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Riding dirty

Last October I was getting itchy for some riding.  Earlier in the year I did a quick trip (240+ miles) west on CA299 to Weaverville and then north on Highway 3 to Yreka and then down I5 back to Redding.  The weather was clear and cool and the ride was fun.  Now something different was desired.  I ride a 2018 BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycle so figured the next “adventure” should include dirt.  

The Copley Mountain OHV Staging Area is not far from where I am staying so the dirty part began there.  Rode toward the Shasta Dam along Matheson Road.  This road is very rocky, dusty, steep in areas, and crosses at least one stream.  Took it slow at first as this was the first time riding that motorcycle on something other that paved or hard packed dirt/sandy roads.  The bike, fully outfitted with panniers and a top box weighs a bit more that 600LBS.  Add me wearing safety gear and the weight is more than 800LBS.

Copley Mountain  Matheson Road

As the ride progressed, and went well, I started testing my limits by going a bit faster.  One limit I should have addressed is that an R1200GSA has several ride modes; Rain, Road, Dynamic, and Enduro.  Should have switched to Enduro for Matheson Road (more on that later).  Well anyway, I reached the Coram Ranch where the road forks; The sign on one said “No Trespassing” and the other said “Smile, you’re on camera”.  “No Trespassing” is easy to understand.  The other however could mean different things (don’t go here, listen for banjos, etc.).  I decided to turn around and call it a day.

The ride back went quite well, at least for most of it.  Got used to handling a big off-road(ish) bike and felt more comfortable.  Now more about that Enduro mode.  My Beamer has traction control.  The control will not let one wheel spin more than the other.  It does this by killing power to the rear wheel so it spins at the same rate as the front wheel.  Enduro mode turns that control off. BTW, traction control is generally a good thing, in most situations.  Now back to my story; while rounding one of the last sharp turns, the rear wheel started to spin in some deep powdery dirt.  The traction control stopped all that spinning and also stopped all my forward motion.  Momentum is really important when you are in a turn on a motorcycle.  Without it, gravity takes over.  I was only doing about 5 to 10 mph so the drop was in slow motion, but drop I did.  Sturdy riding boots protected my right ankle from getting crushed by the crash bars, and the helmet kept a rock from denting my head.  Of course, those nuances were only noticed later.  My main thought as all that was happening was; “Crap, how am I going to get this bike upright?”.  Necessity is the mother of invention, or so I’ve heard.  It took a while, but the bike was righted and riding continued.


Seems that dead lifting a 600LB bike takes a toll on a 65 y/o body.  I did lift with my legs, but they were sore for the next couple days.  My ankle, while not crushed, was strained and swollen,  X-Rays showed no breaks though so that was good news.  And, the lifting aggravated some arthritis in my right shoulder.  Nothing too difficult to deal with, but it got me to thinking a better plan for future rides will include…

  • Ride with someone, if I can.  If I can’t, let people know where I’ll be and when to expect me back.
  • Ride in places where it is likely other people will pass by.  If an accident happens, someone may find you and offer assistance.
  • Carry a cell phone (I always do anyway) and make sure there is a signal.  
  • If I will be in an area with no cell coverage, think about getting a satellite phone or one of those GPS-based texting devices.  Garmin makes a couple different models.  At least I can let someone know help is needed or where to find my body.
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