CB500X on the Rubicon... the story behind the video.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by JMo (& piglet), Oct 24, 2016.

  1. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    So a couple of weeks ago, this happened:



    And I thought you might like to know a little bit more about it all?

    Certainly anyone who has ridden the Rubicon will know it's relentless... essentially a dozen miles or more of boulders, rocks and steep slab steps - and while it's manageable on a small, lightweight dual-sport enduro bike, the terrain really favours four wheels rather than two... it certainly isn't the place for a typical twin cylinder 'Adventure' bike.

    Now I won't bore on about the details of the Rally Raid CB500X Adventure here - there is already a huge thread about the bike and the kit over in the vendor section of the forum - but suffice to say, the fact the CB is just that little bit smaller and lighter than the other 'full size' ADV twins out there is the main reason I thought I'd be in with half a chance of getting through to the end of this particular trail without destroying it in the process.

    Of course I'm certainly not suggesting this bike was the ideal mount for riding something as extreme as the Rubicon - but fundamentally, since the Rubicon Trail is still technically a county road (rather than a dedicated OHV trail), and considered to be the toughest 'street legal' trail in the USA, then it's feasible you might come across some similar sorts of hazards if you'd taken a particular unsurfaced road or trail...

    Therefore the reason for choosing this particular 12 miles was to illustrate that if you were faced any one or indeed a series of extreme hazards when out on the trail, that it's possible to get this particular bike and yourself over and through it, with minimal damage to both - which in my book is what Adventure trail riding is all about.


    Pre-planning
    Now I have to admit, we weren't going into this endeavour completely blind (unlike the first time I tried to ride the Rubicon back in 2008, solo, in early November, on a loaded XT660Z... that is a whole other story!) - personally I have ridden the Rubicon three times now, albeit only in it's entirety once, back in 2013 - so at least I sort of knew what we were in for... at the same time, I was also aware that a lot of the 'hazards' change from year to year with snow melt and the extensive 4-wheeled traffic that uses the trail each summer.

    However, Juan was certainly a Rubicon virgin - and while we'd been planning this ride since the spring this year, in an effort to ensure the video was truly authentic, there would be no pre-run on smaller bikes for example - we would turn up the night before, camp, and then 'crack-on' as they say - just as if this were part of an ongoing adventure ride... So in that respect (other than leaving our camping kit at camp), we would also have to be self-sufficent (water, food, tools, spares) for the duration, and not least endeavour to be in a position to ride our bikes back to camp.

    I also aimed to navigate the whole trail on the CB myself, that is without any physical assistance from Juan... the only caveat being if I found myself in a situation that would either damage the bike or myself, then I would ask him to step in and give me a hand - but even then, fundamentally I wanted to remain in control of the bike at all times...

    So, enough waffle, I'll endeavour to let the picture captions tell the rest of the story...

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    photo. Leaving home to meet up with Juan Browne who was going to video the trip - I'd also be lending him my XT225 to ride, hence trailering the two bikes from the Bay Area up to Lake Tahoe.

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    photo. affectionally known as 'The Nail' - a 1992 XT225 Serow... this is basically my Moab bike - light & low - it might have barely 17hp and crappy suspension, but actually it rides like a street-legal trials bike over the kind of terrain we'd be encountering - don't knock it, the soft power, low seat and squidgy suspension is perfect for a trail like the Rubicon!

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    photo. Juan and I met up the evening before and camped at Loon Lake. Having ridden the Rubicon before, I knew we'd need an early start if we hoped to finish before nightfall - particularly on a big bike.

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    photo. in an effort to keep as much weight off my person as possible, all my tools were stashed under the seat of the CB. Those of you who read the CBXpo ride report from earlier this year will notice that I no longer have the Motion Pro rim protectors with me - after all it was inevitable that the bike was going to get scratched over the next twelve miles, so the odd scuff from a tyre change would be the least of my worries now...

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    photo. still pristine - just over 11,000 miles and so far it had never been down... of course in the next 11 miles it wouldn't be a case of if, but when, and how many times.

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    photo. this photo made me laugh... no, the XT isn't really that much smaller, but figuratively it certainly is - being little more than half the weight of the CB500X. Juan was going to have a far easier time on the Serow than I was on the CB that's for sure!

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    photo. we happened on this abandoned CJ5 a couple of miles into the trail... presumably they'd run out of beer!

    It wan't long after that the inevitable 'first drop' happened:



    Once that was out of the way, I wasn't going to be too precious...

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    photo. A milestone - the Rubicon is punctuated with these, at typically all the major 'hazard' areas.

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    photo. a good proportion of the Rubicon is rideable on a bike, but other times it's prudent to walk the bike over certain hazards - especially if you don't want to hurt yourself or damage the bike - it's a long walk out!

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    photo. this being one example... (2m50s in the main video) the bike slipped off the narrow ridge and wedged itself under the overhanging rock.

    Up until this point, I'd been able to ride/walk the bike myself - but it did need Juan to give a push to finally extract the bike at this point. And yes, I can confirm the clutch is very robust on the CB ;o)

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    photo. dragging it out from under the rock didn't help all that much, it needed a bit of brute force!



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    photo. we made it to Buck Island Lake by about lunchtime - having slightly underestimated how much physical work would be required to get the CB over some of the larger rocks and hazards.

    Although we'd both packed 3 litres (100oz) in our Camelbaks that morning, I was now out of water - fortunately we were able to get some bottled water from the guys in the helicopter (you can just see it in the background above the lake) who were ferrying surveyors in the region. Juan also had a 'sippy pen' water filter with him, so filled his Camelbak with lake water and we continued to drink that through the afternoon...

    This is a warning - take a LOT more water than you think you might need - we certainly underestimated just how much we needed to drink that day.

    cont.
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  2. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Super Ordinary

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    In for the XT...



    :hide


    :lol3
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  3. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Another Jenny report! Excellent!
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  4. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    cont.

    Having left Buck Island Lake (approximately the half-way point) behind us, although I felt we were still on target to finish by around 5 or 6pm (ie. in daylight), I had underestimated just how rough the trail was between there and the top of Big Sluice... and by the time we started downhill towards the Rubicon River, we were again getting low on water, and I was starting to feel the aches of heaving my bike over so many rock steps and ledges.

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    photo. This is the spot where I camped the night back in 2008 - half way up/down Big Sluice, alone with my Tenere, before riding part the way out and walking the rest... oh the shame! This time, walking out was not an option!

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    photo. Don't let the previous photo of the camping spot fool you - the majority of Big Sluice looks like this - it's brutal, but at least bearable going downhill riding the trail from west to east).

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    photo. When you see the bridge, you can be forgiven for thinking the worst is behind you... and it is, other than a few gnarly sections on Cadillac Hill.

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    photo. 21" front wheel? Your argument is invalid.

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    photo. As the evening drew in, I was concerned we were only half way up Cadillac Hill. I've been here before in the dark - with a twisted ankle.

    Once nightfall descended, there was not a lot of opportunity (or point) in taking photos or video... at one point we were fortunate to have a couple of guys in a side-by-side come up Cadillac Hill behind us, and again we managed to blag some cold water from their cooler to briefly replenish our depleted stock.

    By this time I wasn't being brave anymore, and where prudent, asked Juan to help - if only to save what remained of my energy and minimise any damage to the bike - that so far had escaped any major damage at all. The one steep section I considered my nemesis (where I'd elected to abandon my Tenere and walk out in 2008, and also twisted my ankle in 2010) we managed to push the CB up with little problem, only to be faced by a far worse series of steps and hollows, that required shunting the bike back and forth to navigate - and ultimately at one point I fired the beast into the bank at the side of the trail, where a protruding branch caught under the front fender, snapping it in half...

    Pausing to take stock (and remove the broken remains of the fender), I conceded that the top section of Cadillac Hill was actually worse than I'd remembered, compounded by trying to ride up there in the dark of course.

    We considered simply bedding down for the night where we sat and continuing in the morning (the prudent suggestion, particularly if you've not ridden the trail before - everything looks easier in the morning!), particularly as again we were out of water. However, I could hear the faint babbling of a spring, and recalled that in 2008 I also filled my Camelbak with fresh water from the side of the trail.

    Invigorated by the clear mountain water, we pressed onwards and upwards, finally reaching the Overlook at around 9pm, and sat for a while - it was still warm, and for a moment we again considered just bedding down right there in our jackets and a space blanket, but at the same time I think both of us would like to have finished the trail in a single day, and not least have found a proper bed for the night!

    So we pressed on once more - route finding on the plateau in the pitch black was an adventure, but having ridden this section a number of times now, I was confident there was nothing that would catch us out - sure and steady, being so close to the end now.

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    photo. Ultimately we made it to the Mckinney Lake staging area at 11.04pm, and left our mark on the sticker panel.

    By now the temperature had dropped significantly, it was barely in the mid 40°s, and Juan was only wearing a body armour over a base-layer shirt.

    We rode south around the west side of Lake Tahoe - I'd left the vents of my jacket open in an effort to show solidarity with Juan, but was grateful I'd had it bungeed on the back of my seat all day... we rolled into South Lake Tahoe just after midnight, and headed for the nearest motel.

    The next day...

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    photo. the remains of my broken fender.

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    photo. We found this excellent breakfast joint, and celebrated a successful ride! It was still 60+ miles back to camp that morning, something neither of us had wanted to do at midnight in the freezing cold.

    So, all things considered, the ride had been a resounding success!

    By being cautious and taking my time, the bike had suffered minimal damage - just the odd dent to the exhaust silencer, and some scratches on the engine guard and rear wheel rim. I must have dropped it at least half a dozen times - usually heavily onto hard granite rocks, and yet the bodywork and engine cases were still completely intact, and even the OEM turn signals survived unscathed! I had removed the mirrors a few miles into the trail - but mainly because one had started to work loose, and it was easier to put them in my backpack than keep adjusting them - otherwise, they too survived the drops very well indeed.

    The front fender was the only real casualty - and that was my fault for clutching the bike up a step and into the bank at the side of the trail. Had there not been a branch sticking out, I would have got away with that too I'm sure.

    To reiterate, this was a stock Honda CB500X with the Rally Raid LEVEL 3 wheel and suspension kit fitted, together with their engine guard and a pair of Barkbuster Storm guards, and Continental TKC80 tyres front and rear.

    So there you have it. As I say, I cannot really recommend taking your CB500X on the Rubicon, as it really isn't a trail for anything quite that size - but at the same time, I don't know of any other twin-cylinder Adventure bike you could take on there with quite as much confidence.

    Hope you enjoyed the report as much as I enjoyed the ride back to camp ;o)

    Jenny x
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  5. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Ha ha - the XT is an excellent bike for this trail... I rode it back in 2013, and Juan had a ball on it this year too - in fact he was so impressed he went out and bought his own last week! Stay tuned for more Rubicon madness - albeit next season now I imagine... ;o)

    Jx
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  6. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Super Ordinary

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    Thanks for your report...sounds grueling. When I get in those situations the last thing I want to do is photograph it.

    Now I know where to ride when I'm feeling especially masochistic.
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  7. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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  8. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Ha ha - yes I remember that well... it's part of the reason I though it might be possible on the CB. Turns out the bike is in good company ;o)

    Jx
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  9. TwilightZone

    TwilightZone Long timer Supporter

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    >"...CB500X on the Rubicon..."

    Did you wish you had a bigger sprocket on the back... (or a smaller one on the front) ???
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  10. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Twilight' - fortunately the stock gearing isn't really an issue with the CB500X - 1st is actually pretty low, and 2nd very usable off-road too - together with the smooth power delivery which means it doesn't tend to cough-stall like a single cylinder bike can at low revs... so in gnarly conditions I found you can basically stick it in 1st and ride it like an auto on and off the throttle, it's very controllable in that regard.

    I was always impressed just how it would hook up and tractor over rocks and ledges if you committed to the line - it was more that in certain circumstances I wasn't prepared to take unnecessary risks, especially where I might potentially drop it and smash something (the bike or myself) and not be able to ride out.

    Jx
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  11. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

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    Thanks for the report!
    I saw Juans video earlier and hoped I'd find your report sometime.
    You two did a great job.
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  12. MBlue

    MBlue Been here awhile

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    Very impressive adventure - the trail (as shown in the video) looks nuts. Nicely done video, too.
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  13. GotMojo

    GotMojo Been here awhile

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    This is where rider skill is vastly more important than what bike you're on. This past weekend I did my own mini-rubicon with somewhat different results.

    P1020045.JPG

    One of the two 'difficult' sections of Rocky Gap just west of Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas.

    I'm sure Jenny could have breezed through this but riders without her skill set beware. This is about the realistic terrain limit for these bikes if you don't possess mad skillz, L3 or not. I found the gearing too high and the bike was just too heavy for me to manage by myself gracefully. It's doable but it wears you out pretty quickly. I don't know if a different tire would have made a difference. The Shinko seemed to slip a lot on the rocks.

    I too dropped the bike a handful of times and mashed up the scorpion pretty good but the only other casualty was a bent brake pedal. RR Bash plate took a beating and the front bars probably kept some scratches off of the plastic.

    P1020046.JPG

    Bike did great before and after the rock gardens!
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  14. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi 'Mojo - ha! - I did wonder when I saw the photo of your bike in Lovell Canyon (in the CB photo thread) whether you were heading to Rocky Gap... looks like you were!

    I know this trail pretty well, having ridden it a few times over the years (when my initial US exploits were based out of Las Vegas) - and yes, I'd agree it does have a couple of really nasty sections, for bikes particularly...

    Initially I did intend to include this trail on the CBXpo ride, but on balance, elected to take Wheeler Pass to the north - which is easier in the west to east direction we were heading...

    As you are probably aware, I found Rocky Gap is easier heading west (towards Pahrump) on a bike, but then you do need a park pass to access the start of course.

    Glad to see you giving the bike a work-out, and hope you'll be able to join us for 'CBXpo ride 2.0' next year?

    Jenny x
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  15. GotMojo

    GotMojo Been here awhile

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    There was an ADVRider rally in Pahrump last weekend. I led an Ale Quest ride on Friday and decided to try something a little more difficult on Sat. Honestly, I was in over my head for the rocky sections. It was only my 6th ride off road! Fortunately I had some help getting through those and the rest of it was easy peasy.

    Hopefully by the time CBXpo rolls around again I'll have a few more trails under my belt.
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