camp. We saw other tracks probably from folks doing the same and bee lined it until we finally emptied out on a main track just like the roadbook said we would. I don’t know if Scott planned it that way when he wrote it but for learning it worked really well because seemingly you could always get back onto a known entity and get home. We laughed a little when we saw Robb wandering in search of us and/or the track we were on; it got funnier a little later when we went through a bit of a badlands kind of section and he went bushwacking down into a deep wash while we looked for a more sensible route down and out with mixed results.



We saw tracks below us and a reasonable slope down to them so I led off and got into the wash headed towards a bank about 2 feet high that I figured I could get up. This worked out fine but what I didn’t know was that 3 feet past it hidden by shrubbery was another 3 foot deep wash with vertical sides, at least I didn’t know until I plowed into it and went over the bars to see my bike still upright front wheel planted in the bank and missing more paint. Good thing fiberglass is flexible.  Did I mention yet how much I like this bike? It’s got to be 100 lbs lighter than my 640 and it really shows in times like this when you’re trying to wrestle it out of somewhere stupid. We were out and headed back to camp with no sign of Robb, he came rolling in sometime after we’d already cracked a beer, I guess that’s why he’s the instructor? And so we ended our first day of rally school with only 2 routes under our belts but we were satisfied with our progress on the learning curve. Tomorrow promised route 3 which was touted as being the nicest ride of the 6 loops. A little prep work, food and a couple of beers and we were headed for bed.

We started out day two riding route 3 with Jonah following behind but it also made for more self consciousness for us. The route ran from camp towards the mountains to the north and once we were above town the landscape started to get interesting.



There were two sections that I really enjoyed: the first was a long wash of deep pea gravel that we followed through a narrow rock chasm that was only big enough to get the bikes through and it was at least 20 feet deep. I totally forgot both of my cameras but I’m pretty sure JB caught it on video. Just as well mine was off as I had a little tipover just heading into it, one of many over the weekend. Once we left the wash the track led up into the mountains in a series on turns. I think I had the best groove I’ve ever had on that section getting over the front wheel with weight on the inside peg and gassing the rear end around the turns, I felt that mental “click” as I figured out another riding trick for awhile. I can’t take all the credit though, the bike is really well set up and seems to be dialed in just right for me too. We kept going up into the hills along ridgelines bordered by big cactus and on into the trees, as in real forest. In front of us at high elevation the was still snow on the ground which seemed pretty amazing considering it was over 80ºF in the lowlands.


After a couple of missed turns and failed first attempt of a steep loose climb we opted to stop and chill out for a little while in the shade and get some food and water into us to combat the 30 mile tipover trend that was evolving for both of us. I’ve been training for awhile and am in decent shape, as well as eating pretty well and drinking as much water as possible so my belief is that we were suffering fatigue from lack of saddle time this year: one hour long offroad ride for me and less for JB. I know from mountain biking how much energy the mental focus and concentration takes to ride long hours offroad. No problem, it helps for planning a training regimen for the next adventure, that’s if work allows the time.

Back on track we left Robb and Jonah sitting under a tree bonding while we headed off to finish the loop. Everything was going great and we both survived a nasty downhill chicane that seemed to sneak up on us as the mileage was a ways off on the roadbook. Down into the foothills all was peachy as we came into the fence indicated and made the left turn along it up to another left. We were looking for another left that just wasn’t appearing at the right ICO reading but other tracks kind of close were showing up, the CAP heading was off but we weren’t seeing anything else. Back to the fence and on down the road until I saw that we were definitely wrong where we turned around to try it again, most indicators seemed to read right so we went around again and tried for a second time going a little farther afield, no luck. Finally we tried for a third and last time to the same conclusion and decided to call it and head towards town then back towards camp. All I got out of that exercise was a picture of another flower.



While putting down the road we were on my rear tanks ran out of fuel so I stopped to switch to the front and of course I didn’t spend enough time kicking fuel through before running the battery down. Thanks JB for the final push that succeeded in the bump start, with both of us sweating profusely and roasted from failed efforts. We spent a bunch of miles just buzzing down the side of the highway droning back to the bivouac and at the turnoff there was a guy with a stand selling cold drinks and all kinds of jerky. Beef, Elk, Bison in all kinds of flavours. We stopped to get some drinks as we were both out of water and ate all the samples he gave us. When we were done socializing we left with packages of jerky in our packs to take home for later.

We finally came to mile 0 and there were Charlie and Jonah hanging out in the shade of his van. Robb was halfway back up route three looking for us to no avail. It got funnier as Jonah was asking JB where the hell we’d gone? “we were only 5 minutes behind you and you disappeared? We spent an hour looking for you?” Well, we were going around in circles trying to find a left turn? Upon looking back at the route Charlie was able to determine the turn we’d missed: a crucial left after the nasty chicane that would have sent us heading towards home and to the same fence but much further along. We should have backtracked further in the roadbook to find it, but our biggest mistake was thinking we were at the right section of fence; getting lost is part of how you learn to navigate.

Back at camp we regrouped, watched the boys drive around with the baby on the ATV and I was feeling a little grumpy, Neil picked up on it and asked what was wrong? I’d really wanted to do at least one more route, we’d only done 3 out of 6 in two days while pretty much everyone else had managed all six. Thanks Neil for encouraging me to go for it and Robb kindly offered to make sure there were steaks kept aside for when we got back.

JB offered to join me and we decided to go for routes 4 and 5 as pretty easy ones rather than #6 which would have meant reloading JB’s roadbook and he was a bit worried about fatigue levels, made sense to me. Marcus was also headed back out and both of the boys were suffering from pretty substantial blisters across their palms from holding the bars hour after hour; they took a stab at taping their hands for the upcoming ride.


Fine by me and we took off. Route 4 was really interesting as it took us to Cathedral Canyon, crossed the first real sand dune we’d seen yet and it made use of a massive grid of ¼ mile squares that had been laid out for a failed housing boom sometime in the past; it failed due to a lack of local water–go figure. The sand was a little anticlimactic even though JB fell over and the grid was deceptively challenging. It consisted of being on the gas then slowing for the 90º turn and going, and turning at seemingly random distances right up until we came to a paved road that certainly was not where we were supposed to be. Due to time constraints we skipped going back to find where we’d screwed up and made it back to camp for the start of route 5.



The start backtracked to camp from mile 0 and we saw Neil jump onto the track ahead of us and disappear in a cloud of dust. We saw him for a short time but then lost him. We were short finding an off piste turn and got turned around a little before picking up the power line to put us back on track and gassed it through some fast sections. When we hit the pavement the first intersection put the chicken Ranch on our left.



In some counties of Nevada , prostitution is legal, this is one of those counties and the Chicken Ranch is one of the brothels. We opted not to stop at the Leghorn bar for a beer. Sure I was curious, who wouldn’t be, but we could see the sun didn’t have long before our tinted lenses were going to be a real handicap. We left the sightseeing and booked it to the gas station shown on the route where we were surprised to see Neil at the pumps.  We figure we’d throw some fuel in for the last day to relieve Don as our fueler and got to it. The whole prepay thing at the pumps in the US can be a pain in the ass, as it asks for your zip code, no they don’t recognize Canadian postal codes. All I wanted was a bit of gas but the girl didn’t speak liters and you have to specify an amount. But how much gas does my bike hold? No idea in gallons and only a vague guess in liters right now. I gave her some cash and filled up more tanks than I needed to before we all took off in the direction of burnt meat and beer. Dusk was setting in fast so we got on the gas pretty hard once we were back on dirt. I was leading, followed by JB, then Neil cruising at about 50 mph, this was prudent to me with slightly reduced visibility and it made the difference when I hit a large wash successfully. I turned on my HID light which worked great to get back to camp, not much longer and we would have been in the total darkness. The best part of that run was the look on JB’s face when Neil showed him the video he shot handheld while right behind him offroad at speed, I’m sure he’ll post it on his "n00b goes rallying" thread on advrider.com. Good on ya!


We actually got back to the bivouac in time for supper which was nice-steak and salad and a few other fixings were a great way to finish the day. My cranky mood was gone and I was happy to have finished 5 out of the 6 loops up on offer. There was a 250 mile loop that a couple of the more experienced guys did on the same day too; for now I’ll just daydream a little about riding long days like that. Our third day of riding came to a close with a feeling of accomplishment at reaching another small skill level. I finished it off with a chat on the phone and a sunset shot of another little flower. It was all coming a little bit easier. Tomorrow was a new day and would mark the end of the school.


Morning came early and started with some more teaching about dune riding and navigation in the dunes. This is mostly done by cap heading alone and visually noting landmarks to be able to stay on the same heading as you pick your route through varied terrain. Everyone was interested in this, especially the folks who’d never been in sand or dunes. The other part of the morning info session included some notes and details about the 70 mile route we would be taking to the new camp setup at Dumont Dunes where we would get into the sand for the rest of the day.


The humour started early as Scott’s dog decided to lift a leg on someone’s wayward helmet left lying on the ground. He said it was only a little on the visor, but he might have been lying? Just goes to show that keeping track of your gear is very important, especially in mixed company. Harharhar.


For the first time JB and I were the first to dressed and on the road out of camp, we both wanted to get as far as we could before the faster guys caught us. Everything was going pretty well off the front with the only stop being JB’s roadbook pulling apart; using gluestick to glue the sheets it’s very important to press hard and ensure a good bond. As short as this stop was it still costs time in the overall, for errors that really have no need of happening. We overshot a turn a little very near the same stop so again lost time for no good reason.

The next section was pretty uneventful and led into the hills. The roadbook indicated downhill, EMP. short for empierre which means rocky or stony. It was fairly obvious when we got on top of it and stopped to scope it out. That’s when we heard the first bike catching up with us and sure enough there was Neil: being all gung ho for Dos Sertoes he jumped right in with us still stopped there observing. About halfway down he was down and right behind us Seth and Dirk rolled up. We all watched Neil wrestling his machine upright and JB took a little walk to find an easier line. Seth wimped out and decided to roll down left of the gully with his engine off and Dirk opted for JB’s line on the right from about a quarter the way down. After getting off to take a few more pictures of some flowers I spotted I headed right from the top and saw Dirk fall over below me that inattention immediately contributed to me rolling on top of a cactus and getting stuck. I too fell over trying to escape the little bugger. When I finally did get free it was clear sailing for the rest of the way down and we were back on track again.



From here we entered a small wash that emptied us onto a well maintained dirt road that started with a short detour to a U-turn and then clear sailing. We were cruising at over 60 mph for a good while towards the hills. I totally missed a crucial turn by failing to watch my ICO for about ¼ km and there again was lost time. Backtrack to the turn and a wee stop to reset nav gear and do a little battery fix on JB's GPS, then Marcus and Phil caught up with us. Now we were there with the final riders. I spotted a cool looking cactus and went to take a picture and I’m glad I did as I also saw a beautiful little cactus in bloom too. Who knew I’d see so many flowers in the desert? I’m counting myself lucky we got there shortly after one of their rare rainfalls.




Marcus also did the GPS taped battery trick Jonah showed me after we’d done JB’s and he hit the gas; roosting the rest of us with gravel. Phil gave us the nudge, time to get a move on.  Now we were last and headed up into the hills again and we watched the scenery unfold below us as we climbed. Just after we rounded a corner I got offline into the rocks again and had another tipover. JB commented about the 30 mile stupids so I took a minute to get a quick bite of food into me. Just around the corner we stopped at an abandoned talc mine where JB realized he had trouble shifting because of a loose shifter. It was all stop while we dug out the tools to do the fix. Nice to have a rally box to keep the basic tool kit in. I saw some more flowers and ate some more before we were getting moving again. Good thing as the white tailing piles were reflecting some serious heat at us.


We were trying to stay on the gas and keep a reasonable pace but we seemed to be a little plagued with stops. At one of the next intersections Seth was waiting for us, I really don’t know why, as our navigating was mostly fine and Phil was pulling sweep behind/with us. We jammed along behind Seth through some ups and downs and I had the pleasure of blowing by him up a loose wash, it made me feel good being faster than at least one person for at least a few minutes. Didn’t last long, he left us behind when one of us stopped for something. Another navigational error due to a little bit of confusion with the roadbook cost us some more time yet again where we went through a narrow pass but that’s how you learn yet again. Another change of terrain and we entered a long sandy roadway only to have to stop to fix the shifter a second time. Now everyone was anxious to turn it up another notch and JB led out at a good rate of speed. This was almost the last video I shot as well having forgotten to charge my camera the night before, I did remember the more important GPS batteries though. 


Back into the mountains awhile later we got onto a neat section of trail that was straight up one side and straight down the other side; attention was very important to avoid a long fall to the valley bottom below. Phil asked JB if he’d seen Dumont dunes off in the distance to which JB said he had eyes only for staying on the road, sensible, I didn’t see them either. When this emptied us out it was into a long section that had been serious mining country at one time as we were riding on old broken pavement interspersed with washouts and potholes. Weird remnants of civilization in the dry and desolate middle of nowhere. This led us into a deep pea gravel wash through a small valley that was pretty cool being hemmed in by steep rock walls that you were trying not to run into. After one particularly sketchy corner I stopped to have a look back and saw JB standing beside his bike and poking at something around the engine, Phil stopped with him and I could see that they were both fine. In my own self interest I decided to keep going and get out of the pressure cooker. I was on my own and having fun in the wash until I got caught in a moment of target fixation that had my eyes glued to a large rock coming at me; I tried to pull my eyes away with no luck and plowed right into it. Down I went for my second crash of the weekend and I distinctly remember looking at my hand and cursing as I saw the fairly large avulsion in the meat of my palm. Dammit! I picked the bike up and dug my first aid kit out of my bag all the while thinking I’d be hearing the boys come along any second. I cleaned out the dirt, did a little patchwork and packed it all away before turning my attention to getting to camp. No sign of the guys either.


I skipped a detour up the valley side that was only going to offer a slight change of scenery and kept going to the next turn up over some sand hills and saw the dunes on my left, but it was not our rendezvous. I was close and gave it the gas as soon as I was on the main road right up until I could see our fleet of vehicles parked in the lot. Yay! I’d made it through the 70 mile route in mostly one piece and quite a bit later than everyone else except our missing boys. I caught up with Charlie first and he immediately told me that Jonah and everyone else had just left for Dune School and I should go find them. Alright, off I went, alone into the sand. It wasn’t bad really, I had one close call dropping into a hole made by the wind but on these little ones it was easy to get a feel for them and the oblique approaches that let you see over them before committing to the other side. I went around the whole area twice before I caught up with them, just in time to hear one of Jonah’s last lessons. Phil came buzzing up to ask Jonah if they could use his truck to drive 8 miles back up the wash to get JB and his bike? Turns out what I had thought was shifter trouble was him punching a hole in one of the engine cases. Jonah replied that his truck wasn’t up to the task and Phil rode away. We kept going trying to follow the last navigation trick that Jonah was telling us. At our next little stop Seth and I both decided to head back when they were going over to the big dunes as we’d both run out of water and I hadn’t had a breather from the day's route yet either.





After taking a bit of break and a beer Charlie suggested I go try out the big dunes, reminding me that it was one of the key things I wanted to learn a bit about. I took the roundabout route as instructed to stay away from the crowds and permits. One place I stopped to have a gander I looked on the ground beside me and low and behold it was a field of flowers. I sized up the biggest dunes from a distance and made my way towards them. In hindsight maybe I should have paid a little more heed to my failure to negotiate the first apex? I fell over  but kept trying to get a run up the dune, after a few attempts I still had only really gotten halfway and had almost eaten it going over a steep lip that I couldn’t see in the flat light until I was already on it.


When my battery started getting weak from blowing sand out of the pipe every time I dropped it I knew it was time to head back. I pointed my bike back the way I’d come and set out for the trucks. I saw a small saddle between bigger dunes pointing the way I’d come and turned off towards it. When I crested the dune I didn’t get on the gas early enough and fell over yet again; only this time I was out of juice. Uh oh. I tried to tickle it to life without luck then tried getting rolling to bump start. This didn’t work either and it put me near the bottom and in a depression. After what was already a pretty long day I was dead tired. On this level in sand I couldn’t get in a position to effectively try kicking the bike over either. I came really close to firing it one last time too. Dammit! Again I tried pushing to get out of the depression and down the last pitch to where the track led out but I was out of gas myself. After what had been almost an hour of failure I finally gave in and phoned Charlie. No answer. I tried Scott’s number too. No answer. I waited a bit before trying Charlie again and he asked what was up? I told him and he asked if I’d tried all my options before saying he’d come get me going. While I waited in the only shade around that I created with my jacket I drank the last of my water and gave my girl a call. She was unsympathetic; her response was that it was what I signed up for. Gee thanks. I stood on top of the rise and when Charlie came around the bend it didn’t take long for him to spot me and gassed it in my direction. I felt marginally better when I watched him take awhile to get it running; he has the advantage of having legs a foot longer than mine which helps. 

It was a quick run back to see that most of the troops had pulled out to head home their separate ways. Now it was just Don packing up and waiting to load my bike, Charlie loading bikes in his rig and Neil, Seth, JB and me riding in our rental to the first bivouac to their cars. It wasn’t long before this that JB realized he’d left his camera and phone in Robb’s van. When Jonah declined his truck they drove Robb’s 4x4 van all the way up the wash to where JB had been snoozing in the shade under a rock while he waited. At least I wasn’t the only one who had to be rescued, and I was pretty close to not having to be rescued. On reflection there are things I’d do differently in the same situation, the first being to turn the bike into the hill so I could stand on the high side to kick the low side; I’m sure if I’d done that I would have been able to get back all on my own. Oh well now I know.


JB had missed the dune session so he took the 690 Jonah rode to a 7th place finish in the 2010 Dakar and went for a scoot in the small dunes. The smile on his face was unmistakable when he got back to finish stuffing the car with all of our gear. He was loving it and I was jealous; no time for me, Don was waiting for me to get the rest of my sh@t out of the trailer and finish packing the box to send with the bike. That all done we hit the road for Baker, California to pick up JB’s stuff at a restaurant where Robb had left it. Only a 50 mile detour to the Mad Greek. While we waited I looked around a little and decided pretty quickly that Baker is nowhere I’d want to live. This sign I spotted might offer hope to those living in the trailer park behind it, but I doubt it. We got gas at the General Store across the road before we turned around to get to the cars. The small dunes we were in looked absolutely miniscule as we drove by.






The cars were still there, and being stopped already and unpacking our car we decided to repack all of our gear to fly right there in the dust. It would make life easier at the hotel when we got back to Vegas. A short time later we were bound for Las Vegas where all of us were flying out from the next day. Neil to Lima, Peru, Seth to Vermont and us to Newfoundland. 

Back into the city of never ending light and excess there’s always something to look at; like this dude we saw on his trike, waiting for a miracle maybe? Neil offered to add us to the room he thought he had reserved at the Palazzo which sounded fine to us. After a long drive down the strip with all kinds of people lining the rails along the road like you were the entertainment we got to the hotel and the three of us ended up in a suite with Seth taking the pullout. The girl at the desk informed us that it was the biggest hotel in the world with 7000 rooms! This is only one hotel of many, makes no wonder there’s no water anywhere, Vegas has taken all the water from who knows how many miles away? I wonder when it’s going to run out and what’s going to happen then? My guess is that the consequences will be further reaching than anyone’s guess.


We showered then headed downstairs to the casino to find some food and ended up in Dos Caminos eating steak and drinking a few beers. We were all beat from a long day and were done and headed to bed before we fell asleep at the table.


JB and I had the earliest flight out and were checking in our rental car by 9am. Touring the duty free pretty much brought us to the end of the trip. All in all I think the Rally School was worth the money and worth the effort to get there. I know for us we learned a ton, not only about how rallies work and navigating, but also a ton in terms of riding skills. I was lucky enough to have been able to show up and ride an almost new bike that I now own and get to know that machine a whole lot better too.

And so ends my story to date, my rally dreams finally having some substance. Right then it was a bit hard to see it as I was only home for a few days before getting back on a plane and flying to Alaska to work for a month; doesn’t mean I didn't have more dreams though. What’s next? Well, I’m still on track for the Rally Mongolia like my last story said, and now that I've been out in the desert and experienced a little bit if what it's like I think I'm ready to make another dream come true; but that's another story.

And the start of that story is rapidly aproaching, it's late July now and I get on a plane on August 4th to head to my first ever International offroad Rally. We'll see how it unfolds.


Additional links of interest:


- To follow Mike's adventures in Mongolia you can keep an eye on his SPOT tracker HERE.  He wasn't sure they'd be allowed to use it but hopefully!


- SSER Org website.  Direct link to the 2010 Mongolia race section



2010 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV Show - A pictorial

This year marked the third year for the Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show in Moncton. Produced by Master Promotion, owned by the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council (MMIC) and Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council (COHV) - the event appeared to be the popular spot for motorcycle enthusiasts to be in Moncton the weekend of Feb 12-14, 2010.

I haven't heard about the numbers that came through but there were roughly 15,000 last year. I don't know that it was quite as busy as last year but if you're a fan of motorcycles you wouldn't have minded - it just meant it was a little easier to get through the crowds and there'd be a better chance you'd get to sit on a few more bikes.

Most of the big manufacturers were there showing off their newest 2010 models.  There were a few standout bikes for me; notably the new Honda VFR1200, the BMW S1000RR, a Ducati 1198R, and Patrick Trahan's Dakar prepped Honda.

We took a few photo's and thought we'd share.  More content about the show is coming soon.


Trail Tours - Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest

Trail Tours Adventures
- Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest


I'm in Ontario, it's vacation, and I'm up at 6 am. What's wrong with this picture? Nothing at all actually - The early starts is so that I make sure I find my way to Trail Tours; an off-road motorcycle school on the edge of the 11,000 acre Ganaraska forest. This off-road haven is just 20 minutes outside of Peterborough and approximately an hour from where I'm staying in Scarborough. Given my notoriously terrible sense of direction I want to give myself plenty of extra time. There's also the unknown of traffic seeing that's it's Friday and still a workday for most.

7 am - time to hit the road on my borrowed 09 Harley Davidson Fat Bob and get to the highway. Once I hit the road I'm pleased to discover that most of the traffic is coming in the opposite direction and I'm able to motor along at a steady pace. It's also very easy to get to the highway and I don't get lost. Bonus!

Just to skip the chase a little I'll say that Trail Tours is an off-road motorcycle and ATV school - with prices starting at $225 dollars you'll get outfitted in protective gear, get a dirt bike (or ATV), some training, and a have a guide and sweep rider for about 4 hours. That my friends is a great deal! Consider the expense of equipping yourself up for an off-road experience and do the math. It's a heck of a bargain.

The weather's been reasonably good the past few days but warm, and with the heat seems to also come the ever-present threat of thunderstorms and showers. We'd had some rain on Thursday which unbeknownst to me at this point would make for ideal conditions for my day in the woods on Friday - plenty of traction and no dust. Before I arrive at Trail Tours I stop at a gas station to check my directions - I'm a bit early anyway. I spot a nice KTM loaded on a trailer and take a seat on the curb close by. I figure that chances are good that its owner may be going to the same place as me. Turns out I was right - as I started up a conversation with Pat Steed and he's not only going to Trail Tours, he's going to be a sweep rider for the group I end up riding with that day. On top of it he's says that Trail Tours is very close to where we are now, and that I can just follow him in. This day is starting out on a good note for sure!

I ride up the dirt road and we come out in a small clearing at the edge of the forest overlooking a big field with a dirt track. There's some some truck trailers and a portable which serve as the on-site base of operations for Trail Tours. There's also a whole lot of dirt bikes and four wheelers. I can feel the adrenaline start surging with excitement. Oh, yes - this is going to be fun!

After parking the bike I start looking around and checking out the dirt bikes. I chat with Allan, who's been working with Trail Tours for the past 12 years, since he was 14 years old in fact. I also get a chance to talk to the owner, Steve WeyKamp. He's expecting a new addition to the family so, on this day he won't be riding with us, but I enjoy talking with him and he's obviously a great guy who's enthusiastic about what he does.

There's a small group today but I'm told that there's typically anywhere between 20 and 50 riders on a given day. A significant percentage of people who come to Trail Tours are first time riders. Corporate team-building groups are pretty common at Trail Tours too. Most of the people in our group have some road experience on a motorcycle but a minimal amount of dirt bike experience. Trail Tours have the terrain and machinery to accommodate ALL skill levels; from novice to expert.

Time to get the party started!

Everybody gets suited up in the supplied gear; boots, knee protectors, chest and elbow protectors, jersey, goggles, and gloves. There's a discussion of skill level; and whether you've ridden a motorcycle before too. This helps the instructors to group riders with those of a similar skill level.

Steve starts the day off by talking about what's in store for the day, giving the obligatory disclaimers, and a little promotion and thanks to all their sponsors. They're manufacturer supported and get new bikes regularly. The bike I end up on is a Honda CFR 230F. It's a nice air-cooled, single cylinder, 4-stroke mount that's both reliable and just the right size for navigating the trails of the Ganaraska. Sign in starts at 9 am, while the riding starts at 9 am and ends at 3 pm. That's plenty - believe me - it's enough time that you feel that you've gotten your money's worth but not so much that you've ridden beyond the point of extreme fatigue. If you're fatigued, that's when you'll start to make a lot of mistakes. You'll be sleeping fine after a day at Trail Tours. There's a break at noon for lunch (which is typically catered but we end up having some subs and sodas from a nearby sub shop). There's potable water available at the base camp too and you can grab a drink there or fill up a hydration system for the trails.

We start the day of riding off by gathering in field where they've got a circular track set up. An instructor tells us about proper stance on the bike for the various types of terrain we'll encounter. Standing up on the pegs is a typical position that helps you go over rough ground with ease. Through slippery corners, sit down and put your inside leg towards the front of the bike to get your weight forward. We also talk about small objects on the trail like logs, roots, and off-camber terrain and how to deal with them. The instructor watches us as we ride around the track and offers some each of us some personalized tips and advice.

We progress from that to riding, one-by-one, over a small log. We're given tips on throttle control, gearing, and looking ahead. Once we seem to have the basics under control and the instructors are confident - it's off to the woods. There's still some instruction to happen yet though, we practice our straight line braking. First with just the back brake, then with the front brake only, then with the front and rear combined. Stops are long and skids plentiful when using just the back. With the front it's easy to have the front wheel slide out but distances are reduced. Braking with the front and rear combined result in the quickest and most stable stops.

Once we've all given that a shot a few times it's time to practice whoops! Whoops are a series of bumps that are a lot like stationary and rounded waves. That doesn't sound overly fun inducing, but you'll have to believe me - it is definitely a good time! On a high-end and powerful bike such as the KTM the lead instructor was riding you kind of float over the whoops a bit. On our smaller bikes, which have less power and less suspension travel, the bike drops into the whoops a little more. We're told it's best to keep the throttle even throughout the whoop. It does sound like you're getting on the gas a bit harder when the suspension is uncompressed but it's not the case really. Standing is definitely the way to go if you want to have any speed.

Now that we've done a few loops of whoops it's time for the really fun stuff - it's time to be unleashed in the forest! One more quick lesson though - we're told that we'll cross many junctions while riding and it's each person's responsibility to take a quick look back at each junction to see if they can see the person riding behind them; if not, they're to stop at the junction so that the group stays together. If each person does this it saves the lead rider from having to stop the group, double back, and try to find the rest of the group. With hundreds of interconnected trails it can be difficult and time consuming so best to heed the significance of this advice. You'll spend more time riding the trail and less time sitting on it waiting if you do.

On to the good stuff:

The grin on my face is permanently ingrained at this point. I thought the good times had perhaps plateaued, that was before I experienced my first sandy berm. I now know that there are few things as enjoyable as hitting a sandy berm - inside foot extended forward (cranking on the throttle to induce plenty of wheel-spin) and sliding through a corner. I actually let out several "Yeahhhhh's" during these blissful maneuvers. Probably the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle. I know that I'll return to Trail Tours now that my brain has triggered the endorphin rush that sandy berms provide. I must experience it again!

The Ganaraska forest is huge and the trails are ever-changing - a beaver had blocked our path with his new home at one point during the ride, but these guys know their way around the forest so well it's no issue; they just find another way around. It's shared terrain too and we come across a few other riders, and even a couple people on horseback. The fact that the trails are shared makes it important to pay attention and keep your eyes up, particularly when approaching corners or blind crests. We're told to try to stick to the right hand side of trails and be aware of other users. Good advice.

We ride on some 'easier' terrain in the morning. But after lunch we get into some more difficult and speedy terrain. There's plenty of challenges. There's sandy sections, puddles, mud holes, uphills, downhills, twists and turns, rocks, wide trails, and tough single track that you can just fit your handlebars between the trees. There's no pressure to ride above your limits but if you're quick you'll probably gravitate towards the front. There's no passing and riding is single file but each person gets a chance to take the lead should they want to give it a try.

Another really fun point in the day was a hill climb. Along the route we've taken we come across a relatively steep and sandy hill and we line up and take a shot at getting to the top. It's a bit tougher than it seems and the bike kicks up a huge rooster tail of sand in its wake. The bike floats around in the loose sand. If you look to the sides of the trail, chances are you'll end up there and have to turn around and ride back down for another attempt. Much to my disappointment I didn't make it my first try. I up-shifted near the top of the hill and lost a little momentum, then the front wheel caught a bit of sand and I climbed the bank at the side of the hill and set the bike down gently on its side. Darn! Mere feet from the summit! My next few attempts were successful though. Triumph! It was a really great feeling to get to the top. I experimented with starting in second at the base of the hill and the differences between standing and sitting.

Everybody took a few shots at the hill and most were able to get at least one successful run. It was a little more challenging on the 150cc bikes for sure. Those guys seemed to have a harder time with it.

After a bit more riding around it was starting to become clear that some of us were getting a little tired but we were on our way back to the base camp at this point so we just had to keep our wits about us for a little bit longer. Bikes were dropped and some minor spills occurred but nobody in our group got injured and all the equipment came home in working order too.

When we arrived back at base camp we lined up to be hosed down with the pressure washer. Bikes first - then us! Well, our muddy boots at least. We got the rest of our gear off and returned it to the Trail Tours folks. They take the gear and clean it up on site or send the equipment home for a more thorough cleaning. After it's all cleaned up the gear is put back for the next group of excited adventurers who'd arrive bright and early the next day. We share a few stories about the day and everybody seems to have had a great time and perhaps a little tired from an intense day of riding.

I'll be back!

Without a doubt, my day at Trail Tours was one of the most enjoyable days I've had on a motorcycle. I had a smile on my face from the moment I pulled into the parking lot to the time I left. The instructors were professional and informative, the equipment was well maintained and skill level appropriate, and the terrain is fantastic! Trail Tours and the Ganaraska forest is a short drive for millions of people. They're surely undiscovered gems for most - seriously, what are you waiting for?

Get yourself to Trail Tours - Pronto!

Check out the Trail Tours website HERE.

Here's a slideshow with all the pictures we took. Special thanks to Pat Steed who took the photo's of me. Pat and his wife own and operate Pat's Dual Sport Retreat.