We began this ride in Bennington, VT, which is located in the southwestern corner of the state. Our plan was to pick up the North East Backcountry Discovery Route (NEBDR) for four days of adventure, riding through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Caleb and I woke early to get geared up before meeting up with Florian and Manuel, who would be riding with us. We were all eager to hit the road together, but minutes before departure my typically faithful KTM 950 seemed to have plans of its own.
As we started our bikes, I noticed that my oil light was dimly lit. The light would fade in and out based on engine rpm, an apparent result of an increase and decrease in oil pressure, which is a bit unsettling when you’re a thousand miles from home. Our minds started filtering through all the possibilities—oil pump failure, oil pressure sensor failure, clogged passage to the sensor, or a failed oil pressure regulator… I spent a short time riding the bike around the parking lot, listening for sounds of oil starvation, monitoring engine temperature, and checking for leaks. We determined the most likely culprit was a failed pressure sensor, which is the best possible outcome in a scenario like this. We have seen these sensors fail before, and aside from that annoying light on the dash, it’s no cause for concern. We decided to head out and keep a close eye on things.
We followed Hwy 9 east for about 15 miles until we came to Searsburg, where we would be picking up the NEBDR. We turned north and began riding groomed gravel roads through Green Mountain National Forest. These roads were mostly flat and wide, taking us through the dense forest at a quick pace. I kept checking on my engine temperature regularly, listened for unhealthy engine noises, and stopped often to check the oil level as well. Everything seemed fine for the first 60-ish miles, until I stopped to take a photo.
A Rocky Start
As I turned, I noticed a small dark spot under the bike. My heart sank. Thick and sticky red Motul 7100 was dripping off my skid plate and pooling on the gravel below. My oil pressure sensor had failed catastrophically, bleeding oil down the side of my engine as if it were a faithful old warhorse wounded in battle. Luckily, we were only a few miles from Putney, and Caleb was able to tow me and my stricken motorcycle to the Putney General Store, where we set up shop on the sidewalk. I knew Vermont was known for its general stores, but this wasn’t exactly how I envisioned experiencing my first one.
Motorcycles & Gear
Helmet: Scorpion AT-950, HJC Dirt
Gloves: Klim Dakar
Pants: Klim Badlands, Marrakesh, Latitude
Jackets: Klim Badlands, Marrakesh, Latitude
Boots: Gearne Balanced Oiled, Alpinestar Tech 7
We got to work, looking for a way to replace the sensor with a temporary plug. We even resorted to bothering the factory across the street to look through their loose bolt box. With no luck, Caleb decided to ride to the nearest town, Brattleboro, in search of an auto parts store that might have something to use as a plug. While waiting on the results of the hunt, we sampled the Putney General Store’s lunch menu. Our sandwiches and homemade maple candies were delicious, and a redeeming part of this unfortunate detour!
Caleb's extensive knowledge of all things mechanical saved us (as usual), as he sourced a replacement oil pressure sensor from a BMW E36. The threads fit perfectly, but the pressure range was incorrect, so I wouldn’t have the pressure light for the rest of the trip. It was a small price to pay to keep oil in the engine. After a couple hour’s delay, we were back on the road, following the BDR north toward Killington, where we stayed for the night at the Killington Mountain Lodge.
Class 4 Roads
We woke early and backtracked in order to ride the final portion of the route we had missed the day before. This area, near East Wallingford off Hwy 103, marks the start of the Class 4 roads. In Vermont, they classify roadways based on type, Classes 1, 2, and 3 being state-or county-maintained. Class 4 roads are unmaintained and may be in questionable condition, especially depending on the time of year. Just how we like it!