Cow Mtn OHV for New F800GS Rider? Or...?

Discussion in 'West – California, the desert southwest and whatev' started by Jimador, Sep 14, 2013.

  1. Jimador

    Jimador Rey del Mundo

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    Hello all,
    I have a question about the suitability of Cow Mountain OHV for a beginner off-road rider on a heavy dual sport bike. There are plenty of mentions of Cow Mountain scattered around AdvRider, but I can't find a definitive answer to this specific question. I appreciate any insight you can offer.

    Me: I acquired an F800GS a couple months ago, in part so I could explore off the paved roads and learn new skills. I haven't yet had it on anything more difficult than some rocky but mostly flat dirt/gravel roads. I have no prior off-road experience on a motorcycle. (Plenty of street experience, and MTB experience off-road, but I'm not expecting those things to magically synthesize into off-road motorcycling ability.) The bike is set up with crash bars, skid plate, hand guards, etc., but still has the Scorpion Trail streetish tires on it.

    My goal: I'm looking for a place that's a reasonable day-ride distance from the SF Bay Area where I can get in some miles on easy off-road terrain. Dirt roads, _easy_ trails, that sort of thing. Basically an opportunity to get a feel for the bike off-pavement and build my confidence and skills a bit while practicing those weird off-road riding tips I learned on YouTube :D. I won't be upset if I drop the bike, but I don't want to get in way over my head and I want to get back in one piece, the same day I started.

    Cow Mtn: Someone has recommended I check out Cow Mountain (near Ukiah). From Google Earth recon it looks like there are some main trails that COULD be pretty easy, but I can't see enough detail to be sure. I also know there are a bunch of gnarly trails more suitable for real dirt bikes that would be way too difficult for my purpose. I have seen reports on this and other forums of people on big DS bikes having a hard time up there, or worse. So...

    My questions:
    -Does Cow Mtn have suitable terrain for my purpose, and is there enough of it to make it worth the two-hour ride (one way) from the Bay Area?
    -Are there any specific roads/trails/routes there you'd recommend, or recommend avoiding?
    -Are there any other places/rides within a comparable distance from the Bay Area that you'd suggest, either instead of or in addition to Cow Mtn? It doesn't have to be a dedicated OHV area; just something with some moderately challenging riding for a beginner.

    Thanks in advance for any input. -Jim
    #1
  2. TwilightZone

    TwilightZone Long timer

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    F800?... For a start I'd try the dirt roads in Mendo county...
    Sherwood, Usal, FS1, FS7... etc.

    There was a recent ADV report on those roads.
    #2
  3. roamtheglobe

    roamtheglobe Been here awhile

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    I was up at Cow a few weeks ago with my ktm 950 with some lame Anakee 3's on it. It's super dusty up there right now... The fire roads through cow are pretty basic and easy, there's lots of trail riding off the main roads, but if you stick to the main roads you'd be fine. But I would recommend going to Mendocino Natl. forest above Upper Lake- you can ride pavement pretty high, and then venture off, and it shouldn't be as miserably dusty in the woods...
    #3
  4. lvscrvs

    lvscrvs Long timer

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    A few other dirt options in the North Bay:
    Western Mine Rd - continuation of Ida Clayton Rd off hwy 128 - short / sweet
    Big Canyon Rd - north out of Middletown
    Perini Rd - off Big Canyon
    Old Toll Rd - Parallel to Hopland Grade / 175
    Fish Rock Rd - off 128 before Boonville
    Main Road through the Knoxville OHV area - off Berryessa-Knoxville Rd
    Reiff Rayhouse Rd - more challenging than the others listed... might want to bring a friend..... :eek1
    #4
  5. Jimador

    Jimador Rey del Mundo

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    Thanks for the suggestions, guys.
    #5
  6. pcvance

    pcvance Walk Verplank

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    First put some knobs on, you will be glad you did. Cow mt. Is ok, but there are
    Miles and miles of fire roads and jeep trails in the Sierra national forest to get the feel of dirt under your heavy weight bike. Get a map and go have fun!
    #6
  7. lvscrvs

    lvscrvs Long timer

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    One other thing. If you don't have one already, get a 12v mini air compressor. Air your tires down to mid-high 20s when offroad. Then back up to normal pressures when you get back on the highway... makes a big difference. You can ride any of the roads i mentioned above much more comfortably with the tires you have aired down.
    #7
  8. goldentaco

    goldentaco Been here awhile

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    Mendo NF roads are expansive and fun. You won't get bored. M1 from Upper Lake to FH7 is about 65 miles of dirt. Not hard but a few good technical sections up by Hull Mtn. that you will appreciate. FH7 is about 45 miles of dirt. and is easy graded dirt freeway.

    Bear Valley Rd off junction of 16 and 20 goes up to Lodoga and is easy graded gravel.

    I do a long loop of Oakland- hwy16 to Bear Valley to FH7 across to M1 and down to Upper Lake. Makes for a long day but 100 miles of dirt is always a good day.

    J
    #8
  9. MookieBlaylock

    MookieBlaylock Long timer

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    also there are some nice ez connections from there over to the coast on sherwood rd or navarro ridge and then zip back south on 1 or up to usal etc. Search sheetiron gps tracks from the last few years
    #9
  10. Jimador

    Jimador Rey del Mundo

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    Thanks again for the ideas...I hit Big Cyn, Perini and West Mines yesterday. For any other new dirt riders out there, these are all fine for beginners. Big Cyn and Perini are extremely well graded hardback dirt/gravel. W Mines has some rutted and loose sections but is still fine. None of these is more than a few miles long. The dirt section of W Mines is all downhill going north; I did it both ways and had more fun going up, where I could get the back end moving around a bit under power. The stock tires did fine on this stuff after airing down by 10 lbs or so.

    Lots of recommendations for Mendo! I plan to spend a weekend camping and riding up there sometime in the next few weeks. Ride on.
    -Jim
    #10
  11. skwidd

    skwidd where does this lead?

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    There is a ride next weekend with some good 2-track for big bikes and a nice lunch up near Downieville.


    http://www.woodsriders.org
    #11
  12. timashersf

    timashersf n00b

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    I second the recommendation for Mendocino National Forest

    I'm very much in the same situation as you. I've got a F650 twin and have been trying to get comfortable on fire roads and the like. A few weeks ago I did Bartlett Springs Rd out of the north side of Clear Lake (Nice i think is the name of the town) . This was pretty easy and totally do-able alone. I then turned north onto Twin Valley Rd., which was the same for the first bit, but then quickly became steep and somewhat rutted. I managed it OK, but did have a few "holy sh&t, I'm in over my head and alone" moments. I'd love to do it again with a riding buddy. There were a couple stream crossings (a first for me) that I wasn't expecting. It all worked out, and felt great to accomplish though.

    And Bear Valley Road that others have mentioned (off of Hwy 16) is really easy, and great for a first time. It's about as easy a dirt road as you can imagine. Mostly flat and straight, and wide open views.
    #12
  13. Overcomb3

    Overcomb3 Icy PUMA

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    I'm kinda in the same boat bro. I've had my dream bike(KTM 990S) a little less than a year & have been trying to find all the dirt around here as possible.
    I just did Knoxville south to north then connected to Reiff over to hwy. 16. It was dry but very doable for big bikes. Good half day getaway.
    I agree with earlier posts to get up to mendo. Lotsa great dirt. Just a little far for a day ride. Gotta camp fo sho. I've done old toll rd. kinda easy but easily connected to.
    Try going south. There's some fun stuff off of naciemento ferguson rd. at the top. I think it's called south ridge rd. It has incredible views & some cool dirt to ride through fort hunter liggett. Awesome camping.
    You could also do what I tried. Quit job & go on cross country ride. I've recently returned from 12000 miles through 22 states, 2 provinces a few territories & 3 countries. I know I know, priorities right;^} I attempted to ride more dirt than road. Didn't really achieve that but rode a hell of a lotta dirt. No ride report. I was just doin my own thing.
    Good luck & keep explorin!

    Oh yeah I almost forgot. You gotta ride Death Valley. Kinda right of passage. You'll see why everybody loves it so much.
    #13
  14. motoro

    motoro Adventurer

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    Hey let me know when you want to go for a ride. Mendo is fun and easy, clear creek is fun also... I ride a 990 adv or a husky 510.

    #14