Cedar Mesa Adventure Ride – Apr-May 2015

Apr. 30-May 2, 2015

For some time Jamie has wanted to do a multi-day motorcycle adventure and camp along the trail. She was able to break free for a few days after finishing another semester at the University of Utah, so we put a trip plan together.

I had read several trip reports on AdvRider.com of scenic rides in southeastern Utah near Mexican Hat. The more I learned about the area, the more I wanted to go explore it. The area is rich with incredible scenery and vistas, ancient Indian ruins, and history from the Mormon Hole-In-The-Rock expedition.

The trick was to stitch together the most interesting trails in a way that would be appropriate for our small dirt bikes. We could take trails usually avoided by larger adventure bikes, but we wanted to minimize our time on paved roads – especially with 65 mph traffic. We also wanted to avoid trails that were overly technical or had miles of deep sand.

After several iterations, we came up with a plan that included Butler Wash, a portion of Comb Wash, Valley of the Gods, John’s Canyon, Goosenecks of the San Juan, Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Snow Flat Road, Elk Mountain Road, Cheese & Raisins (Whiskers Draw), and a portion of Cottonwood Wash. We also worked out a visit to at least one Indian ruin each day.

Be sure to watch the highlights video in HD on YouTube:

Participants included:

  • Dee Gardiner (trip leader) – KTM 350
  • Jamie Gardiner – KTM 350
  • Bob Dawson – KTM 525
  • Scott Barton – DR-Z400E
  • Ross Vellinga – KLR 685
  • Scott Connors – KLR 650
  • Jordan Connors – XR350

The total loop worked out to be about 237 miles and took 2.5 days to complete. We started at 10:00 AM on Thursday, April 30, and finished our ride at noon on Saturday, May 2. The following map shows our route, with a different color representing each day’s ride.

Three-day loop covering 237 miles

Three-day loop covering 237 miles

We left Salt Lake City after work on Wednesday. Half of the group stayed in a motel in Monticello while the other half camped at the trailhead. Prior to meeting at the trailhead, we drove over to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and picked up our reserved permits to hike into Moonhouse Ruin.

Day 1: Butler Wash, Comb Wash, Valley of the Gods, John’s Canyon

Our plan was to meet at the trailhead where Hwy 95 crosses Comb Wash at 9:00 AM. We arrived right on time, and after loading our bikes, hit the trail at about 10:00 AM. We rode pavement back along Hwy 95 through Comb Ridge and turned south into Butler Wash. Here is a map showing our first day’s route.

Day 1 - 88.5 miles

Day 1 – 88.5 miles

Butler Wash turned out to be sandier than I expected. It wasn’t deep sand, but it did take a little while to get used to riding a heavily loaded dirt bike in sandy conditions. Jamie and I had helmet radios, and after checking her status a few times I had confidence that she would do just fine. She ended up completing the trip without a single crash (not everyone can make that claim).

In spite of the sand, Butler Wash was a fun ride. We stopped about 2/3 of the way through and hiked to Monarch Cave ruin. This hike was not very difficult, and it was interesting to see some of the relics at the site. Jamie noted; “this is like a museum without the museum”.

Jamie hiking to Monarch Cave Ruin

Monarch Cave Ruin

After completing the hike we finished Butler Wash, took Hwy 163 to Comb Wash and rode down to the San Juan River. We got stopped for construction along the highway, which turned out to be a good thing. We were later able to ride all the way to Valley of the Gods without any traffic coming up behind us. Being on small dirt bikes I find high-speed highways the most nerve racking, and it was nice to just cruise along at 55 mph without cars passing us.

Comb Wash had the most sand and the deepest sand of our entire journey. Those on heavier KLRs struggled and had a few crashes through this section. But for those of us on smaller dirt bikes, this was one of the most enjoyable trails of the route. The trail has several tight banked turns as it winds down the wash towards the San Juan River.

We ate lunch in the shade of a cottonwood tree near the bank of the river. We enjoyed this break and a chance to get out of the sun since the temperature was in the 80s.

Lunch near the San Juan River

After lunch we wanted to visit San Juan Hill – the last and hardest hill climb of the Hole-In-The-Rock expedition, River House Ruin, and the remains of the old Barton Trading Post. The Barton’s that were killed here were ancestors of Scott Barton, so that added special meaning to our visit.

San Juan Hill

Scott near his ancestor's trading post

Scott near his ancestor’s trading post

There was a steep rocky section of the trail leading to those sites, and Jamie and I didn’t feel like attempting it with our fully loaded bikes (even though the KLRs made it just fine). In hindsight, this is my only regret of the trip – we should have made the climb so that we could visit all three historic sites.

We walked up the hill and down the trail to the base of San Juan Hill. Since we were in our motorcycle boots we decided not to walk all the way over to River House Ruin. We had already visited it on our San Juan River trip a few years ago. The rest of the group stopped to see the remains of the Barton trading post, but only Bob made it all the way to River House Ruin. It is unfortunate that we were so close, but missed out on that spectacular ruin.

After getting the group back together we road back up Comb Wash. Once again those on larger bikes struggled. They were excited to spend some time on the pavement, whereas those of us on smaller bikes were not looking forward to the pavement.

Luckily we had no traffic as we worked our way west to the Valley of the Gods trail. The Valley of the Gods trail is an easy 17 mile ride past a number of large monoliths. It was a relaxing and scenic ride.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods

By the time we reached Hwy 261 it was getting late, so we decided to ride out to John’s Canyon and find a place to camp. John’s Canyon Road was a fun ride. It was also about 17 miles long. It reminded us of the White Rim trail since it followed a plateau above a river. We found an excellent grassy place to camp about a mile up John’s Canyon. Most of us enjoyed steak and potatoes for dinner.

Jamie and Bob enjoying the ride along John’s Canyon Road

Jamie’s tent and bike

Steak for dinner

Sunset in John’s Canyon

We were all tired from the heat, the hikes, and the 88 miles of riding. It was nice to sit and relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery at camp. As the sun set we even got serenaded by a bunch of frogs.

Day 2: Goosenecks of the San Juan, Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Snow Flat Road

We awoke to another beautiful sunny day. After a nice breakfast (Jamie and I had our family’s “Super Scrambled Eggs”) we packed up and rode back out along the John’s Canyon Road and out to Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park.

Day 2 - 100 miles

Day 2 – 100 miles

Breakfast time

Jamie and Dee at the Goosenecks Overlook

We then rode down to Mexican Hat for fuel, water, and an ice cream. After a short break, we headed to the Moki Dugway. I first encountered the Moki Dugway many years ago on a spring break trip during my college days. I then visited it again while doing shuttle for our San Juan River trip. But for most of the group, this was their first time here. As you approach the dugway you wonder where the road goes. It climbs 1200’ to the top of the mesa, and the road continues on almost directly above where it approaches the bottom of the cliff. The switchbacks are really spectacular. The scenery is also spectacular, so you really have to focus on staying on the road. We stopped at the top to enjoy the view and take some pictures.

Dee and Jamie at the top of Moki Dugway

Panorama from Moki Dugway

Our next stop was Muley Point. We ate our lunch overlooking John’s Canyon Road and the San Juan River. You could also see Monument Valley off in the distance. It is amazing how far you can see from this vantage point. This is another popular place to camp, but it would have been quite exposed to the wind we had the day before.

Lunch near Muley Point

Panorama from Muley Point

After lunch we tried to take an old dirt road that paralleled the pavement, but it quickly became obvious that this road is no longer in use. It took us a while to regroup back on the main road, but once we did, we made good time riding the pavement to Snow Flat Road.

I wanted to ride the entire length of Snow Flat Road, but since we didn’t want to ride through the sand in Comb Wash, we decided to do an out-and-back on the trail.

Snow Flat Road had recently been graded, so there was a fair amount of soft silt to ride through. It wasn’t overly difficult, but I was surprised that the road had so much loose material.

Our destination was a side spur to the trailhead for Moonhouse Ruin. We were lucky enough to reserve 7 out of 20 hiking permits for the day. The short spur down to the trailhead was perhaps the most enjoyable trail of the entire trip. It had fun twists and turns as it meandered through the Juniper trees. There were even some fun banked turns.

After changing into our hiking shoes we began the hike down the cliff to the ruin. It was a fun hike and the ruins were well worth seeing.

Hiking to Moonhouse Ruin

Moonhouse Ruin

Moonhouse Ruin

Upon completion of our hike, we rode back the way we came and continued north on Hwy 261. We found a nice place to camp near the bottom of Elk Mountain Road. The temperature was a little cooler than the night before since we were at a higher elevation.

Day 3: Elk Mountain Road, Cheese & Raisins (Whiskers Draw), Posey Overlook

Jamie had a wedding reception to attend in Salt Lake that evening, so we got an earlier start for our last day of riding. It was a little chilly as we climbed in elevation and rode between the “Bears Ears”. The Elk Mountain Road was in pretty good condition and it was fun to ride through the pines instead of open desert.

Day 3 - 48.5 miles

Day 3 – 48.5 miles

Panorama from Elk Mountain Road

We made good time and decided to take a fun ride on a trail the Jeep community calls “Cheese and Raisins”. I have no idea why it is called that, but it was a really fun trail with a lot of fun banked turns. There was one semi-challenging part where the trail crosses Whiskers Draw, and there were a number of deep ruts that required caution. Nevertheless, it was a really fun ride.

Jamie crossing Whiskers Draw

From there we rode out to Posey Overlook. We hadn’t seen many other people on our entire trip, so I was surprised to see how many people hauled their camp trailers out to the edge of the cliff on top of Comb Ridge. There were campers at almost every possible pullout. The view of Comb Ridge and Comb Wash was spectacular. It seems that I keep using that word – but that is because the entire trip really was spectacular.

Group shot (except for Jamie) at Posey Overlook above Comb Wash

Our last stop was a short hike to Tower House Ruin at the head of Butler Wash.

Tower House Ruin

Tower House Ruin

We arrived back at our cars at noon, packed up and headed for home. Those in my car decided to take the scenic route past Lake Powell while the others went via Moab. We stopped for a hamburger at Stan’s Burger Shack in Hanksville, which is a tradition amongst adventure riders.

A few in the group suffered a few crashes along the ride, but there were no serious injuries. Jordan broke off his front brake lever, but was able to rig up a makeshift lever with some vise-grips and tape. I believe everyone enjoyed the trip and felt that it was well worth the time. The riding had good variety for our skill level, the scenery was spectacular, and we had great weather. It was a great trip!

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Clake SLR Left Hand Rear Brake (LHRB) – Apr 2015

After installing a Rekluse auto-clutch I quickly learned that a left hand rear brake (LHRB) would be a great safety feature – especially for gnarly descents.  The only LHRB I could find at the time was also provided by Rekluse, but it is merely a modified bicycle brake system and I always felt that it was kind of weak. A few months ago an Australian company by the name of Clake (for “clutch-brake”) introduced a new product called a “staggered lever retrofit”, or SLR.  It looked like a much more solid design, so I decided to try one. Clake is a fairly small company and they have been swamped with orders from all around the world.  This, plus the slow shipping from Australia to the US meant that it would take about one month to receive my SLR kit.  Unfortunately it also meant that making contact and getting customer support was very challenging.  Luckily for me, a fellow inmate on AdvRider.com, who lives in Australia, offered to act as middle man and help me sort out a few problems. I was beginning to think my money had been lost and that I would never receive the SLR, but it finally arrived about one month after placing the order.

Clake SLR kit

I was excited to install the new brake lever and test it out.  I began by removing the Rekluse LHRB.  My excitement quickly turned back to frustration when I realized that my kit was missing the two banjo fittings that screw into the ends of the brake line.  That meant I had to contact customer support yet again (thanks to my middleman) and wait about 3 weeks for the missing parts to arrive. Furthermore, my kit did not include any instructions.  The Clake website had a video of how to mount the brake lever assembly to the handlebar, but nothing about converting the rear brake master cylinder or how to bleed the brake line. Since I had already installed the Rekluse kit, it was pretty easy to figure out how to install this unit.  Notice that in the lower ziplock bag in the above photo there is a black cylindrical adapter and a rubber o-ring.  These both go inside the rear brake master cylinder reservoir.  Start by removing the brake fluid from the reservoir and then carefully place the o-ring in the bottom.  Then carefully screw the black adapter into the reservoir.  As it tightens, it should compress the o-ring, forming a tight seal around the adapter.  Essentially the adapter converts the reservoir to a short section of pipe – or brake line.  The new brake reservoir is up on the handlebar with the new lever assembly. The supplied DOT approved brake line then connects to the adapter via a banjo bolt.  Carefully route the line up to the handlebars, avoiding the exhaust pipe or any sharp objects that could wear a hole in the line.  Do not secure the line in place until after you have finished bleeding the system.

Master cylinder adapter

Note: The fluid sight glass on the old reservoir is no longer used to check fluid levels.  Do not worry about the air bubble that will likely be visible in there.  The sight glass is now outside of the fluid path.

Follow the Clake video instructions for mounting the lever unit to the clutch perch.  Then connect the other end of the brake line to this assembly (remove the plastic plug first).

Update: Clake now has a video showing how to properly mount and bleed the line.

Clake SLR mounted to handlebar

Mount the unit so that the reservoir cap is level.  You can adjust it for rider comfort after you finish bleeding the system. Remove the lever from the assembly for easier access to the reservoir cap. It took me about five tries to get the Rekluse LHRB system free of air bubbles.  Air can easily be trapped at any of the banjo bolts, the foot pedal plunger, or at the hand lever plunger.  Learning from that experience, I reverse bled the system this time, which worked much better. I had my son watch the Clake reservoir, ready with a syringe to suck out the brake fluid as I pushed it up from the bottom.  I used a second syringe, filled with brake fluid, to push fluid up the line from the brake caliper, past the foot assembly, and up to the hand lever.  Since the lower part of the line already had fluid, this prevented air from entering the existing brake line or caliper. I continued to push fluid up the line while tapping the foot brake lever, the hand lever, and tapping and wiggling the brake line.  I repeated this process until we stopped getting air bubbles out of the system. I then tightened up the caliper bleed screw and topped off the reservoir before putting the cap back on. I am not 100% certain that I got all of the air out of the system.  The brake works much better (stronger) than the Rekluse brake, but it still seems a little weaker than I expect.  But I think I am experiencing “springiness” rather than “sponginess”.  In other words, the brake rotor is flexing, which causes some give in the brake lever.  But even with this springiness I can lock up the rear wheel with a single finger on the lever. The next step is to adjust the levers for best comfort and access.  It took a little fiddling to get it where I wanted it.  The idea is to use your index finger on the brake lever and your two middle fingers on the clutch lever.  This is new for me, so it will take some getting used to.  But after one day of riding with the new system I am pretty happy with it.  It is particularly handy on gnarly descents – especially when I panic and put my feet down.  It is also great while sitting and cornering.

Lever alignment

Conclusion At first I was concerned about the stability of Clake since they never responded to any of my email queries.  But now that I have the system in place, I am very happy with it.  I think Clake is an honest company – they are just overloaded with orders.  For a small company, I suppose that is a good thing.

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Kanab – Mar 2015

Jamie wanted to go somewhere different this year for spring break, so we decided to go to Kanab, Utah. I had heard about two trails that sounded interesting; Hog Canyon and the Mail Drop Loop. But as I researched them, I found that they consisted of a lot of deep, soft sand. To be blunt – we don’t like sand. I think these trails would be really fun on an ATV or RZR, but they are brutal on a dirt bike. So I began looking for alternate trails.

Peek-A-Boo (Thur. Mar 19)

There is a small slot canyon just north of Kanab that the locals call “Peek-A-Boo”. Most maps list it as “Red Canyon”. We parked at the trailhead labeled “45-TH” on the following map.

Peek-A-Boo GPS track ~47 miles

Peek-A-Boo GPS track ~47 miles

The trail goes northeast from the parking area until you drop into Red Canyon. You then follow the wash to the west until you come to the beginning of the slot canyon. The slot canyon is a nice easy hike that is only about ¼ mile long.

Jamie is ready to ride

Like most of the trails near Kanab, this area is very sandy. We thought we would give it a try since it is only about 3.5 miles to the slot canyon. That would give us a chance to see how bad the sand was and then we could decide which trails to ride during our three-day vacation.

Even riding downhill is challenging

The sand was not as bad as I expected – it was worse. This is probably the deepest and softest sand I have ever ridden in. The trail had numerous ATV and truck ruts, so it was almost impossible to steer.

Jamie kicking up roost

A few short sections of the trail weren’t too bad, while other sections were extremely deep and soft. We both struggled along and made it okay without any crashes. But it was a real workout – even going downhill.

Once you drop into the wash the trail is much easier to ride. The wash bottom has thicker sand and gravel, so you can get some traction.

Dee at the slot canyon trailhead

The hike through the slot is very easy and short. It would be a great hike for young children.

Jamie entering the slot canyon

Peek-A-Boo slot canyon

Riding back to the car was much more difficult because we had to plow our way up hill. We stopped a few times to rest, but we both made it okay.

Once we got back to the car we grabbed our jackets and headed out on a dual-sport ride to explore the area without dealing with more sand.

We first rode around the loop containing the “Best Friends Animal Shelter”. I was totally surprised at how large this animal shelter was. There are several buildings, each dedicated to different kinds of animals. There is a home for dogs, puppies, cats, birds, horses, and probably many more. This was a very interesting and scenic little loop.

We then headed southwest on Hancock Road, which took us out to Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Jamie was three years old last time we were here, so she didn’t remember it at all. For that matter, I didn’t remember much either. We didn’t pay to enter the park and we had no interest in riding in the sand, but we did stop at a few viewpoints to enjoy the scenery.

Taking a break at Coral Pink Sandy Dunes

To add variety of our ride, we rode back on CR43 to Hwy 89. Both Hancock and CR43 were nice leisurely rides, but once we hit Hwy 89 the tension rose quickly. Our dirt bikes are fairly comfortable up to about 55 mph, but they get sketchy beyond that. Luckily we only got passed by one vehicle on our way back to the car, but those few miles of high-speed pavement reminded us why we like riding in the dirt.

After loading up the trailer and changing clothes, we headed into town and had a nice dinner at the Rocking V restaurant and then checked into our motel and had a nice soak in the hot tub.

Toroweap (Fri. Mar. 20)

Friday was our only full day of riding, so our plan was to ride out to Toroweap (about 60 miles) and back. My wife and I camped out there last year with our Jeep, but I wanted to try the ride on our dirt bikes. Note that to enter Grand Canyon National Park you need to have a street legal bike.

We were concerned that the road may be too muddy since they had a large snow storm in this area about one month earlier. We also worried that there would be huge ruts, making the ride fairly dangerous. But we found that the roads had been recently graded and they were in excellent condition. There was a light layer of loose gravel on top, but we found we could generally average about 40 mph and feel quite safe.

Toroweap GPS track ~160 miles

Toroweap GPS track ~160 miles

We decided to ride out on the Sunshine Trail (CR109) which starts about six miles west of Fredonia. This is the most popular route for cars and trucks, so we feared it might have a lot of wash board and dust, but the trail wasn’t too bad. The biggest struggle was just the length of the road – almost 50 miles before the trail gets interesting.

Jamie starting down the Sunshine Trail (CR109)

Along the way, Jamie called me on the radio and told me there were some wild horses. They crossed the road just before I got there and ran off to the south. They were too fast for me to pull out my camcorder, but I recorded a glimpse of them on my helmet camera.

A short time later Jamie spotted antelope along the side of the road. We both stopped to take some pictures, and they stopped to look at us. As we rode off, the antelope started running again and ran over the top of the hill and down the other side. The road went around the hill, so the antelope ran full speed across the road right in front of me. That was quite a sight.

Antelope

To break up the monotony, we took a detour down a side spur into Hack Canyon. We didn’t go all the way to the end of the road, but it was a fun ride down the canyon. I think the road leads to a hiking trailhead of some kind. I was surprised that this road had also been recently graded.

For further variety, I found a side trail that would bypass a portion of the main route (shown in red on the map). We started up this side trail, but it had a lot of deep ruts and we came to a closed gate. Since it was getting late we decided to stick with the main road so we could enjoy lunch out on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Jamie entering Grand Canyon National Park

Once you enter the National Park the road starts to get rougher, with the roughest section right at the end. It is about 7 miles from the park boundary to the rim, and this portion was really fun on a dirt bike. This is the section that most people don’t like in their trucks or Jeeps.

Toroweap overlook

We passed one truck just before we got to the rim, so we were the only ones there. We enjoyed our lunch break at a picnic table in the shade under a tree. After lunch we explored the rim and took some pictures. The view is certainly worth the long ride!

Looking up river

Looking west, with Lava Falls in the background

We took the Clayhole Road for our return trip. This road goes basically due north and comes out near Colorado City. In order to avoid some pavement, we wanted to take a shortcut on the Navajo Trail (shown in red) or CR241 (shown in orange). We could see the Navajo Trail going west, but found no trace of it going east. We started down CR241 but it didn’t seem like a very well-traveled road. We soon came to a gate and decided we had better turn back. We didn’t know if the road was open to the public since it passes through private property and perhaps Indian Reservation land. If this shortcut would have worked it would have saved us about 15 miles of pavement.

We had to ride about 20 miles of pavement to get back to the car. This was the scariest part of the trip. I let Jamie set the pace and she pushed it at about 60 mph almost the whole way back. Thus, it was about 20 minutes of high tension riding. Luckily we only had about four vehicles that had to pass us. There was a lot of traffic going west, but only a few cars going our way.

We rode a total of about 160 miles. Most of it was easy, but it was still a very tiring day. We quickly went back to the motel for a soak in the hot tub, a shower, and then a late dinner at the Three Bears Café across the street from our motel.

Little Creek Mesa (Sat. Mar. 21)

After the long ride on Friday, I feared we might be too stiff and sore to enjoy another day of riding, but we actually felt pretty good. Jamie said; “we came here to ride, so let’s ride”. That’s my girl!

A few years early a few families did a fun ride on Little Creek Mesa, which is in between Hurricane and Colorado City. Jamie was not able to make that trip, so I thought she might enjoy this ride.

We rode almost the same loop as last time, but this time we went clockwise (shown in orange) instead of counter-clockwise (shown in dashed blue).

Little Creek Mesa GPS track ~30 miles

Little Creek Mesa GPS track ~30 miles

I made one wrong turn which led us out to a cliff edge. I thought we might have a nice view from the edge, but the trail turned before we got there. So we back tracked and returned to the main loop. I took the spur to show Jamie where Scott and Bob took a cold swim last time we were here.

On the west edge of the mesa there are a view nice spurs to viewpoints overlooking Warner Valley, Sand Hollow, and Saint George.

Sand Hollow in the background

We continued on our loop and enjoyed lunch overlooking the abandoned golf course below the radio towers (LCTop).

Above the abandoned golf course

At LC6 rather than stay on the main road we took a rougher road that followed the rim. This road had some sandstone sections with some significant ledges. It wasn’t too hard for Jamie or me, but the families that were with us last time probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

At LCTop there is a trail that goes down the face of the cliff with several tight switchbacks. This looks like a very rough and rocky road.

This loop was about 30 miles long. We finished early, which gave us time to drive home and wash the bikes before dark. This ride was very fun. It had a lot of twists and turns through the trees and a few rocky sections to keep you on your toes, but nothing too difficult or scary. It was a nice relaxing ride in comparison to the two previous days – a great way to end a great trip!

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Tugger Tow Line

Burt and Troy of Highline Recreation have come out with another great product to complement their popular Tugger lift strap – a tow line.

Tow Line

For many years I have carried a Moose two strap, and I have used it on several occasions.  Luckily, I have only had to use it once to get towed out myself when my fuel line ruptured ten miles from the car.  I usually use it to tow someone else out.

Comparison

I was given the opportunity to test the new tow line that Burt and Troy developed.  I thought I would start by comparing it with the Moose strap I have been using.

I was somewhat surprised when I received the tow line and found it stored in a small camera case just like the one I use for my point-and-shoot camera.  I think Highline Recreation has other bags as well, but this one works fine and has more than enough room.

Storage bag comparison

The Moose strap is shown on the left, above, and comes with a hook-and-loop strap so you can secure it to your bike or backpack.  For a while I had it strapped to my right front fork, but I had to move it when I plated my bike because it would snag on my horn.

Moose strap attached to fork

The new tow line is a little bit smaller than the strap.  In fact, the tow line easily fits in the Moose bag with plenty of room to spare.

Moose strap on the left, Highline Recreation two line on the right

When I had to be towed back to the car, my biggest complaint with the Moose strap was that it was too short.  I was riding so close to my friend that was towing me that I couldn’t see the rocks and pot holes until it was too late.  Even though we were on a fairly easy dirt road, it was a very nerve racking experience.

So, I wanted to see how the two straps compare in length.  The Moose strap is approximately 11′ long.  I wished it were at least 3′ longer.

Moose strap is 11′ long

I was happy to see that the new tow line is significantly longer, measuring 16.5′.

Tow line is 16.5′ long

One advantage of the Moose strap is that the loop on the end can be used as a handle if you need to pull your buddies bike out of the gully.

Moose hand hold

You can do the same with the thinner tow line, but it may dig into your hands a bit more.

Tow line hand hold

Attachment Points

Great care must be taken when towing a motorcycle.  It is dangerous for the person being towed, as well as the person towing.  Each driver needs to pay attention, pick a clean and smooth line, and be careful not to get the line snagged on the tire, chain, or exhaust.

There are several ways to attach the tow line to the front bike.  One easy method is to secure the line to the right foot peg (if your chain is on the left).  This works well as long as the person being towed stays out to the right side of the tower so that you don’t snag the line on the tire.  I did find it difficult to get the tow line off the peg because it got wedged into the slot between the peg and the frame.

Tow line attached to foot peg

Other options may be available, depending on the type of bike being used, such as; the exhaust mount or a rear rack (as long as you don’t melt the line). See the Highline Recreation website for instructions on how to attach the line.  Better yet, if available, use an ATV or side-by-side to do the towing.

Getting ready to tow

You should never firmly attach the tow line to the bike being towed.  It is critical that the rear driver be able to quickly detach from the line in the event of an emergency.  Furthermore, it is advisable to not get towed downhill.

Perhaps the best way to use the line is to wrap it around the center of the handlebar a few times, then run it over to the left hand grip.  To get towed, simply hold the line tight to the grip.  To eject, just let go of the line and it will unwind from the handlebar and set you free.

Run the line under the center of the handlebar

Emergency release by letting go

Another method is to wrap the line once or twice around the left footpeg (opposite from the tower) and apply weight with your foot to keep the line secure.  Just lift your foot when you need to let go.

Wrapped around the left foot peg

Apply pressure with your foot

I didn’t like being towed with the line on the foot peg.  It was difficult to apply enough pressure to keep the line secure unless I wrapped the line around the peg three times, and then it wouldn’t quickly release when I lifted my foot.  It was also difficult to not run over the line.  The handlebar mount was much easier and safer.

It is advisable to practice emergency releases to make sure your line isn’t going to snag on something.  You should also agree with a means of communicating with the tower so you can control your speed and ride in a safe manner.

Field Testing

My daughter and I tested the tow line on the dry lake beds out at Knolls.  We didn’t really stress the line at all, but we compared different methods of attaching the line and we each practiced being towed and doing the towing.  It is worth practicing this on occasion.  We found that the line worked very well and the longer length made it much easier to look for obstacles along the trail.  I think this is a very good product.

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2 Liter Bottle Holster

For some time I have been looking for safe ways to carry extra fuel on my dirt bikes.  I don’t need additional range very often, so I don’t want a really large tank – but there are occasions when an extra 1/2 or full gallon would be nice to have.

Since Mike of OBR ADV Gear was kind enough to make me some custom tool pouches, I asked if he could also make me some bottle holsters that would carry the 2 liter Touratech fuel canister.  He made me two holsters and he did a great job.

2 liter bottle holster

I found out they will also hold a 2 liter water bottle of about the same size.

2L water bottle

The other day my daughter and I rode out to Toroweap and I wasn’t sure if her 3.0 gallon tank would give her enough range.  So, we decided to take one of the 2 liter bottles, giving her about another 1/2 gallon.

The bottle holsters have some webbing loops so you can strap them to just about anything.  We found that we could simply remove my daughter’s Wolfman Enduro fender bag and strap on the bottle holster.  It worked great!

Wolfman Enduro fender bag

Wolfman mounting straps

2 liters of extra fuel

Side view

The fender supported the extra weight of the fuel without problem.  And since this was not a very technical ride, my daughter was easily able to swing her leg over the bottle, which is taller than her tool bag.

After riding about 30 miles, we dumped the fuel into her tank and continued on with our ride.

When doing multi-day adventure rides, it is easy to strap these bottle holsters onto my luggage, giving me up to one extra gallon of fuel or water.

Strapped to the back of my daughter’s luggage

Strapped to the back of my luggage

And other 6L of water in an MSR Dromedary bag:

6L MSR Dromedary bag

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Tool Pouch For KTM – Mar 2015

I like to be prepared when I ride.  Therefore I tend to carry a lot of tools and a fairly substantial first-aid kit.  The problem is, this adds a lot of bulk and weight.  I have struggled over the years to find the ideal way to carry everything.  I decided to try a tool pouch mounted on the inside of my rear side plastic.

Tool pouch

For many years I have used a Wolfman Enduro rear fender bag.  It is well made, easy to remove, and cinches down to keep my tools from bouncing too much.  But I tend to overfill it, making it difficult to kick my leg over the rear fender.

Wolfman Enduro fender bag

Several months ago I decided to try the Wolfman Daytripper saddle bags.  At first I thought they worked great – I had plenty of room for my tools on one side, my first-aid kit on the other, and still had room to stuff in my rain coat or lunch.  It was nice getting much of that weight out of my Ogio Flight Vest, but having that much weight on the bike affected handling.  But more important, I found that there was a safety issue.  One time I snagged my toe under a tree root.  Rather than simply slide off the back of the bike, my leg snagged on the saddle bag and I almost strained my leg.  The same could happen when you loop out, or any other time that a quick exit off the back of the bike is necessary.

On my Husaberg, I was able to mount a Tool Tube on the inside of my left side panel.  This allowed me to store my seldom used tools in the tube, and reduce the bulk in the fender bag.  But this option wont’ fit on the newer KTMs.

Tool Tube

I have hunted around for something would fit in the narrow space on the KTM, without success.

KTM left rear side plastic

I then stumbled on a tool pouch made by OBR ADV Gear out of Boise, Idaho.  The standard tool pouch was too large, but the owner Mike, agreed to make me a custom bag that was 4″ tall and 12″ long.  He also made it with snaps rather than zippers, since the bag would be covered in mud, water, and dirt much of the time.

Custom tool pouch

Now to mount the tool pouch.  I used M5x12mm button head screws, fender washers, and lock nuts to mount three footman loops on the inside of the fender.

Footman loops

For the fourth mounting point, I used a top hat bracket used for my Tugger lift strap.

Tugger bracket and 1″ cam strap

Tugger bracket mounted

I used two 1″ cam straps to secure the tool pouch to the mounting brackets.  The strap threads through the webbing loops on the tool pouch to keep the bag from sliding around.  When I tighten the strap, it holds the pouch securely to the side plastic.

Mounted tool pouch

I then used a heated utility blade to cut the straps to length.

Outside view

I placed my seldom used tools in this pouch, inside a heavy duty ziplock bag.

Tire tools and spare plug

This bag contains two tire irons, a tire plug kit (inside a section of golf tube), a spare spark plug and plug wrench, a spare master link for my chain, an assortment of nuts and bolts, and some JB Weld quick steel.

My Wolfman rear fender bag now contains my standard KTM toolkit, a folding saw, and a few miscellaneous items.  It is now about half as bulky as it used to be.

I also needed a way to carry spare tubes for my TuBliss tire inserts.  OBR ADV Gear makes a nice front fender bag that snaps to the fender, but it doesn’t work well with the newer style KTM fender.

OBR ADV Gear front fender bag

Dirt-Bike-Gear makes a different style front fender bag that should work out well.  Rather than mount to the fender, it mounts to the forks.  This is much more secure and it keeps the weight closer to the axis of rotation, so it shouldn’t affect handling as much as a standard bag.

Dirt-Bike-Gear front fender bag

This bag contains an 18″ and a 21″ TuBliss high-pressure tube and a tow strap.

Now to field test this new setup.  I need to make sure everything stays in place, and that my rear tire doesn’t hit the tool pouch.  I currently have a MotoZ tire that is quite wide.  If I used a 140mm tire, it would most likely hit the pouch.

Rear view

Field Testing

Before my initial ride with this new under fender tool pouch, I removed the rear shock to make sure the tire would not hit the pouch or the cam strap buckles.  I am currently using a MotoZ 120mm wide tire, which is wider than many other brands.  I have about 1/2″ of clearance.  A 140mm tire might barely touch unless you use thinner cam strap buckles.

Since it appeared to have plenty of clearance, I took it for its maiden voyage, riding almost 60 miles of single track.  Some of the trails were quite muddy, so I think it was a pretty good initial test.

Note that the tool pouch is much less muddy than the fender or the cam strap

As far as I could tell, the bag worked perfectly and did not cause any adverse effects to the bike or its handling.  I suspect I will have to periodically replace the zip lock bag to ensure my tools stay clean and dry, but I think they will likely stay dry even during river crossings.  I also expect to deal with dirt and mud when on occasion I do have to access these tools.  It was also nice to have a lower rear fender bag, making it easier to swing my leg over.

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Rekluse Core EXP 2.0 Upgrade Kit – Mar 2015

Back in Oct 2013 I installed and reported on the Rekluse EXP 2.0 auto clutch on my 2014 KTM 350 XCF-W with a DDS clutch.  I decided to upgrade to the full “Core EXP 2.0″ product.  The upgrade kit cost $400.  Here are my reasons for upgrading – all of which turned out to not be totally true:

  • I wanted an easier clutch pull.  My children’s 350 does not have an auto clutch, so it is very easy for me to compare my clutch pull to that of stock.  The EXP 2.0 was supposed to be 15% stiffer than stock, but it felt much stiffer to me.  It is not as stiff as the cable clutch on my CRF250X, but it is noticeably stiffer.  The upgrade to Core may have made it slightly less stiff, but it is still stiffer than stock.
  • I thought the Core would use all 8 friction plates, which would give me longer clutch life.  It turns out that it only uses 7, whereas the EXP only uses 6.
  • I thought the Rekluse clutch cover would allow the engine to hold more oil.  If it is more, it is very insignificant.  But the new cover does, however, look pretty cool.

Rekluse clutch cover

Stock clutch cover

The Rekluse “how to” videos are very good, and the included instructions were also quite good.  I did, however, have a few surprises and learned a few tips that may help others.

Core upgrade kit

The first surprise was that my DDS rubber dampers were shot.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since I have 115 hours on my bike and this the first time I have checked them.  KTM recommends checking them every 30 hours.  So, I had to order six new dampers, which took a week to get.

DDS rubber dampers

The next trick was to install the new dampers.  I thought it would be easy, but it probably took me about an hour.  I finally learned a trick that really helped.

Rekluse outer hub and OEM inner hub

If I placed the new dampers inside the outer hub as the instructions suggest, I could not get the inner hub to line up and slide into the slots.  If I placed the dampers on the inner hub, the dampers would snag on the sharp edges of the outer hub (the OEM outer hub has rounded edges).

Use a screwdriver to spread the dampers from the back side

The trick that finally worked was to install the dampers into the outer hub, then insert the inner hub.  I then flipped the whole unit over and placed the inner hub on a large socket.  I then used a flat bladed screwdriver inserted into the slots to spread open each damper, one at a time.  The inner hub eventually dropped into place.  Then press the two hubs together until they are flush on the back side.

The hub installed

The next tip is to ensure that the gears on the clutch basket properly engage with the transmission gears.  Mine were not all aligned, so I couldn’t get the nut threaded.  Once I the basket fully seated, it was very easy to thread on the nut.  I used a clutch clamping tool and a torque wrench to tighten the nut (I used an impact wrench to remove it).

The clutch plate

Ready to install the clutch cover

Since I already had the Rekluse clutch slave installed, it was now just a matter of fining tuning my installed gap.  I used the large rubber band included with my EXP kit and got it all set.  I then broke in the clutch as per the instructions, and once again adjusted the gap.  It should now be ready to ride!

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