Category Archives: Kawasaki

A Good Day of Riding

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.

20160607_112254There’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.

Another Day in the Sequoia National Forest

Since I had such a good time riding through the Sequoia National Forest yesterday, I thought I’d go ahead and spend another day exploring the area.  So, I got started at around 8:00 am and headed towards Glennville on 155.

I was looking for a specific Forest Service road (23S16)  that is shown on the map that I have.  I rode around in circles for about an hour before finally giving up and changing my route plans.  I headed north through the forest on another Forest Service road (23S05).  Within a couple of miles, the sky started to get a bit grey and I started feeling a few sprinkles of rain start falling so I stopped and put rain covers on the soft bags and kept on going.

Near the end of this road, a guy unloading a horse from a trailer stopped me to ask about the weather.  I told him that I had run into a few sprinkles and heard some thunder.  I asked him if the horse was afraid of thunder and he replied “I don’t know, but I’m about to find out”.  He also told me that there was a nice place to visit called the Trail of 100 Giants just a few miles north of where we were.

20150612_122214I decided to go ahead and ride to the Trail of 100 Giants.  After parking, I got a trail guide and went for a short walk to admire the giant trees.  Even though I’ve seen these trees before, they’re always impressive.  I spent about 40 minutes admiring the tree before getting back on the bike to continue the day’s ride.

By this time, it looked like the rain storms were becoming more widespread with hardly any blue sky visible.  As I headed east toward Johnsonville, it looked like I was heading toward some heavier rain so when I saw a road that went south where the sky looked a bit better, I went that way instead.   As it turned out, the road that I found was the 23S16 road I was looking for earlier in the day.

20150612_133210This road went through some forest that had been burned so the views weren’t as good as some of the pristine forest I’ve seen but it was still an enjoyable ride.  During the 25 or so miles I rode on this paved mountain trail, I ran through some light rain but  avoided the heavy rain that appeared to be just a couple of miles away.

As I emerged from the forest, I decided it was time to head back toward Bakersfield to find a room for the night.  As I descended out of the mountains, the air temperature rose dramatically.  By the time I got to Bakersfield, it was almost 100 degrees and I was glad to stop, get my leather jacket off, and get into a nice air-conditioned room.



Sequoia National Forest Ride

For as long as I’ve been riding, it seems like I always feel the need to keep on moving and see as much as possible every day.  Today, I decided that I was going to slow down, relax, and take my time.  I actually stopped quite a few times to take pictures and just enjoy the scenery.   I only traveled about 150 miles and went the whole day on a single tank of gas.

I sta20150611_082116rted out around 8:00 this morning and headed out into the Sequoia National Forest by way of Breckenridge Road.  The first part of the ride went through large areas of grass with cows grazing out in the open range.  It was a surprisingly warm beginning to the day – not hot but comfortably warm.

After climbing higher up into the mountains, the landscape transitioned from grasslands to forest.  The temperature dropped slightly and became what I would have to describe as perfect weather.  The road was narrow with and I had to watch for patches of sand that had fallen from the sides of the hill.  The scenery was spectacular and there were no other cars on the road – none, not even one.

There was plenty of wildlife along the road.  There were squirrels everywhere.  I must have seen at least 100 squirrels run across the road over the course of the day.  Surprisingly, I only remember seeing 1 dead squirrel so they seem to have mastered the art of crossing roads without getting run over.  I’ve never seen so many squirrels in a single day.  There was a spot near a ranch entrance where I probably saw 20 or more of the furry little rodents scurry across the road in a 100 ft stretch of road.  I couldn’t believe my eyes as one after another sprinted across the road.  It was comical.

I rode by a rattlesnake in the road and after determining that it was dead, I turned around and took a picture of it.   It was a small one, maybe 30 inches long.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a snake out here in California.

20150611_102314I turned off of the paved road onto a Forest Service road (28S62) and continued climbing up the mountain and through the forest.  The road was in good condition making for a nice easy ride.  As I continued through the forest gaining altitude, I rose above the clouds that covered the surrounding mountain tops.  The views were incredible.

The Forest Service road brought me up to Breckenridge Lookout which I though was just going to be a nice place with a scenic overlook or something like that.  I parked the bike and headed up a trail and found that there was a fire tower where the park rangers can watch for forest fires.  I climbed up the tower, signed the guestbook, and spent about a half hour talking to the forest ranger about the forest and surrounding areas.  Of course the view from the tower was spectacular.  There were some maps of the area that showed some more detail than the map that I have so I took one with me.
20150611_102322After leaving the fire tower and getting down the paved road, I headed up another forest service road that indicated that there was a trail that was only open to motorcycles.  I got to the trailhead and there were two guys hanging out on the tailgate of their pickup.   I asked them if they knew anything about the motorcycle trail and one of the guys jokingly said that if I were to go down that trail, I’d have “the adventure of a lifetime”.  He went on to explain that it was a narrow trail with steep drop offs and nowhere to turn around.  Even walking the trail was a bit challenging.

I decided that I wasn’t really ready for an adventure and instead, hung out with them and chatted for a little while.  According to these guys, about 10 years ago when they were out hiking in the woods nearby, they ran across some odd rocks that spelled out the names of the disciples from the bible arranged in the shape of a pentagram.  Apparently, this was the site of some satanic rituals of something.

I chatted with these guys for about half an hour and then headed back out on the road.  By this time, it was about 2:00.  I got back on to Breckenridge Rd and then on to Bodfish Caliente Road.  This was another spectacular road with plenty of twisty roads through the canyons.  I turned on to Walker Basin Rd and made a nice loop around and back on to Bodfish Caliente Rd.

20150611_160337I went all the way to Bodfish and then turned back towards Bakersfield on Kern Canyon Rd.  This was another incredibly twisty road that eventually came out on to Rt. 178 which runs alongside of the Kern River.  I stopped a couple of times to take some photo because the scenery was so beautiful.

178 brought me back into Bakersfield where I found a room and stopped for the night. All-in-all, it was a great day of riding.

Back in California

I’m back out in California riding the Versys and visiting family for a couple of weeks.  I’ve spent most of my time with my family and have only been out on a couple of short rides so far.

I took a ride to the Dainese store in Costa Mesa and bought a pair of Dainese Delta Pro C2 Perforated Leather Pants.  The pants are the final piece of gear needed for track day riding.

After getting the pants in Costa Mesa, I took a ride on the Angeles Crest Highway and then over to Big Bear to break-in the pants and enjoy some nice riding.  The weather was in the 70’s and great for riding.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be heading out for a few days of riding.  I’m planning to ride north towards Lake Tahoe zig-zagging back and forth across the mountains until it’s time to head back to Orange County to catch my flight back home.

More Dirt Roads

wpid-20150206_151532.jpgI went out to explore some more dirt roads in the Cleveland National Forest and found myself getting in a bit deeper than intended.  Some of the “roads” that I traveled today were definitely intended for 4×4 vehicles rather than street bikes ridden by fools with no off-road experience.

wpid-20150206_150335.jpgFor you folks that have ridden dirt bikes, or are seasoned adventure riders, maybe these roads wouldn’t have been all that difficult.   For me, it was definitely the most challenging terrain I’ve encountered so far.

The dirt roads I rode on were actually roads not trails and I did see tire tracks in the dirt so there had been other vehicles on these roads.  There were many areas where there were very deep ruts, rocks, and loose dirt.  Some of the ruts were knee deep with large rocks and sand in them.  I was able to go around the worst of the ruts by hugging the side of the road while at the same time, trying not to go off the side of a cliff.

Thankfully, most of my route was down hill so I didn’t have too much trouble with spinning the rear tire.  I was actually quite amazed at how well the combination of the Versys and the Scorpion Trail tires did on these roads.  There were many times when I thought that the tires would spin or slip but they never did.

More than once, I figured I was going to tip over only to roll through whatever obstacle was in the way without any hint of instability.  It was amazing because I really don’t have any skills.  Luck seemed to be on my side.

I think this is about the end of my dirt road adventure riding for this trip.  I’ll stick to pavement for the next couple of days.

Off Pavement Riding

One of thThe Versys on a Dirt Roade reasons I chose the Kawasaki Versys was because I wanted a bike that I could take out on some of the less traveled dirt roads found all over the southwest. Over the years, I’ve passed countless dirt roads while riding my full sized touring bikes always wondering where they went.  My Harley Ultra Classic and BMW K1600 are definitely not made for travelling on gravel roads or forest service fire roads.

In the last couple of trips to California,  I spent a little bit of time trying out some easy dirt/gravel roads and I have to admit, I kind of like it.  I still go very slowly and haven’t really tried anything remotely challenging, but I’m gaining experience and getting a little more comfortable with the bike each time I turn off onto another dirt road.  I never really rode dirt bikes all that much so it’s going to take me a while to get my skills to where they need to be.

End of the roadThe tires on the Versys are Pirelli Scorpion Trails which are heavily biased toward street riding rather than off-road riding so I’ll be trying to avoid mud and sand for the time being.  The bike is also a bit heavy for real off-road or trail riding.   While I haven’t tipped it over yet, it’s bound to happen sooner or later and I really don’t want to have to lift it up by myself more than once or twice a day.

The gearing and power delivery seems to work pretty well for me. I can go as slow as I want to without worrying about bogging the motor.   For the most part, I’ve been staying under 30mph on the unpaved roads so first, second and third gear are all I really use.  I like the fact that I can let the rpm’s drop real low and the then rely on the torque of the motor to pull me along nice and slowly.

I’m looking forward to many more off-pavement adventures exploring the places that I’ve been unable to visit in the past.

Mid-Winter Riding in Southern California

I recently flew out to Southern California to visit family.  It’s great to get away from the cold and snow that is so typical of Upstate NY in February.    Daytime temperatures here in California have been 75-80 degrees making it perfect riding weather.

The last time I was out here, I had discovered some roads that are a bit off the beaten path but didn’t have time to fully explore them.  So this time, I kind of knew were to go and decided to give these routes another try.   I rode up the Ortega Highway to a road called South Main Divide.  This road starts out as a normal road but eventually turns into a single lane paved trail that meanders through the canyons.  It’s a nice easy ride through some beautiful mountains.

At the end of the South Main Divide trail, I found some nice easy dirt roads/trails to continue onto.  There were some rutted sections but nothing that seemed too challenging.   When I ran into a  gate that prevented me from continuing, I stopped and had some lunch.

On the return trip, I retraced my path.  It’s amazing how much different the same road looks when going in the opposite direction.  The afternoon shadows in the canyons made for some amazing views that were not visible earlier in the day.

The ride was through the canyons around Malibu.  I did have to spend some time on the freeway to get there and back, but it was worth it.  The LA traffic wasn’t too bad and I’m becoming a bit more comfortable with lane splitting so even when things do slow down, I can keep moving and a reasonable pace.

I got to Malibu at around 9:00 am and before heading into the canyons, I stopped at a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee.  It was rather obvious that this is an upscale neighborhood by looking at the cars parked there.  There was a black Bently coupe, a white Bently convertible, a couple of Audi’s, a Porsche, and various types of BMW  cars and SUV’s.

After my coffee stop, I started the good part of the day’s ride by heading up Latigo Canyon.  From there, I turned on to Mulholland Highway and headed toward the Rock Store.  From there, I turned around and took Encinal Canyon Road back down to the PCH.

I went North on the PCH and turned on to Decker Road  heaidng back into the canyons.  I’m not exactly sure what roads I took once up in the canyons but I ended up on Yerba Buena Dr. at some point.

Yerba Buena Dr. is a bit beat up but has some spectacular scenery making it a road worthy of exploring.  This road brought me back down to the PCH where I stopped at Neptune’s Nest for a fried seafood lunch.

The PCH north of Yerba Buena Dr. was closed off for some reason so after lunch, I headed south on the PCH and turned back onto Encinal Canyon Road to get back up to the Mulholland Highway.  I continued on Mulholland, picked up the 101 near Woodland Hills and headed back home for the day.

Perfect weather, and very few cars in the canyons make for a great day of riding.  The canyon roads here in Southern California never disappoint.

Youtube Videos

Just before going out to California this fall, I had purchased a GoPro camera to record some highlights of my rides.  I haven’t figured out how to use it to its full potential yet and hope to get some more experience with it over the winter months so that I’m ready to capture some more interesting footage next summer.

One of the things that surprised me the most about the GoPro was how well it did with audio.  With the camera mounted to the handlebars on the Triumph and the crash bar on the Versys, I figured that wind noise would be a problem.  However, it seems as if the camera does an excellent job of eliminating the wind noise leaving just the sound of the engine.

I haven’t taken a lot of footage yet, but I did post a couple of short videos to YouTube recently.

Triumph Street Triple – Late Summer Ride

Kawasaki Versys – Palm to Pines Highway

Video editing is another area where I need to get some experience.  Right now, I can only manage to do the most basic things with Adobe Premier and hope to get a lot more experience during the snowy months here in the Northeast.

Nice ride through the Angeles National Forest

On October 23, I took a nice day ride through the Angeles National Forest.  I had intended to ride the Angeles Crest Highway but my plans changed when I stopped for gas in La Cañada Flintridge.  After filling the Versys up with gas, I pulled off to the side next to some other bikes and went into the store to get a drink.

I started chatting with the other riders and found out that they were locals who had taken the day off of work to go out for a ride. It was an interesting group of bikes these guys were riding.  There was a Suzuki DRZ400SM, a Yamaha R6, a Yamaha V-Max, a BMW S1000RR, and a BMW Scooter.  After talking to these guys for a little while, they invited me to tag a long with them for the day.  I had intended to go over the Angeles Crest Highway as I’ve done in the past but my new found friends were going to take some me om some less traveled back roads to Wrightwood.

We started out by going up Rt. 2 but quickly turned off on to a road towards a place they called the “Big Tree”.  After about 30 minutes, we pulled over and stopped.  I found out that the Big Tree tree had been cut down years ago but this is where it used to be.  After a nice 15 minute break, we took off towards some nice twisty roads.

We continued through the mountains where there was virtually no traffic at all.  The roads were typical CA canyon roads – smooth, twisty, and fun to ride.  Looking at a map now, I think we took Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to highway N3 but I’m not really sure exactly what route we actually took.  I just know that we really weren’t on Rt. 3 for more than a few miles before stopping for lunch at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood.  I got to know my new friends a bit better and discovered that they’re all self employed and every so often, they take a day off and go out for a ride.

After lunch, we headed out onto Rt 138 and then Rt 18 past Lake Arrowhead and into Big Bear.  In Big Bear, we stopped at a coffee shop for a nice hot beverage.  By this time it was around 4:30 so I decided that it was time to head back home.  I said goodbye to my new found friends and headed back down Rt 18 and then on to Rt 330 to Loma Linda.  From here I just took freeways back home.

What a great ride.  The weather was great and riding with locals allowed me to follow along on roads that I never would have ridden if I were out on my own for the day.

Angeles Crest Highway Ride

On Friday 6/13/14, I decided to finish my CA trip with a nice ride along the Angeles Crest Highway.  I took the interstate highways through Pomona and Passadena to La Cañada Flintridge.

A view from the Angeles Crest Highway

I do believe that the Angeles Crest Highway is my favorite road of all time.  The road is smooth with nice moderate corners making riding fun and exciting.  About halfway along the road, I stopped at Newcombs Ranch for lunch.

Rt 138 as you head toward San Bernadino

After lunch I rode the remainder of the Angeles Crest highway and started heading back toward LA along Rt 138.  Rt 138 is another nice road that goes past Silverwood Lake and into San Bernadino.  From There I headed to Perris and Lake Elsinore finishing up the ride on the Ortega Highway,

Somewhere along Rt 138 near Silverwood Lake
A view from the hills looking down on to Silverwood Lake