Dirt roads on a cruiser

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by ParrotheadJeff, May 6, 2012.

  1. [​IMG]
    My ride - 2004 V-Star 650 Classic

    I didn't quite know where to put this as it's not really meant for beasts as I'm talking cruisers. I didn't think it would go in Road Warriors as I'm talking about going somewhere off the pavement. I figured TPL sounded good, but mods should feel free to move it if they think it's better somewhere else :D

    So, here's the deal. I'm moving to Price, Utah in the beginning of June. It's been a good run here in Las Vegas for the past seven and a half years, but I've got new priorities that need to be met. Priorities like a daughter who's due to be born in late August :raabia Yeah, that one was more than a little bit of a surprise to both my girlfriend and myself, but we're thrilled regardless of what plans have changed :wings

    I've visited Price a few times and I know there are miles upon miles of roads - paved and primitive - near there as well as around Utah (check out Signal's thread Endless Utah for an idea of what I'm talking about) which are absolutely gorgeous. There's plenty of pavement for me to ride and explore. My bike is made for stuff like that and I've put 9000+ miles on it in less than a year with a daily commute of about four miles round trip. Pavement is nothing new and it's great fun.

    I also know, however, that there are probably more miles of well graded dirt roads out there as well. I've only had limited exposure to riding dirt - even well maintained dirt roads - but I know my bike won't spontaneously explode if the tires roll on something other than asphalt or concrete. What I don't know could fill a huge book, but I'm hoping people around here can help. Threads like Central and South America on a Road King, rtwdoug's various journeys, lots of old pictures, and new pictures like the ones from Kiwi Indian have inspired me to go exploring on my current bike in places tarmac has never been :wink: I'm not talking about taking it up sheep trails, down gnarly single track, or over flying triples - just dirt and gravel roads for now :1drink We'll see about river crossings and other adventures down the road depending on how things go from here :thumb

    I'm currently running Bridgestone Spitfire tires front and rear at the moment and they've been great to me so far on the street. While I'd love to go to something a bit more aggressive, that's not really in the cards at the moment due to the expenses of moving, a child on the way, and having to find a new job. As long as I keep it fairly slow, stay out of loose sand, and stay out of the mud, I figure I should be OK. If anyone has suggestions for running the dirt roads with these tires, I'd be happy to hear them. I'd also be thrilled to hear suggestions for more aggressive tires in 130/90-16 for the front and 170/80-15 for the rear that would be able to support the weight of a 500+ pound bike with a 300+ pounds of rider, gear, etc. I was thinking about maybe getting something like a vintage tire from Coker as people rode those types of tires off road before there were real knobbies, right? I'm not planning on giving up riding and I'll have to replace the tires sometime!

    I'm also thinking about what I might need to worry about maintenance wise with harder use of the bike. I figure I'll have to blow out the air cleaner more often and I'll probably have to pull off the front caliper for a regular cleaning, but is there anything else I need to worry about and check more often? Should I consider changing handlebars in the future? Should I avoid anything specific to keep from breaking the final drive? I really don't know what I don't know so I'm hoping people will think of answers to questions I can't think to ask.

    Yes, I've thought about selling the V-Star and buying something else like a DR650, but I've got enough changes happening in my life that I don't want to add changing bikes to the equation, this one's paid for, and I happen to really like it :deal It can't be that different than the old Harleys, Indians, BMWs, and Urals going down dirt and primitive roads in all those old pictures I've seen, right :lol3 The power and weight can't be that different from those old bikes and I've got a shaft like the old BMWs and Urals, so I should be OK if I'm not too far off, especially if I leave the weight of the windshield and bags behind before heading off the pavement. I just want to ride as much as I can and have fun with the equipment I've got and can still afford to keep :ricky

    I know this is a bit of a long post, so thanks for sticking around to the end and thanks in advance for all the advice as well:freaky
  2. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

    Nov 28, 2006
    In the sand
    One of the 2 guys riding with me this past weekend was on a 500lb+ Buell Ulysses, with street tires that aren't even as grooved/voided as your Spitfires. We rode pavement, gravel, sand, and grass. He went pretty much everywhere the other 2 of us went on DR650SEs (front sand knob and rear K761, and MT21 knobs front and rear), and the sand was BOTTOMLESS in some places. He was a bit more sedate than either of us DR650 riders, but I don't think he fell the whole day. Both of us fell on the DRs, one of us ending up in the ER.

    With the appropriate air pressure, your tires could take you a lot of places. I would be more concerned about protection and ergonomics. Protect yourself and the bike from offroad damage. Crashbars, skidplate, case covers, thorax protection, decent shin/arch/ankle-protecting boots, and normal armored gear should protect quite a bit. If you don't want to put handguards on the bike, run your lever clamps loose enough for them to move with a good knock, instead of your levers breaking. I'd carry spare levers anyway, and some JB Quikweld for any case punctures.

    Be careful out there.
  3. Thanks, Kommando - I'm glad to hear I'm not completely bonkers for thinking like this :D

    I have some wind deflectors (see pic below), but I don't know how well they'd protect the levers. I may just have to get some spare levers and keep them handy. Maybe a set of vise grips. A skid plate may be in order, but that's going to need a bit of custom fabrication and welding. I'll definitely pick up some Quickweld for possible case punctures before I go off into the wilds of Utah :wink:

    Wind deflectors for the grips on my bike

    And before I go, I wanted to wish your friend a speedy recovery!
  4. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades...

    Dec 20, 2007
    Delaware Ohio
    It all depends on how many parts you are willing to have scratched up, broken, and replaced when - and it will happen - :p3rry- you fall down. It happens on dirt/gravel roads even with dual sport and off road bikes. If it didn't they wouldn't have all the soft plastic and all.

    By the way, the Ulysses is not a cruiser or regular road bike. It is an adventure bike with reasonable dirt/gravel road and trail capabilities. They also fall down as my brother found when riding his Ulysses while on a dual sport weekend. :muutt

    The only plus you will find is with the feet out front setup you probably won't trap your leg under the bike when it does wash out the fat front or rear tire. :D

    Personal opinion, once out there see what riding is like and trade off or sell the cruiser to get a KLR or the like if you find you will be doing more back road riding. It will be far more fun that way.
  5. blk-betty

    blk-betty bam-a-lam

    Aug 7, 2009
    Charleston, SC
    Save your money and when you swing it buy a DR or KLR.

    Otherwise sell the cruiser and replace it with more versatile. I tried the "good tires" on a Tiger 1050 ,similar to a Ulysses and realized it was too heavy and ubstable with a 17" front wheel to feel comfortable on anthing worse than hard pack gravel.
  6. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

    Sep 8, 2010
    Southern New Jersey
    What is the final drive on that bike?
    Belts are sort of out for off road, but chains and shafts work ok.

    Other then sand, its no problem riding a street bike in the dirt, as long as you have ground clearance.

    Shinko makes some very inexpensive tires that seem to be good quality, might look at what they have for your bike.

    And yes, if you get very crazy, the finish goes to hell quickly, rocks and sand blast the frame and exhaust, the dirt in your pants rubs the paint off the gas tank, rims get dents, grit gets in bearings and chains, brake pads wear out faster, etc. Water cooled bikes have radiators to worry about.

    I was dirt riding (dual sporting) an old Triumph Daytona, light for a 500 twin, and while nothing broke on the bike, after 5 years it looked like hell.
    But some bikes are meant to be used, I just repainted it, did the powder coat stuff on the frame, good as new.

    Old bikes were more general purpose and had tires, ground clearance and suspension to allow dirt road fun, think old Triumphs, and a dirt bike was a Triumph with knobbies.
  7. bwalsh

    bwalsh Long timer

    Jan 15, 2009
    I'd have to agree with blk betty except for one little thing. Once you get a taste for gravel dirt you will seek out more of it.
    You'll be amazed at the difference a dual sport will make. 50 mph+ on gravel. :ricky

    Just the standard peg position verses forward position will be a huge benefit and will enable you to stand on the pegs easily. Actually the feet forward position will handicap you somewhat in that if you start to loose it you wont have time to "dab" a foot to save it. Higher ground clearance will mean less of a chance to hit the engine case.

    Oh, the one little thing I didn't agree with you ask? Get an XR! :deal


    You can sell the cruiser, buy a 650 DS and have some extra cash for necessities for the little one. Oh and Congratulations to you and your girlfriend! :freaky
  8. Murf2

    Murf2 Been here awhile

    Feb 11, 2007
    Don't know if my 2 cents are worth 2 cents but you can have em anyway.

    I've struggled with the same question for awhile. My wife and I rode Harleys and like exploring backroads a lot. Out in Colorado in 08 we took some of the easy & moderate rated trails in the Colorado jeep trails book. I forget the title. We had a blast but it was kinda hard on the bikes.

    When we got home I bought an R1100GS & tried it for awhile. We now have a pair of Buells, A Uly & a SuperTT. This will probably get trashed by some but on gravel /moderate dirt roads they all act about the same to me. The Harley doesn't ride as smooth so maybe I go a little slower. They will all get me where I'm going. The Harley really seems easier to ride on gravel to me. The big downside is the weight. You have to be more cautious.

    I think you should do whatever suites your situation and not worry too much. I think on this site there is a disconnect between a leisurely ride on dirt roads & off-road riding. If it's a road almost anything can get you there but you have to use your best judgement.

    I think Kenda has a 130-16 that might work on the front. I have nothing on the rear. If it were me I would run my regular tires and air them down a little when you get on the gravel/dirt. you should carry a pump.

    Good luck & have fun!

  9. glasswave

    glasswave Been here awhile

    Feb 4, 2007
    Wasatch Mtns, UT
    Don't worry about it, your bike will do just fine. Your logic is sound. Yes, once upon a time people would take their cruisers where ever they wished to go. A carefully ridden street bike can go one hell of a lot of places. You just have to go slower. Don't worry about the tires either. Just take it slow.

    Don't listen to the naysayers that expound the myth that each road surface requires a different kind of bike, tires, suspension, and gloves. I am sure there are guys out there that likely have special smooth tarmac and special dirty riding panties. I'd suggest that you leave your panties at home, so your over sized steellies have room to sway as you ride about tearing up all the Utah back tracks on your cruiser. Bikes like yours have traversed nearly all parts of the globe as have tiny scooters. Listen to this utterly absurd quote from the prominent online motorcycle magazine...

    "When we selected the G650GS, Versys and V-Strom 650, we weren't fooling ourselves into thinking one of the three might surface as a bike worthy of an around-the-world feat, we'll leave that to the likes of BMW's R1200GS or KTM's 990 Adventure."

    There are people who read this kind of gibberish and then actually believe such drivel. I have taken a Chinese 150cc street bike with slick tires 5000km across Askai Chin and the Tibetian Plateau encountering everything from killer wash board, deep gravel, sand, swift river crossings, deep powder dust, mud and gnarly 4wd roads. Same with Enfields in the Indian Himal. It's no feat, everybody's doin'/ done it.

    Just start with the easy stuff, like the dirt freeways through the San Rafael Swell. Go slow and get to learn the handling capabilities of your bike. Avoid anything a carefully driven Toyota Corolla could not easily handle. Eventually, with skill, you be able to take that bike anywhere a Suby Outback could go.

    Just don't be afraid to scratch it! :ricky

    My little bike named Boo at 5000m in far western Tibet. Notice the front tire pattern.

    obsidian16825 likes this.
  10. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface 404 Page Not Found

    Nov 22, 2005
    Where Prince Charles spent his honeymoon
    When I bought my first KLR a good friend offered to follow me anywhere I wanted to go, and he did. If you've ever seen a Harley Road King ford an 18-inch deep creek with a soft gravel bottom, successfully, you may have been following us..

    Certainly the hardware makes a difference, but so does the rider. Take it easy and have fun on whatever you ride, wherever you choose to ride it.

  11. perterra

    perterra -. --- .--. .

    Sep 6, 2010
    My opinion, if you dont get in a hurry you'll likely be fine. Deep sand or gravel sure wanted to dump the last cruiser I had though. It was hard work moving on dirt, you cant stand or even shift your weight around, it follows every rut and plows in turns.

    Keep that in mind, bikes of the day did it because they had too, not because they had any advantage over new stuff. Still, play around with it, I wouldnt spend a load of money though, just save and keep your eye out for a 250/350 of some flavor cheap.

    There will be some great riding there, both paved and dirt I bet
  12. 2tallnwide

    2tallnwide Long timer

    Sep 24, 2005
    Nature Coast, Florida




    I've done it occasionally, but only because I was between adventure bikes...:deal

    It helps being a gorilla when the going gets a little rough. I managed not to drop it, but cleaning after was a PITA for sure....:D
  13. rgoers

    rgoers Been here awhile

    Apr 27, 2011
    Northern Utah
    You'll probably be okay for most situations, excepting deeper gravel and sand. You will just have to take it easy. A lot of the hard packed dirt roads have wash-out spots, that are often filled with loose gravel. So, you could be tooling along on a great hard-packed road, and hit a section of deep, loose gravel. If you hit it going too fast, it will do wonders for your prayer life... well, short-term at least.

    There are ENDLESS trails in Utah, especially where you're going to be relocating. :evil I'm thinking once you get out here, you'll be "needing" a KLR or DR... both of which are plentiful and relatively cheap here.
  14. Murf2

    Murf2 Been here awhile

    Feb 11, 2007
    What rgoers says is true. At some point I would get a DR/KLR for exploring & keep the cruiser for crusin. Have fun with what you've got until then!

    Her's a link to my smugmug page, please feel free to take a look. I don't take too many pics of the roads we're on but there may be a few.

  15. I'm at work right now, so I have to be quick, but I wanted to say THANKS for all the replies and I promise I'll get back with everyone once I get home tonight :D
  16. trc.rhubarb

    trc.rhubarb ZoomSplat!

    Nov 15, 2011
    Concord, CA
    I've had my Ultra on hundreds of miles of dirt. Nothing hardcore but roads that were dirt, mud, grass and even deep gravel. Only hundreds because its a lot of weight to muscle around so I'm not looking to offroad it. Once you get up to speed the dirt and gravel feel mostly like the street, just bumpier :D

    For the record, I have a belt but have seen no rockholes yet in it. I don't seek out the roads, but I don't turn back either if it looks passable.

    Only extra maintenance has been getting mud out of odd places.:evil
  17. SteveROntario

    SteveROntario Adventurer

    Dec 4, 2011
    You'll be able to do it but you probably won't want to go very fast. The sound from all the various accessories on your bike bouncing around will drive you nuts!

    You'll also be in bad shape if you need to lift your rear tire out of a hole.

    Regardless, you'll have fun.

    Cheers, Steve
  18. James Adams

    James Adams n00b

    May 29, 2006
    A bike like a DR650 or KLR will be a better tool for the job, but you'll be fine on dirt roads and such in just about anything. Just have fun. :deal
  19. Qwik

    Qwik Adrenaline Addict

    Apr 27, 2008
    Sunnyvale, California
    There is a Member here who did Thousands of miles offroad on an R1200C BMW Cruiser. Damned Impressive in My Book.
  20. Wow - So many replies! Thanks everyone for all you've contributed - I'll try to reply to some of it in general and what I can specifically.

    I've seen a few responses saying that I'm going to get scratches, dings, dents, etc. That's all OK in my book as it's honest wear showing real use :D The exhaust already has some cosmetic issues, the paint is faded in a few places from being left in the sun, and there are other imperfections in a few places. Paint scouring from dirt in the air and on my clothes, scratches on the chrome on the engine and finish on the fenders, and dings won't bother me. Heck, I've been thinking about making a bobber out of it sometime in the future anyway and I like a look that says it's not a garage queen that's never seen rain :wink:

    There have also been a few mentions that I'm going to want a dual sport. That's probably going to be the case and there are a few I like such as the DR650 and TW200. Regardless, I'll have to wait a while due to budgetary constraints. In the mean time, I figure I'll run what I've got, take my time, and have fun taking inappropriate equipment to unintended places :lol3

    markk53 - Like I said before, scratches and such happen and while I don't want to break too much stuff so I'll be sure to take it easy.

    blk-betty - Hard pack gravel is about the worst I'm really planning on, at least in the beginning.

    NJ-Brett - My V-Star is a shaft drive and that sounds like a good thing. Thanks for the Shinko advice! That Triumph sounds like fun :nod

    bwalsh - The XR is a bit too tall for me with my 30" inseam, but the DR650 seems like a pretty good fit :1drink I'll keep the rest in mind and thanks for the kind words for me and my girlfriend :D

    Murf2 - Thanks for the two cents, Kenda advice and the link to your pics! I plan to take it slow and I already have a pump with me :wink:

    glasswave - You seem to have read my mind here - I was originally thinking of the roads out on the San Rafael Swell as I've been down quite a few of them already in my cage :deal It's nice to hear from someone who's taken an underpowered street machine to remote places and to hear I'm not out of my gourd for planning to do likewise :clap Thanks for the sig line material about the undergarments, too :thumb There's much more I want to say, but it's getting late and I have to be to work in the morning, so I'll send you a PM sometime tomorrow.

    scarysharkface - That's a wonderful image you've painted of that Road King! It'll be a while before I'm to that level, but at least it's more confirmation that it can be done!

    perterra - I know the people in the old days did it because they had to, but it also looks like fun and I'm kind of in the same boat with only having the one bike :freaky I'm not in any hurry, so I figure I should be OK.

    2tallnwide - Those pics are EXACTLY what I was thinking of! I know you were between adventure bikes and I figure I'm just waiting for my first one.

    rgoers - Oh, I know all about that prayer life and thanks for the laugh that went along with the comment :photog

    trc.rhubarb - That's good to hear as the Ultra is just a wee bit heavier than the V-Star :D Cleaning mud off the bike sounds like a good end to the day, but only after riding it through town and confusing all the "normal" folks :bmwrider I wish you continued good luck with the belt!

    SteveROntario - I'll work on figuring the rear tire out of the hole issue, but thanks for the thoughts!

    James Adams - Having fun is the plan :deal

    Qwik - The off road R1200C is impressive! It's also another bit of inspiration :evil

    Thanks again everyone for all the comments, advice, and support! It's getting late/early depending on your definition, so I'm going to call it good for the day. Have a great day everyone :thumb