Are You Man Enough to Ride With Her?

As a married couple who ride dirt bikes together, we frequently get asked, “How do I get the female in my life to ride?”

Heather and Richard spend as much time dressed like this as possible

First, there is not an easy answer here. I mean, it isn’t going to be easy for you to hear. You have to be nice to her. And I don’t mean during the 10 minutes prior to launching this idea on the woman in your life.

You need to decide if you really want to ride with her. This will not be like riding with the boys – it will not be a race or a competition.

I remember some of our early rides all too clearly. It easily took over an hour for me to climb a hill that would now take one minute (I wish I could tell you this is an exaggeration). My saint-of-a-husband never, never, never lost his patience. He frequently had to ride my bike up those hills while I hiked. I’m not proud to say it, but he did endure a few tears of frustration (and a few from pain). We did not cover much ground. We were not moving very quickly. But we were TOGETHER.

He also put every safety feature on my bike (to protect the bike) and every piece of safety equipment on me (to protect me). He bought every piece of pink gear I requested. He rides with extra hand warmers, eye drops, chapstick, and tampons in his camelback. And he has never complained.

Heather on the White Rim Trail near Moab, UT.  Proper safety gear and a beginner friendly bike make learning to ride easier and the bruises smaller.

As a consequence of his patience and thoughtful attention to my needs, I am now a pretty decent rider. We cover more ground, we travel at higher speeds, and I think he would now call these rides fun. So, the real question isn’t how do you get her to ride, but do you have what it takes to ride with her?

**Disclaimer: If the woman in your life is a fearless, thrill-seeking wonder woman like MegsBraap, the above may not apply. I started my dirt bike adventure with zero hours of experience and more than a little desire for self-preservation. Good luck!

Heather and another riding buddy relaxing at the general store in Pitkin, CO. The extra riding garments generally get others to yield and keeps everyone entertained!

 

Photos: Richard

Dual Sport Dispatch packs for annual pilgrimage westward: Mawg & Fiona – as told by Fiona

Four score and seven years ago……… P.Fiona started a blog post about packing for the Dual Sport Dispatch trip.

But seriously. It’s no wonder that each time I search for a post/article about what to pack for a certain destination/event I come up disappointed…IT’S FREAKIN’ WORK! I digress…

We will be leaving Wednesday (3 MORE DAYS!!!) for Moab. One of my most favorite places on the planet. Mawg & I went for a prelude to our actual vacation last year (before I knew I loved motorcycles), and that’s when my obsession began – and this time next week, we’ll be back, but with a few 2-wheeled friends in tow.

With this being said, I thought it helpful to post photos of & links to the things Mawg & I are packing for our 10-day moto-quest.

NOTE: these are only motorcycle/camping gear photos – leaving Wednesday afternoon means I’ll be packing clothes Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning so I can wait as long as possible to do laundry. So without further adieu..

I’ve added a description of the numbered items below

1- Men’s Alpinestars Andes Drystar Jacket + Pants
2- Scorpion EXO-AT950 Helmet
3- Icon Shaguar Helmet – I know…it’s so good.
4- Women’s Alpinestars Stella Andes Drystar Jacket + Pants
5- Underamour gloves (N/A on link, hubs has had these for a WHILE)
6- Hothands Hand & Toe Warmers – best.purchase.ever!!
7- Ski gloves (haven’t rode with them yet, thank you Hothands & heated grips!!)
8- Wolfman Tool Roll
9- Wolfman Peak Tail Bag
10- Icon Shaguar Touchscreen Gloves – how could I NOT get the matching gloves?!
11- Alpinestars Neck Warmer
12- Wolfman Enduro Tank Bag – with corresponding Dual Sport Dispatch map
13- Klim Balaclava
14- Fox Racing Women’s Comp 5 Boots (2015 season)
15- Alpinestars Corozal Adventure Drystar Boots
16- Bungee cords – various lengths
17- Wolfman Enduro Pocket – seriously the cutest, tiniest tank bag
18- Keys to the hogs + spare keys (not pictured/purchased yet)

I’ve added a photo of the Wolfman bags only, and their typical contents – it varies for each ride depending on the length of the ride, weather, and my time of the month.

 

Clockwise starting with top left bag: Enduro tank bag with corresponding Dualsport Dispatch map, tank bag, tool bag, & finally the tiniest, cutest Enduro pocket
Not pictured: add’l bike tubes

During this trip, we will be camping in a central location outside of Moab-proper, so we won’t have to worry about packing up & moving each day, which means less stuff to worry about during each ride. I think there is a chance we’ll be doing a longer ride to Colorado, but that’s mostly weather/time-dependent, so that is still up in the air at the moment.

This next photo is if we get REALLY lucky and it’s actually HOT in Moab while we’re there. As you can see by the photos, I (gear on the right) still have all the protective gear, while Hubs has jeans and a flannel – this has everything to do with riding experience. I still cannot be trusted not to break every bone in my body while riding. One day I’ll be one of those sexy biker babes in tight jeans and a flannel, but right now, I’m the girl in ALL.THE.MOTO.PROTECTION. – also going 25 mph, tortoise & the hare, baby, tortoise & the hare…

As I said earlier, I’m not going to add a photo of all our clothes for the week because I don’t have them all ready yet (I.E. I don’t want to do THOUSANDS of loads of laundry), so we’ll move on to camp/camping gear.

Not pictured: add’l shower/pop-up shower tent, add’l camp stove, camp oven, camp kitchen, kitchen utensils – Gator & Buttercup are packing these.

1- His & Hers Osprey packs
2- His & Hers sleeping bags
3- Cooler
4- Boxes (photos of contents below)
5- Tent
6- Camp pillows
7- Folding camp chairs
8- 2 beach towels, pop-up shower tent (will be used as an outhouse w/bucket), shower (for hand/face washing)
9- Shovel – for when nature calls on line 2
10- Coleman Propane Lantern
11- Coleman Camp Stove
12- Sleeping Pads
13- Dry box
14- Hatchet
15- Duct tape – never leave home without it
16- Headlamps
17- Flashlight
18- Rechargeable lantern
19- Wine – never leave home without it
20- Whiskey – what’s a campfire without whiskey?
21- First aid kit – for when the liquid courage kicks in

And finally, these boxes are handy for all the kitchen/general hygiene needs while camping – I’m not sure if you can tell by the photos, but you can buy locks to put on either side of them, and BONUS – they’re water-resistant (but not watertight).

Not pictured: additional cutlery, plates, kitchen utensils, & dish soap – Gator & Buttercup are bringing.

PHEW! What a beating.

Actually, I think I’ll use this same method for big trips from now on. Having a visual way of checking things off your list is quite satisfying.

Hopefully if you follow this “guide,” you’ll escape the many blunders I made during my first sub-zero camping trip (not by choice, by ignorance).

We’ll try and get our acts together & get a post of our clothes up here sometime in the next few days.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s all about the layers, people…and a LOT about the food.

Be sure to check back for more packing tips/tricks that the Dual Sport Dispatch crew has up our sleeves, and let us know in the comments what you think we’re missing/should add to our bags!

See ya out there,

P.Fiona

Hot Water on Demand Shower System – A Glamping Must Have

We’ve tent camped and now trailer camped with a solar shower setup for several years. The better half will ride, hike, and generally go anywhere  as long as there is a shower each day. I don’t mind it either.

We have a little shower tent from Wal-mart that has held up well and one of those black, solar, soft sided shower bags.  The solar shower doesn’t heat well and we usually spend considerable time heating water on the stove and adding it to the bag. This setup is cheap and effective, but takes a while and is no fun in the dark. On rides that bring us back to camp after dark we’re usually trading cooking duty for showers in the RV of our regular camping friends.

We will beg for showers no more!

We ordered a Triton 5L hot water on demand system and we will be fabricating a carrier to hold a propane tank and house the pump, heating unit, hoses, and provide a place to set shower items.

We started with a few sketches  and made a trip to the local metal supply shop for a few sticks of 14 gauge 1″ square tubing. By the way, bulk metal places are waaay cheaper than Lowe’s or HD. At bulk shops it’s less than $1/ft and at the local hardware store it’s $3-4/ft.

The shower stand needs to hold a 20lb propane tank, the pump, heater, hoses, assorted shower gear, and be sturdy enough to stand upright alone. It also needs wheels so it can be rolled in and out of the trailer. When set up it will sit next to the outdoor Wal-Mart shower tent to provide on demand hot water.

With a few measurements and cuts I started to frame each side. It’s 42″ by 16″ to make an opening at the base of 14″ square to fit a standard propane tank. Propane tanks are ~12″ across.

 

Add a few right-angle forms to begin framing.

Pump and Triton water heater.

Once it’s framed up and prepped for paint it looked like this.

The Triton unit will mount closest to the viewer on the two cross beams. The two upright beams that are close together will hold the pump. The propane tank will sit in the bottom on a base that is yet to be built. Lawnmower wheels will be used so you can tilt and roll.
To keep the propane tank in position I ordered single bottle propane bracket from etrailer.
With some additional bracing the bracket was integrated into the stand.

Where’d those wheels come from? A close-up is below.

I used a few scrap pieces of 1″ square and welded the nuts inside a hole drilled in the side.

I added a bit of sheet metal to the top to provide a shelf. Here’s a shot after attaching the shower unit, propane tank, and pump. I still need to add the hoses and probably a few brackets to hold hoses out of the way when it’s wound up and put away.
Rear facing photo below. I used black engine enamel paint. It holds well and looks good.
Add the hoses and a few wires and your ready for a hot shower!!!

10 Commandments of The New Dual Sport Rider

#1 – Thou shall wear ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time). Plus, it looks a lot cooler than this:

Not like this. Wear All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT)

#2 – Thou shall go through the Motorcycle Safety Course BEFORE letting anyone teach you moto-wisdom like, “when in doubt, throttle it out!”

#3 – Thou shall not worry about breaking the bike.  They’re durable and most parts are relatively inexpensive to replace…trust me.

It’s only a matter of time until you bend a stock set of bars.  Consider it a right of passage.

#4 – Thou shall buy for yourself or purchase for your spouse a tank or tail bag. You’re going to want to take photos of yourself because you’re a biker now and you don’t want to wear a fanny pack.

Fanny packs slide around and usually end up uncomfortably on one side. Carrying a few items? Spring for a tank- or tail-bag.

#5 – Thou shall celebrate the small victories like not crashing, good throttle control, finding/following a line, avoiding small objects in the road, etc.  Because they’re all big victories!

#6 – Thou shall not ride alone. Find a good group (or person) that knows and respects your growing riding experience and can navigate the route. Because you have enough to worry about.

More experienced riding partners help you avoid mistakes.

#7 – Thou shall take the advice of elder riders. They’ve already made most of these mistakes before, so take advantage of the wisdom!

Mistake to avoid: When your wife falls in a cow-poo smelling creek crossing that was snow a few days ago (very cold)…don’t go for your camera while your buddy pulls her bike out.

#8 – Thou shall bring nourishment. It’s more of a workout and calorie burner than you think and you want ALL the water and snacks.

#9 – Thou shall purchase the loudest, craziest outfit you can find.  For some it’s all about the look and at least being seen by others who might hit you. The better you look = the better you feel = the better you ride. Style points for leopard print.

Style points for leopard print!

#10 – Thou shall be proud to be a dual sport and ADV rider. When acquaintances find out you’re taking up a new hobby they may scoff, scold you of the dangers, or ask if you’ve, “bought any leather.” Don’t let it get you down. They’re just jealous. 🙂

 

Photos: Cody, Lauren, Richard

Review: Scorpion EXO-AT950 Helmet

Gear Review: Scorpion EXO-AT950 Helmet

The Scorpion EXO AT950 is a great choice if you’re looking for the functionality of a flip-up chin guard. It has an aggressive off-road look with a standard dirt visor and flip up face-shield.

The EXO-AT950 has a flip-up face shield and chin guard

The visor, chin guard, and face shield perform well for riders wearing eye-glasses or sun-glasses.

Don’t like to peel off your helmet, but want easy access to your mouth for a swig of water or that trail-side snack?   The flip-up face shield provides easy access.

Chin guard in the up position

Standard price for the AT950 is ~ $270.

Be sure to spend time getting the correct size.  Wear the helmet around the store for a few moments and check out a few other items.  This five minutes will save you from potential discomfort after the purchase.

One of the benefits of a sealed face shield is reduced wind noise. At 55-60 mph this helmet is relatively quiet. The gap between the sun-visor and helmet body provides a nice gap for cross-wind, so the helmet doesn’t pull your head when looking to the right or left at higher speeds. This makes it less fatiguing to look around and enjoy the ride.

Plan to attach a helmet camera? This helmet has several good attachment points, but be sure to check the chin guard doesn’t contact a helmet top mount in the up position.

Watch for chin guard contact at the camera mount

Top view of camera mount

 

Side view with visor and chin guard down

Look for this helmet at retailers like Revzilla, Performance Cycle, or your neighborhood motorcycle shop.

 

Photos: Cody

Basecamp Enclosed Trailer Build – Part 1

RV’s, campers, toy haulers, oh my!  Wipe the drool away. I love going to RV shows. There are so many ideas and new ways to utilize limited space. However, the cost-to-quality ratio tilts away from the consumer if you ask me. Do I really need 2 flush toilets in my toy hauler? A full oven? A sectional couch bigger than the one in my suburban living room? No, no, and no. Even the small toy haulers run 15K+ and there are so many things to break!

What I’m looking for is a well constructed, simple, and mobile trailer to haul 2 dirt bikes, comfortably sleep 2 adults, and provide room for a retreat when the weather turns sour.

I purchased a new H&H 8×18 v-nose from Reed Trailer sales in Denver. I ordered it with a screen side RV door, overhead vent/fan, two 20″x30″ side windows, a rear ramp gate, a front hot lead drop for the lights, rear drop jacks, 6’6″ wall height, and 9 floor mounted d-rings. The trailer shipped from Iowa and I happily picked it up after a few minor adjustments. Quality control isn’t what it used to be.

Here it as after arriving home.

Trailer interior as delivered

The walls and floor needed some help, so the first step was paint.

Here’s an after shot and cloudy weather!

Behr garage floor paint and Kilz white primer appied to the interior

My wish list for the trailer looks something like:

1. Murphy bed
2. Front and side cabinets for storage
3. Deep cycle battery power to support lights, electric blanket, cell phone charger and other small gadgets
4. other small storage solutions
5. interior rug and other small comfort items

Nice to have, but not immediate are:
A. on board water tank – currently use five of the 7 gallon blue cube jugs
B. on board propane
C. fixed shower setup (likely outdoor), but requires A & B
D. plug in charger for battery for extended stay at shore-power locations

I spent A LOT of time thinking about the Murphy bed. I wanted something that was sturdy and comfortable, but does not have a large footprint or is overly complicated.

I found google images to be extremely helpful in searching various murphy bed configurations. There are all sorts of designs with struts, springs, various kinds of hinges and a multitude of outer supports (shelf, fold out foot, etc., etc.)

I started by recognizing that a sturdy, but lightweight bed-frame would be a good first step.

I used 14 gauge 1″x1″ steel to make a bed-frame. Measuring 14 times and cutting once….okay, sometimes I junked a few pieces, I started like this.

Start of the queen bed-frame

It is a queen frame that is 82″ long and 62″ wide. A queen mattress is ~80″ by 60″, so I wanted to have a few extra inches for the sheets and bedding.

I used a Mig welder. My other welding projects prior to this include a welding cart (looks terrible) and a bed-side table for my wife that is basically a cube. Patience is key.

Eventually my welds got better.

Are the welds improving?

I welded all around each connection and only ground down the ones where I would later mount 1/2″ plywood as a base for the mattress.

After staring at it for several days I came to the realization that a little more reinforcement might be necessary. I don’t want to hear a crack in the middle of the night and find myself in a heap of wood and metal.

Here is the in bed-frame before I rattle canned it with black spray-paint.

Bed frame nearly ready for paint

I planned to use 1/2″ plywood for the bed-base, 1×10″ (which is actually ~8.5″) for the sides of the bed frame, and a 2×10″ for the basal support where I would attach the hinges.

I started by using self-taping sheet metal screws to attach the plywood to the bed-frame. Even though they’re self tapping I pre-drilled a small hole to make sure everything went smoothly. It takes forever, but it goes together easily.

Here is the plywood attached to the bed-frame

I also used a large drill-bit to drill out a bit of the plywood, so the screws would sit flush. Here are all the tools I used for this portion of the project.

Tools for the the wood attachment portion

I attached the bed edging (1×10″) with a combination of the same self threading sheet metal screws and L-brackets. I started with the ends first to make sure everything lined up. My Lowe’s has a little Stanley bracket section that has all kinds of L, T, and other shaped metal brackets for cheap. I used a bunch of ’em.

Below is the completed mattress frame with markings for hinges. The bottom is what will face out into the trailer cavity. The bed will fold down, so we can sleep parallel to the long axis of the trailer. With this setup there is ~18″ on one side of the bed to move around. I also planned to place it at the tail of the trailer to allow for more room in the front for seating and other storage.

Bed-frame ready for hinges

To mount I used standard door hinges that can be purchased at any hardware store. I started by routing out the hinge mounting points on the side of the bed-frame.

Routing for hinges

I attached the hinges to the bed-frame with several pass-through bolts rather than just using screws.

In the trailer I used scrap 2×10 and 2×4 blocks to build a base and mount my 2×10′ base mounting board. Below is an underside shot showing the bed-frame (left) mounted to the board (right) which is affixed to the trailer. I mounted it above and behind the wheel-well on the drivers side.

Mounting to the trailer

After attaching the bed solidly to the trailer I built a cabinet out of 1×10’s for the bed to fold into. I used sheet metal screws to get into the steel studs of the trailer wall.

Mounted and nearly finished!

 Another photo looking back along the driver’s side wall shows how little space it takes up, only about 10″.

Low profile Murphy Bed.  Only takes 10″ of space.

Fortunately the mattress fit.

Test fitting the queen mattress.

Folded up and ready to load bikes.

A Murphy Bed ready to use

EasTex 350 – Winter Dual Sport Riding in Texas

Day 0 – Rusk, TX

While our friends in cooler climates bemoan the absence of riding weather and await the thaw of spring, we ride.  Winter in Texas is often dotted with sunny weekends and temperatures in the high 60’s.  In mid-January we planned a two-day outing to explore the back-roads of East Texas.

We loaded the smaller trailer for a short trip to the Rusk, KOA, our starting point. This trailer has a small, lock-friendly toolbox up front and just enough space for a few bikes.  It’s perfect for weekend getaways.

This small trailer is perfect for weekend getaways.

Friday evening we pulled into the Rusk, KOA before happy hour. Good timing. The campground is set among mature pines and the rolling hills of Cherokee County. Located 2 hours SE of Dallas or 2.5 hours NNE of Houston, the area has a surprising amount of elevation change. With well manicured tent sites, a clean bath-house, electricity, water, fire pits, and cabins available, it has all the amenities you’d expect from a well run pay campsite.

 

Cody enjoying the campsite

The camp host, Walter, was especially friendly.  He and his wife Nancy are from New England and have been on the road for 11 years working at campgrounds across the country.  He shared a few anecdotes from various campgrounds and made us our own pot of coffee in the morning.

Walter, the camp host at Rusk, KOA.

With the sun retreating over the horizon, we set about making dinner.  Tonight’s menu included a baked brie wheel, biscuits, and fire-grilled Italian sausages. With the truck nearby we brought a few extras to make dinner more scrumptious.

Hot biscuits fresh from the camp oven

Sausages cooking on an open flame

After the usual camp-fire stories and predictions, we headed to sleep. A light rain pitter-patted on the tent as we dozed and the thickly accumulated pine needles surrounding our site made for uniquely soft footing when seeking midnight relief.

 

Day 1 – Davy Crockett and Angelina National Forests, 194 Miles

After a breakfast of diced sausage (extra from the night before), egg whites from a carton (easier to transport than fragile eggs), and green onions (pre-cut in a Ziploc), we loaded up our bikes with sleeping bags, tent, a few snacks, and a change of clothes.

XRR loaded for an over-night trip

The roads were wet from the previous night’s rain, but it was perfect.  No dust! We set to finding the dirt route and headed south into the Davy Crockett National Forest.

The pavement ends and fun begins!

A modest rain is always a treat.  It keeps the dirt on the road and out of my nose.  However, to combat those little flecks of mud that can coat any surface, I keep a small cloth in my pocket for cleaning off visors, headlights, and tail-lights.

It’s easier to ride when you can see!

Dirty head- and tail-lights can result in unwanted attention from law enforcement, so it’s a good idea to periodically wipe them clean.

No dust on this ride, but watch out for mud.

 

Cody on one of the fine dirt roads in the Davy Crockett National Forest

After navigating through the Davey Crockett National Forest we found ourselves in Apple Springs, TX.  We gassed up, grabbed a bite of homemade beef jerky, and headed on our way.  The Harley riders next to us made some comments about the mud on our bikes.  I said, “I hope it’s muddy!”  They didn’t laugh.

East Texas is sprinkled with nice gas stations run by Brookshires. They have multiple pumps, a good grocery selection, and as we’d find on Sunday, a nice breakfast bar.

A well-stocked oasis in East Texas, Brookshire Brothers Express.

From Apple Springs we set off for the southern end of Sam Rayburn Reservoir. We traversed farmland, saw a few forest products manufacturing plants, and even a large tortoise that was probably 14″ end to end.

The turtle moved off the road before I could get my camera.

Cody on his way to dinner!

After a total of 194 miles we stopped for an early dinner at The Stump restaurant near Brookeland, TX. The nice weather meant every fishing boat in Texas was out on the lake and now they were coming in for dinner.  Every model and year of Ranger bass fishing boat was represented in that parking lot.  To those fisherman we must have looked like astronauts clomping around in our boots and protective gear.

View looking north of Lake Sam Rayburn

Without a doubt The Stump has the best onion rings I’ve ever had.  I wasn’t about to share.

The Stump has excellent onion rings

After dinner we made our way a few minute ride up the east side of the Sam Rayburn reservoir to the Brookeland/Lake Sam Rayburn KOA.

Lodging at the end of Day 1 near Brookeland, TX / Lake Sam Rayburn

The sites weren’t as well maintained as the ones in Rusk, but we were the only tent campers and had the area to ourselves.

Campsite at Lake Sam Rayburn KOA

I have the ability to sleep almost anywhere…and fast.  Although our campground was serenaded by late night rap music, burn-outs, and barking dogs, Cody said I was asleep and snoring in 15 seconds. Bless him for not punching me.

 

Day 2 – Sam Rayburn to Rusk, 151 Miles

We awoke at 5:45 and packed our gear to get an early start. Sunrise was at 7:21, but we were rolling as the sky began to lighten at 7am.

We stopped for breakfast at a road-side Brookshires Express at about 8am. One of the things we love about motorcycle travel is how accessible you are to others. Everybody loves to comment, make a joke, or ask a question.  This morning was no exception. As we pulled off our helmets a woman dressed in her work uniform and apron stood smoking a cigarette by the front door. As soon as she caught our eye she belted out, “hold on boys I’ll run inside and git-my-sister!”.  We laughed and said we’d be heading off in 15 minutes if she wanted to join. Thank goodness we didn’t have a taker.

This Brookshires Express has a good breakfast bar and some surly staff.

Brookshire Express has a good breakfast bar

Making our way north we headed around Lake Sam Rayburn and connected with Haynesville lease roads crisscrossing San Augustine county.  Sometimes we traversed the terrain on one wheel.

Navigating lease roads in St. Augustine County

Wooden bridges like this dot the route

After a few more miles and a gas stop in Garrison we made our way back to Rusk and the KOA.

Welcome sign for the Rusk, KOA

 

This was Cody’s first multi-day dual sport ride on his XR650L. A few changes are in order. To start, he plans a higher seat to expand the cockpit. He also plans to  adjust the clutch and brake levers down for more comfort while standing, purchase padded under garments, and add a proper rack and tank-bag.

Cody’s XR650L

 

Video Highlights

 

Dual Sport Motorcycle Basics – Route Planning

Planning your own Dual Sport Route?

The availability of great dual sport routes is the number one factor that drives our trip planning. The route dictates our lodging choices, how we select and pack our bikes, what gear we’ll wear, and how many days we’ll allocate for the trip. Here we’ll cover the most popular routes, tools and resources for planning, and a few questions to consider before starting.

Major Routes in the Lower 48

Numerous pre-planned routes are available like the Trans America Trail, Shadow of the Rockies Trail, Kokopelli Trail, White Rim Trail, Continental Divide Ride, and Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR). Many of these are free or available for a small fee. The list continues to grow. Four wheel drive guides and products sold by FunTreks are also valuable research tools. In addition, many scenic byways are advertised by state agencies. The Kiamichi Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Natchez Trace Parkway, and Skyline Drive are just a few.

Route Planning Workflow:

1. Pick a geographic location. A few suggestions include Colorado, Northwest Arkansas, East Texas, Big Bend, Western North Carolina, New Mexico, even Oklahoma, and everywhere in between.

2. Research ride reports on AdvRider or other forums for trail descriptions and details. Know what to expect. Some rides have their own pages like the BDR or TAT routes.

3. Map your route. Break it up into days, so you can keep track of daily mileage estimates. This will allow you to gauge where you should look for lodging options. Even if you don’t make reservations it’s a good idea to scout the camping or motels before you arrive in an unfamiliar town at sunset.

Mapping can be done on Google Maps, Garmin MapSource software, ArcGIS, or paper USGS quadrangles, NatGeo Trails Illustrated maps, Latitude 40 maps, or maps sold on the product page of Dual Sport Dispatch.

A good rule of thumb is 100-150 miles per day of dirt road riding. Is more possible? Of course. However, I’ve found that this is a good distance if you enjoy taking pictures, want to stop for lunch, and want to arrive in time to set up camp before dark or shower before hitting the town for dinner. At 25-30mph average speed this length of ride will take you 5 to 6 hours when moving at a steady pace.

4. Navigate the route! There are many options available for navigating while riding. Electronic navigation is more expensive but is becoming cheaper with the hardware built into most smart-phones. Garmin also makes bike-specific GPS units like the Zumo series. Battery life, water resistance, and durability can be issues with electronic navigation, so it’s good to be familiar with paper maps. Latitude 40 makes a spectacular product if you’re traveling public land in the Rockies. You can also purchase tank-bag friendly ride descriptions on Dual Sport Dispatch’s products page.  More states and rides will be available soon.

Two Mile Creek Loop, Ouachita National Forest

Sample tank bag insert for a 27-mile “stretch your legs” ride just south of Mena, Arkansas.  The route begins near Shadow Mountain RV and is highlighted yellow. The red circles denote mileage.

5. Let someone know your intended route and return date. Riding is dangerous enough without the safeguard of someone knowing your location. If a personal satellite locator beacon like the SPOT isn’t in your budget, do your loved ones a favor and give them a copy of your route and planned return date. It’s nice to know someone will notice if you run into trouble.

 

Questions to ask before you start:

How many days do you have for travel?

Geographic region?

How long to get to/from that spot?

Truck or trailer to starting location or ride from your house?

What dual sport routes are available in your area of interest?

Do you prefer a loop (end where you started) or a point to point (different start and end points)?

What lodging options do you prefer? What is the best time of year to go?

Who can I leave a copy of my route with?

Route Types

Super-Slab – Interstate, Freeway, or major two-lane divided highway. We try to avoid this as much as possible.

Connector Pavement – High-speed paved roads. Sometimes the route can’t avoid that 10 mile stretch of black-top in and out of a town or around an urban area.

Twisty Pavement – Fun paved roads with multiple turns and elevation changes.  Throwing these smile-inducing routes into the mix can be a wonderful break from gravel, mud, and dust.

Gravel or Dirt Roads – Wide two-lane gravel roads with a consistent, maintained surface. These are roughly paved or unpaved, but well-traveled and are often labeled as forest service (FS) or country roads (CR). Your state designation may vary.

Lesser Maintained Dirt Roads (Trail) – These are less traveled and receive little to no attention from the grader. Many have long stretches of sand, can be dotted with mud holes, or traverse rocky outcrops and dramatic elevation changes.

Heather:  “The difference between a Dirt Road and a Trail is that on the Trail you need to pick a line.”

Two-Track – Like the name says, there are two tracks for one four-wheeled vehicle to travel. Beware of the middle area as tire flattening rocks, stumps, or other obstacles may lurk in tall grass.

Single-Track – A six to twelve inch wide path for travel. Often shared with equestrians, hikers, and mountain bikers. Line selection is critical, especially on a heavily loaded bike.

Open – Believe it or not there are still several open riding areas in the Continental US. The shale hills near the Grand Junction Airport are a great example. These provide a whole new set of challenges, but generally aren’t included in any specific adventure route.

Dual Sport Motorcycle Basics – Lodging

Hotel – $$$$

Hotels or motels are a more expensive form of lodging, but require the least gear, have the smallest setup time, and are comfortable. You can simply check in, shower, change to street clothes, and relax. This is a great option for your first dual-sport trip, if you want to explore new towns, aren’t cost conscious, don’t have camping gear or if you want a simpler experience with more comfort with less gear and less planning time.

Hotel hopping allows you to keep the bike light, but it will also lighten your wallet. You should include restaurant meals in your budget in this case.

Hotel in McAllen, TX.  The parking garage was perfect for truck parking while we spent a few days in Mexico. Be sure to ask permission before parking.

We like to plan 3-5 day trips that link multiple hotels together. Sometimes a single hotel will be used for two nights if the riding in that area is especially good. And sometimes the hotel will require a 2 night minimum.

An example loop ride in Colorado would be Buena Vista to Lake City to Crested Butte to Buena Vista. Some of our favorite lodging options on this route are the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs (includes access to spa with overnight stay), the Lake City Resort (simple, but clean), and the Old Town Inn in Crested Butte (available with no multi-night minimum). This route tackles four major passes, two of which are on the continental divide.

When selecting hotels, don’t be afraid to try local single-owner establishments. Many are well cared for as their owners live on or near the premises. As always it’s good to seek advice from TripAdvisor, ride reports, and other feedback to guide your choice.

Another often overlooked option is State Park Lodges and National Park Lodges.  The cost of these hotels varies widely from $99/night to upwards of $300/night, but they are often in unique settings, well maintained, and regularly updated. We especially like Arkansas’ Queen Wilhelmina Lodge and Magazine Mountain Lodge. These properties also have cabin and camping options. Book early as these fill up quickly during peak season.

Rustic Cabin – $$$

The Lower-48 is sprinkled with rustic cabins of all types for rent.  Cabin rentals are often cheaper than hotels and closer to your dirt-focused route, but they do require more planning.

Check with your rental to check for specific amenities. These vary from luxurious private showers, turn-down service, and a wonderful restaurant on-site to minimalist wooden structures with a cement floor and a cot. Fortunately the prices usually match the service level, so there is something for everyone.

Food options are usually limited due to the rural or scenic location, and some rentals supply a structure, bed, and mattress, but no bedding. With this in mind, you may want to pack a sleeping bag and small camp stove along with your favorite camp-meal.

In East Texas I especially like the KOA located in the town of Rusk.  They have a clean bathhouse and a view of the rolling countryside. Similar accommodations can be found at Shadow Mountain Campground just outside of Mena, AR or the Thunder Lodge in Buena Vista, CO. In Moab, UT we like the ArchView RV Resort for a quick cabin pit-stop.  Archview also has tent and RV spots and a Shell gas-station. Many RV parks and tent campgrounds also offer minimalist-cabin options.

Fixed Location Camping – $$

If you enjoy camping but like more amenities than you can carry on two wheels, fixed location camping may be for you. French press for coffee, check.  Dual burner stove for gourmet camp dinners, check. Hot water on demand shower system, check. By establishing a central camp in a good riding area you can spend multiple days riding different trails and roads from the comfort of your well-appointed base. We usually set up our site with a tarp to block the sun or rain, a sleeping configuration that has varied from a tent to an RV, and a good spot to set up the cooking area and fire pit.

The wonderful thing is that you get to pick the campsite and enjoy the view. Securing the campsite can be tricky as good dispersed sites fill up quickly on the weekends. Reserved sites in a campground can be costly and directly offset by neighbors on both sides, but many campgrounds do a good job of shielding you from your neighbor. Many national forests with good dual sport riding have areas where dispersed camping is available.

Base-camp set up in Taylor Park, CO.

Early in our camping career we set up a tent base-camp, but we recently upgraded to a larger enclosed trailer. It’s outfitted with a murphy bed and storage for the usual camping items to make packing and unpacking quicker.  Watch for more blog posts on our enclosed trailer build.

Bike based camping – $

One of the most intense ways to experience the countryside is to be consumed by it in sight, smell, touch, and sleep.  Also, some of the BEST camp spots are only accessible by foot or motorcycle.  You won’t see any toy-haulers down these roads.

You will need some specialized gear to carry your camping gear on your bike and some form of rack mounted on your rear fender.  Tank bags and front fender bags are a plus too.  More on that in our gear section.

Manufacturers have mad significant advances in lightweight backpacking gear allowing you to take many luxuries into the wild.  I just received a small, plastic french-press for my birthday for this type of travel. Remote camp sites are often available for free or minimal cost.

A few vistas in Utah are on my list and will require this type of travel.  Watch for blog posts on those in the next few months.

Winging it – Free to Moderately Expensive

Depending on your personality, this can perhaps be the most relaxing way to travel.  You-Are-Ready-For-Anything.

All you need is a pit stop once a day to refill your over-size gas tank, top off the camel-bak, and feed that hunger for road-side tacos. Generally you’re ready to camp, negotiate a cheaper room rate at a really nice hotel since it’s getting dark and they have pity on you, or barter with a local inn keeper so you can park your bike in his lobby.  Yes, these all happen more than you’d think.

I’ve traveled several times this way in central Mexico, but on only one trip in the US. This guy really did it right by finding someone new to stay with every night.

House or Room Rental: Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey, VRBO   $ – $$$$

We’ve had great experiences with these sites but are very careful about the rentals we select. This can be a great way to find lodging next to National Parks.

10th Wedding Anniversary: Arkansas DS Loop

What better way to spend a 10th wedding anniversary than aboard two dual sport motorcycle in the woods of Arkansas.  I married well indeed!

We departed Texas on a Thursday afternoon and made our way up to Queen Wilhelmina Lodge near Mena, AR. On past rides in Arkansas we’ve camped, stayed in rustic cabins, or opportunistically grabbed a cheap hotel room.  Not this time.  For anniversaries we like to kick it up a notch.  Enter Arkansas State Park lodges.  They’re clean, reasonably priced, well stocked with food and drink, and have great views too! All the Dual Sport Dispatch luxury boxes checked.

Day 1

Mena, AR to Deer, AR:  193 Miles

Friday morning we turned north from Mena and warmed up on a twisty pavement section.

Heather outside of Mena, AR

After only a few miles we found the dirt and were on our way to Ft. Smith.

Making tracks from Mena to Ft. Smith

Heather rides a ’14 CRF250L.  It doesn’t have much get-up-n-go, but she is still getting comfortable with a full-size bike after spending many years bossing around a modified TTR 125. Since she is only 5’4″ and with short legs, we lowered the CRF250L with a Kouba link, seat concepts seat, and by dropping the forks 3/4″. With the lowering link installed you’ll also need to modify the kickstand.  Just cut and re-weld or take it to your local muffler shop for some help.  Add a splash of black paint when completed to keep away the rust gremlins.

Heather and her CRF250L

Part of our route navigated a reclaimed strip mine.  Other than the odd flat terrain and road sign saying “Strip Pit Road” there is no other indication, but it seems like a safe bet.

View along Strip Mine Road

From the reclamation area we ascended a rocky, poorly maintained road into the clouds.

Rocky and rutted switch-backs.

The clouds obscured our view and limited us to 35-40 mph.

Headlights on for safety!

Here you can see the view from my seat.  I kept waiting for a deer or other game to pop out of the trees.

Watch for animals and other riders

 After navigating our way into Ft. Smith and grabbing some fuel and a snack, we headed northeast to Warloop Road.   It’s more of a trail than a road.  As you approach there are several signs that say “no through traffic” or “road ends.”  Pay them no mind.  Your path is forward.

Heather turning onto Warloop Road

 There are plenty of one-lane bridges on this route.  Some have metal trusses, other are cement, and some are wooden blocks laid across a small creek.

One lane bridge in Northern Arkansas

 At more than 190 miles, our planned route for the day was a little ambitious. As night fell we found ourselves turning onto more trail than road.  Fortunately there were bail-out trails to navigate around for a few lake-sized puddles.

I recently replaced my high-beam with a 100w bulb and was happy to have it.

100w, 8″ High-beam Illuminates the Path

Although a bit later than planned, we arrived safely at Cedar Rock Lodge, a uniquely located rental home I found through Google.

 View of Cedar Rock Lodge in the Morning Light

Day 2

Deer, AR to Mt. Magazine Lodge: 87 Miles

Saturday saw us arise to another beautiful riding day in Arkansas.  Blue sky.

After a few pavement miles we enjoyed brunch at the Kountry Kitchen Grill just west of Clarksville.  The warm coffee and breakfast food stacked high sure hit the spot.

From there we made our way south to the Lodge at Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas.  With views of Blue Mountain Lake more than 1000′ feet below and a clear afternoon to relax on the patio, we were set.

View from our patio at Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas

Day 3

Mt. Magazine to Mena, AR: 132 Miles

It was a little dustier on the 3rd day, but we made it back the truck without issue in time to head home to prepare for the week. No pics.  🙁

After the ride…

Earning an Arkansas sticker.

Arkansas ADV stickers on the products page