What is adventure motorcycle riding? I would define it this way:
Going on an adventure on your motorcycle, carrying with you enough gear to survive.
But I think there is really more to it than that. I found this definition on the Internet:
“Adventure Riding is taking your motorcycle and tackling head on mountains, deserts, forests, river washes, busy city streets, empty highways, and any weather conditions all while carrying everything you possibly can with you on your motorcycle for your journey. Some ride just for the day or a weekend while others journey half way around the globe and sometimes all the way around. Adventure riding is more of an experience than actually riding a particular road or trail. It is about planning and preparing while enjoying the moment.”
Some of my colleagues at work do adventure riding and it sounds like they visit some amazing places. It sounds fun, and is something that I have wanted to try. The problem is, I don’t have an adventure motorcycle – I have a dirt bike made for trail riding. What is the difference, you might ask? Here are some things that set an adventure bike apart from a dirt bike:
- Street legal.
- A comfortable seat.
- Capable of carrying camping gear.
- Having a huge gas tank so you can travel long distances between fuel stops.
Well, my bike is street legal. One out of four.
One of my friends from work, Bob Dawson, has an adventure bike. He has wanted to go trail riding with me, just see what it was like. And I have wanted to go adventure riding with him. So, we came up with a plan that would satisfy both of our curiosities.
Check out my video of the trip, or read on for details about our adventure…
Since I don’t have the ability to carry a lot of gas nor camping gear, our ‘adventure’ ride had to be completed within one day, and we had to stay within easy reach of a gas station. Some may say this really isn’t an adventure ride, but it at least gave me a taste of the sport.
One advantage of adventure riding is that you don’t have to load the bike in the trailer and drive to the trailhead. You just get on the bike and go. That was really nice at the end of the day when I just parked my bike in the garage and I was basically done. This was much easier than loading and unloading the trailer.
But the downside was that I spent a fairly long day on that narrow and firm dirt bike seat. I was very tired and sore by the time we got home.
I got my motorcycle license when I was 16 years old (a very long time ago), but I haven’t ridden on the street all that much. This was the longest street ride I have ever done.
Bob met at my house at about 9:30 AM. It was probably about 45º with a stiff south wind. We bundled up and headed west on 7800 South to Redwood Road. We then turned south until we reached west Lehi.
Just before we reached Lehi I noticed that my clutch felt really soft. I thought maybe it had some air in the hydraulic line, so I flipped the clutch lever several times to see if that would help. It did not – it was getting worse.
When we stopped in Cedar Fort so I could buy gas, my clutch would not disengage. Bob pulled out his screwdriver and we removed the lid on my clutch reservoir. No fluid. I looked for a leak in the line, but couldn’t see one. It turns out that the slave cylinder was leaking inside the motor. The clutch line uses mineral oil so that it won’t contaminate the motor oil. But where do you buy mineral oil?
We had to ride back to Lehi, and Bob finally found some pure mineral oil at the pharmacy at Walmart. It turns out that mineral oil is a laxative.
We filled up my reservoir and worked most of the air bubbles out of the line, and then we were back on the road. Luckily, that held for the rest of the day.
This detour took about one hour, so we arrived at Fivemile Pass at about noon.
Fivemile Pass contains numerous trails crisscrossing the desert and heading up into the hills. Some trails are steep and rocky, some are whooped out, and some are just plain fun.
The following map shows a GPS record of our ride. Subsequent maps will show each segment in more detail.
“Dead Sheep Wash”
Another friend from work, Royal Stowe, reminded me of a fun wash that I haven’t ridden in about ten years. His family calls it “Dead Sheep Wash”. He gave me the GPS coordinates, so we headed straight there.
Sometimes the wash contains loose gravel, which can be somewhat challenging to ride. For our ride it was packed down pretty good, and there were hardly any other people, so we were able to ride up the wash at a fun pace. The wash has many fun banked turns.
This brought us to Sunshine Mine.
As far as I know, there is only one way to ride up to the top of Eagle Hill. There are other roads on the north side, but they are all fenced off for the Mercur Mine. The road leading up has suffered serious erosion. There are ruts two or three feet deep in some spots. It isn’t terribly difficult on a dirt bike, assuming you pick good lines, but it would be quite challenging on an ATV.
Once you get near the top, there are nice views of the mine and the surrounding area. There is also a fun and easy trail that traverses around the hill, as shown on our GPS track.
We took one spur to the west, which was a fun out-and-back through the Juniper trees.
The north facing slopes had a few patches of snow and mud, but nothing that prevented us from enjoying the ride.
We came back down and stopped for lunch at the popular Jeep obstacle called “Wayne’s World”. There were no Jeeps to entertain us, but we at least had some nice rocks to sit on while we ate.
After lunch we rode down Rattlesnake Gulch, another popular Jeep route. I was surprised at how easy it was. The major obstacle in the gulch has been filled in with dirt. What used to be about a 3’ ledge is now only a few inches high. There are plenty of rocks to dodge, but it was really quite an easy ride.
We circled around and rode back up the canyon just east of Rattlesnake. This is one of my favorite trails. Nothing too hard, but it has fun, flowing twists and turns as it crisscrosses a wash and zigzags through the trees.
This returned us to the Sunshine Mine, and then we headed back towards the main parking area by riding back down Dead Sheep Gulch.
Mountain Bike Race Loop (Sevenmile Pass)
We had a little bit of daylight left, so Bob led a ride on the south side of the highway. This was a fun ride on a dirt bike, but I can’t imagine trying to ride it on a mountain bike. Some of the climbs were pretty steep – and rocky.
The trail heads south through a small pass, and then along the western foothills of the Thorpe Hills. We turned left and rode through Sevenmile Pass, which was really fun. It also has a series of banked turns, but it is a narrower wash than Dead Sheep Wash. It might be a little tricky on an ATV, but it was really fun on the dirt bike. This is now on my list of favorite trails in the Fivemile Pass area.
The eastern portion of the loop was fairly rocky, made somewhat more difficult since I was getting tired.
After completing this loop we stopped for a short break, and then headed back to Cedar Fort so I could gas up again. We then bundled up and headed for home, arriving back at my house at about 4:45 PM.
According to my GPS, we traveled a total of about 140 miles. We rode about 75 miles between fill-ups and my low fuel light never came on (maybe it doesn’t work). Just for comparison, most of my dirt bike rides range between 35 and 65 miles per day.
It took 1.7 gallons to fill the tank back up, which means I averaged almost 44 miles per gallon. This suggests that I could ride around 96 miles on my small 2.2 gallon tank. Not too bad for a 450. But not nearly enough to compare with Bob’s 7 gallon tank.
Adventure Riding – First Impressions
So, what did I think of my first (mini) adventure ride?
It was mostly fun.
What I liked:
- Just getting on the bike and riding off. No loading and unloading of the trailer.
- Being able to go wherever you want to go. It offers a great form of freedom.
- Pulling into the garage at the end of a long ride and not having to unload the car and trailer (although if I had any gear, I would have loaded and unloaded that).
What I didn’t like:
- My hard dirt bike seat.
- Dealing with city traffic.
- The wear on my bike and tires.
- Not having the fuel range needed for the sport.
- Not being able to carry enough gear for an overnight trip.
A dirt bike is not really the right machine for the job without significant modifications.
If I were to take up this variety of motorcycle riding, I would prefer to invest in a purpose built adventure bike. But that is not going happen any time soon.