Next morning’s Big bike ride was another adventure in less-than-maintained roads (double track forest “roads” that get no maintenance and are often quite rocky) and I was comfortable with them. Riding with the group sometimes proved troublesome since my bike doesn’t like to stay still. It tends to overheat if it runs while parked, then it doesn’t like to start when it’s hot. Aside from this challenge the day went smoothly and got some nice views of the countryside.
When we were almost back to camp I felt like there was more riding to be done, so I followed a couple of folks who had headed down a forest trail that ran along the slope of hill that faced the camp. It was wooded, and there were numerous trickling streams cutting across the road. These had eroded significant cuts in the road, as deep as a foot. It was on this ride that I finally realized why the bike was designed the way it was, and got a glimpse of what it was capable of. There were a couple of times that I hit those ditches with some speed and the shocks just ate it up. Incredible really.
A little muddy, but satisfied, I headed back to camp.
After watching so many riders managing to deal with the roads that I did on BMW GS machines, I couldn’t help but try to take the opportunity to take a couple for a test ride. Even prior to the trip I’d been eyeing them whenever they showed up on Craigslist. Ewan & Charlie took a pair of R1200GSs around the world, (See “Long Way Round,” and “Long Way Down” for their trip from Scotland to South Africa.) but there were certainly times during the trips that they seemed ungainly.
I was most interested in the F650GS Dakar. (The Dakar has a longer suspension travel than the standard F650GS.) primarily because it looked less monstrous than the R1200GS, but also because if I could find one on Craigslist, it would be much more affordable than a big GS.
I started on the Dakar and it felt bigger and heavier than my bike, which it is but not by much (but to be fair it did have metal panniers on the back), and a bit less nimble (which isn’t surprising given the fact that mine is a dirt-bike barely posing as a road bike, and the Dakar is a standard road-bike modified for fairly tame off-road travel). I didn’t like the aesthetics of it all that much from the pilot’s position, but I’m sure it could grow on me. A 5 minute ride gave me a little taste of what it was like. It didn’t feel radically more powerful than my bike, but I didn’t try to push it, and it was certainly a bit more comfortable in the saddle. From what I hear they get great gas mileage.
The big GS was huge. I didn’t try to take it anywhere beyond the gravel road at the entrance to the valley, but it was rock solid stable (which is good, because there is just NO WAY I’d be able to pick that thing up unless there’s some sort of trick to it). I saw many folks taking it through some pretty rocky double-track and I’m sure the stability helped. I’m guessing that the inertia of all of that mass really helps. It has enough power to deal with all day on the highway if that’s what you need to do, and the acceleration was very smooth. Lots of bells and whistles on the dash too, felt like a cockpit, even compared to the Dakar.
Everyone was leaving. So the debate was whether to camp another night and leave in the morning, or head out and ride all afternoon back to Philly. Being the social creature that I am (you’d never know it), I opted to head back home rather than hang out at an empty campsite. Leaving the Catskills my plan was to just follow the Delaware River from Hancock all the way to Philly. Because I was leaving after noon, I was a little concerned about the time, so I didn’t take as many back roads as was part of the original plan, but I did ride some nice twisty bits, and did get some nice views of the river.
By the time I got to Lambertville, NJ it was dusk, and it had been drizzling for a while. Unfortunately, the bridge across the river from there to New Hope, PA is metal. Metal is very slippery when wet. Not a good combination for motorcycles. I used the slipperiness to my advantage, and put both of my feet on the ground flat footed and used my legs like outriggers on the deck of the bridge. Once across, I had to acknowledge that that was the scariest thing I’d done on the trip.
I did manage to make it home safely, although it was later in the evening than I would have liked.
So ends the 2013 bike trip.
Next up: New England 2014