Trans America Trail / TAT 2021: HONDA TRAIL CT125 Edition

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by anelog272, Jun 15, 2021.

  1. anelog272

    anelog272 Some Guy Rides

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    Pre-Ramble Part One

    It’s about a week before my proposed leave day and I’m excited and I'm nervous. Mostly excited. I’m riding solo starting in Asheville, NC to the New Mexico/Colorado border where my buddy John is going to meet up to finish. We bought Sam’s gps files and are going to do that route with a possible jaunt on the UTBDR.

    Here’s how this all got started. For the past few years I’ve been obsessed with figuring out a way to be able to travel and find adventures with my wife when we’re finished working (if we ever finish working, which will be never). I’m especially obsessed with an overland vehicle called the EarthRoamer. The only way we could ever afford one of these is if we sell our house - and I’m perfectly willing to do that.

    [​IMG]

    The point is, I started watching all sorts of overlander YouTube videos. At the end of one of those videos, YouTube, in its creepy infinite wisdom, suggested C90 Adventures as something I might enjoy. Boy was YouTube right.

    Ed March is now one of my top personal heroes. The C90 reminded me of a Trail 70 I had as a kid, and I was blown away at what Ed was doing on that little piece of shit bike of his.

    [​IMG]

    He didn’t give one single crap about anything other than the places he was seeing, what he was experiencing, and how much fun he could have doing it. It was extremely inspiring. Mostly I was blown away by how much pure unadulterated fun he seemed to be having. I’ve ridden street bikes since I got a license at 16. But adventure riding like this was a whole new world. This sent me on a whirlwind binge of other YouTube motorcycle adventure channels.

    Then I got to the episodes where Ed March was doing the Trans America Trail. The Trans America Trail?! I’ve been on this earth and into motorcycles for a long time. And I had never in my life heard of the Trans America Trail until that moment.

    Sitting in bed one night watching on my laptop - I was telling my wife how freaking awesome Ed’s adventure was. She could hear the envy and hero worship in my voice. Her response was, “You should do that. It sounds like something you’d enjoy. And you’re going to be dead or in an assisted living home any second now. So you’d better do it while you still can…” Okay - I’m paraphrasing a bit there. But that’s the gist of it. We’re at an age (early 50’s) where it’s become extremely apparent that now is the time. While we still can - we should. My wife’s overall coolness is unprecedented and renowned. But - her response surprised me. Because without her telling me that this was actually possible, without her pointing out to me that it was something I could actually do - it would have never occurred to me. And why would it occur to me that I could take thirty days to go do something so incredibly awesome? I have to work. I have a family. There’s all kinds of shit I have to do. I have responsibilities. All true. But - to hell with it. And before she could take it back I said, “I’m doing it.” That was early September of 2020.

    Cut to my old friend Johnny Pow (aka trialstech on ADVRider). I’m looking back at our text thread from September. We’re both part time musicians and we were both putting out albums at the time. So the texts are all about which record pressing plants we were using, managing our Kickstarter campaigns, and getting special wax mage records made. It was all about music music music. Until September 17, 2020. That’s when I sent John a link to Sam’s TAT site - with no explanation. John’s response was “I have my 650 dual sport”. This is a bike that hadn’t run in a decade, but I took the response as a promising sign. I encouraged John to check out Ed March on YouTube. Then on September 24 I came across some information about a new version of the Honda Trail that was coming to the states. When I saw the photo of this new bike every nostalgia gland in my body exploded. Thoughts of all the fun I’d had on that Trail 70 came pouring in.

    Honda’s nostalgia game is strong. They hooked me instantly. It was not a choice - i had to get ahold of this bike. I texted John the picture.

    [​IMG]

    John: “Are you considering that for the TAT? What’s the top speed on that thing?” This was a really good first question to ask.

    Sometimes ingredients come together in such a way that your only choice is to make a meal out of them. A stupid, idiotic, poorly conceived, momentous, once in a lifetime hearty meal. What followed was an aggressive campaign to 1. Convince Johnny Pow to put money down on a 2021 Honda Trail CT125, and 2. Convince Johnny Pow to take the aforementioned tiny toy bike on an epic trip across the country. Knowing that it’s fairly simple to convince someone to do things they already want to do - I felt pretty confident that this was all going to happen. Dinner is served.

    I put a deposit down on October 19. John ordered his without a deposit on December 3. While we waited for the bikes to come we went on a TAT, Honda accessories, bike luggage, and camping gear research spree. We watched Long Way Up and On Any Sunday and hundreds of YouTube motorcycle adventure video and read tons of articles and stalked every forum. We were in it. I don't think either one of us has mentioned music since this started. Our texts have turned into volumes of motorcycle minutia.

    John picked up his bike on February 3 and I was so pissed that I’d put a deposit down two months earlier and he got his sooner. His first impressions were… well, they were not glowing.

    John:“It’s fun but pretty slow. Rarely got it over 45.”

    Ang: “How’s your TAT confidence level?”

    John: “Can’t judge yet. I mean Ed did it on a 90. And groms have done it.”

    ("Ed did it and the Kiwi Groms did it" has become a mantra that we repeat in our darkest hours.)

    My CT125 showed up the next day.

    Ang: “Well dude, it is really fun. But it’s completely incapable of anything… Doing the TAT with these would definitely be an adventure and it would be hilarious. But I'm not sure it would always be fun…”

    What followed was tons of research into sprocket replacements, big bore kits, jet engine enhancements, magic speed spells, etc… The idea of throwing in the towel and selling them while they were shiny and new (and in such high demand) also came up often. We probably could have made a tidy profit. We had only ridden them on slab and while they were fun to scoot around on - we were not overly impressed. Our feeling was that there was no way in hell the CTs could do the TAT. At least no way that would be any fun. Maybe it would be best to just get more capable bikes. (But Ed did it. And the Kiwi Groms did it…)

    Other bikes that almost got purchased during this time: Janus Gryffin 250 (John). Used Suzuki Van Van (Angelo). CRF Rally 300 (Angelo). Yamaha XT250 (both of us). In my opinion - the XT250 is the absolute perfect bike for the TAT. Lightweight but with enough power to hit the highway when needed.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Ang: “The XT is completely lacking on the style/goofiness scale…”

    John: “We need to do a full pro/con Ben Franklin decision tree and vote I guess…”


    Honda Pros
    • Already paid for
    • Luggage ready racks
    • ABS front brake
    • Novel/ award for dumb idea

    Honda Cons
    • Slow
    • Aggravation
    • Longer days
    • No highway speeds
    • Less comfortable
    • Maybe not good in Rockies
    • Probably need to mount new knobbier tires

    Yamaha XT Pros
    • Higher speeds on highway
    • Power
    • Less encumbered by luggage
    • Can climb hills better/faster
    • Can make it over Rockies
    • Seat position seems more comfortable
    • Bigger gas tank ~200 miles
    • Might not need spare tank

    Yamaha XT Cons
    • Need to sell Honda and accessories
    • No ABS
    • Need to buy XT luggage rack and LED light
    • Figure out mounting ideas again

    We spent a lot of time looking at the XTs. It was close. But they didn’t appeal to either one of us style-wise. And as you know - style is everything. Right? I mean, let’s be honest. Riding the perfect bike that you don’t want your picture taken with is just no good at all.

    John: “The more I think about doing the TAT on the 125, the more it seems more insurmountable. Maybe it’ll make it the whole way but would I be happier on a steed less anemic?”

    (authors note: Steed Less Anemic will be John’s next album title. I feel sure.)

    Ang: “Yeah, it’s stupid. It can be done but it wouldn’t be fun. Let’s sell these fuckers.”

    Somewhere around this time we both decided to do the TAT on Royal Enfield Himalayans since it seemed we'd decided to dump the CT125s. We both put deposits down. Then I finally took the Honda on some dirt.

    Ang: “Holy shit man. I just did an epic 95 miles on the CT. Dude- it's probably the perfect bike for 85% of the TAT. So fucking fun. There were at least four times where things got squirrely where I thought, "things like this are not going to be this easy on the Himalayan"...”

    John: “hmmmm.”

    Ang: “But then when I got back to the bigger roads to come home - i was bummed out again…”

    This is the first cycle video I did around this time when we were still contemplating taking the CT125's on the TAT.

    "If you get on this thing expecting it to feel like a motorcycle, you're going to be bummed out... It feels like you're sitting on a toilet rolling down the road..."



    Then we did Hurricane Creek with the Honda Trail's which was a definate turning point. This punishing trail showed us for the first time what these ugly little bikes could do.

    More on that soon...
    #1
  2. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks

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    That was impressive.
    #2
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  3. borderlinebob

    borderlinebob Been here awhile

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    Great….
    Another marvellous story teller, doing what I should’ve, but didn’t, when I was that age, on a bike I have decided as my go to when current one gets too much for my aging body.

    Let’s go eh!!
    :clap
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  4. farleywilbur

    farleywilbur Been here awhile

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    In!
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  5. Haven't Ben There

    Haven't Ben There Been here awhile

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    This is going to be interesting :photog
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  6. Dracula

    Dracula On a Timer Supporter

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    I made a mental note to avoid Hurricane Creek road at all costs when in the area.. :photog
    Thanks for sharing! I'll be following along.. :lurk
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  7. docwyte

    docwyte Long timer

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    Just because you can do something doesn't mean it's a good idea. That said I'm looking forward to reading about your adventure
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  8. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    I have to follow this!

    All I would say is be prepared to take a lot longer to complete the TAT on these than you might otherwise consider - the Kiwi Grom trip is probably a good benchmark, and even then the realistic distance you can cover each day on these might well decline as you get more and more beaten up.

    I've no doubt the bikes could do the vast majority of Sam's route if you take your time and care (the really high elevation sections not withstanding perhaps), but it's more your aging bodies which are going to suffer... Ed was in his early 20's when he rode his Cub around the world.

    Best of luck!

    Jenny x

    ps. fwiw. the XT250 is a far better proposal as you've surmised, but there is a perverse pleasure in riding something so inappropriate as I can see you've concluded... all I'd say is if it starts to get painful and wearing, take a break rather than throw in the towel - the TAT is an awesome experience and it would be a shame if you had to miss parts just because the bikes were beating you up.
    #8
  9. Dakar Dan

    Dakar Dan Long timer

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    Power to the Trail Hunters! I’m already enjoying the “slow down and enjoy the view” pace of the CT after just one week. On the very first ride, it was clear that washouts, logs and drainage ditches would have to be tackled with a different approach.

    That Hurricane Creek expedition looked like truly crap weather and in dry conditions would’ve been a blast on the CTs. Set ‘em up as you would for ultra lite bikepacking, with a mix of stealth bivvies balanced with some luxo nights under a roof. I reckon if you look at these bikes somewhere between a trad ADV moto and a gravel/mountain/touring (pedal) bike, they’re gonna shine on the TAT.
    #9
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  10. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto Long timer Supporter

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    When I saw these bikes released, I wanted to buy a pair for my wife and I and do exactly this. I have done the TAT on a DR650, I want to go back and slow down a bit and do it on the Hondas. So far, I have struck out in finding a Trail 125, so this will have to be an adventure for next year. Good luck. Great intro.
    #10
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  11. simi.d

    simi.d Enthusiastic Noob

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    The Kiwi Groms Approve this Adventure :clap

    I'm sure you will have a fantastic time! Looking forward to following along.

    We are also both huge Ed March fans and he was obviously an inspiration for our trip. I think his 90 was rocking a Lifan 125 motor through the US and I suspect your CT has the same engine as our Groms? Indestructible IMO, but one thing we didn't think about before we went was the altitude setting (see below). Could make a difference on those passes, but when you are dealing with less than 10HP it's probably not going to help that much. What will help for sure is the wheels... compared to our 12" Lego ones you should find it a lot easier to keep some momentum on the steep bumpy stuff :-)

    Definitely recommend some knobbies... and ship a fresh set (rears at least) to Topar Racing in Trinidad CO. Our original plan was 9 weeks.. That was from NYC to LA via Port Orford with a rest day every 5-7 days and a week contingency. In the end we took 45 days NYC to Port Orford. Only rode daylight hours as we like to see what we're riding through - otherwise what's the point. Could have finished 7-10 days sooner by making the days longer. Only ended up taking 2 rest days (forced by rain) and a few more days repairing shocks and drooling over rockets / white rims / lakes & rocks.

    Have an amazing adventure. We'd love to do it again! Shout if we can help with your prep :thumbup

    alt.png
    #11
  12. anelog272

    anelog272 Some Guy Rides

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    Who said anything about this being a good idea!?
    It was rough - but very fun!
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  13. anelog272

    anelog272 Some Guy Rides

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    Unfortunately - you nailed it on the aging bodies part. I really wanted to love the XT250 - there's a ride report on here by someone doing the TAT on one - and it just looked like the absolute perfect bike. But you're also right about the inappropriateness being too funny to pass up. We'll see how funny I think it is in a few weeks! - thanks so much for this...
    #13
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  14. anelog272

    anelog272 Some Guy Rides

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    Thanks for this! Your videos were just as inspiring as Eds for us. We met the guy who helped you (with a shock I think?) when we were doing the SM500.

    I was planning on starting with the stock tires and I talked to Henry at Topar a few days ago about switching to more aggressive knobbies there. Do you think that's a mistake? The stock tires did really well on some rough trails around here and the SM500. After hearing about the infamous Oaklahoma for so long though - I thought I should maybe change tires before that. What do you think? The guy at Topar also told me to bypass the mud at all costs and just to take the paved country roads through OK. Might be dry by the time I get there...

    I think my riding buddy John sort of analyzed your videos to figure out your timing a little. I'm glad to hear it was 45 days and you were taking your time. I've got 4 weeks blocked (and I could blow another week if I had too) - but John's on a bit more strict of a schedule.

    And thank you for this altitude setting. I never ever would have known this existed. I just printed it out and put it in my tool roll.

    Oh man - we have stalked your videos and your blog to death. Really really helpful. Your gear list was a great resource. Can't thank you enough for all of the fantastic information. And the videos are beyond binge-worthy for sure. I know how much work that took. Kudos and thanks for doing all of that - hoping to make our trail blazing predecessors proud!
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  15. anelog272

    anelog272 Some Guy Rides

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    Pre-Ramble Part Two - Two CT125’s Go To Hurricane Creek

    I woke up on Sunday, February 28 and it was a gorgeous day. I decided on a whim then and there that I was going to run Hurricane Creek with the CT125. I texted Johnny Pow at about 10 am that I was off on an adventure.

    John: “Think there’s enough time today if I come up? I can leave in about 20 minutes.”

    John lives in Columbia, SC. I live in Asheville, NC about 2 hours away.

    Ang: “Get your scramble on bro!”

    We set off from Asheville at about 1 pm and hit the blacktop roads for an hour and a half or so to get to the trail. If you haven’t done it, Hurricane Creek is a famous trail around these parts. It’s known for being tough going and is deeply rutted from overuse by 4x4s. And what we didn’t think about was the two days of rain we’d had. Turns out that would have been a good thing to have thought about.

    I have lots of street riding experience and I’ve been on many forest, fire, and logging roads on various bikes. One of my favorite things used to be taking a Harley where a Harley wasn’t meant to go. But before Hurricane Creek - I had zero real dirt riding experience. So I put on my Merrel slip-on laceless street shoes and figured all would be fine. I mean - I’ll figure it out as I go, right? What’s the worst that could happen?

    A muddy, soggy, slip and slidey, impossible Hurricane Creek happened. And it happened like a glorious fist right into my face. This was like no riding I’d ever done before. How can something so punishing and so awful be so much god damned fun?! Taking that first hit of crack must be a lot like riding Hurricane Creek on a CT125. As soon as you do it - you start trying to figure out how you’re going to do it again.

    If you want to laugh at my inexperience and ineptitude - this video exists for your viewing pleasure. I don’t mind. I’ve got no shame. Here are some of my favorite comments. I think they speak for themselves without further analysis. I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to fix their spelling or grammar. I have a hard enough time with my own.

    “No offence but having a complete lack of any rider skill set, combined with a massive void of common sense added to obscenely high expectations from such a small trail bike will always end up badly , As Ralph Nader once said "Dangerous at any speed" in this case meaning the rider not the bike, The guy needs an entry level street bike, a paved road and an advanced coarse in motor scooter riding. His Self realization of "This is dumb" was the best comment he had to offer, replace "this" with "i" & add dumb….”

    “We all give you credit for trying…”

    “...I really wanted to watch this because I just bought a CT 110 and plan on riding it on the Arkansas and Oklahoma TAT. But then you started using the F word and other course language that is simply not necessary in polite company…”

    “I was laughing with you, not at you…”




    Well - there goes the resale value of these bikes. I’d say they’re worth about half of what they were worth before we hit this trail.

    I crashed twice. Johnny Pow went over once. My headlight housing got crushed. Both brake pedals were bent. Mud was inserted with much velocity into every crevice of bike and human alike. Fun was had by all.

    As unimpressed as we were with these bikes on the roads - we were completely bowled over by their performance on this grueling trail. I would have been absolutely miserable doing this trail on a heavier bike. And for me and my meager skillset, it simply would not have been possible. But the little CT just tractored over everything the trail threw at it, and stayed upright, with only a few notable exceptions. Our bikes and bodies had the crap beat out of them. But it was incredibly fun. And our attitudes about these little ugly red bastards shifted. This is what these bikes were born to do.

    [​IMG]

    Our texts changed tone after this ride. We seemed to be leaning toward taking the CTs on the TAT.

    I went off to California for a work trip. While I was there I rented a Himalayan to give it a good test ride through the Santa Monica Mountains.

    [​IMG]

    Ang: “I like it but I’m also still thinking about the TAT on the 125.... can’t decide.”

    John: “I'm leaning 125 now. I hate to fuck up a heavy bike.”

    John: “The Hondas did kick ass on Hurricane Creek. On the twisties, the dirt roads, and the trail of course. The only weakness is on fast roads/highways and climbing hills. Let’s plan the SM500 trip. That would be a legit TAT test for either bike either way.”

    And that’s just what we did. More on the Smokey Mountain 500 Shakedown soon...
    #15
  16. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto Long timer Supporter

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    Everyone is going to have an opinion on tires. I suggest changing now. Something like Shinko 244. The stock tires might be ok for a day trip but every little slip and slide takes a bit of energy. If you make the bike a bit more sure footed, even on the easy stuff, you will save personal energy and be able to ride longer days.
    #16
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  17. Chuch

    Chuch Adventurer

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    This is all brilliant man, I love it. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. LOL Mad respect. I say keep at it man!
    #17
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  18. Dover_MA

    Dover_MA Adventurer

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    Actually I don't believe the CT125 (or the Super Cub) have the altitude setting that is found on the Grom and the Monkey. The CT125/SC use a full "speed density" air measurement system, while the Grom/Monkey do not.
    The CT125 "sensor unit" contains a Manifold Absolute Pressure sensor as well as both Intake Air Temp and Throttle Position sensors. In another major difference between the engine families, not related to the current discussion but of interest nonetheless, the Monkey/Grom use a mechanical Idle Screw to set the idle speed whereas the CT125/SC use an Idle Air Control Valve controlled by the PCM.
    "Altitude Setting" is exactly as you describe for the Monkey, it has an entry in the Index, but neither the Trail125 nor the SC manual has an Index entry for it.
    #18
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  19. simi.d

    simi.d Enthusiastic Noob

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    Cheers kind sir :thumbup
    I'd be keen to have the knobbies on from the start.. but you are correct.. there isn't much that really needs them before Trinidad if you stay out of the mud :lol3 Henry is a great chap.. I'm still using the kickstand spring he "found" laying around in the workshop!
    #19
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  20. trialstech

    trialstech Been here awhile

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    I can't wait to go man! I'll catch up to you July 9th or 10th? maybe? I'm freaking excited.
    #20
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