In keeping with the theme of the previous blog post, I took the Kawasaki Versys out to explore some dirt roads. I started out by heading to the Holy Jim Trail. It’s close to where I’m staying and I’ve been there a few times so I figured it would be a good place to start the day’s ride.
There’s a steep hill off to the side of the road that I’ve looked at and avoided in the past because it looked like it would be difficult to navigate with the Versys. However, when I went past it today, I decided to give it a try. After studying the hill for a minute or two to choose a line, I started going up. About 3/4 of the way up the first part of the hill, I got into the deep bumps/ruts. The rear wheel lost traction about the same time the front wheel slid in the soft sand and down I went. Loose dirt and sand isn’t really what the street oriented Avon Trailrider tires were designed for so I’ll chalk this one up to poor judgement on my part.
I rolled down the hill about 10 feet and looked up at the bike laying over on its side with the top of bike on the downhill side. I walked back up the hill and got the bike spun around so that I could get it up off the ground. Since I was in some ruts and there was loose dirt all around, getting the bike upright and pointed back down hill by myself was difficult.
After getting the bike back down the hill, I continued down the dirt road to the end where I turned around and headed back out towards pavement. I decided that I’d like to try a road near Lake Elsinore called N. Main Divide. So, I headed to the Ortega Highway which I always enjoy.
I turned left onto N. Main Divide and after a couple of miles, saw a dirt road and turned on to it. The first mile or two wasn’t too bad. There were some ruts and loose dirt but nothing too hard. Eventually, I stopped at the bottom of a fairly steep part of the road in a shaded area and setup my GoPro to capture some video.
The next couple of miles had some sections that were a bit challenging with deep ruts, loose dirt/sand and rocks but nothing too bad. Eventually, I came to another steep hill that looked like more than I was willing to take on by myself so I turned around and headed back down the canyon.
At some point, I saw a turnoff and decided to pull off and see where it went. It didn’t go far, maybe 100 feet, so I turned around and went back to the road. As I was turning back onto the road, I touched the front brake and the front tire slid and I fell again. I guess that’s why you’re not supposed to use the front brake in dirt.
I had a bit of a scare when I tried to restart the bike and it refused to start. I walked away and soon realized that I hadn’t turned the key off when I dropped the bike and that that it probably just needed the ignition turned off/on again to reset the tip-over switch. That was the problem and it fired right up for me.
Since this was the second time I had dropped the bike in one day, I decided that it was time to go home. At 470 lbs plus gear, the Versys isn’t exactly a lightweight bike and I really didn’t want to have to pick it up again.
Other than a few steep spots where I had to work at keeping the bike from picking up too much speed downhill, the reset of the day’s ride was uneventful. All-in-all, it was a good day of riding.
Damage to the bike was minimal. The crash bars and BarkBusters did exactly what they were supposed to do. The engine cases were untouched and the brake levers survived unharmed. I have a couple of scratches on the right mirror and a small mark on the plastic near the gauges, but other than that, the bike is fine. The dirt I fell down in is more like fine talcum powder than sand so it got into everything. The bike could use a good washing.
Unfortunately, a bag of Chex Mix that I had in the saddlebag didn’t fare too well. When the bike tipped over, the unopened bag popped and there were Chex all over inside the bag. So much for my afternoon snack.
I was pretty dirty and tired when I got back home, but it was worth it. After a shower and a cold beer, I felt good about the day’s ride. I got to explore some canyons and back roads that I haven’t been on before, found the limits of my off-road abilities, was reminded not to use the front brake in loose dirt, and didn’t hurt myself or the bike despite falling down twice. It was a good day.