Saturday, August 5, 2017

TAT 2017 Post 21 08/05/17

It’s always a letdown after we complete one of our TAT legs because so much planning goes into it before the ride then it all ends when the ride is completed. I have one more leg to plan then I’ll have to find some other project to occupy my time.

This post will summarize both our TAT Leg-3 ride and our total TAT accomplishments to date. I’ll also touch on our Leg-4 initial plans (UT to OR). And lastly I’ll provide comments on the bikes and gear we are using on our dual-sport coast-to-coast TAT adventure.

Please note that my comments are based on using motels and a support vehicle; not camping. The campers have more freedom for miles to ride and when to stop. In addition, they have much more gear to carry so many of my comments are not applicable. I provide my views only to document our experience and maybe offer input to someone doing a similar type TAT ride.

TAT Leg-3 – Lake City, CO to Delta, UT (23-28 July 2017)

We knew this leg would be more of a challenge than Legs 1 & 2 (Charleston, SC to Lake City, CO) primarily because of the terrain and weather. We were correct. The ride over the CO Mountains and UT desert is significantly different from the lower elevation plains of OK and wooded trails to the east coast. In addition, the availability of fuel and motels is a big factor out west, which requires proper planning and preparation.

Day-1 – Lake City, CO to Dove Creek, CO (165 miles)
This gets you over the Continental Divide and onto the Rocky Mountain foothills to the west. Even though Cinnamon Pass is the highest elevation it by far is not the most difficult part of this section. All the ATVs and 4-wheel vehicles are more of an issue than the trail. We rode this section on a Sunday so it would probably be less of a problem on a weekday. Ophir Pass I felt was more of a problem primarily due to the big rocks (baseball to football size) on the trail on both sides of the pass. The climbs and descents were long and steep and in many places narrow (remember the ATVs and 4-wheels). Although the uphill vehicle has the right away, motorcycles going down these steep trails are not that easy to stop and pull out of the way. On several occasions we had our rear wheels skidding trying to slow down our decent and some jerk in a jeep wouldn’t even try to give us room to get by. It must be remembered that anyone can rent a jeep or ATV and ride those trails so their experience level is very questionable. I always tried to get out of their way but at one point we had three of our riders drop their bikes in a tight switchback turn because some 4-wheel vehicle wouldn’t give them room to maneuver.

Day-2 - Dove Creek, CO to Moab, UT (136 miles)
Not much to talk about on this section. Pretty flat and dusty and mostly long gravel roads.

Day-3 – Moab day ride to Arches National Park (95.8 miles)
It rained all night and we were afraid the trails would be too muddy to ride so we took pavement to see the Arches. Worth the ride but take some comfortable walking shoes. Several of us only had our riding boots and I gave up trying to walk to the Arches after several attempts. The rain did stop early so on our way out of the Arches we took a gravel road out of the park. This road is great and we had a good ride to the highway (details in previous posts). Once on the highway we took the Gemini Bridges Road, which is part of the TAT northbound out of Moab. Another exciting ride but requires making some climbs on big solid rock to the top of the ridge. Nothing our dual-sports couldn’t handle but the larger heavily loaded bikes will be challenged here. If raining this could be a problem. Once on the top of the ridge it is just a lot of varying gravel and rock trails but all good.

Day-4 – Moab day ride to White Rim Trail (WRT) in Canyon Lands National Park (88.7 miles)
We took Potash Road out of Moab to connect with the WRT. We connected with the WRT at the point where the Shafer Canyon Road & Switchbacks end. The road to the switchbacks was closed for repair. We rode about 25 miles on the WRT before we had to turn back towards Moab. I think we got a good sampling of what the WRT is like for its 92 mile ride around the park but I would like to ride the whole thing sometime in the future. The rain a few days earlier had washed out part of the WRT so be sure to check the condition before attempting the complete trail. It has some great scenery and never a dull riding moment. There is NO SHADE on the WRT so beware and take lots of water. We were lucky that the temperatures were 101 at the most and not 110 as we had been expecting.

Day-5 – Moab, UT to Castle Dale, UT (210 miles)
This is a very interesting ride with some beautiful sections and some very desolate sections. I’ve never ridden miles and miles in the desert before but I did on this section. The ride from Moab to Green River is about 60 miles and not too bad. At Green River you turn south for a 100-mile loop through the desert and return to I-70 west of Green River. This section is long and mostly in the desert. We encountered many sand piles on the road left over by the rain several days previously from 10 to 30 feet wide. Not real deep but did require slowing down to ride across. Some muddy spots but nothing too bad. If it is raining when you ride this section, watch for flash flooding across the road in the low spots. It was obvious flash flooding caused the many sand piles across the road that we found. The worse riding was on several miles of deep dirt/sand that had been spread onto the road by graders. We passed no civilization for that 100 miles; no buildings, no facilities, etc. Although we filled up at Green River and knew we had enough fuel for the 100-mile loop to I-70, there is no fuel once you reach I-70. Closest fuel was 27 miles away and off the TAT. We elected to continue to Castle Dale about 45 miles north for a total of 145 miles between fuel stops. Of our 6 bikes, 5 of them have about a 100+ mile range with their small tanks. I installed a 3.45 gal tank (170+ mile range) on my KTM so I never had a fuel problem. We had at least four 1-gal RotoPax with us so we had enough to make sure all the bikes made it to Castle Dale ok.

Day-6 – Castle Dale, UT to Delta, UT (170 miles)
This section goes through two mountain ranges, the first through a pass of 10,200 feet. Some good riding and scenery through this section and the passes are easy compared to the Rocky Mountain passes. As stated in my previous post on this section, we rode it in the rain with mud and temperatures down to 44 degrees so we didn’t enjoy it that much. If the weather is good, this will be an enjoyable section to ride. We ended our Leg-3 at this point.

Day-7 & 8 – Shuttle bikes back to Little Rock, AR
All the riders except me and the support vehicle driver, Michael, left Salt Lake City on Saturday to fly home. Michael and I left Delta, UT around 7 am (mountain) on Saturday driving back to Little Rock via Tulsa, OK where we dropped off Jeff’s bike and gear. We actually drove non-stop the 1700+ miles in 24 hours arriving in Little Rock around 8 am (central). We took turns driving and sleeping so we could get home ASAP, neither of us wanted to stop for the night in a motel. We had good weather and no traffic issues all the way, which made the trip bearable. I did take two days to recuperate with sleep as a result of the TAT ride and the drive back home. If you do the math 1700 miles/24 hrs = 70 mph you can see we made good time. Most of the speed limits out west are 80 to 75 mph plus we were on interstate 95% of the time.

TAT Completed
In 2016 and 2017 we have ridden approximately 3800 miles of the TAT from Charleston, SC to Delta, UT. Of the 4 core rides, all four have been on every trip. We have picked up a few other riders along the way, including my son, and now they have the urge to go back and ride the sections they missed.
We elected to use Sam’s maps and tracks for our TAT adventure and so far have no complaints. We recognize that they provide a recommended track but things change and sometimes we had to divert due to bridges out, roads closed, property becoming private, etc. This is part of the adventure for us and we’ve always been able to compensate without major impact. I know other TAT riders are using GPSKevin routes or others and I have no issue with that nor do I feel strongly which is better. I did download the GPSKevin track and he does provide lots of alternative routes for those more aggressive riders. Our ultimate goal is to ride coast to coast on dual-sport motorcycles, not to ride every inch of a specific TAT route.

The maps below shows the USA with our completed ride in green and our to-be completed section in red. More on the red track in the next paragraph.

TAT Leg-4 – Delta, UT to Port Orford, OR
I’ve just started planning for this last leg. One key factor is that several of us have elected to NOT ride the section from Delta, UT through the UT desert to Nevada then back to north of Salt Lake City. This is about 250 miles of desert with limited resources along the route. Terry and Steve do want to ride this section and think they can do it in a single day. I’m not sure that is realistic but will work it into the plan for either 1 or 2 days prior to when the rest of us join them for the ride to Port Orford.
Logistics for this last section is more complex than all the other legs primarily due to the distance we have to shuttle the bikes from Little Rock, AR:

Start - Little Rock, AR to Delta, UT
Finish – Port Orford, OR to Little Rock, AR

We currently think May 2018 will be the time for this last ride based on availability of all the riders. This will be a longer ride than all the previous legs at 9-10 days riding plus travel at both ends (2 weeks total is my guess). As of now the 4 core riders (Mike, Terry, Steve and Woodrow) have committed to go. Woodrow’s son Matty is also going and my son Jeff is about 90%. Others have expressed interest but nothing firm. I have found out that a group can be too big. 6 riders are about the upper limit as far as I’m concerned. It gets too tough to keep track of everyone with more when they are spaced out due to dust or steep climbs/descents. Another issue is if someone lags behind then everyone has to wait to see if they catch up otherwise they could be many miles behind and in trouble before the others make the decision to ride back looking for them.

For this last section, Terry’s wife Donna will be our support vehicle driver. She has volunteered for this task so she can be there when we finish our coast-to-coast ride. A couple of us are thinking of having our wives fly out to OR to meet us at the end so we can have a proper party. More on that as it is worked out.

This section still goes through some rugged county in Idaho and Oregon and I’m still gathering the data for those sections before I determine our day-by-day ride plans.

Bikes and Gear
We have used a variety of bikes since we started the TAT in March of 2016 (all fuel injected except the KLR):

Mike – new 2015 Honda CRF250L (Leg-1 &2), new 2016 KTM 350 EXC-F (Leg-3)

Terry – new Kawasaki KLR 650 (Leg-1), new KTM 690 Enduro (Leg-2 & 3)

Steve – Used Yamaha WR250R (Leg-1, 2, & 3)

Woodrow – new 2015 Honda CRF250L (Leg-1, 2 & 3)

Jeff – used Yamaha WR250R (Leg-2, & 3)

Matty – used 2015 Honda CRF250L (Leg-3) (same bike I used on Leg-1 & 2)

All of the above bikes did great on the TAT so far. I love my KTM after many mods but the best all round bike has to be the Yamaha WR250R. It is strong and reliable and the price is right.

The Honda CRF250L with the FMF muffler mod is also a good choice and is $1600 cheaper than the WR250R. It is a bit underpowered compared to the WR and doesn’t seem to have as good of suspension but ride it conservatively and it will get you to the end. Both CRFs had front shock leaks either just prior to Leg-3 or while on Leg-3. Riding hard on rocky roads and dirt around the seals seems to be the cause.

WR250R – All around good bike for the TAT.

My KTM 350EXC-F has more power than I ever need and climbs the mountains like a mountain goat. Down side is the rear frame is weak and can’t carry a load. It also has an open loop fuel injection system meaning I had to tune the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) when I got into the higher altitudes. A closed loop fuel injection system compensates for altitude changes, just like your car. It also vibrates like a banshee! It will do 65+ mph but hands, seat and pegs vibrate so much it isn’t maintainable for long distance. It will do 55 mph all day without wearing out the rider.

The KTM 690 is certainly one of the best of our fleet and for long legged strong riders would be the best choice except much more $$ than the WR. It’s a bit heavy for me and is extremely tall.

KLR – Great bike and lots of them on the TAT. It is very heavy compared to all the other bikes listed and is carbureted. It can carry a heavy load if you are camping but even Terry as big as he is traded it for a lighter bike after riding it on Leg-1.

We used a variety of bags but the Grand Loop (GL) bags (me on my KTM) and the Wolfman bags seemed to be the favorite and what most of us used.

I brought along a Baha no-pinch took set and it was used for tire changes prior to the trip and seemed to make tire repairs much easier. Only had 1 flat (slow leak) on the trip (my KTM) and I had it repaired when we got to Moab by MadBros motorcycle shop.

Tires – 2 CRFs, 1 WR and my KTM used Dunlop D606’s both front and rear with excellent results. Long wear on pavement and great grip in the mud and sand. The other KTM and WR used other tires but not sure of the brand or model.

One last comment about the support vehicle. We’ve used a support vehicle for 2 of the 3 legs (2 & 3) with great success. It lets the bikes ride light plus provides a safety net in case of breakdowns or injury. It greatly increased the enjoyment of our rides and I would hate to lose that support. We have used two different drivers and they both had a great time participating in our adventure. In fact, our support driver for this last leg is thinking he would like to do this for other groups if they are interested. Michael is retired and has a very flexible schedule. I highly recommend him and have known him for many years. If you are interested in having a support vehicle but finding it hard to get someone to commit to your time table, send Michael an email and discuss your requirements; .

That’s enough for now and this will be my last post for a while. Thanks for all the positive comments and hope to see you on the trail!

Ride Safe