In August, my BMW 800 GS Adventure and I got to know each other quite well. After 4 days of off-road riding through some rather grueling terrain in Silverton and Telluride Colorado, my body and my bike were banged up pretty good. But oh man, was it fun!
About 40 of us met up in the southwestern rocky mountains as part of the Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders (RMAR). We set up camp in Silverton, from which we staged our rides. Since the group consisted of beginners who had never ridden dirt before, to very experienced, we broke off and formed groups of about 6 or so riders based on skill. Since I was new to off road riding, I stuck with the “big bike” beginner group, but as I soon found out, it was beginner enough.
The start of the first ride wasn’t too bad. Our route took us on some jeep trails with a few obstacles, but nothing too challenging. The trails were compacted dirt with a few small boulders and crushed rock. No sand.
As we crested Ophir Pass and started down the other side, things got crazy in a hurry. The fun dirt jeep trail turned into a heaping pile of scree (medium-sized lose rock) stretching about 1.5 miles. The “trail” was only about 8 feet wide and to the right was a 200 foot drop off. It was not fun. I ended up dropping my bike 5 times and a buddy of mine dropped his a few times as well (he punctured a coolant hose). To make the situation worse, I got tired pretty quick at 11,000 feet lifting 525 lbs over and over again and 4-wheel drive jeeps were trying to go by who were also having problems. Like me, they didn’t want to fall off the cliff but now they had a downed motorcycle in the way.
I did learn a couple valuable lessons on my first ride out, 1) don’t do that again, and 2) I eventually learned how to lift my bike on my own. The ride lasted about 7 hours and I was ready to call it a day after about three hours.
The second day went much better. Having had a few beers, talking with fellow riders and getting a good nights sleep, I went over in my head what I was doing wrong. First and foremost, I needed to stay off the front brake. As soon as that baby locks up on lose rock, it’s game over and the bike is going down.
Second, I had to stand up more. You have much better control that way. I put the bike down twice on our way up Clear Lake Trail just out of Silverton, again due to some lose scree, but this time I knew what I was doing wrong. I was panicking on the downhill and clamping down on the front brake whenever I felt like I was starting to go too fast. Once I stopped panicking, I was able to think my way through the obstacles and control the front brake.
Third day was even better. I didn’t drop the bike at all and I finally programmed my brain not to panic with the front brake. By this time, the 800 GSA had bent crash bars, slightly twisted handle bars, and scuffed up hand protectors. But hey, isn’t that what an off-road bike is supposed to look like on the first trip out? I was also starting to enjoy the scenery, now that I wasn’t so tense.
The entire area is just beautiful. The mountains look more like the Alps and everything was incredibly green as seen in the picture at the beginning of this post. In all, I put just under 300 miles on the bike, and while at first that may not sound like a lot, it really is when riding dirt trails with an average speed of about 20 mph. We also stopped quite a bit to rest and take in the awesome views.