2016 TAT, Solo, Ocean to Ocean, Plan vs. Actual, Lessons Learned

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by KenCM, Sep 13, 2016.

  1. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    Two years ago, my wife and I went out to buy a lawnmower and came back with two motorcycles. She would say it was all downhill from there. In reality, it was all uphill.

    I soon broke my ankle riding, and while convalescing discovered the TAT. I immediately decided it was something I had to do and started making plans.

    Having no previous off-road experience and only a couple thousand miles experience on-road from decades earlier, I had my work cut out.

    Ultimately, I decided to ride a KTM 450 XC-W solo and unsupported.

    I left Jekyll Island, GA on the Atlantic on 8/15/16 and arrived at Port Orford, OR on the Pacific three weeks later on 9/5/16. I then rode to Eugene, OR, where I traded the KTM in on a bike more appropriate for riding tarmac back and returned home yesterday, 9/12/16.

    The KTM’s odometer reported 6,339 miles. The BMW I rode back reports 3,270 miles.

    The purpose of my posting this thread is to provide information to others who might want to attempt something similar and, like me, have little previous experience. So I will be making a series of posts over the next week or so (as time permits) focusing on my expectations and preparations versus what actually transpired – trying to point out those things I think might be most surprising and/or helpful.

    The westward track starts on the Atlantic and crosses the return eastward track in northern Georgia. So west of Georgia, the lower track is from riding the 450 west.
    KOutAndBack.jpg
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  2. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    This is what my loaded bike looked like early in the ride.
    BikeGearEalry.jpg
    A single large bag straddles the seat and the Wolfman Enduro Dry saddlebags.
    The Wolfman tail bag prevents the large bag from sliding off the rear.
    Under that mess is a prototype Green Chile soft rack that I purchased at the Florida Devil's Creek ride. The otherwise soft rack contains two tire irons along its length to lend rigidity.
    The large bag is an Ozark Trail bag from Walmart. It contains three additional bags on which I will elaborate later. Its purpose was to simply "package" the three it contained together and afford additional weatherproofing.
    Notice the dromedary strapped on top center in the rear and only fixed length bungies - more on these later.
    The total weight of all gear and contents was 112 pounds.

    Edit: The total weight was closer to 120 pounds as I neglected to include clothes and computer stuff in the things I weighed. Also, that Green Chile rack did not even move a single millimeter over the entire 6,000+ miles - much of it on truly jarring terrain.
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  3. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    A few days into the ride, the dromedary slid down and rubbed on the rear tire, sprung a leak and became useless.
    This was a blessing in disguise.
    I was anxious to replace the dromedary because I wanted that water in case I needed to cleanse a wound, cook, make coffee, or needed it for additional hydration (my riding jacket contains a bladder).
    A day later I was at Walmart and the best I could do was the pack in the photo into which I placed two hydration bladders.
    This not only gave me an equivalent amount of water, it also afforded many additional attachment points plus additional storage.
    I had packed a small backpack in case I needed to hike out of a bad situation but this one was more better.
    I had also packed basic survival gear and transferred all of that to this pack.
    That afforded a single package I could lift off the bike that contained all my survival needs - something that came in very handy about a week later.
    Notice the new flat bungee cords. Got those at Walmart at the same time and they are adjustable.
    By the end of the ride I was using nothing but the adjustable flat bungees - which I have kept.
    I've thrown out the fixed-length bungees as the others are infinitely superior.

    BikeGearLater.JPG
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  4. Kevin_

    Kevin_ Adventurer

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    That is a lot of miles in a short time, was that a stock seat ? I assume you were on a tight deadline
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  5. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    I did not have a deadline, but did want to see how quickly I could do coast-to-coast.
    I'm more a destination kinda guy - not a journey kinda guy.

    That is a stock seat.
    Normally, I can ride all day without any rear end issues but I was literally wedged between the tank bag and the bags on the rear and quickly discovered that not being able to move on the seat leads to a sore rear.
    Here's something else I picked up at Walmart - obviously in Arkansas.
    It helped quite a bit, and remained on the bike until the end, but that issue plagued me the entire trip.
    SeatCushion.jpg
    #5
  6. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    This is the maximum load I carried.
    I had arranged for those tires to be drop-shipped to LJ's Bunkhouse in western Oklahoma where I had planned on doing a tire change.
    For reasons I'll elaborate upon later I had to defer the tire change until Gunnison, CO.

    As an aside, I highly recommend LJ's Bunkhouse.
    The driveway is literally on the TAT path.
    They happily allowed me to drop-ship my tires there and held them for me.
    There is a building that is open 24x7 with refreshments free of charge.
    There is an area to work on your bike with some basic tools and they are adding more.
    The facilities were newly constructed within the past two years.
    If you choose to stay there, the rooms are set up so a number of people can stay in a single room.


    MaxLoad.jpg
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  7. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    A number of people suggested my luggage system would not likely work out in the long-run, but this is the worst it ever got.
    This was after hammering through Moab.
    I made a slight adjustment in the pack attachment by adding two straps over the top and never had another issue with it.
    Originally, I only had the single strap through the middle but added straps at the bottom after an unexpected jump at about 50 MPH flipped the backpack up and it hit me in the back.
    I had already developed an unexpected jump rating system which included "visor dropper" and "visor slammer" to which I added "backpack slapper."

    MoabShift.jpg
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  8. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    I originally planned on carrying a few large fuel bottles but then discovered this Gas Bag.
    I liked this solution better because I could simply keep it stowed empty until needed and consume little space and add little weight.
    It would also conveniently strap on the top of my luggage.
    I carried a gas stove, so I got the smallest fuel bottle I could for that.
    It turned out that I never used more than 3.5 gallons between fuel stops so my 5 gallon tank was ample.
    I did carry gas in the bag once when I thought I might need it, but emptied it and carried it stowed after that one time.
    So with the large tank, the Gas Bag was completely superfluous and I wouldn't bother with it again.
    In the sun, this thing puffs up like the Michelin Man, so I quickly learned to keep it shaded by having something over it.
    I vented it by opening the cap a few times as I was concerned it might actually burst.

    FuelDromedary.jpg .
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  9. msteward

    msteward Long timer

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    Just plain cool. Keep it coming.
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  10. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej Supporter

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    I'm an adventure rider wanna-be, so finding this very interesting. I'm wondering if it's not too late for me. 58 and learned to ride (for the very first time) 4 years ago. Have about 30 miles on gravel roads on my Vstrom and 30k on pavement. Learning from others experience and yours looks to be very beneficial.
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  11. USSBelknap

    USSBelknap Adventurer

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    I am in for the ride so to speak. This is something I would like to do when I get back to Conus.

    Wade
    #11
  12. Kevin_

    Kevin_ Adventurer

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    At times that seat must have felt like a razorback :)
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  13. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    I'm 57 and first started this at 55.
    If you are 58 and started at 54 I think you have a one year head start plus two additional years of experience!

    I did some things wrong and I did some things right.
    One of the things I did right was seek professional training.

    Over the past two years I received training from the following:
    Cornerspin
    California Superbike School
    Shane Watts
    Trials Training Center
    private instruction from a local pro supercross rider

    Without that professional training I am certain it would have taken me several additional years to prepare and I highly doubt I would have been as well prepared even with the extra time.
    So, I think you can buy some time with good training.

    Another observation... the bigger the bike, the more painful the learning.
    You need to make mistakes to learn, and you want those mistakes to come with minimal pain and minimal chance of injury.
    I know I am a lot further ahead having obtained small bikes to learn technique on and then applying that on bigger bikes.
    #13
  14. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    Water and dirt get into everything, so I used several of these "Otter Boxes" to keep stuff clean and dry. This was my personal hygiene kit and this shot was taken one day prior to the end of my trip. Note how clean everything is inside the box.

    PersonalCare.JPG

    One of the mistakes I made was putting all the first aid stuff in a single bag. Because of its size, that bag wasn't readily available. The Neosporin seen in this photo was actually purchased at a gas station when it was required rather than digging the tube out I had in my first aid kit. I had a tumble I'll describe in detail later that resulted in some scratches on my arm and that's what the Neosporin was for. The Band-Aids were in that kit as well and I ended up defering their application to a blister until getting some from a hotel front desk rather than dig them out. So, if there is a next time I will split the first aid stuff into commonly used and other and keep the commonly used handy.

    I used everything in this kit with the exception of the sewing kit. That was a waste. The cotton thread in that kit was useless for repairs (low tensile strength), which is why I procured the large spool of black nylon thread and the purple package of needles.

    By the time I took this photo, I had consumed the two travel size packages of dental floss originally included. I did get some use out of that cotton thread as dental floss as the nylon threat was too large in diameter to fit between my teeth.

    I opted for the travel size dental floss because I didn't want to bring a larger spool in order to save space. I brought two of them because I suspected there might not be enough in one. Four would have been required if not for the missing spool of black cotton thread from the sewing kit.

    It probably sounds silly to focus on the size of these various relatively small things but it makes a difference. I had a heck of a time fitting everything back in this case each morning because of the size of that toothpaste tube - which I returned with still half full. Wish I'd had one half that size.

    The blue and white bottle came in a kit for washing wax out of ears. I bought the kit for the syringe, which I needed in order to squirt Ford ATF fluid into my shock vent holes after developing a leak in my front fork seals. I'm too cheap to throw it out. Figured if nothing else, I could drink it in a dire emergency :)

    I'm sometimes slow on the uptake socially. I figured I was going to be mostly camping and not be around other people so I didn't bother with antiperspirant/deodorant. Turned out I spent some time with two groups of 2 riders and one group of 4 riders plus folks I met along the way during repairs and meals. I was two weeks into this before I realized that was a serious mistake and picked some up. My apologies to anyone that endured my presence without comment prior to that.
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  15. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    One of the surprises I experienced was the extent to which dust dries out skin. My hands were constantly covered in dust from Oklahoma to Oregon, and despite cleaning at every opportunity and applying lotion every morning and evening, my finger tips were in a bad way.

    While only a minor irritation, it probably wouldn't have gotten to that point had I anticipated the problem and applied lotion prophylactically.

    Once I recognized the issue, I also moved the flushable wipes to the Wolfman Enduro CarryAll over the headlight so they'd be more readily available after little tasks like checking tire pressure, etc...
    This was another example of how placement of an item made a big difference in its level of functionality. In that bag up front it only took a second to obtain a wipe and so I used them frequently.

    After I got back, someone recommended applying chap stick to my cuticles to help prevent those from drying out. I figure that's worth a try.

    BadFingers.jpg
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  16. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    So here's that big bag that sat astride my seat and saddle bags:

    BigBag.JPG

    Here's what was inside. The green bag is a Sea to Summit dry bag containing camping gear (tent, footprint, sleeping bag, pillow, chair). The Yellow bag is a Sea to Summit dry bag containing clothing and other regularly used stuff. The Black bag in the middle is a Wolfman duffel containing spare parts and the like. More detail on each of these later.

    The point of the big bag was simply to hold the other three as a single unit for lashing onto the bike.

    BigBagContents.JPG
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  17. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    That nylon thread and needles were used to effect this repair on the big bag about 5 days prior to completion. It held perfectly.
    The other application of nylon thread an needles was on my Klim gear. I had several tumbles that tore it up and those repairs have also held perfectly.

    What I would do differently is get a smaller spool of nylon thread and take just one small, one medium, and one large needle and place them in the packaging from the sewing kit rather than that big purple thing (not the big plastic box holding the sewing kit but just the paper needle holder).

    BigBagRepair.jpg
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  18. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    One of the saddle bags was nearly consumed with my Z-Drag+ kit.

    ZDrag.jpg

    About ten days in I was thinking about what a waste of space that Z-Drag was when I decided to take some single track around the side of a mountain and well... this happened:

    Oops.jpg

    No way I would have gotten that bike back up without that line. The gravelly side allowed for no force to be applied from below without feet slipping. Fortunately, the bushes on the uphill side had strong roots and they served as an adequate anchor for a simple block and tackle to haul the bike up.

    After the bike was back on the trail, but still lying on its side I still had the problem of uprighting it and the trail wasn't wide enough for me to do that without sliding. I solved that problem by draping the line over the seat and attaching it to the footpeg under the bike and then hauling it up. It slid until the tires were against the uphill side of the trail and then stood up nice as you please.
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  19. KenCM

    KenCM Been here awhile Supporter

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    About 3 days prior to leaving I realized that I had been riding this bike through all sorts of muck for more than a year and I needed to check the wheel bearings and swingarm bearings.
    I also figured that it would be worthwhile to only take the tools I needed so I basically disassembled the bike and put each tool I used into a box and after it was back together took only the tools in the box.
    All the bearings were shot and needed to be replaced. Glad I thought of that, even if it was late in the game.
    It also helped psychologically knowing that I had every tool I might need - until a few days into the ride I noticed I hadn't removed the bark busters and some other things that required much bigger hex wrenches than I had. The next hardware store I went by I bought a set of hex wrenches and added that to the kit.

    Prep.JPG

    Here are all the tools with a few exceptions I'll include later. The tool roll is an absolute necessity. On dusty roads and grassy areas it is invaluable for not only keeping the tools from getting lost but also parts.
    ToolRoll.jpg
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  20. airborndad

    airborndad Long timer

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    Excellent info
    taking notes
    TAT is on my to do list

    Questions hopefully you'll end up addressing sooner or later:
    I like your methodical item by item evaluations very useful info!
    looking forward to hearing about riding gear
    did you not wear gloves ?
    I'm not understanding how hands dried out due to dust??

    Keep it coming THANKS! :thumb:thumb
    #20