Tuesday, July 31, 2012

2012 BBTR 'Big Bear Run'

I packed up the GS and rode out to Big Bear Lake, CA, for the annual Big Bear Dual Sport Ride put on by the Big Bear Trail Riders. There were two courses offered: the Easy Loop and the Hard Loop. I’ve been visiting Big Bear my whole life so I’m very familiar with the lay of the land and most of the dirt roads. Click here for an 800gs GoPro video through rain and hail in Big Bear

 My Saturday morning began with a nice ride up to the San Bernadino Mountains where Big Bear Lake resides. The familiar curves of Highway 330 beckoned me onward as my 800cc parallel twin hummed past the cager’s trapped in single-file lines behind one another. Upon arriving at the convention center I felt the nervousness begin as I counted orange bike after orange bike- and not the big, heavy, long distance orange bikes I’m used to traveling with, but small displacement, single-track weapons with trials tires and Rekluse clutches.


Visions of flowery meadows filled with the sound of roaring four-stroke engines occupied my dreams for the weeks up to the event.
I had been seeing this ride publicized for years and I wasn’t about to let another year go by without participating. I'm planning to buy a smaller dual sport motorcycle within the next year so, I had better take the GS while she had the chance.


Jim and Tom
It didn’t help the anxiety as people gathered around my bike asking what it weighed and what I weighed and how experienced I was and yada, yada, yada. I signed up for the Easy Loop, didn’t I?
Easy Loop

Jim, President of the BBTR, shared some stories with me about riding to Alaska and various other places around the US on his GS. This took my mind off the task at hand and put me at ease for the time being. We shared memories of a couple special places and I was on my way after chugging a cup of coffee and inhaling a donut.



Hard Loop
The ride began as soon as I hit the dirt off highway 18. It started out pleasant enough, passing jeeps and ford explorers along the way. There was a healthy water crossing and fun, banked sides along the road from so many travelers coming through.


I approached the Vista trailhead and immediately noticed the presence of an inordinate amount of large rocks littering the vicinity.  I stopped to take some pictures, catch my breath from the ride so far, and soon be on my way.

 I quickly discovered that there was nothing ‘easy’ about the Easy Loop when riding a 400lb dual sport motorcycle. What I did not realize was that the Easy Loop shares the Hard Loop’s route for the first section of the ride… interesting. I left so late in the day that I was the only rider traveling in this direction at this time. I was excited and nervous all at once, riding like so many times before not knowing what the next turn would bring and if I would be able to make it.



Shh, she's sleeping.
Eventually, handing the bike was more than I could muster. The bike bobbled over some rocks so I lost my momentum below a steep, slippery, sandy trail. Did I mention there were rocks everywhere? I wasn’t sure if I was making a literal mountain out of a mole hill so I proceeded with impunity! Damn it all! This is the Easy Loop for God’s sake! Bring it on! I gave it my best shot but there wasn’t enough traction for that amount of space and there was not enough room to turn around. I toppled over, like so many times before, easing the bike down before I let my body fall to the ground.


Klim Badlands Jacket and Pants
The Klim Badlands jacket and Badlands pants have saved me more times than I can count. It’s gotten to the point that I have no recollection of any pain or discomfort whatsoever. This can also be a bad thing (ha!) but my point is that the gear has done its job again and again. Klim makes some good stuff, but I digress.








You get to know yourself pretty well when you push yourself to do things you’re not sure you can do. I really had to slow myself down, literally, by taking deep breaths of the thin mountain air to lower my heart rate. I wasn’t going to let my excitement lead to my own ruin. After unloading the bike and enjoying a nice break with a great view near the top of the hill I got to work lifting and shifting the adventure bike so that it lay slightly perpendicular to the hill. This allowed me to use gravity to my advantage and stand above the motorcycle on the hill to get it up. After that, a little shimmying back and forth and the bike was upright and ready to roll back down.  Eventually, I got the motorcycle back on its kickstand further down the hill and I was making my second attempt at the climb- still, with very little runway.

Second attempt: fail! But I did manage to stay at the top of the hill and work the bike up from there (see video).  The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful as far as drama goes. My senses were heightened near the approach to each grade, being mindful of the possibility of another steep incline existing just out of sight. Adrenaline must play a part in this because I rode much better than I was riding earlier. Lesson learned, I guess.


I’m an average guy in average physical shape, and I was exhausted half way through the day. I putted around beautiful Big Bear, took some pictures, and made my way up a dirt road where I saw an easy-up next to some trees. There, I found Duane and Chuck from BBTR at the final checkpoint for the Hard Loop. How cool is that? I didn’t even know it was there.



We killed some time shooting the breeze about my heavy dirt bike (haha) and talked about the club, local riding, cool bikes, etc. Cool guys. I was a little shaky after just coffee and a donut so I asked the guys if they wanted a sandwich while they performed their duties. With that, I was off to Subway to get a few sandwiches.



Damn, there were a lot of people at Subway. The whole time I was in line I thought they had to be thinking that I took off with their money, haha.


After chowing our food, Duane and Chuck told me we could expect the first finishers of the Hard Loop to arrive soon. I got my camera ready and shot some video of the first finishers for the day (see video). I don’t know about anyone else but, I was actually pretty excited. My first time at the event and here I was watching the hardcore of the hardcore in Southern California roll in after completing the most difficult 100-something mile loop the area had to offer.


I know it’s not a race but there was something symbolic about being there with the first finishers, and they felt the same way. I know this because I overheard the riders talking about bumping into each other on the trail vying for position. The first group of three came in within seconds of each other so it must have been quite a ride. I love it. Good job guys.



The banquet room was filled with exhausted and happy faces alike. The BBTR crew was organized and especially helpful in issuing me another wrist band and meal ticket since I had misplaced mine at some point during the day. I heard that there were still riders on the course when I was sitting down to eat. The food was good- too good. I ate like a pig.


I’m already looking forward to next year but hopefully I won’t be riding alone! Thanks to the Big Bear Trail Riders for putting on a great event. You guys are all so nice. Oh, I almost forgot… Thanks Paco for letting me stash my helmet and stuff in your trailer! I had ridden my motorcycle up there and it was nice to be able to relax at the banquet without lugging all my gear around.

See you guys next year!





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