Engineer's Pass, Colorado

Discussion in 'The Rockies – It's all downhill from here...' started by stephenws, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. stephenws

    stephenws Wishful Wanderer

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    I'm planning a 2 or 3 week trip to Colorado next year and recently saw a video on riding the Engineer's Pass 4x4 road. Was wondering if I could get some advice from more experienced riders than myself (which is surely almost everyone).

    Just purchased a 2009 BMW R1200GSA this past May. Not much previous experience riding. Prefer to stay off the main highways when I travel. Am used to gravel roads....in Iowa. Am looking to expand my experience level on the Colorado trip, but don't want to be stupid about it. Will be traveling alone, but wouldn't mind hooking up with some locals that know the scoop on conditions, weather, etc.

    Would Engineer's Pass be too risky for someone like me?

    Any advice appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Steve
    #1
  2. KOH

    KOH Adventurer

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    My 2 cents. Depending upon your level of experience ............. I would not recommend a novice rider taking a GSA, solo, through Engineers Pass, Ophir Pass, Black Bear or Cinnamon. The GSA is just to big and to heavy - about 580 lbs (wet weight) - then add your gear and rider. So you end up with 800 plus lbs, that you need to manage through the rocks, turns, switchbacks, off camber road, scree, as well as going up and coming down. Smaller bike - would be advisable in these areas. KOH
    #2
  3. Mtn Man

    Mtn Man Been here awhile

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    I was there this past June on a DR650 and wished I had a smaller bike. I ride with buddies who would take their GSA over the passes but I would always pick my DR over my GSA for riding the passes in Colorado. If you are a new rider then I would without question stick to the million dollar highway and all the good gravel roads available to ride. If you wish to do the higher more difficult stuff then go lighter. Most of all, it should be fun! :D
    #3
  4. stephenws

    stephenws Wishful Wanderer

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    Thanks for the advice. My desires seem to out run my experience level. Don't own a smaller bike. Should probably invest in the BMW off road training school.

    Again, thanks
    #4
  5. stephenws

    stephenws Wishful Wanderer

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    I'll post on the Rocky Mountain regional forum, in the coming months leading up to the trip, to get some advice on the easier gravel roads you mention. Haven't heard of the million dollar highway. Will research that - unless you mean interstate. I really want to avoid interstate highway travel.
    #5
  6. rgiroux

    rgiroux Invisible Man

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    [​IMG]

    from this past July. Two GS's, one KTM 950, a KLR and a 650 Yamaha made it to the top from Ouray. After being told by several people that we shouldnt ride motorcycles up there????

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I was on the 950, which didnt like the altitude much (or maybe it was me) so we went down a couple of times. There is an easy way up from Silverton, which we eventually found after being lost for a couple of hours, and going down a super steep road. Made even more fun by the 950 stalling.


    As you can see from the pics, it is worth the effort! If you do it, dont go alone. :deal
    #6
  7. itsatdm

    itsatdm Long timer

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    It can't be too hard, I did it on a 92 Yamaha TDM
    [​IMG]




    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    #7
  8. Mtn Man

    Mtn Man Been here awhile

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    I agree you can do it on most any bike ... If you have the skill set to do so. Maybe someone will post riding their Goldwing or Streetglide but my opinion was based purely on your comment stating you had limited experience. As I mentioned in my first post, I have buddies who would not think twice about taking their GSA over the passes and the going up is pretty easy ... The steep downhills are more of my reasoning.

    Either way, have fun and remember picking us a 600 pound bike at 12,000 feet is a little more difficult than at sea level.
    #8
  9. Mtn Man

    Mtn Man Been here awhile

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    You should make a point to visit Handlebars Resturant and Bar when in Silverton. Nice folks! Once they heard the Tennessee boys talk they stayed three hours after closing to visit and tell stories ... They have some good stories of their travels. :lol3
    #9
  10. Shawnee Bill

    Shawnee Bill Long timer

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    You have several months to get used to the GSA, practice.
    There are plenty of places in the San Juans that you could take your GSA with little problems. From Silverton it is an easy gravel road ride to Animas Forks, from there you will be able to gage if you want to push farther. The ride up to Ophir Pass is fairly easy, down the west side the first 1/2 mile will be rather hairy on a big bike (to say the least).
    For me the downhills or much worse on a big bike.
    There are more good paved roads in western Colorado than you can ride in a week so go for it,
    Durango-Silverton-Ouray-Ridgeway-Telluride-Naturita-Gateway-Grand Junction is an awesome ride. Not quite the same as some of the jeep roads but you can do the easier jeep roads and get a taste.

    As to your original question, I would say do not attempt riding to the top of Engineer Pass on a GSA until you have much more experience riding in gnarly places on the GSA. For sure do not attempt the Engineer Pass road that takes off of 550 just south of Ouray.


    .
    #10
  11. itsatdm

    itsatdm Long timer

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    He has a year to train. He has some experience on gravel roads. It is a gravel road.

    It is steep in places and it has a few gravel hair pin curves. I would check with the "Rockies" regional forum closer to the time, as these dirt roads can change depending on the weather.

    The altitude and view can be intimidating, but the biggest danger is getting pushed off track by a tourist in a rental jeep.
    #11
  12. DADODIRT

    DADODIRT Long timer

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    Engineer has some steep switchbacks on the Silverton side. Not sure of your preference, but with the big bike I like going down them. So, from Silverton you can take Cinnamon Pass to Lake City, then Engineer back over.
    I gotta admit that in 6 years riding an 1150GS I never took it over Engineer. Do-able for sure as I had been over Ophir and Cinnamon numerous times with the GS.
    There is a stretch of Engineer that you will definitely want to stay off. The portion that connects US550 from closer to Ouray. Big rocks, steep switchbacks. The best way is from Silverton through Animas Forks(cool ghost town).
    There are so many passes that don't get the 'big names' (Engineer, Black Bear) but are just as fun and scenic. For instance--Bolam Pass, Last Dollar Road, etc.
    #12
  13. everetto

    everetto Been here awhile

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    I would recommend starting with Ophir if you want to do the passes in the San Juans - it is probably the easiest and is very beautiful.
    #13
  14. rgiroux

    rgiroux Invisible Man

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    you sir, are nuts! :lol3

    But, I salute you :freaky
    #14
  15. MWadv

    MWadv Gravel Road Roamer

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    Hey Steve, I got the same bug about 11 to 14 yrs ago. I'm from Illinois so I know what your after other than flat land gravel roads. The 1200 GSA is a great adventure bike and has all the potential to do Engineer Pass and many others. It only has a couple limitations 1: is tight and sloppy wet trails and 2: not too exprienced riders. Let me suggest something.
    Go out there and scope it out and check out all the trails. You can rent a jeep and do some scouting or you can ride the trails until you reach your limits then turn around and come back the way you came. Engineer Pass is just one of a dozen "Byways" available to ride in Colorado. See WWW.coloradoscenicbyways.com for a complete list w/maps. Engineer pass is part of "The Alpine Loop". Some are tough as some are not so tough. I went out there solo and found my way and enjoyed it as some of the great adventures of my life. Be smart and watch the weather, always start your ride in the morning as it always rains in the mountains in the afternoon. If you ride solo always let someone know where your going. Always wise to ride public trails and tag along with another group (if possible). Have a cell phone with you and plenty of water.
    Don't forget "Pikes Peak". I rode up that three times in one day. Look at "Gold Belt Tour". RT 550 from Ouray to Silverado is a great paved ride. Silverado is a good place to ride from to start "The Alpine Loop" to Lake City and loop around over Cinnemon Pass back to Silverado. Plent of places to turnaround.
    You ask if Engineer Pass would be risky, well I'll answer back they are all risky, thats what make the Adventure. Do your research, develope a plan and get your blood pumping !! Have some fun. !!
    #15
  16. stephenws

    stephenws Wishful Wanderer

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    Thanks so much for all the honest advice and recommendations. I'll spend this winter doing more research on the routes suggested by you guys, and more.

    I know I have a lot to learn, and I don't mind some risk. In fact my life has become pretty boring since I stopped climbing and scuba diving. I bought this bike hoping to get a little adventure back into my life. So easy to get caught up in work responsibilities and just the drama of normal life. I'm finding riding to be very addictive and seductive. Can't stop thinking about places to ride and new vistas to see.

    May I ask another, simpler question......What time of year would be best to ride around Colorado? I was considering the last two weeks of July.

    Again, Thanks to all of you.

    Steve
    #16
  17. EnderTheX

    EnderTheX Dirt Rider

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    July is fine, I've done it in June, October and September.

    If you are interested, here is complete helmet cam footage of me doing Engineer Pass on my F800GS in June 2011. This is from Animas Forks over towards the Lake City side (I've only done it this way, this allows you to come back over Cinnamon Pass from Lake City). The video ends when it becomes an easy dirt road all the way to Lake City, still scenic though!

    Part 1:
    <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ogbWrsZlbHg" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

    Part 2:
    <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/P3xEavxkZJA" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

    Part 3:
    <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ahxLdf7zllQ" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>


    If you can do Engineer Pass... you can probably do Cinnamon! Here is helmet cam footage of that :D

    Part 1:
    <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/g5XpO-HoPlE" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

    Part 2:
    <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yEt7OFUd57s" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>
    #17
  18. CafeRacer99

    CafeRacer99 Been here awhile

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    Here is a link to the ride report I did on the trip my son and I took to CO last summer. We hit Last Dollar road, Ophir, Cinnamon and Engineer passes.

    http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=826417

    The relevant info to your situation is that we both had limited off-road experience and big, heavy bikes. (Mine more so than his.) We had a blast. I didn't think any of what we rode was super hard, although there were some tricky parts. You really need to be comfortable with steep, rocky, downhill switchbacks. Easy, right?

    Go ride some dirt on your GSA and see if you like it. Figure out if you can pick up your bike by yourself or not. I can pick up my Tenere, loaded or not. That's a big deal. I don't think I would ride dirt alone if I couldn't. (You've got time to hit the gym and work on your squats and deadlifts, lol.)

    When you get to CO next summer it sounds like you have plenty of time to hit easy roads first and work your way up in difficulty as you feel comfortable. Even if you never get to Engineer, you won't run out of fun places to ride.

    Oh and read all of EndertheX's CO ride reports. Lot's of great info for planning a CO trip!
    #18
  19. EnderTheX

    EnderTheX Dirt Rider

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    Thank you for the recommendation :D but seriously... I have included GPX tracks on both reports and you can find them for Engineer, Cinnamon, Ophir, Clear Lake, Imogene, Black Bear, US Basin, and more...


    Also... If you can't pick up your fully loaded bike (with my fully loaded F800GS it's very difficult if it falls at a funny angle), make sure you can take off the gear and then lift the bike by itself. I've had to do this several times since I do a lot of rides alone. :eek1
    #19
  20. The Cyclops

    The Cyclops Long timer

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    I rode up to the pass (the pass had a lot of snow) and rode the area around there and at one point I stopped and thought, "this is the best time I have ever had". I was solo, but very experienced and on an XR650R[​IMG]
    #20