Saturday, August 1, 2009

KTM 690 Adventure project bike has a nice feature on turning a KTM 690 into an all-round dualsport bike.

I've always liked the specs of the KTMs, although I've never had an opportunity to ride one and the original Adventure I sat on was frighteningly tall. I'm 6'-1" and my toes fanned air on that thing.

Woody's Cycles is our local KTM dealer. I see lots of KTM motocross bikes on the trails around here, but BMW has the lock on DS rigs. How are the KTMs for reliability? I'm not sure. If I win the lottery maybe I'll take the plunge. Meanwhile, I can set up five of my KLRs for the same price and still have money left over for gas. And there's a road-oriented wee-Strom that sure looks appealing too...

Adventures in water crossings - Part 2

Last night I explored an interesting unopened road allowance about two concessions south of Richmond Road, just east of Franktown off Hwy 15. Back in the settlement days, Richmond Road was one of the most important routes through eastern Ontario, linking the town of Richmond with Perth. Both towns were important centres for local governance and the provisioning of the steady stream of lumbermen and miners who worked the northern bush camps.

Today, Richmond Road is a straight shot of wide open asphalt through flat countryside that varies from limestone pavement and cedar, to great swampy areas. If you look on Google Earth, you can see that it's pretty much the best (and only) route through the area. It's clear why it was an important route.

So back to the trail. It's probably what Richmond Road looked like in the early days, before modern machinery could work the rock into submission. I love these routes--lots of wilderness and wildlife to see, and surprisingly few bugs considering there's swamp all around you. There I was, putting along, when this stream came up. It was getting darker than the photo would suggest, so I couldn't really tell how deep this crossing would be. Sometimes the embankments, weeds, and flow rate can be clues--but the reflecting light made it hard to actually see the bottom on the far side.

What, that's it?

I decided to just go for it. The worst that would happen is I get off partway and haul my rig back. Judging by previous tire tracks, some trucks had made it through so I was confident I could ride it. Sure enough, it was only about a foot deep, and the rocky bottom wasn't too slick. A little throttle and I goosed through and up the other side no problem, although my right foot got wet.

Nice little trail. At the end I turned left (north) and ended up in Ashton Station. It's a fun little leg that I'll see how to work into a longer ride.

Adventures in water crossings - Part 1

OK, these aren't exactly epic adventures, but for someone like me who's just learning to ride through deep water on a motorcycle, building water crossing skills has been unavoidable this year. It's the wettest July on record in Ottawa. The good thing is the webbing that's now growing between my fingers and toes has helped to reduce the feeling of engine vibration.

Snorkel and mask

My most ambitious attempt was last year on a trail near the intersection of Highway 7 and Dwyer Hill Road, between Ottawa and Carleton Place. There's a huge block of wilderness beside the highway in this area, which I call "The Lost Quarter". However, this Lost Quarter is almost as wet as the real Lost Quarter in Saudi Arabia is dry. It's full of marshes, streams, and scrubby bush wholly unsuited to anything but hosting wildlife (which is of course worthwhile).

There are some intriguing rutted dual tracks that lead into this area. While I've probed some entry points on the east side, I've never ridden all the way through. The mud can be extraordinary and the crossings wide where streams get trapped between rocky outcroppings. If you're lucky, you hit parts where there's sort of a gravelly base of broken limestone and no mud at all. These are great to splash through on a hot day.

Now consider the photo which shows my bike in front of series of long puddles beside a marsh. Two years ago I started to ride into this area on a whim and found it navigable, but didn't go far because of time, and I wasn't sure my bike would handle deep water. That brings me up to Fail Day. Just that morning, I'd modified my carb vent line with a "T" fitting so my engine wouldn't suck in water during deep crossings. Naturally, I had to test it. Before me lay the entrance in the photo.

I set into the first pond at what I though was a reasonable pace to overcome water resistance without stalling, controlling clutch and throttle to keep revs high. It was like driving into a swimming pool. However, what previously had been a gravelly bottom was now slick with several inches of fine mud because of high runoff. My bike went sideways in an instant and I lost it underwater. Just an inch of the left handgrip showed above water, and there I was standing waist-deep in muck.

Humiliated and panicked about submerging my baby, I managed to wrestle my bike upright, find neutral, and drag it out of the pond and back to shore. Two bicyclists who happened to pass by at that moment looked at me as if to ask whether they should call an ambulance. I stood up the KLR and let the water drain out. Only few seconds of trail riding and I faced a long walk home.

After about a minute, I thought what the heck, let's see if it'll start. Sure enough, first try and it fired right up. What a champ! I eased home and gave the bike an inspection. The T junction worked as planned, and the gasket I'd improvised for the airbox managed to seal out all but a tiny trickle of water. Everything important was dry.

I haven't reattempted this trail. It's deep. Maybe by the fall it'll be low enough to try again.