KE -100 Touring
We bought a clean 1999 KE100 with only 900 original miles about a year ago. I've used it all summer as my errand bike--quick trips to the gym and such. One fine spring morning with perfect weather I got the nutty idea to see what it was like to travel on the little smokey. The KE100 is remarkably comfortable for such a small motorycle so this is not as crazy as it seems. I'm over 6 feet tall btw.
I left my home in the countryside south of St. Louis, MO, USA and headed southwest staying entirely on secondary roads. On the KE one cannot even think of riding on the interstate and even two lane state highways are best avoided. I cruise sedately on roads that I have been down many times on faster bikes and see things that I never noticed before. I have had the KE up to 60 mph once, but I think there must have been a tailwind. Typical cruise speed is about 40 mph on level ground. Going up hills I downshift and slow to 30 mph at times and zoom up to 50 mph going down. I'm thinking that this is more like driving a truck as I go past a little church on Glade Chapel road.
I've traveled almost all of old route 66 a few times, but for this trip I intended to explore an old road that predates hwy 66 by about 40 years. Angling southwest from St. Louis to Springfield, MO much of the old wire road that was created when the telegraph came about still exists and best of all it is mostly gravel and deserted. I'm using my trusty old Magellan Meridian GPS which works just fine with the KE100's 6 volt electrical system. I look for roads labled "Springfield road", or "Wire road" and take them when I find them. I discover an abandoned one lane bridge and take a photo of the KE on the bridge--sorry the photo is gone. I had to negotiate some rutted terrain to get to the bridge and little KE did fairly well. As others have mentioned the KE has minimal suspension travel. The good thing is that the bike is featherlight and this makes uneven terrain a lot less intimidating. I've jacked the pre-load on the rear shocks all the way up and my mechanic replaced the stock fork fluid with 30W when he fixed a leaky fork seal.
Back on the road I stop at a cafe in St. Clair, MO for an early lunch. A bunch of us left St. Clair earlier in the year and rode to the famous swinging bridges of central Missouri constucted by Joseph Dice. I wimped out and never saw the bridges, so I decide that today will be the day. Leaving St. Clair I find old Springfield Rd. and putter along first on pavement and then on dirt and gravel as the road parallels the Frisco railroad through little towns. The KE100 works very well on loose gravel as it kind of drifts about but with a very controllable feel. I keep an eye out for heavy washboard sections and slow for them as my primitive suspension makes them rather jarring.
I get lost in Cuba, MO for about 40 miutes. I can see the old Springfield road on my GPS, but cannot find a way across the freeway to get to it. After going down several dead end streets and waving to a buch of kids I'm finally on my way. I continue to see things differently becasuse of the slow pace and the mood I am in. The ruins of a stone barn would have escaped my notice had I been sailing by on my 900SS. I stop at a little one room schoolhouse for a swig of water and another picture. I've discovered a neat little KE100 trick--you don't need to kickstart. Just put the bike in second gear as if you were going to bump start the bike, but don't pull in the clutch and take off running as if you are starting a Norton Manx. Just sit on the seat and push the bike in second and it fires right up. Off you go! This becomes my favored method of starting on level ground or if there is a slight downhill. I still kickstart rather than try to push uphill.
After passing through St. James I leave the old wire road and begin heading west and north as I adjust my route toward Lake of the Ozarks. The sun is getting lower and I will be going home in the dark. For the first time in the trip I use a state highway-- hwy 42 to save a little time. The road is lightly traveled, but it has no shoulders in most places so every once in a while I need to signal and pull over into a driveway to get out of the way of faster traffic. I read a ride report here on ADV by a young man who traveled the USA by scooter. His method involved traveling a fair bit on the shoulder of non-interstate highways, but this caused him a few flat tires due to debris on the shoulder. I stop for gas in Tuscumbia, MO and discover that the graceful steel bridge near here has been replaced by an ugly concrete one. At one time one of Mr. Dice's swinging suspension bridges stood near here, but I cannot find the site or the remains of the stone towers. There are a lot of beautiful stone buildings here including an old school that is still used.
I finally arrive at the swinging bridges road and hang a left. There is a surprising amount of dust and traffic out here on this little gravel road. I come to the first small bridge and take a pic. When I arrive at the Grand Auglaze bridge, the largest one, there is a crowd there already. An entire family of Asian people including an old woman with a walker are looking the bridge over. A couple of young kids with ATV four wheelers look the KE100 over. They are astonished when I tell them that I rode from St. Louis this morning. I have traveled almost 200 miles so far. The bridge is amazing with suspension cables that were hand wound. I'm delighted to see a crowd out here--maybe there is a chance of saving the bridge. The bridge deck is in good shape so I mount the bike and proceed through the crowd on the wooden planks at a walking pace.
I decide to head for home before it gets dark and save the rest of the swinging bridges for another trip. I stay on paved secondary roads to make better time and arrive in Richland, Mo where I gas up again. I've been averaging about 80 miles per gallon, but the KE100 has a little tank so gas stops are frequent. I had become a bit anxious about finding gas a few times today, but I never had to switch to reserve. Leaving Richland I find a gravel road heading southeast and swing onto it. A hand painted sign advertising "The Cave" restaurant points this way. I find The Cave on the right side of the road a few miles down. The place was an abandonned resort that has been partially restored. Originally called "Ozark Springs Resort" it still has little log cabins that must be close to 100 years old and an old stone tennis court. The main attraction is the restaurant which is inside a cave. I skip a meal on this trip because the hour is late, but I returned later to this lovely spot with my wife and the food was good.
The sun sets as I pass by Ft. Leonard Wood. I'm happy that the KE100 has a decent headlight at least for the speed I am going. I stay on the pavement on old US 66 past Devil's Elbow and as I approach the little town of Jerome I discover that I have a problem. I need to cross the Gasconade river and the interstate bridge seems to be the only way across--the old US 66 bridge is long gone. I attempt heading north along the shore of the river on a gravel road, but it ends at a cemetary. The sky is pitch black and I am getting a little uneasy. My GPS is somewhat primitive and will only route me the most direct way which is that interstate 44 bridge. I can see the little town of Arlinton across the river, but I can't get there. By scrolling the GPS screen I discover another way through. Heading south on a little gravel road I plod along in second and third gear through the darkness. I finally get to hwy P, a paved secondary road and make my way to the old railroad town of Newburg, MO. From Newburg I know the way home and I decide to take my familar friend old US 66 all the way and stay off the gravel tonight. I pick up the pace and begin using ful throttle more as the hour gets later and it starts getting cool out. Gassing up in Rolla, MO I notice that my oil tank is getting a bit low. I look around the gas station for 2 cycle oil and they only have the outboard motor stuff and the little chainsaw bottles--drat. I probably have enough oil to make it home, but it is gonna be close. The oil tank on the KE100 is wider at the top than at the bottom so the farther the level falls the faster it falls.
Leaving Rolla I reduce my speed from the 50 mph that I had been running to a more sedate 40 mph reasoning that this might make the oil go further. I stop at a gas stations in St. James and it is the same sorry tale--no decent 2 cycle oil. I'm pretty picky about using JASO-FD oil in this little bike becasue it runs so hot, but tonight I may need to compromise. I finally find a Mobil station in Bourbon, MO that has Penzoil universal 2 cycle. The oil is not JASO-FD, but it claims to be ok for air cooled engines--good 'nuff. I dump the whole quart in the tank, fill up with gas and head for the barn. I now use full throttle extensively and hope that this will not damage the engine. I'm staying on the pavement, but it is after midnight and I'm getting tired. The air is cool and crisp and that helps me stay alert and hopefully keeps my little engine cool. I take hwy 30 from St. Clair home and ride wide open much of the way. I experiment with tucking in to get a little more speed, but it makes little difference. I get home about 3:00 am and go to bed. The amazing thing is that I am tired, but not fatigued. I hadd been riding all day, but I was not saddle sore and I had none of the muscle fatigue and soreness that I sometimes get when riding a street bike all day.
So the KE100 can be used for touring. I guess I went about 350 miles in one very long day. The pace was very slow, but also enjoyable. The lack of wind drag and noise from traveling slow reduces fatigue, but my ears are ringing a little bit from the day long ring ding in spite of the NR33 earplugs I use. The bike will go at least 300 miles on a tank of oil and over 80 miles between gas stops. If I traveled with this bike all the time I would carry a gas can and an oil can. I would not want a KE100 as my only traveling bike. Even a 250 four stroke is a lot more practical, but there is a strange enjoyment that comes from riding such a tiny bike and staying entirely on tiny back roads. I may take a week long trip with this little smokey and make a ride report--with pictures this time. (Btw. with Mystic JASO-FD oil the bike makes no smoke at all when warm and keeps the plug clean)