Versys the offroad

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by billybumbler, Apr 16, 2013.

  1. Murphy Slaw

    Murphy Slaw Long timer

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    Don't underestimate a 100 lb woman.

    They can be pretty mean.....

    :D
    #21
  2. billybumbler

    billybumbler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    17
    As I set off preparing for my ride today I remarked to myself how auspicious the beginnings were. Or inauspicious, I can never remember which is which. I have always believed the foundation of a good day is a good breakfast, but apparently my wife did not get the message. Without even leaving me a simple breakfast of eggs, bacon and swedish pancakes, as I requested, she left around 6am, before I was even awake, and went to work. So I had to improvise my most important meal of the day.
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    I dedicate this ride to John Carpenter.

    Don't worry, he is not dead. At least not as far as I know, he could have died years ago, and I never heard about it. It is the sort of thing one might look up before writing a report such as this. The point is I saw "Big Trouble in Little China," and "They Live" earlier this week, and anyone who creates movies that good deserves at least a ride dedicated to him.

    The plan was to explore the trails in San Bernardino I never got around to exploring last week. Google maps does not have the trails, however here is the road portion of the ride. C and D are probably where I got on and off the trails respectively.
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    https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=...5Pw-CnzvJyn25fCgDEW_3GAP06bAw&t=w&mra=ls&z=15


    Here you can see some of the trails on the satellite.
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    Shortly after heading, around Altadena, out I saw something that caught my attention. I actually had a perfect shot from the highway, but I have no way to operate my phone while wearing gloves. I do not have a dashboard where I can rest things either, so I had to get off the highway to take a picture. Unfortunately because the surface streets are so much lower than the freeway, I had to drive around for a while through surprisingly heavy traffic. On the way I saw this very picturesque street:
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    Followed by this charming store:
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    Oh Taylor. May your meat and produce be ever fruitful.


    It has been said, "Some men just want to watch the world burn." I think what they meant to say was, "some men want to make the world burn, but pretty much everyone will stop and stare at a fire."
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    Behold, fire! Stolen from the gods and given to man by Prometheus. The purest expression of chaos in a universe doomed to entropic death. The symbol of every emotion that makes life worth living. And in other circumstances good for roasting marshmallows.

    This next shot was fortuitous. I had no idea the helicopter was there; it swooped through the smoke just as I was taking the picture. Flying low through a thick screen of smoke like that has to be mind numbingly frightening.
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    The hills are alive with fire and brimstone. It was a grassfire, but it was big. There were a number of homes precariously close as well, although I did not see any engulfed in flames yet. It was still early enough in the event there were no roadblocks. In fact, because it was on the hill the fire trucks could not even get to it. I got a little closer, but I declined to stop and take pictures because the police and fire departments would need access. The roads were already thick with gob-stopped looky-loos, and I was not going to be the one getting in the way of people fighting the fire or others evacuating their homes. You will just have to trust me when I say the fire was spreading fast and heading towards houses.

    Since I did not intend to stand around looking at it all day, and the authorities were obviously already on the case I decided to set out again. After some more freeway time I finally got off I-15N and headed onto Lytle Creek Road. I found myself smack dab in the middle of a beautiful canyon.
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    There was only light traffic, and the road surface was good, which made for nice riding. Some twisties. The other day while driving home from work I thought it would be a good idea to actually show my bike in the pictures. ;)
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    A few miles up Lytle Creek I found the San Bernardino National Forest Ranger station. This was not just a happy coincidence, as I had planned to go there. It had a very nice setting, and I was able to get my bike in the pictures as well.
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    Here is some more of it.
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    Inside the station was a girl who appeared to be about 12 years old. But she had an official looking ranger hat, so I solicited her for information about the local trails and paid for the adventure pass. She was helpful and gave me a map. Now on the way to the ranger's station I had seen this sign, although I did not take the picture until after leaving the station. It should be C on the map:
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    The mighty morphin power ranger at the station specifically told me I was not to ride on 2N57, but both the sign and the map she gave me seemed to say street legal vehicles are ok. Bumblebee is street legal, so I decided to take my chances. In any case, logic dictates if she is behind the counter she would not be the one to catch me riding there, so I could always plead ignorance based on the sign.

    Things started out easy. The road was dirt, but otherwise flat and relatively smooth, at least not too many rocks. I think I was able to get a bit over 40 here.
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    Things started to go uphill before long.
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    Oh! There is Bumblebee again. This was really one of my better ideas.
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    It continued up and up. It was not long before I found a rather good overlook.
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    Continuing up it went from easy road to steep to "how the heck am I going to get down this?" Better to just keep going and save those sorts of questions for the academics. As I continue up I look out over the canyon, and I am struck with a sudden nostalgia. I think we have all experiences it at some point, when a sight or a sound or a smell conjures up a memory we did not know we had. I look out and see two small lakes beside each other, each with a fountain in the middle. I suddenly am struck with a memory of camping there and swimming in those lakes when I was a small child. I have a sudden urge to read Proust's Remembrance of Things Past and connect my memories to some greater significance describing the whole of the human conditions. But it is a pretty long book, so I probably won't.
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    Here is an angle with more scenery and less mawkishness.
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    I continue through the hills, taking various turns, and more or less relying on my internal compass to guide me around, although I do have a map if things get too bad. The trail gets worse and worse. To be sure, on a pure dirt bike it would have been on the cusp of not even being fun. On a pure dualsport like a klr or dr I do not know as I have never ridden one. On a Versys with a more competent rider, it would probably be easy as well, since the actual trail was not so bad. I found all I have learned from dirtbiking holds basically true; I just go slower, and the bike is harder to maneuver. What I am more and more worried about is the tires. I pick my lines to avoid rocks, but I can feel the tires getting shredded. I have 60 miles of freeway once I get off the trail, and I do not want the tires to fall apart at 70mph.

    Here is the farthest point I went in, I think.
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    After this I turn towards what I think is the road. Based on the map smurfette gave me the trail is going to get worse and worse, but ultimately that is where the fun is. At this point I can say the temperature is about 400 degrees. I have to go slow, so there is no wind to cool me down. My black jacket absorbs the sun's heat, and it gets so hot the adhesive that holds together my phone's case melts and falls apart. Between my workout, inadequate breakfast, thank you Mrs. Billybumbler, and not drinking much of anything, I am feeling about half dead from exposure. I know I am still quite a ways from the road, and I want to hurry back to get some water. But hurrying is what gets people in trouble, so I slowly wind my way through miles of this:
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    I am still worried about the tires, but the conditions get harder and harder. I drift from side to side. Even water cooled bikes need to breathe, so whenever possible I try to gun up the speed so the radiator can get more air. Let's face it; I need the air too. I should probably take a break, but I tend to be a task master even when I am alone. Climbing up the hill in the last picture I reach a very pretty peak.
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    On the other side are endlessly twisting trails.
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    It gets steeper and steeper and rockier and rockier. Eventually I have to say screw the tire and just motor through. I still try to avoid rocks whenever I can, but a hit a few doozies. I let the wheels slide and track the way they want, but it gets steep in places, and I cannot moderate my speed. The inside of my jacket is soaked with sweat, and I can feel my lips chapped and raw. Going around a turn I run into a deep sand pit. The front tire washes out, and I almost instinctively grab the brakes. But when in doubt, gas it. Bumblebee responds beautifully and stands up good and proper. To hell with the tires I scream into the wind, as I fly down the trail, drunk on adrenaline, or, more likely, heat exhaustion. I make one wrong turn, but that is not too bad considering I had assumed I would end up hitting something I could not get over and be forced to backtrack for hours.


    Finally, road, sweet road.
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    As fun as this trail had been the heat and thirst took its toll. Rather than stop for a tire inspection I ride a few miles back to I-15 where there is a gas station. I fuel up and take a much needed, albeit quick, stop for lunch. I know it is traditional for people to post pictures and tell tales of the wonderful and exotic local cuisine real advriders find, but more mundane journeys like mine demand a more mundane cuisine. In another respect, it fits in a weird way because, believe it or not, I have never been in a Del Taco before.
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    I get some water as well, and I feel greatly refreshed. After fifteen minutes I inspect the tires, gear up and head out. The tires have a lot of small tears in the rubber, but it all looks superficial to my untrained eye. On the way home I see the Monrovia fire again. It has spread over the hills, and there is smoke everywhere. Later, at home, I check the news and learn it has burned 170 acres so far, and is 10% contained. Many families have been evacuated, but I can do nothing more than wish the best for them and keep on keepin' on.
    #22
  3. BackRoadNomad

    BackRoadNomad Wandering around

    Joined:
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    St. Bethlehem, Tennessee
    ...I enjoyed your report and photos. It's saddening to see and hear about fires that spring up in the western states. Hopefully there was no loss of life.

    Waiting for Chapter 3...
    #23
  4. Rob.G

    Rob.G Mostly Harmless

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    Good job on that trail, especially with a heavy bike and street-ish tires!!! Great narrative too. :)

    Rob
    #24
  5. browneye

    browneye PIN IT & BANG GEARS

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2009
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    Orange County, CA

    That would be the 'browneye'...LOL.

    The Versys is a great little bike. Put 8500 miles on mine and started doing the adventure riding stuff so I wanted something more capable.

    I put Pirelli Scorpion Trails on mine and they worked really well on and off pavement. Just drop the pressure down to about 22-23lbs and they work remarkably well. You need to carry a pump though so you can air back up for road.

    The new Tiger came with those tires as well, and they work just as good on it.

    You'll have to come out for some of the local rides and get to know the other ADV'rs...there's a TON of them here in the southland. 3 years ago I didn't know anyone either and now the phone rings off the hook. :D

    Also be sure to join the owners forum here: www.kawasakiversys.com


    Keep on keepin' on!


    Here's mine when I owned it.

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    Here's a sequoia tour Rob was on with us. A couple'a Versys and a couple'a others...

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    #25
  6. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer

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    I lived in SoCal for a few years in the last century. I loved the roads and the scenery but stayed on the pavement since I had a sportbike and a heavy touring bike. I really like the Versys and would love to ride the area on one. I think you made a good choice picking a yellow one. It looks nice:thumb

    Good job on your report and thanks for posting it.

    I do have one suggestion. If you want to have an easier time taking pics, buy a relatively inexpensive point and shoot camera and hang in around your neck with a strap. I do this and can take pics with my left hand while riding even while wearing winter gloves. When I do stop to take a pic, the camera is right there and I don't have to take off my gloves. You will find that you can get some great pics that you would otherwise have missed.
    #26
  7. Rob.G

    Rob.G Mostly Harmless

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    Speaking of others, have you heard from Hamilton? I haven't. I think I saw something on G+ about him getting a BMW.

    Rob
    #27
  8. browneye

    browneye PIN IT & BANG GEARS

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    I do hear from him occasionally, but it's been awhile. Hadn't heard about a new bike yet.

    Bill sold his Versys and got a Ducati 1098, and a TE310.


    Sorry for the thread-jack. :1drink
    #28
  9. billybumbler

    billybumbler Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    17
    Good suggestion. I had figured a camera would be essential once I figured out I could not use the phone's touchscreen with gloves on. But I had not thought of putting it around my neck. That solves a lot of problems. I did just get a Silverstone tank bag so I can have a little area to put things. Do you still use your right hand to take pictures? Given the choice I prefer to use my left hand for things, since my right controls the gas.

    Nice set up on the Versys. I do not think I will trade it in anytime soon, but I am definitely taking a long hard look at the Triumph. So I will probably follow in your footsteps eventually. Initially I was looking at the BMW F800, but now having ridden one I am not sure I would trade the Versys for it (much less the Versys and $8k).

    I would love to go on some of the group rides, but so far, even though I even signed up for the email notifications on the thread, whenever I check it, it is inevitably just after the last ride, and just before anyone has made a plan for the next ride. I have always had a very intimate relationship with Murphy though. I was SUUUPER disappointed when I found out there was a noobs rally, and I missed it.

    New tires will be one of the next changes I make. I have also found you can get air pumps that fit in your saddlebags and run off a cigarette lighter, so my lazy ass will not even have to pump manually to adjust the pressure. Any idea how the Scorpions compare to Pirelli MT-60R? MT-60 is more dirt oriented, but I am in a situation where to get to dirt I have to ride a greater number of miles on the road.

    I am about to head out on a five day trip to Laughlin and Vegas, so hopefully I will have something worth writing about soon.
    #29
  10. browneye

    browneye PIN IT & BANG GEARS

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    The MT60's are okay if you run a 150 rear (which does work fine) but I think they quit making it. There were two rubber compounds, a dualsport/adventure compound which was harder, and a super soft supermoto compound for those race bikes. The latter would evaporate in as little as a thousand miles. Either was okay on the front as they don't wear very fast, but the rears would just disappear.

    The Avon Distanzia was another poplular one but always got mixed reviews. Some like them, some not so much. They are not as good as other tires on wet pavement. Work well on dirt though.

    We did a LOT of tire info compilation on the versys owners group forum, check that out. I was about the first to put on the scorp-trails and a lot followed, loved them. They are outstanding on road and work well enough off for a roadbike. I still like them on my Tiger. I'm CJBROWN on the other forum.

    Going 150/70-17 opens up a lot of options...half the adv bikes out there run that size.

    Good luck and enjoy.

    Oh BTW, if you like having a camera handy you need one of these. We made up a bunch for another forum. I'll bet Joel still has a few. They clip to your jacket or pack and have a 4' kevlar retractor with a 10oz weight rating. A pocket camera is about 4oz, so they work just fantastic. The product is Key-Bak.

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    EDIT: another BTW, a lot of us pickup a slime air pump for 12V from Walmart or such, and strip the guts out. Or use it as is. they're great for flat repair or airing up for hiway. Be sure to get a tire plugger kit for tubeless.
    #30
  11. Rob.G

    Rob.G Mostly Harmless

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    If you can't find one of those retractor things, Google up the "Gear Keeper" -- it's the same thing, intended for use with CB Radio mics for truckers. They're about $15-20. I got mine on eBay.

    Rob
    #31
  12. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer

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    Yes you have to use your left hand to take the pics. I just point and shoot while keeping my eyes on the road. Some of the pics will turn out to be junk but with a little practice you will be able to get most of them to turn out OK. Off road I normally stop to take pics but on pavement I can get pics while riding through curves at a decent pace.

    I just use a strap and let the camera dangle around mid chest. This way I can take pics but the camera doesn't hit the tank. This works OK with a bike with an upright seating position but probably wouldn't work well on a sport bike. I haven't tried a retractable strap but a lot of people do use that.
    #32
  13. billybumbler

    billybumbler Adventurer

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    17
    [Note: I write these in a text document and then copy/paste into the forum. I am using a different method for the picture links, so please PM me if they aren't showing up properly. Like if they show up as a link or image code or something.]

    Wow, I cannot believe how long it is since I posted anything, but you know how it goes. Today I've got a report from a few months ago when I did a five day trip to Laughlin and Las Vegas, as well as a few bonus pictures from a quick ride I did yesterday.

    As usual, here a picture of the map and a link to a google map of our approximate journey:
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    https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=...kufg&mra=dpe&mrsp=5&sz=11&via=1,2,5,7&t=m&z=7

    After months of preparation and planning we came up with a simple concept for the ride to Laughlin: my father, uncle, brother and I would ride to Laughlin, Nevada.

    While in Laughlin we would go to a motorcycle rally, but, just so all the cards are on the table, I am not a huge fan of motorcycle rallies. They are more for the Harley crew, but I thought I might be able to get some decent, cheap gear and accessories there. My uncle is in the custom shirt game. In fact, I think that if I said he was the third biggest name in Northern California custom dirt bike and motorcycle-shirt designers, you could probably guess who he is. As such he made these kickin' shirts for us:
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    To be honest we were not entirely sure we would go to 3 states, but the shirts would have been lame if they said 5 Days, 4 Bikes, 2 States, 2 Generations, 1 Ride. It was an easier fix just to make sure we popped across the border in Laughlin, which literally straddles the border between Nevada and Arizona. My three compatriots were riding from the Bay Area, so we decided to meet in Mojave. The ride from my place to Mojave was uneventful and pleasant. I first stopped here:
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    I honestly can't even remember what this was. All I know for sure is it is right on 14 around Lancaster. A disadvantage of not writing stories in close temporal proximity with the event is you forget some details. I guess the irony is there was a plaque or marker there I thought I should take a picture of in case I forget the name, which is not so much ironic as it is very bad planning and indolence. Still, the area was beautiful.

    This is what most of the Mojave scenario looks like:
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    Mrs. Bumblebee informed me this was a terrible and boring picture, and its only saving grace is the power line cutting diagonally towards the viewer. Other than that though, it sucks.

    Also there was a train (ignore the guy in the truck with the trailer, I have no idea who he is or why he decided to get in my picture).
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    At this point I should mention I think the best way to tell a story is to start in the middle and switch back and forth in time, in a manner consistent with when I remembered to photograph key points. Hence, here is how Bumblebee looked when I left, even though this picture was taken while the trip was underway.
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    Bumblebee is slung with Firstgear Silverstone bags. I quite liked them. If anyone wants a more detailed report of their pros and cons send me a PM, and I will write one (I may write one anyway).

    Here in Mojave I met the others, and we embarked to Laughlin. This was a long and very straight shot without much to see, so I did not take pictures. However, there was at least one event of note. One of us (I will not embarrass anyone by saying their name) decided to test out their fuel range. Unfortunately there is a very long stretch leading up to Needles where there are no gas stations. I think it is about 90 miles, and this anonymous person ran dry just a few miles short. The standard protocol for running out of gas in the middle of the hot ass desert is to crawl along the highway until you die of heat stroke. Our family, being made of tougher stuff, decided to press on. There is actually a subtle downward slope into Needles, so this gasless jerkass started just coasting on the shoulder at about 10mph for a few miles until the slope turned flat. Once there was no more slope jerkass came to a stop, but luckily my brother had the idea of towing him with a strap; unfortunately we had no tow strap and nothing to tie onto. So we improvised with my brother holding onto one part of a backpack while jerkass held onto the other, and my father went ahead to get a gas can since this was not working well. Turns out it is extremely hard to hang onto a thin strap hard enough to be towed up a hill while also maintaining balance and operating the controls. My uncle was nice enough to ride behind jerkass just a little in the lane with his hazard lights on to help prevent an accident from happening with the overtaking traffic. When we got to the off ramp we could immediately see it would be way too steep to pull the bike up, but luckily jerkass was able to get it started with the last few drops and gun it up the ramp and coast across the street and into the gas station, narrowly missing a semi. Thanks a lot jerkass; next time fill up at every gas station.

    The shot north from Needles to Laughlin was cool, but we were basically tired and wanting to get there fast, so no pictures. There was also some awesome dirt trails just next to the side of the road, which I would have explored on other occasions. When we arrived we stayed at Harrah's. Staying at Harrah's is pretty self explanatory, but I took a picture, so look at it damnit:
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    Harrah's was a dump by the way. Supposedly they upgraded us to a premium room. I am not one to complain, but the room was like a sardine can designed by someone who has a particularly vehement disdain of sardines. They made us wear yellow wrist bands for the entire three days we were there. We are a Jewish family, so I found this slightly offensive. They also said replacements of these cheap paper wristbands would be twenty bones each if they were lost/stolen/came off in the shower, and without them we would be denied entrance to our room, no matter how many times we already paid for the room. The gym was an extra fee and sucked as well. The less said about the smell of the hotel the better.

    I did not get too much out of the rally, and I did not find any gear or accessories that I liked. I did buy some goggles I was hoping to wear with my helmet, but that turned out to be insanely uncomfortable. Here is an awesome bike though:
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    There were a bunch of other cool bikes too. Trikes with V-8s; bikes with huge tires. All very cool stuff. It was cool looking around at stuff, but they definitely cater to Harleys, and a bit towards touring bikes, not the adventure crowd.

    The next part of the ride was the best. We went from Laughlin to Vegas via Hoover Dam.

    Dam nation!
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    Hot dam!
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    (seriously it was like a million degrees out)

    The dam was cool, but a few years ago they built this awesome bridge over the river so traffic doesn't have to go over the dam. The bridge is crazy impressive in person. That huge arch of concrete is over 1000 feet long, and weighs perhaps more than a mother-in-law.
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    Next we went up through some sort of national park thing, which was awesome. The road runs along lake Hoover Dam, or as the Native Americans called it, Lake Mead. Normally you have to pay to get in, but it was some sort of holiday or something so we got in free.
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    The ride along here was beautiful, and I stop a lot to feast my eyes on it. There was no traffic and we were going relatively slow, so I experimented taking pictures while riding.

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    Those are not the pictures I took while riding. They came out horribly so I trashed most of them. This one came out ok though.
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    As promised I will jump back to the beginning of the story and introduce the cast of characters.
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    On the left is my bike Bumblebee. Next is my dad on the mighty Goldwing; followed by my uncle on some sort of Kawasaki, and finally my brother on whatever his bike is.

    In Vegas we parked next to this guy. I am not sure the protocol on posting random other adventure riders (which is what I assume the ADV sticker means), so I will go ahead and assume it is ok.
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    Although the ride from Laughlin to Vegas was not too far, even including our detour to Hoover, it had been a long day. We were tired from the immense heat and hiking around the dam. Then we had some misadventures with lost keys. Needless to say we were starving, and decided to go to my favorite seafood restaurant (in the middle of a desert, go figure) Joe's Crabshack. Normally I avoid stuffing myself due to my wife's continual insistence that touching me is like putting her hand in warm porridge, but on this day I ate without abandon or even respect for common manners and decency. When I finally slurped the last of the crab juice off my chin I lit a cigarette and reflected on how my journey was at an end. I could just be imagining that last part considering I still had two days in Vegas and hundreds of miles to get home, but it is consistent with my overall shoddy storytelling and lack of attention to detail.

    One thing I noticed is that there seems to be open dirt trails criss-crossing the state of Nevada. On a future trip, maybe a four day weekend, I would like to get on those trails and see how far I can go. Maybe these are not as open as I thought, but there did not seem to be anything stopping someone from cutting loose on them. A bit north of Santa Clarita there were also a lot of trails. These were much steeper and did not seem to go anywhere though. Still I will try to hit a few on a day trip just to test the limits of the bike.

    Looks like I am going to skip the bonus pictures about yesterday's ride, but I will get to it eventually.
    #33