Saturday, February 4, 2017

The TEST...ride report.

After a great week of riding on pavement with
BIG comfortable cruiser motorcycles, the first off-road test for the Steed was set.  After grabbing essentials at the grocery store, I headed to the desert outside of St. George, UT in my trusted adventure van.  Temperature was 70 degrees!

Riding solo, you need to be prepared for anything.  The gear I ride with has armor in the knees, hips, shoulders, back, forearm and chest.  I'm a big fan of KLIM gear.  Its tough and reliable. My boots are reinforced enduro off-road
boots with a rubber sole.  And of course I wear my helmet at ALL times.  I look like Robo Cop, but it's better than sustaining an injury in the middle of nowhere.  In addition to safety gear, I also carry a PLB (personal locator beacon).  The Garmin product allows my family to see my location via satellite.  It is much more reliable than mobile telephone service.  The system allows me to text through the Iridium satellite system, and it has a global SOS,  which sends direct to GEOS, (International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center) anywhere on earth. This one device is a life saver, literally. I've tested it 😥

In addition to safety, you need tools to handle the minor issues that result from riding a motorcycle off-road. Over a 4-5 week period I will go through several tubes, tires, break a chain, etc.  I keep my tools in my backpack with my water. During the Crossing America trek, I will more than likely put the tools in the Giant Loop luggage.

There is a natural anxiety when you modify your motorcycle, tearing it down, and building it back up. If things go wrong on the trail, you have no one but yourself to rely on This test ride was just that. The first hour was spent adjusting and tightening after short out-n-back rides. It was fun riding the BIG dirt bike on the trails and jumps. It is a big single cylinder dirtbike that is loads of fun to ride. The KTM 690 is nimble and it will do well on the 5,000 mile trek. The modifications are not done though, the test rides tests added parts but also raises new issues to resolve. This is the first test ride of many before the July 1st start.

The Rade Garage auxiliary tank performed flawlessly. No leaks, no flow issues. The new air intake system provided from Rade Garage worked without a challenge. The 690 was not starved for air. This is the superior choice to add more fuel to the starved 690. The other options are bulky, and change the riding characteristics of the bike. The Rade Garage tank is stealth and keeps the bike looking stock. All 690 owners need to add this auxiliary tank. I did not measure fuel range on this ride. That will be saved for future rides when I'm packed down with supplies.

The Warp9 wheels perform as good as they look. Hitting rocks, slicing through the tight trails and riding over the drop-offs didn't phase the wheel set. These wheels are going to take a beating and keep on rolling. The wheels make the bigger 690 feels like a 500 on the dirt. The wheels turn the 690 into a precision tool for carving up the dirt. GREAT addition to the Steed. Now if I could only ride as good as the wheels look and perform!

Although I wasn't able to test the brake disc guards the bash plate (skid plate) did it's job a few times deflecting rocks and sliding down a couple high rock walls.

One big surprise was the Garmin 680T GPS device. It is a great GPS device, fast, easier to use than the ZUMO, glove friendly and easy to mount. I purchased the 680 for a early winter Baja Mexico ride before braking my elbow/arm on a skateboard. The 680T will be my GPS for the 5,000 mile trek.

The new exhaust looks great, performed great and sounds AWESOME. The video is at my home before the test ride, but its the first official engine start with the first round of mods.

The MotoMinded headlights ROCK!  The difference in light output is worth it's weight in gold. Unfortunately I couldn't get a good video of the light.  I will use a better camera for the next test ride. If you ride off road, you need these lights.  Even if you don't plan to ride at night, you will eventually ride at night rather you choose to our not.  The install was super simple and they perform even better than I expected.  

After riding 120 miles off road the list of modifications continue.  The OEM seat is a torture device and has to be replaced.  The bars need to be raised approximately 2" for long stints of standing while riding.  The vibration from the single cylinder engine is similar to a smaller dirt bike, but more intense. Within 25 miles of riding, my hands where numb.  I'm hoping the Flexx Handlebar will dampen the vibration.  The hand guards need to be swapped for a durable set that can withstand a good fall or tree hit. When flying down the dirt road that was freshly graded with new rocks (more like small boulders) and very soft dirt, the need for a steering stabilizer is high on the list.  At 70 mph the feeling of floating on marbles is a little unnerving.   The rear brake pedal pad is too small.  The suspension felt harsh too, a good tune is in order.

The first test ride was a HUGE success.  Now it's back to the operating table to install the next phase of modifications.