The following morning I arrive and get ready for the big ride. There are 2 routes available. One is entirely pavement, and one has a lot of gravel roads, as well as an optional offroad section (The Northern Loop). Talking with the organizer, Lawrence Hacking (another Dakar veteran), he assures Nico and I that we’ll be just fine on the Northern Loop, and that there is only a small river crossing. I have a serious pucker factor just thinking about it (gulp!)
Nico, on his big KTM, and I head out together and have an great ride up to the lunch stop. That’s where we run into the rest of the ADVplus Meetup gang, and everyone opts to head into the Northern Loop together (strength and COURAGE in numbers!).
Nico is the first to dump his bike in a muddy water crossing. Fortunately no damage, just pride.
If that’s the toughest part on the Northern Loop, we’re golden!
Well, it’s not. This is NOT the water crossing Lawrence had told us about. The actual water crossing is a steep drop into a wooded gully, with several options of which limestone shelf to drop off of into the stream, and then a steep dirt climb up the other side about 15′ high. Well, I DID want to get into adventure riding. This is a trial by fire, and here we go!
All I will say is, fortunately my bike has a skidplate, because I bottomed it out hard on the rocks. The line I chose, or more the drop off point, exceeded my ground clearance, but some throttle and curse words got me off the rocks and up the other side without getting so much as a wet foot! Maybe I can do this after all!!!
The rest of the day was spent bashing along gravel roads, 2-track road allowances, and some really sandy areas. Quite a few bikes went down through the day, but everyone was still smiling and always jumping in to lend a hand picking up the big GS bikes. We frequently ran into guys on little trail bikes or big 4×4 trucks who couldn’t believe we were bringing our big GS’s into these trails.
I only went down once the whole day. I was coming down a gravelly, rocky hill (my biggest fear so far in terms of riding conditions). I was doing my best to keep my speed down, keep my weight back, and my vision high and far. A guy had stalled his truck out halfway up the hill, and just as I was passing him he opened his door to get out.
My brain said don’t look over at him, but my neck turned anyways. The moment my vision went from where I wanted to ride to, to the obstacle I wanted to avoid, was the moment I lost control and dropped the bike. Embarrassing, yes. Damage, no. Lesson learned… absolutely. “Look where you want to go and the bike will go there” I can still hear Clinton from CMTS saying, and he’s right.
Regardless, everyone got back to the Mohawk Inn with big smiles, and even taller tales from the day!