What the…?

Nov 06, 2012 View Comments by

My wife Sharon and I recently returned from several days of riding in the North Carolina and Georgia mountains with our friends Pete Tamblyn and Jackie Hogue. Pete is one of the few other riders who seek out scenic dirt roads to explore on his bike, which coincidentally happens to be a Suzuki 650 V Strom, the same model that I tour on.

Our ride was a reciprocal visit for Pete and Jackie’s trip to Ohio a couple of years ago to ride some of my favorite local roads, and we had a fantastic time exploring with Pete acting as our guide. I’d always wanted to ride some backroads in the mountains, but had never taken the time to do so.

Pete made it a point to include some gravel each day of the ride, and I suspect that we gave some dual-purpose riders something to talk about when we met them on a Forest Service road one afternoon. I’d categorize the road as being somewhere between a dirt road and a double-track trail in appearance. A few medium sized rocks, some downed branches, and a handful of muddy, slippery spots were about the extent of it, but the luggage toting V-Stroms definitely looked out of place.

The first dual-purpose rider we encountered coming from the other direction said that about ten more bikes were on the way, so we pulled off of the trail and waited for them. They all stopped as they passed us, and I suspect they were a bit curious about the two-up street bikes on the “trail.” “Where did you get on this at?” one of the riders asked Pete. He informed them that we’d traveled several miles on the road, and their reply was a slightly uncertain “Well, if you made it this far you should be able to make it out OK.”

About that time we pulled off our helmets, adding to their surprise. I’m fifty-three years old, and Pete is only a couple of years younger than my father. He’s a fantastic rider as well as an instructor for the Stayin’ Safe riding school, and both Sharon and I commented while on the trip that both Pete and Jackie could probably run circles around us in the endurance department if they wanted to. The dual-purpose crew’s parting advice was to watch for the slippery spots where they had torn the trail up pretty bad. The advice was taken, at least by me, to be given in the same tone that one would use when asking if someone needed help getting up from a La-Z-Boy recliner.

It never fails to surprise me how terrified many riders are to take their bikes on dirt roads, and how shocked people are to see large motorcycles on them. In my opinion, they’re missing out on some serious fun and some of the best scenery to be found on any road. As for the riding, like I always say—If you ain’t slidin’, you ain’t ridin’. Twist the throttle and feel the back wheel drift while exiting a dirt road corner and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

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