14 January 2012

WR250X – Trip to Southern California

I know I have not posted enough in the last two months. Not nearly enough. It was a rough time with lots and lots of work.

Fortunately I also did have some time off and there are a few things to write about.

You might have seen my earlier posts about me preparing the WR for a longer trip. Making it dirt and travel worthy.

Here is the final result:

WR250X in Dirt Travel Outfit
The picture shows what I added to the bike:

  • Dirt wheels and tires
  • Skidplate
  • Handguards
  • 3.7 gallon Safari tank
  • Wolfman racks and bags
  • Pelican rear case
There were some small things here and there but that's about it. The bike was ready to go to the California deserts. Unfortunately, the bike was but I wasn't - but that will come later.

My plan was to leave on the weekend before Thanksgiving (Nov 19th) or so and head South. I wanted to go over Highway 1 along the coast and take some backroads here and there. So far the plan only worked out that I took Highway 1, but I was four days late, started on Tuesday, the 22nd.

Here are some impressions from along the trip, I didn't take many photos though, it was just too cumbersome to get off the bike, fish out the camera and take photos - I'm more a riding not a picture taking guy:

Coast Ridge Trail

Also Coast Ridge Trail

It took much longer than I thought over the partly fairly bumpy trail. It was mostly hard packed dirt, but in places it was wet, muddy, slippery, and sometimes very steep - which doesn't go so well with wet rocks. 

Overall it wasn't a hard to ride trail though. I could have taken the GS there if it didn't have pure road tires on. And I could have taken a lighter bike with pure road tires there, too. Nevertheless, the 30 or 40 miles of dirt trail took me forever and it got dark on the way back down to Highway 1:

Los Burros Road - on the way down to Highway 1

I saw a fantastic sunset, likely on one of the nicest spots to actually see it. Overall it was a good start into the trip. The dirt riding there was fun and fairly easy on this incredibly easy to ride and capable bike.

Further down the road I met some people and they took a photo of me on the bike so that you can see it's not all faked ... 

Los Burros Road at Sunset

I arrived at Highway 1 about 30 minutes later, it was fully dark and got really cold fast. That's the fun in California winter. You have sunshine over the day, 20º C, sun sets, temp drops to below 10º C within what feels like 20 minutes or so. So, I got into my rain jacket to fend of the wind and continued on, planning to find a motel along the route.

Found one in San Simeon, after I rode about another 30 miles in the dark and cold. Was pretty cold when I arrived in the motel, so first thing was a hot shower, second was a pizza ... I was hungry ...

The next I set off towards East. The plan was to get to California City that day. Didn't make it though. I was slow with the bike, nice and slow though. Back country roads, curvy, twisty, cold weather in the morning - it all slowed me down more than I thought. 

But one thing I didn't consider first as a major slowdown were the tires. The Dunlop D606 are absolutely terrible on the road. They are rough and the grip on the front is scary bad. One time I hit the brakes and virtually nothing happened. Of course I slowed down, but compared to the street tires I was running before, this was scary. It feels like stopping distance from 60 to 0 doubled when installing this front tire. Absolutely horrible.

Another mistake I made was setting the GPS to avoid highways. But the thing doesn't differentiate between a nice and curvy highway through the mountains and a 8 lane city highway in LA. So, as I also had it set to not necessarily avoid unpaved roads I got stuck in Farmland somewhere between Barstow and Bakersfield. I got stuck in about 20cm deep clay like mud, dropped the bike a few times, couldn't get going at all for a longer distance, I was either too slower to build momentum to stabilize or too fast and it got into tank slappers. Man this was serious shit.

I fought my way through for about 5 miles (and 2 hours or so) and then gave up and took the next chance to get back on normal roads. Should have taken photos but I was too exhausted, too frustrated and too pissed off. So all I did was find a pressure washer to get the mud off me and the bike. What a shitty experience. I hate mud.

After all this I got only to Bakersfield that day. Was dead tired, hurting in many places, pulled something in my back in that mud adventure and was clearly unhappy with the tires on road travel. 

Next morning I continued on towards Cal City and arrived about 1pm here:

Camp near Cal City

This is basically desert with absolutely nothing there but places where people set up their RVs and go desert riding on dirt bikes.

My home for the night was less fancy though:

The yellow tent is mine

We did some riding around in the desert that afternoon and now I was glad for the Dunlop tires. They performed pretty well. 

As this was Thanksgiving Day, the day was fairly short and I got an invitation for dinner from Bob and his family - btw.: thanks for everything, Bob! It was great. 

During the next day there was some exploring of the single trails around the camp and again, it went pretty well. Riding was fine and I might have gotten a bit too adventurous. In the afternoon I was following Bob over a fairly bumpy single trail, jumped a few times and then it happened. I came over a larger bump, had to head left right after which I did only see after I came in jumping - and there it was, I missed the trail, got into really deep sand, tank slapper started and I went down hard.

I took out one of the mirrors with my rib cage, got bruises all over my body, the bike partly fell on top of me. I dug out from under it, pulled it out of the sage brush there and checked for damage on the bike. Wasn't all too much fortunately. A few scratches here and there, nothing serious. Both mirrors were broken though. 

What about me you might now ask? Yeah, first adrenalin rush drowned most of the pain I had but this subsided now and the pain started. Busted rib, huge (!!) bruise on the right calf where the bike dropped on top of me, other bruises everywhere, sore jaw as I hit the ground with a real "face-plant". My helmet and especially the visor were scratched badly, my jaw was hurting, but the worst really were the ribs.

Bob came back (he was in front of me) and helped me settle things, then we slowly headed back to the camp. I was done. The ribs were bad, but not bad enough to warrant a visit to a hospital, the bruise at my calf grew to about half egg size sticking out of my leg ... bummer. 

So, the rest of the day, I stayed in the camp, horrified by the idea of a night in the cold on the hard Thermarest mattress, but so what? I wanted it, I got it.

Decided that night that I'll head back home Saturday morning - I had to, as my body got more and more stiff and hurting, so I saddled up, got on the bike and rode it home. Yes, I rode roughly 370 miles with a 250cc bike, on a seat as comfortable as a 4x2 piece of wood, with a busted rib and bruises all over the place. I couldn't stop halfway as I knew I would have no chance of finishing the ride the next day. So, home I went. Arrived around 7pm in Sunnyvale, got the bike in the garage, water in the tub, a long bath, and to bed. Again, I was done.

I couldn't ride or exercise for about a month, my ribs were hurting too badly, and by then I had made up my mind: this isn't my style for touring for now. I loved it while it lasted, but I wouldn't want to do it again for the time being. 

There are several reasons for that:
  • I plain can't risk my health and, with that, my ability to do my job so lightly.
  • After a long day in the saddle, I really, really like a motel room.
  • I rather like to see places and "travel" - not do the off-road challenge I did in the desert. 
  • My dirt riding skills are very poor and to improve them I'd have to take risks again.
So, all be damned (sorry the words here), I decided, I will not do something like this again. In addition to that, there was also one more thing to consider: Longterm I needed a car. We can do most of our stuff just having one car, but even then it is often very inconvenient. Taking the bike to the gym is something I really don't like as I take a shower in the gym afterwards and then getting on the bike right after a hot shower has given me a sore neck a few times already.

So we went out and bought a car (different post to follow) - and Andrea suggested that our vehicle park is getting a bit out of control, and I kind of agree. Therefore, the WR went up for sale again. It was fun while it lasted.

I have a buyer now, he will pick it up after I have fixed a few scratches (likely next week) and I hope he'll have more luck with it.

Here's the setup I really loved the WR for:

WR250X in street outfit

And because I really like it that way, the conclusion was fairly simple: I'm not a dirt rider. I'm okay on some dirt roads. I find my way even in some nastier stuff. But I enjoy riding on paved roads much more.

So, goal for this year is to get more realistic about expectations I have for bikes and my own riding style and the time I can spend riding. 99% is paved roads. I have a hard time riding a single bike enough, therefore, if I get the itch for a new bike, I'll replace the primary. Or so ... you'll never know but at least that sounds more realistic than me doing single track dirt riding in the middle of nowhere again.


  1. Guido, obviously it pays to be patient. Long have I waited for the details of your riding report. The set-up of your lil’ bike looks like serious business. I remember having had dreams about making my F650 a dirt bike once, and only briefly, but honestly, I am not in the physical shape, plus like yourself I also want to stay healthy for the other life stuff. This is where dreams part with reality. This is when I moved on to the next bike, and will keep it until another comes along and I swap again…

    In ’97 I had a very similar epiphany with regards to off-roading. I had booked a trial training in Southern France hold by then one of the World Champions in Trial Riding. Not that it helped much. Like yourself, the results where a bruised ribcage, sprained shoulder and bruises in unspeakable places. Been there, done that, never again!

    It was a thing that you had to do, which I fully understand, and now you are ready to move on. Good for you, and farewell to the WR.

    And those pictures are brilliant, especially the sunset one. Thanks for the honest wrap-up of your off-road experience.

  2. Sonja, thanks for the kind words. I feel kind of stupid doing all this with the WR. But still, it's not the bike for me. Staying with an enjoying the GS for the time being. Though I might have to do some excursion either into L-Twin or Triple land sooner or later ...

  3. What an adventure. Nothing like learning the hard way.

    I enjoyed reading your ride report, though I am sorry you got banged up so bad.

    I often think of more off road riding, but then I hear tales like this and I think, hmmm, I don't like pain.

    Loved the sunset pics.

  4. I thought I really wanted to do some off-road riding. What I actually wanted was some "unpaved road" riding. And I did that, it was really fun. Until I got so stuck in mud that I thought "If I ever encounter this type of mud on my GS - I'm going nowhere! The GS will be stuck there forever." - Got me thinking.

    And I don't like pain either and as I found out - ribs heal slowly. The bruise on my leg can still be felt, something like a ropy thing in the tissue, the size of pinky ... hmpf. Hope this will disappear over time.