Off the Road Again

As much as I wanted to get my bike’s clutch cable replacement done, it was cold this morning, and I ended up waiting until mid-morning before it warmed up enough for me. Call me spoiled. Even then, I chose my work location based on the current wind direction, using the van as a wind block to keep me a little warmer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the cold. It’s not like I’m back in New England, where it’s legitimately cold and snowing right now. I’ll take this over that any day.

Getting the part was extremely difficult, but the actual installation was extremely easy. While removing my old cable, I saw that it was also fraying at the clutch end, in addition to the lever end where it actually broke. It was definitely due, but at least the build quality is consistent from one end of the cable to the other. I got it installed, adjusted, and tested. Without much work, my bike was fully operational once again.

Of course, I had to test it farther than a few hundred feet around camp. After lunch, I put on all the armor I had, including motocross boots, hit the highway, and headed south — to Kofa Queen Canyon. All I could think of during my ride there with Melinda last weekend was how much fun this “road” would be on my bike, so I decided to find out.

I didn’t take many pictures this time. I had a lot more time to focus on photography when I was a passenger in Melinda’s van, and you’ve seen those already. This trip was about enjoying the ride. I was able to maintain a much higher speed, a blazing 20 mph or so, for most of the road. I wasn’t in a hurry, but the bike is made for this, so it was easy to go quicker than a van that was not.

At one point a line of Jeep Wranglers came toward me, so I pulled off to the side. It’s much easier for me to make room for them than the other way around. The leader rolled down his window and told me there were 10 Jeeps in the group, so I waited and counted, exchanging waves with nearly all of them. The final Jeep held a raised fist out his window — not because he was angry with me, but to indicate “zero,” the number of Jeeps behind him. We then exchanged waves, and I continued on my merry way.

I was hoping to get some pictures of my bike at Skull Rock, but someone had turned it into their campsite for the time being. That’s fine. It’s legal to camp there, so while I was disappointed to miss the photo opportunity, I wasn’t upset. Besides, the road continued on, and unlike Melinda’s van, I was all set to continue exploring.

It’s a good thing Melinda and I turned around when we did. I don’t think her van would’ve made it to the end. My KLR did, though at this end of the canyon the road was either quite rocky or soft gravel, with no in-between. Intelligently, the end of the road is a great big loop, allowing long lines of Jeep Wranglers or whoever to simply drive around in a circle and go back, instead of having to do three, five, or six million point turns on the trail.

I started back and was feeling pretty confident as I approached a short, steep descent literally down a rock. I made it down just fine, but I chose a poor line, misjudged my speed at the bottom, and the gravel was too soft to allow me to make the turn. I managed to stop, but I didn’t manage to keep the bike upright. I literally stepped off the bike as it fell over. The KLR took a dirt nap, but I didn’t.

I was amused by how calm I was about the whole thing. I guess I’ve had so much practice crashing off-road that it’s no big deal to me anymore. I didn’t even hit the dirt myself, and if I did, I had all my armor on, which has already saved me from serious injury in much worse situations. All I had to do was pick the bike up and carry on.

That was the hard part. The gravel was so loose that I couldn’t get the tires to dig in, catch traction, and pivot the bike upright. I tried dragging the bike toward a hill to help me, but that didn’t work. I even tried using some big rocks to help the tires get traction, but it was no good. I wasn’t out of ideas yet, but a solo Jeep Wrangler approached, and a couple sprang out to help me. They thought I might have been trapped beneath the bike because I was on the ground trying to lift it as they came into sight, but of course, I was fine. The three of us had no trouble lifting it back onto its wheels again. The driver parked his Jeep next to me, clearing the road ahead, and told me they’d have my back on the way out. I thanked them for their help and went on my way.

Anytime I crash my bike, my confidence as a rider also crashes. It came back quickly, though, as I successfully tackled the tricky terrain back through the canyon. In this direction, it gets easier as I go on, and my confidence was back in just a couple of miles. I pulled over at the entrance to check the right side of my bike for damage. The handguard had some new scratches, and it had bent slightly, doing its job and protecting my hand and brake lever from damage. I was able to bend it back into shape so the brake lever wouldn’t bind up against it. Then it was an easy 65 mph blast back to camp.

The past two days were exactly what I needed to reset my mood. Rather than being stuck in camp, I took a drive in the van, fixed my bike, and put it through its paces. I don’t deal well with being stuck, but now I’m very much mobile again, which makes me happy. I do plan to take it easy tomorrow, though. Staying in one place is fine if it’s my choice to do so.

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