Flaming Gorge – Red Canyon – July 2017

July 24-26, 2017

Marcy and Isaac planned an extended family vacation to the Flaming Gorge Dam area.  The plan was to camp for two nights near Flaming Gorge, then two nights near the Dinosaur Quarry by Jensen, Utah.  We also planned on floating the river.  This trip report covers just the first half of the week, around Flaming Gorge.

The only ones that could go for the entire trip included Marcy’s family, her in-laws (Barry & Karla), and my wife (Kim) and I.  Barry and Karla rode with us to save on gas costs.

We left home Monday morning, July 24.  We stopped for a lunch break at the Fort Bridger Historic Site.  We spent a few hours there looking at the old buildings and farming equipment.  It kind of reminded us of the Lloyd farm in Star Valley, WY.

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Fort Bridger group photo

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One of many exhibits

As we got closer to Flaming Gorge, it was obvious that it had recently rained.  On past trips, we have suffered from the heat and lack of shade, so this time we got campground reservations at the highest elevation campground – Lodgepole.  I think the campground is at around 8000’ elevation.  It is a pretty nice campground with flush toilets, but it is adjacent to the highway so there was a lot of traffic noise.

We set up camp and ate dinner.  The kids enjoyed playing on the trailer ramp and with our fox tail ball toss.  We feared rain, so we set up my rain fly – and it was a good thing we did.

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Camping in the rain

During the night, it got fairly windy for a while, and then the rain came.  It didn’t rain too hard, but it rained steadily through the night and much of the next day.

Our original plan was to run the Green River from the dam down to Little Hole, but with the rain, we decided to postpone for one day, and instead, go take a tour of the dam.

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Flaming Gorge Dam is full

The tour was interesting, but our tour guide got some of her facts mixed up.  The kids enjoyed feeding the fish at the bottom of the dam.

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Marcy’s family near the fish food dispensers

On the way back up the elevator, our tour guide asked if there were any more questions.  Luke, in his cute little voice, said; “no”.  He says no to everything.  I am not sure if the guide knew who said it or not, but it was pretty funny.

We then drove out to Red Canyon Overlook and took a short hike.  Sophie had fun collecting pine cones, and we studied some of the different types of trees.

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Sophie collecting pine cones

The rain let up a bit, so we ate lunch West Greens Lake.

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Lunch by the lake

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The lake

We returned to camp for a fabulous Dutch Oven dinner.  We also inflated the raft and inflatable kayak, getting ready for the next day.

On Wednesday morning we broke camp, loaded the raft on top of the gear in the trailer, and headed to the put-in below the dam.

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The put-in as seen from the top of the dam

We thought the storm would move out by early morning, but it was still drizzling rain while we rigged the boat and waited for Kim and Isaac to drive shuttle.

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Grandma “Sugar” and Luke

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Crowds at the put-in

Barry and Karla put on their wet-suits and took first turn in the inflatable kayak.  Everyone else sought shelter under my raft umbrellas.

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Shelter from the rain

Aspen wasn’t so sure about this whole thing, so she snuggled inside a towel to keep warm.  Sophie seemed quite content wrapped in her dad’s raincoat.  She played in the water and climbed on the raft while waiting to launch, and then had fun looking for fish in the river as we floated down.

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Sophie looking for fish

It didn’t take long before Sophie wanted a turn at rowing the raft.  She picked it up pretty quickly.  And so, a fourth-generation river rat is born.

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Fourth generation river rat

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Entering one of the small rapids

After stopping for lunch, Aspen started to perk up.  She enjoyed playing on the beach, and it was getting warmer.

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Aspen and Kim

Isaac and Sophie traded Barry and Karla for the inflatable kayak (IK).  Sophie loved it!  She was laughing and giggling and had a great time.  During the calmer water in the last few miles, Aspen even wanted a ride in the IK.  The weather continued to improve, which brightened everyone’s spirit.

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Isaac, Aspen, and Sophie in the IK

The river was running at about 2400 cfs, so the rapids weren’t too bad.  It took us about 2 hours to float.  During typical late summer flows, it could take around 5 hours if there is any wind.

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Little Hole

After arriving at Little Hole, we quickly drove shuttle to get the other vehicle.  Isaac drove back to the Visitor’s Center to find Jarem and his family while I headed back to pick up the raft.

It was late afternoon when Jarem’s family started their run down the river.  Once they were done, we loaded up and headed to our new camp at Green River Campground near the Dinosaur Quarry.  Jamie and Hannah were already there, and were anxious for us to bring their dinner.  We had a very late dinner that night, eating in the dark.

This story continues in the “Split Mountain Trip Report.”

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Desolation Canyon – July 2017

July 12-17, 2017

The upper Green River Basin had a huge snow-pack this year.  Some reports indicate about 250% of normal.  That means two things for Desolation Canyon; high water, and lots of mosquitoes!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enjoy the high water.  One week before we launched, the Flaming Gorge Operations Group began reducing the outflow from Flaming Gorge Dam.  They had been releasing 8600 cfs all spring, but started reducing the flow on July 5.  They dropped it about 1000 cfs per day, until they reached their final summer flow of 2400 cfs on July 11th – one day before our launch.  It takes about two days for the change in flow to reach the put-in at Sand Wash, so that meant we basically had a fairly low water trip ahead of us.  We estimated the flow at Sand Wash to be around 3600 cfs during our trip.  That actually isn’t all that low – we have experienced much lower.  But it isn’t high either.

Fortunately, the mosquitos pretty much died out during that week of dropping water level.  Spring reports indicated a very thick mosquito population, so we went prepared.  We pre-treated out clothing and bought new bottles of DEET and restocked our Thermacell supplies.  We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the put-in with hardly a mosquito to be found.

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Group photo at the put-in

We arrived at the put-in at about 11:00 AM and began rigging our boats.  We had four rafts and one inflatable kayak.  We took a break for lunch, finished rigging, and had our check-in with the ranger for a launch at about 2:00 PM.  Even though we have been through this routine many times, it usually takes about 3 hours to rig the boats.

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Barry & Karla enjoying their lunch break in the shade

Luckily, we also had very light winds.  Thus, we were able to make good progress and made it about 15 miles downstream before camping at Lower Gold Hole.  This camp wasn’t great, but it was better than any of the other camps we have stayed at farther upstream.  We had some mosquitoes during the evening, but it was pretty tolerable.

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Lower Gold Hole

There had been a lot of bear sightings this year as well, so we took extra precautions at each camp to keep our food and garbage away from our tents.  Barry would wipe down the kitchen each evening with ammonia and leave out a small dish full to hopefully keep the bears away.  I think some in our group spotted four bears during our six days on the river.

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A bear directly across the river from our camp

Malayna is a former river guide, so she showed us several interesting side stops along the way.  Our first excursion was up Firewater Canyon to a secluded shelter where someone used to make moonshine.

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Hiking up Firewater Canyon

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The old home

After the hike, we stopped just downstream at Cedar Ridge Camp #1.  This was a pretty nice camp.  But since it was my families turn to cook dinner, as usual, a storm moved in.  It rained hard enough that we set up my rain fly.  The fly was just large enough to cover the 11 of us plus our cook stove.  I was sure glad I bought that new rain fly last year.  It has earned its keep this year on various outings.

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Shelter from the rain

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Rain

On day three we stopped to visit the incredible Flat Canyon Petroglyphs.

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Aliens and petroglyphs

We also made our usual stop at Rock Creek for a dip in the cold, clear water of the side stream.

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That water drops your core temperature real fast

I submerged my new GoPro Hero 5 to see how well it would record under water, only to learn that I had a faulty lens seal, so I got water in the lens.  I dried out the camera as best I could, but the water ruined my footage of the biggest rapid on the trip – Joe Hutch Canyon.  (I now have a new replacement camera from GoPro).

Our next camp was at Three Canyon, which is an excellent beach camp with plenty of space for tents and games.  This is where the gale force winds hit us last time I was in Desolation Canyon.

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Three Canyon camp

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Spike ball

We stopped near the mouth of Chandler Canyon to look for the inscription of Denis Julien, an American fur trapper back in the late 1830s.  We never did find the inscription, but after getting home I found this description on Wikipedia; “There is also an undated “DJ” inscription at the mouth of Chandler Creek in Desolation Canyon on the Upper Green River. It is located on a large boulder to the left of the road as the road comes out on to the bottom of the canyon.”

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Us not finding the inscription

On day four we hit Joe Hutch Canyon Rapid.  It doesn’t have nearly the punch that it did when first formed, but it still offers a pretty good ride with a decent sized hole right in the center of the run.  Jamie rowed our boat safely to the right side, while Kevin and Jason, in the larger boat, hit the hole straight on and got a great ride.

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Barry approaching Joe Hutch Canyon Rapid

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Malayna reverse rowing past the hole

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Kevin hits the hole dead on

We stopped after Joe Hutch Canyon to take photos and take a break.  Jason had gotten sick earlier in the morning.  I suspect he was dehydrated.  Barry gave him some anti-nausea medicine, and I let him take a 20-minute nap while everyone else went down to check out the old McPherson Ranch.

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Homesteaders looking right at home

Our next camp was Wire Fence #1.  This was another great camp, and once again we got hit with a short storm.  This one had some strong winds for a while, but luckily died down before – you guessed it – it was our families turn to cook dinner.  This camp also had a few great hammock trees.

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Five hammocks

Wire Fence is a very picturesque rapid, but the waves weren’t all that large at this flow.  But Three Fords had some great waves which got everyone wet.

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Kevin’s boat gets plastered

In the past, Jamie usually rode in one of the inflatable kayaks, but she has been wanting to gain more experience rowing the raft.  She did a great job in Joe Hutch Canyon, and would have had a perfect run through Coal Creek Rapid if she didn’t get some bad advice from me.  She ended up skimming the edge of one submerged rock, but otherwise had a clean run.

Our final camp was at School Section Canyon.  We were pretty nervous staying here because there was a bear encounter at this camp just a few weeks earlier.

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Our kitchen at School Section camp

Supposedly the aggressive bear had been shot by the rangers, and we couldn’t find any fresh bear scat around camp.  We did find a lot of old bear scat, full of berries from all of the berry bushes around camp.  We wanted to stay here because of the interesting hike up the narrow canyon.

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Heading up the canyon

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School photo in School Section Canyon

After running Rattlesnake Rapid and Nefertiti Rapid, we stopped to visit the petroglyphs near the mouth of the Price River.

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Queen Nefertiti Rock

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Price River petroglyphs

I decided to take a turn in the inflatable kayak with Jamie.  It has been years since I paddled a kayak of any kind, but it was really fun.  We even tried a little surfing in one of the smaller rapids.

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A little (very little) surfing action

Sand Knolls has one of the best waves on the river, so we were sure to hit that head on.  After running that rapid, we gave the inflatable kayak back to Hannah and finished out the trip in our raft.

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Barry hitting the wave at Sand Knolls

We were surprised to find the take-out boat ramp completely deserted.  Usually there is quite a crowd and it is a challenge to keep track of all the gear and adequately clean and dry the boats.  But we were also surprised to find that my car and Wade’s truck were not at the take-out.  One of the shuttle drivers was sitting in the shade of the cottonwood tree, and he informed us that only the lead vehicle (Barry’s SUV) would be at the main parking.  The other vehicles were up the road at the Swasey parking area.

We got the boats cleaned and rolled up, the trailer loaded, and enjoyed lunch in about two hours.  I think the temperature was about 102°, so were glad to get the car air conditioner going full blast.  We stopped at the Balanced Rock Eatery in Helper for dinner. They have a good selection of sandwiches to choose from.  It was much better than the fast food joints we normally stop at.

All in all, it was a pretty good trip.  The rapids weren’t as fun as at high water, but we had pretty decent weather, not too many bugs, explored some new-to-me points of interest, and had great camps, great food, and great company.

Here are some more of my favorite photos from the trip (thanks to Hannah and Jamie for sharing their photos with me):

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Carrying our small raft to the river

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Enjoying the lack of wind as we work our way through the flat water

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With no rapids, Mike and Wade make their own entertainment

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Kevin at the oars

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Jason and JW in the IK

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Dee enjoying the shade of the umbrella

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Storm clouds building

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Breaking camp in the morning

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Wade, Mike, and Malayna

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Barry and Karla in the IK

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Jamie scouting the next rapid

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No, we are not tired

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Karla helping JW set up the tent while Jason naps in his hammock

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Barry cooling off while Karla handles the oars

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Dee & Jamie in the IK

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Jamie really likes her river hat

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JW’s first river trip

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Photogenic Barry

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Mike was always enthusiastic

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Malayna

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Hannah being chill

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Jamie and Jason solving the world’s problems

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Old man river

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Hannah…

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Kevin

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Umbrellas

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A rare photo of Karla not smiling

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The “key” to the toilet (“hooter”)

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Looking south from Wire Fence camp

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Nap time

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Kevin and Jamie cooking dinner

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I have no idea

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School Section Canyon hike

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Wade riding an old tire through Sand Knolls Rapid

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Jamie and Hannah reunited in the IK

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Family tradition photo with Gunnison Butte in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wasatch Front Dual Sport Ride – July 2017

 

1 July, 2017

Shortly after Jamie got here motorcycle license, I took her on a dual sport ride through some of the canyons near our home.  I just completed a similar loop, this time with Jason, since Jamie was off backpacking in Yellowstone.

We left home at about 10:30 AM and rode up Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Being a Saturday on a holiday weekend, the canyon was extremely crowded.  The traffic was moving slowly, which allowed us time to enjoy the scenery.

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The “S” turn in Big Cottonwood Canyon

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Entering Brighton

 

We rode around the Brighton loop, then headed up towards Guardsman Pass and over to Midway.

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Guardsman Pass

We took a short detour into town to buy fuel, then started on the Mill Canyon dirt road from Midway to Tibble Fork Reservoir (Snake Creek Road).

The lower portion of the road was very wash-boarded and covered in small, black gravel.  That made the surface very slippery – especially since we had more air in our tires than normal, since most of our ride would be on pavement.

Jason has been trying to learn how to ‘drift’ his motorcycle around corners.  He finally got the back end to break loose – but with the loose conditions, his rear tire slid out from under him.  He went down fast and hard, but luckily nothing was hurt other than his pride.  I had the GoPro running, but unfortunately a tree blocked my view of the actual crash.

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Jason gives the thumbs up, indicating he is okay

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Mill Canyon, or Snake Creek Road

To spice up our ride a little bit, we took a side spur road called Big Flat (#420) which climbed up the mountain to the Ridge Trail (#157).  Big Flat was fairly steep and rutted, and there were a lot of trees hanging over the ‘clean’ side of the road.  The road wasn’t too difficult, but it would be a challenge for beginners.

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The beginning of the Big Flat road

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Some sections of Big Flat were loose and rocky, but not terribly difficult

We stopped half way up for lunch and enjoyed the views from the shade of some Aspen trees (You can tell that it’s an Aspen tree because the way it is).

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Lunch stop

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The view from lunch

After lunch, we began our single-track adventure.  I had never before ridden this portion of the Ridge Trail.  The trail here is narrower than the more popular sections farther south.  It also had more side hill exposure than some other sections (but not as much as the middle section near Forest Lake).

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Jason approaching the single-track

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Jason making the final climb to the ridge

Whenever I ride single track after riding pavement, I struggle for a while.  The riding technique is different, and it takes me a while to adapt.  On pavement, you mostly sit and twist the throttle.  On narrow single track, you need to do a lot more maneuvering and maintain good balance while you try to pick the cleanest line.  Thus, this trail was a bit spooky for me and Jason.  I think if we did our normal pre-dirt warm-up drills we would have done much better.  It would have also helped if we let a little air out of our tires.  We didn’t really have any problems on the trail, but we rode slower than usual, which requires even more effort to maintain balance.  Even though we were a bit nervous, we enjoyed the trail and the scenery from the trail.

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The Ridge Trail (#157)

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The trail always seems steeper in real life than in photos

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The trail had a mixture of meadows, Apsen trees, and Pine trees

 

The single-track crosses the dirt road from Tibble Fork near Pole Line Pass.  We didn’t have time to ride more of the single-track, so we opted to ride the dirt road.  For me, this was by far the scariest part of our ride due to all of the ATVs and side-by-sides on the road.  The dust was very thick and some them were going way too fast for a crowded holiday weekend.

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Heading down from Pole Line Pass

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Some portions of the road have serious cliff explosure

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Other sections follow the beautiful stream

 

Last year they did some major renovation to the dam at Tibble Fork Reservoir.  The reservoir is now much deeper and larger.  And it is a lot more popular.  The parking lot was full and there were cars parked along the side of the road.  The beach was packed, and there were dozens of people out on the lake in their kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.

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Tibble Fork Reservoir

From here it was pavement back to home.  The ride down American Fork Canyon was enjoyable, but you could feel the heat rise as you approached the valley.

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Riding down American Fork Canyon

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American Fork Canyon

We returned home at about 3:30 PM, covering approximately 95 miles.

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GPS track

Here are some videos from our ride:

Part 1 – Big Cottonwood Canyon to Big Flat

 

Part 2 – The Ridge Trail single-track

 

Part 3 – Pole Line Pass, Tibble Fork, and American Fork Canyon

Posted in Dirt biking, Uncategorized, Utah - Northern | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Grand Staircase-Escalante – May 2017

May 25-27, 2017

There has been a lot of controversy over the recent National Monuments formed in Utah.  But one thing I will say, is that it gives me a name for my adventure report!

This trip has been in a gradual planning phase for a few years now.  I have been studying other trip reports, watching weather forecasts, and checking on road conditions.  As soon as my son and daughter’s scheduled aligned, we set down a date and hoped for good weather.  We lucked out.  A few weeks earlier saw severe rain storms, which would have made some of the roads impassable.  We had hot and dry weather, with a fair amount of wind.  Temperatures were perfect at night for sleeping, and great during the day while riding, but hot for hiking.  The only real downside was the infestation of gnats.  We had a lot of gnats at both of our campsites.

Here is my highlights video.  More detailed road report videos are included farther down.

We left home late on Wednesday afternoon and drove to Cannonville where we stayed in the Grand Staircase Inn.  A fitting way to start our Grand Staircase adventure.

The next morning, we drove to Escalante and stopped at the National Monument visitor’s center just as they opened at 8:00 AM.  We picked up a backcountry camping permit and checked on road conditions one more time.

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Jason caught a lizard

We stopped at the Renegade Restaurant and ate a huge breakfast.  This allowed us to have a late lunch and a late dinner, which we would need due to the busy day’s schedule.

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Renegade breakfast

Here is a portion of the map provided by the visitor’s center, followed by my GPS track.

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A portion of the visitor’s map

 

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GPS track for most of our ride

Grand Staircase B May2017

GPS track for the southern part

The green track is day one, blue is day two, and teal is day three.

Day 1

Hole-In-The-Rock Road

We parked at a primitive camping area about six miles east of Escalante, just a few hundred feet down the Hole-In-The-Rock Road (road #200).

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Almost to the trailhead

While unloading the trailer and rigging our bikes, a nearby camper came over to ask where we were headed with so much gear.  We told him of our plans, and he suggested an alternate route.  His description sounded great, so we decided to follow his route and abandon ours.  This turned out to be a good decision as it added some fun and scenic roads and eliminated about 50 miles of pavement with strong headwinds and heavy Memorial weekend traffic.

Devils Garden

Getting ready to ride

It always takes longer to rig the bikes than I think it should, so we didn’t get started until after 11:00 AM.

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All clean and ready to go

The first part of the Hole-In-The-Rock Road is a nice gravel road.  The speed limit is posted at 35 mph, but it would be very easy to cruise at 50 mph on much of the road.

The road was in pretty good condition.  In fact, we passed two road graders coming back from Hole-In-The-Rock after finishing grading the road.  We were actually surprised to find that most of the roads in our 300 mile loop were recently graded.

HITR Road

Hole-In-The-Rock Road

The first part of the road varies between gravel, hard packed dirt, and sections of loose sand.  Luckily the sand wasn’t very deep, so it didn’t cause us much trouble.  The worst sections had wash board bumps in the bottom of ruts, buried in 2” of sand.

After about 10 miles, we took a short side spur to Devil’s Garden.  This is a fascinating set of rock formations.  It reminds me of a mini-Arches National Park mixed with Goblin Valley.  This would be a great place for families with young children to enjoy a picnic.  There are picnic tables and restrooms, and plenty of hoodoos and arches to explore.

 

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Hoodoos at Devil’s Garden

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One of several arches

We didn’t stay long since we had a long ride ahead of us.  We made good time as we rode in a southwesterly direction toward Hole-In-The-Rock.

Our next stop, Dance Hall Rock, is about 40 miles down the road.  The pioneers that blazed this amazing trail held dances here while work crews constructed the wagon road down through the slot to the Colorado River.  I was surprised at how uneven the sandstone floor was.  I suspect they suffered a few sprained ankles at their dances.

 

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A short hike to Dance Hall Rock

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A closer look

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The uneven floor

 

The road to this point was pretty easy, and somewhat boring.  But after Dance Hall Rock, the road immediately gets a lot rockier in spots.  It wasn’t overly difficult for us on our small dirt bikes, but it could be a challenge for those on larger adventure bikes lacking good off-road skills.  It would also require higher ground clearance for 4-wheeled vehicles.

We were getting tired by this time, and we were anxious for a change.  Luckily the last few miles get even more interesting with slabs of slickrock, more twists and turns, and more ups and downs.  A little variety really helps you stay focused.  The scenery also improves as you near the end of the road.

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Jason cruising along

HITR Approach

Jamie approaching Hole-In-The-Rock

We arrived at Hole-In-The-Rock just after another group left, so we had the place to ourselves.  We hiked (or hobbled) part way down the slot to eat lunch in the shade.  We had now ridden about 58 miles and finally wore off that huge breakfast.  It was nice to sit and relax and ponder how in the world those pioneers got horses and wagons down through this slot.  It was truly an amazing feat.

 

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We made it

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Jamie and Jason at Hole-In-The-Rock

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Jamie starting down

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Lunch in the shade

 

Fifty Mile Bench

Our plan was to ride back towards the car and camp somewhere before reaching the turnoff into Left Hand Collet Canyon.  We were also anxious for a change of pace, so we took some side roads and explored the area a little on our way back.

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Heading back from Hole-In-The-Rock

Our first side spur was to an old coral at Fifty Mile Spring.  That would have made an excellent campsite, but it is too early in the day for us to set up camp.

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Approaching Fifty Mile Spring

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An old coral

After discussing our options, we decided to try riding up Sooner Slide (Road #280) to Fifty Mile Bench (#290).  If the road wasn’t in too bad of condition, it would bypass most of the rockier sections of the Hole-In-The-Rock road.

This turned out to be a highlight of the trip.  The climb up Sooner Slide was long and steady, but the road was in pretty good condition.  Once we arrived on Fifty Mile Bench, the road was an absolute blast!  The road was fairly smooth (it hadn’t just been graded) as it wound through the Juniper trees.

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Fifty Mile Mountain in the background, Fifty Mile Bench part way up

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Climbing up Sooner Slide

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View from Sooner Slide

 

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Cruising along Fifty Mile Bench

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Lots of fun twists and turns

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One of the rockier sections

 

We eventually had to head back down off the bench, by taking road #260.  This northern end was significantly steeper than Sooner Slide, and the road was very rocky and eroded.  There were many bowling ball sized rocks and ruts about 2’ deep.  It was a tiring descent, but we all made it down without incident.  This would have been a real challenge for anyone on a larger bike or even an SUV.

Fifty Mile Bench (12)

Starting the descent from Fifty Mile Bench

Fifty Mile Bench (13)

Some sections were a lot rockier than this

Fifty Mile Bench (16)

It was a long and steep descent

Our last side spur of the day was towards Batty Pass Caves.  We never found the caves, but we did find a great place to camp.

 

Batty Pass Camp B (1)

Jamie teaching Jason a little yoga

Batty Pass Camp (1)

Freeze-dried dinner coming up

We quickly set up camp, took a short break while fighting off gnats, and ate our freeze-dried dinner.  The wind blew most of the time, sometimes keeping the gnats away.

It was hot during the day, but at night the temperature was just right for sleeping.  Everyone got a fairly decent night’s sleep – especially for a first night in a sleeping bag.

Day 2

We awoke to another gorgeous, sunny day, but the wind was still blowing.  For breakfast, we thought we would try scrambled eggs.  Prior to the trip I purchased a plastic egg cartoon that would hold six eggs.  Unfortunately, two of them broke sometime between lunch and dinner the previous day.  Fortunately, I was smart enough to place them in a zip-lock bag.  Otherwise, Jason’s backpack would have been a horrible mess.

Jason ate two of the remaining eggs, while Jamie and I each had one.  We supplemented with granola bars and clementines.

Twenty Mile Dinosaur Tracks

We broke camp and hit the road shortly after 9:00 AM.  We quickly buzzed down Hole-In-The-Rock Road and turned into Left Hand Collet Canyon.  We stopped to check out the Twenty Mile Dinosaur tracks, but we were not particularly impressed.  Maybe we didn’t find the right place, but what appeared to be a serious of footprints didn’t really look like dinosaur tracks that I have seen in other places.  But based on this report, I think we found them: http://www.gjhikes.com/2014/08/twenty-mile-dinosaur-tracks.html

Dinosaur Hike

In search of dinosaur tracks

Dinosaur Tracks (3)

They are mounds rather than dents

Left Hand Collet

Left Hand Collet Canyon (road #230) was really fun.  The road follows a stream bed for several miles, thus it is subject to frequent washouts.  Luckily the road was in good condition and made for a really fun ride.

 

LHC (3)

Riding up the stream bed

LHC (2)

A fun canyon

LHC (1)

The popular photo rock

We had to stop at one point because my right-side mirror mount came loose.  The threads had stripped, so we had to remove the mirror before we could continue.  This was our only mechanical issue of the entire trip.

Near the end, the road climbs out of the streambed and goes up a few switchbacks, bringing you out on top with a junction for Croton Road to the left, or Smoky Mountain Road to the right.  Our original plan was to ride south on Smoky Mountain Road, but the guy at the car said Croton was in good condition this year and a much better option.  We ended up returning via Smoky Mountain Road, so we verified his report.

Croton Road

I was a little nervous starting down Croton Road (#340) because I didn’t have a track loaded in my GPS.  But the guy that recommended it said it was easy to follow and well signed.  It turned out to be a great ride.

Croton Road sits in between Smoky Mountain Road and Hole-In-The-Rock, being just west of Fifty Mile Mountain.  The road eventually swings around to the west and ties back into Smoky Mountain Road.

The first part of the ride was up in the Juniper trees.  The road was in good shape, so we were able to ride pretty fast.  The road crisscrosses a ridgeline several times, offering great views both to the east and the west.  We kept wondering why anyone would build a road here – but we were glad they did.

 

Croton Road (3)

Riding along the ridge

Croton Road (1)

First look at Lake Powell

Eventually the road drops in elevation and you get your first glimpse of Lake Powell.  There is little shade after you leave the higher elevations, and it was about time to eat lunch.  We finally found some shade at the junction with the Grand Bench Road.  The side spur crosses a small stream with Tamarisk trees.  Normally I don’t like Tamarisk trees, but we were glad for a little shade.

From the junction, the road works its way west until it finally merges into Smoky Mountain Road.

Alstrom Point

Alstrom Point is a side spur off the Croton Road to an overlook above Gunsight Butte and Lake Powell.  This was a really fun and fast road, and the scenery at the end was wonderful.

 

Alstrom Point Road (2)

Cruising out to Alstrom Point

Alstrom Point Road (1)

Getting close

Jamie was getting pretty tired by this time, so she was glad for a half hour break while we watched the boats down on the lake.

Alstrom Point (1)

Gunsight Butte

After our break, we hurried to Big Water for a promised ice cream bar.  We also needed to buy gas and refill our water bottles.  We each used about two gallons of water during the past 24 hours, and we were almost out.  My mileage read 206 miles from the car to Big Water, and my low fuel light came on about 10 miles out of town (with a 3.5 gallon tank and 3 liters of extra fuel).  As usual for dual sport rides, Jason and I averaged about 55 miles per gallon while Jamie got around 60.

Smoky Mountain Road

After a break in Big Water, we rode back the way we came.  Our original plan was to ride west on Highway 89 for about 11 miles and then go north via Cottonwood Canyon.  We decided that we didn’t want to fight the strong headwind with the heavy Memorial weekend traffic, and that it may be difficult to find a campsite in Cottonwood Canyon.  So, we headed back towards Escalante via Smoky Mountain Road (#300).

Shortly after passing the turnoff to the Croton Road, we reached the base of the Kelly Grade – a steep climb up the face of the cliff.  This reminded me somewhat of the switchbacks on the Burr Trail, the Shaffer Trail, and the Muley Dugway.

 

Smoky Mtn Road (2)

Starting up the Kelly Grade

Smoky Mtn Road (3)

Part way up

Kelly Grade B (2)

Half way up the Kelly Grade

Kelly Grade (3)

Panoramic view from the top

Kelly Grade B (5)

Selfie time

 

We stopped at the top to take some photos and visited briefly with a couple that were set to camp right on the rim.  The wind was really strong there, so it didn’t look like an ideal campsite to me – at least with this strong wind blowing.

We continued on, looking for a place to camp.  The first site we found was near Pilot Knoll.  The campsite wasn’t as nice as the previous camp, but it would do.  It offered some shelter from the wind, but the ground was mostly sandstone so it was hard to stake our tents.

Smoky Camp (1)

Camp #2

Smoky Camp A (3)

A view of camp

Smoky Camp C (2)

Seeking shelter from the gnats

 

 

Seeking shelter from the gnats

It had been a long day, putting in about 138 miles.  This may be a record for Jamie and Jason.

We fought off the gnats for a while and then heated up our Dinty Moore beef stew and enjoyed a freeze-dried dessert.  Once again, the temperature was just right for sleeping.

Day 3

After enjoying some freeze-dried granola and berries, we packed up and got started by 9:30 AM.  The temperature dropped just after we starting, making for a brisk morning ride.

As with most of the other roads, Smoky Mountain Road had recently been graded, so we made good time.

Smoky Mtn Road (1)

Somewhere along Smoky Mountain Road

Smoky Mtn Road (4)

It was mostly good road

Alvey Wash Road

Smoky Mountain Road eventually becomes Alvey Wash Road, which leads right into the town of Escalante.

Alvey Road (2)

Alvey Wash Road

Alvey Road (1)

Jamie on Alvey Wash Road

 

Alvey Road (3)

Crossing the wash

According to the map I picked up at the visitor’s center when we got our camping permit, it looks like there is a dirt road, called Cedar Wash (#210), that leads back to Hole-In-The-Rock.  Had I known earlier, we may have taken that route back.  But since we didn’t think of it until after the trip, we ended up riding about six miles of pavement on Highway 12 to get back to the car.

We arrived at the car about 11:30 AM – much earlier than we expected.  Our total mileage was about 294 miles.  We quickly loaded up the trailer and drove the scenic part of Highway 12 to Boulder to get some lunch.  Being Memorial weekend, the restaurants were very crowded, so we ended up buying a burrito at a food truck at the Anasazi State Park.

We arrived at home with enough daylight left to unload and wash off all of the gear, bringing the end to another fantastic dirt biking adventure.

Statistics

  • Water: 2 gallons/person/day.
  • Max fuel range: 206 miles.
  • Car to Hole-In-The-Rock: 58 miles (including Devil’s Garden and Dance Hall Rock).
  • Fifty Mile Bench: 16 miles.
  • Left Hand Collet Road: 12 miles.
  • Croton Road: 63 miles.
  • Alstrom Point: 7 miles, one-way.
  • Smoky Mountain Road: 80 miles.

 

 

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Defeating A Lawnmower Auto-Choke – Apr 2017

There is only one thing that really annoys me with my new Honda Lawnmower – the motor often dies when trying to mow tall or wet grass.  This is caused, primarily, by the auto-choke.  When the motor bogs down in the tall grass, the rpm drops, and then the auto-choke closes, causing the motor to die.

I figured out an easy way to defeat the auto-choke and thought I would share it in case others are struggling with the same problem.  The details are based on my Honda HRX217 lawnmower, but they should work for other mowers that use the same carburetor.  The motor is model GCV190.  It may be possible to adapt this approach for other brands and designs as well.

Mower Modifications:

My solution required me to drill three 1/8″ holes in the plastic shield around the carburetor.  I use a 16p nail and a piece of string.

The first hole is on the front.  Just be careful not to drill in too far and damage the carburetor.  Fasten one end of the string to the plastic shield and the other end to the nail, as shown below.

Three holes, a piece of string, and a nail

Drill another hole in the top of the shield.  This is used to store the nail when you don’t need to defeat the auto-choke.  Just make sure the nail won’t interfere with any moving parts on the carburetor.

The nail in storage position

The final photo shows the nail in position to defeat the auto-choke.  Remove the air filter so you can watch the choke butterfly valve.  Then move the choke mechanism so you can see the difference between open and closed positions.  With the motor cold, it should be in the closed position.  You want the nail to hold the choke in the open position (or choke off).  Figure out where to drill the hole so the nail will hold the mechanism in place.

The nail defeating the auto-choke

 

Operating procedures:

  1. Be sure the nail is in storage position when trying to start a cold motor.  This allows the auto-choke to operate normally.
    1. If your motor won’t start, check the nail – if you left it in defeat position after the last use, you may not be able to get the motor started.
  2. Begin mowing your lawn.  If the grass isn’t too long or wet, your mower may work just fine and there is no need to move the nail.
  3. If your motor bogs down and stalls, simply insert the nail in the ‘defeat’ position.  Make sure the nail goes behind the choke mechanism and passes through items on the top of the carburetor.  This will hold the nail in place, and the nail prevents the choke from closing.
  4. Finish mowing your lawn.  If you need to restart the motor while warm, there is no need to remove the nail.
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Sand Hollow RZR Ride – Mar 2017

Since Jason was still recovering from his broken arm and was unable to ride his dirt bike, we decided to rent two Polaris RZR 900s for spring break.  We rented from the Southern Utah Adventure Center in Hurricane, Utah, and rode right from the shop to the trail.

Sand Hollow Mar2017

Polaris RZR 900

We rode a loop of just over 55 miles that included portions of Sand Hollow and Warner Valley.

RZR Ride 2017

Our GPS track

The first few miles are paved.  Hurricane also ATVs and UTVs to ride the side streets as long as you obey all traffic laws.  Just after the pavement ended, we turned west and headed towards Sand Hollow on one of the lesser traveled roads.  Luckily I plotted an approximate GPS route prior to the trip, because it was easy to loose the trail as it entered the sand dunes.  This road turned out to be much rougher and bumpier than I expected.  Last time we rode RZRs in this area we were able to ride much faster because the washes were smooth and sandy.  This year everything was quiet hard packed and bumpy.

Sand Hollow Mar2017-003

Taking a break

We eventually made our way to the rim overlooking Warner Valley.

Sand Hollow Mar2017-004

Overlooking Warner Valley

The red rock formations along the rim are quite interesting, and there are a lot of technical obstacles for those more daring than us – we opted to stick with the easier routes and not risk damaging our rental machines (or us).

RZR Mar2107 (1)

Snack time

We eventually found the road that leads down off the bluff to the western portion of Warner Valley, which was our route back to Hurricane.

One of the machines overheated (I guess we drive too slow), so we had to stop and let it cool off.  Luckily it was time for lunch anyway.

We didn’t bother to stop at Fort Pearce this time, but we did stop to see the dinosaur footprints.

Sand Hollow Mar2017-010

Jason and Jamie at the dinosaur track parking area

I have never understood how dinosaur footprints can be preserved in the sandstone.  It seems that a dinosaur would have had to walk in moist sand, leaving the footprint, and then somehow the sand turned to stone before a storm washed it away.

Sand Hollow Mar2017-012

Dinosaur footprint

Here is some video from our ride:

 

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Replacing My KTM Front Brake – Mar 2017

On my last few dirt biking rides last fall, I noticed my front brake was getting pretty soft.  So, I figured it was time for new brake pads and change the brake fluid.

For the most part, I have been happy with the stock brake pads, but I read good reviews of carbon fiber pads, so I thought I would try them.

nissin-brake-mar2017-001

EBC carbon fiber brake pads

nissin-brake-mar2017-008

New rear brake pads

I have also, on occasion, had the dreaded “Brembo soft brake” problem.  When the bike has been sitting for several weeks, sometimes when I pull the bike out of the shed, my front brake has gone completely flat.  This is a common problem with Brembo brakes, and there are many theories as to why this happens.  There are also many remedies that provide temporary relief.  The easiest temporary fix is to simply pull the brake lever into the bars and strap it there for a few hours.  Somehow this magically makes your brakes work again, but it doesn’t really solve the root problem.

Since I was planning on bleeding the brakes, I thought now would be a good time to replace the Brembo master cylinder assembly with a Nissin assembly.  From what I have read on the Internet, this is the only ‘real’ solution.  I looked on ebay for a used master cylinder from a Honda CRF, but only found cheap imitations.

I decided to order a new brake assembly.  I also ordered a new banjo bolt since the thread depth is different on the Nissin as opposed to the Brembo.  In my case, I needed a hydraulic brake switch since I made my bike street legal.  The brake assembly part number is 45510-MEN-305.

nissin-brake-mar2017

New master brake assembly

nissin-brake-mar2017-004

My Brembo front brake with RAM Mount ball for my mirror

Installation was really quite easy.  I placed a paper towel under the banjo bolt to collect any brake fluid drips, then removed the banjo bolt.  I then removed the brake assembly and installed the Nissin in its place.

Nissin brake Mar2017-006.JPG

Nissin front brake master cylinder

I added brake fluid to the master cylinder, and then carefully flicked the brake lever.  Each time I flicked it, air bubbles came out of the line.  I made sure the brake line didn’t have any high points prior the master cylinder so all of the air would rise to the cylinder.  I also tapped the line and the master cylinder periodically.  I continued to do this until no more air bubbles came out.  The brake lever felt firm, so I didn’t even bother to bleed the line.

My installation took longer than normal because my bike is street legal.  I had to connect the hydraulic switch and clean up the wiring.  I also had to move my RAM Mount ball where my mirror attaches because the mount of the Nissin is 90* rotated from the Brembo.  I had to use a different ball mount and move my ignition map switch to make everything fit and clear the throttle cables.

nissin-brake-mar2017-010

New bar arrangement with mirror mount ball

Now I just need to get out riding to break in these new brake pads and make sure everything is solid!

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