Colorado: Maiden Voyage

Text: Tony Huegel • Photography: Jonathan Beck

Something’s wrong, I think as rain pours from the skies above Lake City, gateway to the high passes of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. My eight companions are up there somewhere, riding big, fully loaded adventure bikes on four-wheel-drive roads that climb to almost 13,000 feet.

They are my colleagues on Touratech-USA’s Advance Scouting Team, formed for the inaugural ride of the new, 710-mile Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBDR). And they’re late to our rendezvous.

The team is comprised of Rob Watt on his KTM 990 Adventure, Tom Myers on a BMW R 1200 GS, Paul Guillien on a Yamaha Super Ténéré, Bryce Stevens and Jayson Wickenkam on KTM 990 Adventures, and Justin Bradshaw on his 990 Adventure R.

Photographer Jonathan Beck is chronicling the trip from a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure. Videographer Sterling Noren is on a BMW F 800 GS. Continually riding point, each is both artist and athlete. I am the team’s journalist, chronicling the trip for RoadRUNNER.

The COBDR is the third in Touratech-USA’s non-profit Backcountry Discovery Route initiative. Two other BDRs (in Utah and Washington) are fast becoming the choice of adventure riders looking for documented routes across some of the West’s wildest landscapes. The team’s goal is to spend a week giving a final check to every mile of this latest addition to the BDR network.

The team’s bikes are equipped with panniers, skid plates, tankbags, knobby tires, GPS units, crash bars, hand guards, and dry bags. All of it is ready for the rough. I use soft luggage, and the KLR is stock but for crash bars and skid plate.

It’s mid-August and a period of substantial precipitation or violent afternoon storms in these parts. So there’s reason to worry. But the riders I’m waiting for are ADV veterans—skilled, confident, efficient, and fast on the genre’s premier marques. I have just five years’ experience on the 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 that’s parked nearby.

Rewind

Our seven-day odyssey begins with a 40-mile ride southwest from Cortez to Four Corners Monument, with a dip into New Mexico. The monument, managed by the Navajo Nation, is the only place in the United States shared by four states—Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Our plan is to follow the COBDR north to Wyoming.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2013 back issue.