Touratech sponsors DirtDaze, the giant Adventure Bike rally in North Haverhill, New Hampshire. Geographically speaking it’s right in my back yard. Lucky me!
I met a few of the volunteer organizers at another dirt-oriented event in New Hampshire, the NorthEast Adventure Rally (NEAR), which happens in July, in Harrisville, NH. DirtDaze needed volunteers with experience riding and wrenching. Since I have both, and volunteering at DirtDaze means free admission, it was an easy decision.
North Haverhill is about halfway up the state of New Hampshire on the Vermont border. There are loads of dirt roads in both states around that area. It was clear that quite a few people took a lot of time to scout some great riding. There’s an old saying that a lot of the dirt roads in Vermont are nicer than their paved roads. We rode on some really, really nice Vermont dirt roads.
What’s the venue like? How are the rides?
The venue, a 4H fairground, contains several barns, a stage, loads of restrooms, and huge expanses of grassy fields. When the fair is happening, they host animal and machine stone-pulling events. That means that DirtDaze can muck up the grass for their own event and the landowners don’t get wadded up about it. If you’ve ever tried to host a dirt-riding event you know how tough that is to find.
It’s billed as an ADV rally, and that’s an important distinction; unlike NEAR which is dedicated-dirtbike friendly, the loops at DirtDaze are at least in part on roads, so bikes need license plates. There were loads of KTM Adventures, BMW GSes of various flavors, and KLRs everywhere you looked.
Rides ran the gamut from easy gravel to difficult dirt. Each ride is rated by tires. That is, some rides are rated as rideable on 80-20 tires, some required dedicated knobbies. It’s up to each rider to decide what they can accomplish on their own bike. I definitely saw a bunch of bigger ADV bikes running big-block dual-sport tires, and even one KLR shod in ContiSports. The smaller, knobbier bikes were in the minority, but by a small margin.
Loads of attendees had trailered their motorcycles there. Luckily the venue accommodates a ton of parking and camping. RVs abounded. There was no worry about parking next to your campsite; roll in and level your camper, set up your tent, roll your bike off the trailer or out of the toy-hauler and you are good to go.
What did you ride?
I rode second sweep for the inaugural women’s ride on a WR250. The loop for that 100-mile ride was absolutely gorgeous. We rolled over dirt roads with a little pavement tossed in for flavor. Some of roads were loose gravel, but it wasn’t anything challenging. Twenty-three riders started the ride, but due to a mechanical failure (seized-up rear brake) some fewer made it back on two wheels.
The ride was divided into two groups, and they (rightly) put the mechanic last. I managed to get the frozen brake pads free of the bike’s brake disc so the bike could roll. The ride leader rode it off the single-lane gravel road to a much truck-friendlier intersection. A DirtDaze sweep truck eventually came and collected the bike and rider. That DirtDaze provides sweep vehicles is a really nice touch.
Who was there?
Yamaha brought a fleet of Ténéré 700 bikes, and Harley-Davidson trucked in a huge contingent of Pan Americas. Triumph was there, too, with some Scramblers. Demo rides looped in and out all weekend. Hopefully everyone who hasn’t already ridden one of these bikes, got a chance. The demo rides on these bikes rolled over a combination of pavement and easy dirt. From the looks of the fleets, not too many people dropped a demo bike during the weekend.
What do I need to know, to go next year?
If you want to attend next year, note that it’s a lot easier to just bring your own food, since mealtimes were quite limited (this might have been due to continuing COVID restrictions). Definitely plan on bringing shoes you don’t mind mucking up. It is a fairgrounds, after all, and there’s remnants of farm animals around.
Your contingent of motorcycle camping supplies is adequate for the rest. You will want to add some chairs and perhaps a camp table to your list, since this is not a dedicated campground, and picnic tables do not abound.
Bring your cooler and whatever you’ll want to imbibe all weekend. North Haverhill is a small town. The nearest store is relatively far away so there’s no easy popping out for beer.
Internet coverage on site, and on the surrounding roads, is spotty to nonexistent. If you choose to go off on your own to explore, a SPOT or Garmin InReach would not be a bad idea.
Remember to keep an eye on the schedule, since events and seminars happen throughout the weekend.
Is there room for improvement?
I wish Touratech had a booth there. It would have been handy to have a place to potentially buy replacement parts, like busted levers, torn-up luggage mounts, and spare tie-downs to trailer your buddy’s busted-up bike home.
I understand that COVID restrictions make food service difficult, but an ice cream truck on site would have been such a win. Also due to the lack of internet, I wish that organizers would have posted the ride, training, and seminar schedule all over the site, so that folks would know what was going on, when. A bit better adherence to “kickstands up” times might have let everything run a little smoother.
Did you attend DirtDaze? What did you think?