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Online JMo

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Death Valley Dazed!
« on: November 07, 2017, 11:37:40 PM »
Not really a ride-report as such, just a few photos from what is likely to be my last 'big' ride of the season - since even though it is still sunny here in California, it is damn cold! - especially at night!

So last Friday (early, leaving at 7.30am) Lisa and I loaded up our CB's and headed down to Death Valley for the weekend, to meet up with some friends who were camping there.

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photo. This dirt road is south of Porterville CA, and joins with hwy 52 which in turn leads to Sherman Pass Rd - the southern most crossing of the Sierras.

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photo. In general it's an easy going dirt road, with the odd water crossing, and very scenic and remote.

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photo. Once we hit hwy 52 and headed east (past Portugese Pass to our south - another of Butler Maps' Gold Roads) for Sherman Pass Rd - it turns out this is the highway that crosses the infamous Rincorn Trail in the southern Sierras, and passes through a huge OHV trail network too - we need to ride this Juan Browne!

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photo. Sherman Pass Rd is paved, but some of it is pretty broken. This is almost at the summit - we rode 120 miles with no other vehicles in front of us! (and only a handful heading the other way).

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photo. Once we reached hwy 395 on the far side (after descending he utterly epic Nine Mile Canyon Rd), after 30 miles or so I felt a vibration from my rear wheel... yep. Another damn puncture!

I'd add that it turns out the run-flat capability of the TKC80 on the Rally Raid rims is really very good - a similar thing happened to me on the Trans-Am 500 bike in Colorado in 2015, where I was able to continue riding on the shoulder at 25-30mph for approximately 20 miles into town - and again here, the tyre deflated without drama at 70mph and stayed on the rim for a good mile or more as I slowed down and pulled over to a safe spot to change it.

When I went to unscrew the valve cap, it turns out the stem had apparently parted from the tube as it simple span round in my fingers! Once I'd pulled the tube, I found it had completely ripped in half (although interesting not near the valve at all) - although this could well have been while I continued on the flat to find a safe spot to stop. Either way, cheap CycleGear tubes would seem to be a false economy - as I would find out again in the next couple of days...

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photo. the next day a bunch of us went riding on the desert trails and piste tacks - this is along 20 Mule Team Canyon, then we headed south along Furnace Creek Wash Rd towards hwy 178 (Jubilee Pass Rd) and Shoshone - and ultimately the Crowbar Saloon for lunch...

video. This is a good illustration of just how stable and controlled the LEVEL 3 bike can be on the dirt... this video is not sped up, it's straight out of the GoPro. I was able to rag along this trail at between 50 and 60+ MPH, and the bike just tracked perfectly at that speed. Ultimately though, you must remember that the LEVEL 3 bike only has 7" of travel of course - so you have to choose your line carefully at that kind of speed. But what it [hopefully] shows is that all this 'inch here and a bhp there' talk you get on the forums doesn't really matter all that much if you've got what you've got dialled in properly ;o)

video. Lisa also had some fun on her LEVEL 1 bike with stock 17/17" wheels and TKC80 tyres - but this clip does illustrate how much better the 19" front end (and longer travel suspension) of the LEVEL 3 bike can handle soft sand and loose gravel terrain.

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photo. This is the turn/junction to Deadman Pass - these trails are used by RMS for their Rally School training.

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photo. the next morning (Sunday) our group headed east towards Beatty NV and Rhyolite...

Since we had a couple of more novice riders in our group, only I elected to take a side trail (Chloride Cliff) which I know pretty well, and rejoin the highway just over the boarder in Nevada, where I intended to rendezvous with the group again...

I was great fun to ride the more technical rocky trail and rag along the sandy wash sections, before crossing into Nevada and taking a long straight trail north for hwy 374.

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photo. The LEVEL 3 bike was built for exactly the kind of mixed terrain you find on this trail - fast desert piste and two-track, interspersed with more technical rocky Jeep trail style hazards.

I was really enjoying the whooped-out rocky trail north across the open desert (this would make a perfect rally stage I thought ;o), when all of a sudden there was a large bang from the front wheel - ouch I thought, that was a nasty rock, even though the bike barely deflected - but soon after I got that sinking feeling... again.

Turns out it wasn't the front, but the rear tyre again - presumably I'd kicked up a rock with the front and a sharp edge had pinch-flatted the rear tube... you know, my spare rear tube from Friday that I'd had no opportunity to replace yet...

I limped the bike along the trail at about 20mph in 2nd or 3rd gear (again the run-flat capability is surprisingly good off-road too I thought), but before long the bead on one side popped off, and the bike started crabbing and required 1st gear and some judicious balancing to keep moving in a straight line.

I counted down the fractions of the last mile to the highway, and popped out on the tarmac. Fortunately two of my friends had actually chosen to stop in a lay-by just a couple of hundred yards away and wait for the others - I couldn't believe my luck - not least as there was every chance they would have a spare tube, plus I could use their bike side-stand to break the bead on the other side - result!

Pulling the tyre, I was dismayed to find that the tube had a huge gash in it... almost inevitable after 4 miles or more of running on a flat over rough terrain perhaps. To make matters worse, Sharron's spare tube had perished where it had been folded for goodness knows how long in her tail-pack, so now I was really stuck.

Once the rest of us regrouped, I ended up borrowing Lisa's bike and riding into Beatty (about 8 miles away) to see if anywhere had a tube for sale on a Sunday. Of course not.

I considered trying to bodge a tubeless conversion (using duct tape and a car valve from the only gas station that was open - only they didn't have any valves for sale either), and even contemplated riding to Pahrump where if there wasn't an open bike/tyre store, then there was at least a large bunch of ADVrider inmates taking part in an annual Rider Weekend there - although I pretty quickly dismissed this idea when I realised it was nearly 75 miles in each direction!

In a similar vain however, I'd also spotted a group of dual-sport/ADV bikes parked on the other side of the street, so wondered over - hoping that at least one of them would have a spare rear* tube in their kit that they might sell me for an over-inflated price... aha, see what I did there?!

*note. while it's common practice for dirt-riders to carry a 21" front tube as a spare, which at a push can be fitted into a reasonably narrow 18" rear tyre - they are just too skinny to fit in the big fat 150/70x17 size rear on my CB unfortunately - you need at least a 18" x 120 size tube to have any chance of filling that particular void.

All I can say is thank goodness one of them had an 18" 4.10 tube - not ideal for the huge 150/70 x 17 TKC80, but it would stretch and do the job at least - and their next round of beers was on me.

However, while it fitted up just fine, I wasn't going to risk potentially puncturing this skinny tube on any more trails today - so ultimately Lisa and I headed back to camp and enjoyed some winter sunshine and a few beers ourselves instead!

The next day, we were packed and away in good time for the long (500+ miles) ride back to San Jose. We headed out of Death Valley and then turned south through Panamint Valley, as the plan was to ride the same route I'd taken this past summer during the final day of my Northern eXposure trip.

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photo. stopping for fuel and snacks at Trona CA, en route for Ridgecrest and a far more substantial brunch.

We then rode whole length of Jawbone Canyon Rd and Saddle Springs Rd [over Puite Mountain] to lake Isabella - but like all the best laid plans, this actually took us far longer than we initially envisaged, and we ultimately forfeit the ongoing twisty backroads for the no less epic hwy 178 to Bakersfield, before picking up the Interstate network for over 240 more miles home, in the cold and dark.

Again, it's days like today (and this long weekend trip in general) that illustrated just how versatile and accomplished the CB500X can be, well, once the Rally Raid kit is installed of course ;o) It rides like a Supermoto on the twist mountain backroads, like a big dirt bike in the desert, and is an exceptionally capable mile-muncher when you have a huge amount of highway still to cover before bedtime.

I love my bike. Although I have to say, after the drama's of this weekend, I'm seriously considering a new set of BARTubeless wheels before any more big trips!

Toot toot for now!

Jenny x

 


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