Wandering the Desert on a DL650 V-Strom

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Cro59, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. WaywardSon

    WaywardSon Long timer

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    Enjoying your report....nice style and good pics!


    Thanks for taking us along......John
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  2. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    My pleasure, John, good to have you.
  3. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Haven't seen much dirt on the bike lately and I'm getting restless. Thinking about heading north next month into Utah to meet a buddy in Salt Lake City. Any ride suggestions?
  4. tjzondrz

    tjzondrz Non-Nefarious

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    Great thread you have going on here. I enjoyed the reading and photo's.
    You da Man.
    Carry on.
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  5. black top bob

    black top bob gray goat Supporter

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    Glad you're getting ambitious. Those of us in the hollows back here are trying to decide what winter mess/damage we can put off cleaning up until summer.
  6. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    Thanks for the RR!
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  7. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

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    Very nice.

    Just a tip but a pot with a tight lid, larger bottom and a windscreen will do wonders.

    Attached Files:

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  8. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    I usually use a lid and windscreen. Was just a bit lazy that day. :*sip*
  9. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

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  10. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Looks like a good budget pot. I've been backpacking for years so I'm pretty well set on gear. I picked up the Snowpeak Titanium pot pictured above for half price because REI mispriced it.
  11. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Been a while since I've posted. I've been doing a few simple day rides but nothing epic over the past six months or so. The good new for me is a buddy picked up a FS650 which has motivated me to get out.

    Last weekend we did a big loop around the Tucson area (Regrettably no pictures). Slabbed it to Benson for fuel and breakfast (plus about a gallon of coffee). From there up Cascabel road along the San Pedro River, cut across to the Mt Lemmon Control Road near San Manuel, up to Winterhaven, and then back down into the heat of the surface roads to our homes. Simple easy ride. The Control Road had some sections that were a minor challenge on the VStrom, mostly due to lack of practice. I must confess that I let the old girl sleep once because I hit a climbing hairpin turn in neutral rather than 1st. Oops. I saved it but caught the bike at that most wondrous of angles wherein I could hold her off the ground but could not pull her back upright. A controlled let down was in order. So much easier to pick the beast up with two people. Anyway, the Control Road is in good shape and definitely big bike friendly.

    This week we headed south to the Santa Rita Mountains. Plan was to take Gardner Canyon Road, cut through some side roads to Box Canyon Road, and then home. Beautiful weather, never got over 97 F. You know you've been in the desert too long when anything under 100 F feels cool. We've had a lot of rain lately so there was plenty of that green stuff out there. Looked like we were riding through the Pennsylvania hill country.

    The bikes in their normal habitat
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    Gardner Canyon road was well graded and fast. Even I was up around 50 mph on the straight sections. Up by the pass, the road may deteriorate, but that's something to investigate next time because we turned off on Road 4085.

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    First few miles were good with three easy water crossings. Then things got a bit iffy on the Strom. To be fair to the bike, she climbed and descended over some butt tightening baby head fields and stepped roadways, and the problems didn't happen until we turned around. Going down is much easier, especially on an oversized, top heavy bike with less than perfect gearing and an amateur monkey in the saddle. On the way back, I stalled on the hill, not once, not twice, but on three different occasions. Love the VStrom, but it is not the right bike to bounce over ledges and rocks. It has the nimbleness of a semi-truck and the precision of a ton of dynamite.

    The turn around point. Just go left and it's an easy day, but no we have to turn around.
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    My buddy, the navigator, missed the turn onto Road 4110, so we hydrated and went back the way we came. On the positive side, my bash plate is about a pound lighter now because I left big chunks of it on the rocks. Some miles back, I lost my license plate, but we were blissfully unaware at this point. Anyway, we got to 4110 and it was not a VStrom friendly road. However, after bouncing from boulder to boulder at the entrance we were presented with some great views.

    The bikes in their natural habitat.
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    The BMW could have continued, but I was tired of wrestling my beast so we head back down Gardener Canyon, found my license plate (Gee, what's that in the road?), and cut across to Box Canyon Road, which was another well graded, high speed gravel road with some good twists and turns, a loose enough surface for the occasional rear tire slide, and more fantastic scenery.

    All in all, a great ride. There are tons of dirt roads in the area that range from the Harley-friendly Box Canyon to gnarly, technical single tracks, so it is well worth a trip if you are in the area. Great camping too, and if you are doing the AZBDR the Santa Ritas are right off the route.

    Hoping to do a road trip to Salt Lake City in the next week or two, so maybe I'll have more to report soon.

    Hero shot
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  12. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Thought I'd do a quick gear review on a couple of items. Not including my Mosko Moto bags, which I highly recommend, I've got about $1500 in farkles on my VStrom. I know there are guys out there who replace the suspensions to make them more dirt worthy, but after a year I'm of the mind that that's kind of a waste of time and money. Love the VStrom but it is never going to be a dirt bike. I've taken some challenging roads on her, but she's just too heavy and top heavy, and it is too much work when the trail gets bad. I'm thinking about a DR650 or a FS650 next. Wouldn't mind trying a KTM990 if I can find one. Anyway, the VStrom is a good choice if you are 80% road and travel the highways. Essential mods:

    - Bash plate: Low clearance bike with vulnerable bits low and front on the engine. I bought the Enduro Guardian plate. The thing is heavy, but does the job. Lots of gouges on mine. The kit came with highway pegs, radiator guard, and kickstand switch guard. One complaint is they sell the same plate for the DL650 and DL1000, so it is bigger (and heavier) than it needs to be and doesn't snug up as close to the engine as it could which reduces clearance more than necessary. I might look for a 650-specific plate if I was doing it again.
    - Hand guards: I've dropped this bike way too many times to count (never said I was a good dirt rider :muutt). Thanks to my Barkbusters and OEM crash guards there has been no damage to plastics, levers, etc. Highly recommend.

    - Mitas E-07 tires. Highly recommend these tires, especially for the back. I have 7,000 miles on mine with at least another 3,000 to go, most of it on asphalt. Can't complain about that lifespan. Tires handle very well in the dirt and pretty good on wet pavement. I'll probably try something else up front, because the front can get squirrelly at highway speeds, especially when new.

    For all of its limitations, I can't complain about the VStrom. It's a great commuter, fantastic road tripper, and OK for backcountry, and to be fair, a better rider could get more out of her. I've put just over 9000 miles on her in the last year with no problems whatsoever, despite pounding over rocks, riding in sand, and dropping her on all manner of surfaces. Gas mileage drops into the mid-40s on the dirt and at highways speeds, which is nothing to write home about but acceptable. The more offroad riding I do, the more I appreciate the idea of a lighter, more nimble bike. Time to start saving my pennies for the next one.
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  13. black top bob

    black top bob gray goat Supporter

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    Everyone has a favorite; but the two in the middle (250's) took the two of us from the east coast to Trinidad, Co., Santa Fe, Texas, and back along the Gulf Coast and return to Pa. The two DR's (my Bush Busters) don't do anything perfect, but they seem to do everything above average, and give me the confidence to try rough stuff. I'm 67 years old and by no stretch of the imagination more than an average dirt rider. I wish I lived where you do. Take care. BTB.

    Attached Files:

  14. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Long ride on a 250!
  15. Folly1

    Folly1 Been here awhile Supporter

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    I have a 2014 Vstrom that I have put 25000 miles on. It is not a dirt bike, but better that the 800gs IMHO. I also have a 2016 DR650. I love it. It feels and is much lighter. If you don't need the faster road capability, I would definitely go with the DR for a lighter 650. I rode the Vstrom to Alaska and would do it again, in a heart beat. Ben.
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  16. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Thanks. I like the 450-650 cc range, but there aren't many true hybrids out there. The KLM 990 looks interesting at about the same weight as the DL, but I'm definitely leaning towards the DR. Wish I could afford both.
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  17. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Tomorrow I'm starting an impromptu trip into Utah to camp and visit a buddy. Will post along the way if I can, but we'll see how that works. The plan is to avoid interstates and ride as much dirt as possible. Although Utah Highway 12 is on my must do list for the tarmac. General route is Tucson to Payson via Young, then up 89A to Jacob Lake, hit Utah 12 and then meet my buddy near Strawberry Reservoir. Depending on the time I may return via 191 in eastern Arizona

    Anyone have any recommendations or must see spots along that general route? I'll be solo on a VStrom with sketchy maps so no technical dirt.
  18. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    I started this ride report beside my fire last night, but it disappeared on the iPad when I opened another browser window. So, I am now coming to you from the Hell’s Backbone Grill in downtown Boulder, Utah. Downtown includes two restaurants, a gift shop, and a couple of motels along the one mile stretch of Highway 12. A great start to the day all in all.
    But, I’m getting ahead of myself. This was a short notice trip to meet a buddy at Strawberry Reservoir outside of Salt Lake City. I’m planning an easy cruise up and back for a seven or eight day trip. Of course, easy never is and there is always something to add spice to a trip.
    Anyway, I blasted out of Tucson on Thursday…late as always. Even though I was packed the night before, I still found enough nothing to do around the house to delay my departure to about 1100. By the time my around town errands were done, it was noon before I hit the road.

    Here is the gear before packing. The white bag is food for about five days and the big red bag is extra clothes.

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    With 86 liters between my Mosko Moto bags and the small tail bag, I have plenty of space for a week plus. I still need to pick up a new tent, but I don’t expect much rain so I’ll suffer under a tarp if I need it. Not much difference between lightweight camping and moto travel.
    My plan was to ride dirt as much as possible so I hit Willow Springs Road near Oracle.

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    I thought I could get about fifty miles of easy dirt to start the trip, but with all of the rain we’ve had the surface was slick and shifty and after five miles of fish tailing and sliding along I was done. It was just a matter of time before I dumped the bike and I had too far to go. When I stopped to turn around, I realize that the top three inches off the road was mud, not sticky but not at all stable either. It was a fun little diversion but I headed back for the pavement.
    My consolation is that Highway 77 is a great road with plenty of high speed turns. So I opened the throttle and let the miles bleed away. I had hoped to take the dirt into Young, AZ, but I was running late by the time I rolled through Globe, and I figured it would be more mud. Plans are meant for breaking, and as it turned out staying on the pavement was a good move.

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    About ten miles outside of Payson, I turned onto Highway 89 and opened her up. Life is good, I thought, except for that wobbling in the front end that is getting worse. Bad things were happening, and by the time I got the bike stopped this is what I found…

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    Yeah, my rear tire basically ate itself up. I got rear ended a couple of months ago and they wouldn’t replace the tire even though the wheel was damaged. I think it was damaged in the impact and finally gave up the ghost. I’m really glad this didn’t happen on some back country dirt road somewhere! Anyway, a $100 tow delivered me to Woody’s in Payson.

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    I can’t say enough good things about these guys. They close to the public at two so they can work on bikes until whenever. It was about six by the time we rolled the bike off the flatbed, and they didn’t even blink an eye. They don't keep a lot of tires in stock and were looking at 3 to 4 days to get one delivered. Well that fucking sucks. But wait! Woody finds a Tourance they pulled off a BMW a few days ago. You can have the tire, he said, but you have to pay for mounting. That sounds like a good deal to me. OK, now I have a slightly used street tire on my rear, so that eliminates any crazy off-roading for the trip, but I’m not stuck in Payson trying to source a tire. After an hour, I was back on the road.

    So a quick shout out to Woody and Mikey. If you need wrenching in the Payson area, you should definitely look these guys up!

    The flat cost me almost three hours, so making it to Jacob Lake north of the Grand Canyon was out of the questions. No problems, I like Flagstaff too. I took 89 to 3 past Mormon Lake and made my way north. Good riding, a few sprinkles, and much joy to be back on the road. After some great tacos in Flagstaff, I headed for Mt Humphreys to find a place to sleep.

    [​IMG]

    So, all in all, a good first day. Yeah, I got a flat that cost me $170 in towing and labor, but the trip did not end. That is a good thing.
    Just some random thoughts. One cool thing about moto travel is that you aren’t completely isolated from civilization like you are when you backpack. I have food for the trip, but it is nice to be able to stop at a diner when the day runs long. Also, I forgot how cold it gets at 70 mph. I left my jacket liner at home and had to dig out my wool jacket once the sun went down. Silly move, especially since I knew the nights were supposed to drop into the 50s.
    Okay, that’s it for day one. Now time to see if I can upload this thing…
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  19. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Sitting in Farlaino’s Cafe in Price, Utah. Seemed like a good time for another update. I spent the last few nights at a friends place near Fruitland, Utah, drinking too much whiskey, shooting things, and just generally chilling out. Visiting with him was a great excuse for a road trip, as if we really need a reason to hit the road.

    [​IMG]

    There is some beautiful riding through Utah and barren desolate stretches with nothing but dust, wind, and brown, rocky soil. It’s all good though, isn’t it, because I’m on the road. New roads to boot, which makes it even better. Hit a little rain today, but for the most part the weather has been perfect in the 80s during the day and 50s at night.

    I don’t have a ton of pictures, but there are some memorable sections of highway. Utah 2 from Bryce to Torrey, Utah 72 from Loa to I-70, and US 119 from Price to Duchesne, are fantastic with lots of good surface and high speed turns through the mountain. If you are in this part of the country they are worth riding.

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    My least favorite part of the route is Flagstaff to Kanab. I’ve taken 89 and 89A and both are full of long, boring stretches. Have to give the nod to 89A because of the scenery along the Vermillion Cliffs and the mountain roads around Jacob Lake.

    Anyway, out of Flagstaff I stopped at Sunset Crater and Watupaki. I’ve got to say, it is one of the least impressive National Parks that I’ve visited. The native ruins were cool, but not cool enough to go again.

    This one was amazing. It was a three story structure on a flat rock outcrop over the river bed.

    [​IMG]

    The rest of the day was spent twisting the throttle to get to Boulder, Utah, for the night’s camp. Originally, I wanted to spend a few days riding the dirt in the area, but with a street tire on back I kept to the more civilized roads. If you want to lose yourself in the vastness of the American Wilderness, whether on foot or wheel, then you need to visit Boulder and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I spent the night off of Hell’s Backbone.

    My view in the morning…
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    On Day 3, my VStrom turned 10.
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    One downside of the small mountain roads is road construction and the occasional oversized load. They shut down the road so these big boys could get to one of the many mines in the area.

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    Okay, that's about it. I’m fed, full of coffee, and ready to hit the road again. Tonight’s destination is Moab. Never been there, so I’ll find a camp site and do some hiking tomorrow. After that, I’ll stay on US 191 through eastern Arizona.

    Cheers, everyone, and ride safe!
  20. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    So a lack of wifi and an abundance of riding slowed down the RR entries. After leaving my buddy in Fruitland, Utah, I headed for the Moab area. It was a short ride back down US191, but again the wind was kicking up. Over the next few days, the clouds kept the sun at bay at the minor cost of riding through a few showers. I'll take a few miles of rain any day over the August sun.

    A bit of rain, but amazing roads and scenery.
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    The Moab area is stunning and worth a visit, however it is a popular tourist area so expect crowds and higher prices for lodging. The cheapest hotel I could find was over $100 with tax, so despite my desire for a shower I opted to camp. Even camping was a challenge. Due to the volume of visitors, the normal dispersed camping on BLM land is restricted, so plan to get there early to find a spot in one of the designated campgrounds. I normally don't pay to camp unless I want to take advantage of the services (shower, wifi, etc) but in Moab there isn't much choice and I ended up at a small campground along the Colorado River for $15.

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    The next day, I visited Arches National Park. Those pesky entrance fees add up, and if you expect to visit a lot of National Parks during your trip then you may want to get the $80 annual pass. I almost paid that much during this trip alone. Anyway, Arches is worth the trip even if you just drive the roads. August probably isn't the best time to visit due to the temperatures, but even so the hikes weren't that bad. It's one of those places where a cell phone just can't capture the majesty of the landscape.

    The Courthouse Towers
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    The Windows
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    Delicate Arch. It's a tough mile and a half to this one. Bring water and a hat!
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    Wandered back to town for some coffee and ran into a guy wrapping up a six week trip on my bike's older cousin.
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    After Moab, I twisted the throttle down US191, which would be my home for the next few days. You could spend two weeks just driving 191 in Utah and Arizona and still feel rushed trying to see everything. It's amazing what is available along this one single road. Great riding, canyon carving, high, flat (and fast) desert straightaways, Moab, Native ruins, the Valley of the Gods, hiking, lakes, and on and on. Seriously, if you are planning a trip to the desert Southwest, you could do worse than just hopping onto US 191 at Duchesne, Utah, and driving south to Safford, Arizona.

    One of many ruins along the way. This was just a small sign on the road that I decided to check out.
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    My home for the night. This may have been one of the rare BLM fee areas, but I didn't see a sign down this road so I took my chances.
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    I was up early the next morning to drive the Moki Dugway. This is a 1200 foot drop along a 3 mile span of road that was built in the 1950s when they mined uranium in the area. Most of it is dirt, but even a street bike could travel it easy enough as long as it is dry. Hard to get a good picture of the road, but here is a taste.
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    At the bottom of Moki is the entrance to the Valley of the Gods. This is about twenty miles of well graded dirt roads through some incredible rock formations. If you are in the area, just do it. The drive takes maybe an hour.
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    Monument Valley is also nearby, but I opted to pass it up because I had a long drive through the Navaho Reservation to get to my planned campsite near Alpine, AZ.

    Iconic landscapes abound...
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    My one complaint about this route is the scarcity of decent coffee shops. I guess that is what you would call a first world problem. I'm not a fast food guy and don't want to hang out in McDonalds just for their wifi and crappy coffee, but that's probably what I'll do next time to keep the report more current. I did find this cool place in Springerville, AZ. Coffee shop, second hand store, and hair dresser all in one. Guess that's what it takes to make ends meet. Coffee was good so I'm not complaining.

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    The girl at the visitor's center said I needed a camping permit for the National Forest. Nah, that didn't make sense so I drove over to the Ranger Office and they said camp anywhere. I had been dodging thunderstorms all afternoon but they cleared up by the time I set up camp. Of course, as soon as I was unpacked and set up, a series of storms drifted south. Rained all night, but thankfully the storms stayed at least five miles aways. I did move my bike away from my tent, just in case.

    My home for the night just south of Alpine, AZ, in Sitgreaves National Forest
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    Just a note, I did the trip with a street tire on the rear. Even the road to the campsite above would be cruiser friendly as long as it isn't too wet.

    I'll wrap up later today or tomorrow and will include some lessons learned and gear talk.
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