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Ride Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England

“Ride Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England” first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Rider Magazine.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
Story and photography by: Scott A. Williams.

Roads that curve along a river are among my favorites to explore on two wheels, and western New England has them in abundance. The hilly terrain and seasonal climate promote the formation of rivers, and for millennia people have used rivers and land along their banks to get from place to place. River roads, particularly the smaller and less traveled ones, often follow the same basic path they did before motorized travel, and the best ones are a roller-coaster ride for motorcyclists.

If you like to move right along and keep stops brief, this 300-mile route through western Massachusetts and southern Vermont delivers a full day of curvy two-lane entertainment. If you prefer a moderate pace and relaxing along the way, there are ample opportunities to enjoy views, savor local cuisine and visit small New England towns. One of southern Vermont’s ski towns will have amenities you need for an enjoyable night on the road.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England

This route begins and ends in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. I roll north onto State Route 116, one of the Bay State’s official scenic byways, and within a couple miles it curves to follow the Mill River and then the South River. The tar is fresh so my grin stretches even wider than the last time I motored through here. Just as my mirrors reveal the sun peeking above the hills, I come upon a pasture of Holstein cows whose interest is piqued by the approaching pulse of my BMW’s boxer twin. I pull over briefly to bid the bovine ladies good morning.

Not eager to meet early-rising constabulary, I roll off the throttle coming down the hill into the center of Conway. These days this quaint village is known for the annual Festival of the Hills, but once it was a thriving mill town. In 1767, Caleb Sharp’s Gristmill was Conway’s first waterpowered mill. A series of dams managed water from the South River to power mills that ground corn and flax, sawed lumber, spun cotton and fulled wool. The unreliable nature of waterpower was compounded by cycles of drought and flood, so mill owners gradually upgraded from waterpower to coal-fueled steam power as the 1800s progressed.

After another snaking stretch of Route 116 to Ashfield, a right on Baptist Corner Road leads me to a pair of grazing horses that catch my attention for their brightly colored fly masks. I don’t want to spook them so I slow down. The curious chestnut mare nickers my way and shakes. Farther along I pass a hillside farm where row upon row of neatly shaped evergreens await a Christmas yet-to-come.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
The center of Conway is no metropolis, but it does have fuel and eats at Baker’s Country Store.

It adds a few miles, but it’s fun crossing the Deerfield River on Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, just to hear the clomp of rubber tires on the wooden deck. At Shelburne Falls I point north on State Route 112 and follow the North River, then at Adamsville Road I turn left to follow the North River’s West Branch. Many rivers in these parts break into two or even three branches that converge again downstream. At State Route 8A, I hang a left and savor another great winding road. It soon parallels Mill Brook and carries me across the Bissel Covered Bridge to the village of Charlemont.

Heading west, the Mohawk Trail (State Route 2) follows the Deerfield River and then the Cold River. Originally, the Mohawk Trail was a Native American footpath that connected the Connecticut and Hudson River Valleys. This section through the Mohawk Trail State Forest to the town of Florida includes some of the state’s most beautiful river scenery. The road gains elevation as it carves along the cliffside, but a right turn on Whitcomb Hill Road quickly gives it all back, heading steeply down toward the Deerfield River.

The route turns left onto River Road and hugs the Deerfield. Just upstream, this river once was a source of cooling water for the Yankee Rowe Atomic Electricity Company. The nuclear plant, hidden from view in the woods, closed in 1992 and was decommissioned. Now on warm weather weekends, the river is frequently packed with tubers, canoeists and rafters enjoying the current, which is helped along by scheduled dam releases upstream.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
The Conway Covered Bridge spans the South River in the village of Burkeville, Massachusetts. Built in 1871 and restored in 2005, it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

River Road becomes Readsboro Road and at the Vermont border it becomes Tunnel Street. Such renaming of a continuing stretch of asphalt is not uncommon in New England, especially on back roads. In Readsboro, I go left on Vermont State Route 100 South, which, in this stretch, actually points northwest. This heading keeps me on the Deerfield River’s West Branch to the junction with State Route 8, where a right puts me on another curvy gem to Searsburg.

Turning right on State Route 9 offers sweepers to Wilmington where I reconnect with Route 100. Here 100 is sign-posted north and actually goes that way. It’s one of Vermont’s best-known scenic roads, curving with the Deerfield River’s North Branch to Dover and then Blue Brook, past the Mount Snow ski resort and through the Green Mountains National Forest. This road can get crowded in summer and during fall foliage season, but today, in early September, it’s practically empty. At a lay-by along slow-flowing Blue Brook, I enjoy the sandwich I packed.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
Row upon row of evergreens line this hillside at Cranston’s Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts.

Route 100 winds its way north through Jamaica and Rawsonville to South Londonderry. There I turn sharply right onto Main Street, then left on Thompsonburg Road along a stream, up toward Magic Mountain ski area. A right on State Route 11 takes me over to State Route 121, which meanders with the Saxtons River. In Grafton I turn right onto Townshend Road, which becomes Grafton Road in Townshend. This asphalt ribbon runs along the Saxtons River’s South Branch.

Now a right onto State Route 35 has me running south. The tree cover is so dense I can’t see the Mill Brook that my GPS assures me is flowing just to my left. At Townshend I make my way to State Route 30. Scores of cars, pickups and SUVs parked on the shoulders are evidence of the West River’s popularity as a warm weather recreation destination.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
Hay windrows dry in the early morning sun in this field in Conway, Massachusetts.

Beyond Townshend Dam I stop for a break in the quintessential Vermont village of Newfane, which has opportunities to experience Vermont’s interesting history and often-curious culture.

On West Street I roll up to the celebrated Four Columns Inn, where a classic car is frequently displayed on the front lawn. Today it’s a 1955 Nash Rambler Greenbrier two-door station wagon in two-tone green. Nash was arguably the first American manufacturer of the post-war era to make compact cars, bucking the bigger-is-better trend, so this beautifully preserved albeit humble antique is a significant automobile.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
West of Charlemont, Massachusetts, the Deerfield River flows along the Mohawk Trail. Originally, the Mohawk Trail was a Native American footpath that connected the Connecticut and Hudson River Valleys.

Only a few steps to the south, and continuing Vermont’s characteristic white-clapboard architecture, are the First Congregational Church and the Union Hall. Originally built as a church in 1832, the Union Hall in 1872 became a site for community events including plays, dances, movies and that time-honored method of democratic local government, the town meeting.

After this brief and worthwhile respite, I continue south on 30. Just before Williamsville, I lean west toward Dover along the Rock River down to Route 100 south and all the way to Jacksonville. There, I bear left onto State Route 112, which runs south along the North River back into Massachusetts, through Colrain and Shattuckville to the Mohawk Trail.

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
Union Hall, First Congregational Church and Four Columns Inn, on the Village Green in Newfane, Vermont.

Again, I find myself heading west along Massachusetts Route 2 and the Deerfield River, back to Charlemont. This time I turn south on 8A, cross the Deerfield River, and then follow the Chickley River through Hawley to State Route 116. There I turn right (north) and in a few miles cut hard left onto River Road, which parallels the Westfield River along the edge of Windsor State Forest.

At State Route 9, I turn right and then left onto Worthington Road, which becomes Cole Street and then East Windsor Road. By cutting right onto State Route 143, another River Road soon emerges, this one curving with the Westfield River’s Middle Branch all the way to Skyline Trail in Chester. Continuing to Huntington, a left onto State Route 112 north follows the Westfield River then the Little River to Worthington. A ways on Route 112 makes a hard right turn at an intersection with Trouble Road. (I haven’t been looking for trouble, but I find it anyway.)

Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
Union Hall, First Congregational Church and Four Columns Inn, on the Village Green in Newfane, Vermont.

In Cummington, 112 overlaps 9, the Berkshire Trail, which closely follows Meadow Brook and the Swift River, then past Goshen and the Mill River’s West Branch. I roll off approaching the village of Williamsburg. In the center, I turn left onto North Road, which becomes Ashfield Williamsburg Valley Road, then Ashfield Road, then South Ashfield Road, and then Williamsburg Road (because…New England) along the Mill River’s East Branch. South of Ashfield, this pleasantly winding road with so many names ends at Route 116. This is the same stretch of 116 that started my ride. Bonus—it’s a hoot in both directions!

Of course there are other New England river roads that aren’t part of this route but definitely worth your time (see sidebar). Wherever you find such roads, take a ride along the riverside. 

More favorite river roads in New England:

  • VT 102 curves with the Connecticut River from Canaan to Guild Hall, Vermont.
  • NH 16 follows the Androscoggin River and then Bear Brook from Berlin to Errol, New Hampshire.
  • NH 13 snakes along the Piscataquoag River’s South Branch from Goffstown to New Boston, New Hampshire.
  • U.S. 5 gently winds along scenic stretches of the Connecticut River, especially between Barnet and Norwich, Vermont, and again between Ascutney and Rockingham, Vermont.
  • MA 8 twists alongside the Farmington River’s West Branch from New Boston to West Becket, Massachusetts.
  • U.S. 7 hugs the banks of the Housatonic River between Falls Village and New Milford, Connecticut.
Riding Along the Riverside: Sport Touring in Western New England
East River Road in North Chester, Massachusetts, closely follows the Westfield River’s Middle Branch.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

List of U.S. Motorcycle Tour Operators 2020

EagleRider motorcycle tour
Photo courtesy EagleRider.

With international travel in 2020 looking less certain by the week (and possibly risky, not just health-wise but also with the possibility of becoming stranded or quarantined outside the U.S.), this might be a great time to explore this beautiful country.

While you could certainly peruse back issues of Rider (or do some research here on our website) in search of ride ideas throughout the country, you’ll still be on the hook for logistical planning, hotel reservations and knowing whether or not the gas station in that tiny desert town is still open…not to mention handling the “what-ifs” of mechanical issues or a crash. Or you could let a tour company handle all of it, leaving you free to enjoy the ride.

All the companies on this list run scheduled, guided motorcycle tours in the United States using rental motorcycles — either their own fleet or rented from a local source — but you should obviously check with them right off the bat to make sure they’re still running tours this year.

Most have a chase vehicle to carry your luggage and gear and to deal with mechanical issues that may occur en route. Some companies will allow you to ride your own bike, but check for any restrictions. The information here is provided by the companies, and not guaranteed by Rider.

Ayres Adventures 

Tours Include: Alaska/Yukon Adventure, Prudhoe Bay Excursion
Accommodations: Upscale hotels
Length of Tours: 9-13 days
Rental Options: BMW GS models
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: July-August
Typical Cost: 9-day Prudhoe Bay Excursion starting at $5,950 including bike rental
Age/Experience Requirements: Motorcycle license and touring experience required; for off-road adventures, off-road experience or training required
Tel: (877) 275-8238 or (972) 635-5210
Website: ayresadventures.com

Ayres Adventures prides itself in providing a premium tour experience, so if you want to ride Alaska this is a great way to do it. You’ll ride late-model BMWs equipped with chunky Continental TKC80 tires for the ultimate Alaska experience.

Bike Week Motorcycle Tours

Tours Include: All the major Bike Weeks, including Daytona, Laughlin, Myrtle Beach, Laconia, Hollister, Sturgis and Bikes, Blues & BBQ
Accommodations: RVs, private homes and carefully selected hotels/motels
Length of Tours: 12-14 days
Rental Options: Late model Harley-Davidson and Indian models
Equipment: Support vehicle with spare motorcycle
Dates: March-October
Typical Cost: $7,950, includes single room and motorcycle rental
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21, min. one-year experience on heavyweight motorcycles 
Tel: (619) 746-1066
Website: bikeweekmotorcycletours.com

Get the ultimate Bike Week experience, as you travel some of America’s most scenic roads on your way to one of nine legendary Bike Weeks. Let the party begin!

California Sunriders

Tours Include: Blue Ridge Parkway, California Dreaming, Route 66, Sturgis, DreamCatcher, The Mighty 6, Yellowstone
Accommodations: Selected 3- and 4-star hotels
Length of Tours: 11-13 days
Rental Options: Harley-Davidson, select other makes/models
Equipment: Support vehicle with spare motorcycle
Dates: May-October
Typical Cost: 13-day Route 66 tour starting at $8,972, single occupancy, includes rental motorcycle
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21
Tel: (310) 359-2353
Website: california-sunriders.com

California Sunriders wants to show you the best of the west — plus some fun roads back east too. You’ll explore California, the Rockies, the famous Blue Ridge Parkway and, of course, the legendary Route 66. 


Tours Include: Wild West I, II and III, Route 66, Triple B, Coast to Coast, Sturgis Bike Week, Florida Keys, Southwest Canyon Country
Accommodations: Hotels & motels
Length of Tours: 6-17 days
Rental Options: Varies by tour; fleet includes BMW, Harley-Davidson and Indian cruisers, tourers and trikes
Equipment: Support van with spare motorcycle
Dates: Year-round
Typical Cost: 15-day Route 66 tour starting at $7,179, single occupancy, includes rental motorcycle
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21, experience riding a touring motorcycle at highway speeds
Tel: (877) 557-3541
Website: eaglerider.com

Eaglerider is the largest and arguably most well-known motorcycle rental and tour company in the U.S. With 45 different domestic tours to choose from, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes!

Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycles
Photo by Scott A. Williams

Edelweiss Bike Travel

Tours Include: Alaska-Yukon Adventure, American Dream, California Extreme
Accommodations: Comfortable hotels and motels
Length of Tours: 8-13 days
Rental Options: Select BMW, Harley-Davidson and Suzuki models
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: May-October
Typical Cost: 7-day American Dream tour starting at $5,660 for a solo rider, including rental bike
Age/Experience Requirements: Age limits vary by tour; 5,000 miles riding experience required
Tel: 011 43 5264 5690
Website: edelweissbike.com

Tour the warm and beautiful Southwest or the wilds of Alaska with Edelweiss Bike Travel. Edelweiss has been operating guided motorcycle tours since 1980, and now offers 2,350 tours in 180 destinations worldwide.


Tour: North America
Accommodations: 3- to 4-star hotels
Length of Tour: 34 days
Rental Option: Triumph Tiger 800
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: July 23-August 27, 2020
Cost: $20,531 for a solo rider, double occupancy, including Tiger 800 rental bike
Age/Experience Requirements:No age requirement, recommended for experienced riders only, comfortable riding on unpaved/gravel roads
Tel: 011 44 (0)3452 30 40 15
Website: globebusters.com

This is an ultimate motorcycle tour of North America, showing you some of the very best riding from Anchorage, Alaska, north to Prudhoe Bay and then south all the way to the Mexican border.

Great American Touring

Tours Include: Pacific Coast North and South, Sturgis Bike Week, Canadian Rockies, Best of the West
Accommodations: Hotels
Length of Tours: 7-14 riding days
Rental Options: Harley-Davidson, select other makes/models
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: July-Sept
Typical Cost: 14-day Best of the West starting at $8,995, solo occupancy, includes rental bike
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21 to rent motorcycle, no limit for own bike
Tel: (800) 727-3390
Website: greatamericantouring.com

How does Great American stand out? When it says “eight day tour,” that’s eight riding days. Other companies’ eight-day tours may be only six, or even just five riding days. It makes a difference.

Hertz Ride

Tours Include: Best of California, California, Miami & Deep South and Route 66
Accommodations: Minimum 4-star hotels
Length of Tours: 9-16 days
Rental Options: BMW models
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: July-Sept
Typical Cost: 14-day Best of California starting at $6,995, single occupancy, includes rental bike
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 25, at least three years’ riding experience
Tel: 011 351 210 413 334
Website: hertzride.com

Car rental giant Hertz has entered the motorcycle tour market, and it offers four guided tours in the U.S. Hop onto one of its late-model BMWs and take a ride in California, along Route 66 or through the Southeast.

Leod Motorcycle Escapes

Tours Include: High Sierra Escape, California Curves to Laguna Seca, California Curvin’
Accommodations: 3- to 4-star hotels with a local flavor
Length of Tours: 3-9 days
Rental Options: Selected BMW and Ducati models
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: June-Oct
Typical Cost: 9-day California Curves to Laguna Seca starting at $6,900, includes rental bike and two days’ track instruction at Laguna Seca with California Superbike School
Age/Experience Requirements: Intermediate riding level for track time tours
Tel: (866) 562-6126
Website: leodescapes.com

Although Leod Escapes offers guided and self-guided sport-touring rides out of its San Francisco headquarters, it specializes in combining a tour with track time on some of the most famous tracks worldwide — including legendary Laguna Seca in California.


Tours Include: Heart of Colorado ADV, Moab Adventure Training, Heart of Idaho ADV
Accommodations: Quality accommodations
Length of Tours: 7-9 days
Rental Options: Select BMW, KTM and Suzuki ADV and dual-sport bikes
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: June-September
Typical Cost: 8-day Heart of Colorado ADV tour starting at $4,895 including rental bike
Age/Experience Requirements: Off-road riding experience required; training is available and included in some tours
Tel: (800) 233-0564
Website: motodiscovery.com

If you’re looking for adventure, this is the place. MotoDiscovery will lead you on bucket list rides to some beautiful and remote locations that can only be accessed via unpaved roads and trails. Off-road rider training is included in some tours. 


Tours Include: Wonders of the West, American Southwest, Pacific Coast Highway, North to Alaska, Trail of Lewis and Clark, Alaska Women’s Tour
Accommodations: Lodges, hotels
Length of Tours: 4-13 days
Rental Options: BMW, Suzuki V-Strom 650, Harley-Davidson, Honda Africa Twin
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: Year-round
Typical Cost: 12-day Trail of Lewis and Clark tour starting at $6,450, includes Suzuki V-Strom 650
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21
Tel: (800) 756-1990 or (907) 272-2777 or (562) 997-7368
Website: motoquest.com

MotoQuest offers a number of tours of the last frontier, Alaska, during its short riding season. At other times of the year, tours are offered in the American West and Southwest, including Baja, out of its San Francisco, Portland and Long Beach locations.

Route 66 motorcycle
Photo by Mark Tuttle

Northeastern Motorcycle Tours

Tours: New England Fall Foliage, Gaspe Maritime Extended
Accommodations: Inns, hotels and resorts
Length of Tours: 6-12 days
Rental Options: Various models available from local rental agencies
Equipment: None
Dates: August-October
Typical Cost: 6-day New England Fall Foliage tour starting at $2,395, excluding bike rental
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 18, touring experience recommended
Tel: (802) 463-9853
Website: motorcycletours.com

Northeastern Motorcycle Tours is a small company that specializes in an extraordinarily beautiful and varied region of North America. The routes, hotels and dining used on the tours are regularly researched to always meet very high standards.

Pashnit Motorcycle Tours

Tours: El Dorado, Delta Bodega, Parkfield, Mosquito Ridge, Coast Range, North Pass, Mile High Xtravaganza, Santa Barbara
Accommodations: Hotels, motels
Length of Tours: 3-4 days
Rental Options: Various models available from local rental agencies
Equipment: None
Dates: March-October
Typical Cost: Most 3-day tours cost $425, excludes motorcycle rental, food, gas, accommodations and incidentals
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21, at least 5 years of riding experience is recommended
Tel: (530) 391-1356
Website: pashnittours.com

Pashnit Motorcycle Tours (“pashnit” = passionate, get it?) started out as a “best roads” list and now offers a full menu of California-based tours, many of which are held on long weekends. 

RawHyde Adventures

Tours Include: Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain Adventure Ride, Mid-Winter Adventure, California Adventure, Best of the West
Accommodations: Hotels and camping
Length of Tours: 5-10 days
Rental Options: BMW GS models
Equipment: Support vehicle, chuck wagon on camping tours
Dates: Year-round
Typical Cost: 5-day Mid-Winter Adventure tour starts at $3,495 including rental bike
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21, off-road riding experience required for ADV tours (training is available)
Tel: (661) 993-9942
Website: rawhyde-offroad.com

RawHyde Adventures is an official BMW off-road training center, and its tours offer you the chance to hit the dirt and see some of the most remote and beautiful parts of America. On-road tours, such as California Adventure, are also available.

Ride Free Motorcycle Tours

Tours Include: Route 66, Sturgis-Chicago to Las Vegas, Northern California, Wild West, American History Washington DC Battlefields, California Wine, Blue Ridge Parkway, American Music
Accommodations: Hotels and motels with local flair
Length of Tours: 4-14 days
Rental Options: Harley-Davidson models
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: Year-round
Typical Cost: Extremely flexible pricing and tour duration; example: 13-day American Music tour $6,789 including bike rental
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21, competent rider
Tel: (310) 978-9558
Website: ridefree.com

Classic routes with classy motorcycles (and classic cars) is what Ride Free specializes in. Based in Los Angeles, the company offers tours throughout the country.

Reuthers Tours

Tours Include: Route 66 Dream, Florida Sunshine, Wild West, Highway 1, Bluegrass Wonders and Pony Express
Accommodations: Midrange and top-class hotels
Length of Tours: 6-15 days
Rental Options: BMW, Harley-Davidson
Equipment: Support vehicle
Dates: Year-round
Typical Cost: 11-day Bluegrass Wonders tour starts at $4,795, double occupancy, including bike rental
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 21
Tel: (414) 455-4384
Website: reuthers.com

Reuthers is a worldwide entertainment, travel and leisure company with headquarters in Germany and a U.S. office in Milwaukee. With its touring expertise you’re guaranteed to be well cared for. 

Twisted Trailz Motorcycle Tours

Tours Include: Cowboy Country, Grand Canyon & Red Rocks, Unique Utah, Canyons & National Parks, Awesome Arizona, Monuments & Million $ Highways
Accommodations: Unique or historical hotels and lodges
Length of Tours: 3-7 days
Rental Options: Harley-Davidson
Equipment: Support vehicle on tours 5 days and more
Dates: February-November
Typical Cost: 7-day Monuments & Million $ Highways tour starts at $4,395 including bike rental
Age/Experience Requirements: Min. age 25, experience riding heavyweight motorcycles
Tel: (602) 795-8888
Website: twistedtrailz.com

All of Twisted Trailz’s motorcycle tours are planned and structured with the rider in mind. It encourages participants to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Southwest on one of its once-in-a-lifetime tours. 

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1999-2002 Buell X1 Lightning

1999 Buell X1 Lightning
1999 Buell X1 Lightning. Owner: Jason Len, Arroyo Grande, California.

In addition to the weather phenomenon, the word lightning means fast, as in the speed of light or 186,000 miles per second. This motorcycle is not quite that fast; its speedo only goes to 140 miles per hour. But the X1 does get up there in an earthbound way, with a top speed close to that 140 mph, and a quarter-mile time in the 11s. Not bad for a bike powered by Harley’s 1,203cc Sportster engine.

Erik Buell, a longtime chassis engineer at Harley-Davidson and a serious racer, decided to go off on his own in the mid-1980s. His last accomplishment at Harley was the frame in the FXR series, which was greeted with great enthusiasm when introduced in 1982. Eric was a dyed-in-the-leather Harley enthusiast, having talked his way into a job in Milwaukee after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1987 he began producing the RR1000 Battle Twin, building a drastically new frame holding leftover XR1000 engines, which had been used in those sporty Sportsters that did not sell well. When that XR supply ran out he moved to the 1,200cc engine, and did quite well with the Battle Twin line. Harley was so excited by this turn of events that in 1993 it bought 49 percent of the Buell Motorcycle Company, which gave Eric financial comfort.

In 1996 he came up with the S1 Lightning, a return to his basic concept of a “fundamental” sportbike — a bit too fundamental for many riders. He built 5,000 of these and had to listen to praise and damnation concerning its performance and appearance. Late in 1998 he elected to make it a little more pleasant to ride and change the look slightly, hence the X1.

1999 Buell X1 Lightning

The chassis is the most interesting aspect of the bike. The frame, a bit stiffer than that on the S1, was made of tubular steel in the form of a trellis, with sections coming down on both sides of the cylinders. A backbone connected to one of the most notable aspects of the bike, a subframe that was perhaps the largest aluminum casting seen on a bike. And it carried a modestly improved seat that held two riders without too many complaints. Beneath the seat a large rectangular aluminum swingarm helped the belt final drive get to the rear axle.

Buells had often been criticized for their limited turning radius, and on the X1 the steering head was moved forward slightly, giving an extra four degrees in steering lock. Still tight, but better…says the photographer who had to turn this bike around. A 41mm upside-down Showa fork with a rake of 23 degrees gave 4.7 inches of travel — and trail of 3.5 inches. It was fully adjustable, with spring preload along with compression and rebound damping.

1999 Buell X1 Lightning dash

The rear end used a single Showa shock absorber, which wasn’t really at the rear but was laying flat under the engine. There wasn’t room for the shock anywhere else, as the bike had a rather short wheelbase of 55 inches, five inches less than on the stock Sportster. Most shocks rely on compression as their standard, but this one used tension, pulling apart in response to a bump rather than pushing down. It had full adjustability, including ride height, with adjustments being best left to experts.

Cast wheels were 17 inches in diameter, with Nissin calipers, 6-piston in front and 1-piston out back, squeezing single discs. Because the Showa fork was already drilled for it, this bike’s owner added a second front brake disc and caliper.

And the engine? A mildly modified Sportster, an air-cooled four-stroke 45-degree V-twin displacing 1,203cc with an 88.9 x 96.8mm bore and stroke, and, yes, hydraulically adjusted valves, two per cylinder. The trick here was Eric’s Isoplanar rubber mounting system for this shaker. A standard Sportster shook like Hades when even mildly revved, and none of this was felt on the Buell machines. The engine was actually part of the chassis, with all the vibes going into a single longitudinal plane, and apparently this increased frame rigidity. Which requires understanding beyond the limits of this scribe.

1999 Buell X1 Lightning engine

Buell had developed his Thunderstorm cylinders and pistons for the S1, with better porting and 10:1 compression. A dynamometer rated the rear-wheel output at 85 horses at 6,500 rpm, an engine speed no rider on a stock Sportster would ever want to attain. For the X1 Eric tossed the 38mm Keihin carb and bolted on a 45mm Walbro throttle body using a VDO injection-control computer, labeled Dynamic Digital Fuel Injection. There was no increase in power; the system just made the engine run more smoothly. A triple-row primary ran power back to a 5-speed transmission and belt final drive.

The look was pretty sporty, beginning with the abbreviated front fender and a very small wind deflector over the headlight. When this bike came out of the factory it had big black boxes on both sides of the 4.2-gallon gas tank, the right one feeding the airbox and fuel injection, the left intended to keep the rear cylinder cool enough to not roast the rider’s leg. Underneath the engine was a spoiler intended to protect the shock and conceal the huge muffler. However, the owner of this X1 prefers the “fundamental” look and removed the black boxes and spoiler. He is careful about jumping curbs, as there are only five inches of ground clearance.

1999 Buell X1 Lightning shifter

Dry weight is 440 pounds, 50 pounds less than the stock Sportster. People still complained about the seat, the vibration and a number of other things, but they were just pansies. The bike was intended for seriously sporty riders who didn’t mind a little discomfort as they kicked butt with an old-fashioned engine in a new-fashioned chassis. In 1999 the X1 and the Ducati 900 Supersport cost about the same; take your pick. 

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Mystical Morocco: Edelweiss Bike Travel’s Morocco Tour

Ducati Morocco ride
Fast, comfortable and oh-so red, a Ducati Multistrada 950 from Edelweiss’ rental fleet was an ideal choice for the Morocco Tour. Behind it is the Ounila River valley and Aït-Ben-Haddou, a 17th century “ksar” (fortified village) on the old trading route between Marrakesh and the Sahara Desert. Considered an outstanding example of southern Moroccan mud-brick architecture, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and a filming location for many TV shows and movies such as “Game of Thrones,” “Gladiator” and “The Mummy.”

Morocco is one of those places that seems both familiar and unfamiliar. We’ve heard of cities like Fez and Marrakesh, and most of us can imagine their crowded, maze-like bazaars full of merchants hawking rugs and spices. Perhaps we’ve eaten couscous or tagine in a Moroccan restaurant or watched “Casablanca” a few times. But, unless we’ve been there, what we know is just bits and pieces of a rich and varied country full of hidden delights.

Located along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of northwest Africa — and separated from Spain by just nine miles at the Strait of Gibraltar — Morocco has incredibly diverse topography, scenery and culture, with a mix of Berber, Arab, African and European influences. Inhabited for tens of thousands of years, Morocco has been occupied by Phoenicians, Berbers, Romans, Muslims and, during the first half of the 20th century, the French and Spanish. Independent since 1956, the Kingdom of Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, Islam is its predominant religion and, by regional standards, it is politically stable and economically prosperous.

Morocco street signs
Some signs in Morocco are in three commonly spoken languages: Arabic (top), Berber (middle) and French (bottom).

The Atlas and Rif mountain ranges dominate much of Morocco, with the Atlas forming an east-west barrier that separates the temperate Mediterranean climate to the north from the arid desert climate to the south. During Edelweiss Bike Travel’s 13-day Morocco Tour, we rode along craggy coastlines, up and over rugged mountains, through deep, narrow river gorges and across desolate desert valleys. We wandered the medinas (old quarters) of Fez and Marrakesh, explored the blue-painted alleys of Chefchaouen, visited the largest mosque in Africa and rode camels across sand dunes for a night of camping in the Sahara Desert, visiting several UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way. I’ve been on a dozen overseas motorcycle tours on five continents, and Morocco offered the best variety of roads, scenery, food and experiences of them all. 

First, we had to get there.

Edelweiss motorcycle tour Morocco
A map of the tour route.

The tour starts and ends in Málaga, on Spain’s southern coast. After the first night’s welcome briefing, bike hand-over and dinner, we geared up and made our way southeast along the Costa Del Sol, scrubbing the sides of our tires on the winding road up to Ronda, one of Spain’s best motorcycling roads. We spent the afternoon in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, enjoying views from its massive, 1,400-foot limestone promontory and snapping photos of its tourist-friendly population of monkeys. A ferry ride across the strait took us to Cueta, an autonomous Spanish city on the northeast tip of Morocco.

Gibraltar monkey
Monkeying around on the Rock of Gibraltar.

Our second day started with a hurry-up-and-wait crossing of the high-traffic border, a process handled with aplomb by our multilingual guide Angela, who has led more than 20 tours in Morocco. After several miles on a manicured boulevard lined with resorts and shopping malls, we hugged the coast on a dramatic road high above the Mediterranean. After a seafood lunch overlooking the sea, we turned inland, twisting through the Laou River canyon that forms a deep rift in the Rif Mountains.

The richness of Morocco was on full display in Chefchaouen, a 15th-century town perched on a mountainside with many of its buildings painted various shades of blue. As we explored the narrow, winding alleyways of the “souk” (marketplace) in the medina, artwork, rugs, clothing, spices and trinkets spilled onto the cobblestone walkways and steep stairs, some corridors barely wide enough for two people to pass. At dusk we heard “adhan,” the Islamic call to prayer recited five times a day by muezzins via loudspeakers atop mosque minarets. With mosques scattered throughout Chefchaouen, adhan creates a loud Arabic chorus that can be heard citywide. The next morning I was awoken by the call to prayer well before sunrise, followed by howls from dozens of dogs.

Ducati Morocco ride
The blue buildings and alleys of Chefchaouen.

Our itinerary included two nights in Chefchaouen at two different hotels, one at the beginning of the tour and another 10 days later after making a counterclockwise loop around Morocco. From Chefchaouen we rode southwest, out of the Rif Mountains and across fertile plains to Mohammedia on the Atlantic coast. Our group was large, with 17 participants, three guides, 16 motorcycles and one support van. After each morning’s ride briefing, we split into two groups and left about 30 minutes apart, meeting up at coffee and lunch stops. From Mohammedia, one group rode into Casablanca to tour the massive Hassan II Mosque, which has a 690-foot minaret that looms over the city’s waterfront. The rest of us rode farther down the coast to El Jadida, a port city that includes the walled village of Mazagan, a fortified supply depot built by the Portuguese in the 16th century.

For our rest days in Marrakesh and Fez, Edelweiss hired a local guide who gave us a walking tour of each city’s medina. With its dark, narrow corridors full of stalls displaying produce and meat, leather goods, metalwork, ceramics, rugs, jewelry, artwork, clothing, you name it — each one with a vendor enticing you inside (“Hello my friend, you buy something?”) or haggling with a patron — the medina in Marrakesh is a high-calorie feast for the senses. Our guide Ahmed knew the complex warren like the back of his hand, leading us to a museum of carpet weaving and artisans’ workshops. We returned that night to find the medina’s wide-open plaza brightly lit and full of people, food vendors and performers.

The souk in Marrakesh.
The souk in Marrakesh. Photo by Dieter Arnoth.
A snake charmer and cobra in Marrakesh.
A snake charmer and cobra in Marrakesh. Photo by Dieter Arnoth.
Marrakesh medina souk
The medinas in Marrakesh and Fez are a sensual feast any time of day, but they’re especially vibrant at night, a true kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells.

The riding experience kicked into high gear as we left Marrakesh, climbing into the High Atlas, summiting a 7,415-foot pass called Tizi n’Tichka and barreling down the Ounila River valley, its corridor of green surrounded by multicolored canyon walls. We spent the night in a small village at Riad Ksar Ighnda, built in the traditional “riad” style with mud-brick walls surrounding a large inner courtyard, this one catering to tourists with lush gardens, a heated saltwater pool and a bar stocked with ice-cold Casablanca beer. Accommodations on this tour are comfortable, mid-to-high-end hotels catering to English-speaking tourists (the most common languages in Morocco are Arabic and French). Nearly all serve alcohol and have swimming pools, both welcome indulgences at the end of full riding days. The tour includes breakfast and dinner buffets at the hotels, while lunches are at local spots along the route that offer more interesting cuisine.

Throughout the 1,800-mile tour we traveled on paved roads, though in some rural or mountainous areas they were of poor quality or under construction. Outside of cities traffic was light, but sharing the road with horse-drawn carts, mopeds, tuk-tuks, dogs, donkeys or camels was common. Big motorcycles are rare in Morocco; whenever we rode through villages my left arm got tired from waving back to everyone, especially kids, who waved to us.

Edelweiss motorcycle tour Morocco
Our tour guide Angela delighted a group of girls with her bright red Ducati.

The most dramatic scenery was through the Dadès and Todras gorges that cut into the Atlas Mountains. After winding our way through villages along the edge of the Dadès River valley, we enjoyed a picnic lunch hosted by our guides. Then the real fun started. We burrowed deeper into the gorge, its walls closing in and looming higher until we climbed a famous set of switchbacks that took us to the upper gorge. Continuing on, the gorge squeezed down to a single-lane slot before opening up again. The best part was turning around and riding back out the way we came! After a night in a luxurious hotel perched on a hill above Boulmane Dadès, we rode farther east and into and back out of the Todras Gorge.

Edelweiss motorcycle tour Morocco
Our tour guides hosted two picnic lunches in scenic locations. This one was in the Dadès Gorge, and the sandstone in the background is the remnant of an ancient coral reef when the area was under the sea millions of years ago.
Dadès Gorge switchbacks Morocco
The switchbacks that climb their way up through the Dadès Gorge is perhaps the most famous section of pavement in Morocco.

Although the area of Morocco south of the Atlas Mountains has a desert climate, only a narrow sliver of the country near the Algerian border is technically part of the Sahara. We rode into the world’s largest desert on our eighth day, with most of our group riding north to Erfoud for a rest day by the pool at the Hotel Kasbah, and eight of us going to Merzouga for a two-hour camel ride through Erg Chebbi dunes and night in a Berber-style camp.

Riding camels through the Erg Chebbi dunes on our way to a Berber camp in the Sahara.
Riding camels through the Erg Chebbi dunes on our way to a Berber camp in the Sahara.
Erg Chebbi dunes
The glow from the Berber camp where we spent the night on the edge of the Erg Chebbi dunes. Photo by Dieter Arnoth.

During our late fall tour we enjoyed day after day of sunny skies and pleasantly warm temperatures. As our route turned north, we rode through the Ziz River canyon, up and over the High Atlas and across a wide plain. The cool, sunny morning turned into a cold, foggy, rainy day as we traversed the Middle Atlas, over 7,145-foot Col du Zad, through cedar forested national parks and past ski resorts.

We dried out during our final rest day in Fez, where Ahmed led us on a tour of a ceramics cooperative, the foul-smelling leather dying district and other parts of the medina. That night several of us had camel burgers for dinner! Our route back to Chefchaouen took us back into the Rif Mountains on a road that could easily be mistaken for one in the Alps, and before we knew it we were crossing the border, ferrying across the strait and putting our kickstands down back in Málaga, our hearts and minds overflowing with new experiences, memories and stories. If you’re the curious sort who’s ready for an exotic adventure, put Morocco on your list. 

Edelweiss Bike Travel’s Morocco Tour normally runs March/April and October/November. Visit edelweissbike.com for details.

Edelweiss motorcycle tour Morocco
Jürg and Beatrice are followed by Freddy and Monika, two couples from Switzerland winding their way through the scenic Ounila River valley.
Edelweiss motorcycle tour Morocco
Our group of three guides and 17 participants was a friendly group of folks from Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Arkansas Odyssey: Circling the Northwest Quarter of The Natural State

Arkansas motorcycle ride
The headwaters of the 153-mile-long Buffalo National River begin here as Big Buffalo Creek, becoming the river near Boxley. Photos by the author and Max Jacobs.

I love the Ozarks. I really should have been born in them. Instead, after riding in the Ozarks 15 years ago, I fell so much in love that I moved here. To this day I ride through northwest Arkansas on roads carved rudely through the landscape. Table rocks, great sheets of stone laying one atop the other for hundreds of miles,
circulate ground water in subterranean rivers and rivulets cascade over and out of the dynamite-exposed roadside cliffs to become known as “Roche a Cri” — Rocks that Cry. In winter’s depth the fluid turns to ice, making faerie castles out of ordinary highway construction just for our enjoyment.

If Walt Disney had made a theme park for motorcyclists he’d have called it Arkansas. The state is six separate chunks of paradise: the Northwest, North Central, Upper Delta, Southwest, Central and Lower Delta. Each has its own magic. We chose to make our home near the Northwest, with the most fabled motorcycle roads and, now, an array of attractions that bring international visitors to what remains otherwise a largely uncluttered, rural thrill ride for us brothers and sisters of the wind.

Arkansas motorcycle ride
From Berryville the ride to Eureka Springs on two-lane U.S. Route 62 sets the stage for the tilt-a-whirl roads that make up much of northwest Arkansas. This is a “highway.” The byways are even better.

As fall began coloring the woods and the air turned crisp as apple cider, my good wife Max and I decided to fly our new Can-Am Spyder F3 Limited on a circle tour of just the northwest quarter.

The big thrill to riding the Ozarks is that roads here are rollercoasters. The lines go ’round and ’round across mountain ridges and valleys called “hollers.” On two wheels you lean and lean. On three, you hear shouts and squeals of laughter from the back seat.

Arkansas motorcycle ride
A map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

We started from home on Missouri Route 13 south, running in loop-dee-loops around Table Rock Lake through green hills spotted with small towns, and across the lake on Route 86 into Arkansas, down Arkansas Highway 221 and the fairytale village of Berryville. Charged up on sunshine, cerulean skies and twists and turns we rumbled into the town square, the kind you remember from old movies and stories told at Thanksgiving, if you listened.

Arkansas motorcycle ride
Summer Newberry’s Hometown Scoop on the Berryville town square is as unlike a chain fast-food joint as they come: a fresh bakery and really good conversation with welcoming townsfolk.

We never eat at franchise burger joints. On the square in the Norman Rockwell painting called Berryville, we found a café on the corner right out of idyllic Main Street. Lunch was more than tasty, it was fun. “Arkies” are the friendliest folks around, and always helpful and interested in motorcyclists. Summer Newberry, owner of the Hometown Scoop, made us welcome with a panini, hot berry cobbler and coffee. And she straightened us out on the best way to our destination for the night, over the mountain pass on twisty two-lane U.S. Route 62 to the first of our international hotspots, the enchanted village of Eureka Springs. On the ride over, while grinning at sweepers and a twisty or two, we waved at bison herds and riders coming the other way.

Arkansas motorcycle ride
Eureka Springs gained a reputation for its healing waters during the Civil War, where Dr. Johnson brought wounded troops…the sign above tells the rest of the story.

Eureka Springs drops you back in time, as the Victorian houses, hotels, restaurants and dozens of quaint shops appear just as they did in the 1890s, when the healing waters of the 60 springs drew the wealthy in for relief from the debauchery of their rich diets and drinking. Streets go up, down and around the rocky hillsides into which they are chiseled. Half the fun is just trying to figure out in which direction the sun will set, along with finding a place to park your ride.

Stay in one of the old world hotels here, rich in flavor as a steaming mug of early morning coffee…with a slug of brandy. We chose the New Orleans Hotel with a Creole-feeling suite on the ground floor that dropped off in the back three stories from the rear terrace to the parking lot. Be careful where you walk! The Crescent Hotel, way up on the top tier of the village, dates from 1886. Known as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel,” it’s worth your time to take the nightly Ghost Tour.

Arkansas motorcycle ride
Eureka Springs is a throwback to the Victorian Era. Charm abounds on every street and the altitude changes step by step. Bring walking shoes if you plan to stay.

Morning light incarnadines the forest spanning both sides of U.S. 62, curling with delight along the ridge, swooping with more laughs from the backseat down and around happy twisties across our old friend Table Rock Lake, up to Pea Ridge National Military Park, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, through Little Flock (not to be confused with Rock) and into the next international draw, Bentonville.

You’re in Walmart land! On the perfect town square you might see Jimmy Stewart dashing home in Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Here is the original five-and-dime store started by Sam Walton in May 1950. Twelve years later Walmart opened in nearby Rogers, and the revolution in commerce was on. The biggest retailer in the world began right here. A million or so visitors each year find out more at the Walmart Museum next door, and Walton’s daughter Alice left for us an amazing gift in Bentonville, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It is a magnet for art lovers, and it’s free.

Arkansas motorcycle ride
Sam Walton’s memory commands the town square in Bentonville. At this very store his Walmart retailing empire began.

Heading south we passed neighboring Fayetteville, famed for its annual weekend fall festival, Bikes, Blues & BBQ. If you’re into crowds this is the South’s Sturgis. Last year more than 315,000 revelers rode into this self-described “family friendly” rally.

Four-lane Interstate 49 runs down to our next destination for the night, Fort Smith. Take that if you must, but we chose the rural two lanes. Highway 265 winds past Hogeye and Strickler (don’t blink) through pristine trees with so little traffic it feels like they paved it just for us. Join Highway 170 into a unique, unfettered virgin forest and Devil’s Den State Park. Arbor tunnels of green and gold have those yellow diamond shaped signs with curved arrows reading 15 mph. If you’re on a café racer or have done the Isle of Man — be wary. Anything else…go slow! “Arkie” highway engineers follow old Indian paths and hard rock ridges. One switchback warned, “10 mph.” A downhill giant paperclip twist, it made me stop dead in the middle and laugh!

Arkansas motorcycle ride
The warm fall sun drops away on that iconic Highway 7 as we head north toward Harrison and the Arkansas/Missouri border. Poetry in motion and memories as warm as that sunset.

Devil’s Den, like all state parks, is a refuge from the grind of city life. Deep in the forest, campgrounds and rental cabins are clean and close to the park store where rangers are friendly and eager to help. A river runs through and there is swimming and fishing. We plan to return here for a week in the spring.

Take Highway 220 out of the park and enjoy the dipsy-doodle ride in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest past hamlets called Lee Creek, Cedarville and Figure Five, and then merge onto Highway 59 through Van Buren across the Arkansas River to rest for the night in Fort Smith. You’ll need a good night’s sleep.

Our last “international interest” spot for the northwest, Fort Smith is history buff candy. The National Park Service maintains the site of the fort where the Poteau River joins the Arkansas. It traces three episodes of our expansion, the details of which are all on display at no cost in the barracks visitor center, the commissary, gallows, Trail of Tears overlook and more. Check out #fortsmitharkansas and prepare to spend a day where the “New South meets the Old West.”

Arkansas motorcycle ride
Old Fort Smith is a history buff’s delight. Rangers tell tales of the place where the “New South meets the Old West.” We had the place to ourselves on this weekday.

Eastward on Highway 22, the bottom line of our circle traces the course of the Arkansas River across flatter land for farms and livestock ranches. From Highway 22 we took Highway 109 at Midway straight north across the big river again to Clarksville and the start of the best ride of our lives. Scenic Highway 7 gets a lot of press for thrill-seeking riders.

This time we chose Highway 21 through the national forest. This is a heart-starter through Johnson and Newton counties, rivaling curve for curve its Carolina cousin, the Tail of the Dragon. I mentioned rollercoasters — this is the longest one I’ve seen!

Arkansas motorcycle ride
Scenic Highway 7 is justifiably famous. Some locals prefer the equally thrilling Highway 21 from Clarksville to Ponca. The pavement is immaculate, the foliage lush and the traffic minimal. Wind it out.
Arkansas motorcycle ride
Here’s an authentic relic from the times when Fort Smith was a real fort. The building in back was the commissary and storehouse.

Cross the headwaters of the Buffalo River and stop at Boxley. The 16-mile-long grassy valley is home to the protected herd of elk found lolling about in tall grass and a river so clean you want to drink it. The Elk Education Center up the road in Ponca will surprise you with animal tales and directions to viewing areas. There’s a café for needed refreshments, too.

We picked a new place to spend our last night on the road, following the buffalo along Highway 74 to Jasper. “Wowser” is the word for the first couple of miles of heavy forest and sidewinder switchbacks and twisties. Sport riders will drag knees here and make scraping noises and sparks. Max and I enjoyed the view on three wheels at a slower, yet fun clip. In Jasper we found scenic Highway 7 again and turned briefly five miles south and uphill all the way, sensing something wonderful off to the left. 

Arkansas motorcycle ride
From Jasper it’s a short ride south on scenic Highway 7 to our B&B overlooking the Grand Canyon of Arkansas.

Our stopover is a grandiose but cozy B&B called the Overlook. The “over” which it looks, is the stunning Arkansas Grand Canyon. Somebody said, “The Ozark Mountains are not so high but the valleys are so deep.” Here you can experience the full impact of that. Magnificent vistas from the deck of our room warm hearts and soften souls. On our way to dinner that evening we met two couples on Harleys — they too were “overlooking” the canyon. They’d ridden in snow from home in Minnesota and came down to ride just a little longer this year.

Arkansas motorcycle ride
On Highway 7 overlooking the Grand Canyon of Arkansas, we take a break with two couples on Harleys from Minnesota. Michelle Thomas tries my Spyder. Husband Mark clutches his bagger. Missus Max and I just share the joy of another day on the road.

Next morning our odyssey ride took us back up Highway 7 with a final jolt of adrenaline and joy into Harrison and up U.S. Route 65 through Branson and Springfield to our own Ozark home. These hills and hollers with well-paved inspiring blacktop roads can only be dreamt about in the big city. The Ozarks are a wondrous mystery to be lived. 

Arkansas motorcycle ride
A final hint that Arkansas has so many scenic roads, yet so little time! Just try to ride them all.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Behind the Scenes at Gore, the Maker of Gore-Tex


Gore-Tex testing Klim
Gore’s quality control testing includes six different “rain rooms,” where finished Gore-Tex apparel like this suit from Klim is tested in real-world conditions. This room includes a nozzle simulating riding at speed in a downpour as well a steady shower from the ceiling. The dummy is wearing a heather gray base layer that will show dark spots where any water gets in.

A behind-the-scenes look at how Gore-Tex apparel is made and tested.

W.L. Gore & Associates is one of those success stories of American ingenuity and innovation. Founded in 1958 by the husband-and-wife team of Wilbert (Bill) Lee — who had spent 16 years with DuPont — and Genevieve Walton Gore, the company got its start making wire and cable insulation before the couple’s son, Bob, made an accidental and extremely fortuitous discovery. In 1969, he was trying to stretch extruded polytetraflouroethylene (PTFE, otherwise known as Teflon) for use in plumbers’ tape, but no matter how gently he pulled it always broke. Frustrated and down to his last few samples of test material, he grabbed one of the heated rods and gave it a hard yank — and to his astonishment it didn’t snap, it expanded. The company called it “expanded PTFE,” or ePTFE.

Today ePTFE is at the heart of Gore’s $3.7 billion-per-year business, with uses in everything from laptop computers to prosthetic arteries to astronaut suits…and, of course, waterproof motorcycle gear. We were invited to tour several of Gore’s facilities near its headquarters in Newark, Delaware, as guests of Idaho-based Klim, a Gore-Tex partner that’s been making motorcycle gear since 2004, and it was a unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes into creating a piece of Gore-Tex apparel.

Read our review of the Klim Artemis Gore-Tex jacket here.

Gore astronaut suit
Gore-Tex is only a part of what Gore does; its products are used in the medical, automotive, consumer electronics and aerospace industries, among others.

Because Gore manufactures technical fabrics for the U.S. military and first responders, security was tight and we were limited as to when and where we could take photos, but in many places Klim gear had been set up so we could witness firsthand the testing and quality control that goes into every piece that carries the Gore or Gore-Tex name.

Gore makes more than 300 different membrane types, and each finished product goes through more than 600 quality control tests — that’s before it goes to the manufacturer, which in the case of Klim means motorcycle-specific testing, including CE certification.

washing machine test Gore-Tex
Banks of washing machines agitate continuously for days, testing the durability of Gore-Tex apparel.
Martindale machines Gore-Tex
Rotating Martindale machines subject fabric samples to abrasion and pilling resistance tests.
Gore-Tex environmental room testing
Breathability is an important aspect of Gore-Tex apparel, and the environmental “comfort room” lets actual humans test products while moving and exercising in a range of temperatures—vitally important for athletic apparel as well as fire protection and military gear.

There’s a biophysics lab that tests for comfort and acoustics (important for hunting and military gear), six rain rooms for waterproofness and an environmental room that goes from -50 to 50 degrees C (-58 to 122 F), 5% to 98% humidity and zero to 22 mph wind speed. Upstairs is a huge room full of washing machines that are used for wet flex and abrasion testing; they are stopped and the material tested every eight hours until it fails. (The washing machine brand of choice for durability: Kenmore.)

At the Elk Creek facility we got a look at the glove and boot test labs, where Gore-Tex membrane booties are tested for leaks. A big machine in the corner subjects finished boots to a submerged wet flex test; Klim boots must pass at least 200,000 flexes without a leak before hitting the market.

Gore-Tex testing Klim
Gore’s wet flex test machine puts Klim’s boots to the ultimate waterproof test.

Gloves are probably the toughest item to waterproof, and every Gore-approved factory (which apparel partners must use) has a whole glove leak test machine. Klim uses a special Gore-Tex membrane insert with glue on one side that bonds it directly to the outer shell, and a soft Trica liner bonded to the other side for optimum control feel. Still, gloves are where most riders will say they’ve experienced waterproofing failure (I’m no different).

The folks at Gore suggested that what we often think is a leak is actually either a lack of breathability causing moisture buildup or the waterlogged outer shell feeling cold against our skin, which our brain interprets as “wet.” (Our sensory system has no “wet” register, only temperature, and if the water is cooler or warmer than our skin we perceive it as “wet.” This is how sensory deprivation chambers work: by floating in saline water that’s exactly our body temperature, our brain registers no contact at all.) 

Gore-Tex glove membrane
Gloves are a tough item to waterproof. Gore offers several levels of waterproof protection, but all include a full Gore-Tex membrane liner. Maintaining a good DWR coating on gloves is the best way to stay dry and comfortable.

To be comfortable, a piece of waterproof apparel needs to breathe and shed water. “Breathability” doesn’t mean airflow, however; it means the removal of warm, moist air from the body. This is what makes Gore-Tex apparel more comfortable than, say, wearing a plastic bag — it “breathes” while keeping you dry. As our Gore guide put it, “it’s not magic, it’s physics.” But as we noted above, if the fabric outside the Gore-Tex membrane is waterlogged your skin thinks it’s wet, so a DWR (durable water-repellant) coating is important.

Every Gore-Tex-branded item comes from the factory with a DWR coating, and the instructions for keeping it in good shape might surprise you: throw it in the dryer. Yep, you should be washing and tumble-drying your Gore-Tex. The heat reactivates the DWR, so water will bead rather than soaking in. You’ll still need to reapply a new coating every few years, just make sure it’s silicone-free.

Gore-Tex DWR
All Gore-Tex apparel includes a DWR (durable water-repellant) coating that sheds water from the outer fabric.

When properly cared for — and assuming they don’t have an unfortunate meeting with the pavement — Gore-Tex products should remain waterproof for life, and Gore will replace, repair or refund any of its products that fail. It’s that commitment to quality that’s given Gore its well-earned reputation and made Gore-Tex the gold standard of apparel waterproofing. 

And if your Gore-Tex gear is Klim, you can send it back to them after an accident for free replacement (see website for details). Now that’s what we call a commitment to performance.


Source: RiderMagazine.com

Adventurous Streak: Adriatic Moto Tours’ Intriguing Southeast Europe Tour

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The Intriguing Southeast Europe tour is a rider’s paradise, with exploring the region’s beautiful and lightly traveled roads taking priority over sightseeing. With an open attitude and a sense of adventure, it will be two weeks you’ll never forget. Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

The Balkan region has had a hand in world history more often than you might think. Thanks to its geographical position, it’s always been a crossroads of culture, where farming first spread from the Middle East into Europe during the Neolithic era, and as the convergence point of Latin and Greek influence, Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, and Islam and Christianity. It’s been home to Goths, Huns, Slavs and Ottoman Turks, among many others.

For riders with an adventurous streak, the Balkans are also a fascinating place to explore, well off the beaten tourist track, where surprisingly entertaining roads with very little traffic will carry you through magical forests, along jade-colored rivers, over high mountain passes and past farm fields where workers still till the soil by hand. I first traveled to the Balkans with Adriatic Moto Tours (AMT) in 2017 (read about that here), visiting Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia, and was smitten by the culture, history, friendly people and, most importantly, the amazing roads. So this time I opted for a longer, even more adventurous getaway that would complete my tour of the former Yugoslavia — Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro — as well as allow a visit to two “behind the Iron Curtain” countries, Bulgaria and Albania, and a unique opportunity to get a passport stamp from a rather controversial country, Kosovo.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The 15-day Intriguing Southeast Europe tour loops out of Belgrade, Serbia, with rest days in Sofia, Bulgaria; Ohrid, North Macedonia; and Sarande, Albania.

The Intriguing Southeast Europe tour begins and ends in Belgrade, Serbia, a bustling city that sits at the confluence of two mighty rivers, the Danube and the Sava. I arrived a day early to acclimate and explore the city on my own, which I highly recommend. Belgrade, like most European cities, is very walkable and there are several interesting museums and points of interest, including an air museum that features pieces of a U.S. F-117 stealth fighter and an F-16 that were shot down during the 1999 campaigns, a monument to the Jewish and Roma victims of a Nazi concentration camp that once sat on the riverbank (Yugoslavia was occupied by the Nazis during WWII but its people resisted valiantly and were ultimately successful in driving them out) and the Museum of Yugoslav History, burial place of dictator Josip Tito. Most of the people I interacted with spoke English, and all were friendly.

The Serbs that I met tended to be very open and matter-of-fact, and it’s clear the events of 1999 are still quite fresh in their memories. At dinner the first night, only hours after I’d arrived, two young men at the next table overheard me speaking English and they turned and introduced themselves. “I am a riverboat captain,” said one proudly. “It’s good money, more than fifty thousand per month.” He meant 50,000 Serbian dinar, which is equivalent to approximately $475. He then went on to give me his opinions on why Serbia was struggling economically and how strong Yugoslavia once was. He thought the U.S.-led NATO bombing was unethical and misguided. At the end of our conversation, he and his companion warmly bid us good night and bought us a round of drinks. If only all discussions were so civilized.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
With AMT’s guides, knowing the local language isn’t a necessity, and many signs in the bigger towns and cities also included English, indicative of the region’s relatively new openness to tourism.

The second night, after a long day of walking and exploring, I met our tour group and guides at the welcome dinner. We were mostly American and Canadian, with a lone Australian, and notably there were two other single women besides myself, a first for me on an overseas tour. We’d been warned that the roads on this tour could be unpredictable — all paved, but in various states of repair — so I’d opted for a BMW F 750 GS (see sidebar here) for its light weight, easy handling and generous suspension travel. In fact, everyone had chosen BMW GS models, with the exception of one guy on his own Honda ST1300 and a couple on a BMW R 1250 RT. 

Our first day of riding brought us into Bulgaria, birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet and, up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, a member of the Eastern Bloc. Unlike the former Yugoslavian states, which never fully adhered to the Soviet idea of Communism and instead leaned further toward Socialism, Bulgaria went all-in with Marxism-Leninism and, as a result, has been slower to recover economically than its Yugoslav neighbors. Caution is a must when riding Bulgarian roads, as around any bend could be a horse-drawn wagon, a herd of goats, sheep or cows, an entire family clinging to a tractor or a trundling logging truck belching diesel soot. (I’m fairly certain Bulgaria does not have an Environmental Protection Agency.) As we crossed into North Macedonia, flirting briefly with the Greek border, the landscape started to look familiar to this SoCal resident: low mountains and the vineyards of the Vardar wine region — and in fact we stayed at a working winery that night. Road conditions improved (although, as would be the case for the next several days, we remained vigilant for any surprises) and, best of all, we got our first taste of some real curves. But the best was yet to come.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
North Macedonia’s mountain roads are usually fairly smooth and well-paved, carrying us over low mountains and through rows of vineyards. Photo by Niko Perosa.

The best riding day of the tour, in my opinion, was from Ohrid, North Macedonia, to Gjirokaster, Albania. We crossed the dramatic Gramoz Range on pavement that ranged from smooth and fast to tight, bumpy and technical, eventually picking up a road that pretended to be two lanes wide but wasn’t. It clung resolutely to the side of steep emerald green mountains, at the bottom of which flowed a jade river. Flinging my lightweight GS through its twists and turns, often standing on the pegs due to the bumps, while simultaneously trying to take in the view was a challenge, so I hung at the back of the pack and stopped often for photos. Once nice thing about AMT is that it includes a GPS preloaded with each day’s route at no additional charge, so I wasn’t worried about losing the group.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Albania was full of surprises, including this stunning road between the Macedonian border and the town of Gjirokaster. The narrow, winding road demanded complete attention, which was difficult given the eye-popping scenery.

I’m not sure what I expected Albania to be like, but it still surprised me. Abandoned bunkers built by the paranoid former dictator Enver Hoxha dot the landscape — about 173,000 of them to be exact — including in places you’d least expect, like right in the middle of town. Roma — gypsies — prowl the roads on small garden tractors with scary-looking buzz saws bolted to the front, cutting trees that they sell for firewood. Yet the Albanian Riviera — the Adriatic coast — is beautiful, with abundant and delicious fresh seafood and luxury hotels at a fraction of the cost of more developed countries. The roads continued to delight, especially alpine Llogara Pass and a brand new, very fast and curvaceous stretch leading into Kosovo.

Tell most Americans you’re visiting Kosovo and you’ll likely get at least one raised eyebrow. It’s true there are parts in the northeast that aren’t the safest place to visit, given continued tensions with Serbia, and our tour route’s detour into Montenegro exists solely because it’s not possible to enter Kosovo from Albania and leave directly into Serbia (war and its aftermath, unfortunately, is a continuous theme in the region). But Kosovars are very friendly toward Americans (we fought for them, after all) and our night in the town of Prizren was memorable at the least for the massive platters of grilled meats presented to us at dinner.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Kosovo, like Albania, is a predominantly Muslim country. This Ottoman Mosque, built in 1615, overlooks the river in the town of Prizren.

Speaking of meat, on this tour you will eat a lot of it. The cuisine in this part of the Balkans is…shall we say, challenging…for vegetarians, and nearly impossible for vegans. You should be comfortable with pork, lamb, fish, fresh bread and/or the ubiquitous salad of cucumber, tomato, onion and goat cheese. The upside is it’s delicious and can be washed down with local wine, all of it very inexpensive. In fact, one nice thing about traveling the Balkans is that your dollar goes a lot further than the more popular tourist destinations of Western Europe. Of course, as on all AMT tours your hotels, breakfasts and dinners are all included, plus a support van to carry your luggage. But because it’s so inexpensive, two weeks here doesn’t cost too much more than nine days in Western Europe. It’s a big riding vacation bang for the buck. So if you’ve got an adventurous streak and are curious to ride a part of Europe that many Americans have missed, put this tour on your list. 

The Intriguing Southeast Europe tour runs June 13-27 or September 6-20, 2020. AMT has also just released its complete 2020 and 2021 tour schedule; visit adriaticmototours.com.

Keep scrolling for more photos!

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
We stopped at the Rila Monastery south of Sofia, Bulgaria, to appreciate its many colorful frescos and unique architecture.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
This “two lane” road’s center line seemed to exist mostly as a psychological barrier to keep drivers from just going right down the middle. With the exception of a couple of stubborn bus drivers, locals in every country were respectful of motorcycles and pulled to the right to allow us plenty of space to pass.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The Albanian Riviera was another surprise, with turquoise waters, white sand beaches and fresh, delicious seafood.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The group enjoys a lunch of fresh seafood on the Albanian coast, mere steps from the sandy beach. Photo by Niko Perosa.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Despite the seafood we were able to get on the coast, meat is a staple of Balkan cuisine, and nearly every meal included it in copious quantities, including this impressive platter of skewers, patties and steaks of beef, pork, chicken and lamb—along with french fries, fresh bread and salad.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Cold War history buffs and fans of Futurist architecture may choose to ride to the Buzludzha Monument on the rest day in Sofia. This building commemorating the foundation of the Socialist movement in Bulgaria was abandoned after the fall of Communism in 1989.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Llogara Pass on the central coast of Albania gave us a taste of Alpine-style switchbacks. Photo by Niko Perosa.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The tour group poses among the red sandstone formations and green forested mountains of northwestern Bulgaria, where we spent the night in the sleepy town of Belgradčik. Photo by Niko Perosa.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo
1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo. Owner: Elwell Perry, Acushnet, Massachusetts.

Nobody seems to remember the company hired by Suzuki to advertise the Laredo model, but it certainly pulled out all the stops. The town of Laredo had a deserved reputation as a tough border crossing in Texas back in the late 1800s, and is rich in history. As well as a song called “The Streets of Laredo,” which is all about a dying cowboy; not sure that would be the proper way to tell people how much fun riding a motorcycle is, as motorcyclists were being called modern-day cowboys.

Suzuki had done a good deal of serious work in approaching the American market. At the start of the company’s business in the U.S., 1962, it offered a relatively ponderous 250 designed in the late 1950s, which had an electric starter, turn signals and a hydraulically actuated rear brake. All quite useful on a practical commuter bike.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

However, the next version, the 1966 X-6 Hustler, was quite different, with performance being the issue. The X-6 touted its six-speed transmission, the six gears focused on being able to stay in the narrow powerband that the two-stroke twin enjoyed. The all-new, perfectly square (54 x 54mm) parallel twin engine was rated at 29 horses at 7,500 rpm, which was quite astounding for a street-going 250. The heavy electric starter was dispensed with, and weight was an extremely modest 300 pounds wet, resulting in a top speed of 100 mph. Good bike, albeit a tad fragile, with busted gearboxes, slippy clutches and holed pistons high on the list.

As some riders may remember, this was when the AMA was trying to impose four-speed gearboxes on all models in national racing competitions.

Change is good, especially the kind that might attract customers. For 1968 the company upsized the engine to 305cc by boring the cylinders out to 60mm, adding 58 cubic centimeters to the cylinder capacity. The resulting 305cc bike came out in two versions, the low-piped T305 Raider and the street-scrambler styled TC305, with high pipes, knobbyish tires and a skid-plate. Not that such mods made much difference when on seriously dirty dirt, but the rugged look sold — rather like today’s adventure bikes.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

More essential changes involved making the tranny tougher by almost doubling the size of the gears. And slightly decreasing the compression ratio from the 250’s 7.3:1 to the 305’s 6.7:1. As well as enlarging the clutch plates and using thicker cork (when is the last time we saw a clutch with cork inserts?) to give the much-abused plates added longevity. These improvements added some 20 pounds to the heft of the engine/tranny unit. Overall wet weight, with 3.7 gallons of gas in the tank and almost half a gallon of oil in the Posi-Force reservoir, was almost 340 pounds.

This had all the essential Suzuki modernizations, with that Posi-Force oil injection system making sure that the oil got to the important lubrication points, rather than just mixing with the gas and hoping for the best. More importantly, the buyer that Suzuki was looking for had no interest in the messy business of personally adding oil to the gas tank. A vacuum petcock did away with the need to turn off the gas when stopped, a ritual the older generation was quite familiar with.

The 305 used the Vol-U-Matic induction system, a porting technique that allowed for a reasonable amount of grunt, or torque, to be generated by this middling-small engine. That was helped along by heavier flywheels, which served to make the engine less touchy when plunking along a dirt road. Tractable was a word often used by reviewers. Rotary valving was becoming much the rage in the late 1960s, but Suzuki liked the traditional piston-port design.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

The 305 was produced with a pair of rather large 32mm Mikuni carbs, compared to the 24mm ones on the 250. The engineers had realized that if they left the intake port the same size as on the 250, with the same stroke, the bigger carbs would allow for rapid filling of the crankcase. And the big gulps of air assisted in quickly jamming the fuel mixture through the ports and into the hemispherical combustion chambers. An amusing side effect was that this system, useful when dawdling along, created a major intake boom when the rider chose to twist the throttle all the way open. As one magazine put it, “…the roar is enough to rattle your very bones.” But 37 horsepower was claimed by the manufacturer.

The engine/tranny unit sat in a full-cradle frame, the tubular members making a full U as they came down from the steering head to go under the engine and loop up to the saddle, to meet with the three tubes running back under the gas tank. The 51 inches between axles provided for good control at slow speeds, and still reasonably capable when pushing the century mark on the speedometer. Though the rider might need a bit of downhill to attain 100 mph, as road tests of the era showed 95 to be about top. The fork was said to be a bit on the stiff side, while the rear shocks seemed soft. Probably much depended on whether one lightweight was on board, or two heavyweights. Good ground clearance was provided, with even the centerstand neatly tucked away.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

Good bike, well received, but Suzuki obviously felt the need for something new. The Laredo was only on the market for one year, with a few leftover Raiders sold in 1969. Replacing it was the Rebel 350…nice number, but the 305 engine had only been bored out another 2 mm, adding just 10cc, for a grand total of 315cc, not 350cc. Truth in advertising?

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Dirt Roads: An Appreciation

pavement ends sign
When the pavement ends, a new kind of fun begins. Photos by the author.

Andy follows me across the border from Massachusetts into Vermont. We’re riding along a dirt road that cuts through dark, deep woods overlooking the Green River. As my Kawasaki hums below, the final stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” repeats in my head:

These woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

It’s a warm August morning, not a snowy evening, but Frost’s silken words apply. For two days we are riding through the very landscapes that inspired Frost’s extraordinary descriptions of ordinary things. As the crow flies, Vermont is about 160 miles long north to south, but we’ll cover 321 miles before reaching our destination of North Troy. We’re on the Vermont Puppy Dog Route, which links unpaved roads from the southern border we just crossed all the way to the northern border with Québec, Canada. 

Stowe, Vermont
Your humble scribe stops to take in an early morning view near Stowe, Vermont.

This isn’t off-roading. It’s dirt-roading. Especially in Vermont, roads like these came about because someone had a destination in mind. They follow rivers along a path of least resistance, or hug the edges of pastures and fields, or take the shorter, steeper route up and over the mountains. They have names like Church Hill Road, Rabbit Hollow Road and Elmore Mountain Road. We’re not blazing new trails or attempting to conquer untamed hilltops, we’re just choosing roads no one felt the need to pave. And since they are often the only roads to certain locales, they take us through areas we’d otherwise miss.

Vermont motorcycle ride
Early morning sun begins to burn off the fog over this beaver pond somewhere in southern Vermont.

What my “Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer” depicts as dirt roads can vary in width, surface and state of repair, but these roads are maintained for public use. Some are graded hard pack wide enough for two pickups hauling horse trailers to pass with room to spare. Others are so narrow that one vehicle must give way for another to pass. A few are bumpy, graveled but navigable two-tracks. You might not want to ride your pristine Harley Ultra on these roads, but you don’t need a dedicated dirt bike either. Any scrambler or adventure bike is up to the task.

As we discover, sticking to dirt roads can present snags. In southern Vermont, the route comes to a locked gate, so we find another dirt road that returns us to the route a few miles on. Farther north, a farm road abruptly ends at a single-track trail of deep mud and big rocks. We backtrack and look for another gray line on the map. As Andy likes to say, it’s all part of the adventure.

covered bridge Vermont
Nothing says Vermont like a dirt road and a covered bridge.

On a motorcycle you already feel more involved in your transportation. When you ride long distances on dirt roads your connection runs deeper. There’s a different kind of mental focus than riding on tarmac. Our pace is slower, with posted limits typically just 35, and limited sight distances are the norm. Inclines and declines can be steep. Steering is more labor intensive, traction varies continuously and braking distances are longer. It’s actually a good way to practice braking control at the limit of lockup on my ’08 Kawasaki Versys, which lacks anti-lock brakes.

dirt road underpass
Dirt roads often go under railroads. The underpasses can get mucky.

We also encounter all manner of critters at close range. A bobcat scrutinizes us from its perch atop a stack of firewood. A fisher cat ambles purposefully across our path with its distinctive four-wristed gait. A docile, ungainly porcupine takes one look at us and promptly turns back. A barred owl perches high in a tree that is rooted low in a roadside ravine, making it head-high with me as it suddenly swoops into flight. 

Mid-state we find ourselves riding through horse country with stately manor homes and white-fenced pastures that remind me of Kentucky. Here we share the road with horse-drawn sulkies driven by nattily dressed people enjoying a trail ride event. (Ride slowly past horses…they often get spooked by motorcycles.) 

Vermont Puppy Dog Rout
Mission accomplished: Andy arrives at the northern terminus of the Vermont Puppy Dog Route.

As we near North Troy, Andy points out a gorge and we stop for a look. There are no signs, but the map describes this beautiful place as Big Falls State Park. In a few miles we reach the Canadian border. When we stop to reflect on our ride, Robert Frost again springs to mind. This time it’s the concluding lines of “The Road Not Taken”:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Go enjoy a nice long ride on dirt roads.

Lovejoy Brook Road
Lovejoy Brook Road follows Lovejoy Brook (imagine that) near Andover, Vermont.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Long Term Ride Report: 2019 Royal Enfield Continental GT 650

2019 Royal Enfield Continental GT 650
2019 Royal Enfield Continental GT 650. Photo by the author.

MSRP $5,999
Odometer: 1,958 miles

When Royal Enfield unveiled to the world its pair of all-new 650 twins, the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT, at EICMA in November 2017, the anticipation was already buzzing. We’d just visited its sparkly new state-of-the-art UK Technical Center on the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, near Leicester in central England, where the new twins had been wholly conceived, engineered and tested. We had to wait nearly a year, until September 2018, before we were able to swing a leg over each bike and take them for a spin through the redwoods at the global press launch in Santa Cruz, California (Rider, January 2019 and here), and it was shortly afterward that an example of each showed up at the Rider garage for a complete test.

Check out our Comparison Test Review of the BMW G 310 GS vs. Kawasaki Versys-X 300 vs. Royal Enfield Himalayan here!

Identical except for styling details, the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT share an all-new air/oil-cooled 648cc parallel twin, a chassis designed in conjunction with Harris Performance and standard Bosch 2-channel ABS. After a few rides we determined that both bikes not only look and feel the part, but considering their attractive price tags ($5,799 for the Interceptor and $5,999 for the GT) and three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty with free roadside assistance, they were also worth a serious look as “keepers.” The question at the forefront of everyone’s mind, however, was reliability. So we hung onto the GT for about seven months, with rides ranging from easy cruises down the coast highway, to full-on thrashing in the tortuous twisties of the Santa Monica Mountains, interspersed with stretches of just sitting in the garage as other deserving bikes got their test rides.

And it never missed a beat. The GT’s riding position is compact and sporty and the seat is about as comfortable as it looks (the Interceptor is a better choice if comfort is a priority), but leaning through the gentle curves of Highway 1, heading west out of Malibu into the setting sun, the Enfield just felt right. Goldilocks would understand. As Milwaukee-based Royal Enfield North America gradually builds a support base, the number and proximity of dealerships is the only concern for prospective new buyers, but if you’re lucky enough to have one close by, the new 650 twins are the genuine article.

Source: RiderMagazine.com