Saturday, July 31, 2010

Great River Ride – The Plan

4000 miles in 18 days across 14 states two up on one bike!

Google Map of Route - Great River Ride

Starting on Thursday, August 5, 2010, my wife and I will be riding my 2001 SV650 from the beginning of the Mississippi River to the end at the Gulf (or as close as the oil spill lets us get) by following the “Great River Road”. We have followed the northern part of this route a couple times now, and are excited to see the rest. The plan is then to ride north east through the Appalachians and then back up to Minnesota. The map above reminds me of a deformed Africa.

We plan on riding through the following fourteen states roughly in this order:

South Carolina
North Carolina
West Virginia

I will attempt to blog each day. Thanks to my new netbook, I should be able to post pictures and maybe even videos. Many of the pictures will be sent as they happen from my phone directly to flickr. I am also going to attempt to use a GPS tracker, so you can follow along as we go. If it works, the widget will be here on the blog.

The SV650 in two up touring mode:

sv650 loaded up on the way to bayfield

We have nearly everything ready for the trip. Our trip to Bayfield a few weeks ago was the perfect shake down ride. The brown Santa aka UPS delivered my new tires last night, so I just need to get those put on, and we’ll be ready to go.

New dulop q2s front and rear for the sv650 and our big river tour  starting next week

We’re very excited!


Related Posts:

Flat Track School Videos

This post contains the videos mentioned in the previous post.
First the crash video:
Vimeo Crash Video:

YouTube Crash Video (make sure to watch in 1080p HD):

Vimeo Flat Track School Video:

YouTube Flat Track School Video:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Flat Track School

Sunday, July 25, I attended a Flat Track School from to learn how to slide a bike around. It was supposed to be held in June, but due to massive rain it was rescheduled. With a ZARS day on Saturday, my legs were very sore. Fortunately, flat tracking uses some different muscles. I signed up for the class wanting to learn how to control a sliding motorcycle. I think this will come in handy for my dirt biking and on the street when traction is less than desirable.
IMG_4607 IMG_4623

The class was held at the Stockholm Motorsport Park in Cokato, MN which is about 60 miles west of Minneapolis along US-12. I thought better of trying to ride out there thinking of my last dirt bike class and how exhausted I was after it. I convinced my awesome wife to drive me out there and take some photos of the action. The track was just a small dirt oval, but was setup perfectly for learning to slide. Track resurfacing took place regularly which was really just dragging a big hunk of metal behind a van to flatten out the ruts. It worked well.
IMG_4632 IMG_4625

The price of the class included rental of a great little Yamaha 125. I really enjoyed that little bike and for the right price, would buy one. It was really easy to kick start, and oh so light. Since falling is part of learning, being easy to pickup and restart is very important!

We met in the tent and learned some of the basic techniques of flat tracking. There are a number of things that make it different than street riding. Holding the handlebars is different. High elbows and thumbs pointing in along the bars rather than wrapped around the grips. This makes it easier to control the throttle under bumpy conditions and with the high elbows makes it very hard to put weight or death grip the bars.
IMG_4649 IMG_5707

Keeping the bars light lets the bike find its own way on uncertain terrain. Death gripping the bars will cause a fall. Sitting on the bike the instructors kept repeating a phrase over and over “crack to crack.” The idea is the crack of your ass on the crack of the seat sitting on top of the bike rather than under it. This is also another huge difference with flat track vs pavement riding. On the pavement, you try to keep the bike as vertical as possible by leaning under the bike to shift weight. This is possible because of the traction on a sealed surface. It does not work in the dirt. On the dirt, you have to push the bike underneath you while keeping your weight centered above the bike – crack to crack.
 IMG_5447 IMG_5357

Throughout the five hour class, I did get some good slides in. I also had some good falls.
 IMG_4820 IMG_4821

Everyone fell, including all of the instructors. Fortunately, dirt is quite soft compared to concrete!
IMG_5128 IMG_4864

I did take quite a spill on one of my falls and managed to twist my knee as my foot augured into the dirt while the bike rotated around me and tossed me off like a rag doll. I got up and rode a few more times, but eventually stiffened up too much to continue. My wife captured the entire thing in HD video! I ended up limping around for a few days with a twisted knee and bruised back. (videos coming soon) I am near 100% now and should be good for our Big River trip next week! I will be taking this class again. It was a lot of fun.

Full Flickr set here (1000+ photos!)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Zalusky Advanced Riding School – July 2010


I attended the Zalusky Advanced Riding School (ZARS) for the third time this year on Saturday. I was in intermediate one group this time. The class was held at Dakota County Technical College’s (DCTC) driving range. This is the fourth time I have been at a riding school at this location in 2010, and the seventh time over all. Lucky for me there was an oil spill on part of the track, so we got to run the long course which I’ve never had the opportunity to do. It was a nice change from the standard configuration. This was also my most productive learning experience save for my first time there.

IMG_4567 IMG_4207

I had a great instructor today who really helped me understand what my legs were supposed to be doing while I was going around the corners. I knew they were supposed to be supporting me, but his example of 5% on the hands really clicked today. With his bike on a stand, he demonstrated exactly what to do with the feet, ankles, knees, and butt. I will need to practice the technique at home with my bike on the stand to really make it stick. Right now it is taking too much of my concentration.

IMG_4203 IMG_4073

I spent the rest of the sessions trying to unlearn some habits I acquired at previous schools, specifically using the bars to assist shifting my weight. When I transition from side to side (left turn followed by right turn), I like to hold on tight to the bars and it it upsets the suspension and the bike doing it that way. I practiced moving from side to side with only a feather’s touch on the grips. It really help a lot. The bike was more composed and didn’t bounce around as much as it used to.


We also learned how to drag the front break into corners to set the attitude of the bike for the turn to make it easier to turn in. I struggled with the transition from gas to break to gas because I always wanted to have a bit of coasting time in the middle. I found it useful to learn how to use the front break just slightly, only enough to make the caliper kiss the rotor made it possible to feel what the front end of the bike was doing. Even with my crappy stock suspension it was useful.


With all the new things to practice, I was exhausted before the last session. 140 minutes on track is a long time! We had seven sessions of twenty minutes. The track is about a mile long with 17 turns! My legs were shaking, and I am sure I’ll be quite sore tomorrow. It was a good day.


If you are in the area and haven’t attended a ZARS class, I highly recommend it. It’s a riding school, and not a track day. The instructors are the best in the area and they are very helpful. The full day sessions are 140 minutes on track. I believe my next session is after we get back from our Great River Ride in August where we will be riding the entire length of the Mississippi River.



Full Flickr album here

Monday, July 19, 2010 – City Ride 2010

On Friday, July 16th, 2010, we attended the first ride for The ride was organized by my friend Bob Jr. and his father. Bob Jr.’s mother passed away two years ago to cancer.

Bob Jr.:
Bob Ponder Jr - Ride Captain
Ride to Fight Cancer is a group of motorcycle riders getting together to raise funds for Cancer research and treatment and to raise awareness about cancer and it's devastating effects. All of the money they raise goes to the American Cancer Society. They are making progress towards their $1000 goal.

We met at Snail Lake Park in Shoreview, MN and started the ride. The weather was in the mid 90s and was very humid. Our mesh coats made it tolerable. It was very hot.
Snail Lake Park - The Start
Three bikes showed up for the inaugural ride of the organization.
The bikes
Bob Jr. on his ‘89 Venture, his father Bob Sr. was on a ‘83 venture with a sidecar, and my wife and I on my SV650.
Very cool sidecar:
IMG_3969 IMG_3965
The route was twenty eight miles long and took about an hour. It was a scenic route through the parks and lakes in Ramsey County. I’ve done parts of this route before as my regular commute to work.
Map of the Route:
View City Ride in a larger map

All of us enjoyed the route and had a fun time on the ride. We concluded with a tasty meal and great stories. (Sorry forgot to take pics!) We lost track of time and it quickly became dark, so I got to ride home with my tinted shield. The clear one was sitting on the table at home.

Unfortunately, due to prior obligations, I will not be able to attend any of the other currently scheduled rides for 2010. If you’d like to help, please visit the website:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Returning from Bayfield

Since we had mechanical problems with the Ural that were self-induced and we still had vacation planned, we went home to switch bikes to the SV650.

We decided to ride up to Bayfield taking the scenic route.

We took MN-210 through Jay Cooke State Park. I wrote about this on a previous visit, but it was even better this time with everything green.

IMGP7717 IMGP7723

Is very beautiful and hard to leave, but we were starving. We had a very tasty lunch in Duluth, MN at the Whole Foods Co-Op. The same place I ate last time I made this part of the trip.

After Duluth, MN we went east on US-2 and picked up WI-13. WI-13 is a great road that hugs the south shore of Lake Superior. I highly recommend it!

We stopped at the mouth of the Bois Brule River. To get to this spot, we rode on a gravel road. It was my first time riding two-up on a gravel road. We survived it, but it was the longest four mile road I’ve ever been on. The washboard corrugations were especially exciting as was the deep gravel next to the corrugations! I thought the bike was going to vibrate apart.

The view was worth all the stress of the gravel.

 IMGP7736 IMGP7737 IMGP7745 

Back on WI-13 we continued to head east. The wildflowers were in full bloom and were intoxicating. We enjoyed them for over sixty miles.


At one of the stops we saw a Bald Eagle:

bald eagle

The SV on the shore of Lake Superior:


Wild flowers in bloom on the shore of Lake Superior:


We arrived in Bayfield, WI a bit later than we expected due to a detour we found out the next day was not necessary.


Boat pics for you:

IMGP7764 IMGP7765 

On Tuesday morning, we headed North on WI-13 to the State Park and the Little Sand Bay area. Just beautiful. Very clear water and clean sand.


The required pic of the SV and the Apostle Islands sign. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take a ferry to any of the islands. Next time!


For the return trip we headed south from Bayfield, WI on WI-63 and then followed WI-77. Unfortunately, our favorite part of WI-77 starts near the intersection of WI-13. Next time!

We headed west on WI-77 for a good chunk of the day when I saw a nice little road heading off mentioning a wildlife viewing area and a state park.

The road was paved, so I turned in. It was a nice paved road too at two lanes wide. After a few miles, it shrunk to 1.5 lanes wide. Eventually it went to one lane, and got very bumpy. It appeared they just dumped some tar and stuck river rocks into it. It made cobble stones seem smooth. The pavement ended and gravel started then to my horror the gravel ended and turned to sand.


I had the exciting experience now of riding two-up in sand! My wife could sense I was quite tense and grabbed on to my right shoulder for extra support. Bad idea. It pulled my right hand back causing the throttle to open up and the bike surged ahead. After a LOT of wobbling, I got the bike back under control and I reminded her to grab my waist instead. We went a bit further until the road forked at a T-intersection.


Both sides had at least another 1/2 mile of sand that I could see. I decided to cut my losses and make a quick retreat as this was the wrong bike with the wrong tires for the road. At this time, we were passed by two ATVs. We turned the bike around and crawled back out to the road. Another patch of deep sand on the return trip made the bike buck and jump all over. Sport tires to not like deep sand.

We made it back to WI-77 and continued our trek home. We eventually hooked up with WI-48 and took that back to WI-70 into Minnesota. We were pretty exhausted, so we wimped out and took I-35 back to the Twin Cities.

In the five day trip we covered four states and 1304 miles using two different bikes. Even though it wasn’t the trip we anticipated when we started, we had a fantastic time. It also turned into a good shakedown ride for our Big River Ride in August 2010.

We refined our packing ideas, learned we need a new solution for locking helmets and coats to the bike. It also showed me that my phone can write the blog, but getting the photos included on the road without a computer was not possible since I upload everything to flickr. The gear list for August will hopefully include a small netbook.

Full Flickr Photo Set here.

Related Posts:

  • Finding Bayfield
  • Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Trail: The Photos
  • Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: Day 3...
  • Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: Day 2...
  • Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: Day 1...

  • Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Trail: The Photos

    We set out from Minneapolis and arrived in Prescott, WI to meet up with the rest of the group. We were nine bikes and 10 people in total.


    After getting gas, Paul’s bike wouldn’t start. The battery terminal was broken off!


    With a bit of wire, he managed to fit it enough to get moving again.


    During the ride a few people commented my pusher tire was moving around. At the first gas stop, I checked it out. The wheel was really messed up. Lots of spoke problems. I swapped it with the spare and twenty minutes later was ready to go again.


    We separated from the group after that first stop since it was very hard for the Ural to keep up with the motorcycles on pavement.


    We followed the “Great River Road” south in Wisconsin. We’d done part of the route before last year, but road construction prevented us from finishing it. We finished it this time.

    Giant Fish in Onalaska, WI


    View of the Mississippi River


    Our lunch stop on the Mississippi in Ferryville, WI.

    IMGP7571 IMGP7572

    We spotted this tank, and I made a fast u-turn. I had to get a picture with it and the Ural. I can’t let Bobskoot have all the tank photos!

    This was the building being renovated behind the tank. It’s in LaCrosse, WI. I’m not sure what the end purpose will be.


    Some of the great river road in action


    A Wisconsin farm pic for Gary:


    Some very steep roads!


    With some confusing navigation:


    This is the group at the start of the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail.


    We stopped in Dickeyville, WI to visit “The Grotto” A guy built it from 1925-1930. Pretty impressive.


    Pic from the road:


    The group:


    More pics from the road:


    Not enough gravel!

    IMGP7686 IMGP7691 

    The very rare photo of some bikes actually behind us. Most of the time we were playing catch up which was very exhausting.


    Saturday afternoon one of the riders caught a nail with his knobbies. Luckily, it didn’t puncture his tube.


    On Sunday, more spoke issues caused us to abandon the rest of the ride. We went home and picked up the SV and continued on a different ride to Bayfield, WI. See the next post for more photos.

    The trip was great, and I enjoyed it. There was too much pavement on Saturday for my liking. If I could do it over, I would have gone slower to preserve my rig. (I have two wheels to fix now ugh!) I would have also purchased a more robust GPS. I bought a GPS III a few days before the trip, and it didn’t have enough memory for all the waypoints.

    The group started with ten people, but only five finished the route on Monday. We finished the Ural part of the trip with just over 750 miles in 2.5 days. We will try it again, and finish it next time!

    The Full Flickr set is here.

    Related Posts:

  • Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: Day 3...
  • Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: Day 2...
  • Uraling the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: Day 1...