Dakota Adventure Loop

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by SD113, Aug 28, 2019.

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  1. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    Just finished the DAKAL this week. This year had historic rainfall in South Dakota and the western part of the state was definitely showing it. We encountered several road closures, trail closures, and bridges out but were able to complete most of the track. It is a great ride and well worth going. I learned a lot this trip about adventure riding, bike advantages and disadvantages, tires, and the ability to persevere. Unforgettable experience through rugged and beautiful country. The Hills may not be the Rocky's but Bill is not exaggerating when he says on the DAKAL website: "This is not just a gravel road ride." The DAKAL is no joke and should be taken seriously. The loop idea is brilliant. Between riding out there, riding the DAKAL and back home we put on 1700 miles. 6 days honestly would have been ideal. So many cool places to stop along the way! I cannot imagine doing this in four days with my VStrom! Can't wait for the next ride! Thank-you to those who put this route together! DAKAL 1.jpg DAKAL 2.jpg DAKAL 3.jpg DAKAL 4.jpg DAKAL 5.jpg DAKAL 6.jpg DAKAL 7.jpg DAKAL 8.jpg
    #1
  2. Lone Stranger

    Lone Stranger Adventurer Supporter

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    Looks like a great ride!!! Can you post details about your route?
    #2
  3. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    We began our route in Hill City and chose to start with the south route and 5 day plan (from the website, ours was slightly different due to closures and traveling around to meet back up) which translates to the following:

    Day 1 Hill City to Edgemont 124 miles- We began with 4 riders. 2 Vstrom 650's (one an XT version with stock tires) one (mine) a 2009 with an mag wheels (I know) and Shinko 805 rear, Motoz Tractionator GPS front. One NC700 with 80/20 tires, and one KLR650 with TKC80 up front and K60 in back. We encountered a closure right away on this route and did our best to find a way to get back on the trail. Halfway through the day while climbing a rocky hill a rider went down and twisted/contacted his leg with a hard pannier. No broken bones but a pretty sore leg. We continued but at some point we shot over to Dewey road to get down to Edgemont as we were losing the day rapidly. We camped in Edgemont that night at the municipal campground and enjoyed a hot shower in the morning. Bring bug spray if you stay there.

    Day 2 Edgemont to Keystone 213 miles- What an awesome day! This is probably the most photogenic day there was. Cascade falls, (awesome swimming hole), Custer state park, wind cave, Iron mountain road, the lookout and more. I did not take nearly enough pictures. I need to mount a camera on my bike to take pictures as I go. Riding this day was very easy and relaxed. A mix this day of pavement and gravel. We disbursed camped in the national forest on this night.

    Day 3 Keystone to Bell Fourche 147 miles- Two riders elected to end the trip here and head home. This had the most technical section of the trip. There is a pretty good hill climb filled with ruts and baby heads intermixed with mud the whole way to the top. For me, on my vstrom this was my 10/10. I will continue to get better but once we arrived at the top I had to take a few moments to celebrate and collect myself. Did not drop the bike here but did hang up due to ground clearance. The rest of the day was predictably amazing with more trail riding and lots of gravel. We stayed at Bell Fourche reservoir on BLM ground for free. No bugs. Attached is a sunset picture of our campsite. Highly recommend staying there.

    DAKAL 9.jpeg
    Day 4 Bell Fourche to Buffalo 193 miles- This is really remote with lots of high speed gravel and unfortunately closures. Beautiful country with some technical. We did get into mud going through grassland area and I learned why fenders are mounted so high on dirt bikes.
    DAKAL 10.jpeg

    If you are wondering, digging gumbo out of your fender with tire spoons really sucks! We did this probably 5 times as it took a 10' section of gumbo to damn near seize the front tire. The rest of the time I was doing my best to avoid it. Point to ponder; I would not do this route again without a raised fender or a different bike with a high fender. You simply cannot avoid it all. We quickly learned that removing a backpack strap from a drybag and sawing it back and forth over the front tire was by far the fastest way to clear gumbo. We'd felt like we had been in a fight when we were done.
    There were times I really wished I was on a TW200! We camped disbursed in the Custer National Forest. I was looking forward to observing the night sky due to it being one of the darkest places on the planet but we had overcast and rain. Par for the course this year.

    Day 5 Buffalo to Hill City 205 miles- We stopped at Pactola Reservoir this evening so we still need to go back and complete the Pactola to Hill city section. Even with this in mind we did not roll in until late in the day which is why I think the 6 day plan would be better for riders of my skill level and with heavy bikes that must be muscled around all day.

    We had a 400 mile trip to the eastern side of the state. Hwy 44 is much preferable to I-90 and it is a good road. A great lunch stop is Smoking Barrels in Winner. Plenty of quality fuel on 44 but you probably want a 200+ mile range if you choose this route.

    All and all a great trip. Bikes are always a compromise but I must say that while the Vstrom was certainly not ideal for this it did get it done and in dry weather, and a better rider, I'm sure it would have been even more competent. The KLR650 was in it's happy place off road but on the highway I think the advantage went to the Vstrom. Knobbies, in my opinion were a very good thing on this route, usual off road farkles are a must.
    #3
    GAS GUY, buddy10mm, 32dgrz and 3 others like this.
  4. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    A few of the closures were from bridges being out so I don't think they will be open in September. A few were just from really bad mud causing trail degradation. I should have kept track of all of them but I was so focused on riding that I didn't. They were fairly easy to get around though. I want to say we had to backtrack 4 or 5 times. Not bad given the number of miles on this route. I wouldn't let it stop you, September should be an amazing time to do the route. Going solo?
    #4
  5. eemsreno

    eemsreno Super Tenere Rider.

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    I was just thinking of riding up and doing this in a few weeks but after reading your report it doesn't look like the best year for it.
    Thanks for posting this.
    #5
  6. 15's Pop

    15's Pop Been here awhile

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    #6
  7. bigjohnsd

    bigjohnsd '14 BMW R1200 GS Adv Supporter

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    Yup
    #7
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  8. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    After riding this I've wondered how this route compares to some of the BDR's in terms of difficulty. I would like to ride the Idaho BDR next year and I am wondering if I should start looking for a different bike or if the VStrom would be okay. YouTube videos make it look easier than the DAKAL but you never know until you are riding it. Anyone who has done both and can chime in?
    #8
  9. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    #9
  10. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    #10
  11. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    Do you mind sharing that so I can take a closer look at the route on Basecamp?
    #11
  12. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    Whoops! Are you trying to download onto a GPS or app? I downloaded OsmAnd App opened it on my phone, went to the website and downloaded the GPX tracks. Then once they were done I opened the OsmAnd App back up and imported the tracks by dragging the recent download from the top of the phone and clicking on it. It worked fine but several in my party also experienced difficulty. Don't forget to download the South Dakota map on the app as well if you elect to go that route. The app works without cell service and at this point I would not get a GPS because it does everything I need it to do. YMMV. If it still doesn't work, email Bill. He has been responsive in my experience.

    Lastly I plan on donating on the website because the cause is noble and Bill put a lot of work into building this. I have spent a lot of time off road in the hills but this route opened up a new world to me. It's worthy of consideration. I have nothing to disclose and I am not affiliated with SD Trails Development Corporation.

    Happy riding, I hope you can do it, it is awesome and a great way to showcase what South Dakota has to offer.
    #12
  13. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    That explains it... I was wondering why the file extension was .dms when I downloaded the file.
    #13
  14. 15's Pop

    15's Pop Been here awhile

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    cool, thanks...
    #14
  15. 32dgrz

    32dgrz Been here awhile

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    Just got home from finishing the DAKAL solo. Fantastic 5 days.
    I too had to take a moment at the top of that track. Here is a route around it

    Attached Files:

    #15
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  16. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    You soloed the DAKAL!?

    I'm not worthy!

    It opened my eyes to how much I have to learn off road.
    #16
  17. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    Was the trail outside of Hill City on the southern loop open? What is your bike?
    #17
  18. 32dgrz

    32dgrz Been here awhile

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    The trail up to Bear mountain on the south side was closed so I went up the other side. I think that was the only thing closed on the first day. I think your daily descriptions are spot on.
    My bike is a CB500X with a Rally Raid kit

    7B097617-3E80-4F68-A607-E0D25B80C5AC.jpeg
    #18
  19. SD113

    SD113 Adventurer

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    Awesome setup! I bet it was ideal.
    #19
  20. Addapost

    Addapost Been here awhile

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    My in-laws live in Spearfish, fantastic part of the country for riding. Thanks for the report.
    #20