Boston-Labrador Loop - Summer 2012

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Paul G_, Jun 22, 2012.

  1. Paul G_

    Paul G_ Adventurer

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    Hey all. I picked up a KLR650 a couple months ago and I'm thinking about taking it up to Labrador via Quebec, then down through NFL, NS, NB, and home again. I'll camp as much as possible and probably spend around 15 days riding. My route is just over 3000 miles. This is my first motorcycle and first motorcycle trip so I'm looking for as much info/advice as you all can give. If there's a good place to go for general info - let me know!

    More than anything I'm looking for info on how to prepare the bike and what kind of tools/supplies I'll have to bring along with me. Are there any tools I might need that aren't included with the bike's kit?

    I'm thinking I'll have to put about $1000 into the stock bike for racks/saddlebags (Wolfman Expedition Dry Bags), a taller windshield, crash bar (recommendations?), tank bag and riding pants. I don't know the best way to deal with flats yet. What about boots?

    Riding tips are also appreciated (speeding up on gravel wouldn't have occurred to me). I took the MSF Basic Rider Course and have done about 1300 miles since and I'm feeling pretty comfortable on the bike. Does anyone think doing the advanced course will be worth it?

    Anyone know the latest info on paved/unpaved sections, and how far it will be between gas stations?

    Thanks in advance.
    Paul

    PS. Oh yeah, and the route! http://goo.gl/maps/JmP9
    #1
  2. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    First bike first trip--
    have fun and take it slow and easy, hold off on the big expenditures for a while, not really necessary.
    You can take that Labrador loop trip with a couple of soft saddlebags and wrap your stuff inside in plastic garbage bags and it will be dry if it rains. Just make sure they are well strapped on and do not melt into the exhaust system. Same for crash guards- not really needed on this road , no big rocks to come up to hit the bottom of the engine.As long as you dont crash hard the KLR is quite tough.A lot of these things are sold just to make a n impression.
    Tools you must have though , Make absolutely sure you have the correct sized ring wrenches in the stock tool kit that will let you remove both front and rear wheels..
    Root around in your tool box and pick out all the 3/8 drive metric sockets that fit the exposed fasteners, and of course the matching ratchet handle and a short extension. String all the sockets together on a cord and fasten the ends. If needed just buy a hobbyist socket set , good enough for maintenance.Be sure to bring the 8mm socket you need for the balancer adjustment at 5oookm intervals , That one also works for oil filter cover if you need to change underway.Dump all these tools in a tough bag and store rthe lot in your bundle on the luggage rack.
    You are set for the trip other than packingraingear( or wearing an all weather suit) and a change of underwear and of course tent& sleeping bag. The route you envision is civilized and has towns at regular enough intervals in the bush that you can count on eating in restaurants if you time your daily rides.
    The KLR gaas tank is good for 500km if you ride calmly so you can make the single section with no gas stations between Goose Bay and Port Hope Simpson without worries of running dry, no need to haul gas cans.
    Fill up whenever you see a gas station.
    If you are doing the ride clockwise north from Baie Comeau you will actually have the more challenging part of the ride done in Quebec where you have some serious steep hills on gravel road. Most of the route in Labrador is fairly level, pavement to east of Churchill Falls and being added to. Rest is all weather gravel.
    Enjoy
    #2
  3. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    You might learn something from my signatures on a 2008 TLH ride.
    #3
  4. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    I wa s
    getting a bit long winded in my first reply and forgot to answer your remark about
    not knowing much about tire repair.
    Buy a set of tire removal levers an a good tire patch kit .Do get familiar with that skill before you set out.
    Take an afternoon and practice removing and replacing both wheels following steps in your manuals
    This is to get you used to how the different axle spacers , brakes and cablles come off and must be replaced
    Maybe even take the tire off the rim and replace it.If you do not have a
    center stand then you need to figure out some way of supporting the bike on a
    simple portable rig like a chunk of hockey stick or tubular A frame you can take
    along. A real center stand wil be a worthwhile purchase.and of course bring an air pump.
    You may never have a flat tire in Labrador but out in the bush in the rain is not the best time to
    learn this.If you do get a flat take your time to do it up right,no rushing.....like I did trying to get the job finished as a rain cloud moved in and I only finger tightened the speedo cable...
    wich of course let the drive cable fall out somewhere DOh
    If your bike is well maintained you should not need many
    spare parts but it might be smart to bring along spare brake pads
    and a new tube for each wheel so you can slip one of those in and
    do the patch job later at the camping spot or motel
    #4
  5. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Read lots of Trans-Lab ride reports. I have two of them which you can get to through the ride reports link in my sig below.

    That said... I would strongly recommend gaining more experience before attempting the Trans-Lab. It's a road that's claimed the lives of a number of experienced riders. The conditions up there are wildly variable -- you could get there and find great weather and easy road conditions, or you could get rained on the whole time and have mud holes and lots of deep, loose gravel to contend with.

    And I would especially strongly encourage you NOT to attempt this ride alone. There's a lot that can go wrong on the Trans-Lab, and help can be a long way away. I've ridden it twice and have around 100,000 miles of riding experience overall, and I wouldn't ride the Trans-Lab by myself.

    My advice would be to plan a trip hitting up lots of dirt roads in New England to gain experience, and then do the Trans-Lab next year.

    --mark
    #5
  6. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    I hasten to agree with Markbvt...heed his adivce. Not that the TLH is accident prone but too many are taking it too lightly....this year alone she has already fatally bitten twice.

    cheers...
    #6
  7. lakota

    lakota Geeser

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    +1 on markbvt and abenteuerfahrer. the ride in not to be taken lightly.
    #7
  8. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    I would not go so far as to say he,Paul G, should not try the ride even at this point where it is his first long solo trip into boonie territory,. he will want to start somewhere.
    The major , serious caveat I would give would be to GO SLOWLY , and I do mean SLOWLY. The major factor in causing serious or fatal accidents on this road, or any road , is failure to pay attention and too much speed.
    Keep the speed in the low range, stick to lower gears. There is no need to try to make like a professional Paris Dakar or Baja 1000 racer. Unless you have a chase truck with parts and a medical team leave the showboating till you get to more familiar trails around home or in controlled supervised events where the doc is waiting in the wings. There is no reason to be roosting sand and gravel and drifting the back end around corners. You will not be docked penalty points and loose the "race " by going slow.
    As in these noted rallies, serious accidents and fatalities always come down to the rider going very fast so missing a turn or not seeing a hazard in time. When was the last time you heard of a fatality in a motorcycle observed trials event.?T hose compettitors do occasionally fall over but serious injuries from such events are rare- unless it is falling sraight down off one of their spectacular rock climbs. .

    Falling down is discussed flippantly by many riders here on the site.Falling down may be unavoidable in certain instances , but it should be avoided if at all possible. Falling down invariably hurts , breaks stuff on the bike and costs time and money for repairs .
    If you slow down you have more time to assess the road conditions as you go, it will take less effort to slow down if you notice a hazard or if you just want to stop to enjoy the scenery and to smell the flowers and the forrest, thesoil, the rain coming. How many times have you raced past something interesting , but gave up a thought to stop and investigate because, well, you already shot past and did not want to take the effort to slow down, turn around and have a second look.
    If you plan wisely by not giving yourself a tight unrealistic time schedule you will avoid the pressure to race along. Once the skill level increases, not necessarily on this Lab trip, you can try faster pace in some areas where you will have developed the skill to read the road, or re-run a section for th fun of it.
    As for doing the trip alone, solo, that too should not be an impediment if you GO SLOW. A nother factor in these serious accidents may just be that some of these riders were travelling together and were letting themselves get suckered into riding in a compettitive manner or trying to keep up the pace set by more skilled riders in the group. If you travel alone the whole day is yours and yours alone to do as you please, up to a point
    The first time I went the route clockwise to Goose Bay was in 1994 solo on a BMW R100 on street tires , before the road was the straightened groomed specimen it is now. And yes I did fall down once south of Lab City while crossing a gravel hump left by a grader , but I was going slowly ,walking speed over the bump, and did only minor plastic damage, no personal injury. The latest ride was counterclockwise two years ago, solo again, on a KLR - and I still went slowly for most of the ride and never fell off.Slow is the name of the game for me , sit back and smell the scenerey as it goes by, stop often for anything that strikes my interest. Isn't that the whole reason for going on a trip?
    #8
  9. Paul G_

    Paul G_ Adventurer

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    Hey guys. These are great comments, thanks. Having cycled the Great Divide, I can understand the suggestions about not taking this trip lightly - now that the GDMBR is gaining in popularity, everyone seems to be not only doing it, but thinking they can /race/ it. Good grief. I'm generally not one to let my ego get the best of me and jump into things unprepared, and this trip will be no exception. I also think the fact that I'm a n00b will be an advantage - I'm more likely to be slow and cautious in the places more experienced riders would put themselves at risk. With this in mind, I've planned for sub-200 mile days throughout all of Labrador.

    I also spent most of the past three years cycling from Alaska to Argentina, so I'm accustomed to being alone in very remote places, far from help, depending on my own judgment and resourcefulness to stay safe and get myself out of problems. (BTW I haven't given up on pedaling - just making the most of my limited vacation time!)

    And now that all of THAT is out of the way, does anyone know if there is a rainy season in Labrador that I could plan around? How about bugs - when are they the worst? (I did the Dempster on my PanAm trip and the bugs were miserable). Road work? I read somewhere that with the short season, they're almost always working on it during the summer.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the trip DaveMedfield is on... (Another Bostonian)

    Thanks again for the replies - definitely appreciate it.

    -Paul
    #9
  10. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    #10
  11. Coopa

    Coopa n00b

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    Hey, I have done that ride and I would strongly suggest that you take #138 out of Quebec City and hug the North shore of the St Lawrence.
    Lots of terrain changes, curves, and riding fun there, small towns and great restaurants, not to mention a free ferry that is kind of built into the road up at Tadoussac. Road ends, get on ferry, continue. Bikes go to the head of the line. Traffic is not a problem,
    Stretches of that road have moose fence over 25 feet high, they must have olympic qualifying high jumping moose in the area.

    Coopa
    #11
  12. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    That's all well and good, but not necessarily the best course of action. Depending on bike, tires, and the particular gravel you're riding over, going slow can actually be a lot more difficult than keeping the speed a little higher. This is one of those things where you need to gain experience, and why I suggested doing a more local trip first concentrating on dirt roads.

    In motorcycling being a n00b is never an advantage. An experienced rider will know the right speed for the conditions based on the feedback his bike gives him -- which can only be learned through experience.

    That's great, but the only part of that experience that's relevant is being in remote places. Bicycling experience is moot. A motorcycle is not just a big bicycle. Handling characteristics are very different, especially when the going gets rough -- and if something goes wrong, the consequences tend to be a lot worse.

    Do not allow yourself to start thinking, "I've ridden through stuff like this before, I've got this." You don't. And the Trans-Lab has a way of biting you the moment you start to get the tiniest bit complacent.

    Weatherwise, the best bet is September. Tends to be driest in Labrador and Newfoundland, according to what locals have told me, and also the bugs are mostly gone by that point. As for road work, yes, it's constant. They're in the middle of paving the Phase 1 section between Lab City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, which means that you'll encounter work zones and lots of deep, loose, trackless gravel (highly sketchy). And there's always grader activity somewhere on the Trans-Lab, so while some sections may be nicely scraped free with exposed hardpack, other sections will be loose and trackless, often with raised berms that you should avoid crossing unless absolutely necessary. And these conditions can change almost instantaneously.

    Please don't dismiss what those of us who've been there are saying as being overly cautious. We're cautious for a reason. The Trans-Lab can kill you, and just did kill another ADV inmate who posted up a very similar planning thread a month or two ago asking for advice. Waiting a year to gain some real riding experience would be much smarter than rushing in because you don't want to wait.

    --mark
    #12
  13. DaveMedfield

    DaveMedfield not a Llama

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    Fresh back from TLH and I had a terrific time and had a big cheesy grin on my face the entire time!! It's quite the adventure!!!

    I've had a quick look at the helpful advice for fellow ADV'ers and I'd agree with every bit I seen! Speed and feeling too comfortable are your enemies..... be very careful around graders and trucks! The purpose of the trip is the journey itself. Riding with a buddy enhances the experience I think. Take your time, do not rush.

    Here is what I'll add.........

    First I'll pass on/repeat the warning that was given by just about everyone I talked to from Newfie and all the way along the trail...... There was a terrible tragedy when an American riding the highway last week was killed when he hit the back of a truck after failing to slow down sufficiently when a big rig went by. There have been quite dry conditions on the trail and when the big trucks go by, you can't see a thing. Before the truck gets to you, Pull over, way over and stop until the dust settles enough for you to see. The road is there mainly to support commercial traffic keep that in mind!even after rain, it doesn't take too long for the dust to start again.

    Do not ride at night on the dirt. 200 miles sounds very doable (hey it's only 4 hours on the road right?) but it's a long way on dirt! Riding tired on the TLH is a recipe for disaster.

    Bugs (according to the locals) start mid June. July and August are brutal. I camped out trail side and pretty much as soon as you stop you get attacked by black flys. Buy a bug net if you are camping and ensure your tent's bug screen is very effective!

    Be prepared for rain when ever you go because you'll get some in all probability. Summer has the most precipitation .

    I rode the trail with a couple of chaps who used 80/20 style tires and they both said they would fit knobbies if they did it again. I had Kenda's and was very happy with them. Gear... try to keep your weight low and forward when you pack. I had hard side bags and a soft top bag. Soft bags are a pain! I'm going to change to bigger top access side boxes and no soft bags !

    Get an extended foot on your side stand, or carry a plate you can use instead.. A lot of the time on the side of the trail you'll be on soft sand that the standard stand will sink into. The one time I didn't use I had a bike on it's side and broken windscreen (doh!). I'm adding a metal plate welded to the bottom of my kickstand!

    Take pictures!

    OK that said......try to get some miles under your belt. Go ride the Trans Mass trail. Head up to Western MA, Vermont or Princeton MA area and find the dirt roads up there. Not quite the same as TLH but itt'll give you a feel for none blacktop. When you do go, realize it's a long way up there, so give yourself plenty of time...the last thing you need to be doing as a newish rider is pushing yourself to get up there or back!
    #13
  14. Abenteuerfahrer

    Abenteuerfahrer Deaf on Wheels

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    Thanks Paul for the reply..we're all glad that you made it and came home unscathed. I am sure you feel now a bit seasoned riding gravel and am sure that from now on you take other gravel/dirt roads with ablomp! Next time post pictures and report them in the Ride Forum!!

    Come on down here and do the TAT one day...4000 miles of dirt/gravel from TN to the beach of Oregon...

    Ride safe, ride far..

    cheers...
    #14
  15. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    Might want to reread who wrote that post... :D

    --mark
    #15
  16. Paul G_

    Paul G_ Adventurer

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    Hey guys. Yep, haven't left yet - but thanks Dave for the info. :)

    Good to know about 138 in Quebec, I was wondering about that vs 20.

    TMT - awesome! Can't believe I didn't know about that. I'll try to get a Friday/Monday off work and do a three day loop with that included.

    @Dave - Welcome back. What I'd REALLY like to know is how much dirt is left, where it is, and if it's still all "marbles" as other riders have said! I'm still not up to speed on all the lingo - 80/20 is road/dirt? (aka dual-purpose, or dual-sport?). Which model Kendas did you have? My KLR 650 '12 has relatively aggressive tread, but if I don't hit the trail until early September I'll probably have to replace them. Did you have to carry spare fuel? How many days did it end up taking you? Any flats? Advice on direction to do the loop?

    Some upates...
    My Wolfman saddlebags and racks came in today and I already got them installed. They're smaller than I thought, but should be OK with a bag on the rack. I decided to go for the crashbar after all. I got the SW-MOTOTECH with their center stand. What a PIA to get that all installed! You practically have to take the whole bike apart. Good learning experience, and I didn't end up with any extra screws, which is always a good thing... :) I'm still waiting on the Kawa tall windshield to come in and I think that will be the end of the upgrades - not including tires. Here's a pic from today:
    [​IMG]

    Thanks!

    -Paul
    #16
  17. trevhead

    trevhead Adventurer

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    hey paul,

    i've been planning on doing a similar route but leaving from upstate ny. i was planning on the counter clockwise run, hit the tlh earlier on in the trip and give it the time it needs. i've been riding three years on a 2006 bmw dakar, that is a 650 as well. i am planning, fingers crossed, to leave early september. i was thinking, and my wife is pushing, to find another traveler to do this portion of the trip with. my first long trip was also only three short months after getting a bike, i did the cabot trail and i really am looking forward to going back north. i enjoy riding alone but if the time comes and we are both looking for a riding buddy for the tlh we should stay in touch. just a thought, i'll keep an eye on this thread. t
    #17
  18. markbvt

    markbvt Long timer

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    The only section they're paving is the one between Lab City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, 330 miles overall, but they're not done yet. I'm assuming that by the end of August they'll be about two-thirds done with this.

    The road is still gravel from Manic 5 to Gagnon (about 85 miles), Fire Lake to Fermont (50 twisty and hilly miles with plenty of blind curves and railroad crossings -- this stretch is notorious among locals for crashed vehicles, not just bikes but also cars and trucks), and HV-GB to Red Bay (330 miles). And, as I said, I would guess around 100 miles between Lab City and HV-GB, probably broken up by a short paved section in Churchill Falls.

    "Marbles" refers to a layer of loose gravel on top of hardpack -- very sketchy because the individual stones are free to roll around beneath your tires. This is what you'll find on most of the Trans-Lab. If you're lucky the graders won't have been through recently and most of the gravel will have been pushed aside, exposing the hardpack base, which is as good as pavement. If you're unlucky you'll encounter freshly-graded gravel the whole way.

    If you're dead set on doing this trip this summer with minimal experience, then at least keep in mind how to read the road surface. Always stick to the clearest tracks you can -- those are your friend, the loose gravel in between is not.

    --mark
    #18
  19. Paul G_

    Paul G_ Adventurer

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    Hey trevhead. Cool - how flexible is your timing? I'm leaning towards the last week of August and the first week of September. I'd probably be up for meeting around the ferry to Labrador since I want to see some family and do some hiking before then. I'm also planning to visit some friends near Quebec City.
    #19
  20. Paul G_

    Paul G_ Adventurer

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    What do you all thing about heidenau k60 scouts for this trip? I've been drooling over them since I found them. :)
    #20