I’ve been riding motorcycles for about 10 years now having started on the street and gradually shifting towards more and more dirt riding. It’s been an interesting transition in a number of ways.
My interest in riding dirt roads and trails has evolved over time. When I first started riding, I wanted to go on long cross country trips to experience all that North America has to offer. Initially, I was quite satisfied to be able to go 500+ miles each day soaking up as much scenery as possible travelling exclusively on paved roads but over time, I started realizing that I was missing just as much as I was seeing.
I started wondering what was down that lonely dirt road that disappeared into the desert or what I would find if I traveled up a steep dirt road in the Rocky Mountains that quickly disappeared into the forest. I found myself yearning for a different type of riding that would allow me to go places that most people pass by every day.
Many of the places I would have liked to go were simply off-limits when riding a big heavy touring bike. While my Harley Davidson Electra Glide and BMW K1600 were both great at eating up miles on paved roads, these bikes are simply not made for dirt roads. So, after 6-7 years of riding exclusively on the street, I started looking for a bike that would be more suited to dirt roads.
This led me to the purchase of my 2013 Kawasaki Versys in an attempt to open up more riding options. The Versys has allowed me to ride some easy dirt roads while also being fun on the street. While the Versys has allowed me to explore some Forest Service roads, it’s still more street oriented than a true adventure bike.
So, after crashing my K1600 in the summer of 2015, I decided that the replacement for the big BMW would be an adventure bike. As it turned out, I ended up with enough enough money to replace the BMW with two bikes – the KTM 1190 Adventure and the KTM 690 Enduro R.
The two KTM’s have opened up new riding opportunities that were previously off-limits with the other bikes I’ve owned. The 1190 is a great for longer rides and dirt roads are now something that I actively seek out rather than avoid. While it is a bit bigger and heavier (40lbs) than the Versys, it somehow just feels more stable and easier to ride on dirt roads and trails. Of course the 1190 is still a 500+ lb. bike with street tires so when things start getting difficult, I just turn around, make a note of where I am, and return another day with the smaller KTM.
The 690 Enduro has been a blast to ride. As a dual-sport bike, it strikes a nice balance between street and trail riding. The LC4 motor has plenty of power for street riding while the knobby tires and tall suspension make trail riding fun. In the short time I’ve had the 690, I’ve been on some trails that I would never attempt on any of my other bikes.
This new focus on dirt riding has me feeling like I’m learning to ride all over again. After so many miles of street riding, getting comfortable slipping and sliding around in mud, loose dirt, and over rocks is going to take some time. Further complicating things is the fact that I generally ride alone and don’t have anyone to show me the proper line over obstacles so I guess I’ll need to learn this the hard way. With practice, I’m confident that I’ll improve my skills and when I do, it’s going to be even more enjoyable to get off the road and onto the dirt.
I’m currently back out in southern California for a couple of weeks and will be riding the Kawasaki Versys in search of that next dirt road to adventure.