Spring Break 2013 - 450EXC, XT350, and DRZ400 take on the Tail

Discussion in 'Day Trippin'' started by gearheadE30, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> Long time lurker, first time ride report poster. I’ve been riding for about three years now, and have been wanting to do a longer-duration ride for a long time. When one of my friends mentioned that he wanted to do the same thing, we eventually decided that the week we had off from school for spring break would be as good a time as any to do it. Of course, being that we’re both in school, neither of us really had a bunch of time or money; just a week off and a desire to get away from school for a bit (both of us are Mechanical Engineering students at Purdue University, and I should really be doing homework instead of writing this…). That was last semester.


    This semester, about a month before spring break (March 11<sup>th</sup> through the 15<sup>th</sup>) we finally decided to make it a reality. My steed for the journey would be my 1986 Yamaha XT350 that I had picked up over the summer for a paltry $400 with a major oil burning problem. It was my first off-road motorcycle, and since I had rebuilt most of the engine shortly after getting it, I figured it would be reliable enough to make the trip. The main reason I didn’t take my old Suzuki was that my buddy rides a 2004 KTM 450EXC, so we’d definitely be planning to at least ride some dirt roads.
    The initial plan was to ride from West Lafayette down to the Tennessee/North Carolina border to ride the Tail of the Dragon and other fantastic roads in the area. Neither of us has a truck, so we were planning to do the whole thing on the bikes. Problem was, the KTM had been in storage for a year for various reasons, and I only had about 500 miles on the XT since buying it so it was still a bit of a question mark. Luckily around then, a third friend with a DRZ400s expressed interest in coming. Conveniently, he also owns a Dodge Ram, so once we regained our sanity, we decided to change plans a bit.


    We eventually decided on this: On Monday of break, we would ride from Purdue down to Seymour, IN where we would meet up with the guy with the truck. He had graduated a few years earlier and works full time, and as such could only get off Thursday and Friday. George (the KTM guy) and I would spend the first three days of break riding the twisties in southern Indiana and figuring out where to ride down south. On Wednesday night, we would load up and drive to the Deal’s Gap area and stay in a hotel for the night. We’d then ride around there for a day, pack up, and drive to Asheville NC to meet up with George’s sister, who happened to be able to hook us up with a place to stay and could show us around town, along with being a cool person to hang out with. On one night, we’d load the bikes up and stay at a campground somewhere, just to get a little “adventure” in. This would really be a week of testing the bikes and finding weak points so that we’d know what to do for future longer rides.



    I have a pretty good portion of the RR written up already, but I'll be posting it in chunks like this. Sorry for the dearth of pics; I have some good ones and some video to come, but there will be a lot of words and probably a lot of TL;DR.


    Since I know its wrong to start a thread without pics, here are some of the engine damage that the XT came with, and why you should always make sure the tensioner works...


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The XT as I got it:
    [​IMG]

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    #1
  2. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> This post is going to be mostly about prepping the bikes rather than the actual ride, but it’s a decent part of the story so I figured I’d include it.
    My aforementioned bike is a 1986 Yamaha XT350 with 6300 miles on the clock. I bought it with a failed timing chain tensioner, which had allowed the chain to flop around and grind about a quarter inch out of the inside of the jug, filling the engine with metal. Luckily it didn’t skip time, but the metal in the oil had completely destroyed the rings, and the bike smoked worse than any 2-stroker I’ve ever seen. All it needed was a new timing chain, guides, rings, and a hone. It turned out to already be bored .50 over. I converted the failure prone tensioner to manual since $50 seemed a bit steep to buy one, put it back together, and broke it in. The bike ran great, and I used it mostly for commuting for the 500 miles I put on it before this trip. It also spent a bit of time in an OHV park. For the trip, I addressed as many shortcomings as I could on a modest budget. 520 chain conversion (16/45 for lower highway revs. It’s a 6-speed), new mirrors, new clutch cable, checked carb boots, added a voltmeter and cigarette lighter, a Shinko 244 on the front and 705 on the rear, an oil change, and generally checked everything over. I also opened up the airbox some and rejetted the carbs, both of which this engine responds really well to. I think it turned out pretty well, as I only needed to adjust the chain once over the course of the trip, and the bike cruised fine at 70 mph at 6000 revs in 6<sup>th</sup> gear, and I could downshift to pass if needed.
    The KTM was a little bit of a question mark. It had been in storage for a year, and the first time we tried to get it to run was a week before the trip. Of course, it wouldn’t start. After charging the totally flat battery and putting some oil in the cylinder and cranking it slowly with the kicker to make sure it wouldn’t score the bore, we eventually determined that the carb was full of crap gas. We drained the bowl, put fresh gas in the tank, and a bit of starting fluid later it fired right up. And idled at 4000 or so rpm. Great. We both had things to do, so we left it at that for the time being.
    Among other things, the KTM needed a new license plate mount (a cop didn’t like the one that was on there, which was part of why the bike was in storage), an oil change, air filter, and possibly tires. Pretty simple stuff. The rear tire was also woefully out of balance, so we needed to take care of that. On the 9<sup>th</sup>, the weekend marking the start of break, we got down to business. George had taken the wheels off to have them balanced during the week, and during that day or two, the bike was lying on its side. We got it upright again and got to work. Most of it went pretty well, and we installed heated grips and a few other small improvement bits as well. The local shop hadn’t been able to balance the rim, though they told us that it needed something like 6 oz. of weight. That’s a lot for a motorcycle. Of course, no one would sell us weights…and then George remembered that he had a massive stash of used stick-on automotive weights in his trunk. Go figure. A little epoxy later and we were in business. This actually worked really well and quelled most vibrations, until one set of weights broke off when we were loading the bike into the truck. We discovered that the high idle was caused by the oversize gas tank pinching the throttle, as well. When we started the bike, the amount of smoke was incredible (remember, it had been on its side for a day. Lots of oil to burn off.).


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    At this point there were a few problems that we never did end up fixing. The forks leaked quite a bit and the water pump started to leak pretty profusely. Both will be fixed soon, and neither really caused an issue on the trip. We went for a quick ride at 2 in the morning to make sure everything was working, and called it a night.

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    #2
  3. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> This is where the riding actually starts, for anyone waiting with bated breath for some action….


    Sunday morning, I rode from West Lafayette to Fishers, where I’m from. My girlfriend wanted to spend a day with me, as she was home as well. The first leg went really, really well. Only about 70 miles of riding, but the XT got about 55 mpg all loaded up at ~65 mph. It was even fairly warm at 43 degrees, though I don’t have any heated gear or anything. First leg down.


    Pic as I was leaving my apartment at Purdue:
    [​IMG]

    Of course, when I come out of the house a few hours later and go to take my stuff to my house, since it is supposed to rain. I make it to the neighborhood entrance and can feel that the bike is a little wallowy, but I’ve never had it loaded up so I chalked it up to that. I turn into the roundabout and the back end slides out like I’m riding on snow. Lo and behold, my rear tire is flat. Of course, I have a spare front tube but I had neglected to buy a rear. I limped back to her driveway, patched the tube, and reinstalled it. It held.



    The next day, I bought a new rear tube as a spare. George showed up at about 4 PM and we ran to a local burger joint to get some dinner. Sometime around 5 we are finally ready to leave my place, and my tire is flat. Again. I fill it up and it seems fine, so we hit the road. We made it 20 miles before it was flat again. Filled up on the side of the highway, and made it another 5 miles. After filling it a third time (luckily my mom had forced me to bring the bike pump when she saw my tire was flat) we got off at exit 103. The Harley dealer there was closed, so no lifts. We went to the Menards across the street and I got some of that fix-a-flat stuff, which didn’t work at all, and eventually decided that I would have to change the tube in the dark Menards parking lot. The guys inside were incredibly understanding, and let us borrow 2 cinder blocks so I could prop the bike up. As this is my first ride report, I totally neglected to get a pic. Of course, it also started snowing while we were there, and George, who hadn’t slept the night before, was about to fall asleep in the lot.


    It took about an hour all said and done, and we loaded up and hit the road again. It took about 40 or 50 miles to get to our exit, in 30 degree weather with snow running 70 mph. In case you were wondering, no, I couldn’t really feel my fingers. Even George’s heated grips weren’t doing much but overwhelm his stator’s capacity and kill the battery. We stopped at the gas station (a Marathon that the locals call “the jassy”) to warm up and get some hot chocolate.



    Getting back on the bikes in the freezing weather. Yeah yeah yeah, I'm bad at packing.


    [​IMG]



    Off the highway now, we could go about 55 and not get too frozen. Almost as soon as we get up to speed, a few deer run across the road right in front of us. Always a good way to snap you awake and get that adrenaline going… Shortly after that trial, George starts slowing down, and pulls off to the side, citing a feeling of the bike steering from the rear. After a little inspection, the rear bearings on the KTM have a minute amount of play in them. George has a very sensitive ass, apparently. I know I'd never be able to feel that. The rest of the way to Seymour went pretty smoothly, and we pulled in around 10 PM after that ~80 mile leg.

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    #3
  4. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer

    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Oddometer:
    6,915
    Location:
    Huntsville, AL
    Looking forward to reading the rest. The bike that got me into off road riding was a XT350. I still have it. It has over 19,000 miles on it and still runs great and is a blast to ride:ricky I have ridden it through Deal's Gap and the surrounding area many times.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you yours does.
    #4
  5. laminarflowone

    laminarflowone hopeless engineer

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2010
    Oddometer:
    73
    Location:
    Urbana, IL
    I used to have an xt650 but had to sell most of my bikes when I moved out to UIUC for engineering graduate school....sad
    it was an AMAZING bike

    there are a couple of other engineering students that ride in the area, and it might be killer to do an epic ride down to Tennessee or somewhere
    #5
  6. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    I have video, and 129slayer got some pretty good pics, so I'll post those later. It did way better than expected, and pretty much convinced me that I may as well keep the bike and do some serious suspension upgrades rather than getting something else.

    The bigger XTs were (and still are) everything that the 350 wasn't. they have better brakes, better suspension, they don't have shim-in-bucket valve adjusters, and the frames are a bit stronger. I'm working on updating the 350 to those better specs, since the other real option would be to sell it and buy something already better. Hard to find something else street legal, decent on the highway, and with a massive carrying capacity and a 6-speed though. And the xt is only around 270 lbs with an empty tank, which is pretty decent.

    I'm always down for a ride, and I know the other guys are too.... :)
    #6
  7. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> The next day, George slept until 3 in the afternoon. Apparently he was tired. I spent a good part of the first official day of break enjoying the balmy 50 degree sunny weather by lying down on my bike and reading for a while, followed by riding a short trail that runs through the property. Eventually hunger got the best of me, and I went into town to get food and another rear tube to replace the one I had installed at Menards. I didn’t skimp this time and bought a massively thick one. Flat tires suck.



    I head back to the house and we pull off the rear wheel on the KTM. Sure enough, after 3000 miles, the rear bearings are pretty shot, as are the seal rings. I’ve never seen a shaft seal grooved that badly before. We reinstall the tire and looked online – for anyone with that particular KTM, Moose Racing sells a bearing and seal upgrade kit for about $60 on Motorcycle Superstore. It didn’t end up arriving before we left, so the trip was done on mildly shot bearings. Only later did we find out mine were just as bad, but with 6.5k miles and 30 years on them.


    We rode to Story, IN to run the bikes in a little more. There are some pretty nice roads down there. Story basically looks like a town out of a fairy tale; very quaint and secluded.



    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    That night, we go to have dinner with some friends, and since the DRZ hadn’t had many miles on it, we decided to ride. We were almost there, riding up a hill, and the DRZ died. It would crank, but it didn’t even try to start. I had a strap on my bike, so after determining that we weren’t going to get it started, I towed Solomon and the DRZ back home. Luckily it wasn’t too far, but the XT makes a pretty darn good tractor.

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    #7
  8. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    The next day, George and I booked our hotel (the Microtel in Robbinsville for those familiar with the area around the Tail) and mapped out the roads we wanted to hit on Google Maps. After getting that mostly taken care of, we started looking at the DRZ while Solomon was at work. All of the safety switches checked out, as did the coils. Then we started checking other things, and discovered that one pole of the stator was open, and the pickup coil (which signals the CDI to fire the plug) was intermittent depending on engine rotation position. We pulled off the side cover with the bike on its side, and discovered right off the bat that the oil was nice and milky. Since it had been rebuilt due to a blown head gasket about 50 miles ago, we chalked that up to contamination and continued onwards. The end result was that the wiring for the stator hadn&#8217;t been pushed into its groove all the way (the stator had been replaced at some point) and the flywheel had rubbed the wiring, eventually cutting through and preventing the CDI from getting its crank signal. Sorry, no pics of this part. We were in a hurry to get it all sorted so we could hit the road, and the camera was the last thing on our minds.
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    EDIT: I take that back, George did have a pic of the stator. You can kinda see the wiring issue in the pic.
    [​IMG]

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mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]--> After hunting down a soldering iron and some shrink wrap, we fixed that. By then it was around 7 or 8 and we were behind schedule, so we ate a quick dinner and loaded the bikes into the Ram. We left around 9:30 for the 6 hour drive down. We actually ended up driving the Tail at 3 in the morning, in the Ram, with 3 bikes in the back. It definitely got us excited, to say the least. Amazingly, even driving a Ram with 3 bikes in it on the road was still a ton of fun. The truck has shot synchros, so I ran the entire thing in 4<sup>th</sup>. Gotta love that diesel torque&#8230;. We got to the hotel, checked in, and crashed for the night.



    Being artsy loading up:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Cheoah Dam
    [​IMG]

    Another with the headlights off:
    [​IMG]

    All of these pics have been taken with my phone. I'm amazed at how well most of them have turned out, really. More to come :)



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    #8
  9. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    At 6:30, we woke up, destroyed the hotel breakfast (I ate a waffle, a bowl of cereal, 2 bagels, 3 muffins, and yogurt) and crashed again. We only had the hotel for one night, so we got up again at 10, showered, and went down to check out and get started for real. George and Solomon went out to the Ram to unload the bikes and I went to check out&#8230;and the lady at the desk asked me if I was checking out early. I was rather confused, needless to say.
    It turns out that we got into the hotel so late that they gave us the next night for free, since we weren&#8217;t really there at all. It probably only happened that way because the season hadn&#8217;t really started yet, but I&#8217;m certainly not going to complain.
    We then unloaded the bikes and got them going, and the next thing I know, the DRZ is shrouded in a cloud of steam. I don&#8217;t think that DRZs overheat that easily, but Solomon had been messing with is idle while George and I got ready, and I guess that was just too much for it. After the bike cooled off, we head over to the gas station, and suddenly, DISASTER! As Solomon is pulling into the station, his exhaust starts spewing white smoke. The head gasket blew, and quite catastrophically. It&#8217;s a rare occasion when a head gasket blows both to the inside and outside of the engine.
    After some deliberation, we check the phones and head over to Wheelers, which is one of the more prominent motorcycle shops in the area. Though they were closed (they got a new floor, apparently) the owner was there. Eventually it was decided that George and I would continue riding, and Solomon would work on stripping the DRZ to check the head bolt torques.
    So George and I headed out. We ended up going to the forest road that parallels the Cherohala Skyway, which I believe is called FS81 or something like that. The road is a pretty good gravel road that runs down the side of the mountain into the valley and runs along the river. There are actually quite a few campgounds down there, and there was this old cabin where I guess some guy raised 8 kids. It&#8217;s a historical monument of sorts now. FS81 branches off to Wolf Laurel road, which is actually a fairly steep climb up the hill, and is really awesome to blast up on a DS. I&#8217;m still pretty used to road riding, since that&#8217;s how I started. It took me awhile to get the hang of riding on the gravel.


    [​IMG]

    At the top of Wolf Laurel is this cool (but really sparsely furnished) cabin that you can apparently rent. To get here, you have to climb about 2000 feet on gravel switchbacks. It's definitely worth checking out. The cabin was closed up for the season. Coming back down Wolf Laurel, George decided he wanted to show off, slid around the intersection, and promptly lowsided right in front of me.


    [​IMG][​IMG]

    We eventually ended up back on the Skyway and were on our way back to Wheelers when we passed Thunder Mountain. This cool British guy Mark works there with his wife, and the two of them live in a house above the store. It&#8217;s a really cool place, and Mark knows the area incredibly well. I guess he used to rent out KLRs, so he is particularly familiar with the local dualsporting. We now have a few places to visit if/when we go back and have more time.
    While we were there, we had called Solomon to let him know where we were and that we were intending to eat at the deli at Thunder Mountain. Later, we found out that the deli was closed, so we tried to call back, but he didn&#8217;t pick up. We rode back to Wheelers, where Mr. Wheeler (sorry, I&#8217;ve forgotten your first name&#8230;I&#8217;m not so great with names) informed us that we&#8217;d just missed Solomon, and that he was headed to the iron horse motorcycle lodge.
    Our chase across the state came to an end at the Stecoah Diner, which ended up being fantastic. The serving sizes were a little on the small size for my appetite, but the taste more than made up for it. Absolutely wonderful.


    [​IMG]

    When we left the diner, Solomon took off back to the hotel while George and I geared up. When we made it back, we found Solomon with the DRZ already out of the back of the truck talking to some guy holding a t-shirt. Turns out someone had seen Solomon trying to unload his bike by himself. They stopped to help, and right as that guy left, the t-shirt guy showed up in his Buick. You&#8217;d think that maybe this was just another nice guy who wanted to help out, but it ended up being a little more than that. After trying to sell us &#8220;half price&#8221; Tail of the Dragon shirts and trying to get us to let him ride one of our bikes, he started trying to sell us moonshine. I wasn&#8217;t really around for the rest of that as I was loading stuff into the truck, but later I found out that he would be back at 8 to tout his wares.


    At 8, Solomon heads back down to commune with the mountain man. Apparently what he brought was something you would make with grape juice in your closet, and he had his wife and kid with him. Naturally we wanted nothing to do with that, but we did get a little concerned for our bikes after he left. Fortunately, no one messed with them and all was good.

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    #9
  10. BarberPole

    BarberPole Short of the Clacker

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Boone, NC
    Thankfully you guys are all gearheads.

    One of these days you all will have money for machines that only break "every so often" ........like the rest of us. Ha.

    Good story.
    #10
  11. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    I really think that half of the adventure for me is riding (or driving, as it were) something unusual. My oldest vehicle is my other bike, and it's a '79. Both of my 'keeper' cars were built in the '80s and have their share of problems after being extensively modified, but I don't think I'd really have it any other way. I could probably go out and sell the XT and buy a DRZ or something no problem...but the way my head works, why do that when I can update the suspension on the XT and have something unique and awesome? I think I'm doomed to always ride or drive something old, modified, and a little "quirky" haha.
    #11
  12. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    Also, here is the first video for the report. It's a little long and it's just us screwing around in the woods, but it was fun nonetheless. It's remarkable how cameras flatten the landscape...

    EDIT: do you guys like it when there is music in the videos? Trying to decide if I should put something in the Tail videos, since there is a lot of wind noise.

    <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/nKzLiGTPTZE" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>
    #12
  13. jrou111

    jrou111 Stair Climber

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2011
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    Looks like y'all are having fun regardless of the little setbacks. Can't wait to see how the rest goes.

    BTW, Mr. Wheeler's first name is Ken, IIRC.
    #13
  14. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    Thanks for the heads up. I'm really, unbelievably bad with names, heh.

    I just finished writing the rest of the report offline, so it should all be up pretty soon. Sorry for the delays.
    #14
  15. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    The next morning, we woke up relatively early, got some food, and hit the road. First destination: the Tail of the Dragon. Because Solomon didn&#8217;t have a working bike, he decided to drive the truck out there. We mount up, and it is a beautiful, sunny, 55 degree day. Perfect, particularly since my bike is air-cooled and is bound to get a little warm.



    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Always a good reminder that this isn't a racetrack...

    The herd:
    [​IMG]



    We get to the bottom of the Tail on the NC side, and there is no one there. Maybe 5 people are staying at the hotel there, but there was hardly another car in sight. I clipped on the GoPro, and away we went, with George in the lead, myself in the middle, and Solomon in the Ram bringing up the rear.
    It was awesome. There&#8217;s really not too many other words to describe it. We saw maybe 4 other vehicles running each way, total. No traffic, no one being stupid, and only one guy (with a dually and a boat on a trailer) running over the lines. All in all, I couldn&#8217;t ask for anything better. The video, which I&#8217;ll probably put in the next post or something, should tell the story better than words. Sorry for the wind noise; I&#8217;m not really sure what to do about that. I tried to filter it, but that didn&#8217;t really make it any better.
    I can&#8217;t speak too much to the KTM or the Ram, but I was stunned at how well the XT did on this road. The bike redlines at 8500 rpm, but it&#8217;s strongest from 4000 to 6500, and the gearing was absolutely perfect to keep it there. Even whacking the throttle open to rev-match shifts, there were no bogs, no hesitation, and no flat spots. Between almost every corner, it was 2 &#8211; 3 &#8211; 4 and then back down just as fast into the next corner. The only issue I had was a rear tire that needed 5 psi more, which I took care of at a pulloff later on, and the rear brake (a rather small drum) fades pretty badly. Normally I don&#8217;t use the rear brake much, but the front suspension is so soft that you pretty much have to to keep the bike from bottoming the front out on the brakes.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    After you get into a rhythm after the first few corners, it just flies by. There is plenty of room on the road, even without getting close to the lines, to hit apexes and see the track-outs. Definitely the best public road I&#8217;ve been on, and you don&#8217;t even have to speed to have fun. Heck, it&#8217;s a good challenge to just maintain your speed and practice being smooth and deliberate and maintaining your momentum.

    [​IMG]


    All the pics I have are watermarked for the moment, but I&#8217;ll be buying some here shortly once I decide which I want. Like I said earlier, the video will come in the next couple posts.

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    #15
  16. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    After riding the Dragon, we rode back to the road where the SCCA puts on their hillclimb. I&#8217;ve forgotten the name for the moment, but if I can pull it off of Google maps I&#8217;ll update the post. It&#8217;s a pretty good road but it&#8217;s a little gravelly. Being that I&#8217;m used to road bikes, I didn&#8217;t trust my tires much and took it pretty easy in most corners. The straights were mostly wide open, since the little 350 starts to run out of steam as speeds increase. It would hold about 65 on an 8-10% grade in fifth at WOT, which was probably 6500-7000 rpm. The KTM was bored at that pace, and I don&#8217;t even think the truck noticed the hill was there.


    Bridge we passed on the way. The river had been pretty high so the trail on the other side was impassable.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    At the top was a very cool overlook that gives a good view of the Robbinsville area. You can see the river as well, and it is really quiet and secluded up there.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Solomon climbing a tree:
    [​IMG]


    After the overlook, we were kind of pushing for time. George and I had originally planned to ride a more dual-sport oriented trail that Mark called Snowbird, but we really needed to make it to Asheville in order to meet George&#8217;s sister. We were already a day behind our intended schedule, and since Snowbird looked like it could be a solid 4 or 5 hours of riding, we decided to wait on that until the next trip. I guess now we have to go back sometime, since there are a bunch of trails and roads around that we found out about during or after this trip.



    So we rode back to the hotel where we had left the DRZ and started to pack up. All of our stuff was already out of the hotel room since we had to be out by 11 and by this point it was 1 or so in the afternoon, so it wasn&#8217;t that difficult. I decided I wanted to ride to Asheville since it was a downright beautiful day, and Solomon ended up riding the KTM with me. That ride ended up being about 100 miles from Robbinsville, and it went by pretty fast. There were a few big hills that I could have used a little more power on, and the thin air was screwing with my already rich jetting, so I&#8217;m sure I could go down a few sizes on the secondary carb and have less issue. At the highest points on the highway, maximum acceleration was about 80% throttle. When we got to Asheville, Solomon said he didn&#8217;t even notice that the KTM had a 6<sup>th</sup> gear until we were halfway there. It&#8217;s a pretty quiet bike on the highway - unlike the XT, which had lost a bolt that actually acts as a plug and had gotten really loud.
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    #16
  17. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> The place we were staying in Asheville was actually a house that Laura (George’s sister) had stayed in while working in the area at one point. The lady who owns the house hadn’t rented the living space out again yet, so we stayed there the final two nights. Mary is a pretty awesome person, and we are very grateful that she let us stay there. We pulled in, unloaded our stuff and parked the bikes, and then drove the Ram to a local brewery called The Wedge. There was a bunch of other people on bikes as well, including a few vintage BMWs, a couple of GS1150s, and a Moto Guzzi V7.


    Badass stools:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Laura met us there with food, which was fantastic. I can’t remember where it was from, but it was delicious BBQ, and BBQ and beer was exactly what I needed after all the riding. It was good to unwind and chat a bit, and the atmosphere there was pretty cool. Being used to “normal” Indiana, I always think more artistic, local-oriented areas are really cool. Apparently a lot of people come to Asheville because it’s a beautiful area, but there isn’t a whole lot of work, so they’ve ended up with a lot of local business and an overall well-educated population.



    So we left the Wedge and headed back to Mary’s to drop the truck off, and then explored a bit. Mary’s house and the surrounding neighborhood is home to a large flock of turkeys, which I’ve never really seen outside of a forest setting with only one or two at a time. They really aren’t bright creatures at all. We had interrupted their path to where they sleep for the night, and they had a hell of a time getting around us. Solomon got a few pics of them:


    [​IMG][​IMG]

    We got in Laura’s Mazda3 (I’ve never been in a car with a totally blown out shock before) and headed up the hill to this massive fancy hotel to watch the sunset.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    After that, we went back into town to see the drum circle and to hit some of the other local bars and breweries. The drum circle is apparently usually a pretty big deal, but as it was a little early in the evening and this was really the first warm weekend of the year, it was pretty calm. The most interesting beer I had that night was called ten-FIDY from Oskar Blues Brewery. I wish I had gotten a pic of the description; it was a riot. I suppose there’s another reason to go back haha.


    [​IMG]



    Afterwards, we went to Ingles, which is a grocery store. For some reason I couldn’t keep myself from calling it Ingles, as in the Spanish word for English. I’m not really sure how to get my computer to spit out an e with a tilde. There, we picked up some pizza, more beer, and some rather delicious cinnamon rolls. It was a good night of unwinding. At one point George got up and just never came back. We found him in his bed asleep. I guess he decided he was tired, and that was that.
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    #17
  18. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> The next morning we got up and headed to Sunny Point café, which was a fantastic way to get ready for the day. I bet it was 60 degrees and sunny out there. It was like everything was right with the world, especially once we got our food. I’d definitely recommend stopping in there.


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    After sating our hunger and slaking our thirst, we headed back to Mary’s to mount up and do some riding. Solomon, with his broken DRZ, headed out on a hike with Laura, and George and I headed to a state park/forest area southeast of Asheville. The park had a pretty decent gravel road running through it for maybe 10 miles, which was a nice break from pavement. I must say, though, riding on gravel kind of sucks. It’s very unpredictable, and I’m pretty new at the whole riding on dirt thing, so it definitely didn’t seem very natural. Definitely good practice, though. At the end of the road, where it popped out onto a curvy highway, we stopped for water and a breather. A guy named Chris was also out there with his KTM 640 adventure, so of course he and George had to talk about KTMs for a while. He told us about a few other good roads and trails in the area, which unfortunately we didn’t really have time to check out. There’s reason number 3 to come back…


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    George’s bike had been leaking coolant pretty steadily, so we waited a bit longer for it to cool off so we could check the level, and as we waited, a couple pulled up on a DL1000 with their son on a KTM 640 Six Days. I’m jealous of the center stand he had on that KTM; it would have come in handy when I had that flat tire. They told us about another branch of the trail we had just ridden that climbed up the side of the ridge to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was mostly closed at that point. Apparently there was an open section that would take us from there back into Asheville, so that’s the way we went. There was one stretch that was nice, smooth dirt instead of gravel. It was amazing. I never thought I’d be so happy to see dirt again. The trail passed under the BRP, and that tunnel echoed like nothing I’d ever seen. After we shut our engines off, the echoes lasted a good 10-15 seconds.


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    #18
  19. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> At the top of the hill there was a turnoff, so we pulled in to enjoy the view for a bit. Compared to flat old Indiana, the mountains are something else. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling, but I still always find mountains beautiful. At the overlook, we met a guy named Bob who had ridden up on his bicycle. Bob was a pretty interesting guy, and we chatted for a bit before getting back on the bikes. As we walked back over to them, we realized that my helmet was gone. Almost immediately, George saw it lying 20 feet down the side of the hill, so I climbed down and got it. I’m not really sure if someone was pissed at us and decided to throw my helmet over the edge or what, but it would be pretty hard for it to have fallen off my rack, rolled over a curb, and then rolled down the hill. I’m just glad it hadn’t gone further down the hill, really. None of our other stuff had been touched, so I’m going to guess it got blown off or something. I won’t be leaving my helmet sitting on top of my bike anymore, that’s for sure.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    While we were finding my helmet, Bob had taken off and headed back down the mountain. We caught up with him halfway down. I paced him at 55 mph…that just seems incredible to me. I hit 40 on my mountain bike once and while it was pretty stable, it takes a loooooong time to stop from that speed on a bicycle.



    The rest of that trip was pretty uneventful. We made it back to the house just fine, and ended up taking the highway back instead of slower roads just because the roads weren’t that great and there were tons of lights. We met up again, and as we were discussing where to get dinner and taking off gear, we noticed that the turkeys had migrated back up the hill and were congregating on the hill above us. Three of them, for whatever reason, had taken to running in a circle around a tree. I bet they ran around for 5 minutes. Every once in a while they would stop, reorder, and keep going, or else they would stop, change direction, and run the other way around the tree. Some of them had started flying up to their night perches. I had never seen a turkey try to fly before, and if you haven’t either, it is a sight to see. Basically, they point themselves in the right direction before they take off, and then launch themselves laboriously into the air. They have to beat their wings quite hard to get all that tasty turkey meat off the ground, and at sounds like a helicopter taking off. Once in the air, they fly in the general direction of the lowest branches of a tree, in hopes that they’ll get close. Many of them overshot their targets, a few beat branches a few times with their wings, some landed on branches that were way too small to support them, and all of them wobbled precariously as they landed. From there, they take short, hopping flights into higher branches to sleep for the night.


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    After tiring of the turkeys’ entertainment, all of us loaded into the Mazda3 and went to a local Mexican restaurant whose name I’ve since forgotten (I’m probably the worst person at names in the history of humanity) and had a massive dinner, replete with the almost obligatory frozen margarita. It was a great way to end the day.


    And that’s pretty much the ‘trip’ part of the trip.
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    #19
  20. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,071
    Location:
    Indiana
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> The next morning, we got up earlyish, cleaned up the house, and loaded into the truck for the drive back. The weather got steadily worse and worse and worse as we went north, hitting heavy rains, ice, snow, and construction. It got a little hairy at one point, when we first discovered it was icy, but other than that, the trip went smoothly. We dropped Solomon’s stuff and the DRZ at his house, and then he drove us partway up the highway, as he was headed that way anyway and it would cut out an hour of seat time in 35 degree, drizzly weather.



    Nothing like a green bagel on St. Patrick's day:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    Of course, when we got the bikes out and loaded up, my XT wouldn’t start. After kicking it for 5 or ten minutes of kicking, George and I went to get dinner at the Subway next door and Solomon bid us farewell. After eating, the XT still wouldn’t start. What had been the most reliable bike was fast becoming the most annoying, since we really needed to hit the road before it got even colder out. In the end, George towed me around the lot to spin the engine over and try to un-flood it. Eventually it caught, and we were good to go. My jetting is slightly too rich, and at that point I hadn’t really figured out how to get it to start properly when it was that cold, so it had flooded after the first few kicks, and the rest just added to the problem.
    The trip back, luckily, was pretty uneventful. We ran 65-75 mph the whole way and made it back to Purdue in one shot, but it was so cold. I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold in my life. By the time we got back, I was lying on my tank bag with my feet on the passenger pegs to get out of the wind, which actually worked out pretty well. I would have done it earlier, but there was traffic until the last 45 minutes of the trip. And then we were back, unloaded, and back to real life, as it were. Classes started again the next morning, but I wasn’t in the mood to do homework, so I just unloaded and went to bed.



    [​IMG]

    Tail sticker:
    [​IMG]

    Beautiful weather:
    [​IMG]


    All in all, some of the most fun I’ve had. Now that I’ve been on one trip, I’m trying to decide if I should modify my other bike (1979 GS750E) for more trip ability, since I’ll definitely be doing this again, or if I’d be better off buying another, more dual-sport-oriented bike. At this point, quite awhile after the trip, I think I’ll stick with the current stable and just modify things to suit my needs a little better. Something about that old air-cooled four…just can’t bring myself to get rid of it. The XT is also getting a few new parts, including metal oil pump gears, much better suspension, a new clutch, and improved jetting, and I think from there it will be a much more competent bike.

    Thanks for reading, and I hope you all enjoyed it.
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    #20